Struggles between the new and old are ingrained in the human experience. Magic players see this arise in the form of new cards with each set released for the game. Power level, rarity, creature types, every new card brings up comparisons to the old and conflicts arise in their evaluation.
But what of the reprints? Functionally identical in the player’s hands, they nonetheless introduce new elements to the game with their updated illustrations. Classic images envisioned through the eyes of a new artist come out entirely different, yet whether improvement is achieved is up to the viewer.
Does the original art stand the test of time, or do new images take up the banner of our imagination?
The eternal struggle continues… it’s the Reprint Rumble: Duel Decks: Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis!
Classic Genius vs. New Hotness, who will triumph in this Planeswalker throw down? Sides have been drawn, choose your champion!
The new art looks less like a cost and more like some thorns you have to walk through to get the shiny bauble. It looks uncomfortable and quite annoying, but it simply doesn’t have the same impact as the original illustration.
Gloating over the arrogance and greed of your fallen foe? That is simply a much better narrative. You also have some great perspective with the lowered view giving you a bit of a fish eye that adds depth and character to the piece. Classic Genius by a mile.
While the original is more true to the literal idea of rotating crops, the new art somehow stays true to the idea but interprets it in the best way possible.
Instead of rotating the type of crops that are planted, why not simply rotate the land that they are planted in instead?
Whoever came up with this art direction deserves a knowing smile and nod. The artist did it justice with an excellent illustration and the concept is simply more clever than the original and wins the round for New Hotness.
That new Doom Blade really does not transition well to card size.
There, that’s better.
I fell that the MPR art is basically just the original with a red background and clunkier creature, so the rumble really came down to M10 vs. Duel Decks in my mind.
I appreciate the simplicity of the M10 art. Contrasting black and white maintains focus and makes the piece very easy to read. This fits perfectly with such a basic card and is very on theme.
The updated illustration takes a more literal approach with an actual sword in the frame and follows Raymond’s general themes of action lines, sparks of energy and contrasting warm and cool colors. There is an awful lot going on in the new art and much of it gets lost at card size.
In the end I gave the edge to the simple elegance of Classic Genius.
Since we’re dealing with the same artist here, with likely only a few months in between assignments, it could easily be declared a tie, but we don’t do that here at Reprint Rumble.
Both versions have hedrons and Raymond’s patented colored, semi-transparent, energy tendrils so we see many of the same elements, but what wins it for me is the original’s expression.
I know the new art depicts Nissa locked in battle with Ob Nixilis, but I really enjoy the serenity that we can see on the original Nissa’s face. There is almost a joy there that would obviously be out of place in the updated art. Including some overgrown vines in the frame helps as well to reinforce the first ability on the card. We actually don’t see anything plant related in the new illustration.
It’s pretty close, but I give the round to Classic Genius.
I feel that these two cards illustrate different points in Ob Nixilis’s story. The second is obviously after he has regained his spark and is now on the warpath to destroy the Gatewatch. The first is effectively a prequel, showing Ob Nixilis at the moment of his triumph, reborn as a Planeswalker once more.
The character design is obviously similar, I’m sure they both received the same style guides mandating the vision for the character and both illustrations have the classic “Hero on a rock” motif that has been passed down Frazetta and many artists before him.
With so many similarities, I find that the softer lines and details of the original makes for a much more enjoyable image. I can feel his malevolent glee and marvel along with him at the destruction he will bring about. The new art loses a bit of that with a much more straightforward scene, though obviously much of that is due to art direction.
Classic Genius takes down another one.
Honestly I would pick any of the Classic Genius illustrations before I put the new art in my deck.
The Duel Deck art is definitely not bad, the framing is solid and characters well illustrated, but the originals are simply much more engaging.
Even you don’t like either of the more static Guay images, the Moeller version is much more dynamic and presents a superior narrative. The elves in both versions are obviously in a hurry, but in the classic art they pop out of the frame due to the clever use of a monotone background contrasting with the colorful main figures. There is no such creativity in the Duel Decks art and it suffers because of it.
While I’m a big fan of Moeller’s Wood Elves, I’m an even bigger fan of Guay’s elves, especially her Exodus elves in their treetop lookout. The ethereal quality of her work is outstanding and I wish there was some way we could coax her back to do a card or two every year.
Classic Genius wins the last round of the Rumble.
While we here at OMA score it as a 5-1 solid win for Classic Genius, we won’t know who the eventual winner will be until we hear from you so vote early, vote often for your favorite art!
Remember that every piece of art should be celebrated and appreciated. The artists, art directors and everyone involved in the creative team all bring the game to life and their contributions should never go unnoticed.
Each set provides a new chance to tell a story and capture the imagination of the players. Thanks go out to everyone involved in this creative process and I look forward to seeing the contestants for the next Reprint Rumble.
Until next time!