Welcome back, Lore Seekers! Today I'm going to take a look at the Flavor Gems of Double Masters. Masters sets tend to not be lore heavy for obvious reasons, but frequently we're treated to a wide array of new pieces of art. This time around is no different, so let's dive in! And make sure to stick around after Best of the Rest, as in this double-sized article I'm going to talk about all the special versions of cards you've been seeing and how to avoid breaking the bank collecting them all.
New Art Mastery
Before we dive in further, I want to talk a little bit about art and Masters sets. While we might not be seeing new cards in Masters sets, we do often get a fair amount of new art, although exactly how much varies from set to set. Double Masters has the second greatest number of new pieces of art in a Masters set, beaten out only by Eternal Masters.
Modern Masters - 24
Modern Masters (2015) - 5
Modern Masters (2017) - 17
Eternal Masters - 54
Iconic Masters - 23
Masters 25 - 37 + 1 Token
Ultimate Masters - 49
Double Masters - 50 + 2 Tokens
Double Masters Regular Printings
Chris's art captures the feel of the originals but makes them more plane agnostic.
Boon Reflection by Chris Seaman
The reflection cycle from Lorwyn has been updated with new artwork from Chris Seaman. The cycle's location varies on location in the new art, so here's my best (educated) guesses:
- Boon Reflection is plane agnostic. We've seen this kind of costume on many planes so it's hard to narrow it down, unless there's a specific detail I missed.
- Thought Reflection also seems to be plane agnostic, although it's possible that the merfolk pictured are from Zendikar or, if we stretch a bit, Theros, but I couldn't find an exact match on a cursory look.
- Wound Reflection depicts the classic nosferatu-style vampire we've come to associate with Baron Sengir's bloodline, although that's not definitive.
- Rage Reflection, if I had to put it to a plane, seems much more along the lines of a Theran minotaur, but they typically have shorter snouts on their faces.
- Mana Reflection is the only easy one. The shave head, celtic markings, and green outfit with red hair on an elf is indicative of Llanowar Elves from Dominaria.
Not particularly useful guesses, but I didn't promise that they would be.
Leonin Abunas by Carl Critchlow.
Updating Leonin Abunas with new art by Carl Critchlow was an interesting choice. Carl has been around a long time, including illustrating other cards for the original Mirrodin block. The new card feels right at home alongside other Mirrodin art, so I couldn't help but wonder if this was new art, or something from the slush pile. Turns out, it's new, but Carl's style is perfect for a piece that feels like it would fit in the same era.
Apprentice Wizard by Richard Kane Ferguson
Richard Kane Ferguson art, in 2020? Your eyes do not deceive you, it's pretty clear from many recent art decisions that Wizards of the Coast has loosened up on their house style a bit to allow for the return of classic artists (and new artists) with more divergent or abstract styles.
Now, I'll be honest with you. Do I understand exactly what is happening in this piece? No, I do not. Is it a feast for the eyes, with its abstract magic in the foreground and the titular Apprentice Wizard in the background? Yes, yes it is. This marks the third piece of RKA art in the last year or so, after over a decade away. I for one am happy to see him back.
Oubliette is an infamous card for its wordy oracle text. Now it has returned, thanks to Magic's willingness to reuse the mechanic phasing in a limited capacity. Jim Pavelec's art here is great, although I'm reminded of Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask and a certain quest chain that requires you to hand some toilet paper to an arm reaching out of a toilet like this.
Hanna, Ship's Navigator
Hanna is one of the only Legendary Creature cards from the original Weatherlight that managed to capture a character from the saga perfectly. If I weren't aware this was a reprint of an Invasion card, Chris Rallis's art here would make me think this was a brand new card for the character. Setting Hanna on the deck of the Weatherlight matches her up with the treatments every other Weatherlight crew member (new and old) has gotten, and I'm very happy to replace the old version in my Sisay deck.
Chord of Calling
I love it when Legendary Creatures make cameos in the art of spells, and Emmara, Soul of the Accord rocking out in the foreground of Chord of Calling is no exception. I'm also happy the art finally features something you can actually summon in the game, a Selesnyan Wurm! Previous versions of this card, while always flavored for the Selesnya Conclave, have missed the mark somewhat in presenting a creature they would actually summon.
Images Courtesy of Scryfall
The changeling from Crib Swap is all grown up and assimilated into his new family! A happy ending, or at least as happy as you can get if you don't think too hard about what happened to the Kithkin that was replaced.
Someone on Twitter commented that this copy token has some real Junji Ito vibes, and I can't say I disagree. The creepiness of these different shaped arches for different people leads to a lot of questions. I personally like to think it's a training hallway for shapeshifters, constantly morphing into new forms to pass through the holes.
