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  • October 22, 2023 6 min read 0 Comments

    The creators of Magic, on average, do a phenomenal job contracting out top talent who create beautiful works of art for individual cards. Often times the artwork and the card name and function look like they were made for each other.

    Sometimes, that’s not quite the case. A few weeks ago, I covered a handful of cards that look quite out-of-sync with their respective artwork. Whether it’s due to a miscommunication or misunderstanding, the occasional incongruous piece of art has slipped through the cracks over the years.

    And then, sometimes there is a blatant misprint, and the artwork on a card doesn’t belong on said card due to a printing error.

    Have you seen any such cards before? Experienced players are likely familiar with a handful, but new players who have primarily enjoyed Magic during the Modern era may not have been aware of some of the weirdest and most ironic misprints from Magic’s history…

    1. Serendib Efreet

    serendib efreet

    Magic’s first expansion, Arabian Nights, was riddled with efreets and djinns from ancient lore. The Serendib Efreet was a particularly powerful creature: a 3/4 flyer for just three mana is an aggressive rate, even for today’s power-crept creatures. The one damage each upkeep is worthwhile considering the creature’s power for its casting cost.

    The genie was then reprinted in Revised Edition. Only this time, the card looked quite different.

    serendib efreet misprint

    Wizards of the Coast got the card name correct, as well as the casting cost, text box, and power/toughness. However, they made quite the error when mapping over the artwork and frame! Instead of reprinting the artwork of Serendib Efreet, they included the original Arabian Nights artwork for Ifh-Biff Efreet on the card, including the green frame!

    This is one of the most well-known misprints of all time in Magic. Since the error occurred in the entire Revised print run, they’re relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme of things. The Summer Magic printing with the correct artwork, however, costs a small fortune.

    2. Drudge Skeletons

    drudge skeletons art

    From Magic’s first printing in Limited Edition Alpha, Drudge Skeletons has remained an iconic and instantly recognizable Magic card. Sandra Everingham’s depiction of a skeleton riding a skeletal horse is brilliantly done, and I particularly love the dark sky and skeleton clan in the background. It makes for a rather ominous image—you wouldn’t want to run into this group in person!

    The German 4th Edition version of this card didn’t look nearly as intimidating, unfortunately.

    misprint drudge skeletons

    See what I mean? Instead of including Sandra Everingham’s original artwork for Drudge Skeletons, Wizards of the Coast accidentally printed the creature with the original artwork for swamp! Even the border looks like that of a basic land, even though the creature is black. I do love that the artist and flavor text both made it onto the card correctly, only I don’t think Sandra was responsible for this artwork.

    This misprint is a little tougher to come by than Serendib Efreet, and sells for around $15 on eBay. 3.

    3. Forest

    One may wonder how Wizards of the Coast could have gotten something as fundamental as a forest misprinted. Well in English, they didn’t. Once again, we need to shift languages to German to identify the misplaced artwork.

    wald forest misprint

    This is a picture of the German black-bordered printing of Forest. Does it look like a forest to you? I see a few sparse trees, and some brush in the foreground, but I wouldn’t exactly call this a Forest.

    In fact, I would say it’s more a Plains than a Forest. Why do I say that? Because this exact artwork shows up on Plains from the same set, that’s why! This German copy of Forest (“Wald”) uses the artwork for Plains! Not only is this an egregious misprint, but it can also be quite confusing in a game of Magic. Imagine playing a Selesnya Commander deck with a bunch of these as your basics? I don’t think people would appreciate the humor…

    This card is a little more expensive than the previous two, and copies will run you anywhere between $20 and $40 depending on how lucky and patient you are.

    4. Serra Angel

    serra angel art

    I haven’t met a single Magic player who doesn’t respect the iconic artwork on Alpha’s Serra Angel. Douglas Shuler painted a true masterpiece with this one, and modern-day reprints of the card pale in comparison.

    Did you know this card already has a small misprint on it? Check out the illustrator credit: I don’t think “Shuler” is spelled with a “c.” That seems to me like a misprint, and copies printed starting in Fourth Edition contain the proper spelling without the “c.”

