Morning folks, and welcome back to the Mirror Gallery here on Hipsters of the Coast on this chilly, chilly December morning. To be entirely honest, I didn’t think another one of the combination Never-Ending Preview articles was going to be necessary, with the last one coming back in October and the release schedule for the rest of the year mostly set (or so I thought).

The frequency and timeline of MTG product releases has been all the buzz the last month, from showing up in the Bank of America double-downgrade of Hasbro to the recent Fireside Chat response from Wizards execs that came out just this week, live tweeted by Hipsters. Without going too much into it (this column is about pictures, not graphs), investors have gone Chicken Little on Magic’s future, citing the company “killing the golden goose,” and the upper level of Magic has refuted that claim with some very legitimate reasoning and strategy.

Regardless which side of the fence you’re on, the deluge of product releases has been felt by everyone. As a bi-weekly art writer, there just should not ever be a time where multiple sets worth of artwork are released in between my articles. And I’m not even talking about Dominaria Remastered, which just turned up as I was trying to finish this piece. Blake Rasmussen addressed the plan moving forward at the beginning of last week’s Weekly MTG, and shared some schedule adjustments, both of what’s possible in 2023 alongside additional promise to 2024, where things aren’t quite set in stone. I think it will ultimately be a good thing for fans and for content creators alike, no matter how you interact with the game.

So all that said, let’s play catch up again, with a mini Grand Art Tour through Jumpstart 2022 and a shortened Secret Layers for the Secret Lair December Superdrop.

Jumpstart 2022

We’ll start with one of the strongest artworks in the set, and one that also happens to be the card I’m most excited to play.

Kenessos, Priest of Thassa by Joshua Raphael

Kenessos, Priest of Thassa by Joshua Raphael. Digital.

I’m a sucker for scenes underwater, and Raphael has designed a super dynamic composition to display this new legend of the deep. The strong diagonal carries our eye from the tip of his toe to the tip of his top fin, with pit stops at the Thassa statue in the background and the kraken (which looks like Tromokratis) in the midground. His pose exudes power, and his priestliness is undoubted. I cannot wait to make a Sea Monsters Commander deck with this guy at the helm; I love playing cards with great art, and this will be no exception.

Moving on, things get a little…creepy. I’m not usually drawn to the darker arts, but these next two pieces are simply exceptional.

Disciple of Perdition by Alix Branwyn

Disciple of Perdition by Alix Branwyn, oil on board, 18” x 24”

Branwyn has been illustrating for Magic since Strixhaven in 2021, and in that short time has shown us an incredible range in skill set and style. Across her two dozen cards in paper, she’s already illustrated something in each color and card type, and I think that this Disciple of Perdition is immediately her best work for Magic so far. She’s created something both beautiful and terrifying, frozen in time and yet as if it’s about to jump off the page. This is no easy feat at card size or the full size of the original oil paintings, and to have it function so well as both is a true masterclass. Just look at those eyes. Instant shivers.

She also mentions on Twitter that she’s woven the number 13 into the work a number of times, and I’m still not sure I’ve found them all.

Ghoul’s Feast by Ovidio Cartagena 

Ghoul’s Feast by Ovidio Cartagena. Digital.

Keeping with the creepy is this still life by Magic Art Director Ovidio Cartagena. I was fortunate to meet Ovidio at Magic30 in Las Vegas, and as a part of his panel got to hear him speak a bit about his inspiration from the great artistic Masters in his Platinum Angel artwork from The Brother’s War, and we see that on full display again here.

The Beheading of John the Baptist has been depicted countless times in the art history of the world, and the artist noted that he looked to the Italian Baroque, Mannerism, and these masterwork examples as inspiration for this new artwork. We may not always see it at first glance, but our contemporary fantasy is rooted in these centuries old paintings and styles, and folks like Ovidio are continually bringing those important elements into the modern lens. He stands on the shoulders of giants and lets us know their name, and the game is better for it.

Ashcoat of the Shadow Swarm and Preston, the Vanisher by Christina Kraus

Ashcoat of the Shadow Swarm by Christina Kraus. Digital.

Preston, the Vanisher by Christina Kraus. Digital.

Before we end our J22 jaunt, I wanted to mention a brand new artist to Magic that has her debut in this set, and that’s Christina Kraus!

