Struggles between the new and old are ingrained in the human experience. Magic players see this arise in the form of new cards with each set released for the game. Power level, rarity, creature types, every new card brings up comparisons to the old and conflicts arise in their evaluation.
But what of the reprints? Functionally identical in the player’s hands, they nonetheless introduce new elements to the game with their updated illustrations. Classic images envisioned through the eyes of a new artist come out entirely different, yet whether improvement is achieved is up to the viewer.
Does the original art stand the test of time, or do new images take up the banner of our imagination?
The eternal struggle continues… it’s the Reprint Rumble: Aether Revolt Masterpieces!
Classic Genius vs. New Hotness, who will emerge victorious in this contest of innovation? Sides have been drawn, choose your champion!
I still go back and forth on which of the original images I prefer for Arcbound Ravager. The humor Kev added with the cowering Myr is hard to beat, while Carl's gritty style really brings out the feelings I would expect with a "Ravager"
Regardless, both images have a character that is absent in the updated art by Daarken. Maybe it's the lack of a "face" expressing emotion, or Mike's use of the same dark background we saw with his Solemn Simulacrum masterpiece, but the end result is a much colder presentation.
I much prefer the expression and character found in either of the pieces of Classic Genius, but in the end have to give the edge to the Modern Masters version with its added touch of levity.
I don't know what it would take to trump the original Stuffy Doll, but it's certainly going to be more than a golden vise attached to some blue tubes.
I get that the Masterpieces are meant to represent inventions on display, but the new art is almost entirely devoid of the character that made the original images work.
The only thing that makes the Aether Revolt Black Vise "Black" is the dark background. I don't know how exactly one would illustrate malevolence through filigree, but they could have done something more with this piece. Show it crushing a Servo, or a Thopter, something. Ensnaring Bridge and Grindstone get an action shots, why can't Black Vise?
The design is fine, but cold. If you're going to step to the Vice-crushed Stuffy Doll, you'll need more than that to win the round. Another win for Classic Genius
I really like the new Chalice of the Void by Kieran Yanner. The colors are great, the aether is incorporated well, and the etched designs on the edges are a wonderful touch. I only have one problem with it:
It's not a Chalice
Chalices, almost uniformly, have a larger top and a smaller bottom. This "Chalice" looks more like a Barbel of the Void, with it's symmetrical upper and lower halves.
It wouldn't have required a big change to make it work. Just make the bottom noticeably smaller than the top and *boom* you've got a functional chalice.
Petty as it may be, I feel that the design of the Masterpiece is inherently flawed and give the round to Classic Genius by default.
There is a way to make digital artwork not look like a CGI effect from Babylon 5, and this new art is not it.
Whether or not you agree that the best digital art is indistinguishable from traditional media, this updated illustration for Defense Grid looks more like a Borg special effect from Star Trek: The Next Generation than what we've seen on previous Magic cards.
Although the original art depends on outside story to match the name, it at least looks appropriate to the level of skill we've become accustomed to with Magic. While I feel Jonas did a better job with the narrative, I am not excited by the end result.
In the end, it all came down to the motion.
At first, I was concerned that the new artwork didn't tell the same story as the originals, instead showing an earlier scene of the duplication process. It wasn't as on the nose as the originals, but once I took my time and look closely at the design of the arm, I knew I had my winner.
What stood out to me about the arm, was Slawomir's use of light, color, and layering that made the piece come alive in my eye.
The more I looked at the figure, the more movement I saw. With the bright blue orb constantly drawing my eye back and forth along the image, I found myself enjoying the piece more and more. I'm sure it looks even better in foil.
Great job Slawomir!.
This is another case of the art direction being hampered by the setting.
While the original artworks were free to illustrate wanton destruction on demand, the inventor's fair doesn't look kindly on ordinance exploding all the time, especially the masterpieces on display.
The design is appropriately intricate and intriguing, but in the end, I have to give the win to Classic Genius, Fifth Dawn in particular with its immolated Loxodons.
