Welcome back to a special off-week edition of the Mirror Gallery on Hipsters of the Coast. Today I’ve joined with the Commander Academy Headmaster Travis Norman to look at our favorite tokens in all of Magic. Travis reached out in hopes of doing the same thing with token art that Ryan Sainio and I have been doing with Basic Lands, as Tokens are another often overlooked and misunderstood niche of Magic and Magic artwork. Yesterday he gave us his Top Ten, and I’ve now chosen ten of my own favorites to talk about. The decisions were agonizing.

To choose ten tokens from the near 650 unique artworks was quite a tall task, and that number doubles to close to 1200 when you take into account unique token printings and how the frame interacts with the artwork. Some of the following are some of the most popular tokens in Magic, as well as some you might not have seen before. I’m going to be brief with each one, and in short they are examples of exceptional artwork, notable narrative, or iconic inventiveness. Each has its own story to tell. Let’s begin.

Knight by Tyler Walpole

Knight Token by Tyler Walpole. Digital.

I want to start with a token that really made me start noticing tokens as a whole. This was Tyler Walpole’s very first published Magic card, and is a beautiful representation of the Benalian stained-glass motif presented in Dominaria. This work not only utilizes those themes of stained glass, but has become a piece itself, occupying a very distinct place in the Magic timeline. It’s a gorgeous artwork, and is one you must know.

Eldrazi by Vincent Proce

Eldrazi Token by Vincent Proce. Digital.

Let’s do a full 180. Just look at those toenails. And that fungus. Yikes.

Master of the macabre Vincent Proce is known for his super spooky artwork, and it’s just so perfect having him illustrate an Eldrazi in such an in your face and overall unsettling way. The creature is literally bursting from the frame, and the full art reveals things we didn’t even know we didn’t want to see. It’s disgusting, and I love it.

Cleric/Demon by Seb McKinnon

While we’re still looking at spooky stuff I’m going to sneak in an extra artwork with this complimentary duo by Seb McKinnon. These were both created for the Saga card Rite of Belzenlok, and McKinnon even combined the three into a single artwork for his wildly successful Kickstarter from a few years ago. While much of his work leans to abstraction, the straightforward depiction and hauntingly beautiful palette of this pair makes them a standout. And what an incredible piece of art when they’re all combined.

Cleric Token, Rite of Belzenlok, Demon Token Collage by Seb McKinnon. Digital.

Food by Steven Belledin

Food Token by Steven Belledin. Traditional.

Throne of Eldraine might be my favorite set in Magic history, and it’s largely because of the weaving of classic fantasy tropes with that extra touch of Magic. This is one of four food tokens from the set, and they’re each a different take on what “food” might look like as a game piece. Giving this pie a face is just bloody brilliant by Belledin, and it really paints the picture of an unwritten story we’re just dying to know. It’s a classical artwork steeped in fantasy, and one of my favorite artworks of the entire set.

Angel by Anthony Palumbo

Angel Token by Anthony Palumbo. Traditional.

A classic take on a battle angel, this follower of the Archangel Avacyn is representative of the angels found in the first Innistrad block. We get but a crop on the token card, but I’m presenting the full art here so you can see her in all her radiant glory.

I had the privilege to hang the original painting to this token in the Magic Art Show I curated in 2019. It’s quite large and absolutely stunning in person, and was a rare opportunity to see a fully rendered traditional Magic artwork from the artist.

Human by Michael C. Hayes

Human by Michael C. Hayes. Digital.

While we’re on Innistrad and more specifically even within Avacyn Restored, I want you to see the full art for Michael C. Hayes’ Human Token. This is another work that was heavily cropped for the token frame, but is such an incredibly strong fantasy artwork that I’d wager most folks have never seen. Hayes style was infusing a classic fantasy into Magic well before it was the commonplace. I want to see this get reprinted into the new full art frame- how great would that look?

Avatar by Vance Kovacs

Avatar by Vance Kovacs.

Vance Kovacs has worked for some incredible properties (check out his Artstation), but for about a decade in the early 2000s did just over 50 cards for Magic with this token among them. It’s one I don’t know that I’ve seen before, belonging to Ajani Goldmane, but after finding it in this search would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. You wouldn’t know it was made for Magic, and it’s an exceptional piece of imaginative realism in its own right. Finding nuggets like this are why I love doing these articles.

Bird by Paul Bonner

Bird Token by Paul Bonner. Traditional.

I have always liked this dino-bird, if for no other reason that it’s a unique take on exactly what can be a “bird” when it comes to Magic artwork. It looks this way because it’s the token for Roc Egg, and Bonner has taken a literal and prehistoric take on who might be guarding this nest. This is a traditional painting believe it or not, and a wonderful example of the masterwork of this legendary artist.

Thopter by Svetlin Velinov

Thopter by Svetlin Velinov. Digital.

I love Thopters, especially those from Kaladesh, and this might be my personal most played token. Each are interesting and unique in their own right, but the bird’s eye perspective Velinov provides as we look down on the city, coupled with being able to see the filigreed interior of the inventive little machine, make it my go-to among the Thopter-type. I can’t wait until we revisit this world.

Copy by David Palumbo

This is a brand new token that debuted for Double Masters, and is so new I don’t even have the full artwork! There’s something entrancing about this Copy token, as if you could fall through the painting and continue to fall, quantum realm style. It bends the idea of what sort of artwork can function on a Magic token, and is largely different from what we usually see from Dave Palumbo. I am 100% here for it; more like this please.

Wrapping Up

Here ends the Mirror Gallery Top Ten Tokens. I want to thank Travis for including me on this little adventure; I just love exploring these seldom-searched subsections of Magic art. Trying to cut down my selections to ten, just one out of every 64 tokens was nearly impossible. It was a first fifteen out as opposed to a first five, and I could very easily write this again with ten new selections.

I think that speaks to the underappreciated importance of tokens and token artwork. How lucky are we that what was once a novel Player Reward prize is now available in most every pack? And fabulous set and lore adjacent artwork is included as a bonus in each booster we open, to go with the cards we’re playing? I would love to hear what your favorite tokens are from this great Token search, and I implore you to look a bit closer the next time you go a pack crackin’.

Let me know if you find anything cool, yeah? Until next time, stay well, be excellent to each other, and we’ll talk again real soon.

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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