10 stunning card art illustrations

Populated with werewolves, vampires and the shambling dead, the new Shadows Over Innistrad cards from Magic: The Gathering are on the dark side. Armed with a description from the art director and the Innistrad style guide, it was up to Magic’s team of artists to bring the plane’s horde of nightmares to life.

Despite each illustration having to achieve specific storytelling goals, there was always room for creative interpretation. “It’s the illustrator’s job to expand on the prompt, to find new, exciting ways to portray the scene without contradicting the art description,” says Ryan Pancoast, the artist behind several cards in the new series.

It’s the illustrator’s job to find new, exciting ways to portray the scene without contradicting the art description

Ryan Pancoast

“Something frightening or unsettling doesn’t need to be unequivocally evil. It’s more how the viewer is unsure if it is or isn’t,” says Seb McKinnon, the creator of notably uncanny cards. 

As a master of terror, McKinnon knows how to get under the player’s skin. “That in-between state, both intriguing and terrifying, is the kind of creepiness I respond to,” he says. “Subtlety is everything.”

“Overall, I think fans and art directors react more to clever and appropriate usage of that freedom,” adds artist Ryan Alexander Lee. “The choices made have to be in service to the success of the game.” Here are some of the most striking pieces from the new set... 

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Dom Carter is a freelance writer who specialises in art and design. Formerly a staff writer for Creative Bloq, his work has also appeared on Creative Boom and in the pages of ImagineFX, Computer Arts, 3D World, and .net. He has been a D&AD New Blood judge, and has a particular interest in picture books.