Dissension Art: the Good, the Bad, and the Guay

This article is all about the art of Dissension. Like every magic set, Dissension has its good art, its bad art, and its horrendous art. It also heralds the return of the controversial Rebecca Guay with her first original art since Elvish Piper in 9th Edition. I'm going to tell you which cards I like, which cards I hate, and which cards I love. Let's get to it!

The Good

What can I say? I'm a sucker for flame effects. When done well they can be extremely effective. Here's a list of some of the art in Dissension that makes good use of flames:

Demonfire, Flame-Kin War Scout, Flaring Flame-Kin, Rakdos Guildmage, Rakdos the Defiler, Research & Development

Two of these cards are especially well done. Flaring Flame-Kin not only has great flame effects but also a great sense of motion that really helps to indicate the trampling effect the Flame-Kin can have. I really like what Brian Hagan has done with this card.

The other card here that I really like is Research // Development. The Research half of the card is very nicely done, with the Greenish-Blue tinge tying well into the card's mana cost. It makes it seem serene, especially in contrast to the Development half of the card. This is the half of the card that I really like. This art does a beautiful job of relating what the card does. The figure in the foreground has a sort of threatening posture, and he is being backed up by some sort of Flame Elemental. The way the figures are standing gives off a really threatening vibe. This gets the card's idea of "give me what I want or I'll have to hurt you." The flame effects are cool too.

Another set of cards I like are ones that have interesting light effects. Some examples of these cards are Blessing of The Nephilim, Elemental Resonance, Swift Silence, and Rix Maadi. My two favourite pieces of art that make good use of interesting light effects are the Skeins: Delirium Skeins and Vision Skeins.

What was I saying?
The Skeins that I personally prefer is Delirium Skeins. I love the way this card uses the a great contrasting colour for the bolts of energy. On Vision Skeins the bolts aren't as effective as they blend in with the rest of the card. However on this card the orange bolts have a great bright orange colour that really shows up well on the dark background of the card. This makes the effect of the spell seem harsher and more powerful, as compared to the weak feeling of Vision Skeins. Now don't get me wrong, Vision Skeins is a nice looking card. Unfortunately, everything that Aleksi Briclot does right on it he does even better on Delirium Skeins. The swirling effect in the background is more prevalent, the small burst on each of the wizards foreheads are just a little bigger, and the wizards are more animated. The bolt itself is the focus of the card, rather than mage in the background. Both are great pieces of art, but Delirium Skeins is simply a level above Vision Skeins.

There are two more pieces of art I would like to mention specifically at this point. These two pieces are Aquastrand Spider and Pure & Simple. Both have great art, but for different reasons. Aquastrand Spider is simply a beautiful card. It may be the best art on any spider in Magic. The web is beatifully drawn, and the small droplets of water dripping from both the spider and the web are extremely realistic. And the spider legs as so long and spindly and creepy. The background is fairly unimpressive, but that just centres the focus of the piece back on the spider.

The art pieces for Pure and Simple are nothing special seperately. They are decent pieces of art, but they're nothing special. What I really like about these pieces is how they do something that hasn't been done before. One of my pet peeves is how on split card the two pieces of art never have any interaction. On this card the two pieces of art mirror each other. I really like how Parente uses the same pose to demonstrate two very different situations. In one, the victorious barbarian who has just defeated a mighty monster; in the other, a peaceful dryad has just cast a cleansing spell. Yet both have their arms raised in the exact same way. This sort of parallel art is something that can only be achieved on split cards, and I really like it when an artist does something new and innovative like that.

The Bad

Here's the part every critic truly enjoys. Looking at somebody else's painstaking work, and then tearing it to pieces. Well, let's get to it!

Kev Walker, what were you thinking? You were doing so well! All of your card art was either good or great. And then you drop this bomb on us:

I HATE the art on Wit's End. With a passion. First of all, there is far too much of the art devoted to the ugly pasty face of what I assume to be an elderly man. Then there is the fact that it is extremely jarring when on the background of a black card. The background of the art is plain black, with absolutely nothing having done with it, the face has no details upon it (except the wrinkles), and the smoke effects are quite lame. The art simply looks completely unfinished. Maybe it was that he had too many cards to complete for a small set like Dissension and ran out of time and submitted what he had completed to be the card art. This would be unfortunate, but it would help explain the huge difference between the weakness of this piece of art and the general strength of Kev's work.

