Breakdown: Modern Horizons

Art Behind the Magic Welcome to the Breakdown Modern Horizons Edition.jpg

Welcome to the Breakdown: Modern Horizons Edition

It almost feels like yesterday that Modern Horizons released. It may have already been a couple of months, but the set is still very popular, having introduced some great and broken cards, as well as amazing artwork. Modern Horizons is one of those sets that isn’t anchored down to a certain plane or theme, so we get to see some really diverse characters and settings depicted on the cards. There’s so much incredible work in this set that it was really hard to narrow down the pieces I wanted to cover in this article, but I managed it somehow.

Mind Rake by  Jason Rainville , (Digital)

Mind Rake by Jason Rainville, (Digital)

Mind Rake has to be one of my favorite pieces of art from Modern Horizons. A figure on the ground in pain and radiating from him or, depending on how you read it, towards him are tears in space, like ripped paper, showing another space where a wizard also seems to be in pain. The use of warm and cool colors serve to divide the two spaces and figures. Notice the way the upright wizard is shaded with very reddish colors, matching the very intense reds of the space he’s in. The wizard that is prone is wearing more cooler colors, like blue and green, to match the space that he is in.

So the focal point is on the prone figure. The gashes act as almost literal arrows pointing right to his face; there’s even a spotlight highlighting the figure at the bottom. As obvious as that is, the space created by the gashes is so eye catching that it really keeps the eye moving through the rest of the piece. 

There are also some really interesting moments in this piece that Jason shares on his twitter when this piece came out. It’s really worth a read if you have a moment.

Mirrodin Besieged by  Bram Sels , (Digital)

Mirrodin Besieged by Bram Sels, (Digital)

The Magic: The Gathering storyline hasn’t been back to the plane of Mirrodin since 2011 with the set New Phyrexia. I really appreciate the supplemental sets like Modern Horizons allowing us to visually explore that setting even now, eight years later. Here Bram, the artist, is showing us the Mirran Resistance trying to fight back the Phyrexian Grand Compleation from the story.

Brian 4.jpg

The focal point is pretty easy to spot as he is surrounded by glowing light, the Praetor Jin-Gitaxias, the blue mana aligned leader of the Progress Engine. The action swirls around and towards him, but the praetor stands as a large, shiny horrifying mass above the defending Mirrans. As desperate as the resistance is they do not succeed and, at least for now, Mirrodin is a New Phyrexia.

Brian 5.jpg

Check out the closeups of the Mirrans versus the Phyrexian horde. The Mirrans and even the other Phyrexians, are done in a very rough brush style while Jin-Gitaxis is done with very clean, metallic edges. It’s a great contrast between the two parts of the painting and allows the viewer to really focus in on the Praetor, despite the surrounding chaos.

Sisay, Weatherlight Captain by  Anna Steinbauer , (Digital)

Sisay, Weatherlight Captain by Anna Steinbauer, (Digital)

Speaking of characters we haven’t seen for a while, Sisay was an extremely prominent character through the magic storyline between the Mirage block in 1996 all the way through the Invasion block in 2001. Anna did an amazing job showing the strength and spirit of Sisay as a character, while still showing recognizable elements of her ship, The Weatherlight.

Brian 7.jpg

As this is a legendary creature type card so the focal point is obviously Sisay. The viewer is a foot or so off the deck looking up as she has one hand on The Weatherlight’s wheel and the other with sword raised. The figure is nicely framed by the background elements of The Weatherlight’s construction. The brighter colors from the window help keep your eyes in the center, but the reason it will stay there is Sisay herself, with her red shirt making her pop out against the cooler colors behind her.

Brian 8.jpg

My favorite part is Sisay’s face. The smile in the eyes and the slight upturn on the edges of the mouth really tells a lot about her character. The storm outside the ship isn’t a concern, as we see an experienced and confident captain at the helm!

Munitions Expert by  Jesper Esjing  (Oil on watercolor) board

Munitions Expert by Jesper Esjing (Oil on watercolor) board

Munitions Expert is one of those pieces that makes you think the artist really had a lot of fun painting. How often do you see a chicken and a shark, with harpoons strapped to it, being hurled at the enemy on a card that isn’t in an unglued set? Probably never. There’s so much going on in this painting by Jesper, but his use of focus really makes the goblin almost explode out at the viewer so you know what’s truly important.

Brian 10.jpg

The focal point is the goblin’s face and we can tell that by how the elements in the piece really frame that area of the goblin. The background elements serve as rounded borders to keep your eye from going too far from the center. The sword and hat create a line above the goblin’s face and the arm, belt, and cloak create a line below it. This helps keep the viewer’s eye right in the center at a diagonal angle.

Brian 11.jpg

There are so many lines to follow through the piece. The sword extending out of view is such an easy line to follow to the figure; and once there, a lot of the surrounding elements point towards the face of the goblin. My favorite arrows are the ones created by the nose and the ears of the goblin, guiding the viewer to make eye contact. Check out the close-up of the goblin’s face; those eyes are intense.

Brian 12.jpg

These are just a few of the best pieces from this set; there’s no way I can go through them all. Do you have a favorite piece from the set? Agree or disagree with any of my observations? Want to dive deeper on a particular artwork? Let me know on twitter. I look forward to hearing from you!