Good morning everyone, and welcome back to the Mirror Gallery on Hipsters of the Coast on this chilly October morning. Today’s article is coming to you live from IX 14 in Reading, PA, where I’ve been since Tuesday afternoon. IX is the largest gathering of imaginative realism in the world, and full of the genre’s best art and artists. You can read my full IX Preview of all the Magic artists in attendance here—but I digress.

Today’s article is all about the most recent Secret Lair Superdrop, featuring seven new spooky sets full of incredible alternate artwork for some of your favorite cards. I’ve written about Secret Lair artwork before, both as commentary and by way of artist interview; but this new Secret Layers series will be a recurring column to try and look at each “drop” as it hits, not unlike my Grand Art Tour series for regular sets. Some will be a large overview (like this one), and others might drill down deeper on something more specific.

Secret Lairs are here to stay as Magic’s vehicle for exciting and unconventional alternate art, and are absolutely worth talking about. It brings a preponderance of new artists behind the art, and we can imagine potential futures for Magic art from these new additions. Let’s see what’s in store for the Secret Lair: October Super Drop!

Universes Beyond: Stranger Things

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Chief Jim Hopper by Greg Staples; Max, the Daredevil by Greg Staples; Lucas, the Sharpshooter by Greg Staples; Dustin, Gadget Genius by Colin Boyer; Mike, the Dungeon Master by Colin Boyer; Eleven, the Mage by Pauline Voss; Will the Wise by Pauline Voss; Mindflayer, the Shadow by Isis; Clue Token by Jenn Ravenna Tran. All works digital.

This is one of two groups with artwork by multiple artists, and is one of Magic’s new forays into Universes Beyond, partnerships that portray popular fictional worlds on Magic: the Gathering cards. To do this Magic called upon artists new and old to the game, from the legendary Greg Staples and now MTG Art Director Colin Boyer, to new-to-the-game folks like Pauline Voss and Isis Sangare. It even includes a work by now-filmmaker Jenn Ravenna Tran, one of the final pieces she’s completed for Magic.

While I have no personal connection to the show Stranger Things or the storyline therein, I know lots of folks that do. This is completely their jam and something they’re very excited about. It’s not easy to mesh a live-action TV show to the world of Magic art, but Wizards is finding solutions in art direction to make that transition as seamless as possible. This will be the first of many, and we’ll watch their evolution over the coming months and years as Magic expands to Universes Beyond.

Showcase: Midnight Hunt

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Slayer’s Stronghold by Alayna Danner; Gavony Township by Robbie Trevino; Alchemist’s Refuge by DZO; Stensia Bloodhall by Dan Mumford; Moorland Haunt by Daria Khlebnikova; Grim Backwoods by N.C. Winters; Desolate Lighthouse by Nico Delort; Vault of the Archangel by Jessica Seamans; Nephalia Drownyard by Kerby Rosanes; and Kessig Wolf Run by Rio Kisma.

This is the other drop featuring the work of multiple artists, and brings the black and white Showcase style of Midnight Hunt to the original non-basic lands of Innistrad. Returning monochrome masters include Alayna Danner, Robbie Trevino, DZO, Dan Mumford, Daria Khlebnikova, N.C. Winters and Nico Delort, joined by Jessica Seamans, Kerby Rosanes and Rio Kisma who are appearing in Magic for the first time.

Here we have a beautiful collection of important Innistrad locations shown as if the Eternal Night continued on, making them both a throwback to days gone by in Magic and a glimpse of the future as we follow the current storyline at the same time. To have ten different artist’s create such a cohesive package is an incredible feat, and I can’t wait to see these in person and get them in a deck with their contemporary counterparts.

Monster Movie Marathon by Martin Ansin

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Dismember, Blasphemous Act, Beast Within, and Grafdigger’s Cage by Martin Ansin. Digital.

