Hello, and welcome to part 4 of this series covering the Magic card illustrations of Rebecca Guay. Today’s post begins with the Invasion block of late 2000. If you’re just joining us, here are links to parts one, two, and three of this series.
Released in September 2000, this set involves the planeswalker Urza helping the crew of the skyship Weatherlight to repel the Phyrexian invasion of Dominaria. This is the climax of the longest story arc in Magic, and luckily for us, Guay has some integral pieces in that aesthetic vision. Let’s do this.
Atalya is pictured in a dreamlike world, blending and swirling behind her, as she caresses a ball of light energy. She’s got flowing locks of hair, flowing robes, and stylish jewelry, all of which flow well with the dreamlike, soft energy of this piece. There is movement and energy, but in gentle curves and waves. An example of “gratuitous babe art,” but tastefully so. Atalya is a challenging EDH general for Guay enthusiasts to consider. A peacemaker role for multiplayer games, perhaps?
Protective Sphere has a comicbook feel to me, as the mage (presumably the Weatherlight’s healer Orim) envelops herself and her companion (Hana, the ship’s navigator) in a magical sanctuary. The coloring is wonderful, and the effect of the concentric lines does make us feel like we’re in the bubble. The two foxy heroines, one calm under duress, the other beautiful even in her incapacitated state, may be a lot of it, but this piece is attractive to me. I like the tattooed arm, and the fingerless gloves too! The fallen Hana’s garb has always seemed almost motorcross or storm trooper, with form fitting armor that’s still elegant; I love Guay’s rendition. A dramatic and enjoyable scene.
I like the dress this woman is wearing, but this piece has always confused me slightly. I’m not sure what the prismatic stalactites mean. Also, does she look a bit crosseyed to anyone else? Perhaps she was blinded by the light. I just feel like this is a work in progress, almost. The woman and her dress are fine, but the setting is just elusive to me. Maybe that’s the point.
Wow, Traveler’s Cloak. A personal favorite, fully embracing the super-naturally wavy cloak theme, here we have just a wonderful cascade of cloth, bouncing and floating through the air, light and effeminate, draping a stunning woman, herself sillouetted against the moon. The trees seem to bend and sway from the energy, or perhaps this is all viewed through a distorting lens. The effect is almost snow-globe like, I feel this wavy moment is like a good long float in some water.
This is a big, beautiful merfolk wizard with colors like a lion fish:
I love the way the water ripples away from her hand as she works her magic. Guay’s merfolk (and underwater scenes in general) are superb, and we’ll see many other examples yet to come.
This piece has a fantastic hippy drum circle vibe going on. Elven maidens drumming out in what seems to be a manicured piece of forest behind them. The maid on the left is clearly into the beat, lost in the ancient rhythm, and along with the rightmost elf, appears almost trancelike. The middle elf seems to have detected our prying eyes, and gazes disapprovingly at us, but doesn’t appear to have missed a beat. It’s a fun and dynamic, energetic scene with lots of details to lure your eyes around the piece.
More exaggerated flowing cloth trails behind this elf scout. Her attire is impeccable. The dreamy abstraction of her starry surrounding, along with her hand gesture, brings our focus to her serious, almost worried face. “All that matters is the path ahead.” Indeed, I feel curious about what mystery lies beyond the frame here… what has captured her attention?
This card depicts Urza, later in life after his various eye traumas (seriously, the “you’ll shoot your eye out” kid from A Christmas Story has nothing on Urza’s ocular vexations). I like the way the swirling background feels in this one… it’s a good effect for a blind seer’s vision. Urza has his right hand up in a meditative sort of pose, like an antennae reaching out, attuned to the energy around him. His left hand rests delicately against the neck of his ornate staff. His long robe and scarf billow in the soft wind. A very interesting and appropriate image for a card with this effect.
2003 FNM Promo
We saw priest of titania back in Urza’s Saga. This foil version is definitely the sought after version, as Saga had no foils itself. In this, the day of mythic rares and foils, the older sets harken back to a simpler time of Magic’s innocence, as does the ridiculous power level of this and many other cards from Saga. We’ll see some other promotional foils in our journey through Guay’s work, but this is the first, and it’s a great choice at this point in the history of her cards. I still contend that this is the most powerful elf ever printed.
Released in February 2001, Planeshift is the second set in the Invasion block.
I struggle to place this image within the storyline of Invasion, but regardless it’s a neat, flavorful image. This is one of those mystic feeling pieces, with the subject floating among fiery clouds. The colorful armor is a neat blend of masculine samurai pragmatism and feminine stylistic sensibility.
This one is a good use of psychedelia to express the execution of sorcery. The expressive, stylized birds and the planeswalker Freyalise’s karate-esque pose… it’s one of the cards that really solidified my appreciation for Guay, and one I’ve recreated in sketches.
