I have two preview cards today, and I went ahead and spoke with both artists and cosplayer extraordinary Olivia Gobert-Hicks.
To start off, I have a Rakdos Card, Blade Juggler. This is the relevant part to look at first:
How good is this card?
Well, that depends.
The closest analogy is jumping through a hoop to get another point of power. Is that good?
Does the human type line help it at all in Standard? The actual casting cost will impact how strong it is, and it looks pretty incredible in Limited, that's for sure.
As a 5-drop, it will allow you to dig a little deeper, but not ideal for most Constructed decks. Though, if you can drop this on turn three, you add some more gas to the engine and a 3-power card on turn three is no joke in a Rakdos build that already has two cards out on the field! I could easily see this being a one-of in a Limited deck, and two copies if you have one large flying Black or Red creature you're trying to dig for!
I spoke with Dmitry, from his studio in Moscow, Russia to hear more.
Can you please walk me through this artwork?
Dmitry: I was asked to draw Rakdos girl who is juggling swords somewhere in 10th District of Ravnica. I have to say that I really like the cult of Rakdos, all the insanity and menacing it has, this crazy circus out of hell is very appealing.
I started with few variants of how it could look like. I drew four black and white quick sketches, trying to show the scene from different angles. And at all of them girl is looking right at viewer eyes, grinning creepily, and her knives almost touching our face.
What kind of knives are those?
Dmitry: I tried to design juggling knives that would fit the aesthetic of Rakdos guild. They have that very elegant wrought iron element with sharp edges, which are dynamic and cruel. So that how this curved form came out.
The clothing on the character, did you add any personal inspiration to it?
Her clothing is based mostly on designs of other Rakdos performers from earlier cards or concept drawings made by Wizards of the Coast artists. Black and red colors, leather and fabric, checkerboard pattern and wrought iron of course. And I like the idea that such funny thing like jester's cap can represent scary demonic horns, that what I did here.
Where did you learn how to make art?
Dmitry: I studied drawing and painting traditionally in art classes in evenings after my job, because I started studying art after I graduated from the university, where I get a degree in engineering. But a huge part was self education with help from internet artists!
What does your process look like-Do you work in pencils first or is the whole thing digital?
Dmitry: It's both. Most of the time I draw digital, but I draw pencil sketches sometimes. Not so often, but it happens. This particular was digital from start to finish.
Do you have any uncles or family members that make art?
Dmitry: Haha, that's the good question! I suppose I was the first artist in my family who does it for a career. But now I'm far from being alone here. My brother is a 3D artist, his fiancee is a very talented artist in the games industry. And of course my lovely wife Kate is a great illustrator. It's like a small studio full of Burmaks! By the way I was very happy when Kate joined the list of Magic artists. Cards with her illustrations will be published later this year I believe.
Did you hire a model to sit for this? Or is it someone you know?
Dmitry: As I mentioned before, both me and my wife Kate are both artists. It's very convenient I've got to say! We model for each other and I use that advantage. We set up light and did a simple photo session for this picture to see how the light works, how fabric folds etc.
What was your favorite part about working on this artwork?
Dmitry: This image was challenging for me as I was trying to show the character lit with fire from below. It was not easy and I think that was the most enjoyable part, to get this feeling right.
What is the magic community like in Russia?
Dmitry: It is extremely friendly. I really can't imagine what I could do without help from the Russian community. They explained everything to me, showing what it looks like, what people are trading for, how it works, everything. And people are writing from all corners of Russia, that's amazing.
Do you ever visit magic stores in Moscow?
Dmitry: Yes, I've participated few tournaments in Moscow, they took place in Magic stores. That was a very interesting experience. I really liked it and hope to do more in the future!
Thanks Dmitry! Let's hope we see the both of you at an event soon.
You can visit Dmitry on his website: burmak.ru/
Or follow his stellar instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/devburmak/
Blade Juggler by Dimitry Burmak
Bankrupt in Blood by Seb McKinnon
I spoke with cosplayer Olivia Gobert-Hicks about this artwork, as she received the art book the instant it came out. She is an Orzhov card carrying member and had this to say.
Olivia: Those there, to me, are two likely non-orzhov ravnicans unable to pay up on an orzhov loan, and my guild gets paid one way or another.
Mike: But why the both of them? One man and one woman?
Olivia: A couple? Brother and sister that tried to take care or help a family thing in a desperate attempt.
