All posts by joe

Duel Decks: Knights vs. Dragons Decklist Announced

symbolToday Wizards announced the decklists for Duel Decks: Knights vs. Dragons. The expansion symbol is pictured to the left. (I’m seeing a dragon… but a knight? Hmm.)

Notably, knight of the reliquary, with its ~$10 pricetag should cover the knights’ half of the $19.99 MSRP all by its self. Plus, she has some sick new art, which Monty Ashley showed us back in February:

New Reliquary Art

You’ll also get a loxodon warhammer, along with a number of other decent rare knights:

On the dragon side, the previously hard-to-find Thunder Dragon arguably pays its team’s half of the price tag as it tends to run around $10 as well, and you’ll get a slew of junk rare Dragons to boot:

Here’s the alternate artwork on the dragon side, for Bogardan Hellkite:

hellkite

The decks will likely be fun to play against each other, and I’m pretty sure the fanboys will grab this product for the new artwork. The price seems to be just about right, making this duel deck a deal deck to boot. Expect to see the old knights reliquary popping up in a trade binder near you!

Innistrad announced as 2011′s September large set

The large set codenamed “Shake,” due to be released September 30, 2011, has officially been announced on the mothership. Computer dorks out there might be amused that they used Magic Arcana number 666, as can be seen in the URL string. Was this coincidence, or did WotC dorks save this announcement for this particular issue of Arcana? I suspect, based on this amusing feature, on the image below, and on the tagline “Horror Lurks Within,” that the set will be Transylvanian / Vampire themed, sort of a Ravenloft of Magic. As such, I’m certainly excited. It might be time to dust off the old Baron Sengir EDH deck.

Innistrad

Mirrodin Besieged Set Review

Hello hello. James and I talk about all the new cards in this set review. It’s lengthy, so let’s jump right in.

Land (2)

Name:Contested Warzone
Type: Land
Rules Text: Whenever you are dealt combat damage by a creature, that creature’s controller gains control of Contested Warzone.
{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.
{1}, {T}: Attacking creatures get +1/+0 until end of turn.
Rarity: Rare

(Joe) I think we should talk about these lands first. This one seems like a quirky one to try. The next, however, seems very cool indeed

inkmoth nexus

Name:Inkmoth Nexus
Type: Land
Rules Text: {T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.
{1}: Inkmoth Nexus becomes a 1/1 Blinkmoth artifact creature with flying and infect until end of turn. It’s still a land. (It deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
Illus. Jung Park
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #145/155

(Joe) Blinkmoth Nexus is a respectable pedigree here. This land will prove to be an important factor to consider when evaluating the new infect creatures in this set. In Scars of Mirrodin, there were not yet enough Infect creatures to make a viable standard deck. That may be changing soon in large part due to helpers like this one. Having an evasive man-land that also creates a temporary artifact creature is a very good set of abilities and will synergistically power up every infect deck out there. Not only that, but this land can potentially interact with shape anew to create a sort of artifact creature polymorph deck. Luckily there’s another infect take on a classic mirrodin era card in blightsteel colossus waiting to fill the 1-of role once more, only this time he’ll be capable of winning with a single hit. Anyway, I’m highly anticipating this card.

Name:Accorder Paladin
Cost: 1{W}
Type: Creature – Human Knight
Pow/Tgh: 3/1
Rules Text: Battle cry (Whenever this creature attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.)
Flavor Text: “I fight for the suns, the surface, and everything in between.”
Illus. Kekai Kotaki
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #1/155

(james) This is an extremely aggressive card and will be a great addition for Boros/White-Weenie-esque deck strategies.

(Joe) Agreed, though personally I’m not seeing how Battle cry can make much of a splash in constructed. In limited, this is indeed like the aggressive bear model.

ardent recruit

Name: Ardent Recruit
Cost: W
Type: Creature – Human Soldier
Pow/Tgh: 1/1
Rules Text: Metalcraft – Ardent Recruit gets +2/+2 as long as you control three or more artifacts.
Rarity: Common

(Joe) Whoa nelly, 3/3 is serious beef for a one drop. At first blush, this common looks to enable some interesting archetypes in limited, and potentially even some metal weenie standard deck. But it seems rather unlikely that you’ll have the requisite artifacts by turn two even under the best of circumstances. I’m guessing that outside a very narrow setup, this should usually be evaluated as a 1/1.
(James) Maybe there’s room for this kind of card in Legacy? a 3/3 is really good for one mana and Legacy seems to have a lot more artifacts…
(Joe) Perhaps. But even then, three is a lot of artifacts. At least you have the artifact lands there. You’d need to play the artifact land, plus some kind of mox, plus one more artifact… top or vial maybe… and only then do you get access to this 1-drop 3/3. I dunno. Zoo will probably give him a shot somehow.

Name: Banishment Decree
Cost: 3{W}{W}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Put target artifact, creature or enchantment on top of its owner’s library.
Rarity: Common

(Joe) I was always a fan of Plow Under, and while this is clearly no plow under, it’s got the same kind of tempo play feel to is. This spell specifically can’t mess with your opponent’s mana development, but it will still prove to be annoying and tempo swinging. Some times it can be game winning, as when you return the clutch blocker to enable an alpha strike. Being an instant helps with the surprise factor as well allowing for end of turn shenanigans.
(James) Seems like a very expensive card for what may simply be a minor tempo play. Certainly can win games but seems really narrow. I’m not an immediate fan…
(Joe) It is expensive, that’s for sure. But that’s kind of relative. If you play this late game and the thing you return costs more than 3WW, then you’re ahead.

Name: Choking Fumes
Cost: 2{W}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Put a -1/-1 counter on each attacking creature.
Flavor Text: “Fall to your knees and welcome our embrace.”
-Qal-Sha, Priest of Norn
Illus. Scott Chou
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #4/155

(James) Sexy-time! I think this is much better than Marsh Casualties which was a staple first pick during Zen drafts. Instant speed, easily splash-able, potentially devastating. Man…minus one counters…destroys myr & poison decks.
(Joe) Wow, you’re right, this thing is a beating of an uncommon. Very one-sided.

Name: Divine Offering
Cost: 1W
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Destroy target artifact. You gain life equal to its converted mana cost.
Rarity: Common

(Joe) This is an awesome reprint, and should help give white a tool to combat the ever-more-likely ascendancy of whatever artifact deck emerges from this block.

Name: Frantic Salvage
Cost: 3W
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Put any number of target artifact cards from your graveyard on top of your library.
Draw a card.
Flavor Text: “We will mourn when there is time. For now, we survive.”
Illus. Scott Chou
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #6/155

(James) This is pretty interesting. Helps combat mass removal. I have a feeling it might be a little too high on the mana curve for standard but maybe not. Can I put them back in any order? Or the order in which they are in the graveyard? The draw is what makes this pretty cool.
(Joe) You’ll get to choose the order in which they go back. I agree that the draw part is clutch. It really pushes this card into decency. I like that you can play this on your opponent’s EOT, and return a single artifact to your hand without missing your draw step, or you can stack two on top, and have both in hand for the next turn.

Name: Gore Vassal
Cost: 2{W}
Type: Creature – Hound
Pow/Tgh: 2/1
Rules Text: Sacrifice Gore Vassal: Put a -/1-1 counter on target creature. Then, if that creature’s toughness is 1 or greater, regenerate it.
Flavor Text: “Rid them of their unfaithful organs. Bring new hearts to the unbelievers.”
-Tome of Machines, verse 1703
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #7/155

(James) This is really interesting. On the one hand you could use it as spot removal for pesky cards like plated geopede’s but you could also use it regenerate one of your creatures (as in an anti-Day of Judgment situation). It’s interesting for sure. I think I would pick this up as a potential removal card in limited but I don’t see it fitting into a constructed deck.
(Joe) Agree. He can also chump block something huge and leave them weakened, or set them up for proliferation. Cards like this improve if you already have a contagion clasp or whatever.

hero of bladehold

Name: Hero of Bladehold
Cost: 2{W}{W}
Type: Creature – Human Knight
Pow/Tgh: 3/4
Rules Text: Battle cry (Whenever this creature attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.)
Whenever Hero of Bladehold attacks, put two 1/1 white soldier creature tokens onto the battlefield tapped and attacking.
Illus. Austin Hsu
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Set Number: #8/155

(Joe) This guy is like the knight titan.
(James) I’m pretty sure this will make constructed. It’s a great card advantage piece, creating two 2/1 attackers per turn. (1/1′s plus the +1/0). Seems like a card I will immediately put into a deck with Eslpeth or Ajani as a token-like strategy. I’ll probably go Mirrian during the pre-release just to pick up my first copy…
(Joe) He’s definitely strong, and if this Battle cry mechanic makes any kind of splash, it will be with the Hero, I think. You’re right, this thing just blasts out attacking savannah lions all day long.

Name: Kemba’s Legion
Cost: 5{W}{W}
Type: Creature – Cat Soldier
Pow/Tgh: 4/6
Rules Text: Vigilance
Kemba’s Legion can block an additional creature for each Equipment attached to Kemba’s Legion.
Flavor Text: The squabble over succession was quickly replaced by the struggle to survive.
Illus. Anthony Francisco
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #9/155

(Joe) Multi-blocking is flavorful and cool, but it’s seldom a strategic asset of much worth. I’m tempted to call this an exception, however, since this guy has vigilance and will be powered up by the equipment you would presumably be running alongside him. Still, seven mana is a ton, and I’d want a little more bang for my buck than a 4/6 vigilance with a provisional ability with a provisionally useful effect.

Name: Leonin Relic-Warder
Cost: {W}{W}
Type: Creature – Cat Cleric
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: When Leonin Relic-Warder enters the battlefield, you may exile target artifact or enchantment.
When Leonin Relic-Warder leaves the battlefield, return the exiled card to the battlefield under its owner’s control.
Illus. Greg Staples
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #10/155

(James) I don’t see this as a main deck strategy for constructed, though there are some interesting SB options–such as when decks rely on enchantment removal (Journey to Nowhere). I think this will be a pretty good role player pick in limited…there are a lot of very difficult to deal with artifacts and this would be a good card to pick up early in a draft (since we start with expansions before main sets now during drafts).
(Joe) Good analysis.

Name: Leonin Skyhunter
Cost: {W}{W}
Type: Creature – Cat Knight
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: Flying
Flavor Text: “The infection has spread farther than we could glimpse from the heights of Taj-Nar.”
Illus. Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #11/155

(James) 2/2 flying for 2 mana in the common slot? Seems like a good common to pick up during pack one; it will certainly provide a few more options to the U/W archetype. I don’t find this as exciting for constructed. It’s no Stoneforge Mystic, that’s for damn sure…
(Joe) This is a reprint from Mirrodin, and is definitely awesome in the UW skies approach. Pushes the bear / knight envelope for sure. A quality 2-drop. I think white weenie ran this guy back in mirrodin standard.

Name: Loxodon Partisan
Cost: 4{W}
Type: Creature – Elephant Soldier
Pow/Tgh: 3/4
Rules Text: Battle cry (Whenever this creature attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.)
Flavor Text: “This war is not about loxodon or leonin, Sylvok or Auriok. To defeat these rotters, we must do it together.”
Illus. Matt Stewart
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #12/155

(James) Battlecry seems like it’s going to be a pain the rear. A few low-cc creatures curved out to a Battlecry will be difficult to deal with. What would be interesting to see is how many cross-color variants we start getting in limited. Infect cards with Battlecry will be very scary to deal with…
(Joe) Infect / Battle cry is actually an interesting take. I’m not terribly convinced about battle cry though. Usually you should still be able to chump block and kill the same creatures you’d be able to otherwise, since Battle cry doesn’t pump toughness. If the Battle cry player can punch through the defenses, or faces a defenseless foe, then sure, they can punish them more, and win more quickly. I guess that’s a decent aspect.

Name: Master’s Call
Cost: 2{W}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Put two 1/1 colorless Myr artifact creature tokens onto the battlefield.
Rarity: Common

(James) I see this as borderline. It will help hit an early metalcraft so if you’re thinking you might push the metalcraft, then go for it. It also has the surprise blocker factor, so you might be able to consider this a “weak removal” spell. But that’s stretching it a little…
(Joe) I would definitely consider this as soft removal… but this is also a way to blast out some early dorks to battle cry with, isn’t it?

Name: Mirran Crusader
Cost: 1{W}{W}
Type: Creature – Human Knight
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: Double strike, protection from black and from green
Flavor Text: A symbol of what Mirrodin once was and a hope for what it will be again.
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #14/155

(Joe) Seems like sideboard fodder.
(James) I wonder if there’s any room for this in Extended. Pro-Green/Black seems pretty strong…adding double strike makes it really strong. I’m imagining a Jitte attached to this guy. Dang. So far as standard, I also see this being a potential include for sideboards. Well, for limited too. I would even consider running it main since it does have double strike. Pretty neat. Unless I’m not in white at all, I would be pretty happy to see this card.
(Joe) Well, he does dodge black removal. I’m sure the knights tribal deck will appeal to a lot of players. He’s definitely no slouch in limited.

phyrexian rebirth

Name: Phyrexian Rebirth
Cost: 4{W}{W}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Destroy all creatures, then put an X/X colorless Horror artifact creature token onto the battlefield, where X is the number of creatures destroyed this way.
Flavor Text: As long as one drop of oil exists, the joyous work continues.
Illus. Scott Chou
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #15/155

(Joe) WHAAAA? This is an insane wrath of god variant. Doing a take on wrath has become a bit of a tradition, and this one is superb, with a built-in board position re-establishment clause.
(James) So I pay 2 more mana and then get a X/X in return? This is really interesting and probably worth looking at for standard U/W builds. It’s the mainboard Day of Judgment that you’re not constantly playing around. Pretty cool

Name: Priests of Norn
Cost: 2{W}
Type: Creature – Cleric
Pow/Tgh: 1/4
Rules Text: Vigilance
Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
Flavor Text: “May our blessings sever the tongues of the forsaken.”
-Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Illus. Igor Kieryluk
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #16/155

(James) White’s getting infect now. That’s really weird but I guess it’s the “result of the corrupting affects of Phyrexia.” This is also an infect that looks about as difficult to deal with as Tangle Angler due to the vigilance.
(Joe) Yeah, this guy can hold the fort, alright.

Name: Tine Shrike
Cost: 3{W}
Type: Creature – Bird
Pow/Tgh: 2/1
Rules Text: Flying
Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
Flavor Text: A new bird of prey – one that hunts sentience.
Illus. Adrin Smith
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #17/155

(Joe) Hmmm… white infect is hard to judge, and infect loves evasion, but I have a hard time embracing a 4-drop 2/1, flying or not.
(James)I’ve won a few games on the back of a Plague Stinger so this is pretty interesting. By going white we get access to battlecry. A 3/1 infect (due to battlecry) removes 33% of your “non-poisoned life” which is hardcore. I’m sensing a w/b draft archtype emerging…
(Joe) I definitely missed the infect + battle cry thing at first, but I think you’re right: that’s a nutty combination.

Name: Victory’s Herald
Cost: 3{W}{W}{W}
Type: Creature-Angel
Pow/Tgh: 4/4
Rules Text: Flying
Whenever Victory’s Herald attacks, attacking creatures gain flying and lifelink until end of turn.
Flavor Text: The corruption stirred the heavens above, awaking a shining champion.
Illus. rk post
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #18/155

(Joe) Angels are always fun, and this one doesn’t disappoint, as a 4/4 flying proxy of noble purpose and levitation.
(James) This is niffty but I’m not seeing this as a good constructed card. Too conditional for my preferences. I mean, would I rather pay 6 for a 4/4 lifelink or 5 for a 5/5 lifelink, first strike (Baneslayer)? I will pretty much always go with the 5/5… (I’m assuming a vacuum here, not the “ideal situation” with lethal on board because of the levitation affect–Ben Lundquist pretty much drove this method as a must-use for card evaluation).
(Joe) Yeah, she’s no baneslayer, but she’s still a pretty good bargain for all her various effects. In Magic, there are several tribes of Johnny collectors… some collect dragons, some legends, and some angels. The angel geeks will be happy, that’s mainly what I was getting after. It won’t disappoint them. And in limited, assuming you’re in white, she’s obviously sick. But I agree about constructed.

Name: White Sun’s Zenith
Cost: X{W}{W}{W}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Put X 2/2 Cat creature tokens onto the battlefield. Shuffle White Sun’s Zenith into its owner’s library.
Rarity: Rare

(Joe) One of the worst zeniths, and yet it’s still very strong. Obviously a heavy white bomb in any limited format, and the kind of thing you might see as a redundant or budget copy of Decree of Justice.
(James) Looks great for limited…but a bit expensive for constructed. 4 for a single 2/2, 5 for 2 2/2′s…it doesn’t get really interesting until around 8 mana (5 2/2′s).
(Joe) Good math skillz. I concur.

Blue (19)

Name: Blue Sun’s Zenith
Cost: X{U}{U}{U}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Target player draws X cards. Shuffle Blue Sun’s Zenith into its owner’s library.
Flavor Text: “The Origin Query will wait. We must ensure we survive to return to it.”
-Pelyus, vedalken ordinar
Illus. Izzy
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #20/155

(Joe) Instantly I think of Stroke of Genius, which was a more splashable version of this same spell, but which didn’t re-shuffle itself. The predigree suggests a bright future for this Zenith. Occasionally you can exhaust a deck with this, too!
(James)Just like mind spring except an extra blue for instant. I think that makes it much more playable for control decks. They can keep the mana open for counters, then draw x cards at EOT and put the spell back in the library. Neat. Question is how many to run? Two?
(Joe) Yeah, it’s pricey, so it probably takes the slot previously held by the odd Jaces Ingenuity.

Name: Consecrated Sphinx
Cost: 4{U}{U}
Type: Creature – Sphinx
Pow/Tgh: 4/6
Rules Text: Flying
Whenever an opponent draws a card, you may draw two cards.
Flavor Text: Blessed by the hands of Jin-Gitaxias.
Illus. Mark Zug
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Set Number: #21/155

(James) That’s fun…really fun. This is worth toying with on the constructed side but certainly a very strong pick for limited.
(Joe) Yeah, EDH loves to play this kind of beast too. I’m with you on the fun factor. I can’t wait to play a prosperity with this guy on the board.

Name: Corrupted Conscience
Cost: 3{U}{U}
Type: Enchantment – Aura
Rules Text: Enchant creature
You control enchanted creature.
Enchanted creature has infect. (It deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
Flavor Text: Karn’s creation is now his master.
Illus. Jason Chan
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #22/155

(Joe) This is an interesting take on Mind Control, though often you’ll wish that this didn’t grant Infect… I think the creature you steal with this may often sit back on defense. Still, this will swing a lot of games, simultaneously giving you an extra creature and removing the most problematic creature your opponent controls.

Name: Cryptoplasm
Cost: 1{U}{U}
Type: Creature – Shapeshifter
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: At the beginning of your upkeep, you may have Cryptoplasm become a copy of another target creature. If you do, Cryptoplasm gains this ability.
Flavor Text: “If left in the enemy’s shape too long, it might be lost to them.”
-Vy Covalt, Neurok Agent
Illus. Eric Deschamps
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #23/155

(Joe) Vesuvan Doppelganger was one of my favorite cards when I got into magic back in the Revised era. It was the last card I lost to ante, deciding I’d had enough of that gambling. This version is similar, but doesn’t acquire a copied form upon entering the battlefield. That seems like a fair trade for the full two colorless mana that have been shaved from the casting cost. I think this will be an interesting Clone variant, but like other such cards, it won’t be as effective as Spike demands, but may still be as cool as Timmy and Johnny hope.

Name: Distant Memories
Cost: 2{U}{U}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Search your library for a card, exile it, then shuffle your library. An opponent may have you put that card into your hand. If no player does, you draw three cards.
Flavor Text: “The fleeting shadows of his primitive self have all but vanished.”
-Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
Illus. Karl Kopinski
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #24/155

(James) Hmmmm, I’m not sure how I feel about this. It wants to be like a gifts ungiven but it’s just not as good. I’d like it more if it were instant I think…but even then it’s value is dubious.
(Joe) I don’t think it’s really like Gifts as much as a weird modal card that’s either concentrate or slightly worse diabolic tutor. That said, I don’t know that I’d play either of those in constructed. Aside from the spell’s ability, this artwork is pretty interesting, with Karn flashing back to Venser, the last person he spoke to before disappearing, and Urza behind him.

Name: Fuel for the Cause
Cost: 2{U}{U}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Counter target spell, then proliferate. (You choose any number of permanents and/or players with counters on them, then give each another counter of a kind already there.)
Flavor Text: Your ideas will be discarded and your will repurposed.
Illus. Steven Belledin
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #25/155

(Joe) Infect is an interesting mechanic, and as I’ve said, I think the time has come, and that some kind of deck will emerge. However, I’m not entirely sure it will be of the blue proliferate variety. I could be wrong though… Throne of Geth and Steady Progress maybe?

