I don't know how the SCG Season Two Invitational will go for me. I have an invitation, there's a $100,000 prize pool, and it's in my proverbial backyard in Roanoke, so obviously I'm taking my shot. I went 4-4 in the last one, and I think I can better that result. I've been playing a lot of card games lately.
Granted, most of that has been Gwent, but I'll file that under cross-training.
However my record ends up, though, I know there's a good time in store for me at the Invitational, because I'll get to indulge my biggest Magical passion: art.
StarCityGames.com® is bringing together seven Magic artists for the Invitational, a pretty stacked lineup the likes of which you'll seldom see outside Grand Prix or major conventions like Gen Con or IlluxCon. Today I'll take a look at the seven artists who'll set up in the Star City of the South, the pieces most Magic fans know about, and some hidden gems that make me smile. Click on the big names to see all the cards by each artist that StarCityGames.com® has for sale!
Jason Felix has done more than 80 published illustrations for Magic cards. I phrase it that way because he's done a lot more than "published illustrations" for Magic; he's been on a number of concept art teams for Wizards of the Coast, where his work didn't just shape a card or two but the looks of entire sets.
The Aesthetic: Creepy. I associate him most closely with Mirrodin/New Phyrexia, Innistrad, and Zendikar, three pretty horrific planes. That's not all he can do, though; Living Lore is pretty darn cool and evokes wonder rather than horror.
A Little More Niche: Codex Shredder is used in Modern Lantern Control decks. Laboratory Maniac sees occasional Legacy play as a finisher in All Spells decks. The "sixth basic land" Wastes has two illustrations, and his is one of them.
Unjustly Overlooked: I'm a fan of the intricate details on Inventor's Goggles (both Kaladesh and Aether Revolt allowed his eye for such details to shine), and Ixalan's Shadowed Caravel has an elegant sense of menace.
Ask About: His regular signatures ($2 per card). Right now his only online signatures are with foil inks at ten bucks a pop.
Looking at Mark Poole's body of Magic: The Gathering work is like looking through an artist's career evolution over more than twenty years. It's a massive jump from Limited Edition Alpha works like Ancestral Recall to a recent representative work such as Painted Bluffs. Over more than 100 Magic illustrations, one can see a creator grow and change along with the game.
The Aesthetic: Varies by time, naturally. The early pieces, executed under tight deadlines, have a different sort of charm from the mature, carefully wrought recent illustrations. There's really something for everyone.
The Cards Everyone Knows: Ancestral Recall is one of the Power Nine, and Ancestral Vision, its "fixed" version, sees Modern play. Birds of Paradise and Counterspell are iconic. Library of Alexandria is a key Vintage card.
Unjustly Overlooked: Printed as it was in the Liliana Planeswalker Deck, hardly anyone ever saw his version of Foul Orchard, and that's a shame.
Ask About: The Commander basic lands. They're gorgeous and just offbeat enough to make a statement in 60-card decks.
Another artist who's crossed the 100-illustration mark, Matt Stewart debuted in Future Sight, a set that promised possible futures. Mr. Stewart's continued work turned out to be one of the actual futures, and fans of physical, collectible art are glad for it.
The Aesthetic: Epic. He updates the "look" of high fantasy for the 21st century, adapting to the ever-changing Magic settings and bringing out the grandeur in each.
The Cards Everyone Knows: Kor Firewalker is a key sideboard card in Modern. His Eternal Masters version of Mana Crypt is the most accessible for Vintage and Commander players. Narcomoeba plays a key role in graveyard-based decks in Modern and beyond.
A Little More Niche: The Judge promo version of Force of Will is a rare treat for the players who have access to one (or four!). He also did the original version of Rootbound Crag, worth a dust-off for Standard players who can look forward to next year's rotation. And who can forget the Kaladesh Inventions version of Sword of Light and Shadow?
Unjustly Overlooked: Thraben Inspector was the hot ticket right up until Shadows over Innistrad rotated out of Standard. It's also one of his most interesting images, to me at least. Dig out your retired copies and get them signed!
The man whose name makes the copy editor side of me scream has become his own art-slinging brand with one of the most varied selections of merchandise on the circuit. He has more than 100 Magic cards to choose from.
The Aesthetic: Gothic. It infuses virtually every Magic illustration he ever made, particularly those featuring women.
