Altering Commander – The Story So Far – By James Griffin

Altering Commander: The Sissay Project by James Griffin

A few weeks ago I crossed over into the world of altering magic cards.  Turns out it’s rather good fun 🙂

You can see my progress in the preceeding articles, and also on the site here.  There was a challenge set – alter an entire edh deck before the release of Commander in the spring.  That’s 100 cards, or 113 when you count the cards needed to make it switch from single player to multiplayer.  Now I’m a fair way through this mammoth task, and I thought it would be a good time to take stock of the situation, see what is done so far, including all the rough bits, and look forward to a full art alter and doing the basic land of the set.

So, here we go, enjoy!

This is one of my most recent – as this is an update, I’m giving you the state of my progress, even when it’s not finished – I still need to black out the bottom of the card.  Never the less, this has been one of the most challenging cards so far, because the style of the artwork, this high saturation high contrast work is way out of my comfort zone.

You can see the step by step on the Oblivion Ring here, so ‘nuf said about this one.  On to a really challenging one.  I have loved the alternate artwork given out to the winner of the world vintage championships, and doing a Mox, even a baby one, gives me an opportunity to pay some sort of homage to that.  This remains one of the alters I’m most proud of to date.  As with most of these cards, there are still final touches to do, but I’m going to put this all together at the end, which will help me feel like I’ve completed the task.  Also, maybe I’ll be better at that point and can improve it all.  I tried to paint this a little roughly, in the same style as the power moxes, so over all, this is a little different from the standard artwork!

Miren was absolutely terrible before – I tried to paint her (her?  Guess so!) and it all went wrong.  I ended up rage quitting with the card all covered in purple paint, and putting it back in the file for a few days.  Then I sprayed the whole thing black, and repainted the detail back on top with a slightly different twist.  I thik it came out well anyway:

This and the Graypelt Refuge are two of my three foil alters.  I still can’t get the paint (or the photo) quite right, but I have a cunning solution to make my foil alters look absolutely spiffing, so until I’m ready to reveal my secrets, here are my early attempts, ready for the deck;

Mirror Entity was traded to me in absolutely horrible condition.  I had to wipe the grease and the grime off before I could paint it, and there were a bunch of damage to the print too.  Still, it made a fun half hour project at the end of an evening (excepting the black bottom which is forthcoming at the time of taking the photograph:

I’ve been working more on pop outs, but I really don’t like the alters which covers the text of the card.  I’m working on a technique to paint over the text and then re print it over the top of my work, but until then I’m reduced to painting each layer of her wing and then using a toothpick (cocktail stick) to scratch off the drying paint to reveal it again.  I like the result, and once I’ve finished painting the background, I think she will be one of the more striking alters in the set.

I love playing with different techniques.  I painted the green atmosphere around the girl with a sponge to keep the rough texture printed on the card.  Sometimes the quickest alters are the best looking:

This one seems to be a lot of people’s favourites, and yet it was a quick one that I did in a half an hour before bed.  Funny how that works.  Still, does the job:

Stonecloaker was fun, I guess the question is what do I do with the bottom bit?  I like the way it looks, but I don’t want people to feel that it is unfinished.  What do you think I should do to it? Lemme know:

100% airbrushed, this was the fastest alter I’ve done.  Sprayed black all around the edges, and then I used an old bulk common bent with my thumb to mask off the lighter purple section and sprayed that.  Probably 10 minutes from start to finish:

If the other one took 10 minutes, this one is very much at the other end of the spectrum!  I sat and looked at Concordant Crossroads for ages, revelling in the rich block colours, and wondering how on earth I could do this one justice.  Then I decided to simply paint the borders, apart from the bird of paradise pop out on the tail.  I have to say I’m really pleased with the result, as I think it stays true to the original artwork, while making the card a little more interesting.  Let me know what you think on this one.

Ooh a money card!  I really liked the angle of his axe head, and the arm – these aspects of the artwork create a really strong line of movement in the artwork.  I wanted to keep it that way by smudging the detail in the top left and bottom right, accentuating this with the darker lines in the rockface.   I hope others think it worked too.

While we’re on the topic of money cards, Umezawa’s Jitte is one of the more iconic in the deck, and it was fun adding detail to the moon to extend the artwork.  I had greater plans for this card, but whatever I did it would make it less iconic, and so I kept it looking classic:

Linvala is a favourite of many because she is an angel.  Also it was fun doing the pop out bits over the text box.  She’s going to pwn in this deck too 🙂

Aah a new card.  I’ve shown this in my last article, so its here for posterity alone.

If I had to list a nemesis card, then Temple Garden would be it.  Maan, a forest in a cathedral?! awesome artwork, very hard to do it justice.  I’m not thrilled with the results, but after a week of hobby time spent painting this, I’m about ready to declare it done and move on:

Another airbrush job, the only hand painted bit was the black soot stuff that he’s pouring from his hand.  Fun to paint, and its nice to get a result with so little actual effort.

Dull but hey, it does the job, and Rampant Growth is awesome in the game, so it’s important that it goes in the deck.

Airbrush alone did this one fine, I’m happy with the result:

This was fun, lots of little detail to crack out my little brush on:

I got this really wrong, so ended up re-doing the whole background to make him look good, however the result is something I’m happy with:

See my previous article for a step by step on this one:

This one was also pretty damaged, and the mana symbols/top box looks pretty terrible right now so I will fix this before i’m declaring it finished:

Wild Pair went very wrong, and I tried to cover it up, but it didnt work.  Blast.  I’m going to paint over and reprint the text in the text box to make the colour consistent again.

Another featured in a previous article:

I can’t wait to do Horizon Canopy having done this card I really rather enjoy the card frame:

A previous article feature, so check that out for details:

Best art from M11? yeah maybe.

I’m happy with how different from the normal card this one looks, I may paint another victim on the ground to make the artwork look a little more ‘poppy’.

The last of my foil alters:

What awesome artwork! I didnt want to take away from the main concept, so I kept the outside of the frame simple.

Bright saturated colours? check!  best job ive done ? definately not.  But, one that people normally comment on because of the colours.  I’m going to have to learn from this for other projects.

featured previously

The alter that began it all, still one of my favourites, maybe it’s because it’s an angel:

Finally, one more that I’ve been working on.  It’ll be finished soon, at which point there will be more contrast on all of the bits of the foliage:

That’s it!  I hope you liked this romp through the alters as they currently stand, I’ll be back next time with a bit of a tutorial on how to do a full art alter.

Keep altering, and let me know what you think can be improved in the above,


Please let us know what you think below...

Visit our Manaleak online store for the latest Magic: the Gathering singles, spoilers, exclusive reader offers, sales, freebies and more!

Magic The Gatherig Freebies Giveaways