Panel from Junji Ito's The Enigma of Amigara Fault
Double Masters Borderless Printings
The Urzatron plus Karn Panorama
I genuinely love Mark Tedin's work. He is a classic Magic artist with an instantly recognizable style, and I'm glad to see him back again a couple years after The Antiquities War on Dominaria. I love the way this art fits together and flows naturally, but I especially love Karn's "smile", or what in my mind is Karn walking out of the woods to Urza pulling some Urza brand bullshit and just having had enough of his crap. "WTF, Urza?" Karn is now one of my favorite Karns.
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Avacyn, Angel of Hope] by Randy Vargas
Avacyn, Angel of Hope is pretty dead. Rather than create new artwork for her being alive, I think Wizards made an interesting choice in depicting her as more of a spirit, or a force ghost, looking over Innistrad. The implication here, along with the flavor text, is that the people of Innistrad still revere Avacyn even after all she had done at the end.
Council's Judgment by Jeff Simpson
I love it when a somewhat specific card gets reflavored in a clever way, and Council's Judgment does that incredibly well. This artwork moves it from the Custodi on Fiora to the Obzedat, Ghost Council on Ravnica.
Dark Confidant was immediately read by many Magic players of East Asian descent as a yellow peril Asian mystic stereotype (in the vein of Marvel's original Mandarin and... entirely too many other characters). To be clear, Mark Zug did not intend the piece to be a racist stereotype. Each decision in the art was made independently, and the figure was intended to be based on the character of Dodge from Locke & Key. But when all the features came together: exaggeratedly wide eyes (something from the art style of Dodge in Locke & Key), dark eyeliner, sharp and pointed nails, a 'man bun' and goatee or soul patch, and the ornate (probably) Orzhov wardrobe came together in a way that mimicked the Fu Manchu stereotypes without intending to.
I didn't recognize it myself until it was pointed out to me, and then I couldn't unsee it (I was asked by the person I spoke to about this not to mention them by name - they've already been harassed over simply pointing it out). Even the best of intentions can result in harmful stereotypes - as I said, I didn't see it at first, either. This kind of accident does highlight the need for plenty of diverse voices involved with Magic production, especially as Magic continues to ramp up production of more art every year than ever before.
Magic has a long history of using puzzle pieces all the way back to Mark Tedin's original Memory Lapse artwork to show the mind being messed with. In a cute twist, the new Thoughtseize art shows a faerie stealing one of the pieces.
Atraxa, Praetors' Voice
Atraxa, Praetors' Voice is a gorgeous piece by Kev Walker, veteran Magic artist and exactly who I would want to see render New Phyrexia creatures. I'm a huge fan of this piece (in case you couldn't tell) and I've already begun putting together a Phyrexia flavor build in anticipation of it arriving.
The new Mox Opal is my other favorite kind of flavor update, one that advances the story of the original piece. The original Mox Opal was held by a pair of Mirran hands way back in Scars of Mirrodin. The updated art mirrors that piece, except the hands are the compleated hands of a Phyrexian.
WHO LEFT THAT SWORD HERE
In which I criticize or invent a scenario for why these swords have ended up where they have:
Sword of Body and Mind by Steve Prescott
I can only imagine the wielder of Sword of Body and Mind attempted to stop themselves from going over that perilous waterfall, but was unable to hold on to the sword. Good job, sword, you don't have a body or a mind anymore. I do, however, love the face and hands motif on the sword. Overall a great piece.
Sword of Feast and Famine by Thomas Baxa
Did... did someone try to remove a tree stump with Sword of Feast and Famine and then just give up on this powerful magic sword when it got stuck? You don't use priceless artifacts for landscaping, dang it! I love this artwork, however, especially all the subtle creatures blending in on the green side.
Sword of Fire and Ice by Dan Dos Santos
Sword of Fire and Ice? More like "Sword of No Defrost Setting" amirite? I'm happy to see Dan Dos Santos return to Magic this year after a long hiatus.
Sword of Light and Shadow by Kev Walker
I know when I want to imprison something like Sword of Light and Shadow, I leave it in the absolute most wide open 'enclosed' space I can find. Snark aside, I love Kev Walker's work and this piece is perfectly eerie, the grasping claws and glowing chains doing a great job illustrating the sword's duality.
I wasn't able to find the art for Sword of War and Peace before publication, but I think the story of how this happened is hilarious. Who put you into the TOP of the pillar, sword? Who can even reach that? Why are you at a 90 degree angle? Did you get thrown? Dropped? I want to know more about how this happened.
