Hey there, gang, and welcome to Vorthos Is Magic! This is the inaugural entry in what I hope will be a long-running column examining the lighter side of Magic. Just so we understand one another, my background as a gamer is planted firmly in the tabletop RPG camp. I was playing Dungeons & Dragons and White Wolf games long before I ever held a grip of cards. So things like story and character catch my interest far more than competitive play. Maybe it's because I'm bad at it…
Okay, that certainly doesn't help, but I always wonder if I'm bad at Magic because I care more about the characters and plot or if I care more about the characters and plot because I'm bad at Magic.
While I may never take down an FNM because I remember more flavor text than rules text, the wonderful thing about Magic is that it can be enjoyed by the casual fan and the competitive fan alike. Personally, I love the continuing cast of characters and the shenanigans they get up to as they bop around the multiverse. I love making silly themed decks that would be laughed out of a convention hall if I brought them to a SCG Open Series.
Ask me about my Minotaur Tribal EDH deck.
While I love Magic, I fully recognize my place in the grand scheme of players: a Vorthos. I play the game to have a fun time with friends and relax. Some folks enjoy the competition, and that's fine. Good for them. Whatever makes you happy as long as you aren't hurting anyone. Bygones and all that. But for me, I prefer the mellower side of things.
With this notion in mind, let me share with you, my new friend, what I love most about this game: the absurd. Magic is an odd game when you get right down to it, and that's what makes it so much fun if you stop to consider it with a prying eye. So let me, your humble storyteller, remind you of things you forgot to laugh at the first time around. Welcome to Vorthos Is Magic!
Top 10 Oddest Art
Much like its RPG cousins, Magic has had a long history of talented people creating beautiful pieces of art for the game. Unfortunately, again much like its RPG cousins, not all of those pieces came out what one would call…well done. Don't get me wrong; I am not saying anyone on this list is a bad artist or anything like that, but to quote Moe Howard: "Accidents can happen in the best of families." Maybe deadlines were looming, or perhaps the direction given to the artist wasn't quite clear enough. Whatever the reason, Magic has had its share of bizarre pieces when it comes to card art. So I present to you my personal Top 10 Oddest Art in Magic.
Honorable Mention: Keldon Warlord (Alpha)
Before we get to the official list, this is one I can't ignore. While not odd enough to make it into the Top 10, it definitely deserves a mention here. Now, I know what you're thinking. This guy is badass, right? With his huge sword, killer war mask, steroid-induced musculature, and Liefeldian shoulder pads. I agree. This guy is awesome. Super 90's, but awesome nonetheless. That is until you see…it. You'll notice he is mounted on a jet-black steed. Again, awesome, but the problem becomes abundantly clear when your eye travels below his sword. See it?
His little, tiny, baby leg. See it?!? Now you can't ever unsee it! I know I can't. I've been playing with this guy for years, and it wasn't until recently that I noticed his itsy-bitsy, teensy-weensy doll leg. I can't even look at this art anymore. What happened? This should be on the list of most metal Magic cards, but that accursed leg! Couldn't you just paint over it or crop the art differently? No wonder this guy has to ride a horse—there is no way his freakishly disproportioned lower body could support his tank-like torso. None. That'll teach him to just work his glamour muscles.
Well, now that I've helped destroy one of my favorite pieces of art in Magic's history, let's get into the real list.
10. Giant Strength (Fourth Edition)
Starting off at #10 is Fourth Edition's Giant Strength. What we've got here is a mostly naked, pot-bellied humanoid of some kind pulling what appears to be a seemingly endless black stone train with spiked metal wheels. The train itself looks like it's just a few after-market LED kits away from being Dethklok's latest ride. The frowny face bubblegum man does not seem pleased to be here.
Seriously though, what kind of creature is that supposed to be? A Dwarf? Maybe? Why is he almost naked? Did he decide pirate boots and a loincloth was a good look? Maybe he's just hot. Pulling a brick train through a sea of oatmeal would be thirsty work. Actually, the more I look at this guy, the more I think he looks like the lovechild of Danny DeVito and the WWE's Undertaker. And he did a lot of meth. A lot.
9. Inferno (Fifth Edition)
Nice Kokopelli cave painting. Seriously, where is the artwork for Inferno?
8. Word of Command (Alpha)
Uh… Ok. Some eyes in the dark… I guess… Huh… Well, it must have been a slow day over at Jesper Myrfors' studio. Or maybe there were a lot of Bugs and Gossamer cartoons running that afternoon and inspiration struck. I mean, does this art seem to go with the flavor of the card? Wouldn't an overseer of some kind—barking orders at a subservient, cowering character—make more sense than this? This seems like it should make a creature unblockable or untargetable, like fear. Come to think of it, that card's art is a bit odd too.
Howdy ma'am, we are your singin' Skele-a-Gram!