Name: Mirran Spy
Cost: 2{U}
Type: Creature – Drone
Pow/Tgh: 1/3
Rules Text: Flying
Whenever you cast an artifact spell, you may untap target creature.
Flavor Text: Accurate information is a precious commodity in times of war.
Illus. Dave Kendall
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #26/155

(Joe) Hmm… not bad in limited, as it’s evasive, decently tough, and sometimes effectively has vigilance. Nothing spectacular, but a roleplayer in some limited archetypes probably.
(James) I like this card for limited. Not enough big butts on the U-team…

Name: Mitotic Manipulation
Cost: 1{U}{U}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Look at the top seven cards of your library. You may put one of those cards onto the battlefield if it has the same name as a permanent. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.
Flavor Text: “They can’t even comprehend nature. How could they improve it?”
-Venser
Illus. Dan Scott
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #27/155

(Joe) This, to me, is a very interesting spell. Decks with 4 Jace the Mind Sculptor may consider this as a way to blast into legend-rule pseudo-removal copies of the planeswalker in mirror matches. Otherwise, this can produce some interesting momentum. Even if all you get is a land, you’re still gaining some tempo and card advantage. It seems like a space for some innovative thinking and perhaps some unorthodox applications. Sometimes, though, it’s a win-more kind of card that won’t do a lot all on its own, or when you’re behind and desperate.

Name: Neurok Commando
Cost: 1{U}{U}
Type: Creature – Human Rogue
Pow/Tgh: 2/1
Rules Text: Shroud
Whenever Neurok Commando deals combat damage to a player, you may draw a card.
Flavor Text: “There’s no more time for secluded study. Answers are there only for those with the courage to take them.”
Illus. Matt Stewart
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #28/155

(Joe) Ophidian type card drawing is an ability with a precedent for being better than it might initially seem. This guy’s not terribly evasive, however, and despite the shroud, he dies to any kind of combat. Shroud also means you’ll never be able to buff this guy, either with spells or equipment. I’m giving him the thumbs down in the end.

Name: Oculus
Cost: 1{U}
Type: Creature – Homunculus
Pow/Tgh: 1/1
Rules Text: When Oculus is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may draw a card.
Rarity: Common

(Joe) I don’t see the point of this guy outside of a combo designed to loop him through the graveyard. Otherwise, even with cantrip, I’m not interested in a 1/1 for 2 mana.

Name: Quicksilver Geyser
Cost: 4{U}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Return up to two target nonland permanents to their owners’ hands.
Flavor Text: “Phyrexians are tenacious. That’s not the same thing as clever.”
-Tezzeret
Illus. Erica Yang
Rarity: Common

(Joe) This common will win games. Super awesome in limited. Very splashable. Very flexible.

Name: Serum Raker
Cost: 2{U}{U}
Type: Creature – Drake
Pow/Tgh: 3/2
Rules Text: Flying
When Serum Raker is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, each player discards a card.
Flavor Text: The serum from the blinkmoths they gather greases the joints of witch engines.
Illus. Austin Hsu
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #31/155

(Joe) I like a 3/3 flying for 3U. When it’s less splashable, weaker, and potentially has a downside when my opponent top-decks removal, but I still have cards in hand… well, then I’m not as enthusiastic. Still, in an evasive aggro-control kind of limited deck, sometimes a critical mass of fliers is needed, and quantity makes up for quality.

Name: Spire Serpent
Cost: 4{U}
Type: Creature – Serpent
Pow/Tgh: 3/5
Rules Text: Defender
Metalcraft – As long as you control three or more artifacts, Spire Serpent gets +2/+2 and can attack as though it didn’t have defender.
Flavor Text: A mirror to draw its eye, a rod to rouse its rage, and a sword to break its bonds.
Illus. Johann Bodin
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #32/155

(Joe) He seems passable when you don’t have metalcraft, and pretty awesome when you do. Seems like the main requirements of a limited-playable metalcraft card… mostly that it doesn’t suck all on its own. This doesn’t suck terribly on its own. I think it sees some play. Obvioulsy you won’t want more than one or so in your deck, but it’ll stall whatever little guys are on the board when it hits, which is what you want this kind of card to do. Then, it has the bonus of being useful later, when you’ve established better control.

Name: Steel Sabotage
Cost: {U}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Choose one – counter target artifact spell; or return target artifact to its owner’s hand.
Flavor Text: “You are hopelessly obsolete, my brothers. Come and join the Great Work.”
-Rhmir, Hand of the Augur
Illus. Daarken
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #33/155

(James) I’ve yet to see someone playing counters in Scars limited and I’m not sure this is something that would help with that. At its best, I could see this being a SB option if artifacts start running rampant in constructed. I will admit that having two options makes this card potentially useful.
(Joe) I guess I disagree, though you hedged a bit at the end there. I think this is plenty useful. You can counter something devastating, or you can bounce it if you drew this later… and if all that fails you can always use this to bounce your own trigon or whatever to reset the charge counters. And in constructed, this seems really decent as well. Annul saw play, and seldom countered any enchantments in mirrodin. It’s not extremely good, but it’s decent enough.

Name: Treasure Mage
Cost: 2{U}
Type: Creature – Human Wizard
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: When Treasure Mage enters the battlefield, you may search your library for an artifact card with converted mana cost 6 or greater, reveal that card, and put it into your hand. If you do, shuffle your library.
Illus. Ryan Pancoast
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #34/155

(James) Neat twist on the Trinket Mage. I bet people start running this in EDH (Commander) decks. Could also be pretty high utility for limited since it does tutor and there are some pretty powerful 6cc cards in Scars.
(Joe) Tutor up wurmcoil engine seems fine. Yeah, this guy is awesome. EDH loves to riptide laboratory this guy every turn.

Name: Turn the Tide
Cost: 1{U}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Creatures your opponents control get -2/-0 until end of turn.
Flavor Text: “Let their mindless armies come and face the might of genius.”
-Varil, Neurok Partisan
Illus. Jason Felix
Rarity: Common

(Joe) I’m not a fan of this kind of effect. If I ever feel insomniac, I’ll just contemplate a deck built on this kind of card and… zzz ZZZ zzz.

Name: Vedalken Anatomist
Cost: 2{U}
Type: Creature – Vedalken Wizard
Pow/Tgh: 1/2
Rules Text: {2}{U}, {T}: Put a -1/-1 counter on target creature. You may tap or untap that creature.
Flavor Text: “Specimen 211 examination report. Observation: graft sublimation incomplete. Result: death. Prepare specimen 212.”
Illus. Greg Staples
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #36/155

(Joe) My guess is that this handy wizard will be a big deal for many proliferating limited magi.
(James) Wowzas. -1 counters and tapping. Well worth the cost. Probably worth picking up a copy even if you’re not a poison/proliferate deck.

Name: Vedalken Infuser
Cost: 3{U}
Type: Creature – Vedalken Wizard
Pow/Tgh: 1/4
Rules Text: At the beginning of your upkeep, you may put a charge counter on target artifact.
Illus. Ryan Pancoast
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #37/155

(James) This seems way too narrow to be playable.
(Joe) Well, it definitely won’t be played outside of a deck that specifically wants to get bonus charge counters…. so it’s indeed narrow. But even in that kind of deck, why the heck would you run this instead of any given proliferate card? Maybe because he doesn’t require additional mana, he’ll be good with lux cannon or titan forge or something. Use him and proliferate, each turn.

Name: Vivisection
Cost: 3{U}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: As an additional cost to cast Vivisection, sacrifice a creature.
Draw three cards.
Flavor Text: Phyrexians research with the grace of surgeons and the finesse of butchers.
Illus. Anthony Francisco
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #38/155

(Joe) If this were an instant, it would be insanely good. As a sorcery, you’ll never be able to use a graveyard-bound creature. Also, if this spell is countered, you’re still out the creature. Luckily creature removal won’t suffice to two-for-one you, it will require a real counterspell. I don’t know… I can see how this might help replace early game creatures with relevant mid and late game ones, but I still think I’ll shy away from this and let someone else try to prove how awesome it is.

Black (19)

Name: Black Sun’s Zenith
Cost: X{B}{B}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Put X -1/-1 counters on each creature. Shuffle Black Sun’s Zenith into its owner’s library.
Flavor Text: “Under the suns, Mirrodin kneels and begs us for perfection.”
-Geth, Lord of the Vault
Illus. Daniel Ljunggren
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #39/155

(Joe) I really like the zeniths, and the black one is no exception. What a beating! This can be a tailor-made Damnation. Alongside man-lands, this will really shine.
(James) One sided mass removal. Very hot. Paying 3 for X @ 5cc will probably end most opponents’ game plans.

Name: Caustic Hound
Cost: 5{B}
Type: Creature – Hound
Pow/Tgh: 4/4
Rules Text: When Caustic Hound is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, each player loses 4 life.
Flavor Text: At first, the Mirrans aimed for its exposed gut. The survivors quickly learned to do otherwise.
Illus. Dave Allsop
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #40/155

(James) Good 22nd or 23rd card if you don’t have anything beefier. Just want to make sure you’re not in lethal territory if it hits the graveyard!
(Joe)

Name: Flensermite
Cost: 1{B}
Type: Creature – Gremlin
Pow/Tgh: 1/1
Rules Text: Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
Lifelink (Damage dealt by this creature also causes you to gain that much life.)
Illus. Dave Allsop
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #41/155

(Joe) This creature sucks, IMO. Infect wants evasion, especially on a 1/1. This is pointless. Instead of lifelink, he ought to suck poison out of his master… so you should have “poison-counter-lifelink” where you lose poison counters when he deals damage. I dunno… this card just seems dissonant above and beyond just plain sucking.
(James) I can’t add much to that.

Name: Flesh-Eater Imp
Cost: 3{B}
Type: Creature – Imp
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: Flying
Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
Sacrifice a creature: Flesh-Eater Imp gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
Illus. Johann Bodin
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #42/155

(Joe) This imp is more like what you want in infect. Evasive and with the potential to pump. Awesome.
(James) Nantuko Husk (sort of) plus infect? Wow. Could end games very quickly.

Name: Go for the Throat
Cost: 1{B}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Destroy target nonartifact creature.
Flavor Text: Having flesh is increasingly a liability on Mirrodin.
Illus. David Rapoza
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #43/155

(Joe) Now where have we seen this before? Obviously awesome, as Zak sez.
(James) Ah! the Power9Pro preview card! Def’ playable. (We wouldn’t unveil a non-playable!). ;-)

Name: Gruesome Encore
Cost: 2{B}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Put target creature card from an opponent’s graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. It gains haste. Exile it at the beginning of the next end step. If that creature would leave the battlefield, exile it instead of putting it anywhere else.
Illus. Adrian Smith
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #44/155

(James) Sweet. Steeling people’s cards and smashing them with it is so much fun. Just make sure it will win you the game!

Name: Horrifying Revelation
Cost: {B}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Target player discards a card, then puts the top card of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
Flavor Text: “Ours is a glorious transmission! Behold a future where all bow to the Father of Machines!”
-Isila, Priest of Sheoldred
Illus. Shelly Wan
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #45/155

(James) Interesting. This is kind of interesting around turn 5 – 7 when the hands are thinning. Probably a “wow, I have 22 cards here and need another…” sort of include.

Name: Massacre Wurm
Cost: 3{B}{B}{B}
Type: Creature – Wurm
Pow/Tgh: 6/5
Rules Text: When Massacre Wurm enters the battlefield, creatures your opponents control get -2/-2 until end of turn.
Whenever a creature an opponent controls is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, that player loses 2 life.
Illus. Jason Chan
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Set Number: #46/155

(Joe) This Mythic seems pretty neat for limited, but I doubt it’s got much of a chance at seeing standard play. This guy might just Blistergrub your opponent out of the game on the spot.

Name: Morbid Plunder
Cost: 1{B}{B}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Return up to two target creature cards from your graveyard to your hand.
Flavor Text: Even the dead are raw materials for the Phyrexian vision of perfection.
Illus. Mike Bierek
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #47/155

(Joe) Solid in limited right about the time you start to reach top-deck mode to refill your hand with the best candidates in your yard.
(James) You do get two cards back so it’s a pretty nice recharge. I’d probably pick up a copy for a limited deck but I don’t see much advantage in more than one.

Name: Nested Ghoul
Cost: 3{B}{B}
Type: Creature – Zombie Warrior
Pow/Tgh: 4/2
Rules Text: Whenever a source deals damage to Nested Ghoul, put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield.
Flavor Text: “The chest cavity is cleared of useless meat. I know just what to do with the space.”
-Gyed, Vault Priest
Illus. Dave Kendall
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #48/155

(Joe) If you randomly end up with Prodigal Sorcerer and this guy, it might be cute. He does at least replace himself with a 2/2 most of the time.
(James) Yeah, the best way to look at it is, “he died and now I have a 2/2 to replace him,” which isn’t necessarily bad. There is something to be said about “two creatures for the cost of one.” I just think this is pretty expensive. An X/2 isn’t that impressive.

Name: Phyresis
Cost: 1{B}
Type: Enchantment – Aura
Rules Text: Enchanted creature has infect. (It deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
Flavor Text: “Perfection is at hand. You have been freed of weakness and made compleat.”
-Sheoldred, Whispering One
Illus. Izzy
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #49/155

(Joe) Hmm… pretty damn boring. Once in a blue moon, it might just enchant a big flier that goes all the way in a few swings. Even then, it’s probably better off being a removal spell instead of this weirdness.

Name: Phyrexian Crusader
Cost: 1{B}{B}
Type: Creature – Zombie Knight
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: First strike
Protection from red and from white.
Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in form of -1/-1 counters and to players in form of poison counters.)
Illus. Eric Deschamps
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #50/155

(James) A very good infect card; not the best, but still pretty good.

Name: Phyrexian Rager
Cost: 2{B}
Type: Creature – Horror
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: When Phyrexian Rager enters the battlefield, you draw a card and you lose 1 life.
Flavor Text: “I believe many worlds will bow to Phyrexia. Mirrodin is merely the first.”
-Sheoldred, Whispering One
Illus. Stephan Martiniere
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #51/155

(James) Sweet. Very well costed. I would pick these. Splashable, balanced and not an x/1.

Name: Phyrexian Vatmother
Cost: 2{B}{B}
Type: Creature – Horror
Pow/Tgh: 4/5
Rules Text: Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in form of -1/-1 counters and to players in form of poison counters.)
At the beginning of your upkeep, you get a poison counter.
Illus. Stephan Martiniere
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #52/155

(Joe) Interesting. I think 4 / 5 is about the right size to be worth the upkeep poison counter.
(James) Just pull this out if you’re playing against poison? So long as you’re bashing in with 4 poison, it’s probably a fast enough clock that it wouldn’t matter. Poison can be so explosive so I’d hesitate to keep this in against another poison deck.

sangromancer

Name: Sangromancer
Cost: 2{B}{B}
Type: Creature – Vampire Shaman
Pow/Tgh: 3/3
Rules Text: Flying
Whenever a creature an opponent controls is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may gain 3 life.
Whenever an opponent discards a card, you may gain 3 life.
Illus. Igor Kieryluk
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #53/155

(Joe) Wow. I love this guy in limited… you won’t gain much from discards, but you’ll probably get 6-9 life on average if this guy sticks around. Plus, he’s a flying Hill Giant.

Name: Scourge Servant
Cost: 4{B}
Type: Creature – Zombie
Pow/Tgh: 3/3
Rules Text: Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
Flavor Text: “The union of the oil and necrogen has produced many pleasing reactions.”
-Sheoldred, Whispering One
Illus. Daarken
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #54/155

(James) Nice and big but damn expensive. 3/3 infect will be tough for non-infect to deal with so keep an eye out for this if you’re leaning toward B/x infect.

Name: Septic Rats
Cost: 1{B}{B}
Type: Creature – Rat
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
Whenever Septic Rats attacks, if defending player is poisoned, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
Illus. Cos Koniotis
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #55/155

(James) Also very interesting and the same note about the 3/3 being difficult to deal with applies here as well.

Name: Spread the Sickness
Cost: 4{B}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Destroy target creature, then proliferate. (You choose any number of permanents and/or players with counters on them, then give each another counter of a kind already there.)
Flavor Text: Life is ephemeral. Phyrexia is eternal.
Illus. Jaime Jones
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #56/155

(Joe) Yup, quality removal and proliferate in black. This will be backbone material to limited decks. Deck vertebrae.

Name: Virulent Wound
Cost: B
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Put a -1/-1 counter on target creature. When that creature is put into the graveyard from the battlefield this turn, its controller gets a poison counter.
Rarity: Common

(Joe) In limited, this surely gets some mileage, even solely as soft removal. If you’re playing infect anyway, so much the better. In constructed, I think this may be a sideboard option similar to the role played by peppersmoke in faeries decks. If you’re proliferating anyway, this thing can kill even 2/2 stuff like fauna shaman, all while accellerating the poison kill. It will probably prove useful in mirror matches as well. That is, if the deck has legs. I’m interested to see whether Infect will “have the goods” now that this infusion of cards joins the pool. I guess I tend to be hopeful about such things. I want the deck to succeed in some form. I think poisoning people is cool.

Red (19)

Name: Blisterstick Shaman
Cost: 2{R}
Type: Creature – Goblin Shaman
Pow/Tgh: 2/1
Rules Text: When Blisterstick Shaman enters the battlefield, it deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
Flavor Text: A productive warren requires a good deal of prodding.
Illus. Svetlin Velinov
Rarity: Common

(Joe) This is like flametongue kavu, jr. But junior is a bit of a fatty… a big mouth to feed, having half the power and toughness and doing half as much damage as daddy, but eating (costing) only 1/4th less. Boo-urns to that. But it’ll still be good. 2 power for 2R is still in the traditional gray ogre ballpark. This guy can hit players, too.

Name: Burn the Impure
Cost: 1R
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Burn the Impure deals 3 damage to target creature. If that creature has infect, Burn the Impure deals 3 damage to that creature’s controller.
Flavor Text: Flame doesn’t kneel to Phyrexia.
Illus. Nie Klein
Rarity: Common

(Joe) Neat, a little infect hoser. This is sure to be played in limited, as it’s highly decent creature removal. The only way this sees constructed play is if the Inkmoth Nexus and friends find a solid home and become widely popular. Will it happen? Fingers crossed! “If y’all believe in faeries, clap yo hands!” -Peter Pan (paraphrased)
(James) I like this.

Name: Concussive Bolt
Cost: 3RR
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Concussive Bolt deals 4 damage to target player.
Metalcraft – If you control three or more artifacts, creatures that player controls can’t block this turn.
Rarity: Common

(Joe) I think this is an awesome way to alpha strike. This metalcraft card has a very high disparity between the power levels of its enabled and disabled metalcraft states. But even when disabled, it’s still on par with a fireball to the dome, though to be fair, worse than ye olde lava axe. So while clearly you REALLY want this to be played with metalcraft, it does do more than nothing even when it’s not, which is the main requirement.

Name: Crush
Cost: {R}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Destroy target noncreature artifact.
Flavor Text: A golem’s hands know no tenderness.
Illus. Matt Stewart
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #61/155

(Joe) Sure to be a set staple across formats.
(James) Wow. This is a (sort of) red version of Deathmark at instant speed. Top pick removal for sure.

Name: Galvanoth
Cost: 3{R}{R}
Type: Creature – Beast
Pow/Tgh: 3/3
Rules Text: At the beginning of your upkeep, you may look at the top card of your library. If it’s an instant or sorcery card, you may cast it without paying its mana cost.
Flavor Text: It chews open Mirrodin’s husk and feeds on the outpouring of energy.
Illus. Kev Walker
Rarity: Rare

(James) Um, okay. I’m wondering if this will make it to constructed. Being able to cast spells for free off the top of a library is pretty powerful for burn strategies…For limited this seems too conditional. Meaning, I don’t think you’d be able to draft enough cards to enable this card to do anything spectacular.

Name: Gnathosaur
Cost: 4{R}{R}
Type: Creature – Lizard
Pow/Tgh: 5/4
Rules Text: Sacrifice an artifact: Gnathosaur gains trample until end of turn.
Flavor Text: Mirran creatures that could withstand the Phyrexian oil found an abundance of crunchy snacks.
Illus. Jason Chan
Rarity: Common

(James) Boy, I hope I don’t have to run this during the pre-release. 6 mana for a 5/4? Lame.

Name: Goblin Wardriver
Cost: {R}{R}
Type: Creature – Goblin Warrior
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: Battle cry (Whenever this creature attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.)
Flavor Text: “A true warrior fights with whatever’s handy.”
-Qerk of the Secret Warren
Illus. Chippy
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #64/155

(Joe) I’m not sure I fully understand the ramifications of Battle Cry, because several of these leave me unimpressed. I think I may need to see this in action or something. Even when you have two or three of these guys out, you’re not really in that wildly-advantageous of a spot. Three of these could attack as 4/2s together. Perhaps there’s a critical mass that this bear-knight-guy can be a part of. He is still a bear, to his credit.
(James) That’s an interesting perspective. I think enabling an extra +1 to “all the other dudes” makes battlecry really strong. If you’re swinging with 3 dudes, that could easily be 6 damage to the dome. A pretty hefty clock for say…turn 4. I’m also perversely interested in using battlecry with some infect creatures. lol.

hellkite igniter

Name: Hellkite Igniter
Cost: 5{R}{R}
Type: Creature – Dragon
Pow/Tgh: 5/5
Rules Text: Flying, haste
{1}{R}:Hellkite Igniter gets +X/+0 until end of turn, where X is the number of artifacts you control.
Flavor Text: Its flight sets the sky itself on fire.
Illus. Jason Chan
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #65/155

(Joe) I am going to hate the punk who sits down across from me and whoops me with this thing. I can see it coming. Hoard-Smelter Dragon is superior. Still a bomb in limited.

