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My Penultimate Step


I’m sad to say that I have two more columns here at GatheringMagic—including today’s discussion.

I apologize for the abruptness of this announcement. I’ve been up late a great number of evenings, hustling out artistic content to prepare myself for the life of an art director. A position announcement came up for Fantasy Flight Games, a gaming company in my backyard, and I had to jump at it. I’ve been trying to make it into FFG’s art department for years, and I finally done it. Also, they have Star Wars now. Oh, biscuits, am I excited.

There are very few things in my life I can honestly say that I’ve taken years to accomplish:

  1. Traversing the trail to Eagle Scoutdom – Five years.
  2. Becoming fast enough to run at a collegiate level – Six years.
  3. Obtaining the courage to propose – Six years.
  4. Working with art – Seven years. (Museums aren’t really with art; it’s for and alongside art. The artistic process is almost always already over.)

Becoming an art director wasn’t on my eighteen-year-old, sage-like list of four life goals to accomplish, but working with art surely was scribbled in that notebook. So, I’ve embarked on that quest, and the ramifications for a life change are long—starting with this column.

I have a 2012 Vorthos predictions article submitted that’s already in the queue. Perhaps, then, this is my penultimate good bye—an extended preparation for my departure. I’m not disillusioned into believing that the Magic community is starved for art and storyline content, but I will miss speaking about these topics. I’d like to think I had a great 2011 in terms of content. I had some bumps here and there, including some battles with MJ . . . but overall? I think a Mark Rosewater–style self-assessment of not-too-shabby is in order.

That’s the present . . . but for the future? What will I still be doing with you, the community? Well, I will be:

  • I’ll be ever-eager to give an opinion on Vorthos-related matters.
  • I’ll be Always available for original art questions, concerns, inquiries, and aid.
  • I’ll be still yapping on the Twitters.
  • I’ll be urging you to branch out.

Magic is a great game, but it is one game among many. The amount of Ascension being played reassures me that Magic friends will transcend Friday nights and forge fuller relationships. Seeing a “friend” only at FNM is nice, but inviting him and his significant other over for adult beverages, steak, and Arkham Horror is something more. You know exactly what I’m talking about, you guys.

And as for my projects I have been working on behind the scenes?

I will continue working on the Alpha Art project, but the rest will sit until someone decides to pick up the torch. Effective immediately, they’ll be taken off the back burner, bagged, and frozen. Perhaps they will be thawed in the future. I’ll give you a quick overview—talking points, if you will—of them:

Long-Term Projects Statuses

1. Mail-in Offers: Which Ones Still Work

What’s the easy answer? None of them.

2. Uncut Sheets: How to Get Them for Cheap

Easy answer? Look for foreign sheets of older sets like Fallen Empires. Once you frame it, honestly, it doesn’t really matter what set or what rarity it is. It’s just a piece of art. Foil base sets are a lot more common than you think, and artist-proof-backed (white-backed) uncut sheets tend to be worth the exact same amount as a “real” sheet. If you’re buying a black-bordered old set—think sets like Legends—make sure to check the condition. If they aren’t framed or unused, their values plummet.

3. Alpha and Beta Original Art: Where the Originals Are Now

As I briefly mentioned, this will be an ongoing side project for me. I figure that as I get entrenched in more brands, more artists, and more projects, I’ll come across other curatorial projects like this one. Normally, an artist’s foundation or an ambitious curator would do this. If you ever see an original Alpha artwork, please don’t hesitate to contact me or pass my information on—especially if there’s a privacy concern. My confidentiality is sealed.

4. Artist Copyright and Magic: What Really Happened

This is a very complicated article. The long story short is that when a company doesn’t own the copyright to an artwork, the company has to pay the artist ongoing royalty payments. If you print millions of an artist’s image, even a fraction of a percent per image adds up. There’s a lot more to the story, but I’ll leave it at that. No one won, and everyone is still a little unhappy about how it turned out.

5. Race in MTG: Wins, Losses, and Toss-Ups

No idea what I’m talking about? A local slam poet, Bao Phi, elaborates in NOCs (Nerds of Color). Is that too long, and you didn’t read it?

