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Altered Reality – 3D Grand Arbiter


If you haven’t ever made a 3D Magic card, now is a great time to start! Magic 2012 is upon us, and with it are a bunch of new commons that would make great first cards to make 3D alters of. Here are just a few of the new cards that have layers that are fairly easy to figure out:

Of course, if you’re going to spend time or money improving the look of any of your cards, it makes a lot of sense to do so with cards that will actually see a decent amount of play. There’s a reason artists don’t get many requests for altered Chrome Steeds even though the few that exist are amazing.

To give their 3D cards more play, some people make their cards into life counters, either with built-in spin dials or with an abacus in the text box.

If you’re going to alter a Legendary creature, it’s good to choose Commanders who are the centerpiece of the deck. Guys who are “only there for the colors” often spend the entire game sitting on the sidelines; why bother 3D-ing or painting on such a card? Commanders like Captain Sisay and Jhoira of the Ghitu are ideal choices for alteration.

That’s why I’m excited about working on Grand Arbiter Augustin IV today. While it’s not the type of deck I enjoy playing, I hope someone will use him to lead a Commander deck. There was actually a point during the polling last time where Ramirez DePietro was just barely behind Augustin. As much as I’d like to make the 3D pirate, he definitely doesn’t share the centerpiece status that the Grand Arbiter has.

Getting Started

After working on more complicated layering and weaving for the past few cards I’ve made, it’s nice to start out with some basic layers again. The clearly defined lines of the pillars mean that I don’t need to try to find a higher-resolution version of the art like I’ve done for the past few cards I’ve made.

First, I remove the far background:

The layering of the pillars would come next, but it’s going to require either a lot of layers or a lot of pieces because there are so many pillars. I decide to skip most of the layering of the pillars for now, skipping to the furthest-forward pillars only:

If the setting depicted in the card’s art were real, there would be much more actual depth between the pillars and less actual depth of Grand Arbiter Augustin IV and his attendants. However, it will look much better if I put the emphasis on the foreground elements of the art, so I’ll make those parts more detailed and give them more than their share of depth.

The first layer of the foreground is the attendants, the torch, and the part of Augustin’s robe that hangs off the back of the ledge.

Next, I remove everything but the Arbiter and the ledge:

While I initially leave the entire ledge in this layer, I end up going back and cutting it down to the smaller size shown above. This is because I want to have the underside of the ledge be bent back to make it actually look like it’s the underside. Doing so requires an empty space behind it.

Finally, I cut out the ledge layer. Since the cup on the far side of the ledge is behind this layer, I leave it off:

I cut away the underside of the ledge from the card’s border so that the part I’ve marked with red in that picture is not attached. This makes it possible to bend the underside back. Bending a straight line in a small piece of cardboard is difficult to do. I use a metal ruler to help line up the bend.

When working with expensive cards, it’s always nice to find ways to reduce the number of cards you use. I’ll be using the cut-out portion from the ledge layer to detail the Arbiter himself. The cut-out portion of the previous layer will work nicely as the far background. Since only the sky is visible for the far background, an uncut copy of the card isn’t necessary there. I make a background by using a couple of random commons and that scrap:


After cutting all of my layers, I start cutting out the pieces I’ll use for detail work. For the pillars, I cut the following set of pieces:

These will all be layered on top of the first card I cut (the one with only the sky removed).

Next, I cut out pieces to detail the front of the ledge and the top of the torch:

The backs of each of these pieces has been shaved off to make them thinner, a technique I first demonstrated on Teferi’s sleeves.

Detailing Augustin will be fairly difficult; he should come out from inside the chair, meaning he’ll be behind part of the chair, but his arms need to be in front of that part of the chair. To create this effect, I cut these pieces:

In order for piece #2 to be able to go inside the chair, I cut a line through piece #1. The tab at the bottom of piece #2 goes behind the edge of the chair, while Augustin’s arms go over it. I also cut a hole under Augustin’s right arm in piece #1, because both the right arm in piece #2 and the top of piece #3 will be there. The hole will make it easier for the three pieces to fit together. Assembled, the three pieces become this:

For cards with modern borders, the way I detail the top borders is to lower the text box and raise the info boxes. That requires cutting the following pieces:

If the layer directly below that border-only layer is a copy of the card I’m making a 3D version of, perfect—the text of the card will line up with the removed text box. However, if I have a spacer behind the border-only layer (which I do in this case), I need to also cut out the text box of that spacer and replace it with appropriate text:

The piece is cut larger than just the text box so that there is some overlap between the two pieces.

As I mentioned in my last article, there are multiple ways I have gone about coloring the inner borders on two-color cards. The only other W/U card I’ve done before is the other Azorius Legend, Isperia the Inscrutable. On the sphinx, I split the coloring of the inner border:

Because the art of Grand Arbiter Augustin IV is so completely blue, I decide that it will look better to have the entire interior border be blue instead of a split like on Isperia. I color it in accordingly and finish assembling the card.

Finishing Up

The finished stack is like this:

Bottom Layer: Random common
Layer 2: Spacer 1 (Ardent Recruit with Arbiter art)
Layer 3: Grand Arbiter Augustin: sky removed
Layer 4: Spacer 2 with detail work (pillars)
Layer 5: Spacer 3 with detail work (pillars)
Layer 6: GAAIV: central columns visible
Layer 7: Spacer 4
Layer 8: GAAIV: attendants and torch visible
Layer 9: GAAIV: back of his cloak visible
Layer 10: GAAIV: ledge visible with detail work (Augustin)
Layer 11: Spacer 5
Layer 12: Spacer 6
Layer 13: GAAIV: art and text box removed
Layer 14: Info boxes and black border raised

Layers 8 through 10 are bent forward so their elements slant into Layers 12 and 13.

In a couple weeks, I’ll be back with another 3D Legendary creature that I’ve been wanting to work with for a long time. I’ll be at GenCon that week, too—find me in the TCG Hall if you want to see some of my 3D cards in person or play some games of Commander!

Drew Sitte

AlteredCity at gmail dot com

@AlteredCity on Twitter


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