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Artist Sealed


I was compiling a list the other day of artists with one hundred or more artworks, and I thought of the Magic Online Community Cup, with its flavorful challenge Ironroot Chef. Wondering if they would change it up, I tried to formulate something more art-focused instead of flavor-driven. Commander decks and even Duel Decks have used tribal themes, but decks only with artists often struggle to be built due to the lack of land commissions.

I saw an opportunity to showcase artists who have been dynamite in changing their style, showcasing their reliability, and also to create a Magic format based on their staying power. Flavorful decks often are below the power level of decks that don’t have a theme, but say we remove streamlined Spike decks. Instead of making an unequal format, how can a format have powerful, memorable moments while still keeping that flavor? Focus on the artist as the central tenet, and zoom out.

I bring you Artist Sealed, a new format.

To start, we choose from a list of fifty-two artists to build a Sealed Deck pool from the cards they were commissioned to make artworks for in the physical Magic game. By having artists with over one hundred artworks, it mirrors a sealed deck format with ninety cards. The extra cards allow for a slightly more powerful deck—and a heckuva fun time looking at artworks you may have missed on promo cards and reprinted card arts you may have missed in, for example, Seventh Edition.

To make it to a hundred art commissions, you need serious talent and an incredible ability to adapt. With every year, there’s a new setting with a unique look and feel—from Lorwyn being bright and painterly to New Phyrexia being cold, sterile, and digital-looking—you have to find a way, as an artist, to endure. Hitting one hundred artworks takes years of consistent work and is a testament to truly great artists—compared to just good.

Format Rules


  • Deck lists must be constructed from one artist who has created one hundred or more artworks for the physical Magic: The Gathering game. The reason is that no card technically exists for Magic Online cards like Vintage Masters. Also, this is a recognition format of an artist’s diligent work in Magic over years of the game, with changing styles, color palettes, and adaptability. In short, you need to take the space of an incredible artist to become a staple artist of Magic.
  • Decks must have a minimum of forty cards but can go over forty cards.
  • Basic lands need not be created by the artist. All basic lands are artist-independent to make the format accessible.
  • Artists who made multiple artworks of the same card can include both versions. Terese Nielsen painted two versions of Eternal Witness, and either or both can be included.
  • Sideboards are unlimited to the number of cards in the pool.
  • Matches play the standard three games with sideboarding between games.
  • You must choose an artist with at least one artworks credited to his or her name. Joint cards, such as Suppress by Terese Nielsen and Tom Baxa, can be used in either deck. They count as both.
  • Tim Hildebrandt is included with his brother Greg. On an individual art-by-art basis, provenance isn’t readily available for a format to learn which pieces are Greg’s, Tim’s, Greg and Tim’s, or one Greg signed as both of them but Tim didn’t touch them. So, both are being included, just like Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai. As explained on their Spiderweb Art Gallery on the art page of Shuko, the brothers’ number of artworks kind of vary:

In May of 2003 my brother Tim had a stroke. Fully hoping he would recover fully and paint with me again I made certain business decisions to protect him. My first decision was to not make the industry aware of Tim’s stroke. The second decision was to paint certain Magic cards and credit Tim on the cards. My intention was to keep his name in front of our fans, and to give him time to recover and come back to work. Unfortunately he never did come back to work, although with this card he tried.

Tim came to the studio in May 2004 for the first time since the stroke. He painted in part of the background and I finished the painting. I gave Tim the credit on the printed Magic card. It was my way of helping my twin brother.

At this point it is necessary to clarify these pieces to our fans.

If by doing this I have offended or misled anyone I am truly sorry”.

—Greg Hildebrandt

The Hildebrandt brothers were, and indeed are, revolutionary artists. I’ll write more on them soon. Their talent and hard work demands a full article from me and not just a blurb. Hold me to that!

  • There are fifty-two artists who have over one hundred artworks. This list will slowly grow, as a few artists are into the nineties for numbers of commissions. This also allows for a tournament of forty-eight people, with six pods of eight. Clearly, someone having Kev Walker will be at an advantage—if he’s included in a formal tournament at all!

This is the beginning. The format is in its infancy, but I will dedicate myself to building these decks, at least proxied to play in a tournament or two with an art prize!

