Good morning folks and welcome back to the Mirror Gallery on another cold February morning here on Hipsters of the Coast. We are now fully immersed into Magic’s latest visit to Phyrexia. It’s time to take my seminal deep-dive into my favorite artworks of this most recent set. This is my first time writing about Phyrexia. I played during the original Mirrordin block pretty heavily but was taking a break from Magic when Mirrodin fell during the Scars block, so this article was as exploratory as it was revelatory. The set is a feast for the senses, and you’ll soon see why.

Real quick before we begin: if you’re new to the Grand Art Tour series, it’s my regular review column begun back in 2019 and inspired by New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz’s 2010 article entitled A Grand Tour. It functions as the highlight reel of my favorite paintings from each major set release, and showcases, through a critical eye, those works that stand apart and best tell the story of the game.

This Grand Tour gets a little wild and doesn’t necessarily follow a theme, as I literally go all over the place in order to cover the breadth and depth that makes up Phyrexia: All Will Be One. There are singular superlatives, perfect pairs, and spectacular sets that all come together as One within these confines, and I can’t wait to talk about them. Let’s get started. 

Clockwise from top left: Indoctrination Attendant, Gitaxian Anatomist, Ichorplate Golem, Ichor Synthesizer, by Sam Wolfe Connelly. Digital

Indoctrination Attendant, Gitaxian Anatomist, Ichor Synthesizer, & Ichorplate Golem by Sam Wolfe Connelly

When I begin researching for my Grand Art Tour articles, I blow up the cards to card size on my laptop screen, and scroll through row by row, making notes of card names before I pay attention to the artist name at the bottom. Every once in a while, there appears a subtle but standout body of work like we see here from Sam Wolfe Connelly. Each one of these cards stopped me as I was making notes, and made me say “Wow, this is Phyrexia.” And it wasn’t until the end I realized each was by the same hand. I had to see them at full resolution, and Sam was gracious enough to send me the full artworks so I could share them here. Indoctrination Assistant is subjugation incarnate. Gitaxian Anatomist and Ichor Synthesizer are literally Phyrexia at Work in the scariest way possible. And Ichorplate Golem is the literal embodiment of all that is, and has been, lost.

Sam is not new to Magic, he’s just been gone for a little while. I, for one, couldn’t be more excited to see him back. Bravo.

Contagious Vorrac by Maxime Minard. Digital.

Contagious Vorrac by Maxime Minard

Contagious Vorrac is both an introduction and a nostalgia trip for me. It’s my first time looking at the work of the artist: Maxime Minard is fairly new to Magic, and Phyrexia: All Will Be One is their first time to showcase multiple pieces of artwork within a given set. But then, for those players that have been around for a while like myself, you remember the vorracs present on the very first visit to Mirrodin, don’t you? Minard has done incredible justice to this old and very niche creature type, now reimagined for a new age on the plane. The beast is set against the backdrop of the green sphere’s sun, beautiful and terrifying. It’s one of the strongest artworks in the set.

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Unctus, Grand Metatect by Andrew Mar & Sidharth Chaturvedi

Mar and Chaturvedi are both ink masters, and I was excited to see two of my favorite artists work on the same character in Unctus, Grand Metatect. Mar gives us the ‘modern’ Unctus, hard at work at his compleation table with all the legible detail to make this art excel both at card size and at full size. Sid was tasked with the Borderless Ichor version, and we then see Unctus as he might see himself: fully Phyrexian, the embodiment of the blue-turned-black which makes him his new self. A true dichotomy becomes One.

The Surgical Bay by Sarah Finnigan. Traditional.

The Surgical Bay by Sarah Finnigan

If you’re a regular reader of this column you know I love Sarah’s work; she’s one of the best landscape artists working in the game right now, and consistently delivers incredible pieces that are instrumental in telling us the ‘where’ at any given point in the multiverse. Take a moment to look at the detailed shots of The Surgical Bay on her Instagram: from the shine of the oil slick to the communion of the spherical and spiral, this painting is perfection.

Norn’s Choirmaster & Mondrak, Glory Dominus by Jason Engle. Traditional.