Remember Nettling Imp? And Norrit? Well they're back. Or at least their ugly little brother is. Introducing Demon's Jester:

He's one of a kind
Critics rarely run out of words to describe how they feel about something. They usually have some great descriptive word to use that exactly describes their opinions on a subject. This card is just plain U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi, YOU UGLY. Its not even ugly in a threatening way, like dread slag or much of rk post's work... it's just flat out hard to look at. It reminds you of the coneheads and starving children...AT THE SAME TIME. Now the freakish smile has been used to great effect throughout Magic art history, with cards such as Norrit, Nettling Imp, Atog, and Psychatog being perfect examples. On this card the freakish smile is simply the cherry that tops off this fetid dish. It adds that extra little bit of freaky that really makes this piece of art one of a kind. Thank God.

The final piece of art I will be ripping a new one in this section is Lyzolda, The Blood Witch. Lyzolda, Lyzolda, Lyzolda. Such an interesting card, with such uninteresting artwork. The piece has no emotion or movement; it is totally static. She is supposed to be performing some sort of weird Rakdos rite, but instead it just looks like she's having a shower of magma. And what's with the squid on her head? Here's a message to all Magic artists: Just drawing a hot chick isn't enough to make a good piece of art.

The Guay

There are two camps when it comes to Rebecca Guay art. You either love her and everything she does, or you hate absolutely every piece she's ever submitted. I fall into neither. I don't hate her style of painting, but I don't love it either. I try to look at each piece and judge it on its own merits.

Guay illustrated three cards in Dissension: Pride of the Clouds, Freewind Equenaut, and Silkwing Scout. First up is the Pride. It is the perfect card to present a problem that many people have with Guay's art. The creature really doesn't seem like the badass beatdown creature it seems to be when you look at the art. Instead it is a pride of lions with freakishly long hair. Now Guay's art has its place. I love such classics as Angelic Page and Gaea's Blessing, but on an agressive card like Pride of the Clouds it just doesn't seem to fit. There's nothing especially wrong with the art; it's just out of place.

Next is Freewind Equenaut. You'd think my problems with the last card would transfer to this one. It as after all a 2/2 flyer for 3 with an additional ability, and therefore an aggresively costed creature. However what didn't work on the Pride works very well on the Equenaut. The Equenaut's long flowing hair doesn't seem silly like the Lions, while the horses dark colouring allows it to seem menacing and beautiful at the same time. This piece proves that just because Guay's art is feminine does not mean it can't work an agressively costed creature.

Crayola paid her an endorsement fee
It's cards like Silkwing Scout that help me understand the intense hatred many hold for Guay's art. This piece is unforgiveable. It looks like it was drawn by a 8-year-old using crayons. They told her it was a Green/Blue faerie and she took them literally, painting it green and blue. There is no detail on the faerie, the hair looks like something from a jellyfish, and the background is extremely bland. At least we have finally proved one of the classic theorems of Magic art. Jellyfish hair + Bug Eyes + Elf Ears + Dragonfly Wings + Hot Chick + Random Body Paint =/= good art. I can't imagine how this piece ever got on a card. Surely there must be some quality control out there of some sort. Doesn't anyone look at the pieces the artists submit before they go on a card? It's hard to defend Rebecca Guay when she turns in art like this.

And The Awesome

Now to end this article on a good note. In my humble opinion, the two best pieces of art in Dissension are Voidslime and Windreaver. I don't feel like dissecting why exactly why I like these two cards, as they pretty much speak for themselves.

Overrall I feel that Dissension had a plethora of good art. And a set full of good art with a few exceptions is far better than the alternative (7th Edition).

I hope you enjoyed the article and didn't disagree with too many of my opinions. See you again in Coldsnap.


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