I actually enjoy all three of these Ensnaring Bridge illustrations, each for their own merits.
The 7th Edition art has the most movement of the three and, as with most Ron Spencer artwork, there is a visceral quality to it that is outstanding. Ron's exaggerated style adds an intensity to the piece that is lacking in the others.
While I appreciate the understated design work of the Stronghold original and the great use of light and design in the Kaladesh Masterpiece, in the end I gave it to Ron's evocative Classic Genius.
Do I really need to spell this one out?
Noah simply crushed it with this piece and the added Bolas horns in the portal aperture are simply the cherry on top.
New Hotness by a mile.
Yes, the original artwork is much closer to a classic "Grindstone", but the grinding gears of the update are just as effective at illustrating the concept.
Yes, the original does a better job creating the narrative implied by the card effect, but did you see how cool those gears look?
Yes, in the past I've judged Rumbles based solely on the fit of the card the original is honestly a better fit in this case, but seriously, those gears look amazing!
While it may not be the closest match to the card, the Masterpiece Grindstone created great motion and character simply with a few bits between the gears, winning the round for New Hotness.
The curse of the inventor's fair strikes again!
While Steve has illustrated an extremely intricate and interesting masterpiece, without something to tie it into the card name it's essentially a really pretty floating rock.
Both of the original images, and the Alpha piece in particular, are able to tell the story of the card within the art itself. When you're able to capture both technical skill and narrative in the same piece of artwork, you're doing it right.
Sure, the limitations inherent in the setting are the culprit in this case, but in the end we can only go with what we see on the card. Classic Genius takes the round.
Ominously creepy Stone? Check
Sense of doom emanating from said Stone? Check
Impending sense of utter destruction? Mostly check
While I get more of the "we're all gonna die" vibe from the original, the updated illustration is no slouch in that department.
Instead of using characters, we get a wild squall of aether being released in the background of the masterpiece. Not as direct, but just as effective.
I think they're actually pretty close, but I give the edge to Yeong-Hao's more intricate design work, scoring the round for New Hotness.
In the last Rumble, I said that I didn't know what it would take to surpass Amy Weber's da Vinci inspired original from Antiquities.
Well, it seems Howard Lyon figured it out.
From the purple wings, to the filigreed "cockpit", I enjoy pretty much everything about this aether fueled masterpiece. Howard pours his art into each of his pieces and it really shows in this new illustration.
While I'll always remember and appreciate the work that Amy put into the the original Ornithopter, this is the artwork that I would prefer to sleeve up going forward.
More is not always better, and this is definitely true with the new Pithing Needle.
When I first saw the new art, and even after looking at it more closely for a while, I found it difficult to differentiate between the needle and the map below.
Why they used the same colors between the two and had filigree from the background so close to what should be the main focus, the needle, I will never understand.
I have my issues with both of the original illustrations, but at least they get the basics right.
Going up against a Brom is typically a one-sided slaughter for Classic Genius. Brom is truly a master of the imaginative realism genre (fantasy & sci-fi art) and his Platinum Angel is one of the finest pieces he ever illustrated for Magic.
Suffice it to say, it's not without some thought that I gave this round to Victor Adame's New Hotness.
While I will always enjoy the solemn elegance of the original, the wildly expressive, yet delicate update is my preferred image of the two.
I actually talked with Victor about what went into making the piece and he will be sharing his story in an Art in Focus article later this week. The features that he most enjoyed, and I fully agreed with, were the wildly flowing wings that he created for the piece. The wings alone keep me looking again and again at the piece and win a tough round for New Hotness.
We've got spheres in both images, and a bubble of force being illustrated, but the similarities pretty much end there.
Where Doug included some ne'er do wells in his original artwork, the Aether Revolt Masterpiece forgoes that, instead delivering clean lines and a more intricate sphere "generator". You lose a little bit of narrative without the figures, but the distortions around the object serve much the same purpose.
