Just before the Game of Thrones Final Season premiere on April 14th, 2019, the original painting for Ryan Pancoast’s Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves was sold for $6600 on the MTG Art Market.

The Facts

Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves by Ryan Pancoast, oil on canvas, 24” x 36”

Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves by Ryan Pancoast is a masterwork of oil on canvas measuring a sensational 24 inches by 36 inches. Appearing in Magic’s newest set, War of the Spark, it is Pancoast’s second card for the set and fourth overall in the three most recent Ravnica sets. This is also his fifth legendary card and third legendary creature—he is becoming a staple illustrator to commission important cards in any given set. This is one of his largest paintings ever created for Magic.

Similar to his planeswalker Arlinn, Voice of the Pack, Tolsimir will certainly see Limited play and maybe even have some time in Standard, but above these two formats Tolsimir will find a permanent slot in Pancoast’s Vintage Artist Constructed Deck. This card especially pushes the deck one step forward in the format, and makes it a force to contend with at any VAC tournament.

The Hammer

Tolsimir was previewed a few days after Arlinn, and as we’ve seen in many cases the best time to sell a new Magic artwork is as soon after it’s previewed as possible. Vorthos Mike would again act as agent for the artist, and he began the auction immediately on the MTG Art Market in order to capitalize on the timing. The starting bid was set at $3,000, and there was plenty of action to the tune of $3,700 by the end of the first day of bidding.

A $3,800 bid over the weekend bumped the painting back to the top of the page, and set the pace for the final week. Being shown on a Thursday, artist and agent could have run a short auction, ending Sunday alongside Arlinn; have it end Monday/Tuesday of the following week; or run the full week to the following weekend. It is almost always better to end on a weekend evening to capture the most available bidders, so the auction was extended to run through to the next Sunday, with all parties hoping the painting would not be lost in the shuffle of seven days of newly previewed cards.

The bids began to climb through $4,000 at the beginning of the week, and on Thursday Mike and Ryan added some incentives to the final sale. It was announced that at $5,000, Ryan would include the Eternal maquette used in creating the final painting

Almost immediately, a $5,000 bid was placed.

A second group of incentives was then added: if the painting reached $6,000, the painting would come framed, and also include the original pencil sketches used during its conception.

The bidding didn’t resume until a half an hour was left—remember, the most action an auction receives is often the first 24 hours and the last 24 minutes. A flurry of competing bids pushed this painting to a final hammer price of $6,600, making it so far the top amount for a War of the Spark original artwork. The final price includes the painting, original sketches, Eternal maquette, and the artist chosen frame.

The Art

I’ve been trying to play it cool through this whole article until we arrived at this section, but I get to say it now: this painting is a masterpiece, and one of the best pieces that has even been created for Magic in its 25 year history. Ryan poured himself into this work, and it shows:

Preliminary Reference Photos for Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves

Work in Progress for Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves

The movement, the features, the lighting, the composition, it’s all incredible and beyond words. Fellow Magic artist Zack Stella said it best on Twitter, that this work is “Ryan dropping the mic.” It is exactly that.

This painting will certainly be in Spectrum, the annual best of the best art book for the genre. I think it has every reason to be in consideration for the Spectrum Gold Award as well as a Chesley Award, both crowning achievements for an artist of Imaginative Realism. It’s very early in the year and awards aren’t until next Spring, but there is no reason not to say it now—it’s not an if we’ll be talking about it, it’s a matter of exactly when this piece will receive an award.

This painting is a Magic: the Gathering masterpiece by one of the game’s best artists, and is one of the best pieces of art Magic has ever seen. Let’s see it again.

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