    Perhaps one of the most bizarre and entertaining misprint of all time, however, has nothing to do with the spelling of the artist’s name. Check out the Spanish foreign black-bordered printing of the card, from 1995.

    misprint serra angel

    The casting cost is correct, as is the text box, 4/4 power and toughness, and illustrator credit (it’s even spelled correctly!). Except, the artwork and frame of the card aren’t Douglas Shuler’s, because the image isn’t a Serra Angel. It’s a Time Elemental! That also explains why the border is blue instead of white.

    The card may say “summon angel” in Spanish, but that artwork doesn’t look like an angel I’ve ever seen! Then again, I’ve never seen an angel before in real life so you never know.

    Actually, I’ve never even seen this card before…at least, not in my collection. There are only two completed listings for the card on eBay, and this is quite the expensive one! One listing sold for around $200 and the other sold for over $300! Personally, I’d rather have a Beta copy with the correct, more attractive artwork.

    5. El-Hajjaj

    el-hajjaj art

    What a classic! This creature, originally printed in Arabian Nights, was reprinted in Revised and Fourth Edition before fading into history. Dameon Willich painted an iconic portrait of a man right out of the legends of Arabian Nights. I feel like this guy is staring through me and into my soul when I study this art for too long. This is not a person to be messed with!

    One printing of this card, however, doesn’t look nearly as intimidating. In fact, it looks downright confusing! I’m referring to the German Fourth Edition printing, where El-Hajjaj looks more like a decorated pancake than he does an intimidating warrior.

    el-hajjaj mtg misprint

    That’s because the card is using the artwork for Warp Artifact, not El Hajjaj! At least in this case, the erroneous artwork came from another black card, so the border is correct. The card name, casting cost, power/toughness, and text box are also fine. It’s just that pesky Warp Artifact artwork that makes this one amusing misprint.

    Only one copy of this card has sold on eBay recently, and it went for $40. That’s my best guess at value, since I’ve never seen one in person.

    6. Manabarbs

    manabarbs mtg

    Here’s yet another card that has been around since Limited Edition Alpha: Manabarbs. The red enchantment can be powerful in the right deck and matchup, but in general I don’t remember playing the card all that much back in the day. The artwork is a little on the abstract side, depicting some swirly magical mana-like objects that also appear to be forming sharp blades. Pretty cool, I must say.

    The German Revised printing, however, didn’t look quite so cool…or abstract!

    manabarbs misprint

    Wait a second…when did Manabarbs turn into an ugly troll? This card contains the rules text for Manabarbs, the casting cost for Manabarbs, the German name for Manabarbs, and even the illustrator credit for Manabarbs. Only, the artwork comes from fellow red Alpha rare, Sedge Troll!

    That’s right, this printing of the card contains the artwork for the awkward looking Sedge Troll. This is yet another strange artwork misprint that occurs in the Germany language (I’m noticing a trend here!). I don’t see any sold copies of this card on eBay (Manabarbs isn’t all that good anyways), but listings are posted in the $20-$30 range.

    Wrapping It Up

    If you enjoy exploring whacky artwork-related misprints from Magic’s history, I recommend you check out Squt’s Magic Misprint Page. You’ll find each of these examples on this website, along with a handful of others (there’s a really interesting version of Burrowing with Strip Mine’s artwork, but I couldn’t find any copies for sale on eBay). Nearly all of the misprints are from Magic’s earliest days of existence, perhaps when quality control wasn’t as robust as it is today?

    In addition, you can find cards with incorrect casting costs and set symbols. The site does a fantastic job outlining the various misprints with example images. I tried to stick to some of the more entertaining, bizarre artwork-related misprints for this article in particular.

    I suspect there are other errors there beyond what Squt’s Magic Misprint page outlines—perhaps they’re not the prevalent version of the card, but misprints can happen at any time so you never know what you can find. Have you ever opened an artwork misprint or stumbled upon something rare? Full-blown artwork related errors? If so, please share and I’d love to have a look and share with the broader community!