Let’s take one last look at Ravnica before Modern Horizons takes center stage with Grand Art Tour for War of the Spark. I did my first Grand Art Tour for Ravnica Allegiance, where we take a closer look at some of the standout works within the set. I’ll tell you why I like them so much, and also why you might like them too. This won’t include any Planeswalker deck, Promotional, Mythic Edition, or Japanese Alternate Art illustrations.

My favorite paintings in War of the Spark, in no particular order:

Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves by Ryan Pancoast

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

I wrote about this painting when it sold a few weeks ago. After all the dust of new cards and new art have settled; I still think this is one of the strongest works not only in this set, but in the history of the game. Yes, Ryan levels up with each and every illustration, but this goes one step further. As fellow Magic artist Zack Stella said on Twitter, this piece is his “mic drop.” It’s a masterpiece, and that’s really all I need to say about it.

Ral, Storm Conduit by Wesley Burt

Ral, Storm Conduit by Wesley Burt. Digital.

I’ve always liked Ral, and this is maybe my favorite illustration of the polarizing planeswalker. His pose is dynamic, and the life the artist has given to the lightning is unreal. Coming into this set, no one really knew what side Ral was on. This art answers the question unmistakably: he’s brought the fight to Bolas, and he’s mad about it. I’ll see Wes at Lightbox Expo later this year, and you can bet I’ll be getting a foil copy of this awesome art signed.

Vivien’s Arkbow by Zack Stella

Vivien’s Arkbow by Zack Stella. Digital.

On rare occasions, Magic artists are able to drastically depart from convention. The end result can become something like the illustration for Vivien’s Arkbow. This work exploded on Twitter, and the artist made mention that this was a “game changer” for him in regards to his work. While we can’t be exactly sure what that means, I’m now even more excited to see the things that Zack has in the MTG pipeline. The Art Nouveau inspiration runs deep here, and boy do I love this style on a Magic card.

Island by Kirstin Zirngibl

Island by Kirstin Zirngibl. Digital.

Sometimes a basic land can be a flavor home run in addition to an excellent painting, and that’s what we have here in Kirsten Zirngibl’s very Azorius Island. This card was previewed by Vorthos Mike, and from that article we learn everything we need to know. We see The Immortal Sun hovering over the New Prahv towers from a bird’s eye perspective, with thopters buzzing about, fountains and piping clearly visible, and Azorius symbolism throughout. Looking down from above creates that “deep breath before the plunge” feeling, and is such an interesting and inventive way to view this scene. This has become of my favorite basic lands in all of Magic, and will surely be a popular choice when building a Commander decks for years to come.

Deliver Unto Evil by Seb McKinnon

Deliver Unto Evil by Seb McKinnon. Digital.

This work is straight out of the Ravnican storybook that tells the tale of the War of the Spark. McKinnon has done it again, pushing the boundaries of stylistic creativity to give us an illustration of Ravnica, as if it exists on the plane itself. The internet lost its mind when this work was previewed, and it will be one that is remembered by players and fans for quite some time. Similar to Stella’s Vivien’s Arkbow, it’s hard to make pieces like this cohesive within the larger set. But when it works, it really works. This is a very powerful piece of artistic storytelling.

Trusted Pegasus by Chris Rahn

Trusted Pegasus by Chris Rahn, oil on cradled board, 16” x 20.” Private Collection.

On the subject of storytelling, we have Rahn’s depiction of Gideon’s Pegasus in the penultimate moment before they head into the greatest battle of their lives. While we now know the fate of these heroes, the moment is frozen in time beautifully. The connection of rider and mount is so strong, we feel it too. With Rahn’s signature setting-sun background, this one of the most memorable works of the entire set. It’s yet another high note for the visual storytelling of the final battle.

Heartwarming Redemption by Howard Lyon

Heartwarming Redemption by Howard Lyon. Digital.

Let’s look at one more incredibly emotional piece: Heartwarming Redemption by Howard Lyon. This painting embodies every homecoming of the human experience: whether it’s seeing your family for the first time in too long, or reuniting with old friends after a summer away. It’s a work we can all relate to in one way or another, a painting that makes your heart smile. I liken it to Russel Crowe’s Maximus in Gladiator—Gideon’s work is done. He is free, and we couldn’t be happier that he has finally found peace.

