Valentine’s Day may be a manufactured Hallmark-holiday, but it provides a fun point of departure to do something a little different this week in the Mirror Gallery. Hipsters of the Coast is made up of more than a dozen unique individuals, and we write about and interact with Magic in diverse ways. As different as we may be, the one universal thing we all share is an interaction with the art on the cards we play. For constructed players, it’s how you recognize cards as they are played across the table. For a Commander player it’s a way to personalize your deck. And for a Vorthos, its part of what tells the larger story we find so interesting.

Original illustrations are what set Magic apart way back in 1993, and one of the things that has assured its 25-year campaign as a top trading card game. This art imprints an icon in your brain, becomes a memory, and then lays the foundation for future nostalgia. Art makes us feel; it grounds us, and at the same time is what lets our imagination soar.

Here are the pieces that move us. This is the Art We Love:

Rich Stein, Chief Hipster, What We Learned

Stasis by Fay Jones. Traditional.

“It’s become a bit cliché these days but my favorite MTG art has always been Stasis. I brought (the deck) Stasis to GP Philly 2005, the first ever Legacy GP. You can read the coverage here. Fun fact, if you read the first entry, is that Jamie Parke wasn’t the first victim of a turn one kill: I was. I lost round one to Joe Giancarlo and he killed me in one turn as well. I went 0-4 drop, and I never played Stasis again at a sanctioned event.”

David McCoy, Chief Technology Officer, Breaking News

Snapcaster Mage by Volkan Baga. Traditional. In the likeness of 2007 Magic Invitational Winner Tiago Chan.

“I love the less literal and high fantasy art, but I think my favorites in terms of the game/history are the invitational cards that feature the player’s faces. These invitational cards go above and beyond.”

Brendan McNamara, Editor in Chief, None Shall Pass Bombs

Scholar of Athreos by Cynthia Sheppard. Digital.

“I don’t know that I have a favorite card illustration. My favorite flavor text is Fissure from the Dark. (“Must not all things at the last be swallowed up in death?” Yes, Plato, yes.) There’s so much great art, but my associations with cards are tied to what they do or the ideas within them. Though I do love how the art for Scholar of Athreos is hard to parse. It sort of looks like she’s playing with an iPhone, but she’s flipping a coin.”

Zach Barash, Drawing Live

Godless Shrine by Cliff Childs. Digital.

“My favorite MTG art surprised me: I thought it’d be something from my childhood, but it’s Cliff Childs’ Godless Shrine. It’s the only piece of Magic art I saw and my first thought was, “I need a playmat with that on it.” Several close runners up are Ron Spears’s Lorwyn Island 287 (have you seen it in foil!?), Noah Bradley’s Prophetic Prism (have you seen IT in foil?!), and Mark Poole’s Marhault Elsdragon (from my first pack of Chronicles. I thought he was the coolest. I have not seen him in foil.)”

Top to Bottom: Island by Ron Spears, Traditional; Prophetic Prism by Noah Bradley, Digital; Marhault Elsdragon by Mark Poole; Traditional.

Katie Bates, Hope Eternal

Metalworker by Don Hazeltine. Traditional.

“Metalworker is one, it’s my favorite card and who doesn’t love a cute little robot? Then again I actually own a ton of magic prints so it’s hard to choose. I really love anything Rebecca Guay, but I’m going to say Unmask by RK Post. It says so much to me and isn’t conventional beauty which I appreciate.”

Unmask by rk post. Traditional.

Aaron Gazzaniga, Brew Corner/Vintage Super League

Mindslicer by Kev Walker. Traditional.

“Mindslicer. Love the art and it was the first rare I opened in my first sealed product purchased.”

Ryan Sainio, Shattered Perceptions

It That Betrays by Tomaz Jedruzek. Digital.

“It That Betrays is by far my favorite piece of Magic art. I think in part because of how dynamically different vertical art is and also the sweet clear frame used during Rise of the Eldrazi. I love the look of the Eldrazi in question and I love the figures being enveloped by its power in the foreground. Just all around iconic.”

Levi Byrne, Dear Azami

Chandra, Torch of Defiamce by Magali Villeneuve. Digital.

