Top 10 Card Art M21
Updated: Aug 13
As someone who spends much of their free time making Youtube videos based on Magic: the Gathering, I spend a lot of time poring over a ton of artwork. All this is in an effort to find the right pieces to explain each of my points. For me, it's one of the best parts about creating MTG content, as it's something I love about the game.
Whenever a new set comes out, one of the things that gets me the most excited is the vast array of beautiful new pieces of card art, and M21 is no exception.
So I figured: what better way to showcase what this set has to offer than to celebrate my ten favorites with you?
Now, before we get into it, I just want to quickly say that this is obviously a subjective list and is totally my opinion. So if I missed some art from M21 that you thought should have been on the list, then don't hesitate to let me know in the comments. Also, if you want to check out more work by each of the artists featured in this article, then I'll have links to each of their websites at the bottom. OK, with that, let's check out the first piece of card art.
Nine Lives by Nils Hamm
So, to start things off, we have Nine Lives by Paul Scott Canavan. This may be a cute piece of artwork, but the truth is that it's more than just cute. Just look to the forms in the clouds. What we see is that this cat is in good company, as we don't just see nameless cats but instead actual legendary characters who we have encountered over the years, such as Jazal Goldmane from Alara, and more recently Jaheera from the plane of Ikoria. The impression that I get from this image (and maybe I'm reading to much into it) is that it's telling us that even our world is connected to the multiverse. Well, either that or it's an excuse to give us some Mufasa vibes. Whatever the case may be, Canavan really got me to take a second look at my cats and wonder what lives they have lived which I don't know about.
Indulging Patrician Miranda Meeks
Next up, we have an image that's less cute but altogether haunting and beautiful. At number nine, we have Indulging Patrician by Miranda Meeks. First off, I just love how sharp this picture is and how it looks on the card itself; It just pops off the paper. Secondly, I want you to take a closer look at the detail on that blood moon and how it contrasts against the female figure who seems to be more distant and soft than that moon. In a way, it adds to the feeling of being invited into this noble woman's presence, even though we know she is nothing but danger. I also love that this piece uses gender role reversal, as it takes typical vampire imagery and turns it a bit on its head, which adds an extra layer to the image and creates something a bit more memorable than a simple noble vampire feasting on a damsel in distress. For me, this is one of the more striking pictures on this list, and I just love it.
Rain of Revelation by Nils Hamm
OK, so now we come to number eight on the list, Rain of Revelation by Nils Hamm. With its swatches of glitched-out colors and hazy glow, this picture reminds me of the kaleidoscope of colors you see when you close your eyes during an acid trip. While at the same time, this piece conjures up an image of the Oracles of ancient Greece -- the ones who would sit in those caves and breathe in fumes that got them high beyond belief, then who would ramble on about prophetic nonsense taken as truth. This character does seem to be filled with some powerful knowledge, though. You can see it in the glow of her eyes, and if you look to her shoulder on the left there, you can see steam rising from her, as if the rain is evaporating due to the power surging through her. Whatever the artist's intent for this image, it's always awesome to get these cards that don't quite look like your typical Magic: the Gathering art pieces.
Peer Into the Abyss by Izzy
Now, with all of these lists, based on the art of MTG, there always has to be that one disturbing Black card that stands out among the rest. If you know me, you know I love dark imagery, and this one is as weird as it gets. At number seven, we have Peer Into the Abyss by Izzy. There's not much I can say about a picture like this; it sort of speaks for itself. I would be interested to see what inspirations Izzy had for this one, though as I am sure that it must have taken a bit to come to this final product. The one thing I will say is that I do love the feeling of motion as if you can imagine it animated with endless faces stretching out and collapsing for eternity. It's truly a feeling of insanity, and the tear running down the side is a great touch... truly haunting.
Liliana, Waker of the Dead by Mangali Villeneuve
Next up we have Liliana, Waker of the Dead by Mangali Villeneuve. This is possibly my favorite representation of Liliana. She just radiates cool and confidence in this bit of card art. She knows her power and it shows. One great touch that pulled me in was when I noticed it starts right here in the swamp. If we follow the smoke from this point, and in turn with the zombies, we get this nice sense of motion and storyline. You see it unfold step by step; starting with the head just barely poking through the water, we can follow the rise of the undead, culminating with a zombie who reaches up longingly to its master. That motion and detail in this aspect and throughout the picture are perfect. All and all, an awesome piece of card art and a top-notch representation of Liliana.