Name: Hero of Oxid Ridge
Cost: 2{R}{R}
Type: Creature – Human Knight
Pow/Tgh: 4/2
Rules Text: Haste
Battle cry (Whenever this creature attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.)
Whenever Hero of Oxid Ridge attacks, creatures with power 1 or less can’t block this turn.
Illus. Eric Deschamps
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Set Number: #66/155

(Joe) I like how this guy nullifies walls, but I’m still not sure I grasp how this mechanic is going to blast off. He doesn’t hold a candle to Marton Stromgald, that’s for damn sure.

Name: Into the Core
Cost: 2{R}{R}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Exile two target artifacts.
Flavor Text: “They believe they are driving us back, but we’re leading them to their doom.”
-Kethek, furnace stoker
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #67/155

(Joe) Yow! I’ll buy ten shares of this stock. This will ruin some afternoons.
(James) I like the exile bit the most. Destroying is good but there’s a lot of ways of getting pesky artifacts back.

Name: Koth’s Courier
Cost: 1{R}{R}
Type: Creature – Human Rogue
Pow/Tgh: 2/3
Rules Text: Forestwalk
Flavor Text: Koth sent partisans into the Tangle to bring survivors to the safe haven of the tunnels beneath Kuldotha.
Illus. Wayne Reynolds
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #68/155

(Joe) Well, it’s a fine sideboard card for limited red decks.

Name: Kuldotha Flamefiend
Cost: 4{R}{R}
Type: Creature – Elemental
Pow/Tgh: 4/4
Rules Text: When Kuldotha Flamefiend enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice an artifact. If you do, Kuldotha Flamefiend deals 4 damage divided as you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players.
Illus. Raymond Swanland
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #69/155

(James) This is interesting. I’m not a huge fan of sacrificing my own stuff but I suppose if I can remove a creature or two of my opponents, it might be worth it. Something tells me that destroying my things to kill someone else’s does not work in my favor (i.e. there’s no real card advantage).

Name: Kuldotha Ringleader
Cost: 4{R}
Type: Creature – Giant Berserker
Pow/Tgh: 4/4
Rules Text: Battle cry (Whenever this creature attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.)
Kuldotha Ringleader attacks each turn if able.
Flavor Text: Being surrounded by goblins is less objectionable when they’re fighting for you.
Illus. Greg Staples
Rarity: Common

(Joe) This guy survives long enough to make his Battle cry ability pretty annoying I guess.
(James) Staple battlecry for limited.

Name: Metallic Mastery
Cost: 2{R}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Untap target artifact and gain control of it until end of turn. That artifact gains haste until end of turn.
Rarity: Uncommon

(Joe) Nice. So we continue a theme with red that includes Mark of Mutiny and Act of Treason in Standard. Again, under the right conditions, this could definitely have a 15 minutes of fame in any given format. It just requires a fairly popular baseline of desirable targets in one’s metagame.

Name: Rally the Forces
Cost: 2{R}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Attacking creatures get +1/+0 and gain first strike until end of turn.
Flavor Text: “Drive them back! Make their underworld into their grave!”
-Koth of the Hammer
Illus. Steven Belledin
Rarity: Common

(Joe) I can dig it. I feel like a party pooper cause I’d rather pump my guys like this than use the Battle cry. I’ll be battle crying myself to sleep tonight.
(James) This is a good way to finish a game but why not use battlecry and this together? Now that’s tits. ;-)

red sun's zenith

Name: Red Sun’s Zenith
Cost: X{R}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Red Sun’s Zenith deals X damage to target creature or player. If a creature dealt damage this way would be put into a graveyard this turn, exile it instead. Shuffle Red Sun’s Zenith into its owner’s library.
Illus. Svetlin Velinov
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #71/155

(Joe) Yes, this zenith is insane! Such a bomb in limited. I’ll also hate the punk who burns me out with this. This will make the rounds in EDH for sure too. It’s just unfair in limited though. I’ve won tons of games in limited on the back of fireball. It’s often easy to splash into decks that nobody expects the late game blast from. I’m a zenith fan.
(James) Cool. Always nice to see mega-big burn spells.

Name: Ogre Resister
Cost: 2{R}{R}
Type: Creature – Ogre
Pow/Tgh: 4/3
Flavor Text: He didn’t have a word for “home”, but he knew it was something to be defended.
Illus. Efrem Palacios
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #72/155

(Joe) Such sad flavor text… I think old Rei Nakazawa must be going soft. This guy’s a good size for the price.

Name: Slagstorm
Cost: 1{R}{R}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Choose one – Slagstorm deals 3 damage to each creature; or Slagstorm deals 3 damage to each player.
Flavor Text: “As long as we have the will to fight, we are never without weapons.”
-Koth of the Hammer
Illus. Dan Scott
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #75/155

(Joe) Fabulous. Flamebreak, which this sort of reminds me of, still seems a bit better in my mind, but also costs a full three red. Given mana to play either, Slagstorm is only barely worse, since it will usually do less, and never do more, than its predecessor in the same situation. Both are solid cards. This is mass removal, and will win games in limited, and can do so in constructed as well. Firespout comes to mind there, too.
(James) Holy cow. Amazing card for limited and I can see this being playable in constructed (Burn, not RDW).

Name: Spiraling Duelist
Cost: 2{R}{R}
Type: Creature – Human Berserker
Pow/Tgh: 3/1
Rules Text: Metalcraft – Spiraling Duelist has double strike as long as you control three or more artifacts.
Flavor Text: “I never move the same way twice. These rotters can’t grasp chaos.”
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #76/155

(Joe) He seems fragile and conditional. I’m not sure the upside is entirely worth the fragility. Maybe in the right deck, with lots of removal to clear the way, but also a suitably high metalcrafting artifact count.
(James) The ‘duelist’ meme is typically pretty weak on the butt. The issue I have is that this doesn’t even have first strike without metalcraft. I feel like it’s just a rip-off.

Green (19)

Name: Blightwidow
Cost: 3{G}
Type: Creature – Spider
Pow/Tgh: 2/4
Rules Text: Infect, reach
Rarity: Common

(James) I like spiders and this one is pretty good. I’d pick it up even if i weren’t going Green.

Name: Creeping Corrosion
Cost: 2{G}{G}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Destroy all artifacts.
Flavor Text: “We will reveal the futility of their heresy by showing them how fragile their relics are.”
-Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Illus. Ryan Pancoast
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #78/155

(Joe) A green udate to shatterstorm, and I must say I think it’s more at home in green than in red. Flavor disputes aside, the effect is obviously situationally insane in an artifact heavy set. Nice reset button, eh? Wish we’d had that back in our first journey to the plane of Mirrodin. Guess the corrosion hadn’t crept so far back then, eh?

Name: Fangren Marauder
Cost: 5{G}
Type: Creature – Beast
Pow/Tgh: 5/5
Rules Text: Whenever an artifact is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may gain 5 life.
Flavor Text: “The fangren fight without comfort of any kind. We can ask no less of ourselves.”
-Tilien, Sylvok Partisan
Illus. James Ryman
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #79/155

(James) Not the worst 6-drop I’ve seen previewed in this set…but not the best (by a long shot) either.

Name: Glissa’s Courier
Cost: 1{G}{G}
Type: Creature – Horror
Pow/Tgh: 2/3
Rules Text: Mountainwalk
Flavor Text: “So, the survivors from Oxid Ridge are on the move. Let them come and witness predation in its purest form.”
-Glissa
Illus. Dave Kendall
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #80/155

(James) Probably a great SB option and it’s common so you’ll potentially be able to get 2.

green sun's zenith

Name: Green Sun’s Zenith
Cost: X{G}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Search your library for a green creature card with converted mana cost X or less and put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library. Shuffle Green Sun’s Zenith into its owner’s library.
Flavor Text: As the green sun crowned, Phyrexian prophecies glowed on the Tree of Tales.
Illus. David Rapoza
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #81/155

(Joe) This is the best zenith in my opinion. I can’t wait to use this in EDH. I will be shocked if it doesn’t impact Standard promptly. It may often ride the pine in limited, however.
(James) Oh, man. This is good. You are allowed to be really excited when you see this card in your packs.

Name: Lead the Stampede
Cost: 2{G}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Look at the top five cards of your library. You may reveal any number of creature cards from among them and put the revealed cards into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.
Illus. Efrem Palacios
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #82/155

(Joe) Most often, I’d rather just play a creature on turn 3, instead of trying to dig. Maybe a fast deck uses this later on turn 5 or 6 to refill while still making a 2-drop.
(James) I like this as a one of for refilling mid-game. I’m a bit short on time so I won’t do the exact math on this but you should nab at least one creature with this card. Hmm. Is it worth getting one? The drawback is that you may blow through some removal.

Name: Melira’s Keepers
Cost: 4{G}
Type: Creature – Human Warrior
Pow/Tgh: 4/4
Rules Text: Melira’s Keepers can’t have counters placed on it.
Flavor Text: Her warriors are the last defense against the coming storm.
Illus. Eric Deschamps
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #83/155

(Joe) Interesting ability here. Obviously a solid blocker of infect creatures, eh?! 4/4 is fine for 5, as well. Seems decent.
(James) This is pretty strong but it sort of sucks to think that it might actually have to block. I think I would take this as a very late pick.

Name: Mirran Mettle
Cost: G
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
Metalcraft- If you control three or more artifacts, that creature gets +4/+4 until end of turn instead.
Rarity: Common

(James) Giant Growth sort of. Not bad. Late pick and 23rd card…

Name: Phyrexian Hydra
Cost: 3{G}{G}
Type: Creature – Hydra
Pow/Tgh: 7/7
Rules Text: Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
If damage would be dealt to Phyrexian Hydra, prevent that damage. Put a -1/-1 counter on Phyrexian Hydra for each 1 damage prevented this way.
Illus. Mike Bierek
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #85/155

(Joe) Wow, this guy’s a beating. Short lived, perhaps, but not without taking down some enemies, with any luck. And unopposed, it can seal the deal quickly. Again, I’m curious whether this finds a home in constructed, but I’m less hopeful about this one than some others, mostly because while this hydra starts big, it can only really go downhill from there.
(James) Oh, man. That is one nasty Hydra.

Name: Pistus Strike
Cost: 2{G}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Destroy target creature with flying. its controller gets a poison counter.
Flavor Text: “Even a nuisance such as the pistus fly has a purpose in our new world.”
-Glissa
Illus. Jaime Jones
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #86/155

(James) Better than Wing Puncture? Maybe; the poison counter bit is pretty conditional. I mean, what would I think if this didn’t have the poison counter part? I’d probably feel that it’s easily a great sideboard option and main decking one probably isn’t that bad of an idea.

Name: Plaguemaw Beast
Cost: 3GG
Type: Creature – Beast
Pow/Tgh: 4/3
Rules Text: {T}, Sacrifice a creature: Proliferate.
Flavor Text: Phyrexia’s spiral of consumption grows ever wider and darker.
Illus. Whit Brachna
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #87/155

(James) I don’t see the proliferate being worth it. You have to be winning with that ability to have it make sense. “pass it to the left” (or right).

praetor's counsel

Name: Praetor’s Counsel
Cost: 5{G}{G}{G}
Type: Sorcery
Rules Text: Return all cards from your graveyard to your hand. Exile Praetor’s Counsel. You have no maximum hand size for the rest of the game.
Flavor Text: As the Phyrexian contagion eroded Karn’s body, the praetors whispered psalms to corrupt his mind.
Illus. Daarken
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Set Number: #88/155

(James) lol. This is too expensive for limited and I’m not convinced it has legs for constructed.
(Joe) EDH will L-O-V-E this crazy thing though. Azusa can play this thing super quick, though it requires running another non permanent. I think this is worth it though, since it’s like the ultimate regrowth or restock, so if you’re not inclined, you can at least market the card this way to your EDH buddies when it comes time for trading.

Name: Quilled Slagwurm
Cost: 4GGG
Type: Creature – Wurm
Pow/Tgh: 8/8
Rarity: Uncommon

(Joe) Seven is a lot of mana, and 8 is a lot of both power and toughness. He’s big and dumb, and that’s all. Play him with acceleration if you decide to play him, that’s my advice.

Name: Rot Wolf
Cost: 2{G}
Type: Creature – Wolf
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
Whenever a creature dealt damage by Rot Wolf this turn is put into a graveyard, you may draw a card.
Illus. Nils Hamm
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #90/155

(James) This card will be really good if you can pick up a good equipment. Bladed Pinion and (believe it or not) Accorders Shield come to mind.

Name: Tangle Mantis
Cost: 2{G}{G}
Type: Creature – Insect
Pow/Tgh: 3/4
Rules Text: Trample
Rarity: Common

(Joe) I like this common trampler. A neat effect for a hill giant. This guy loves some buffs, or to wear some of the ubiquitous equipment in the set.

Name: Thrun, the Last Troll
Cost: 2{G}{G}
Type: Legendary Creature – Troll Shaman
Pow/Tgh: 4/4
Rules Text: Thrun, the Last Troll can’t be countered.
Thrun can’t be the target of spells or abilities your opponents control.
{1}{G}: Regenerate Thrun.
Flavor Text: His crime was silence, and now he suffers it eternally.
Illus. Jason Chan
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Set Number: #92/155

(Joe) Being uncounterable rocks. The ascetic troll thing rocks. Regeneration, if all else fails, rocks. 4/4 is a lot for 4 mana. And plus, he’s a new general, and a damn fine one for use as an equipment platform in “voltron” style general beatdown. I get that he rocks, but I’m not sure he justifies the initial price leaps I’ve seen. I hope I can get a copy on the cheap (like, you know, in my sealed pool at the pre-release, please?).

Name: Unnatural Predation
Cost: {G}
Type: Instant
Rules Text: Target creature gets +1/+1 and gains trample until end of turn.
Flavor Text: “Domination by the strongest – that is all that matters in the Tangle now.”
-Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Illus. Shelly Wan
Rarity: Common

(James) The conditional giant growth is better.

Name: Viridian Corrupter
Cost: 1{G}{G}
Type: Creature – Elf Shaman
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
When Viridian Corrupter enters the battlefield, destroy target artifact.
Illus. Matt Cavotta
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #94/155

(James) Pretty cool. Not a bad uncommon to pick up.

Name: Viridian Emissary
Cost: 1{G}
Type: Creature – Elf Scout
Pow/Tgh: 2/1
Rules Text: When Viridian Emissary is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may search your library for a basic land card and put that card onto the battlefield tapped. If you do, shuffle your library.
Illus. Matt Stewart
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #95/155

(James) Solid accel card that will clearly help with color fixing.

Multicolor (2)

glissa, the traitor

Name: Glissa, the Traitor
Cost: {B}{G}{G}
Type: Legendary Creature – Zombie Elf
Pow/Tgh: 3/3
Rules Text: First strike, deathtouch
Whenever a creature an opponent controls is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may return target artifact card from your graveyard to your hand.
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Set Number: #96/155

(Joe) Another new general, I’m not sure precisely how best to abuse her peculiar last ability. She’s fine in battle, though, and can come down somewhat quickly. Apparently she uses the P90X workout system, cause check out those abs.

Name: Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Cost: 2{U}{B}
Type: Planeswalker – Tezzeret
Pow/Tgh: 3
Rules Text: +1: Look at the top five cards of your library. You may reveal an artifact card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.
-1: Target artifact becomes a 5/5 artifact creature.
-4: Target player loses X life and you gain X life, where X is twice the number of artifacts you control.
Illus. Aleksi Briclot
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Set Number: #97/155

(Joe) Don’t be fooled, the -1 is not “until end of turn”. That nihil spellbomb or whatever is a 5/5 for good. TezzAoB seems okay to me… it’s interesting to see him with a draw ability in place of the tutoring of yore.
(James) I think I should have pre-purchased these on Ebay. I think I might go do that now…

Artifact (46)

Name: Bladed Sentinel
Cost: 4
Type: Artifact Creature – Construct
Pow/Tgh: 2/4
Rules Text: {W}: Bladed Sentinel gains vigilance until end of turn.
Flavor Text: The Mirran partisans created hundreds of patrol sentinels to divert Phyrexian assaults from the Tangle.
Illus. Tomasz Jedruszek
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #98/155

(Joe) I like this cycle a bit. I like to wonder whether someone would ever be desperate enough for the body to run these guys off color and not bother to splash at all.
(James) Seems like a good roleplayer for W/x decks. Not the best costed card but there are a lot worse!

blightsteel colossus

Name: Blightsteel Colossus
Cost: 12
Type: Artifact Creature – Golem
Pow/Tgh: 11/11
Rules Text: Trample, infect
Blightsteel Colossus is indestructible.
If Blightsteel Colossus would be put into a graveyard from anywhere, reveal Blightsteel Colossus and shuffle it into its owner’s library instead.
Illus. Chris Rahn
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Set Number: #99/155

(Joe) [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iZOmjLrFMs] Daaaaaamn! Obviously this is the infect version of nostalgic fan favorite of his day Darksteel Colossus. This guy is every bit as ridiculous, if not moreso. The one mana extra buys us infect, which speeds the kill up a turn, making the overall expected turn of death roughly the same in hard-cast scenarios. But given that we normally cheated darksteel colossus into play, I think infect represents a real upgrade that’s effectively at no additional cost compared to the original. In EDH, of course, this mostly just means we can now run two similarly bonkers gargantua, and that tooth and nail can now go find the brothers steel. Color me dork-buzzed about this card. Way stoked.
(james) There’s been a lot of contention with this card on Twitter. Do a search for #BSD and you’ll see quite a few hate tweets directed at Maro. Ooops. I think people find this a bit too broken. (One kill infect swing). It is a shame that a card that hits play with no answer in hand will essentially end the game. And of course it’s cheated into play…

Name: Bonehoard
Cost: 4
Type: Artifact – Equipment
Rules Text: Living weapon (When this Equipment enters the battlefield, put a 0/0 black Germ creature token onto the battlefield, then attach this to it.)
Equipped creature gets +X/+X, where X is the number of creature cards in all graveyards.
Equip {2}
Illus. Chippy
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #100/155

(Joe) This name makes me think, for some reason, of a lesbian dildo stash… the bonehoard! This Living Weapon Lhurgoyf looks pretty damn sexy though. Careful not to cast a dead living weapon, kids!
(James) Maybe this goes into a dredge deck? I don’t think this is a very good card for limited but there are some constructed options. I would be disappointed to open this in a draft.

Name: Brass Squire
Cost: 3
Type: Creature – Myr
Pow/Tgh: 1/3
Rules Text: {T}: Attach target Equipment you control to target creature you control.
Flavor Text: “I admire it. Few pull off pluck and subservience at the same time.”
-Ezuri, renegade leader
Illus. Ryan Pancoast
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #101/155

(Joe) Well, the argentum armor decks showed that this effect can actually have a place at the table. A 1 / 3 is a pretty typical run of the mill defensive creature, so he’s not entirely useless when you don’t even have equipment, or costly equip costs.
(James) Seems pretty viable. As Joe pointed out, Argentum Armor loves this card. Stoneforge Mystic + Argentum Armour + Brass Myr?

Name: Copper Carapace
Cost: 1
Type: Artifact – Equipment
Rules Text: Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and can’t block.
Equip {3}
Flavor Text: “We will fight as they do: our flesh protected behind metal.”
-Tae Aquil, Viridian Weaponsmith
Illus. Franz Wohwinkel
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #102/155

(Joe) I think this could really power out some evasive creature strategies, wherein you typically don’t intend to block with your evasive attackers. This also fits well into a “bear” heavy curve, letting you drop the carapace turn 1, a leonin skyhunter turn 2, and then equip and swing for 4 flying from turn 3 onward.
(James) Great for a skies/evasion based deck. I don’t like the tension between the casting cost and the equip cost. There is essentially a draw-back yet I have to pay 3 to equip. Strider Harness is better at 1 to cast and 1 to equip even though it’s “only” a +1/+1 and haste.

Name: Core Prowler
Cost: 4
Type: Artifact Creature – Horror
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
When Core Prowler is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, proliferate. (You choose any number of permanents and/or players with counters on them, then give each another counter of a kind already there.)
Illus. Dave Allsop
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #103/155

(Joe) I love this card in the proliferate style poison deck. It’s an optimal card to sacrifice to a throne of geth. I’m skeptical of whether this would make the cut in a constructed build, but in limited you might nab those last few poison counters with these sorts of shenanigans.

Name: Darksteel Plate
Cost: 3
Type: Artifact – Equipment
Rules Text: Darksteel Plate is indestructible.
Equipped creature is indestructible.
Equip {2}
Rarity: Rare

(Joe) I love this card, and can’t wait to add it to a number of EDH decks. That said, I’m not sure it has much likelihood of seeing standard play. It’s a fun card, but not likely a devastating one.
(James) Everyone is screaming about EDH viability… I’m not so hot on it (and I don’t play much EDH). Maybe I’m just being overly conservative. 5 mana to make one of my creatures indestructible? Just not sure about that… I really like this on Goblin Gaveleer though. :)

Name: Decimator Web
Cost: 4
Type: Artifact
Rules Text: {4}, {T}: Target opponent loses 2 life, gets a poison counter, then puts the top six cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
Flavor Text: Mycosynth grew unfettered beneath the black lacuna, metastasizing into a matrix of noxious energy.
Illus. Daniel Ljunggren
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #105/155

(Joe) This can potentially make your day (or not!) in limited, but it’s probably destined for the dollar bin thereafter. In fact, “The Decimator Web” might make a cool alias for the old dollar bin itself. “By all means, browse through out extensive decimator web.”
(James) I think this is a flavorful card and that’s it. The etymology of ‘decimate’ is 1/10th but the common, contemporary use is “destroy.” And this does not destroy. It’s slow and lame imo. Waste of paper and a slot in Besieged.

