Old vs New vs Alternate/Custom Art


Alternate art can be awesome.

As a longtime Magic player, I have seen the art work on cards grow and change over the years to a degree to where the illustrations on the cards are beyond anything that I would have imagined back in the summer of 1994 when I first discovered Magic the Gathering.

Back then, it was the works of artists like Christopher Rush, Jesper Myfors, Nene Thomas, and my personal favorite of that era being Quinton Hoover that defined the look of the game with their images for each card.

But like all areas of gaming, whether it be video games, table top, or in this case, collectable card games, technology would become a real asset for the medium.

With the leaps and bounds in digital illustration, and the changes in the printing process, the card art today looks so different. In many ways the art today is better than the art of the cards of old. I know that might not sit well with some of the players from my generation, but lets remove the nostalgia factor for a moment, and I am sure that we can agree that the art now is way more aesthetically pleasing in it’s current format.

One really has to look no further than the art work in the Battle for Zendikar set… as the artwork in that set really gives a feeling that not only could the Eldrazi just jump off of the card, but that they could drag you into the Blind Eternities as well.

Artwork on the cards has evolved, and as such, at least to me, has made the game a little more immersive in it’s presentation.

Here are a couple of examples of the old vs new art styles of cards that were in the Alpha set of MTG compared to their Modern Era incarnations.

Hypnotic Specter

Serra Angel

Shivan Dragon

As you can see with the images above, there has been quite the evolution for Magic The Gathering, however, that is only part of the awesome.

Alternate card art is something special, not tournament legal in some cases, but it is amazing and a great conversation piece when it comes to social play.

Such as this beauty here:

serraangel3 This right here is an example of the custom artwork that has become a fun trend amongst the MTG social circles over the last few years. Showing an emphasis on the overall detail, and quality of the art that can be displayed on the cards, these custom pieces feature alternate art that fits the theme of the card but was not drawn/painted by the original artist.

While alternate art is not new to MTG, as it has been featured in previous years and sets, the borderless cards are much newer to the scene than I had thought.

While not entirely legal in tournament play, these are more for the players that enjoy the more laid back social play aspects of the game.


Some of the most famous cards have received this treatment as well, such as the various Planeswalkers, and even cards from the “Power Nine”, I myself happen to have been recently gifted this alternate art Sliver Queen for an EDH deck that I was tinkering with.

These cards are great to use in social play as proxies for cards that you don’t want to physically use in order to keep their value up, but remember, they are not legal in sanctioned play, and should not be used in place of “legal” proxies that are distributed by the judge at a tournament.

In the next article, we will get into the use of proxies, and why there has been an explosion of proxies on the internet that are sometimes being peddled as the real thing… stay tuned.



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