If you’re still confused what I’m getting at, count the number of non-Kamigawa human legendary creatures that are Asian. Google Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Splinter, and Yellow Peril to find this, aiding your understanding why a ninja rat might be troublesome.

I’m very sure this article will be covered by a true academic in the future. This topic is a challenge to the entire gaming community that cannot be adequately answered in one article, for one game, using isolated incidents. Yes, it’s an issue in all games. I hope to read an expert’s view on this and more.

What also would have been noted is Randy Gallegos doing his best to incorporate all manner of races into his art. Kudos, Randy; keep it up.

6. I’ve Seen That Art Before / Derivative Pieces and Tracing-Papers: Art Lifted from the Everyday

This happens a lot more often than you think.

I’ll just post the tip of the iceberg from Time Bandits and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I’d love to see other folks pick up this effort. Perhaps my fellow Vorthos John Dale Beety will pick up the torch. He is the compulsive researcher . . .

7. Abstract Art and Counterspell: Marginalized Partners

I started writing this and realized how unbelievably complicated it is to analyze and discuss abstract art in games. This is a topic more suited for a convention—perhaps Spectrum Live or Illuxcon panel discussion—showing how art and style have changed.

8. I’m Ashamed to Like This Game in Public: Studies of MTG Perceptions

I’m diving into this with the Council on Geek Studies with Jason Tocci and others. His Ph.D thesis is life-changing. You’ll see a semblance of this in the future.

9. What Your Significant Other Thinks about Your Hobby

This is being worked on, and it’s going far beyond Magic. This will also be coming eventually—perhaps through the Council.

10. MTG’s MPAA Rating: What Is It?

PG-13. There’s incredible nuance to it with art depictions, but as an easy reference, it’s PG-13.

11. Freelance Flavor Text Writing

When my non-disclosure agreement ends with Wizards, I’ll confer with the creative team to see what’s entirely off-limits and what can be said. It’ll come, just not in the next short while. Sorry, y’all.

The Articles Not Written

These articles are in my “pitches to Trick/Stybs” folder and will sit there alongside my Mr. Bill Krogman Composition and Literature papers from high school.

12. Explaining Lords, Guilds, and Unions: Fusing Melvin and Vorthos

This article is sitting, 75% completed, in my pitches folder, and will it likely stay there for years. Perhaps when Zombie Master is reprinted, it’ll come back out, and another writer will finish it off.

13. The Subtypes of Vorthos: A Color-Pie Analysis

From the passionate and creative Red Vorthoses, angry that their certain truth read in a 1998 novel is no longer valid because of a retcon, to the Vorthos White community, demanding canon of storyline, art, and iconography to match over fifteen years of knowledge, Vorthoses really vary. Not everyone is a Blue Vorthos, wishing to step into a role like a Phantasmal Image, wearing a D&D helmet or costume while playing.

14. The Post-Modern Championships

I have an idea for a post-modern tournament, revolving around art. It’ll marinate for now . . . someday it’ll become a reality.

15. Magic and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

The degree of correlation between one game and an entire field of academic disciplines, study, and careers is staggering. Eventually, this will be written by a market researcher.

16. Drawing into Top 8: Why Match-Fixing is Legal

This one will never be written by me. Perhaps I’ll discuss at GenCon with some folks if you’ll be there.

17. Dark Ascension Flavor Writing

I guess I won’t do a write-up. Sorry, you guys. I promise I’ll drop a tweet or two.

18. The Vorthos Renaissance

Let’s face it—the persona that is Vorthos and what that means to the community isn’t exactly elevated, and it surely isn’t respected. But without art and flavor, (redacted) would happen because (redacted) is needed for (redacted), (redacted), and attracting new players into the game to continue. A long-term goal would be to go back into the pantry, get the cookies, and open the fridge for the milk. Yes, Matt Cavotta would need to step back in.


Unlike Fight Club, if you e-mail me, tweet at me, or see me in person, I’d be more than happy to elaborate on any of the topics in a private realm. Maybe at GP: Minneapolis? Maybe not.

I hope everyone loves Dark Ascension. Oh, biscuits, will there be zombies. That’s a Bob Ross guarantee.

See you next week in my last Vorthos Wednesday article.

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