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Former MTG Artist Shares Real-Life References For His Vintage TCG Card Art

Magic: The Gathering is a tabletop RPG full of stories and characters, but it wasn’t always. Back in the ‘90s and early 2000s, cards didn’t always have Ajani commanding Leonin soldiers or Chandra flinging fireballs at some hapless goblin. Everything about the card was completely made up, with art depicting people or places that were never named in Magic lore.

That can be both fun but also a little tricky for Magic artists. Fun in that there used to be more creative freedom, but difficult as they had to invent character designs completely from scratch. One of Magic’s most prolific artists recently revealed his trick for creating card art for some of the game’s earliest sets, and it involved a little help from his friends.

"Throwing it back to the 1990s and my wife and friends who were cool enough to pose with blankets as capes and pretend they were wizards for a totally awesome card game," wrote Tony DiTerlizzi on Twitter. DiTerlizzi did a lot of art for Wizards of the Coast which was used in both Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons. For the Magic, DiTerlizzi created images that have been used in 87 cards from Visions all the way to Eighth Edition.

DiTerlizzi's method involved taking hilarious Polaroids of friends and family using whatever items they had lying around as props. Blankets, rugs, and broomsticks often stood in for capes, cloaks, and magic scepters. Dynamic poses from DiTerlizzi's friends resulted in some of Magic's most iconic cards, like Brainstorm from Mercadian Masques, and Nether Shadow, a card that would eventually grace the cover of Scrye magazine.

Giant Growth’s mouse, however, was apparently taken from a nature book and not somebody’s pet.

There’s also a certain variety to DiTerlizzi’s art that you don’t get in modern Magic, something that DiTerlizzi explained (via Wargamer). "This was back when you could create the characters depicted on the cards (before the style guides). It forced you to be creative with what you had."

Compare that with the recently revealed Fortnite Secret Lair, and you can really see how Magic has evolved over the past few decades.

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