Name: Dross Ripper
Cost: 4
Type: Artifact Creature – Hound
Pow/Tgh: 3/3
Rules Text: {2}{B}: Dross Ripper gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
Flavor Text: “Such a creation serves no purpose other than exterminating every one of us.”
-Sadra Alic, Neurok Strategist
Illus. David Rapoza
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #106/155

(Joe) Technically this is a hill giant, so he should be passable, but this just makes me feel like I’m working too hard to get a 4/4.
(James) Borderline card. Maybe good as the 15th creature.

Name: Flayer Husk
Cost: 1
Type: Artifact – Equipment
Rules Text: Living weapon (When this Equipment enters the battlefield, put a 0/0 black Germ creature token onto the battlefield, then attach this to it.)
Equipped creature gets +1/+1.
Equip {2}
Illus. Igor Kieryluk
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #107/155

(Joe) Love it. Can’t wait to try it out. I think this will prove to be quite neato indeed. Living weapon is awesome: it’s like the weapon is ensouled, but only has the power and toughness it would otherwise grant its wielder, literally like a weapon come to life. And upon its death, you still have the equipment, so what the hell, right?!
(James) Much better than Bonehoard imo. It’s a viable turn 1 drop and a cheap equip that you don’t hate doing on turn three+ (presumably when your 1/1 is dead).

Name: Gust Skimmer
Cost: 2
Type: Artifact Creature – Insect
Pow/Tgh: 2/1
Rules Text: {U}: Gust Skimmer gains flying until end of turn.
Flavor Text: Phyrexian smog clouds choked the skies, threatening creatures who couldn’t comprehend the menace below.
Illus. Dan Scott
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #108/155

(Joe) On the one hand it’s a bad bear that’s able to go in any deck, and on the other hand it can jump and sometimes that will be the tempo boost that won the game. This one has a very good chance to play a role or two in limited.
(James) I feel like this is worth the cost and really helps with the W/U skies decks that have problems matching hits in the early game.

Name: Hexplate Golem
Cost: 7
Type: Artifact Creature – Golem
Pow/Tgh: 5/7
Flavor Text: “Use everything. Iron, rust, scrap…even the ground must join our cause.”
-Ezuri, renegade leader
Illus. Matt Cavotta
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #109/155

(Joe) Vanilla 5/7 for 7. I know it’ll be played here and there. I don’t get thrilled by this card.

Name: Ichor Wellspring
Cost: 2
Type: Artifact
Rules Text: When Ichor Wellspring enters the battlefield or is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, draw a card.
Flavor Text: “Our glorious infection has taken hold.”
-Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Illus. Steven Belledin
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #110/155

(Joe) This definitely has ‘engine’ written all over it, and will be the cause of many a magic card database search I reckon.
(James) Seems pretty well costed. There are some nice sac outlets, so it’s plausible to get the 2 cards. Pay 2, cantrip and have an artifact sitting there ready to power a metalcraft…not a bad option…

Name: Knowledge Pool
Cost: 6
Type: Artifact
Rules Text: Imprint – When Knowledge Pool enters the battlefield, each player exiles the top three cards of his or her library.
Whenever a player casts a spell from his or her hand, that player exiles it. If the player does, he or she may cast another nonland card exiled with Knowledge Pool without paying that card’s mana cost.
Illus. Mike Bierek
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #111/155

(Joe) This is pretty interesting, though it can easily set you up to simply lose 6 mana and mill yourself for 3 when they shatter this thing. However, when it works out, you should get lucky only about half the time, and the other half you’ll actually be disrupting yourself. I mean, it works great when you imprint Blightsteel colossus and then play ponder, but when you imprint three cheap spells, it’s more of a bummer, since you won’t get to cheat much, if at all. In the end, this is too conditional for my liking, and I’d probably prefer to just play a big 6-drop rather than roll the dice with this card. In constructed, where you can run 4x preordain, or in EDH with senseis divining top, you have a much easier time ensuring the cheats work out.
(James) I agree; this is pretty interesting. Maybe there’s room for some shenanigans in constructed. But that really could just be wishful thinking.

Name: Lumengrid Gargoyle
Cost: 6
Type: Artifact Creature – Gargoyle
Pow/Tgh: 4/4
Rules Text: Flying
Flavor Text: “Anything that watches without sleep and fights without fear is a valuable asset against the Phyrexians.”
-Kara Vrist, Neurok Agent
Illus. Randis Albion
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #112/155

(Joe) Well, this is what it is: a 4/4 flying that any deck can play. This makes it very decent in limited, and unlikely to get any constructed play whatsoever.
(James) Very solid limited pick but like Joe said, “That is.”

Name: Mirrorworks
Cost: 5
Type: Artifact
Rules Text: Whenever another nontoken artifact enters the battlefield under your control, you may pay {2}. If you do, put a token that’s a copy of that artifact onto the battlefield.
Flavor Text: The faces of Geth’s corpse-dredgers are disturbingly similar.
Illus. John Avon
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #114/155

(Joe) This seems rather nutty, and will probably enable some manner of insane infinite combo in some constructed format or other. For limited, the value of this card is highly dependent upon having something useful to copy.
(James) I think this is near the power level of Mimic Vat, though not quite as good. The ability to put a copy of every artifact that enters the battlefield for 2 mana is pretty insane. I also like that it doesn’t require an imprint (and so there’s no 2-for-1). Should be something constructed-side that comes from this card.

Name: Magnetic Mine
Cost: 4
Type: Artifact
Rules Text: Whenever another artifact is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, Magnetic Mine deals 2 damage to that artifact’s controller.
Illus. David Rapoza
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #115/155

(Joe) Should be bonkers alongside Slagstorm and/or Creeping Corrosion. Otherwise it seems rather conditional, and even a bit weak when conditions are right. It’s got the stink of megrim on it in that regard.
(James) Weird. Could be pretty effective if you’re light on artifacts. Pairs really well with Slice in Twain and Shatter (among others) but it is fairly conditional. Not a top-pick imo, nor constructed worthy…though mainly because shatterstorm isn’t a reprint for type 2…well, and that so far as I’m aware there’s no “clearly overwhelming artifact deck” right now.

Name: Mortarpod
Cost: 2
Type: Artifact – Equipment
Rules Text: Living weapon (When this Equipment enters the battlefield, put a 0/0 black Germ creature token onto the battlefield, then attach this to it.)
Equipped creature gets +0/+1 and has “Sacrifice this creature: This creature deals 1 damage to target creature or player.”
Equip {2}
Illus. Eric Deschamps
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #115/155

(Joe) This is a useful card that might seem like a bad deal at first. This guy will chump block, will often nuke some annoying early game play, and will provide added value throughout the game. It’s slow incidental “removal” but it’s still reusable. I’m Joe Klesert, and I approve this message.
(James) Thumbs up as a role player in limited; just don’t build your deck around it. ;-)

Name: Myr Sire
Cost: 2
Type: Artifact Creature – Myr
Pow/Tgh: 1/1
Rules Text: When Myr Sire is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, put a 1/1 colorless Myr artifact creature token onto the battlefield.
Flavor Text: For the Phyrexians, death is not an end, nor a one-time occurrence.
Illus. Jaime Jones
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #116/155

(Joe) Again with the engine pieces. This is destined to be used as sacrifice bait, particularly of the recursive sort.

Myr Turbine

Name: Myr Turbine
Cost: 5
Type: Artifact
Rules Text: {T}: Put a 1/1 colorless Myr artifact creature token onto the battlefield.
{T}, Tap five untapped Myr you control: Search your library for a Myr card and put that card onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library.
Illus. Randis Albion
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #117/155

(Joe) I like it. Sure, you will sometimes pay 5, get a 1/1, and lose the turbine to removal. But other times, a constant stream of 1/1s, and the eventual tutor effect, will represent quality gains in card advantage and board position. I love that no further mana is required to pump out the myr.

(Joe) Wait a second… where have I seen this artwork before? WTF?
Myr Matrix
(Joe) I guess those myr have a consistent sense of aesthetics and building design.

Name: Myr Welder
Cost: 3
Type: Artifact Creature – Myr
Pow/Tgh: 1/4
Rules Text: Imprint – {T}: Exile target artifact card from a graveyard.
Myr Welder has all activated abilities of all cards exiled with it.
Flavor Text: Memnarch designed some myr to follow the levelers and reaffix lost parts. Mirran partisans put that instinct to good use.
Illus. Austin Hsu
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #118/155

(Joe) So this guy can provide a slower version of the Necrotic Ooze, Triskelion, Phyrexian Devourer combo, replacing the ooze. However, I think there will likely be other applications that will push the welder into some constructed decks. This guy’s so random, though, that it will prove difficult to effectively abuse him in limited. Still, there are bound to be a bunch of really advantageous combos with this guy, even in Scars block limited.

Name: Peace Strider
Cost: 4
Type: Artifact Creature – Construct
Pow/Tgh: 3/3
Rules Text: When Peace Strider enters the battlefield, you gain 3 life.
Flavor Text: “The Vanished must have sent it from beyond to aid us in this struggle.” -Kessla, Sylvok shaman
Illus. Igor Kieryluk
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #119/155

(Joe) Yawn… almost fell asleep there, reading that one. This is lame, boring, uninspired, etc. Still, it’s a hill giant for any deck, so it’ll see limited play, but not constructed play.
(James) Not sure this is main deck material. Could be if you’re light on creatures…

Name: Phyrexian Digester
Cost: 3
Type: Artifact Creature – Construct
Pow/Tgh: 2/1
Rules Text: Infect
Rarity: Common

(Joe) Incredibly boring, but like the card before, since this is a colorless pseudo-gray ogre, and it’s capable of instilling two -1/-1 counters by blocking, it will still play a part in limited decks. Infect often needs a critical mass, and at some point in that curve, quantity trumps quality. But this is a pretty simple card… nothing nuanced really.
(James) It’s better than Blackcleave Goblin…which isn’t saying much I guess. :p

Name: Phyrexian Juggernaut
Cost: 6
Type: Artifact Creature – Juggernaut
Pow/Tgh: 5/5
Rules Text: Infect (This creature deals damage to creatures in the form of -1/-1 counters and to players in the form of poison counters.)
Phyrexian Juggernaut attacks each turn if able.
Flavor Text: Where nature impedes, Phyrexians overcome.
Illus. Kev Walker
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #121/155

(Joe) Seems rather fantastic. Bordering on bomb territory. This is big enough that it can be your only infect creature, and you’ll still often poison opponents out. Two full hits is all it takes, so they’ll throw a string of chumps in its path. Therefore, he essentially becomes some kind of recurring removal spell. “Each turn, during your combat step, your opponent sacrifices a creature. If they miss two such payments, they lose.” Something like that. Not bad for an uncommon colorless card.
(James) Whoa. Watch out. I love how the juggernauts “have to attack”…like that’s some kind of drawback on a 5/5 infect! This will be a very difficult infect card to deal with, and it’s an uncommon so more than one could float in a draft. Ouch.

phyrexian revoker

Name: Phyrexian Revoker
Cost: 2
Type: Artifact Creature – Horror
Pow/Tgh: 2/1
Rules Text: As Phyrexian Revoker enters the battlefield, name a nonland card.
Activated abilities of sources with the chosen name can’t be activated.
Flavor Text: Basic senses like sight and taste are reserved for those in power.
Illus. Kev Walker
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #122/155

(Joe) I’m very stoked about this card. It’s one of the cards I’m most looking forward to, having always loved pithing needle and meddling mage and the like. This guy murders all the fancy schmancy planeswalkers, though perhaps not as permanently as vampire hexmage manages. I just love this bear, though. And it can stop mana abilities. Very cool. I’m guessing it makes a splash in constructed formats all over, and ends up being a legacy roleplayer. And of course, someone will put a deck together with all the “name a card” spells… the ones I’ve mentioned along with maybe cabal therapy and friends? Should be fun to try.
(James) Pithing Needle that attacks! Sweet.

Name: Pierce Strider
Cost: 4
Type: Artifact Creature – Construct
Pow/Tgh: 3/3
Rules Text: When Pierce Strider enters the battlefield, target opponent loses 3 life.
Flavor Text: “Pain isn’t a negative stimulus. Pain is a sign of your imperfection.” – Sheoldred, Whispering One
Illus. Igor Kieryluk
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #123/155

(Joe) Just like his peaceful cousin, this is a good-enough card, but not exactly jaw-dropping.
(James) I actually think this is twice as good as the peace strider version because the life totals are going in the right direction–opponent losing life and all…It’s amazing how I think this is twice as good as the lifegain.

Name: Piston Sledge
Cost: 3
Type: Artifact – Equipment
Rules Text: When Piston Sledge enters the battlefield, attach it to target creature you control.
Equipped creature gets +3/+1.
Equip – Sacrifice an artifact.
Flavor Text: Only the goblins could make a simple machine so complex.
Illus. Pete Venters
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #124/155

(Joe) Keep this card in mind as a potential sacrificial outlet. 3 mana isn’t terribly much for the large buff this grants. The equip cost is the tradeoff, but again, in some cases it will prove to be a hidden benefit, and in others, you’ll usually just try to get the most value out of the first “freebie” attachment.
(James) Whoa, nelly. Hot stuff. No equip cost when you initially play it makes this extremely compelling. Plays very nicely with Ichor Wellspring–and goes up in value if you can pull one of these equipments.

Name: Plague Myr
Cost: 2
Type: Artifact Creature – Myr
Pow/Tgh: 1/1
Rules Text: Infect
{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.
Rarity: Common

(Joe) I like this quite a bit better than the Phyrexian Digester above (the 2/1 for 3). While digester will normally be intended to ride the bench while better creatures do battle, and will only join in the reindeer games if there aren’t enough quality men to do the job, this guy’s a mana myr for every deck! I think this will often get played by non-infect decks, and in such cases it will have the nice side benefit of being a better-than-average chump blocker. Solid.
(James) Agreed. This is a top-quality mana myr pick for most decks, non-infect included.

Name: Psychosis Crawler
Cost: 5
Type: Artifact Creature – Horror
Pow/Tgh: */*
Rules Text: Psychosis Crawler’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of cards in your hand.
Whenever you draw a card, each opponent loses 1 life.
Illus. Stephan Martiniere
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #126/155

(Joe) This isn’t terrible… kind of a reverse underworld dreams on a stick… Built-in empyrial armor is pretty dope too. Clearly strong in limited. I’m not convinced it has a future in constructed though… it’s not very resilient to the now-ubiquitous artifact removal and doesn’t do enough work fast enough to matter even when he sticks around a while.

Name: Rusted Slasher
Cost: 4
Type: Artifact Creature – Horror
Pow/Tgh: 4/1
Rules Text: Sacrifice an artifact: Regenerate Rusted Slasher.
Flavor Text: “It’s a beautiful vision. Discarded debris is reborn as a single entity.”
-Urabrask the Hidden
Illus. Adrian Smith
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #126/155

(Joe) No, thanks. Maybe if I need sacrifice outlets.

Name: Razorfield Rhino
Cost: 6
Type: Artifact Creature – Rhino
Pow/Tgh: 4/4
Rules Text: Metalcraft – Razorfield Rhino gets +2/+2 as long as you control three or more artifacts.
Flavor Text: Adapted to tread on razorgrass, the rhino proved adept at treading on Phyrexians as well.
Illus. Kekai Kotaki
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #127/155

(Joe) Well, like a lot of metalcraft cards, this is barely mediocre when you don’t have metalcraft, and barely above average when you do. So, to the extent that your deck is likely to be metalcraft enabled, this improves.

Name: Shimmer Myr
Cost: 3
Type: Creature – Myr
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Rules Text: Flash
You may cast artifact cards as though they had flash.
Flavor Text: It evades Phyrexians by hiding in the spaces between seconds.
Illus. Jim Schirmer and Johannes Voss
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #129/155

(Joe) I’m enamoured with this as well. I think this will be very strong, enabling the artifact decks that emerge to do sneak attacks and dodge some removal. The era of the EOT artifact flurry has dawned. Or at least, here’s hoping so!

Name: Shriekhorn
Cost: 1
Type: Artifact
Rules Text: Shriekhorn enters the battlefield with three charge counters on it.
{T}, Remove a charge counter from Shriekhorn: Target player puts the top two cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
Illus. Erica Yang
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #130/155

(Joe) Hmm… kind of a temporary, but faster, millstone. Probably good enough to enable some deck exhaustion strategies, that is, once Rise of the Eldrazi rotates out. Proliferate, and the many glint hawks of the world will also help prolong this card’s effectiveness.

Name: Signal Pest
Cost: 1
Type: Artifact Creature – Pest
Pow/Tgh: 0/1
Rules Text: Battle cry (Whenever this creature attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.)
Signal Pest can’t be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach.
Illus. Mark Zug
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #131/155

(Joe) Personally, I don’t think battle cry has enough potential that this little guy ever sees the light of day, but I could be wrong. The math never seems that impressive to me… battle cry’s buff is a ‘far cry’ from, say plated geopede even in the best scenario.

silverskin armor

Name: Silverskin Armor
Cost: 2
Type: Artifact – Equipment
Rules Text: Equipped creature gets +1/+1 and is an artifact in addition to its other types.
Equip {2}
Flavor Text: Partisan spies warned that no armor would protect the body against Phyrexian infection. Neurok strategists took that as a challenge.
Illus. Therese Nielsen
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #132/155

(Joe) If you haven’t seen the artwork for this piece yet, check it out on Nielsen’s blog, and when your pavlovian drool subsides, come back to us. Not bad, eh? The buff is not insignificant in limited, making this a likely player. Also, this marginally helps turn metalcraft on. Very cool.

Name: Skinwing
Cost: 4
Type: Artifact – Equipment
Rules Text: Living weapon (When this Equipment enters the battlefield, put a 0/0 black Germ creature token onto the battlefield, then attach this to it.)
Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and has flying.
Equip {6}
Illus. Igor Kieryluk
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #133/155

(Joe) A 4-drop 2/2 flying is pretty standard fare for limited. It sees play, and being colorless doubly ensures that. 6 seems like a lot to pay to re-equip, but remember that that’s just gravy above and beyond the 4-drop 2/2 flying you already got the benefit of.

Name: Sphere of the Suns
Cost: 2
Type: Artifact
Rules Text: Sphere of the Suns enters the battlefield tapped and with three charge counters on it.
{T}, Remove a charge counter from Sphere of the Suns: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.
Illus. Jana Schirmer & Johannes Voss
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #134/155

(Joe) Solid. A colorless accellerator and mana fixer, this is 100% certain to see limited play.

Name: Spin Engine
Cost: 3
Type: Artifact Creature – Construct
Pow/Tgh: 3/1
Rules Text: {R}: Target creature can’t block Spin Engine this turn.
Flavor Text: “It will be battle-ready before our strike at Oxid Ridge, and it will guarantee our victory.”
-Ketuc of the Helm
Illus. Pete Venters
Rarity: Common
Set Number: #135/155

(Joe) I like this for aggro decks. I’ve grown to like panic effects in certain archetypes.

Name: Spine of Ish Sah
Cost: 7
Type: Artifact
Rules Text: When Spine of Ish Sah enters the battlefield, destroy target permanent.
When Spine of Ish Sah is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, return Spine of Ish Sah to its owner’s hand.
Illus. Daniel Ljunggren
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #136/155

(Joe) Very cool. Very innovative card design. Unorthodox and fairly unprecedented. This has awesome interactions in older formats and EDH. Goblin welder anyone? But yeah, in limited, try to have a way to re-use this, otherwise its a bad desert twister that’s still cool for decks that have no business using this kind of effect.

Name: Strandwalker
Cost: 5
Type: Artifact – Equipment
Rules Text: Living weapon (When this Equipment enters the battlefield, put a 0/0 black Germ creature token onto the battlefield, then attach this to it.)
Equipped creature gets +2/+4 and has reach.
Equip 4
Rarity: Uncommon

(Joe) A 2/4 reach living weapon. Hmm. Yeah, I think for 5, many limited decks will run this.

Name: Sword of Feast and Famine
Cost: 3
Type: Artifact – Equipment
Rules Text: Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and has protection from black and from green.
Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage to a player, that player discards a card and you untap all lands you control.
Equip {2}
Illus. Chrisn Rahn
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Set Number: #138/155

(Joe) I like this cycle, but I think Fire and Ice remains the undisputed king. The effects here do jive with the colors and the name. I’m not a huge fan of the mythic rarity, and I regret that the rest of these swords will all be mythics, seemingly.