Artists with One Hundred or More Artworks
100 • Matt Stewart 102 • Chris Rahn 105 • Franz Vohwinkel
106 • Ron Spears 106 • Svetlin Velinov 108 • Anthony S. Waters
108 • Donato Giancola 109 • Raymond Swanland 109 • Wayne England
110 • John Matson 110 • Mark Poole 110 • Thomas M. Baxa
111 • Jeff Miracola 113 • Alex Horley-Orlandelli 113 • Anson Maddocks
113 • Chippy 115 • Daarken 115 • Nils Hamm
118 • Dave Kendall 118 • Steven Belledin 119 • Edward P. Beard, Jr.
120 • rk post 121 • Wayne Reynolds 122 • Christopher Rush
124 • Brian Snõddy 125 • Douglas Shuler 126 • Paolo Parente
127 • Adam Rex 129 • Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai 132 • Jim Nelson
133 • Alan Pollack 142 • Karl Kopinski 143 • Scott M. Fischer
146 • Mark Zug 147 • Rob Alexander 149 • Randy Gallegos
151 • Rebecca Guay 153 • Steve Prescott 158 • Dan Frazier
163 • Dan Scott 168 • Daren Bader 175 • Terese Nielsen
177 • Matt Cavotta 187 • Heather Hudson 196 • Mark Tedin
203 • John Avon 210 • Carl Critchlow 233 • Ron Spencer
243 • Christopher Moeller 263 • Greg Staples 285 • Pete Venters
367 • Kev Walker

Ban List

  • All ante cards are banned from the format. They don’t add to the flavor and prevent future games making sense, as adding an artwork from another artist makes no sense in the format.
  • Vanguard cards are banned in the standard format but can be used in the same manner as included cards.
  • All artist-matters cards in Unhinged are bans due to their immediate format-warping ability

Aesthetic Consultation
Artful Looter
Brushstroke Paintermage
Bursting Beebles
Circle of Protection: Art
Drawn Together
Erase (Not the Urza's Legacy One)
Fascist Art Director
Graphic Violence
Greater Morphling
Mana Flair
Persecute Artist
Zombie Fanboy


  • Like the drafting Cube format, know that any Equipment from Loxodon Warhammer to Umezawa's Jitte is incredibly effective at winning games.
  • Many artists who had numerous cards before the year 2,000 have silver-bullet cards like efficient creatures with a landwalk or a protection ability. Game 2s can swing very quickly with evasive creatures.
  • Tim-like creatures, those who can tap for 1 damage on a repeatable mechanic, are incredibly powerful with creatures like Lotus Cobra, Birds of Paradise, and Noble Hierarch bending the format.
  • Mana-fixing is at a serious premium. Four-color decks are oddly difficult to create.

To test out the new format, I went through piles of commons and uncommons and went through a good twenty pages worth of printed proxies. With the help of a friend, we came across two artists who might make an interesting duel:

Terese Nielsen vs. Daarken (Mike Lim)

via layerpaint.com
via graphicpolicy.com

Both of these artists are incredibly hard-working artists, they are on social media, and they’re some of the friendliest people I’ve met. Let’s dive into a head-to-head duel!

Daarken?s List of Illustrated Cards

Terese Nielsen?s List of Illustrated Cards

Deck 1: G/U Terese Nielsen

Eternal Witness, Rhystic Study, and Force of Will form a shell for an incredible deck. The rest felt like filler after those three. It isn’t a perfect build, but there’s definitely a deck there!

Deck 1: Mono-Black Daarken

Daarken has received a ton of really powerful black cards. Demonic Tutor, Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath, and Bala Ged Scorpion seem to form a strong, curved-out plan.

Deck 2: R/G Daarken

Looking closely at the card list, another deck seemed viable! With two Planeswalkers and the addition of a possible sacrifice/devour/Birthing Pod shell, I see some semblance of an engine.

So, this sums up both decks against Terese’s G/U deck. It turns out that Rhystic Study or recurring land-fetch spells allows for nearly every game hitting Loxodon Warhammer for a cheap, flyover win. It was absurd how efficiency and basically an extra fifty cards worth of commissions utterly changes a deck.

Every Game 2 had a pretty strong return, as 1-drops were instantly killed upon arrival. Planeswalkers really are nearly unstoppable in the format.

We had a heckuva fun time playing these decks. I hope the Community Cup considers an artist-focused format because it provided a pretty-easily-built Sealed pool with very difficult deck-building choices. Any professional would have a Johnny-fueled field day sitting in a Vorthosian format. I’d even be happy to judge if need be!

This is the beginning. I look forward to writing more on this format.

What do you think of an Artist Sealed deck? Build a deck out of Terese’s and Daarken’s—I’d love to see how you would’ve built the deck! Hit me up on Twitter (@VorthosMike) or in the comments below.


P.S. Any tournament organizer looking for artists that’ll bring a crowd? Any of the one hundred-or-more-card-art artists are exactly the artists you want for a larger event!

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