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  • December 11, 2023 6 min read 0 Comments

    I’m hungry. Perhaps that’s why I’m currently browsing various Magic artworks that depict food. Thanks to sets like Throne of Eldraine and Wilds of Eldraine, there’s no shortage of “food cards” to go around. Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth also introduced a number of food-related cards, largely because food is such an important factor to hobbit existence.

    Did you know, though, that cards depicting food have been around for many years before any of these sets were introduced? Sometimes, the inclusion of food is subtle. Other times, the food is so prominent in the art that, should the artwork have appeared on a card today, it would surely involve food tokens of some kind.

    This week, I’m dipping back into the well of artwork printed before 2000, highlighting some of my favorite pieces with a food-theme.

    Food Cards #8: Orcish Librarian and Recycle

    orcish librarian art

    recycle art mtg

    I tried to stick to cards that depicted appetizing(ish) food, and I’d be happy to enjoy most of the food offered in the artwork in this list.

    Not all food-related cards from the 1990s are so appetizing, however. For honorable mention, consider these two oddly humorous pieces of art: Orcish Librarian and Recycle.

    Do you recognize the cartoony style of the Ice Age orc and Tempest enchantment? That’s right, both are done by Phil Foglio! In the case of these two pieces of art, I don’t think they offer a remotely tempting menu worthy of a food token. Instead, they appear to depict food that, if eaten, would make someone rather ill!

    The librarian is eating books with the assistance of some library paste in a hilarious, flavorful depiction of the card’s ability. In Recycle, a goblin/orc (Squee?) is preparing food that is clearly making Gerrard (I think) sick. Neither have anything to do with food. In fact, both cards could have made no reference to food whatsoever and they still could have been perfectly consistent with their cards’ respective abilities.

    Food Card #7: Alms

    alms art mtg

    First on my (alphabetically ordered) list is the card Alms, illustrated by Rogério Vilela. This card was printed in Weatherlight, one of the first sets I was exposed to when I learned how to play Magic. The card itself…isn’t all that exciting. But look at the abundance of food that guy in the foreground is offering! Although a little unclear, I still get the sense that the woman (mother?) depicted is skeptical of what is being offered, and the young boy holding the awesome looking sword is ready to defend his mother at all costs.

    If this art were to appear on a card today, I can easily see it involving food tokens. For example, a simple re-write of the activated ability could be 1: Remove the top card in your graveyard from the game: create 1 food token.

    I’m not sure if I fully agree with Sisay’s journal entry in the flavor text, but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for this unique piece of art. The only other card illustrated by Vilela: Cinder Giant, from the same set.

    Food Card #6: Cornered Market

    cornered market art mtg

    Next on my list is Cornered Market, which depicts some sort of fruit but doesn’t have to involve food necessarily. In fact, when I think of situations when someone tried to corner a market in something, I never think of fruit. What’s more, the guy seems to have a stash of bananas on his cart—isn’t that one of the most plentiful fruits in the world? It’s certainly one of the cheapest.

    Edward P. Beard, Jr.’s artwork is thought-provoking, and it definitely includes food, but it doesn’t tempt my hunger the same way as Alms did. The ability also has nothing to do with food, and would probably be difficult to re-write to do so. Let’s just move on.

    Food Card #5: Early Harvest

    early harvest art

    I absolutely love the artwork from 1996’s Mirage set, and Janine Johnston’s illustration for Early Harvest is a perfect example. The details of the women’s hair and clothes are very well done. The art depicts the lifestyle of the people of Jamuura—they are harvesting fruit to bring back to their village. The flavor text expands this by describing many varieties of fruit that are collected here.

    Does the artwork evoke thoughts of the food tokens of modern day Magic? Not necessarily, though these berries could certainly have been used as a food token illustration. Instead of dealing with gaining life, Early Harvest instead talks about untapping basic lands he or she controls. Is that an obvious connection to harvesting? Maybe, if you’re untapping forests and plains, it makes sense. Someone will have to explain to me how untapping a bunch of basic swamps is consistent with an early harvest, however. Those two just don’t add up!