Name: Tangle Hulk
Cost: 5
Type: Artifact Creature – Beast
Pow/Tgh: 5/3
Rules Text: {2}{G}: Regenerate Tangle Hulk.
Flavor Text: “A true Phyrexian predator. It will never know death, just as nature intended.”
-Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Illus. Mark Zug
Rarity: Common

(Joe) Not bad, but won’t change many lives.

Name: Thopter Assembly
Cost: 6
Type: Artifact Creature – Thopter
Pow/Tgh: 5/5
Rules Text: Flying
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control no Thopters other than Thopter Assembly, return Thopter Assembly to its owner’s hand and put five 1/1 colorless Thopter artifact creature tokens with flying onto the battlefield.
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #140/155

(Joe) This pre-release card features artwork by Volkan Baga which is very unorthodox for his typical style and subject matter. An odd looking contraption, with an equally awkward board presence. You cast this thing, and unless you’re supporting it with other thopters, then as soon as it loses summoning sickness it’s bounced to your hand and replaced by five 1/1 tokens which all have summoning sickness. Now… this is definitely some decent card advantage going on, but it’s quite slow and cumbersome. If this is your only thopter, you must wait two full turns to finally attack with this card.

titan forge

Name: Titan Forge
Cost: 3
Type: Artifact
Rules Text: {3},{T}: Put a charge counter on Titan Forge.
{T}, Remove three charge counters from Titan Forge: Put a 9/9 colorless Golem artifact creature token onto the battlefield.
Illus. Svetlin Velinov
Rarity: Rare
Set Number: #141/155

(Joe) I like to collect the tokens from each set. I know it’s kind of dorky, I don’t care. So I look forward to this 9/9 token. As a strategy, however, I must advise against getting aroused by this siren’s call. How easy is it to kill your opponent’s Titan Forge EOT when he’s already gone through the pains of putting three counters on, and happily passes the turn? All too easy.

training drone

Name: Training Drone
Cost: 3
Type: Artifact Creature – Drone
Pow/Tgh: 4/4
Rules Text: Training Drone can’t attack or block unless it’s equipped.
Rarity: Uncommon

(Joe) I don’t know what to make of this guy… it’s definitely an interesting ability. Obviously you’d need to have a very high equipment count to consider running him, but with all the living weapon equipments, perhaps that’s achievable. It remains to be seen. If you can achieve a critical mass, then a 4/4 for 3 is certainly a bargain price.

Name: Viridian Claw
Cost: 2
Type: Artifact – Equipment
Rules Text: Equipped creature gets +1/+0 and has first strike.
Equip {1}
Flavor Text: “Phyrexians can’t corrupt what they can’t get close enough to touch.”
Illus. Marc Simonetti
Rarity: Uncommon
Set Number: #143/155

(Joe) This small seeming effect can be quite good in limited.

The Magic Artwork of Rebecca Guay – Part 6

Welcome back to my card by card analysis of the Magic card illustrations of Rebecca Guay. This will be the 6th installment, and when we last parted ways we were looking at Onslaught, which was released in October 2002. Guay was to take a hiatus from the game as it… explored it’s more masculine side, shall we say? (see part 5 for more on that). Two years went by, five expansion sets and one core set were released, before another Guay piece appeared in Magic. It’s now October 2004, and Champions of Kamigawa, an expansion block based on Japanese folklore, had just hit the shelves, bringing with it the triumphant return of Our Heroine™.

Champions of Kamigawa
Hana Kami
Hana Kami

Bizarre and otherworldly, this piece depicts a Kami, or spirit world totem god. In Champions of Kamigawa, the “real world” that we inhabit is overlaid by the Reikei, or spirit world. Each physical thing has a god or spirit representative in this spirit world. So here we have a psychedelic anthropomorphic dandelion vomiting tiny flowers from its gaping yet delicate maw. I’m therefore quite certain that “Hana” must translate roughly to “Timothy Leary“… actually, I’m being told it’s ‘flowers‘.

I’m a huge fan of these jelly-fish flower spirits, and Hana Kami ended up in several of the block’s constructed decks, helping to add recursion to the set’s signature “arcane” spells.

Joyous Respite
Joyous Respite

This card depicts how I felt the moment I opened a pack of Champions and saw for the first time, Hana Kami, pictured above. Huzzah! This piece doesn’t really do much for me, however. It does have a Handel’s Messiah “Hallelujah” sort of joyous quality to it (I found this sweet rendition on youtube). The artwork suits the ability of the card as well as its name. Sometimes a card’s illustration hangs together well with its name or ability or flavor text, and it creates a certain synergy. A card whose elements hang together well can lift up a piece of artwork that you’re otherwise lukewarm for, and endear it to you. Likewise, dissonant elements of a Magic card can detract from our experience of an illustration. This reveals the limited nature of my objectivity in such matters.

Hair-Strung Koto
Hair-strung Koto

A Koto is a Japanese musical stringed instrument, but based on the shape of the instrument and the posture in which it’s being played, what we see pictured here is almost certainly a biwa, also a japanese string instrument… are we splitting hairs here? Whatever it is, the one held by this entranced maiden is quite ornate. She seems to be pondering death or doom, her hand bleeds profusely, yet she stares ahead and plays on. A light snow falls, which tends in Japanese literature to correlate with death. The swans taking flight in the background are mystifying to me: whether this is indicative of the lady’s thoughts, or is intended as a printed screen in the background, or whether she’s intended to be seated in a field, having just spooked two swans, is unclear to me.

Whatever dissonance comes from the misnomer in the card’s name is overwhelmed by the nifty synergies of the card’s various elements with its illustration. This haunted instrument from the spirit world, driving people insane just seems super cool to me. In Magic’s wizard duel metaphor, losing cards from one’s library amounts to having one’s thoughts drained away, the cards representing the spells each wizard knows. This illustration represents this in such a spooky way, the entranced (tapped) woman, causing thoughts to take wing and vanish, like the swans from the reeds.

I ended up buying the original artwork for this card, and it hangs in my guest bedroom to this day (sweet dreams!). Hair-Strung Koto was actually the second piece of Guay’s art I bought. The next card was the first, and it was love at first sight.

Unhinged
Unhinged was a weird set, the second of such sets, designed to parody the game itself and the game’s nascent gamer (and dork) sub-culture. At the time, I recall being very excited that there would be some Guay-illustrated cards in the new joke set.

Little Girl
Little Girl

Little Girl is clearly a commentary on the “too feminine” controversy. This is intentionally the girliest, least macho minion imaginable in the metaphorical framework of a magic card. Previous contenders like camel look positively intimidating compared to this jocund little darling.

The image is simple, and perfectly suited to the card. A little girl in ballet shoes, bunny ears and a tutu holds a stuffed doll, framed by puffy green curtains. The flavor text is fabulous. As I said, I fell in love with this card and ended up buying the original artwork, so I can share the little tid-bit that the ball you see in the foreground, superimposed just slightly over the card’s frame, is not in the original. The ball is a missing relic of the Guay universe, or perhaps was just a photoshop file on a hard drive somewhere. Its fate is unknown.

Shortly after buying the piece, and just for the hell of it, I decided to try to corner the market on this common, which was selling for a few pennies when Unhinged was first out. At last count, I own something like 1300 copies of the card, including 37 foils and two artist proofs. At the time of writing, few online stores have the card in stock, and the price is around $0.25 for non-foils. It’s certainly among the geekiest wastes of money I’m likely to achieve in my lifetime. Lo, the excesses of bachelorhood. True story.

Yeah, little girl is a pretty classic, iconic Magic card in my estimation.

I might add that readers are encouraged to send their extra copies of the card to Power9Pro headquarters, where they will be dutifully added to my collection.

Persecute Artist
Persecute Artist

Less subtle, but equally beautiful and hilarious is Persecute Artist, which is a direct commentary on the exaggerated feud between Mrs. Guay and then art director Jeremy Cranford. A self aware and humorous reference to her own style is the stereotypical maiden central to this piece, covering many of the Guay devices we’ve come to know so far: the beautiful woman, the uber-flowing robes, defying all fabric-physics, the soft hazy white lighting, the wooded setting. Fan service flavor text is always a big plus for a very large segment of the magic community, yours truly included. The effect here is also a pretty funny example of the “artists matter” sub-theme of Unhinged.

Betrayers of Kamigawa
Ninjas! Betrayers of Kamigawa continues the story line of a battle between the physical world and the Reikei or spirit world. The set was the first (and alas, to date the only) appearance of the ninja creature type in Magic, bringing the set proudly into the pirates vs. ninjas age, having had pirates for some time.

Blessing of Leeches
Blessing of Leeches

Blessing of Leeches is a delightful, yet creepy illustration. It provides the rare zero-mana cost activated ability, though it’s a pretty pedestrian effect. The image of this leech infestation and the ‘blessing’ it might bestow does flow together with the card’s effect in a medieval medicine sort of way. The card just doesn’t do much strategically, and is in fact a liability for exposing its caster to two-for-one card loss. The setting sun and striking pose, along with the creepiness of the illustration makes me wonder whether it would not be quite iconic on a card with a powerful effect that ended up succeeding wildly in tournament play, but the world will never know in the case of this and many other cards, I suppose.

Petalmane Baku
Petalmane Baku

Another of the garish spirits of the Kamigawa realm, Petalmane Baku is essentially a rosebush lion. The card saw some limited play in its day, but never made much of a constructed splash. I really like the floral nature of Guay’s spirits in these sets. This image is definitely fantastical and magical, good qualities for spirit totem creatures. “Baku” in Japanese can have many meanings, but seems to vaguely refer to the Southeast asian mamal, the Tapir. However, I presume that some liberties may be taken, and that the Baku of Magic aren’t so pig-like… these are spirit-tapir, after all.

Saviors of Kamigawa
The last of the Kamigawa sets, Saviors of Kamigawa, had several cool Guay pieces.

Oboro Breezecaller
Oboro Breezecaller

The big-ear-lobed moonfolk are the main tribal constituent for blue in the Kamigawa block. Oboro Breezecaller shares the “return a land” cost for her activated ability, a cost which has many interesting applications and side benefits in older and weirder formats. A moonfolk wizard looks just as good in Guay’s asian styled flowing robes as an elf does in her more classical western garb. Shrouded in billowing clouds is a good setting for this flying wizard.

Fiddlehead Kami
Fiddlehead Kami

Fiddlehead Kami is an intriguing green spirit. The swirling lines could be vines, threads, wisps of smoke, tangled hair or string… it’s left vague and amorphous. The being appears as an only roughly anthropomorphic mass. While this is a fairly simple and rough hewn piece, it still achieves a good mysterious spirit world quality.

Haru-Onna
Haru-Onna

Haru Ona is hands down my pick for best of set here, and is one of Guay’s personal favorites as well. In Japanese, “Onna” simple means woman or lady, while “Haru” means spring. In Japanese folklore, there is a “Lady of Winter” or “Lady of Snow” named Yuki-Onna (‘Yuki’ means snow), who is a ghost of sorts that appears in snow storms and much like some European creatures like dryads, will sometimes trick unwary folks into thinking she’s a maiden who needs help, only to then deceive and kill them, usually in some frosty manner. (If you want to see her in action on the big screen, try Kwaidan, based on the writings of Lafcadio Hearn) A Magic card by the name Yuki-Onna appeared in this set as well, part of a cycle of five Ladies:

Nikko-Onna – Lady of Sun (white) 日光
Kiri-Onna – Lady of Fog (blue) 霧
Kemuri-Onna – Lady of Smoke (black) 煙
Yuki-Onna – Lady of Snow (red) 雪
Haru-Onna – Lady of Spring (green) 春

With Haru-Onna, the spirit Lady of Spring dances and twirls, gowns flowing, arms stretched upward. It’s a beautiful piece, very evocative of springtime frivolity and rebirth. Also, it’s a very green image, lending to the nature spirit vibe. The interweaving of this cycle into Japanese folklore is superb as well. Definitely a nifty little piece of Guay lore here.

Ninth Edition
And the Core Sets keep on coming! One quick reprint here and then, alas, another brief sojourn from the game for Mrs. Guay.

Serras Blessing
Serra's Blessing

Serra’s Blessing is a classic piece we first saw in Weatherlight, then again in 6th edition, so I won’t dwell on the gorgeous depth, the magestic stag, or the star-annointed maiden. It’s still as excellent as it was way back when.

Dissension
So after 9th edition, Guay’s work was again absent for a good 3/4 of a year. Ravnica: City of Guilds, and its first expansion, Guildpact, were both released sans Guay illustration, a sad fate for any Magic expansion. Then Dissension was released in May of 2006, and we were graced with three excellent pieces, indeed.

Freewind Equanaut
Freewind Equanaut

Freewind Equanaut is a flying version of a 2/2 creature for 3 mana, or what’s commonly known as “a gray ogre” in magic shorthand. The creature was a staple of various Ravnica limited archetypes, being slightly above the curve for her mana cost. This flying gray ogre harkens back to the earliest Guay we saw, with the classical high fantasy feel. To me, this piece shows what a tragic missed opportunity it was not to include Guay’s work throughout the Ravnica block. This is quintessential Ravnica-style imagery, with a pegasus mounted archer floating above the global cityscape of Ravnica. In the act of taking aim, the gorgeous, fit, and scantily clad archer seems to be diving her mount, her hair and the pegasus’ mane both fly up with the wind, with her rich red skirt flowing behind.

Silkwing Scout
Silkwing Scout

Silkwing Scout is the third faerie we’ve seen from Guay (after Sea Sprite and Thornwind Faeries), and it’s a pretty one. The insectoid eyes mark this dissension fae, and her posture makes for an interesting life study type piece. Essentially a nude, this faerie’s super-hero spandex-like garb is mostly for the censors. The beautiful figure is contrasted with the insectoid winds, eyes, and tentacle-like hair, a mass of antennae, perhaps? Definitely a cool rendition of this classic mythological creature, and her boldest rendering to date. It’s exciting to see these older fae, as soon we’ll see that several of Guay’s most iconic and well known pieces end up being faeries in subsequent sets.

Pride of the Clouds
Pride of the Clouds

Pride of the Clouds was a piece of some “UW Skies” archetype decks in its day, and remains a great addition to bird themed decks the world over. A magestic sort of lion-king cloud vision moment presents us with a billowy cloud-like pride of lions, emitting birds by the flock. Able to grow to mammoth proportions with the right supporting cast, this is an intimidating, as well as quirky and unigue, creature. In later years, the Elemental tribe would rise in popularity and number, and this is an interesting “oldie but goodie” for fans of that tribe as well.

This installment saw plenty of oddity and experimentation, a little scandal, some sad fans exhilarated by a triumphant return, and a very cool detour into some Japanese flavored pieces. Please join me next time when I explore her works for the Time Spiral expansion. Until then, send me your little girl cards! :-)

Mirrodin Besieged Promo Cards Announced

Wizards’ arcana segment announced the new Mirrodin Besieged release event promo cards today. We get a sneak peak at three cards many of us are sure to get a few copies of, due to these events. Let’s have a look!

First up is Hero of the Bladehold, the mythic rare Mirrodin faction pre-release promo:
Hero of the Bladehold

This 4-drop 3/4 is like a mini-titan, spewing tokens any time she attacks. She seems like a good source of virtual card advantage and board position. Pretty sweet. That Battle Cry mechanic looks like fun as well. Is she riding a chrome steed?

Next, we have Glissa the Traitor, the mythic rare Phyrexian faction pre-release promo:
Glissa the Traitor

ZOMBIE ELF?! Looks like old Glissa Sunseeker has been hanging around the graveyard too much. This potential EDH general looks pretty interesting. The recurring-artifacts ability is kind of interesting, as are her relevant combat abilities and sizable power and toughness for her cost. Very cool.

And finally, Thopter Assembly, the rare launch party promo :

Thopter Assembly

Wow. 6 mana for 5 power / toughness of thopters, plus the assembly itself the following turn. It seems good, but when you consider that the tokens will all have summoning sickness on that second turn, you realize that this card is a bit like a slow motion, telegraphed boxing punch. It takes a full two turns and 12 mana before you finally have 10 power and toughness across 6 flying bodies. Pretty crappy, in the end, without some kind of shenanigans to abuse it.

So there you have it. Some fun new spoiled cards to add to the pile.

The Magic Artwork of Rebecca Guay – Part 5

Greetings, and welcome to part 5 of this series covering the Magic card illustrations of Rebecca Guay. Today’s post begins with the Odyssey block of late September 2001. If you dig this piece, I encourage you to have a look at my prior installments here: one, two, three, and four.

A quick not before we begin: I’ve been organizing the cards in this series in the “WUBRG” color order, which will be familiar to Magic players. Somehow, it feels wrong to see cards laid out in any other order.

As always, please post feedback in the comments section if you are so inclined.

Odyssey

Odyssey was released in September 2001. In terms of the Magic storyline, Odyssey takes place a century later than the events depicted by the Invasion block, and is set on a distant continent called Otaria.

Auramancer
Auramancer

Auramancer is a very useful creature in various EDH decks, and has great interactions with other Guay cards, making it a sweet choice for white-centric Guay-only artist themed decks. Angelic blessing and squees embrace can both make auramancer virtually invincible, albeit in a “slow” socery-speed manner, for instance.

Maybe I’m simply falling victim to the low cut V-neck here, but I’ve always been attracted to this piece artistically as well. I feel like this wizard is twirling in a somatic gesture of invocation, which is what you want to see on a wizard card that has a comes into play ( / “enters the battlefield”) effect. I expect to see some spell casting in that case. The background is a cool set of cloudy mountains that makes this feel portrait-like. The background is vague enough to seem blurred by contrast to the sharpness of the figure, popping it into the foreground. The shadows in the folds of this skirt are superb. Why did this kind of dress ever go out of style?

Embolden
Embolden

Embolden showcases some unorthodox style in the ornate headdress of the fair lady. She is bestowing upon a kneeling knight a very cool looking sword. The hanging cloth in the background also has a very unique look. All of these peculiar elements are part of the style of Odyssey and Otaria. For whatever other criticisms of WotC art direction I may make in this and other pieces, I must say I appreciate the lengths to which they go to ensure that each setting has a unique and distinctive feel.

Predict
Predict

Predict enjoyed a modicum of success in the tournament scene in its day in various Threshold and Psychatog decks. The card is still played in some Legacy decks as well, including CounterTop varieties and Team America.

My eyes often see a merfolk when I glance at the artwork here, but closer inspection reveals legs, not fins… this is a result of the blue tones in both the piece itself and its border, and of the exaggerated flowing hair, a gravity-defying stylistic hallmark of many of Guay’s pieces. The near topless pasty-style braziers also evoke the coconut-shell or clam-shell look typical of merfolk. But mer-confusion aside, this piece is wonderfully colorful, with this beautifully clothed sorceress in the act of performing some divination magic using the large blossom in hand. The drapery and cushions are an interesting backdrop, a setting that recurs here and there in Guay’s work. All in all, a neat piece that is instantly recognizable to many players, and it appropriately representative of many of Guay’s familiar motifs.

Holistic Wisdom
Holistic Wisdom

Since holistic wisdom saw print, the types planeswalker and tribal have been added to the game, giving this card unintended future utility. The card’s effect is a very useful one in certain decks.

The artwork is very clever here, being seen through a sort of scrying device or crystal ball, giving it a unique and magical frame. The woman’s dress, curling smoothly out of and around the ball itself like a kind of stand on which the ball rests is an interesting feature. It is as if the woman pictured here is stepping through this scrying device, being transported, which is quite an appropriate image for the graveyard-recursion of the card’s effect. She is, as we’ve come to expect by now, a beautiful maiden, dressed in fine, flowing cloth. Her arms are outstretched in a peaceful or even pious manner, again reiterating the theme of rebirth and return that the card’s mechanic suggests. A striking image, exemplary of the interplay between card mechanics and artwork which every magic illustration must necessarily strive for on some level.

Moments Peace
Moment's Peace

Mentioned by Guay as among her personal favorites of her Magic illustrations, Moment’s Peace has enjoyed widespread use, including many tournament decks, both concurrent with its release, and on into the present day. Here, an enormous lakeside tree gives shelter to a resting female. She is dwarfed by the tree, an effect which, combined with the composition of the piece, “zoomed out” to emphasize the tree’s size and age, gives it all a very peaceful and safe feel indeed. The sunset / sunrise setting behind, and the carefree upward gaze of the figure evoke a peaceful mood as well.

I recall reading a piece by Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar, in which he reveals with pride his ownership of the original artwork for Moment’s Peace. Alas, it seems the images have broken in that piece, but it’s an article that inspired me to begin collecting original Magic illustration artwork as well. In future installments of this series, I will go over the Guay pieces I own, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in art collecting to look into it. The magic illustrations I own are among my most cherished pieces of art, and they’re a very fun way to own a piece of Magic that is unique and personal.

Nantuko Shrine
Nantuko Shrine

The only Guay piece to include the word “squirrel,” Nantuko Shrine regrettably portrays none of the woodland creatures. Indeed, aside from the appropriately tranquil woodland shrine, there is a bit of a disconnect between this card’s effect and its artwork. Squirrels are bashful, however, so I’m willing to assume they’re merely out of sight in this piece, just behind this or that tree. I love when someone unfamiliar with the squirrel period in Magic comes across this card in my Guay binder, and thinks I’m playing a prank.