It is indeed a quadruple feature movie marathon with these incredible retro-inspired movie poster cards by Montevideo, Uruguay-based artist Martin Ansin. Movie posters are what Ansin does, literally; he’s taken these four cards and turned them into a throwback themed horror movie poster, complete with card name, ability, and beautiful full bleed artwork all wrapped into a tidy package of new artwork. These are dripping with Magic influence if you look close, from Grafdigger’s Cage being set on Amonkhet to Beast Within being very much the Innistrad we are visiting now. I love that Wizards brought in a movie poster artist to make movie poster cards, and think these are some of the most arrestingly cool images in the entire series.

You can find Ansin on both Twitter and Instagram to check out more of their work, and I hope this isn’t the last we see of them.

Read the Fine Print by ZIUK

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Demonlord Belzenlok, Griselbrand, Liliana’s Contract, Kothophed, Soul Hoarder, and Razaketh, the Foulblooded by ZIUK. Digital.

Many Magic players of the last decade have been following the story of Liliana and her demons, which was very much the backbone of the last large story arc. For the first time they’ve been rendered together in the same style and within the same set, created in a flourish of spot color gold and purple by artist ZIUK, who is based in Madrid, Spain. This is where flavor meets function, as now a player can include a matched set of Liliana in their choice of foiling. ZIUK has created a harmonious retelling of this incredible story by way of visual feast, and I can only imagine these look simply stunning laid out all together.

Thrilling Tales of the Undead by Fay Dalton

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Liliana, Death’s Majesty, Gravecrawler, and Rise of the Dark Realms by Fay Dalton. Digital.

Speaking of both Liliana and of storytelling, enter London-based artist Fay Dalton, a digital cover artist who has brought these two subthemes together into a spooky mash-up that continues the aforementioned storyline within someone’s very own deck. She’s made Liliana the star of her own story in this romance book cover-styled trading card retelling of her long history in the game. They’re a little pulpy in all the good ways, with the juicy details that come with such a complicated character. Thrilling Tales of the Undead indeed!

Monster Anatomy 101 by Timba Smits

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Fleet Swallower, Goblin Trashmaster, Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, Protean Hulk, and Gishath, Sun’s Avatar by Timba Smits. Digital.

How incredibly fun and inventive are these images by Timba Smits? Do you remember the books from 25 years ago that had everything cross-sectioned, and the animals you could see inside of? This is pulling on the nostalgic heartstrings of millennials like myself, as we now get to see inside of our favorite Magic creatures with a bit of whimsy infused to go along. These full-art cutaways open the door to an entire subsection of looking “inside” Magic characters, creatures, and world, and I am here for it! I can’t think this is last we’ll see of Timba: what creature would you like to see inside?

Mirrodinsanity by DXTR

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Ancient Den, Seat of the Synod, Vault of Whispers, Great Furnace, and Tree of Tales by DXTR. Digital.

Berlin-based DXTR the Weird is not new to Magic, and did their first card for the very first Secret Lair, a pixel-art Serum Visions that was a part of a four card set featuring that card. Now they’ve got their own cycle, still very much on Mirrodin, but a reimagining of the classic artifact lands in that very same stylistic variation. These are an absolute trip and are going to look just stunning in full art foil. They are also the very first new artwork for this cycle in nearly twenty years! DXTR, you did good, and I hope you keep coming around to put your touch on more bits of Magic.

Wrapping Up

We’ve hit the bottom of the Super Drop exploration, and I hope you enjoyed getting to peel back some of the layers of this artwork and these artists. I’ve mentioned before but Secret Lair is perhaps my favorite thing Magic has done in recent memory, not only for the art and artists they’ve brought on this far but for all the possibilities that lie ahead. They won’t all be for everyone, and they certainly aren’t all perfectly attuned to my taste, even when it comes to a love of alternate artwork. But Secret Lair is about an opportunity to expand artistic horizons, both for those seeking to make art, and for us players finding new art and artists to enjoy in the game we love.

I’ll see you in a few weeks back on Innistrad to look at what else is happening on the plane in Crimson Vow. As we crash towards the year 2022, you can bet there is still a lot more new artwork to look at. 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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