Norn’s Choirmaster & Mondrak, Glory Dominus by Jason Engle

I haven’t written about Jason Engle nearly enough since his monumental Theros Star-Chart back in 2020, but these two larger than life Phyrexians were the perfect chance to revisit his work. This plane of Phyrexia allowed the artist to continue to blend his personal work within the larger world of Magic, from Mondrak’s epic scale to his very first Magic angel, and the literal-soul filled wings we see spreading atop the spire. These are hellishly cool, and a spot-on commission choice which really let the artist’s skill shine through.

Top: Mandible Justicar by Mike Franchina. Digital.
Bottom: Swooping Lookout by Mike Franchina. Digital.

Mandible Justicar & Swooping Lookout by Mike Franchina

This is Mike Franchina’s Magic: The Gathering debut, and based on his artwork, it looks like all smiles! The white Phyrexia factions have certain continuing moteefs (Ovidio, if you’re reading this, someone had to make the joke), and these two are right at the top of conveying that tooth— I mean truth. Franchina said on Twitter he doesn’t fancy himself an illustrator, but I sure hope this isn’t the last we see of him. These are perfect pieces for this set, and the visual narrative of what these creatures are just wouldn’t be the same without them.

Lukka, Bound to Ruin by Chase Stone. Digital.

Lukka, Bound to Ruin by Chase Stone

This artwork for the phyrexianized Lukka, Bound to Ruin tripped me out the first time I saw it, again as I was writing about it, and I’m sure it will when I think about it in the future. The artist mentions on Instagram it was a mix of 2D and 3D, and there were “some aspects I (Stone) took pretty far in 3D,” which we can see immediately at full resolution. If I didn’t know any better I would say pieces of this were a painted miniature or straight up photographed 3D figurine. I’ve no idea how he did it, but knew you all needed to see it out of the frame too.

Magmatic Splinter by Samuel Araya. Digital.

Magmatic Splinter by Samuel Araya

I’ve been patiently waiting for a chance to feature the work of Samuel Araya, and Magmatic Splinter, with its limited palette and undulating forms, is the perfect fit. I absolutely love when an artist can go full minimalist, and yet a work tells a huge story: this Phyrexian moves fast through the Quiet Furnace, through the shadows and smoke, emerging only when the time is right. Araya has captured that split second perfectly. 

Top: Titanic Growth by WolfSkullJack. Digital.
Bottom: Thirsting Roots by WolfSkullJack. Digital.

Titanic Growth & Thirsting Roots by WolfSkullJack

I’m not gonna lie, I cheered a little cheer when I saw Michelle Harvey (aka WolfSkullJack) had returned to Magic for the first time since her Kaldheim debut back in 2021. She’s a perfect stylistic fit to this set: sharp edges, a little bit of chaos and color, and all the action we’d expect from The Vicious Swarm. It’s worth noting she appears in the Main Set as opposed to the Showcase/ Secret Lair subseries as we’ve seen before; hopefully that means more exciting artwork is on the way.

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All Will Be One by Dominik Mayer

I’m going to end today with something I’ve never done before, and that’s a massive eleven-card feature. Dominik Mayer created this short dozen for the Borderless Ichor showcase, more than 20% of the run in this special art treatment. It will be how this set is remembered. All but one of these artworks depict a legendary creature essential to the larger story, and as I mentioned with Unctus earlier, these artworks are the core of Phyrexia, as if we were looking at the character from the inside out. They are raw, full of emotion while being emotionless. They are, simply put, brilliant additions to this catalog.

Wrapping Up

This Grand Art Tour was an interesting exercise for me, if for no other reason than there is a LOT going on within a single release. Not just in variants (there are a lot of those too) but in the story that’s being told, from the nine spheres to the five factions and everything in between.. It’s a complicated set. To make it as cohesive and narrative as it is, Art Director Ovidio Cartagena and his team deserves a real big, multi-arm round of applause. It’s overwhelming, but honestly, a return to Phyrexia shouldn’t be any other way.

Looking ahead there is some pretty exciting stuff right on the horizon: MagicCon Philadelphia is right around the corner, and I’ll be there all weekend alongside Justine Jones in the Art of Magic section. Please come by and say hello, I’d love to meet you and chat for a bit. And next time in the Mirror Gallery, my 4D series returns for the first time, and I’ll have a special guest as we dive even deeper into the spheres of Phyrexia!

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 (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 or working with artists, you can find him traveling with his wife, petting his two cats, and watching the Baltimore Orioles.

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