Torment

Torment, released in February 2002, was unique in that it focused on a single color: black. The set tells the story of Chainer, an evil dude who first discovered the block’s powerful artifact, the Mirari.

Transcendence
Transcendence

A beautiful card with a very unorthodox and potentially mind-bending effect, Transcendence has long been a favorite of mine. The levitating fellow here is perhaps the most natural-feeling examples of Guay’s penchant for flowing bits of cloth, as it feels perfectly natural for this guy to have transcended gravity itself, floating lighter than air above the otherwise dismaying scene of pillage unfolding in the background. The rules interactions that can occur when you pair this card with various others (see Phyrexian Tyranny combined with nefarious lich, for example!) are hilarious and tricky. Ultimately, this card is quite enjoyable to a player on many aesthetic levels.

Dwell on the Past
Dwell on the Past

Another card named by Guay as among her personal favorites, Dwell on the Past achieves a level of high fantasy splendor that is breathtaking. While I don’t particularly care for the Wizard of Oz style evil trees in the background, I must admit they lend the piece an important tension. It’s as if this suffering woman’s entire world has become hostile as she trudges through despair and depression.

Every bit of the subject here is masterfully executed. Her forlorn downward gaze and the way her neck is stretched to her shoulder… her hands grasped to her chest in the posture of heartache. Her hair and gown, folding over themselves. Gorgeous. It is really reminiscent of some of the classic works of early 20th century painters Guay admires. Consider Arthur Rackham’s illustration for Undine, or The Ring. Edmund Dulac’s The Mermaid’s Death. John William waterhouse’s Wildflowers, Ophelia, or his famous Hylas and the Nymphs. Even some of Alphonse Mucha’s pieces, like Poetry.

I don’t necessarily feel that any of these specific works are being referenced here, it’s just that I’m struck by the same sort of timeless high fantasy air here. Definitely a powerful, masterful piece.

Invigorating Falls
Invigorating Falls

The falls are an interesting image of a moonlit druid lady communing with some leaping fish. I don’t entirely understand the relationship to creatures in the graveyard, however, which is more an issue of art direction than execution. It’s a fine piece, but one which seldom leaps to the forefront of Guay’s work in my mind.

Judgment
Released in late May, 2002, Judgement was also a set with uneven numbers of cards among the five colors. Since Torment was heavily black, Judgement got more white and green cards than the others, and fewer black ones.

Commander Eesha
Commander Eesha

Commander Eesha is a cool legend, but would make for a very challenging EDH general indeed. Odyssey block was the only block to feature any cards with “protection from creatures” and Eesha is one of only two creatures in the game with this ability (the other being beloved chaplain). Here we see an atypical subject for Guay, with this heroic monstrous humanoid. The Aven were a humanoid bird race from Odyssey which has been seen in various other sets since. Randomly, Guay has been responsible for several of the most iconic of these creatures, which endears them to me in a small way. I like the variations on familiar themes which Commander Eesha gives occasion to. We see lots of angel wings, but these have a more birdlike feel. We see lots of flowing, folding cloth, which is present in the sleeves here, but the Commander wears a taught skirt. The rendering of the hawklike head is achieved well, and I feel the piece has an appropriate air of dignity and honor. The nonchalant wildlife in the background is an interesting representation of the protection ability. Pretty cool, all around.

Wonder
Wonder

Wonder is among my favorite pieces in the “psychedelia” category for Guay, but I’m not entirely sure I know why… This creature is an Incarnation, one of a cycle of five (see Anger,Valor,Brawn, and Filth… though, consistent with Judgement’s white/green theme, those colors also got the rare Incarnations, Glory and Genesis). These are already “trippy” concepts for creatures, as they’re magical representations of these powerful emotion words. Perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that I find rational analysis to fail me in explaining what it is I like about Wonder, beyond “that looks cool” or “very colorful.” It’s an emotional response to this bizarre thing.

Wonder, the card, has enjoyed enormous tournament success, being a lynchpin of the preeminent block-constructed and standard decks of its time, and remaining relevant to the present day, where just last week various Survival of the Fittest Legacy decks, as well as one Dredge deck, used the Incarnation to send their forces skyward. A great card with intriguing and iconic artwork.

Seedtime
Seedtime

Seedtime was, situationally, a very powerful card, and one intended to counterbalance the dominant threshold decks of its day (an intention that largely failed, in my estimation). It’s a peculiar card, being an instant, but bearing a clause forbidding you from playing it outside your own turn. In combination with Painters Servant, seedtime can lead to some fun interactions.

I’ve always enjoyed this artwork, which seems to evoke a fairy tale mood in me. It’s got a very “sleeping beauty” feel to it to me. The magic using young woman is being held aloft by a blue flowered vine, presumably animated by her magic. She’s in a gentle posture of repose, and I think “gentle” captures the mood of this piece well. As usual, she is quite fair, with a long white dress and dainty slippers. A classic sort of high fantasy maiden. The Irises in the foreground are a nice touch.

Onslaught

Onslaught was released in October of 2002, and is based on a creature / tribal theme. It was soon after the release of Onslaught that a scandal of sorts broke involving Guay and then art director for Wizards of the Coast, Jeremy Cranford. I won’t rehash the gritty details here, as you can read about it on the Rebecca Guay Wikipedia entry under the “Controversy” heading. Suffice it to say that Guay’s art was considered “too feminine” for magic, or at least for the expansions they had planned for the foreseeable future at that time. Who can deny that this artwork, featuring fair maidens, flowing gowns, flowers, etc. is not feminine? But talk about a PR gaffe! I’ve never been more proud as a fan of her work as when the widespread outrage erupted, and never as proud of the game I love as when her artwork again appeared in expansions. So, this was a dark time for we Guay fans (though it seems lately we have entered another dark age, as it’s been nearly 2.5 years since a Guay piece has appeared in a regular Magic expansion, a point I’m sure to bemoan again at a later time). It’s reasonable to want the various sets to have their own feel, their own thematic art direction, but I think Guay is versatile enough that far fewer sets ought to exclude her style than have been the case, historically.

Enough of that debate for now, let’s move on to the cards from Onslaught.

Words of Worship
Words of Worship

Unless you are familiar with the cycle that this is a part of, the glowing object floating above the woman here may not be immediately recognizable as a book. Each of these cards features the magical concept of words powerfully transforming into magic (see Words of War,Words of Wind,Words of Waste, and Words of Wilding). The Asian dragon print on the woman’s robes are pretty stunning, and her revealing dress is something you’d see Jennifer Lopez wearing to a red carpet affair, twisting and turning as it does. A striking piece.

Dispersing Orb
Dispersing Orb

This is a cool piece, with the classic long-bearded wizard and the magical orb. I dig his peacock printed robes. I don’t see much of a deep connection between this image and the card’s mechanics, other than there being an orb featured centrally. What is being sacrificed? What is being returned to hand, the magic equivalent of undoing something’s very existence?

Psychic Trance
Psychic Trance

Here we see a female wizard locked in a magical staring contest of sorts with a Cephalid, the octopoid race inhabiting the Odyssey and Onslaught blocks. It’s unclear to me whether one is entrancing the other, or whether this is a shared, consensual trance, but the flavor text and effect would seem to suggest that the female is using this spell to keep the cephalid at bay. I love the Matrix-style body suit she’s wearing here.

Cabal Executioner
Cabal Executioner

I remember the executioner being fun in Limited. The art here is interesting in its symbolism and imagery. It seems that this trenchcoated cleric is ushering the soul from the fallen man in the background. A clever take on the executioner’s role. The piece feels unfinished, but perhaps the abstract background points to the odd Morph ability, which had creatures shifting from a hidden generic existence to a specific form with a concurrent release of some kind.

Bloodline Shaman
Bloodline Shaman

Bloodline Shaman is a return to a more classic kind of Guay card, prominently featuring an elf wizard, as she applies some kind of ritualized henna-like tattoos. The flavor text and ability suit the piece well, as does the name. If you notice, many of the runes and tattoos she’s drawn on her arms resemble horses, deer, etc.

Enchantresses Presence
Enchantresses Presence

Another classic feeling piece featuring an elf, Enchantress’s Presence has made a splash in many decks of the enchantress archetype. Most “enchantress” effects come from actual female wizards who grant this enchantment = draw a card effect, but this one was peculiar and new in that it was itself an enchantment.

This elf’s dress is very beautifully detailed, and the growing sapling is a cool way to show the nurturing nature of precisely what this card represents: the presence of an enchantress.

Taunting Elf
Taunting Elf

The lynchpin to many aggressive “elf ball” type decks, taunting elf is the classic sacrificial decoy. A reprint from Urza’s Destiny, it’s seen play in all manner of elf deck, though moreso in limited and casual settings. This brave soul is taunting a large beast with a bunch of fruit, it appears. The cape flowing behind the elf as he dashes along is surprisingly under control in terms or its exaggeration. This poor guy bites the dust more than most creatures, but that’s his role for certain.

Eighth Edition

The eighth core set features a single Guay card, appropriate in its imagery given the her controversial hiatus from magic which appeared during this time.

Fecundity
Fecundity

The reprinted Fecundity… I think the image sums up my feelings about this period of magic as it relates to my favorite illustrator quite well.

So, join me next time when we jump into the future a bit to Mrs. Guay’s return to Magic. As always, thanks for reading, and please chime in with questions or comments in the comments section below. Until next time!

The Magic Artwork of Rebecca Guay – Part 4

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.

Invasion

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 Samite Master
Atalya, Samite Master

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
Protective Sphere

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.

Mana Maze
Mana Maze

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.

Travelers Cloak
Traveler's Cloak

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.

Vodalian Hypnotist
Vodalian Hypnotist

This is a big, beautiful merfolk wizard with colors like a lion fish:

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.

Pulse of Llanowar
Pulse of Llanowar

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.

Quirion Trailblazer
Quirion Trailblazer

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?

Seers Vision
Seer's Vision

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

Priest of Titania
Priest of Titania

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.

Planeshift

Released in February 2001, Planeshift is the second set in the Invasion block.

Keldon Mantle
Keldon Mantle

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.

Planeswalkers Favor
Planeswalker's Favor

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.

Seventh Edition

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.

Ancestral Memories
Ancestral Memories

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
Coral Merfolk

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 “ … who goes there?!

Twiddle
Twiddle

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:

twiddle

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.

Dark Banishing
Dark Banishing

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.

Thoughtleech
Thoughtleech

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.

Apocalypse

Released in June 2001, Apocalypse was the last set in the Invasion block.

Shimmering Mirage
Shimmering Mirage

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.

Gaeas Balance
Gaea's Balance

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 Moon’)
The Moon

(The well known ‘Princess Hyacinta’)
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.

Squees Embrace
Squee's Embrace

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!

The Magic Artwork of Rebecca Guay – Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of my series covering the Magic card illustration work of Rebecca Guay. Apologies for the slight delay. I haven’t found the time to edit my interview with Mrs. Guay yet, but it will surely be available shortly. So far we’re up to Mercadian Masques, which was released in October 1999. If you’re just joining us, here are links to part 1 and part 2.

Mercadian Masques

The last few blocks of Magic sets we’ve examined have had a distinctly high fantasy kind of style to them. I tend to associate Guay’s inherent style with this high fantasy feel, but I also enjoy seeing how she approaches magic expansions that have artificially or externally imposed stylistic guidelines. Not since the Mirage expansion have we seen a set with as unique and distinctive a style, as Mercadian Masques has. As was the case in part 1 of this series, when we looked at Guay’s Mirage cards, her Masques block cards rise to the stylistic occasion, and her cards help shape the overall feel of these sets. They are the execution of the stylistic vision for this setting.

Crackdown
Crackdown

Crackdown is such a suspenseful image, it definitely puts me in a adventurous mood. Surrounded! Oh snap! I’m not sure how well the scene really represents the effect of the card, though I suppose the suppression of creatures part makes sense. I guess I just don’t intuitively see why small creatures are exempted from this ambush being portrayed. It’s a minor point about how the overall effect of the card hangs together, but the artwork is great. The wardrobe of the surrounded chaps in the foreground is a great example of the distinctively Masques style to which I referred above.

Reverent Mantra
Reverent Mantra

This is a personal favorite, a piece I’ve copied onto the lid of one of my box lids for practice and added decoration. Dork customization, right? Plain white cardboard lids are so boring.

There is some disconnect, again, when I think of the card as a whole, mainly due to the name here. I’m not sure whether I get a reverent, respectful vibe here, or more of a love / cherish tone. Maybe it’s merely the mantra which is reverent, and the broad shouldered man is expressing his love for this woman through this formal, almost monastic act. Or maybe his averted gaze suggests that his mantra is the only thing keeping his love in check… is this woman off limits to the man? Perhaps he is her escort? Her arms are folded which does signify being closed off. It’s a posture of rejection, not embrace. Maybe I can dig the name after all. Either way, the flowing robes, the interplay of the two subjects’ postures, it’s all very beautiful, and my eyes just want to wander around, taking it in. These are both beautiful people to look at.

Diplomatic Escort
Diplomatic Escort

The hair here always makes me think “merfolk,” which is to say “underwater.” The shell-like shield doesn’t help either. But I guess if static electricity can play with one’s hair, then who am I to say that a little spellshaping can’t do likewise? Cool dresses here, on both the escort and her diplomat in the background.

Dark Ritual
Dark Ritual

Ah, Dark Ritual. This is among the most sought after Guay cards. It’s a common, but as the first and for a long time only foil printing of Dark Ritual available (which has been printed in twelve normal sets and a handful of promotional products), the common commonly sold for $20 USD. The artwork is trippier that most of the Guay pieces we’ve seen thus far. We’ve seen some dreamy images, but this is Sgt. Pepper territory, I think. The ritual doesn’t seem extremely dark to me, however, which kind of adds to the charm of this card, I think. I mean, consider some of the other printings…

Tom Fleming, from Urza’s Saga:
dark ritual

Ken Meyers, Tempest:
dark ritual tempest

Clint Langley, 5th Edition:
5th dark ritual

My previous favorite, the hilarious Justin Hampton version from Ice Age:
ice age dark ritual
(more awesome D&D notes artwork, that…)

And of course, the original Alpha version by Sandra Everingham:
Alpha dark ritual

Coming full circle, let’s see Guay’s once more.
Dark Ritual
I think Guay’s version of Dark Ritual offers a nice tribute to the prior versions, with its cloaked figures, while still being a Guay piece through and through. The druidic circle, the blue earthlike sphere they stand upon, and the tye dye cloud and pencil line 1960s swirly eye lashes, all contribute to the psychedelia. This is a cool, sought after, iconic, and trippy card and a highlight for many a Guay collector.

Strongarm Thug
Strongarm Thug

Once more we see a card that really expresses the feel of Mercadian Masques, with marauding pirates, swashbucklers, rebels and mercenaries. Puffy shirts everywhere. Dig the patterns on the choke-slammed guy’s MC Hammer pants. So cool. And the similar tailoring on his Alladin vest? Very cool details. This has a jarring feeling, obviously, of the dude being slammed into the wall, his scimitar falling useless to the ground. I dig it.

Hammer Mage
Hammer Mage

This set features several of the few non-gorgeous subjects in Guay’s Magic portfolio. Most of her characters tend to be stunningly gorgeous babes or valiant looking Princes with some Legolas elf types for good measure. But here we actually see a rotund old timer smacking some sparkling, presumably magic hammers together. His flowing cape rocks, with its detailed moon and stars print and blowing folds. Stunned merchants in the background are a nice touch, setting us in the typical crowded streets and bazaars of the Mercadian Masques setting. Another spellshaper, this, he’s got a sweet beard and some rocking puffy capri pants… aka pantaloons. Any SCA enthusiasts out there reading this who want to make me this outfit?

Tectonic Break
Tectonic Break

Yeah, this is the terrible Roland Emmerich movie 2012 in Magic form in a lot of ways. A tectonic plate falls into the sea, bringing with it a large manor in the foreground. More waves! I still think “The Ship Struck a Rock,” by Edmund Dulac from his Arabian Nights, has influenced Guay’s rendering of a crashing wave. What do you think?:

Dulac Ship

Volcanic Wind
Volcanic Wind

What you see here are some Wumpi… at least I’m guessing that’s the plural of the make-believe creature, the Wumpus, which inhabits the Mercadian realm. I know that if you try to google “wumpus” looking for a description of the beast, you’ll find a neat computer game called Hunt the Wumpus, and it seems that someone at Wizards of the Coast must have played the game, cause there’s even a card in MM called Hunted Wumpus. But I digress.

You see some Wumpi engulfed in a pillar of fire. I imagine Mrs. Guay may have seen just such a description when she was tasked with this piece, and can imagine it wasn’t among her most enjoyable projects. Coming from the desert southwest as I do, I actually like the mesas and the fiery sunset sky in this one. Even the weird fire tornado would be okay, I think, if the Wumpi weren’t like comical caricatures of the beasts seen in other pieces. They look like gingerbread cookies or plastic toys… you even see one being blasted into the air. Am I reading too much into this to see it as a subtle commentary from the artist on how she feels about portraying the noble Wumpus? Either way, when I pass this card in my collection, I mostly smirk at its oddity… see the burning circus animal cookies, and move on. This isn’t hate, it’s just not a piece with a lot of intrinsic Guay-ness.

Briar Patch
Briar Patch

Briar Patch is another beast piece I’m not terribly fond of. It’s a briar patch hiding a pack of hyenas, who are, it seems, hindered by the briar patch, though in a lame, minimal way (which is appropriate for the card’s effect, honestly). I think I see a little bleeding scratch on one hyena’s shoulder. Don’t get me wrong, again… this is passable beast illustration, by all means, but I doubt many Guay fans will name Briar Patch as her crowning achievement.

Sacred Prey
Sacred Prey

Okay, Sacred Prey is a cool example of a card whose elements don’t hang together well, causing dissonance, confusion and bewilderment. A third beast illustration, this one once more has a passable beast image which might nonetheless fail to be picked out of a police lineup of Magic cards as a Guay piece, even by some moderate fans. A large feline of some kind (likely a “Jhovall,” another contrived beast type like “Wumpus”) in the foreground is growling, perhaps in the moment of springing into attack, as a frightened horse comes running around the bend. The card, however, is a Creature – Beast. But wait, isn’t this the Prey? Is this card the horse, and it’s a weird beast horse? Doesn’t “beast” suggest this is the cat? The flavor text reads “To see one is a good omen…” That might seem to suggest the horse. The ability gives you life when this creature is blocked… does that mean when it’s eaten, or feasting?

These mysteries are unsolved, and the case has run cold. Alas, we may never know what is going on with this card, mechanically.

Vernal Equinox
Vernal Equinox

This organic, almost abstract feeling piece is somewhat out of the ordinary in subject. It’s got an endearing feeling of mysticism and magic to it. The mysterious runes complement the card’s name, the equinox being significant in all sorts of astrological mysticism. It also has a neat effect, letting everything go instant speed, but for both players… a cool “global” enchantment. When cards affect both players equally, they’re known as “symmetrical” in Magic parlance, and this is one such card, fittingly so for its themes. Elegant, nifty, and peculiar. I’ve always liked it.

Saprazzan Cove
Saprazzan Cove

There aren’t a whole lot of distant landscape kind of cards in Guay’s work, but this one has an interesting vantage point. Maybe this is the view from one of the dirigibles in Mercadia? Anyhow, it’s the kind of card that makes me want to play D&D. That gets me thinking about this place… where’s the ship headed? Who lives here? I want to explore the place. I guess, in short, it’s a compelling place painting. I love the towers, or minarets or what have you in the foreground. There are cool little details here and there.

Battle Royale Box Set

Battle Royale had two cards we’ve seen before:

Angelic Page
Angelic Page

This remains one of the all time cutest angels in Magic. Aw, shucks.

Elvish Lyrist
Elvish Lyrist

The posture still seems ever so slightly off to me.

Nemesis
Released in February 2000, Nemesis continues the story with the Phyrexian invasion of Dominaria on the verge of beginning.

Animate Land
Animate Land

Wicked! I can imagine this tattooed on someone’s arm in a biker bar. “Nice ink, man!”

Animate Land is one of a wonderful subset of experimental pieces from Guay, featuring acid-trippy, melty, shifting, or otherwise phantasmagoric beings of illusion that are just plain cool to examine. Here a patchwork of flora, fungi, and growth resembling coral and underwater worms are pulled and polymorphed into a dragonlike composite creature. It’s an inspired representation of the effect of the card, which literally animates the land momentarily. The pithy flavor text is a fun garnishment.

Fog Patch
Fog Patch

Elves lost in the fog. It’s a cool piece. It would have to be a dense magical fog to stop a group of elves, I’d think. But then, perhaps the elves have summoned the fog? This piece features beautiful garments adorning our elven subjects, though they seem more panicked than the passive flavor text and foggy mood might suggest. These are minor criticisms though, and overall I enjoy this piece for its fair elves and flowing garments, all with the hallmark misty depth.

Prophecy
Aura Fracture
Aura Fracture

Striking, this piece catches your eye. The pretty woman is hidden, curled up in her egg like force bubble. Spikes or shards of rock protrude sharply upward, and they seem to be the actual phenomenon being portrayed, given the nature of the ability… this woman’s shield is being burst. If anything, she seems a bit calm, given that, but her odd pose is pulled off well I think, and there’s electricity and energy to this one. I’m reminded of Glendra, the good witch, as she floats down in a bubble to Dorothy’s aid in the Wizard of Oz.