Topple the Statue by Sidharth Chaturvedi

Topple the Statue by Sidharth Chaturvedi. Traditional. Available from the artist.

This is another Story Spotlight from Act II, when the Guilds start stealing some ground back from Bolas and his minions. This is such a powerful image: the Bolas statue is crushed by the hands of an elemental—what appears to be Vitu-Ghazi—as crowds cheer in the foreground. Ravnica will not live under the rule of a tyrant, and this is another illustration that could have been created on Ravnica, by its own people, to retell the events of the War. It’s a beautifully executed piece of artistic storytelling, and one of the few traditional paintings from War of the Spark that can still be acquired from the artist.

Roalesk, Apex Hybrid by Svetlin Velinov

Roalesk, Apex Hybrid by Svetlin Velinov, acrylic on paper, 14.5” x 20.5.” Private Collection.

Svetlin Velinov has been a staple illustrator for Magic for quite some time now. Roalesk, Apex Hybrid was his first traditional painting released for the game, and an exceptional one at that. Rendered in acrylic, the details are incredibly sharp, and yet it feels like a watercolor. The background behind Roalesk is incredible, and the figure itself embodies a Simic confidence unlike any other. Velinov has shown he is at the top of both digital and traditional media, and I think we can more excitement in his coming work.

Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord by Tommy Arnold

Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord by Tommy Arnold. Digital.

Tommy Arnold only has one card in this Ravnica block, but he is back to Magic in a huge way. This depiction of Sorin is astounding, and exactly how we would expect him to act now that he has made his way out of Nahiri’s stone wall. The motion and emotion Arnold has put into this illustration is raw and visceral, and seeing it larger than card size reveals a plethora of detail. Arnold has provided some incredible artwork for Magic, and this is one of his best.

Price of Betrayal by Ryan Yee

Price of Betrayal by Ryan Yee. Digital.

This work illustrates another pivotal moment of the events of the War, and the sense of motion Yee is able to convey is striking. We are running with Liliana toward Bolas, as she is set to break through the right border while disintegrating at the same time. Her defiance, her push back, and her revolution are captured beautifully in her expression and act—an incredibly powerful work of art.

Parhelion II by Adam Paquette

Parhelion II by Adam Paquette. Digital.

I’ve had a soft spot for vehicles in Magic since they first debuted in Kaladesh. The Parhelion now has its own card, and Adam Paquette has done an impressive job of showing the heaviness and immensity of its power. It’s coming through the clouds bathed in sunlight, as if a savior at the turn of the tide. You can almost hear the cheers and trumpet blasts as it makes its grand entrance. For a piece of silent artwork to make you hear—what a fantastic feeling. I love everything about this illustration and we continue to see vehicles in Magic, with at least some of them illustrated by the great Adam Paquette.

Bonus Spotlight: Daarken

How many illustrations did Daarken have in this set?

War of the Spark illustrations by Daarken. Digital.

Eight. In one set. That’s a presence, and an astounding one at that. Two planeswalkers, three Story Spotlights, and three other pieces all including important characters.

Daarken not only illustrated each of these cards; he was also instrumental in designing many of the important visual building blocks of the set. To hear more about Daarken’s work on Ravnica and War of the Spark, check out my Behind the Brush interview from earlier this month. From concept push to final set, Daarken had a fantastic impact on the overall look and feel of this set. It wouldn’t have been the same without him.

Wrapping Up

I hope you enjoyed getting to see some of these illustrations up close. War of the Spark was the best set for the Vorthos community since Dominaria, and one of the strongest sets in terms of visual storytelling and flavor in the history of Magic. It’s these traits—the art, story, and flavor—that make Magic the best game in the world. I hope you found this visual journey as inspiring as I did.

If you enjoyed this Grand Art Tour, please let me know. I hope to be able to keep up with them for most of the major expansions and supplemental sets. There’s a lot of art out there to look at, and as always I’m glad to have you join me for the ride.

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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