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: Modern Masters 2017!
Classic Genius vs. New Hotness, who will win the day? Sides have been drawn, choose your champion!
It's interesting to see that 3 of the 4 artworks involve a dark wizard riding some form of hellbeast. They all take different directions and grow in detail and complexity over time, but they all present a fairly similar picture.
I personally prefer my specters without riders, and I especially appreciate the simple black and white contrast in the Fifth Edition artwork by George Pratt. I think it would look even better with a black border, but we'll likely never get to see it.
I recognize that Mike was likely constrained by the art direction he was given for the updated Specter, but I still give the round to Classic Genius.
This is a strict upgrade. Allen took the idea we see in the original Guildpact art and elevated it to another level. New Hotness takes this one, hands down.
The new Azorius Signet is the superior piece of art. It's more dynamic, has better lighting, and even hints at a narrative with the silhouette cast by an unseen figure. Were I judging based on the art alone, I would pick the Modern Masters reprint nearly every time.
However, in the context of it being an Azorius Signet, it sadly fails to deliver the essential blue and white elements that should be represented in the art. Why Raoul chose the color scheme he did, I will never understand. If it's meant to be tarnished copper, why keep it so green. Simply changing the color balance would make so much more sense.
Judging solely on flavor, the round goes to Classic Genius.
Both pieces deliver in the Cavern department and while we see some "Soul" represented in the wispy fountain of the original art, the Modern Masters update takes a more literal approach with souls yearning to be free.
I actually reached out to Richard to do an Art in Focus on his new Cavern, but he declined, saying that he had a devil of a time creating the piece. Instead, we'll learn about some of his work in the upcoming Amonkhet block. Fair trade.
I find it easier to imagine a story based on the new art, and I'm sure the greens will look fabulous in foil. New Hotness takes the round.
This one was pretty close for me.
The styles are obviously very different, going from Mike Sutfins strong lines and cartoony textures to Sara's intense realism. I feel that they both have their good points, but in the end it came down to the expressions of the researchers.
While Sara delivered a great character and captured great emotion in the face, I feel that it is more one of discovery than frantic, compulsive searching. Sure, there are papers flying all over the place, but the figure looks astonished, instead of the more frazzled scene from the original.
It honestly could have gone either way, but I my gut went for Classic Genius.
One of the questions I asked myself going into this rumble was, "Which of these look like some other Signet?"
Being Dimir, I would expect to see the guild symbol, but it should be easily confused with some other guild signet, only showing the symbol to those in the guild.
With that in mind, I feel that Raoul's Modern Masters art really delivers. With the symbol only appearing as an illuminated glyph, you have a surrounding structure that could easily fit in the motif of the Golgari, Orzhov, or even Rakdos, with the edges and lack of identifying features. Exactly what I would expect for a guild that hides its own existence.
One of the aspects that is lacking in the Modern Masters update is the uncertainty and confusion seen in the original illustrations.
Being that the Goblin Guide is undependable, frequently providing resources for your opponents, it makes sense to see that reflected in the art.
While I enjoy the levity and motion we see in the Zendikar art with the Goblin pointing in two different directions, I appreciate the concerned look seen on the GP Promo art even more. Steve did an amazing job with that piece, as he often does when he's given the leeway to deliver a light hearted take.
Pretty much a toss up here.
Both pieces deliver on all of the required themes, share the same required color choices, though in different hues, and hit most of the same notes. Each artist brings their own personal style to it, but both deliver successful, quality renditions on the subject.
The only aspect they really differ on is the size of the resulting Saproling created in the art. Given that we're dealing with lowly 1/1 Saprolings here, I give the edge to Classic Genius, as the Saproling that Svetlin illustrated looks a bit beefier than I would expect.
Now THAT is a Giant Growth.
Sure, a Rat splitting a tree is impressive, but that Centaur in the new art is the size of a Mountain. It's hoof appears to be about the same size of the Time Spiral mega-Rat.
Lars did a great job with this piece, even including some scale birds to further emphasize the immense size of the illustrated figure. While the mega-Rat is cute, and I appreciate the narrative that Una built in the art, I have to go with New Hotness and it's much more epic scale.
Technical foul! Flavor fail on New Hotness.
I'll gladly admit that I like the new Molten Rain and believe it to be the superior piece of art. However, I will say that it would be a much better fit for Stone Rain, as there is little to no reference to "Molten" in the scene.