Calming Verse
Calming Verse

This piece is just gorgeous. It doesn’t hurt that the subject is an incredibly attractive, tall slender woman in sheer and translucent gowns. This piece is tantalizing and sexy. Alluring. And I suppose, after a hard day’s work, sure, it’s calming! I certainly feel no angst or expectancy when I consider this piece. The word “verse” in the title, and the performance-like pose of this woman’s arm, make me imagine her having just finished a lovely stanza of a poem, or a soft lullaby. Ahhh. Very pretty.

Okay, that’s all for this installment. Join me again next time when we explore the Invasion block and beyond.

Elspeth vs. Tezzeret Decklists & FTV:Relics Art Preview for Sol Ring

The mothership had two fun tid-bits today. In arcana, they announced the decklists of the new Elspeth v. Tezzeret decks. For this artwork fan, the highlight of this announcement was the fantastic new version of tournament staple Swords to Plowshares done by Terese Nielsen:

Nielsen Swords to Plowshares

Among the other 5 new artworks announced was a new Mishras Factory:

Factory

Not my favorite, really, but the coolness factor of the card counts for something. Alas, I find both the new planeswalkers’ artwork to be lacking and sub-par:

Elspeth

Tezzeret

Yeah… I’m not a fan of either one… they seem quite amateurish.

Lastly, in Mike Flores’ article, “Great Looks at Great Decks” we see a neat new image with a link to the old announcement of the From the Vault: Relics release (releases tomorrow at the time of this writing!) that is presumably the new artwork for Sol Ring:

Sol Ring FTV Relics

Interesting artistic developments. I can’t wait to get my hands on some of those swords!

The Magic Artwork of Rebecca Guay – Part 2

Welcome back to part two of my series on the Magic illustrations of Rebecca Guay. In Part 1, I covered Guay’s first work, way back in the Alliances expansion (1996), and came chronologically through Weatherlight (1997). We saw a few examples of the classic style Guay is known for, as well as some experiments and variety. A few references to Guay’s various artistic influences popped up, and in particular, Guay rose to the stylistic occasion of the Mirage expansion. We ended with gaeas blessing and angelic renewal (one of Guay’s personal favorites), some of the most iconic and recognizable cards Guay has done in Magic.

Today we begin with the Tempest block, and continue through the 1999 Starter series. So, without further ado, let’s consider some cards!

Tempest

The story that began in Weatherlight would continue through the Tempest block, and on through four years worth of sets, ending finally with the Apocalypse expansion. Thus, the entirety of this period of Guay’s work would be wrapped into the same story arc, were it not for several smaller sets released, such as core sets and starter products. Still, the style we saw in Weatherlight (as seen on Angelic Renewal, Gaeas Blessing, and Serras Blessing) was the aesthetic basis or benchmark for this epic series of Magic expansions, and we’ll see some stylistic continuity during this period because of that.

Heartwood Dryad
Heartwood Dryad

Another subtle use of the Edmund Dulac -esque misty snow effect gives this dryad a dreamy quality. Shadow was a central new card mechanic in Tempest, allowing creatures with shadow to have a superb form of evasion. The ability of this dryad to block such creatures puts her in a righteous kind of force-of-good light. The pale magical light emanating from her outstretched hand, and her somber but confident composure make the card’s mood feel no-nonsense. I like the piece, particularly the folds in the Dryad’s cloak. We see the pulled-back hair here, which is a bit of a Guay hallmark as well… floating out of scene in a way that almost makes the scene seem underwater… Guay does this with long hair at times, and while I wouldn’t quite describe it as a “peeve” because it’s endearing, I still notice it often, and it makes me smirk. Many of these images are dramatic poses, and you can almost imagine a stage hand off stage to the right pointing a big fan at the Dryad for the photo shoot. But let’s face it, hair and cloth look more interesting when they’re flowing in a breeze. I can’t complain.

Respite
Respite

Ah, the Skyship Weatherlight. Guay renders it well, a distinctive vessel central to the long story arc. This reminds me of the card Mobilize, a scene going down in the woods that we see from afar, framed by trees. I like the card. Guay has done several fog variants, including one of the most popular in terms of tournament play, as we’ll see when we get to Moments Peace in Oddyssey.

Root Maze
Root Maze

Presumably a picture of Crovax Windgrace, root maze is a simple piece showing the hero crouching to contemplate an intimidating snarl of roots. Root Maze is a pretty useful Magic card, but the image is somewhat underwhelming. The saving grace is the interesting attire worn by the crouched figure, but the tangled roots and the background seem blasé somehow.

Pine Barrens
Pine Barrens

Lands are a sad sticking point with me for Rebecca Guay. Wizards of the Coast, if any of your employees are reading this, please, I beseech thee! The problem is that Guay has done so few lands. She’s only done Mountain and Plains from among the basic lands, and a couple other nonbasics. This is a real hurdle for a Guay purist who wants to make an all-Guay art theme deck. You’re constrained to white / red, splashing green, blue, and black. I think a savvy art director would commission Guay to do an Island, Swamp, and Forest for an upcoming set, maintaining the value of the two APAC lands she’s done. That Rebecca Guay, among the game’s preeminent Green Artists, has never done a basic Forest, is a bit of a travesty to this fan. But I digress.

Pine Barrens is such a neat and simple card. Lands have special appeal as anyone who plays the game can attest… they are the primary resource you’re managing in this resource management game… they’re so basic and essential, and the beauty of them is that they represent places. It is Landscapes from which the energy of Magic’s wizardy is drawn. This cycle of lands was a failed attempt to “fix” what wasn’t broken, in this case, Ice Age’s cycle of “pain” lands. By making the lands come into play tapped in the Tempest block, they relegated the cards to the dustbin of Magic history in terms of playability. However, this hardly matters for such flavorful pursuits as an all-Guay (or all-single-artist) themed deck, and for that reason Pine Barrens is kind of a fun card to run. Again, a pure Guay-only deck has to run these if it ever wants to run black or green.

The artwork itself is quite simple and elegant. A copse of trees growing in some eroded or mulchy soil, perhaps a primordial compost heap. It feels like a place from which black and green mana might emanate.

Still, I can’t help feeling like Guay may have wanted to paint a figure in the foreground of this setting. It seems like a backdrop to any number of typical Guay subjects, minus the subject. There’s a slightly lonely feeling here.

Sky Spirit
Sky Spirit

Sky Spirit is iconic, beautiful, and resonant. It’s also conceivably a reference to several other works. Edmund Dulac illustrated “The Rubaiyat” in 1909, and it includes an image titled “Hidden by the Sleeve of Night” seen below:
Hidden by the Sleeve of Night
I can at least see some influence here. There are other Dulac images which portray floating feminine spirits in flowing gowns, so while this may not be a direct reference, clearly Guay’s use of these themes is influenced by this Golden Age artist.

I’ve always loved this card’s illustration, with the relaxed spirit in repose among the evening clouds, perhaps even sleeping gently adrift high above the town nestled in the hills below. It’s dreamy and magical, with lots of high fantasy archetypal imagery happening. A strong image on a card that, while never doing much in constructed formats, certainly had its day in the sun for limited formats as an aggressively-costed first striking flier.

Stronghold

Stronghold was the first expansion in the Tempest block and was released in March, 1998.

Bandage
Bandage

Bandage is another very straight forward piece, with feminine hands off-scene finishing the bandage around the injured man’s head. However, the flavor text here alludes that this is Starke of Rath, and the female hands doing the bandaging are those of his daughter Takara. However, it turns out that, in the story, “Takara” is actually Volrath, master of the Mercadians, who is a shapeshifter and merely adopted Takara’s appearance. So there’s a little bit of a disconnect on this card, but it’s still a pretty fitting image, even removed from the odd magic storyline.

Youthful Knight
youthful knight

Youthful Knight is some classic high fantasy Guay again, with the mounted rider passing through the mist. Pretty sweet.

Wall of Tears
Wall of Tears

I like Wall of Tears a lot. A strange architectural framing of what appears to be a man-made waterfall, seemingly serving as a curtain drawn across the opening to some cave or tunnel. The serpent and various skulls and masks give us a certain foreboding, while the mist of the waterfall adds to this eerie warning. As a wall that “bounces” creatures it blocks, to use the Magic parlance, this veil of water takes on a very cool symbolism… as if creatures encountering this mysterious wall, pass through this veil and end up in non-existence, wiped from reality, but returned to their state of pre-birth rather than being killed and ending up on the other side of life. A very neat flavor is going on in this card, and it’s always just seemed cool to me.

Mulch
Mulch

Mulch! This is a hippy, tree-hugger kind of card. We see a hippy babe raking the woods, filling up a cool wheelbarrow, and revealing a nice midriff. Are those dreadlocks? I think I’m in love!

This card saw a decent amount of play, and has a potentially powerful card advantage effect. The muted, earth tone colors and scene are very “green,” hanging together well with the card’s name and mechanics.

Samite Blessing
Samite Blessing

Samite blessing is a sweeping scene that reappears in other forms later in Guay’s career. We have a healer or attendant caring for a sleeping damsel. The scene is draped with smoke from two braziers and has an apothecary feel to the setting. It’s a calm, but anxious mood, in which a healer is trying to overcome some ailment.

Exodus

Exodus is the final expansion of the Tempest block, and was released in June of 1998.

Mana Breach
Mana Breach

Mana Breach has excellent artwork with themes familiar to us by now. A beautiful woman under some kind of duress in the woods, with flowing hair and cloak framing her fancy dress and attractive figure, with a mystical kind of snow or pollen permeating the air, giving the scene tranquil depth.

But Mana Breach stands out among cards illustrated by Rebecca Guay for another reason: there is an exceedingly rare version of this card which is the most expensive card illustrated by Guay that a collector can buy. Before Exodus was released, Wizards of the Coast began experimenting with making Foil cards. Until this time, Magic cards never had foil versions, but for a handful of Exodus cards, various foil techniques were tried out. There are something like twenty “test foil” Mana Breach cards out there, and they can fetch prices up to a thousand dollars US. This is also one of the few holes in my own Guay collection, so if anyone out there happens to own one of these, by all means, send a comment!

Resuscitate
Resuscitate

Maidens held by or holding men half submerged in ponds is actually a very common scene in Golden Age illustration, from my favorite example, Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs (seen below), to Rackham’s several illustrations for The Rhinegold and the Valkyrie or his image in The Little Mermaid.

hylas and the nymphs

In Resuscitate, a heroic and serious healer works anxiously to revive the apparently drowned elven maiden. His cloak and ears make him appear elven as well. It’s a beautiful, touching embrace, and the subtle distortion effects of the limbs and cloth dipping below the surface of the stream are quite lovely. This scene seems at once serene and full of impatient angst as the healer tries to resuscitate his patient.

Wood Elves
Wood Elves

As I said in part 1, when we saw the original Portal version, Wood Elves is one of the more useful cards Guay has done, able to fetch any forest, including Revised dual lands (though alas, not pine barrens!).

Perched in a tree, these elves appear to be lookouts. Given the choice, I usually run the portal version, with the more heavily armed and mist shrouded elves. For reference:

wood elves portal

Portal Second Age

In June of 1998, Portal Second Age was released, and with it Guay’s work takes a brief aside from the realm of the Tempest Saga’s grand plot arc. Stylistically unique, the obscure and fanciful cards of Portal Second Age have always had an endearing quality of nostalgia to me as a collector of Guay’s work. The set remains among my favorites of Guay’s sets.

Moaning Spirit
Moaning Spirit

We’ve seen this subject before, and we’ll see it again. Guay is known for somber but beautiful images of gorgeous, elfish women, tall and slender, with long flowing hair and windswept trails of cloth blowing in the breeze. Among the many such images, Moaning Spirit ranks high in my mind, as this is a haunting expression of the theme. It’s the translucence of the trailing cloth, and the cold wintry mist that makes this a convincing image of a phantom or ghost. My only complaint here is that this is another example of an old style guideline, or lack thereof, in which older Magic cards weren’t careful with the use of the Flying ability. On modern Magic cards, if the card is a creature with flying, chances are the creature will be in-flight, or will involve wings displayed prominently. This issue is akin to the Noble Steeds-is-an-Enchantment issue we saw in part 1, and again it grants a bit of nostalgia to we Magic historians and collectors. There’s an innocence, which has been lost, to a creature like this who has flying, but which has art that doesn’t imply the ability in any way, really.

Sea Drake
Sea Drake

Sea Drake was, at one time, the most expensive and sought after card illustrated by Guay, that was printed in a normal print run. The primary reason for this is that Sea Drake is a huge monster at a very discounted price. 2U is very little for a 4/3 flying drake. The drawback, returning two lands to your hand, can be mitigated in several ways. The most obvious and oft-employed means was to simply avoid this requirement by having fewer than two lands in play at the time Sea Drake came into play. This can be accomplished in several ways, the most common being the use of a land that produces several mana, such as Ancient Tomb in conjunction with artifact mana, like Chrome Mox. The “Sea Stompy” Legacy deck featured this very iconic opening. That it was a rare printed only in Portal 2 meant it was scarce as well, driving up the price. I recall paying close to $50 USD for the final japanese copies of my own playset, around the peak of their popularity, though at the time of this writing, the price has dropped to between $35 and $45.

The drake itself has always seemed a bit amateurish to me, frankly, and appears to be a Pterodactyl or other similar dinosaur. But the waves below the drake are interesting and bring up another recurring theme we saw in part 1 with Sea Sprite. Guay’s waves bear a resemblance to Dulac and Rackham, and I still contend that Hokusai may also be channeled here. Consider the following pieces.

“The Ship Struck a Rock” from Arabian Nights, Edmund Dulac
The Ship Hit a Rock

“The Great Wave Off Kanagawa” by Katsushika Hokusai
The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

Arthur Rackham’s illustration in “Undine”
Undine

Gosh, wavy illustrations are cool, aren’t they? Seems to me that once again Dulac is the primary influence, but that the others have clearly colored Guay’s aesthetic sensibility as well. It’s fun to compare and contrast her work to the many pieces done by the great artists she admires.

Barbtooth Wurm
barbtooth wurm
Snakelike, rather than the typical Dune / Arrakis type of wurms with the round maws (Roar of the Wurm), Guay’s Portal 2 wurms have dragon heads. This one is all coiled up, as though resting after a nice meal. The flaming mouth is a little out-of-character for a wurm, further blurring the two monster paradigms, but it’s an interesting take on the wurm. I like the coloration of this beast.

Deathcoil Wurm
Deathcoil Wurm

Deathcoil Wurm is a quirky, odd little card. A beast that was one of the “Timmy, Power Gamer” big monsters in Portal Second Age, this rare is typically somewhat elusive to collectors. You’ll likely need to just buy stuff like this online, because seldom will you ever see this in a trade binder.

The art here is another snakelike, dragon-headed wurm chasing some kind of sprites? It’s inexplicable. It’s a pretty cool monster image, but there are other Guay monsters to come that surpass Deathcoil Wurm in my estimation. If I had to choose, I think I’d take the coiled, resting pose of Barbtooth wurm above.

Lynx
Lynx

Lynx is a very cool piece of beast art. The lines of the tree keep your eyes moving around the frame, and I like the slight feeling that we’re looking up into this tree. Serenity is granted again by the floating snowflakes. The cat is well done, and has clearly inspired a number of D&D sorcerer’s familiars over the years. Very cool.

Norwood Riders
Norwood Riders

Norwood Riders is one of my favorite Guay oddities. A patrol of mooseback (say what?) elven riders slowly traversing a misty glen is head-turning subject matter. I love the tall, grasslands tribal shield strapped behind the rider in the foreground. We have the obligatory sweeping cloth and breeze-blown hair on an effeminate figure of possibly sylvan origins that are the Guay hallmarks. Definitely a fan favorite.

Norwood Warrior
Norwood Warrior

Norwood Warrior is pretty damn fabulous. Norwood seems to be a fashionable place, doesn’t it?! This elven warrior is posed in iconic heroism, armed with classic weaponry, the longsword and long bow, lightly armored, wearing a long dress gown despite this, draped by a luxurious cape. This is portrait style depth, with mist or clouds as a hazy background, bringing the heroine into sharp focus in the foreground. Your eyes stay put on this one, basking in the glory. I love this piece.

Angelic Wall
Angelic Wall

This is one that didn’t receive angel errata, and remains simply a wall in its most recent printing. While I’m usually a fan of John Avon’s work, his art for the later versions of Angelic Wall doesn’t do much for me. These ghostly wings would almost seem spooky to me if I wasn’t prompted to think ‘angelic’, as they almost seem to be haunting this wood. Altogether a haunting king of card.

APAC Lands

The APAC lands were released in 1998 in three color coded sets. These were promotional cards given away to players in the Asian-Pacific region, as a kind of marketing tool to appeal to global markets. Unlike the vast majority of other basic land cards in Magic, these portray real world locations in the region.

APAC lands are somewhat rare collectors items, fetching around four dollars apiece, which isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, except that these are basic lands, the basic building blocks of Magic. Any Magic player is going to have hundreds if not thousands of basic lands. They are ubiquitous, with functionally identical cards costing players essentially nothing. Buying a promotional basic land, even for a few dollars, is a pretty extreme act of collectorship.

However, these are the only two basic lands illustrated by Rebecca Guay, and when you’re constrained to two colors like that, you typically need around ten of each basic land to complete a deck. Thus, those of us who enjoy building artist themed decks and who love Guay’s work are in the difficult spot of ponying up around eighty dollars for the twenty (times four dollars) copies, or else sacrificing the purity of our deck’s theme. At any rate, this is a sticking point for many Guay aficionados, I’m sure. Wizards? Throw us a bone here? :-) Just three more. What’s an Island, a Swamp, and a Forest between friends, eh?

Mountain
Mountain

The mountains here are from Taiwan, though I’m not certain which ones, precisely. It’s certainly a place I’d like to visit, and an image I’m very familiar with as a result of the phenomenon described above. The immensity and steepness of the rock faces are rendered well by the view, low to the ancient river which winds between them.

Plains
Plains

This beautiful land obviously portrays the Great Wall of China, and is well done. I’m quite fond of the Guay plains. It’s quirky and among the most recognizable and sought after APAC lands here in the states. I’ll be the first to tell you that it just feels kind of cool to play Magic with a bunch of Great Wall of Chinas laid out in front of you.

Urza’s Saga

Urza’s Saga, released in late 1998 was a very powerful and epic set.

Angelic Page
anbgelic page

Angelic Page is among my favorite angels (thanks to errata that changed her creature type). She’s also one of the smallest angels out there. She’s cute, and perched aloof, holding a sword that’s gargantuan for her. The reddish clouds and her dainty posture just really do it for me on this card.

Serras Hymn
Serra's Hymn

This is one of the more pious feeling Guay cards, with the stained glass angel and the serious, reverent looking women. The faces are beautiful, and the curves of the neck of woman in the foreground are so lifelike and well painted. The shadows suggest a light high above. All in all, I feel like I’m in church looking at this image, and these women are walking back to their pews after receiving communion or something, a mood which serves the card quite well.

Silent Attendant
Silent Attendant

Silent attendant is superb. It reminds me of cloak of feathers the way you have an interior / exterior vibe happening, and it’s fairly dreamlike. Where is the mist coming from? We see stars filling the doorway, like this room is floating in the night sky. The cleric in the threshold is draped and feminine, and holds an orb of light. Its a graceful pose she’s in, it all feels delicate somehow. I can’t explain how some of these images just get my imagination going. I can’t help but be drawn in to this scene… this mystic arrival, this intriguing figure. It’s just compelling somehow. We fantasy dorks love this stuff.

I don’t mean to snub these other artists, and I like that Magic has a place for them too, but I love the compelling, subtler images in Magic. Sure, fantasy has room for violence (Gloomlance) and monsters (Hypnox) and the macabre (Treacherous Urge) and we dorks even like to include some imagery that seems to hail from some D&D notes somewhere (Weakstone, Rapid Fire, staff of zegon). But I’ve always had a thing for these golden age types of illustration. High fantasy book cover kind of stuff.

Silent Attendant is also noteworthy as a collectors item, because the Chinese version of the card has a misprinted casting cost. Even at one white mana, the card doesn’t strike me as overpowered:
silent attendant chinese misprint

Abundance
Abundance

Abundance is a powerful card with a fairly decent illustration of another gorgeous woman who I suspect is sylan in origin. Her golden hair waves gently in a breeze, as she crouches among an abundant garden, or forest. It’s not a particularly striking piece, but it’s still lovely.

Carpet of Flowers
Carpet of Flowers

Carpet of Flowers is atypical subject matter for Guay. The image is reminiscent of Monet’s water lilly paintings, and there are references to black lotus here as well, which are a nice touch given what the card does. It’s a neat image, but I see it as kind of a referential piece mostly, and while it’s beautiful and painterly, it’s like a way to cleanse the palette between rounds of the seven course elf maiden banquet feast.

Elvish Lyrist
Elvish Lyrist

Elvish Lyrist is gorgeous and alluring, with the sheer skirt of the maiden, and her dainty woodsy harp. For some reason she doesn’t appear completely comfortable to me, something about her posture.