“My favorite artwork is Chandra, Torch of Defiance from Kaladesh. I’ve always loved Chandra’s steampunky aesthetic because of how unique it was when I first started playing. Being the face of my favorite color didn’t hurt either.

But I’m a story & lore nerd before anything else, and Magic Origins made Chandra my favorite character in Magic. My dad killed himself when I was a teenager, and I blamed myself for years. Despite the vastly different circumstances, I connected with a character who blamed herself for something she couldn’t have changed.

As for why I picked Torch of Defiance instead of any other Chandra artwork, well, the painting is beautiful. I don’t have much more to say than that.”

Emma Partlow, Tower, Mines & Fine Lines

Urza’s Tower (Seasonal) by Mark Poole, Traditional. Image collage from CoolStuffInc.

“In 2016 was when I first started to play Modern, I was playing Eldrazi Tron and enjoyed the archetype thoroughly. Something I noticed is how Tron players are particular with their Urza lands, and I was no exception. I was very fortunate to pick up a set of Antiquities Urza lands which are now the pride and joy of my collection. The seasonal aspect of the Urza’s Tower always grabbed me, sometimes it makes me wonder what Karn and Urza got up to in that tower, and Mark Poole conveys the concept of time brilliantly.”

Daniel Roberts, Standard Eyes

Bitterblossom by Rebecca Guay. Traditional.

“To be honest the art speaks to me in multiple ways. As a competitive player, it speaks to me with its pure power level as a card, but then the art itself is beautiful with the stained glass vibe. And with it being set in England, as with all of Lorwyn block, the setting also plays a part. Rebecca Guay is one of the more well-known artists for MTG, and while I really enjoy the work of Johannes Voss and Seb McKinnon, to me it’s just the perfect art.

Zach Kanner, Leveling Up

Force of Will by Terese Nielsen, traditional, 14” x 18”

“Alliances Force of Will since I enjoy the back story of the art. It was supposed to be a red card, so that’s why if you just see the art you wouldn’t expect it to be what it is.”

Donny Caltrider, Mirror Gallery & Art Market Minute

Doomsday Specter by Donato Giancola. Traditional.

I actually almost submitted this without adding my own! It’s easy to ask everyone else their favorite; but when it came time to pick my own, indecision struck. The illustration that made me fall in love with Magic art is above, Donato’s Doomsday Specter. It was the packaging art for Planeshift. I remember seeing it and being enamored with the entire idea of what the game was, so much that it was the first card I traded for just because I wanted the art. I got to meet Donato for the first time and have him sign that card, and what a full circle moment it was.

I’d be remiss though, if I didn’t mention another favorite, Hostility by Omar Rayyan:

Hostility by Omar Rayyan, Traditional.

I love this painting. It’s whimsical and fun, fantastic and imaginative, and is such a perfect representation of Lorwyn—and again, everything that Magic was for me then and still is for me today. I opened a foil version sitting in my sophomore dorm room at the University of Maryland, and got it signed by the artist last year.

Wrapping Up

These are our favorites, the art that moves us; the art we love. The preceding stories and connections provide a little lens into exactly who we are as writers, players, Magic enthusiasts, and people. These illustrations mark significant parts in our relationship with Magic, whether it was a first card we opened, something that won us a game, or a link that perhaps even goes a bit deeper. I want to thank all of my fellow writers for sharing their stories and being a part of this week’s article; I’ve gotten to know some of them better through this article than I had during the entire last year, and I hope you’ve gotten to know us all a little better, too.

I’ll see you back again next week for a brand new Behind the Brush artist interview, and it’s one you’re not going to want to miss. She is multi-talented, and although she has only illustrated six cards for Magic so far, every one of them has been hot fire. I expect more for the same in the coming years.

Remember, to see original #mtgart and other #vorthos related things, follow me on Twitter. Feel free to ask questions or retweet to continue the conversation. Thanks and see you next time!

Donny Caltrider has been playing Magic since 2002 and collecting original Magic art since 2017. He has an M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and enjoys telling stories about art, objects, and the intersection of fantasy with real-life. You can find him on Twitter talking about #mtgart, museums, and other #vorthos related goodness. Follow along and continue the conversation!

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