Add in the fact that Richard somehow made a dastardly weapon of Shops players around the world look oddly cute, and you've won the round for New Hotness.
Since neither image really delivers much more than the Staff itself, the only question that remains after reviewing each is "Which of these appears more dominant?"
If you can answer that from the art alone, I'd love to hear how.
For me, the new staff looks cooler and wins the round for New Hotness. Sometimes, you've just got to go with your gut.
Cool looking Robot battle! Round 1. Fight!
Boiled down to its essence, this round came down to drill hands vs. scale humans.
The original, with its drill hands, captures the Sundering part of the card, while the scale humans in the new art illustrate the Titan element.
Each has a faint air of malevolence, with the blue aether emanating from the heart of the masterpiece art delivering just a bit more ominous doom than the original.
In an ideal world, Luis would have included some drill hands to go with his scale humans, but as it stands I prefer his darker rendition of this land destroying monstrosity.
The original artwork's simple inclusion of the colors blue and green for Body and Mind seems a bit underwhelming now that we have this masterpiece for comparison.
While Mark still included the blue and green in the updated illustration, they are understated, allowing one to enjoy the design of the sword beyond the color tie-in.
Instead of the generic fantasy sword design seen in the Scars of Mirrodin artwork, you have a sword with contrasting design elements. The sharp, clean lines of the blade lead to an organic guard with what appears to be a squirrel on the pommel, at least I really hope it's a squirrel.
Mark Zug illustrated the first two swords for the original Mirrodin and appears to have only improved with time. New Hotness cuts down the competition to win the round.
What a difference two sets makes.
Instead of the generic color on color action of the Scars sword, we get stylized blades that capture the chaos of war and the bright hope of peace, all while surrounded by a hellscape of battling monstrosities.
The masterpiece artwork depicts a fine sword, but it doesn't really stand out in the way seen in the original artwork.
Chris Rahn came into his own around this timeframe and you can really see that growth between the creation of his Scars and New Phyrexian swords.
Not really much of a contest here.
Tim Hildebrandt was an amazing artist, but the original Trinisphere is a fairly simple piece of art. It nailed the sphere portion, but made no attempt to capture the "Trini" element. It was a functional piece of art, but it is simply outclassed by the Aether Revolt masterpiece.
New Hotness easily wins this one, three hands down.
I may be only a lowly muggle, but aren't shackles that don't require actual chains for restraint a bit more impressive?
The masterpiece shackles feature amazing detail, the incorporation of the eagle is simply genius, but it would have been great to see them forgo the chains and opt for a flow of aether or even better, aether chains!
Small annoyances aside, the updated shackles are extremely beautiful and, even though I have no idea how eagles have anything to do with Vedalken, I have to give the round to New Hotness.
Is it bad that I didn't notice that the original Wurmcoil Engine artwork has the two halves intertwined to make the final creature? That is a great touch and I can't believe I didn't see it before.
Seeing as how they used this effect for the original and prerelease art, I find it very odd that they didn't do so again with the masterpiece update.
It's such an elegant way to illustrate the card concept, I can't understand why they would move away from it now. Without it, the new art is instead depicting a generic robotoic wurm, with nothing to differentiate it as an entity that separates into two halves with diametrically opposed abilities.
By flavor alone Classic Genius wins this round easily.
While we here at OMA score it as a 12-10 close win for New Hotness, we won’t know the eventual winner until we hear from you so vote early, vote often for your favorite art!
Remember that every piece of art should be celebrated and appreciated. The artists, art directors, and everyone involved in the creative team all bring the game to life and their contributions should never go unnoticed.
Each set provides a new chance to tell a story and capture the imagination of the players. Thanks go out to everyone involved in this creative process and I look forward to seeing the contestants for the next Reprint Rumble.
Until next time!
Magic has a certain aesthetic to it. Set in a fantasy world, the artwork has a kind of cohesion... most of the time. Sig highlights some examples where it absolutely did not.