Fecundity
Fecundity

Fecundity is what’s known as an “engine” card in Magic, one which can enable degenerate cyclical card combinations that can be iterated an arbitrary number of times. In this case, you will usually use Fecundity to draw an absurdly large number of cards, quite possibly your entire deck.

This image is quite striking, and I can’t think of another Guay piece that features skeletal remains. Here, the wordplay of the card’s name, fecundity, is contrasted with the image. It brings you a step back from the normal meaning of the word, and lets us see the cycle of life, of which death is a part. The flowers growing up through the ribcage are a nice touch, and the flavor text really seals it. This is a card in which all the elements hang together well… the name, the effect, the artwork, and the flavor text.

Hush
Hush

A figure similar to the Lyrist above, the look and attire of the subjects are similar. I like the sneaking movement of the piece. I definitely feel like this person is creeping down the misty terrain as silently as possible. How this destroys enchantments is a mystery.

This is also another collectors item due to another Chinese misprint:
hush chinese

Priest of Titania
Priest of titania

Remember when I said that Urza’s block was powerful? Well, if the cards you’ve seen so far from Guay haven’t convinced you, behold one of the most powerful elf cards in the game. Priest of Titania is a card which I guarantee has won over many a heart to Guay’s artwork. Here, the priest leads a group of her followers with flowers in her hair, and classical high fantasy attire. It’s not particularly stunning compared to many other of Guay’s pieces, but here we see the phenomenon of how a card’s intrinsic value in the game can make it, and by extension its artwork, tremendously popular.

Urza’s Legacy
Devout Harpist
Devout Harpist

Ah, devout harpist. She’s always been the Veruca Salt of Rebecca Guay cards to me. She has kind of a bitchy look on her face, like she’s frustrated that we keep interrupting her harp practice. Her garments look good though. The snakes print cloth fits her demeanor well I think. I just can’t keep eye contact with her without thinking about the goose who lays gold eggs for easter. “I want it NOW, daddy!”

Thornwind Faeries
Thornwind Faeries

Hooray for more faeries! Long before Lorwyn and the fairy tidal wave it brought to Magic, Guay was one of the few artists painting the obscure creatures. Thornwind Faeries are pretty excellent, really. They’re essentially flying prodigal sorcerers, making them quite superb. For paying blue as one of the colorless of the original, you gain flying. That’s quite a bargain, and a variant of the original this good hasn’t seen print since, goblin sharpshooter notwithstanding.

Keep these long flowing green sashes (wings of flowing cloth?) in mind, as well as the setting and the pose of the fairies because they’ll all reappear later on one of the most iconic and archetype-defining fae in Lorwyn, which Guay illustrated.

Defense of the Heart
Defense of the Heart

When Defense of the Heart first came out, I didn’t really care for the artwork. I was confused about the beast (it’s a Maro, a creature unique to Magic that was created by head designer MArk ROsewater) and about the scene. Later I learned a bit about the back story that’s going on behind so many of the cards in the Urza / Mishra story arc in Magic, and things became clearer. This is a scene depicting the powerful planeswalker Urza, discussing something with Multani, a Maro sorcerer and de facto leader of Yavimaya. Readers who are interested in Magic dork lore can check out this wiki on Urza, which briefly describes Urza’s relationship with Multani.

Anyway, I had learned what the card depicted, and seeing that the scene was actually relevant to the illustration, since in the story Multani eventually delivers aid and reinforcements to Urza precisely because he is otherwise outnumbered by the evil Phyrexians. All of this helped me appreciate the card a bit more, but I still disliked the legs on Multani, the way they bend backward like reptile or bird legs… Still, there’s nothing really wrong with the artistic quality, I guess it’s more like the vision of the piece that I’ve struggled with over time.

Classic Sixth Edition
This core set was released in April of 1999.

Perish
Perish

Ah, Perish is so excellent. This is another Guay card that feels very Golden Age of Illustration to me. This is an archetypal kind of image, which could have several historical references behind it. For me, this primarily evokes John William Waterhouse’s painting “Ophelia”, have a look:

Ophelia

Next, we’ll see a number of reprinted cards from earlier sets.

Elven Cache
Elven Cache

This is a reprint of the portal version of this card which we saw earlier in this series. I am including reprints for for the sake of documenting chronology.

Starter 1999
Barbtooth Wurm
Barbtooth Wurm

Deja Vu? Yeah, we saw this beauty above in its original black bordered printing as well. Here, it’s got a white border and the little star expansion symbol of Starter. I still like this kind of wurm better than, for example, crush of wurms style wurms.

Lynx
Lynx

Lynx was also featured in Portal, Second Age above, and still reminds me of D&D wizard and sorcerer familiars.

Natures Cloak
Nature's Cloak

We saw Nature’s Cloak in part 1 of this series, in the Portal expansion.

Norwood Archers
Norwood Archers

Norwood Archers and Renewing Touch are both reprints from Portal Second Age.

Renewing Touch
Renewing Touch

That wraps up part two of the series. I have some exciting news to share before I bid you adieu today. It turns out that Mrs. Guay saw my Facebook announcement for part one, dug what she saw, and agreed to do a video interview with me over Skype. The footage is in the can, and I’m doing post production work presently. I hope to have the video ready with part three in a week or two. Join me then and I’ll have a link to the interview, and we’ll continue with Guay’s cards from the stylish Mercadian Masques block.

The Magic Artwork of Rebecca Guay – Part 1

Rebecca Guay

Rebecca Guay has long been my favorite Magic card artist. In this series, I take a chronological tour through her artistic contributions to the game, examining every card she’s ever done to date, including some which never saw print. While her career as an illustrator is not limited to Magic card illustration, the artwork which appears on Magic cards and promotional material will be my primary focus in these pieces. However, I would encourage any fans of her Magic card illustrations to have a look at her other work. She’s illustrated for several other games, including Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, various White Wolf RPGs, and some comic books. Much of her work is compiled at her website, rebeccaguay.com, where she also takes limited submissions for autographed cards.

Although I’m neither art critic nor historian by training, I will try to fake it as best I can. I am presenting each card with the full frame, as the card appeared in the original versions. I considered displaying the images alone, but concluded that part of this work of art is the card form it’s delivered on. The art is part of the card, and the card frames the art. Each must hang together with the other, for a truly sublime Magic-related aesthetic experience. And thus, through no fault of her own, some of the artist’s pieces will necessarily be more popular than others due merely to the relative excellence of the cards on which they appear. I shall try to make this distinction when evaluating the artistic merits of such iconic cards, though I can’t promise not to have my own biases. Enough ado, let’s dive in!

Alliances

Guay’s work first appeared in the Alliances expansion, released in 1996. Most Guay collectors’ binders, therefore, begin with a humble and unassuming pair of Enslaved Scouts.

Enslaved Scout

Enslaved Scout, ver 1Enslaved Scout, ver 2

I’m glad that Guay got involved with Magic early enough to do a few of these alternate / multiple artwork cards. Here we see chained and collared goblins, reluctantly guiding their mounted captors.

The gruesome flavor text on the second version with the squatting goblin gives us a glimpse of the fate likely awaiting these poor souls. These are fairly straightforward pieces. Of the two, I favor the second, with the figure painting of the squatting scout more. As the opening page in my collection binder, Enslaved Scout has grown on me over the years.

Kaysa
Kaysa

Right off the bat, we have an example of the style Guay is known for. A beautiful, slender maiden with long hair and a flowing cloak, both in this case blowing in the wind. I’m taken by Kaysa’s sexy, almost aloof posture in this piece. She’s holding a spear in a way that suggests combat, but she doesn’t seem troubled by any potential adversary. Classic High Fantasy themes, but painterly and soft, not airbrushed and sharp. The cranes flying away along the line of her spear help flow your eyes around this picture.

To me, this is standard, classic Guay. An archetypal gorgeous-maiden-in-flowing-robes subject, with a majestic high fantasy mood. What’s interesting is that much of her early work varies from what ends up being the “Guay mold,” as we’ll see. There is terrific variety before she settles into a period in which she returns to this classic kind of look.

Natures Chosen
Nature's Chosen

This has never been among my favorite pieces, but it seems to bear some passing artistic reference to Edmund Dulac. In 1911, during the “Golden Age of Illustration,” Dulac illustrated “Stories from Hans Christian Andersen” which included the story of the Ice Queen. In several of Guay’s pieces, we see a hazy, snowy effect. Here, it’s seen around the knees of this kneeling, somber, meditative maiden. This effect reminds me of Dulac’s piece, “The Snow Queen Flies Through the Winter’s Night” seen below:

Snow Queen

Now, the low-cut back of the maiden’s dress seems to suggest a warmer clime, so maybe this is supposed to be either dreamy snow, or some kind of pollen or spore? This slender woman does seem to be at home in nature, but it’s still not one of the more powerful images from Guay’s work, in my opinion. What exactly is going on? She’s caressing a tree, bonding with it perhaps? It does convey that this woman is in tune with nature, but is she merely a tree hugger? How is she the chosen of nature?

Noble Steeds

Noble Steeds, ver 1Noble Steeds, ver 2

Noble Steeds is the other dual-art card illustrated by Guay. Here we have two takes on the same pair of horses, one framed from afar in an Aspen grove of sorts, grazing, the other an action closeup of the horses rearing or running. I like the first better, I suppose, as the second seems too tightly cropped to me, the rearing horse seems to be cramped from having to rear up in such an enclosed space. I wonder what the cropping of the original was like.

Noble Steeds is an example of a phenomenon in older Magic cards, wherein an enchantment is misleading due to looking and feeling a lot like a creature. I still glance at this sometimes, thinking it’s a creature, and only realize my mistake when my eyes drift to the text box. All in all, Noble Steeds is primarily noteworthy for its illustrator, and is not among my favorites, even then.

A Short Aside on Multiple Artwork Cards

Alliances, sadly, was the last set released by Wizards of the Coast to include multiple card artwork for individual cards. This practice of alternate artwork lent a depth and a certain je n’sais qua to those earlier sets. I am a bit cynical about the official line from Wizards on the matter:

“…most players recognize cards through the artwork. With the enormous number of different cards available now, having many with alternate art can actually be a drawback, since you would have to memorize more images. … We just don’t want to be in a situation where the number of images a player needs to know to reasonably play the game gets out of hand.” -Elaine Chase, Magic R&D

This explanation seems awfully lacking in my estimation. Wizards does promotional reprints with alternate artwork all the time. New core sets often feature numerous examples of such reprints as well. Furthermore, as Chase admits, an average Magic player already recognizes an “enormous number” of different images, usually on the order of several thousand. Let’s face it, the number of images a player needs to know to “reasonably” play Magic is by definition out of hand. When you consider that Alliances had 55 cards with alternate art, and 144 unique, functionally different cards, this means roughly 38% of the cards had alternate artwork. How much difference does a marginal number of images make when you’re already memorizing thousands of them? Just under half of the cards in Beta have had recommissioned artwork at some point.

My theory is simply that Wizards can cut their costs for each given set by doing a single art commission for each card. Either way, I sure miss the multiple artwork, but I’ll settle for the promotional and textless versions we see nowadays, I suppose.

End Aside

Sustaining Spirit
Sustaining Spirit

Sustaining Spirit, on the other hand, was an early favorite of mine. As a tribute to another of my favorite cards when I first came into Magic, Ali From Cairo, Sustaining Spirit caught my eye for its effect as well as its artwork. I love the pensive angel here. While some of Guay’s early cards clearly depict angels, many were spirits or guardians or merely Legends, as the subtype conventions had not been pinned down yet. This just adds charm to the older cards in my mind. Sustaining Spirit has been given errata to change the type from guardian to angel spirit.

This petite angel seems to be perched among the clouds, and could almost be a statue come to life, like some delicate, beautiful gargoyle. Fun fact: the phrase “guardian angel” has evoked this image in my mind for years, thanks to this art and the weird creature type wording. Maybe that’s just what they were thinking in the cutting room on this one.

Mirage

Asmira, Holy Avenger
Asmira, Holy Avenger

Asmira is a beautiful image of an angelic protector. At least I thought so… turns out the errata here changed her type to Legendary Creature – Human Cleric. No matter, I will always consider Asmira an angel. The wings here don’t match the cloak well, and Asmira has flying. Come on, a flying cleric? I’ll admit that when the errata was issued I did finally see that what I saw as wings does match the color of the cloak, and there are portions of it that look more like flowing cloth than angel wings. But I digress.

Her embrace of the young child puts her in the role of protector. Her sun shaped halo and the patterns on her robes remind me of various pieces by Gutav Klimt, (like, for instance, “Julia I”). Guay got commissions for a Legend in both of her first two sets, and they were both among my favorites.

Memory Lapse
Memory Lapse

I really think Guay rose to the challenge of the particular style of Mirage. Here, we have an example of a style atypical to Guay, but very much in the feel of the set. This is a card, originally printed in Homelands, that would go on to have a number of high profile tournament appearances. Mark Tedin’s original has some intrigue to it, with the puzzle pieces falling out of a mage’s head, but the Seventh Edition version by Tristan Elwell is abysmal. Needless to say, my Homelands copies have seen no play, as I always favor the Guays. This is an example of a card which has artwork that’s not among my favorites, but which has grown on me due to appearing on a card likely to see play in a blue Guay themed deck, or odd decks from various formats over the years.

Vigilant Martyr
Vigilant Martyr

Vigilant Martyr gets my pick for best Guay card in Mirage. This is a beautiful piece, again with shades of Klimt in the patterned cloth. The piece succeeds in representing this protector, willing to die to defend another creature, or stop an enchantment from opposing magic. There’s so much going on in this frame, my eyes move effortlessly from one pleasing image to another. And finally, she’s again succeeded in helping define the unique feel of Mirage itself, with tribal themes and savannah setting.

Vitalizing Cascade
Vitalizing Cascade

Our first bit of gratuitous babe art, which would eventually become a hallmark of Guay by the time when Unglued came out in 2004. Most of the beautiful women portrayed by Guay are seen wearing flowing robes or dresses, but here we have one of the few bathing women of Magic. Nudity, nymphs, and merfolk were themes explored by many artists in the Golden Age of Illustration, the time in which many of Guay’s influences lived and worked. This attractive woman, and the lily-pad pond both evoke that period of illustration for me here.

My one complaint with this piece is that I find the woman’s hair to be too fluffy for having been drenched by a waterfall. I wish is fell straight down and just felt wetter.

Fifth Edition

Phantom Monster
Phantom Monster

Phantom Monster is a cool piece. Again we see the eerie snow effect, and what seems to me to be the shadow of the monster on the ground below as it flies above. It’s creepy and fitting to the card, the original flying hill giant. This is one of the few cards from Alpha which has been redone by Guay, though there are a few others, as we’ll see. This is also our first real taste for Guay’s penchant for phantasmal beings, which really comes to fruition in Judgment.

Donny Darko, anyone?

Sea Sprite
Sea Sprite

I have a thing for Faeries, and Guay does them well. Sea Sprite was the first, and there are a couple of interesting things going on here. The Faerie itself is aquatic feeling, with gossamer wings like seaweed. The flowing skirt, disappearing out of frame is also unusual for fae, but works well here.

Note the waves in this picture. I would love to know of Guay’s influences for this and other of her images featuring waves. I feel like several candidates exist in several of Dulac’s works, but also see resemblance to “The Great Wave,” a famous piece by the Edo period Japanese master Katsushika Hokusai. In this image, my suspicion of the Hokusai reference is heightened due to the Asian feel of the jumping fish, and their passing resemblance to yin and yang iconography. I want to stress that this is “the untrained eye” talking.

Wanderlust
Wanderlust

This is classic Guay, and classic Golden Age type illustration. Beams of light and the morose wanderer, with startled birds in the foreground belying the stillness which otherwise dominates the mood here. Framed in by trees, you get an almost claustrophobic sense from these foreboding woods, despite which, the maiden is still compelled to wander on. I’m a big fan of the original Wanderlust by Cornelius Brudi as well, and I only wish foil versions existed when Fifth Edition came around, so I could get a black-bordered version of this card. There’s always Sharpee!

Portal

Mind Knives
Mind Knives

Violence is uncommon in Guay’s pieces, but here we have the impression of acute pain and violence as the magic is ripped from the victim’s mind. I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of Mind Knives, but it gets the job done. Guay doesn’t use a lot of abstract painting, so I enjoy Mind Knives for that unusual aspect.

Cloak of Feathers
Cloak of Feathers

Cloak of Feathers simply screams Gustav Klimt to me. The woman’s fetal position and closed eyes give her flight a dreamlike quality, as does the strangeness of the window on the right, open to night time stars, contrasted with the trees to the left. You can’t tell which is inside, which is out, and on this peacock feather gown, so much like sheets pulled tight, the mystery takes flight. An odd but satisfying artistic experience, in my estimation.

Elven Cache
Elven Cache

Elven Cache is in the “Beautiful Hippy Gardener Elves” category of Guay’s work. I like most of these, but there is a personal bias there. The lingerie here definitely contributes to Guay’s early reputation for gratuitous babe art.

Mobilize
Mobilize

I’m a fan of Mobilize. Not only is this a very useful card in various elfball decks, the image is pretty sweet. You see some obviously nature-aligned adventurers (see the two deer to either side of their group) mobilizing in the woods. We’re so far back from their meeting, we don’t see much detail, but after all, this is a card describing a certain spell effect. Compare to the issue I brought up with Noble Steeds earlier. There is no mistaking this spell for a creature, and in fact, the scene describes the effect well. I like the use of a foreground tree as framing, both for giving depth to the image, and giving us some closer details to look upon.

Natures Cloak
Nature's Cloak

This haunting, camouflaged elf is a very neat piece featuring the mystical snow effect, and showcasing Guay’s penchant for forests. Blending seamlessly into the sylvan scene is a great representation of forestwalk, making this art fit the card especially well.

Wood Elves
Wood Elves

Wood Elves is one of the most useful cards Guay has done, when it comes time to build guay_art.dec. This guy can fetch any forest, including Revised dual lands like tropical island and puts the land into play untapped and ready to use. I run Wood Elves in EDH decks alongside wirewood symbiote.

Guay has actually done two versions of Wood Elves, and we’ll see the second version later when we get to Exodus in part 2. This version’s two white haired elves look regal and fey. The flowing capes here are superbly rendered, amidst the mist.

Starlit Angel
Starlit Angel

Here we have an excellent angel, filling the frame. She’s beautiful, her wings are wide, her arms outstretched as she flies through the night sky. I like the flowing cloth, especially where her sleeve casts a shadow on her long dress. The stars behind her fit the description offered by the card’s name. I appreciate Guay’s angels for their classic look and feel. There’s no scantily clad, airbrushed skin, no silicon breast implants. These are beautiful, heavenly creatures, not tawdry sex objects of warrior princesses with wings. Renaissance era, classic angels. I’m not saying there isn’t a place within the wide fantasy setting of Magic for those Frank Frazetta style sex symbols and Roy Krenkel comic book heroines, or even the many examples of latex-clad Catwomen of Magic. I get that the current mass appeal is more along the lines of the X-Men than with Hans Christian Andersen. I’m simply thankful for those few artists, like Guay, who have contributed the classical ‘sensibility’ to our game.

Weatherlight

To my mind, Weatherlight is the set in which Guay’s magic artwork solidifies into what I consider to be her classic style. It includes iconic images, and a very powerful card that saw lots of play and gave Guay’s work some early exposure.

Angelic Renewal
Angelic Renewal

Angelic Renewal is one of my favorite pieces by Guay. Such a gorgeous pose, the caring embrace of this woman’s guardian angel, saving her from her demise. The fine gowns, the curly hair, the wings, all done with such painterly grace. A wonderful piece.

Gaeas Blessing
Gaea's Blessing

This card was key to various winning tournament strategies, notably Zvi Mowshowitz’s Turboland.

The image here is among the classic, instantly-identifiable cards in the game for veteran players, with a beautiful female figure snuggling the back of a majestic knight as he kneels in prayer, holding his sword in the classic cross position before him. Set in a forest scene, we see leaves and shadows detailing the flowing cape and armor of the knight. Who is this woman? She’s nude, though her skin is covered in leafy images, suggesting that this may be an incarnation of Gaea responding to the knight’s prayers, conveying the namesake blessing upon him. That her hair seems to melt away into thin air suggests a similarly sylvan or spirit nature. This is a classic, high fantasy scene. Beautiful and serene.

Serras Blessing
Serra's Blessing

Another blessing, this time from the Serra Angel of Magic lore. Another beautiful woman, clad in white, communing with nature. Her halo and proximity to the stag suggests she’s received the blessing, and is imbued with magic. I like the trees here, another Guay hallmark, giving depth the image.

This wraps up part one of the series. I hope you’ve enjoyed the first bit of the journey through Guay’s work. Join me next time as I peruse the works appearing in Tempest block and beyond. I will append updated links in the sections below as the subsequent parts are published.

Until we meet again!

Premium Deck Series: Fire & Lightning announced

Wizards announced today the next installment of their Premium Deck Series, a deck called “Fire & Lightning.”

What intrigued this author about the announcement was the following line:

“[The deck] contains famous flames, bolts, and beats from across Magic history, including several never before released in foil!”

And the image by Christopher Moeller seen below:


Chain Lighning

Now, this is entirely speculation, but could that be a new updated artwork for the Legacy staple Chain Lightning? Color me intrigued!