On January 13, 2019, the original art for Ryan Pancoast’s legendary centaur Nikya of the Old Ways from Ravnica Allegiance sold for $3,425.

The Facts

Nikya of the Old Ways is a work of oil on stretched canvas measuring 18” by 24” commissioned for Magic’s newest expansion, Ravnica Allegiance. It was sold by Mike Linnemann acting as agent for the artist exclusively on the MTG Art Market, and after some very last minute bidding realized a final price of $3,425. It was acquired by Magic art collector Phil Li.

In Magic lore, Nikya of the Old Ways is a powerful centaur shaman, and leader of the Zhur-Taa Gruul Clan of “skull-bleachers.” In the game, she is a rare and legendary card, perfect for being the General of many a Commander deck.

The Hammer

Linnemann and Pancoast have been recently working together to sell Ryan’s new Magic pieces, and to great success; Nikya would be no different. The painting began very quickly with an $800 opening bid (over the $500 ask to open) and rose to $1,700 by the end of the first day. But in something no one expected, it would remain at this total for several days.

Generally the largest amount of bidding on any given item happens in the first 24 hours and the last 24 minutes. The bidding that happens as soon as a piece becomes available sets the tone for the auction, and for reasons we’ll talk about later, this painting got off to a seemingly slow start.

The morning of the last day the painting was sitting at $2,000, no small amount of money but a bargain price for painting of this size, of a legendary creature, by a legendary artist. Linnemann and others (myself included) raised the alarm to what an incredible painting this would be for any Gruul member, or any art collector for that matter. Then at 8:30pm came the hammer; a $3,000 private bid.

Statements bids like this are used to knockout those less than serious bidder, and sends a message the bidder is not kidding about acquiring the piece. For the next hour and a half, a short bidding war between two public collectors and one private bidder would ensue, pushing this piece to its final price realized of $3,425, perhaps lower than anticipated but still strong considering the subject and guild.

Unfortunately, when it comes to guilds, the Gruul seems to be the least popular, and this no doubt had an impact on the final selling price. The painting itself and the way in which Pancoast depicts Nikya is exceptional, and the auction was well run and well promoted by Linnemann. But no dedicated fan base to The Old Ways is what, in my opinion, held this piece back.

Two alternate sketches for Nikya of the Old Ways by Ryan Pancoast. Digital.

The Art

I’ll say it again: this painting is very good. When Ryan Pancoast’s name is in the bottom corner, you know the artist has taken every step, paid attention to every detail, and poured his entire self into the painting. Don’t believe me? Watch one of his Gumroad or YouTube videos of his work (the links are for this piece in particular) and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Take a few minutes and check them out.

Pancoast hired a model to acquire reference photos like this to ensure an accurate depiction.

From the texture on the face of the painting to her intricate, body-covering tattoos, and everything in between, this painting is nothing short of incredible. This is the Gruul version of Pancoast’s Knight of Autumn, a work of equal splendor, yet was acquired for half the price. It’s final selling price was no comment on the art itself, and held back only by the guild in which she represents.

A Pancoast masterwork in every way, down to the single-most brushstroke.

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