Mike: Is this a willing thing, or unwilling? He's clearly starving:
Olivia: I just see him spearheading the idea of going to orzhov. She went along with it and is also paying the price. She's turned away, hiding her face. That's sorrow or shame, likely a bit of both. But, the coin is coming from the back of her neck too!
Whatever ties them together, it's a desperate situation, one that was seemingly worth placing their lives on the line when the deal was made. This is honoring the deal, no matter how bad it was
Mike: Right, it's absolutely not Rakdos, despite being a Black card without an Orzhov watermark.
Additionally, they're honorable people, and likely won't be slaves in the afterlife. Because their debt is paid.
Olivia: They probably came to beg for leniency in the terms, instead the full amount came due.
Mike: Like a military draft, their names were chosen amongst a bunch of serfs/indebted and just were chosen. We don't see that in the art, and Seb removing context and background opens up the possibility to think deeper into it.
Olivia: And they both took the loan. If they had been random or not together, they either wouldn't be getting sapped at the same time or there'd be a hint of a line of people/another body somewhere.
Mike: I still think it's a young couple, and for some reason, they decided to do this together. Why they had to forfeit their lives was perhaps because Orzhov needed knowledge, ie drawing cards, and they were long overdue anyway, joining the guild because they were out of options and having a loan shark loom over them allowed them to live together a little longer.
Olivia: They went in together, one more heads up about it than the other.
Mike: A sad but necessary occurrence indeed.
I then talked to Seb McKinnon himself to find out a little behind the artist himself.
Mike: Hi Seb, we have an artwork to talk about, but first, let's talk about you. You're the abstract artist! Magic and that concept are now near synonymous with each other. Are you comfortable in that space?
Seb: I try not to think too much when it comes to art. For me emotion is lost when I try to analyze or overthink a problem. In a way it's like playing music. It just comes to you. Maybe emotion is the key to successful abstract pieces?
Mike: Wait, so do you put on music when you create to get into a flow?
Seb: No. It distracts me. I need to work in silence for conceptualizing. I actually had to restart my latest commission from scratch because I was thinking too much...it looked horrible.
Mike: You get into it. Sink into it. You don't know what's there, but you'll feel it when it smells and tastes right. Like this sketch needing the orzhov priest.
Seb: Yeah, exactly! Also, I try to keep things simple, like quickly legible but with details so it's not too plain, you know?
Mike: Oh I know, do you lose track of time when painting?
Seb: (laughs) Oh yes.
Mike: Minutes, or hours?
Seb: Hours. I forget to eat. I like working at night, like 1-3am.
Mike: Changing gears, imagine if someone walked in before you're done. And looked at your art in progress. What would they see?
Seb: They would see a mess of colors textures etc, but they know what I'm going for. My girlfriend says she likes the sketchy versions, like at the 40-50% mark, better than the final sometimes. Sometimes it's good for me to hear, so that I don't get carried away and lose track of the piece. It happens, again, when I overthink things, which is hard not to do when rendering, because you kinda have to think about anatomy, lighting, colour harmonies etc...
So I'm basically training myself to always follow my gut and it makes me happy when I see comments on Twitter with people expressing how they FEEL.
Mike: On that. You try hard at that.
Seb: Like the latest Bedevil, it is anxiety, depression, etc
Mike: I get that, it makes a story, a visceral reaction. Like the latest Bankrupt in Blood. The story you're supposed to think on - who are these people, what did they do? Why are they doing this?
Seb: Exactly. :-)
I see this as another example of a Black card concept of sacrificing something to gain something else. The sacrificial nature of the original Black idea of the ends justifying the means cannot be more aligned to this card. Whether it's 0/1 serf tokens, or 1/1 humans, or a Ravnican couple, Black will sacrifice their own to get ahead.
I'm curious if this iteration will be the one that finally makes an impact. Obviously moving it to a sorcery means it's hard to play outside of Limited, and they're testing the idea of drawing three cards.
Personally, I see this as a perfect tokens card draw in commander. Three cards is no joke when you have infinite ways to get two tokens out in a turn. Lingering Souls and this card is a marginal Aristocrats deck-build in modern.
Will a two mana draw three in Black be useful? Well, they did make it splashable and they don't often waste Seb's talent on unplayable cards. It's like when you see a Chris Rahn artwork, they don't give him marginal cards very often. That should be an indicator that from the Play Design/Future Future League situation that this was tried out quite a bit.
I love this flavorful build in Orzhov commander decks from now until the end of time. Those gold coins will glow from graphic designer James Arnold of course knowing that fans will love them.