Sublime Epiphany by Lindsey Look
Now the sixth card to make the list: at number five is Sublime Epiphany by Lindsey Look. This dreamlike piece of surrealist art is easily one of the coolest bits of card art in M21, plus it has an added bonus of being a fun card to play. Where Peer Into the Abyss was a total nightmare, this one is a dream manifested. I love any picture where you can spend time just looking at the details and it feels rewarding. The stars in the back sparkle and glow with the color of distant worlds. Then if we go into the center and look at the maze of water running down, it makes me think of the mind, as if this is an alternate rendition of the mind's thought process. Really cool; Lindsey really sold me on this image through and through, and I am not usually a fan of blue art.
Liliana's Scrounger by Martina Fackova
Now let's step away from a more surrealist image to one that reminds me of old classical paintings; those ones that tell a story through poses and motion. At number four, we have Liliana's Scrounger by Martina Fackova. Somehow Martina manages to create an image that is both grotesque and beautiful. It's shocking without being overly gory, and that's a feat in itself. A lot of what sells this image is in this character's expression, or lack thereof. What we are told is the story of someone who has seen horrors firsthand and is unfazed. She is a character that simply moves to fulfill her duty: a duty that is carried out with precision and is yet very casual. You really get the image of the deadly aftermath of a battle, one this character must have watched from afar, intent only on the harvest. The mood is all capped off with that flat gray sky, a sky that mimics the gray skin of the corpses.
Dub by Bastien L. Deharme
Next up on the list is a card that's not new to M21, but still one of my favorites, and that card is Dub by Bastien L. Deharme. My first thought when seeing this piece of card art is that we are witnessing a memory. The ethereal quality is really selling this idea in my mind. Just look at how the edges of the knight's body are smoky, and seem to fade into the edges of the picture. At the top, we have an almost angelic figure deep in ritual. There is something special about this picture and it really speaks to me. It's a slice of memory put on display. What's more is that it just goes so well with the Benalian aesthetic, with the iconic stained glass and flowing robes. If you like this piece, I would highly suggest you check out more work by Bastien, as everything he does is simply amazing.
Solemn Simulacrum by Joseph Meehan
So, for our second bit of alternate art on the list, we have Solemn Simulacrum by Joseph Meehan, or as I like to call it, Pepsi Man. This artifact creature stands tall and really does seem like a solemn and ancient bit of technology. Not to downplay any of the other artists' work, but I think that this art is the best rendition of the five versions of art this card has gone through. There is a quality of wisdom and ancientness that gives me chills with this piece, especially since it's just standing out there in the desert outside of a cave as if it has been there since a time when that land was more than just dust. I love a picture that tells a story, or at least causes me to create a story, without showing much at all. Stepping away from the atmosphere of this piece, we can just take a look at the mastery of light and reflection displayed here -- like just spend some time really looking at the figure here and how the light dances off of it...
Finishing Blow by Wylie Beckert
Now, before we get to the final card on this list, I just wanted to shoutout a piece that barely didn't make the cut, solely because I couldn't find a higher resolution version of this image anywhere. That piece is Finishing Blow by Wylie Beckert. Her distinct style is really cool, and I would suggest you check out more of her stuff.
You may remember some of her work from Eldraine in cards like the alternate art for Fae of Wishes. Wylie has a distinct style, and if you like Fae of Wishes, you will surely like her other works. Alright, let's continue the list with my number one pick.
Mazemind Tome by Randy Gallegos
So finally we come to my favorite piece of card art in M21, and one that has grown on me more and more over time, even though it's rather simple. We have Mazemind Tome by Randy Gallegos. Now before you even ask, yes, the maze on the book is a functional maze; I checked. When it comes to the image itself, I am not so sure why it is so impactful to me. Perhaps the answer lies in its simplicity of design and the texture of the image. You can feel the weight of the book and the pressure it puts on his hands. Maybe it's this mysterious book which is framed by the rest of the picture that draws your eyes in. There is power here that is held up only by a simple man's hands. Whatever the case may be, it has made its way to the top of my list because of its sharp and simple design matched with an air of mystery.
Thanks for going over this list with me. I'm always glad to share my love for Magic: the Gathering art with others. Make sure to go check out more art by each of the artists showcased here.
[Edited by Cameron Davis]