Academy Ruins by John Avon
Academy Ruins gives us a great depiction of the original Tolarian Academy. The original art was a little too ruins-y, you know? It could have been any sunken ruin, so I really appreciate this new version. And a John Avon land to boot? This card is perfect.
Best of the Rest
I'm running out of room, so let's do a quick lightning round for all the great art I don't have space for in more detail.
- Stoneforge Mystic HOLY HECK!
- Brainstorm this is an eighties rock album cover and no one can convince me otherwise.
- Cyclonic Rift WOW.
- I did the nautical ship combat vibe in this version of Force of Will.
- I'm always down for more Richard Kane Ferguson art like in Toxic Deluge
- I like to think Goblin Guide is holding the new Expedition Map. Putting the map on the goblin's head while they ponder? Priceless.
- Phyrexian Metamorph actually shows the creature morphing into something else, which is a nice touch.
- Fatal Push is the guy from the original art falling, or so it appears.
- Crop Rotation seems to be the alternate artwork of Doran, the Siege Tower
- Doubling Season is super cute.
- Meddling Mage is explicitly a Tolarian Wizard this time around.
- Wayne Reynolds' Blightsteel Colossus is such gorgeous work, I love Wayne's angular style and it works great here.
The Showcase Era
Over the last couple years, Wizards of the Coast has pushed into new territory with the frequency of alternate artworks and special or promotional artwork on cards. Whereas borderless or full art treatments were once extremely rare, we're now seeing them as a standard part of any Magic set release. They're enticing, for sure. It's hard to be a fan of Magic and not want the latest shiny special version of a cool card you like. We've gone from decades of Judge Promos being largely the only super duper special version of cards, to the experimentation with Masterpieces, Mythic Editions, and now finally Showcases.
Gorgeous, but is it going to spend it's time under a creature?
Lightning Greaves by Mark Zug
From a purely aesthetic angle, they're all typically gorgeous and desirable. Borderless cards especially deliver the full art experience many Magic players have always wanted. The problem is, they're not always easy to get. Ordinarily I'd talk about the cool aesthetics of the new card frames, artworks, or art styles. Today, though, I'm going to talk about something that's been rumbling around the community for a while: how to no exhaust your wallet while special cards show no sign of slowing down.
Fighting the Gimmies
This isn't going to be a complex budgeting article or a MTG Finance discussion about value and ROI; I'm not the guy for that. This is just a few pieces of advice on how to manage the 'gimmies', the desire to grab the shiny new thing.
1. Give It A Minute
Magic thrives on hype cycles designed to get you excited and interested in the product. Sometimes the easiest way to save your money is to distance yourself from that cycle. While it's tempting to pre-order cards the moment they go live, in general most card values go down as packs are opened - at least in the short term. You have time (when it's not a Secret Lair, but I have a tip for that too). Write down your want list, and then walk away. Come back to it days or weeks later, and evaluate if you still want it. Sometimes a little distance will make you realize you don't need a new version of a card you already own.
2. Split It
Walking away isn't always feasible, however. In the case of a product like Secret Lair, you've got to make a decision pretty quickly. In the era of the internet, it's pretty easy to find other interested parties. Secret Lairs are best shared, in my opinion, as rarely does any single Secret Lair product contain all things that I want. In those scenarios, I find other people who like other cards, and divide the cost and the cards between us. Does it take a bit away from the rush of opening the package yourself all the time? Sure. But, I also don't end up with a lot of expensive cards I didn't want to get to the ones I did.
3. Imagine Playing With It
How much, reasonably, are you going to see this fancy-pants card you've got your heart set on? A card like Expedition Map? Absolutely gorgeous. It's also going to hit the board and then the graveyard pretty quickly in a game. Those sweet, sweet swords? Aren't they spending a good chunk of their time under your creature? Is it worth dropping a c-note on something that you'll see, actually see, for maybe a couple minutes every other game or so? Take some time and see if, realistically, you're actually going to get enjoyment out of the card's special art versus the regular version.
Fantastic... but it's going to spend all its time in my graveyard.
Expedition Map by Scott Murphy
4. Give It Another Minute
Magic is cyclical, and sometimes it's best to just put a card down on some sort of 'backlist' or 'too expensive list'. Half the time, within a year I've cut the deck the card would have been in anyway and I drop it from the list. Or my playstyle changes and I no longer want a card that's going to make my opponents hate me.
I hope this helps some of you out there, but of course, thinking rationally we probably wouldn't be spending money on cardboard to begin with. Regardless, I hope everyone out there is staying safe, saving their money, and avoiding those nasty gimmies.