    Food Card #4: Feast of the Unicorn

    feast of the unicorn

    Speaking of swamps, what does everyone think of Dennis Detwiller’s art for Feast of the Unicorn? I find it quite literal—the artwork depicts a unicorn head on a platter with grapes and other fruit surrounding it. Presumably this is a giant feast that these two individuals are about to enjoy.

    Only…who would want to kill a unicorn for food? The idea sounds grotesque! Autumn Willow agrees with me in the flavor text, claiming a feast of a unicorn is a foul act. Honestly, the food doesn’t look that tempting either. I’d much rather eat berries from the early harvest of Jamuura or the bread that the guy in Alms is offering. I suppose though, given the dark nature of the card, the artwork is spot on for its name. As for its ability…I don’t know how a feast consisting of a unicorn would pump a creature’s power by four. That, to me, is a head scratcher.

    Could this artwork show up on a food token related card? Maybe in a dark, demonic way, but I’d lean towards no.

    Food Card #3: Lure

    lure mtg

    lure art mtg

    There are actually two different pieces of Lure art that fit the theme of this week’s column: Anson Maddocks’ original piece from Alpha and DiTerlizzi’s from Mercadian Masques. [Not] coincidentally, both depict an apple. In the Alpha version, the apple is the sole temptation luring creatures to it. In the updated Masques version, the elf woman holding the apple could arguably be just as temping as the apple itself. The reference to the early Biblical story of Adam Eve is not lost on me.

    Which art would more likely depict something related to food tokens of today? My choice would be the Alpha printing, which could almost be a food token in and of itself. That said, the newer art could have involved creation of a food token as well, but the interpretation of the art would be too literal. We all know there’s more going on than a simple proffering of an apple in this artwork. The flavor text says it all—“…it invites its enemies in.” Being lured in this case is highly dangerous.

    Food Card #2: Path of Peace

    path of peace mtg

    This card and artwork, by David A. Cherry, is perhaps one of the most consistent depictions when it comes to cards making food tokens in modern Magic. First of all, the artwork itself screams “food” with the giant baskets of corn, apples, and oranges. These are clearly the central components of the artwork, too—we’re not just talking background scenery. The only person depicted is way in the background, barely noticeable tending the fields.

    Secondly and more notably, the card’s ability involves life gain! How easy it would be to visualize a card with this artwork that said, “Destroy target creature. That creature’s controller (probably not owner) creates two food tokens.” The flavor is fantastic! The creature isn’t dead; it’s just hanging up its life of violence for a simpler life of farming, a la Swords to Plowshares. I can see why, too—between the lush greenery, bountiful harvests, and picturesque homestead, who wouldn’t want to pursue such a lifestyle?

    Food Card #1: Taste of Paradise

    taste of paradise art

    Picture this: a card that gives you three life for every 2 mana you pay. If I told you this card was from 2023, you may envision something that created food tokens since that’s exactly what the artifacts do!

    Instead, I’m thinking about Taste of Paradise, a sorcery from Alliances. The artwork done by Lawrence Snelly is beautifully done. I appreciate the green colors all over the illustration paired up with the orange of the fruit and orange/red of the woman’s hair. The details are lovely, down to the woman’s earrings and nail polish. She must truly be holding the fruit of life!

    I would have no trouble envisioning this artwork on a card from Wilds of Eldraine that makes food tokens. What if this was a split card: you can pay 4 mana to gain 3 life and then you can pay XX to create X food tokens. I don’t know if the card would be any good, but it would carry the essence of Taste of Paradise’s ability. Personally, I don’t care what the card does, I just want to see Lawrence Snelly’s work in Magic some more. Sadly, their only contributions to the game were from Alliances and Urza’s Saga.

    Wrapping It Up

    Now that I’ve wrapped up all these Food-theme cards, my appetite has waned a bit. Perhaps I need to check out some Wilds of Eldraine food cards to tempt my interest once again in a light bite to eat. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this walk down a memory lane of food!