Released in April 2001, 7th ed. was the first and, regrettably only core set to be released since Alpha with all new card art for every card. I wish this were true of every core set. The anti-capitalist in me figures “money talks” and that WotC simply won’t foot the bill for artist commissions that they don’t “need.” Bah humbug. But, in 2001, it seems a different ideology prevailed, and seventh edition is the fruit born thereof.
Awesome Alice in Wonderland flavor text, and a great high fantasy scene. Three merfolk gaze out at a scene that’s like a mystic vision into the past before them. This card has the name that was, at one time back in the earliest days of Magic when Alpha was being developed, to have been the name of one of Magic’s most iconic, powerful, and sought after cards, one of the power nine (for which this blog and company were named); Ancestral Recall. This card was originally printed in Mirage, illustrated by William Donohoe, and again in Portal by Dan Frazier. No surprise, Guay’s is my fave.
Coral merfolk isn’t too impressive as far as creatures go, but I really dig this artwork, especially the warrior’s mardi gras mask/helm. When you’re illustrating a 2/1 merfolk, it is what it is… just the dork, sort of there… composed dead center, but tightly framed, this has a confrontational feel. Sort of a “who goes there?!”… or rather “
Originally from Alpha, Twiddle is a weird sort of effect that seldom increases the cost by a single mana when it’s stapled in re-usable form on a creature. In other words, it’s pretty weak (when it’s not un-tapping time vault, that is). Rob Alexander’s version is almost Salvador-Dali-esque, below:
I sure dig that one, too. Guay’s depicts a female wizard blasting Tsabo Tavoc (a make-believe BS sort of spider phyrexian thing…). It’s an action snapshot that works fairly well. As usual, the female wizard is decked out in regalia that are absolutely fabulous.
This forlorn merfolk is a perfect match for the Romeo and Juliet quote in the flavor text. Dark Banishing was revolutionary in its day back in Ice Age for being able to nail artifact creatures, unlike the similar card terror. We’ve got the waves we’ve seen before, though in a dark, somber black tone. This is also a fairly rare piece for Guay (and for Magic) for being essentially a nude. The pain in the merfolk maiden’s face is palpable.
This is an odd one… I almost feel like this could be the view from whatever the merfolk in ancestral memories were looking at, above. I’m confused by this card being green, and I’m not sure I understand the smoke / steam. I think it’s another case of art / mechanic dissonance.
Released in June 2001, Apocalypse was the last set in the Invasion block.
Shimmering Mirage is a beautiful card that hangs together very well… it’s also pretty archetypal of Guay’s landscape imagery. Here we have the waves and mist, reminiscent of Edmund Dulac, as we’ve seen in previous installments of this series, along with a great rendition of this illusory land-type distortion. The verdant forest hovers in mist above the crashing waves, conveying this card’s effect well and jiving with the name. Very cool.
A precursor of sorts to modern cards like scapeshift, Gaea’s Balance shows a dancing female in the midst of some ecstatic magical performance. She bears some resemblance to Freyalise, pictured in planeswalker’s favor, above. I love the halo effect. Here and eslewhere, I feel there’s a subtle reference to the work of Alphonse Mucha, who loves these circular patterns and halos. Here’s a couple examples from Mucha:
(The well known ‘Princess Hyacinta’)
Remember Travelers Cloak from the beginning of this piece? The same holds true there, and in fact, the figure in that piece has a very Mucha-Princess look to her. At any rate, The exaggerated flowing cloth and the delicate posture of the figure… her beauty and grace… these elements help make this card instantly recognizable as a Guay piece.
Captain Sisay, portrayed here in a darker skin tone than usual, is on the deck of the Skyship Weatherlight, embraced by Squee, the ship’s comic relief Goblin cabin boy. It’s a touching piece, though its composition, centered and “zoomed out” as it is, leaves it a bit static. The eye stays put in the center of this card, which isn’t necessarily bad, as it focuses us on the embrace itself. It’s a cute one, endearing us to Squee, and showing Sisay’s patient acceptance of her odd companion.
As a side note, this card is particularly fierce in the all-Guay deck (which again, must be white and red with a potential black and green splash due to the regrettable dearth of Guay-illustrated basic lands in magic. WotC, throw us a bone! What’s three basic lands among committed fans, eh?) in combination with Auramancer. But I digress… we’ll talk more about the Guay-only deck when we get to auramancer in part 5.
With that, I will bid you adieu until we meet again. I apologize to my anxious readers for the unfortunate delays with this series. I’m cranking them out as quickly as I can while still giving due diligence to the artist. I have footage from a Skype interview to get to as well, and will do so as soon as I can. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time!