Top 5: Worst Magic card art

Magic is, in many ways, a very visual game. Card art is important, it’s been established over and over trough the history of the game. Back during the very early years of the game, WotC used to put different card art on the same card, in the common slots! For example, Hymn to Tourach, a Fallen Empires common, has no less than four different pieces of art work, and that was the norm. Art direction was also a bit fidgity in the beginning, and it wasn’t uncommon for R&D to pool all the card art that didn’t go well with the intended card towards the very end of a design and try and swap them around to make them make more sense.

We’ve come a long way from this, and although some might argue that the cards of old were more indicative of an artist’s style, nobody can argue that today’s pieces of artwork are a lot more coherent than before. The cold, hard truth, however, is that most Magic art work is utterly forgettable. Everyone has their favourite pieces, and I too have a soft spot for Rebecca Guay’s style I admit, but this post is dedicated to those that went down in infamy. This is my top 5 of the worst Magic artwork ever.


silhouette.hq5: Silhouette (Legends). Weighing in on our fifth spot is the little instant that just couldn’t. Nevermind the fact that it just doesn’t make sense (for how can a shadow have eyes and a mouth?), but there are two issues with this art: first it’s generally a lot more cartoony than most other pieces of Magic art. That’s not a bad thing inherently, it’s quite funny after all, but the tone of the “Legends” set doesn’t really shine here. Secondly, the card art looks like something belonging on a red card or a black card, not really a blue card.


reversepolarity.hq4: Reverse Polarity (Antiquities). Also an offender in the same vein as Silhouette, Reverse Polarity is even worse. Not only is the style very cartoonish, the depicted scene, along with the cartoonish style, makes me think I’m reading an Asterix comic rather than playing a fantasy card game. And what does the card actually do? It gains you twice as much life as the damage you’ve taken from artifacts this turn. Is that demonstrated in the art? Not quite. You have to appreciate the surprised look on the barbarian with the horned helmet as his morningstar bounces off his opponent without harm, but otherwise, this is a piece of artwork best left in the closet.



3: Angel of Retribution (Torment). It’s not quite apparent from this picture, but the card I got in my Torment booster pack featured an angel that looked like it was printed with an old ink jet printer. Simply put, the card was grainy as hell. Further, the angel in question looks like the Magic version of Swedish electropop/europop “sensation” E-type, and that alone makes me shudder. The angel in the art also looks a bit hunched over, slow, tired. Maybe it was supposed to do that, since Torment was the “black set”, with fewer and worse white and green cards, but just the fact that it’s a whopping seven mana (!) for a 5/5 first strike, flying angel is also another kick in the sack every time I see this art. It’s part of some of the worst memories of my early teens, which is saying quite a bit, to be honest.


ekunducyclops.hq2: Ekundu Cyclops (Mirage). This one isn’t so much about the quality of the card art in general, it’s more of an issue with the execution. The art features two naked or semi-naked creatures, the top one with a somewhat distinguishable penis, and the bottom one, apparently female, riding an enormous phallic symbol. Further, it might just be some latent homosexuality of mine, but I also figure the mushrooms on the “base” of the enormous phallus looks a lot like penises too. The card is also played off excellently by its flavour, although not really part of the art, which refers to something “one-eyed” several times, which is reminiscent of a certain penis euphemism. The whole card is very unfortunate, and it makes me think Mr. Robert Bliss suffers from the same illness as Jonah Hill’s character in 2007’s Superbad, where he just “couldn’t stop drawing dicks.”


wordofcommand.hq1: Word of Command (Alpha). As predictable as this might be, there are indeed no words, of command or other, to describe how bad Word of Command is. It’s literally just two white eyes on a black background. Worse still, it’s drawn by my countryman Jesper Myrfors and he’s done some pretty amazing Magic art as well (Tropical Island and Tundra comes to mind), and he’s also the original Magic art director. By this virtue, he was also the designer of the set “The Dark”, released back in 1994. Granted, the set didn’t bring any new mechanics to the table, but it was in some ways Magics first top-down  designed set – the intent was to show the dark sides of all the colours of Magic. Further, this was back when Magic was going through it’s explosion like growth spurt of its very early years, and everyone on hand got to design sets, but still – Jesper Myrfors has had a huge impact on the game. Though my respect for this man and his contributions to the game I love cannot be understated, there’s no denying Word of Command is sort of a low-point in that part of his career. Hats off, though, it’s certainly recognizable as one of Magic’s worst card arts ever.

Leave a comment


  1. Grim Lavamancer

     /  September 28, 2014

    Ha, while the artwork on those cards are ridiculously bad, they do have a certain sense of nostalgia to them. Especially the cartoony ones, I used to hate the artwork of cards like Orcish Librarian and Recycle but nowadays I feel as if the character of such cards adds an almost forgotten quality to the game (that is if they were actually playable). The card I like the least, when it comes to artwork, is the old Wall of Fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What about Wall of Putrid Flesh? Wall of Fire, while surely being pretty unoriginal as far as name and art work goes, at least doesn’t make me want to barf.


      • Grim Lavamancer

         /  September 28, 2014

        I hadn’t actually seen that card before. I agree, that quite disgusting in an especially unerotic way.

        Liked by 1 person

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