7. Power Sink (Alpha)
Ugh, gross! Should we be seeing this? This game is for thirteen year olds and above, right? Alright, I know this is supposed to be magical energy being dispersed and breaking apart, but I can't help thinking this wizard needs to reevaluate his men's room etiquette. What's the old phrase? Untap it more than twice and you're playing with it?
6. Serpent Generator (5th Edition)
The Dominarian version of Play-Doh's Fun Factory is much more sinister than expected. Seriously, I love this art. The very concept of a machine that produces snakes is hilarious to me. The only thing better would be if it had a big crank on the back you'd have to turn like an old sausage press. Imagine a robed and jewel-adorned wizard sweating his backside off cranking out snake after snake with this machine as he mutters under his breath: "I'll finally have my revenge now! With my army of mass-produced do-it-yourself snakes!!! Bwa ha ha ha! Sure, the Snake Basket was an abysmal failure, but we'll see who laughs last!"
5. Chromatic Armor (Ice Age)
Jerry Garcia is Odin: God of Fury! Groovy armor, man. Far out. This has always been one of my favorite old school Magic illustrations. Something about an old man in what amounts to Fruit Stripe brand scale mail doing his best Gladiator impression just makes me smile. For the record, yes, Chromatic Armor guy, I am entertained.
4. Thoughtlace (Alpha)
Again, what's with the eyes on these old Magic cards? This one is particularly odd. A giant lightning eyeball floating above a tranquil sea? What does this have to do with permanents becoming blue? Granted, I can't really think of more appropriate art. Maybe an elf being turned blue? Nah, that wouldn't make sense.
Da ba dee da ba die? Do people even remember Eiffel 65?
3. Clockwork Beast (Unlimited)
All beware the damp cardboard and scrap metal golem! This thing does not look happy to be animated. Not as angry as the wall from Animate Wall, but still upset. Perhaps this was Urza's Artifice 101 assignment he turned in at the last minute after hitting the Braidwood Cup a bit too hard the night before. This thing just screams failed clone scene from Alien Resurrection.
2. Flash (Sixth Edition)
"Oh, hi there…extra wrinkly old dude. You mind backing up a few paces? You're sorta all up on my comfort zone, you know? Hey, check out that wyvern back there. Is he with you? You know, it seems like an overcast day here in perfectly flat desert land. Let's just head home and get some aloe vera on that face of yours, eh? Anyone ever tell you that you remind them of a makeup-less Dhalsim?"
1. Stasis (Alpha)
This card has always bothered me. Not just because I have a burning hatred for Stasis decks, which I do, but the art is so jarring compared to basically any other card in Magic. Which isn't to say that its bad, but I wouldn't be able to identify this image as a piece of Magic art if I wasn't already aware of it.
Most Magic art, as goofy as it can be (looking at you, Reverse Polarity), typically depicts what effect the card is supposed to be doing "in game" or in 'kayfabe' if I can borrow a wrestling term. You know, Lightning Bolt shows a bolt of lightning striking the ground, and Go for the Throat has someone getting their throat cut. Gets the idea across, right? Simple.
So how in the name of Urza's fancy purple robe does this show a planeswalker freezing time? True, the fact that the blindfolded, pleading fox with the croquette ball and dunce painter aren't moving up and down on the teeter-totter seems to indicate a stoppage of time, but then again it could just be that they weigh the same and have balanced themselves on said teeter-totter. Also, what kind of plane is this where these creatures occur naturally? Or is it possible that some twisted planeswalker actually chose to summon these things here? What's going on here? It just raises too many questions.
Fear not, gentle reader; through the vast powers of the information superhighway, I have finally discovered the secret behind Stasis's art. It turns out the artist, Fay Jones, is actually Magic creator Richard Garfield's aunt. Neat, right? While that is an interesting piece of trivia, it does finally explain what is going on with this art, especially with the holidays right around the corner. Everyone has that aunt. "Oh wow, a sweater. No, I love it. Really, I do. I'm gonna wear it all the time," but you know you're only ever going to wear it one time when you are certain to run into her just to be nice. You love her to pieces, you do appreciate the gesture, and it is the thought that counts, but that sweater really is hideous—and itchy too. So that's the great secret behind Stasis. It's Dr. Garfield's itchy sweater…in card form. You know what I mean.
In all seriousness, it is one of, if not the most, recognizable pieces of Magic art. It is certainly unique and an unforgettable icon from Magic's history. Odd as it may be, it is the art's distinctiveness that makes it so great.
Thank you so much for spending some time with me and letting me share some of my favorite pieces of Magic art with you. Please, share back! Leave a comment below and tell me what some of your favorite funny card images are. Let me know if I missed something obvious that ought to be on this list. I also want to give a quick shout out to Ray Dill for providing the enlarged card art. Thanks buddy! That's it for now, thanks again for reading!