These two legends mark her long-awaited entrance to MTG, and she’s smashed it out of the park. Each is wonderfully composed, and the deeper you look, the more detail you see. From the Kamigawa building background of Ashcoat of the Shadow Swarm to the tiny gnarls in Preston, the Vanisher’s wand, she’s made these characters timeless, full of life, and completely unique. I can’t wait to see what else she may have coming for Magic in the future.

Secret Lair December Super Drop

Our second topic of today is Magic’s newest Secret Lair offering, rather than cover the Secret Lair December Superdrop in its entirety, I’m going to do a lightning round of some of my favorite sets that make up the larger collection.

The Art of Frank Frazetta

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Midnight Reaper, Field Marshall, Temporal Manipulation, Dark Ritual, and Seize the Day by Frank Frazetta.

Frank Frazetta (1928-2010) is considered the Godfather of Fantasy Art, and we see his revolutionary and inspirational artwork placed in a Magic: The Gathering frame now for the first time. It’s a brilliant point of departure, both for his longtime fans who enjoyed Frazetta artwork well before Magic was created, and for folks new to the game that may be discovering these legendary paintings for the first time.

As far as I know, this is the second time where art of an artist’s work has posthumously been licensed to Magic after the Bob Ross lands.

Special Guest: Kozyndan: The Lands

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Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, and Forest by Kozyndan. Digital Color over Ink.

Kozue and Dan Kitchens are a wife and husband artistic duo, residing in Japan and working across a number of different mediums. They actually have two separate drops in this Superdrop, one for the cycle of lands you see here, and a separate collection of five other figurative cards, but all are done in an Edo reminiscent style with digital color rendered over original ink drawings.

You can read all about their art and travels on their blog here, and it has also been brought to my attention that they have two cats, which is pretty important. Kozy and Dan, you are my people.

Artist Series: Aleksi Briclot

Eldrazi Panorama by Aleksi Briclot. Digital.

Thought-Knot Seer, Inquisition of Kozilek, Reality Smasher, andEldrazi Temple.

If you think I’m going to pass over a panorama, well, wrong! Aleksi Briclot, famous for the original Lorwyn 5 Planeswalkers as well as two prior Eldrazi Titans, gets his own Eldrazi-themed Secret Lair Artist Series, with amazing artwork and pretty interesting flavor text, to say the least. I so love when artworks come together to form polyptych pieces of artwork, and I’ll absolutely be trying to assemble this image (and saying) on the battlefield.

Wizards of the Street by Martin Ontiveros

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Baral, Chief of Compliance, Spellseeker, Magus of the Wheel, and Kess, Dissident Mage by Martin Ontiveros. Traditional.

We’ll finish up with a collection of cards from brand new Magic artist Martin Ontiveros, who has some of the cleanest and crispiest paint I’ve ever seen in my time looking at and writing about art.

Yes, you heard me right, these are traditional paintings, done by hand, in real honest to goodness paint. It’s incredible stuff, full of uniqueness, and what will soon be instantly recognizable across a Magic table. I’ll be working with Martin in the near future to offer his original paintings and ink drawings as well as his APs, and can’t wait to share with you all the neat things he has planned.

Wrapping Up

Alright folks, we made it. I know that was a lot to jam into a single Mirror Gallery, and to think it was only half as much as I usually do for each set on its own. As both a player and a writer, the aforementioned breathing room to enjoy releases will certainly be welcome. Look at all this amazing artwork we have in just the last few weeks! I want some time to digest and explore before it’s off on the next quest. It sounds like that’s coming, and I’m here for it, but I guess only time will tell.

The next Mirror Gallery will be my annual Mirror Gallery Reflection, and my last article of the year. It’ll also be my 400th article for Hipsters of the Coast, so I’m gonna get a little nostalgic and a little misty-eyed walking back through this year and the last few preceding.

Also, if you haven’t watched already, check out Rhystic Studies’ most recent video, 100 Proof, and hear from yours truly about the miniature artist wonders known as Artist Proofs. And have a peep at the AP gallery show I’m guest curating with Nucleus that opens next month.

That’s plenty for today. I’d like to wish you the happiest of holiday seasons for both you and yours, and I’ll see you again the last week of this month right before we ring in the New Year. Thanks for reading.


Donny Caltrider (he/him) is a Senior Writer at Hipsters of Coast writing about all things related to the art of Magic: The Gathering and the larger imaginative realism genre. 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. When he’s not writing for Hipsters, you can find him traveling with his wife, petting his two cats, and watching the Baltimore Orioles.

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