Cover image: Firkraag, Cunning Instigator by Andrew Mar

Good morning folks, and welcome back on this hot July day to the Mirror Gallery on Hipsters of the Coast. I am fresh off my trip to Commandfest Orlando, and although a little short on time and sleep, I have decided that this week is the perfect time to continue my AP series that I began a year ago. While I had initially intended to have the rest of the 100s and 200 level articles out before writing this AP301 section, it’s fresh in my head and so seems the perfect time to venture down this particular rabbit hole.

I mentioned last time that while artist proofs are not tournament or event legal, they’re often perfectly acceptable at your LGS or kitchen table. It’s a way for those passionate about the game to support its artists while playing at the same time, and over the last few years there have been dozens of folks embark on the journey to “AP” their decks. You may have seen Vorthos Mike pick up some new additions for his Melira, Sylvok Outcast (that gave our table an utter stomping this weekend, thanks Woodfall Primus), or folks in the Discord show off their progress as they go along (with many of whom are featured at the end of this article).

As I built a new deck this summer with the recently released Firkraag, Cunning Instigator at the helm, I paid particular attention to my choices, their artists, and whether or not an AP might be available now or in the future. I’ve only played it once and it didn’t really get to spread its wings, but for now, it’ll be the example I use for this exercise.

How To Find Them

It goes without saying that not all artist proofs are easily accessible. Sometimes the artist doesn’t offer them, or other times they’ve been sold out for ages after only receiving a single printing. Before you decide that this project might be something you want to do, I’d encourage you to do exactly what I’ve done here, and take a stroll around the internet to see just what you might be getting yourself into. Once you’ve said yup, let’s give it a go, break your deck down into these categories and get to work!


Some proofs can be bought right now. Go and get ’em!

Artist Stores: Many artists keep active websites and web stores stocked with all their artist proofs that can be bought in an instant. Some like Matt Stewart use Etsy, that gives you all his options at a glance with a streamlined experience many are used to. Other folks, like Ryan Pancoast or Aaron Miller, manage their own website based stores; these are just as easy and you can buy direct from them. Search, Click, Sign, Ship, Sleeve. Done.

Multiple Printings: Something else that makes building an AP deck a touch easier is when a card has multiple printings, especially if those printings contain multiple different artworks. Artists receive APs for every time a card is printed, and each new iteration widens the field of what might be available out there in artist proof land. If you’ve read my Choosing Commander Art series, you know I have a whole thing about picking certain arts and printings. But when doing an AP deck, you may just need to settle for the one that’s available in the here and now.

Basic Lands: These will account for a large chunk of your deck, so I’d suggest at least getting an idea of what you’re looking for early on. If you’re going mismatched you’ll be a-ok in picking up a variety, but otherwise a place like Sam Burley or Alayna Danner’s webstore will be your best friend. I’m thinking of Sarah Finnigan basics for thematic flare in Firkraag.


Sometimes finding the right proof takes a little extra legwork.

Agents: Many artists work with agents, and as an agent myself for a handful of folks, I love nothing more than helping find someone exactly the thing they need for their collection or deck. The best place to find us is in the social media groups of Facebook and Discord. Just bear in mind that artists often work with agents because they don’t want to be overwhelmed with orders, so there may be some waiting necessary. For those who have begun their deck-building sojourn already, know I am always happy to help however I can. There are a fair few cards in my list from folks I represent myself!

Expensive: It’s not always a rule that expensive cards mean expensive proofs, but just as Magic card pricing is often based on demand and playability, this too is true of artist proofs. It does mean that staple EDH cards will often be twice as expensive (or more) as their regular paper counterparts, and that’s on top of being a bit harder to find. Remember you’re collecting a very limited thing, and this is about the journey, so don’t get discouraged, and always be patient.

Hard Mode

The closer you get to the finish line, the more likely you are to run into APs in hard mode.

Single Printings: There are thousands of cards that are only ever printed one time in Magic, but as time goes on, many of these once forgotten pieces of draft chaff find new life in obscure Commander decks. Depending on how long it’s been since their release, their APs could be almost all out in the wild from decades of events and mail orders.

Take something like Knollspine Dragon, which was recently sought by a collector friend and popped up in my list. Steve Prescott is sold out of his Shadowmoor APs (that came in non-foil only) and The List printings do not get APs. The List reprint made the non-foil version of the card affordable enough to not afford (heh) another reprint, but hopefully Knollspine returns as a foil promo or otherwise to give folks looking for this all-star a chance at an AP.

Even More Expensive: Yes, five digit Artist Proofs do exist. That feels like a weird thing to say, but when you look for Wheel of Fortune and Gaea’s Cradle, these numbers have and will continue to climb if and when they surface. The good news is that there are always alternatives, even if that sacrifices optimization. No one (including you) is going to be upset if you play Growing Rites of Itlimoc or Wheel of Misfortune instead in your all AP deck, especially if it helps you get to 100 Proof.

Impossible Quests

Some APs are just impossible. There are many artists who have left the game or are no longer interested in being a part of it, and others that never received or lost their stock of APs—many of Adam Rex’s were thrown away, a large chunk of Rob Alexander’s were stolen, etc. If this is the case for a potential card in your deck, fear not! As we’ve seen before and especially over the last few years, reprints with new art are at their highest rate in the game’s thirty year history. That card might be right around the corner with shiny art from your favorite artist with a webstore.

As is the rule when it comes to artist proofs, if it’s not available, don’t get upset. You’ll just have to wait longer. Again, patience is paramount, and often rewarded.

Community Examples

To show you just what I’m talking about, I reached out to some of the folks in the Discord to get images and links to their current projects. Take a look at these AP Deck creations or click the links to follow to their galleries; there are some serious labors of love in what follows, and I think you’ll really enjoy what folks are doing:

EK’s Najeela, the Blade Blossom:

Abrakadaver’s Tergrid, God of Fright:

NaturalKrunch’s Kenrith, the Returned King cEDH:

HobbesQ’s Grenzo, Dungeon Warden:

Matt Vercant’s Birgi’s Approach:

SquadHawk’s PokeEDH:

John Seow’s Poker Deck:

This last one isn’t an EDH deck at all but rather a Poker deck, complete with suits and each artist’s take on a playing card. How cool is that?!

Wrapping Up

I hope you enjoyed this little artist-proof-adjacent tangent. I’m planning to keep this 300 series for experimentation and evaluations for decks I’m working on, and hopefully it helps me find the right deck to embark on my own AP quest. Keep an eye out for continuations on the AP100 and AP200 series too; I promise they’re in the queue.

Looking ahead, it will soon be time for another Grand Art Tour with Dominaria United knocking on the door. In the meantime I’m going to get a little creative and explore Magic in some unknown spaces, from the Midjourney AI art generator to revisiting its place as abstract expressions like I did last summer. Stay tuned and stay well folks, and as always thanks for reading.

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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