There is so much to love in the Modern Masters art, from the explosions reflected in the river to the awesome design of the castle scene in the distance. Sadly, one of the required pieces, a "Molten" element, is sorely lacking, generating a technical foul and winning the round for Classic Genius by default.
It's the little things that count.
Both pieces capture the same emotions, a figure reveling in the destruction of the past, but the updated illustration is much more subtle about it.
Instead of intense reds all over the place and a toast to the fallen, you have a figure, shrouded in darkness, lit only by a single candle, revealing a face of maniacal glee. It captures a much deeper and darker madness, and wins the round for New Hotness.
Where is the other creature in the Modern Masters update?
Since Ranger of Eos fetches two creatures, it would make sense that the artwork would show two other creatures aside from the main character. The original does this, but for some reason Ryan and the Art Directors chose to leave the second creature out (or turn it into a shield???).
I may be biased as I have the original hanging on my wall, <3 Volkan Baga, but I give this round to Classic Genius for keeping closer to the flavor of the card.
This one boils down to knowing the Weatherlight Saga, or not.
You can see the from the flavor text of the Invasion art, that there is a lot going on in the scene of the original Recover. Grief, sorrow, regret, it's all there, but only for those with that outside knowledge. Without it, the piece is pretty hard to interpret.
A wizard, pushing aside some mud, with a floating mummy with hair in the foreground? It doesn't read easily as "Recover".
The updated art, in contrast, is much more intuitive and easier to grok. While I, as a fan of the Weatherlight Saga, do appreciate the classic art, I have to give the round to New Hotness and it's much easier to digest illustration.
I'll forgo commenting on the FNM art and focus on the Fifth Dawn and new Modern Masters art. No need to deal with that sticky situation.
In the original art, you have a character with visions of discovery and wonder. In the update? Malevolence and hunger. Pure insatiable hunger for perfect.
It's even better that the Modern Masters flavor text references the contrast, capturing it so perfectly. While I'll always be a fan of Ben's original Fifth Dawn art, Izzy and the new flavor text easily win the round for New Hotness.
While the new art is a bit unbalanced, I still prefer it to either of the original illustrations for the card.
The super soaker on the original is just so odd and out of place. The background is highly detailed, as you would expect with any Volkan Baga artwork, but it's drab. This allows the main figure to stand out, but doesn't contribute to the scene as much we seen in other pieces by the artist.
The soccer playing GP Promo art is much more fitting of a red card, with the energy tendrils displaying the wrong color for the card. The motion of the hair and the pose of the character does capture the Flash nature of the card, but this is blue, you don't have to be running to be fast.
While the updated art is rather non-descript, a generic wizard with some generic energy tendrils, and likely needs to be shifted to the left about 10%, it plays it safe and doesn't fall into the pitfalls that hamper the originals.
I'm always a fan of a dynamic scene. The updated art delivers on the stony and silence required by the card, but it doesn't really do much else for me. It's a fine piece of art, but it's almost too serene for such a nasty and annoying card (for Affinity players at least)
The original art by Wayne England deliver the same themes, but with a notion that something was being actively hampered by its effects. The tie in with Manor Gargoyles is just icing on the cake. Win for Classic Genius.
When Wayne Reynolds wants to be brutal, he's the best in the business at capturing targeted destruction.
Lucas did a great job with his Modern Master update (we've got an Art in Focus on it coming out next Thursday), but it fails to capture the sheer brutality that we see in the Alara Reborn art.
The fact that Wayne kept the background entirely white is simply genius, forcing us to go back and forth across the tortured figure, with a background character giving us a hint of what they likely looked like only an instant ago. It will be tough to top that art and, while I feel Lucas got close this time, Classic Genius takes the round.
The lines did it for me.
While I preferred the color palette that Steve used in the original, I found myself drawn back to the Modern Masters piece due to its superior composition.
The downward slating lines seen throughout the piece frame the scene perfectly and give it a sense of motion that it would otherwise be lacking. The lines also follow the wing and the arm of the angel, along with the slope of the cityscape in the background. Magali definitely put some effort into this piece and I really dig it.
Other small touches, like the sword of the angel and the staff of the cleric joining together, serve to further increase my appreciation of the piece and win the last round for New Hotness.
While we here at OMA score it a 10-8 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!