The Cards Everyone Knows: In the old school, Morphling tops the list. Dredge fanatics in Legacy know the ickiness of Ichorid and Unmask all too well, while Faerie Macabre and Fulminator Mage are more familiar to Modern players.
A Little More Niche: Lightning Angel is among his most iconic illustrations. Also on that list: Avatar of Woe. Many of Commander's splashy effects from a while ago (Saskashima the Impostor, anyone?) were brought to life by his imagination.
Unjustly Overlooked: His Mountain and Swamp from Shadowmoor let players add that Gothic touch to Standard and even Limited decks. They're not his usual, but they look cool signed!
Ask About: His custom tokens. As little as $15 for a quick sketch can get you a one-of-a-kind piece you can use to add flair to your game!
Anthony Palumbo is practically the crown prince of fantasy painting (he's the son of Julie Bell, of "Boris and Julie" fame, and the boyfriend of Winona Nelson), but he's far from a do-nothing royal; he maintains a gallery art career along with his fantasy illustration work, which includes several dozen pieces for Magic.
The Aesthetic: Glossy with a side of grit. You can see the Bell-Vallejo influences with him, but he's clearly established his own style.
The Cards Everyone Knows: Pithing Needle (the Return to Ravnica version) is a Modern sideboard staple. Serra Ascendant has enjoyed considerable popularity in lifegain decks and Commander. Seekers' Squire is his hottest Standard card, appearing in Esper versions of the God-Pharaoh's Gift deck.
A Little More Niche: Hollow One seems perpetually on the verge of a breakout. Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder shows his humorous side, as the Ox in the background is clearly unimpressed with this version of his frequent (and frequently bare-chested) male subjects, as on Bloodlust Inciter and Madcap Skills.
Unjustly Overlooked: Sentinel Totem is a delightfully twisted mashup of figure, landscape, and still life. I just might have to pick up a print if he has one for sale.
Ask About: Signatures in general, and shadow signatures ($2 each) in particular. He keeps a pretty tight lid on his online presence, so in-person appearances are the best way to get cards signed.
Winona Nelson is closing in on the 100-card mark, all since her debut in Innistrad. Her recent profile on DailyMTG is an excellent introduction to her and her work. Don't miss her online biography, either.
The Aesthetic: Natural beauty. Whether she's illustrating a fantastic creature or paying tribute to the wonders of the human form, her work is consistently excellent and intriguing, bringing images to life.
The Cards Everyone Knows: Enthralling Victor shows why she has become the go-to illustrator for gorgeous gents. Sanctum Prelate has become a staple of Death and Taxes decks in Legacy. Tymna the Weaver is a popular partner for Commander games.
A Little More Niche: Bruna, Light of Alabaster has gained attention in Aura-based Commander builds. Driven // Despair has seen limited play in both Standard and Modern. Prophet of Kruphix got the banhammer in Commander, but it's still a stunning piece of art. And you only thought I was going to forget Voice of Resurgence.
Unjustly Overlooked: Aetherstream Leopard, a now-obscure Aether Revolt common that is one of my favorite animals she's illustrated for the game.
Ask About: Prints. You think her works are amazing at card size? Wait until they're big enough to put on a wall.
As an in-house illustrator for StarCityGames.com®, Andrea Radeck has been responsible for some of the company's most popular images and products. Thanks to Unstable, she will make her debut for Magic: The Gathering.
The Aesthetic: Industrial-grade adorable. Bow down to the cuteness. Resistance is futile.
The Cards Everyone Knows: Well, maybe not everyone if they haven't seen Unstable previews yet, but Adorable | Kitten, Ordinary | Pony, and Monkey- are all available to preorder! Unfortunately, they won't be out in the wild before the Invitational...
A Little More Niche: Arguably her most famous work for StarCityGames.com® is the Tasipurr, the Golden Paw playmat. Her Kraken and Kitten full-range Creature Collection lines are among her most popular.
Unjustly Overlooked: Her canine Creature Collection pieces may not be feline-grade adorable, but I can't hold that against them. Puggernaut, anyone?
Ask About: Anything and everything! It's hard to predict what a debuting Magic artist will have available just two weeks after their first cards are revealed...not released, but revealed.
Those are my takes on the seven Magic artists scheduled to appear at the SCG Season Two Invitational in Roanoke, December 1-3. Which artist is your favorite? Have I overlooked any cards Magic fans will want to get signed?