Wayne England and Christopher Rush – All Good Things in Magic: The Gathering
The last few days have brought great sadness to the Magic community as we have learnt that two of the great artists of the game have passed away this week.
Both Christopher Rush and Wayne England have brought joy to the greater geek-sphere as well as having both illustrated over 100 Magic: the Gathering cards each. England passed away on Tuesday 9th February, whilst Rush passed away a day later on the 10th.
For many, the artworks of this pair of greats has shaped the way they play Magic, with both producing some seriously iconic pieces of artwork along the way.
Rush was hugely formative in Magic’s early years and has had a huge amount of influence over Magic’s look and feel over the years with these 5 simple pieces of art:
Note that these are not the original pieces, rather later recreations of them. Nevertheless he will continue to live on through his work and have it appear on cards for-evermore. Rush also did a large number of other notable iconic pieces including:
Arguably the most iconic card in Magic these days, Black Lotus is flat out the most powerful and expensive card in Magic’s history. I am lucky enough to own one of these pieces of history and am now kicking myself at not having bought a signed copy when one was available a little while ago.
I love the highlights on the edges of the petals in this art, the stark contrast they bring between light and dark. The piece is a rather simple on but its simplicity allows his beautiful use of colour to shine through.
For me, the original Brainstorm art will always be the best one. It was the first one that I owned, though it was not an old bordered one but a reprint in the Coldsnap theme decks that I first got my hands on. I am a sucker for very bright colours that are nearly white on a dark background and these pinks and purples really do it for me.
I also love the very subtle way that the background looks a little brain-like, which is reflected in the way that the brain poking out of the top of the man’s head in the foreground uses the same tones as the background as if to help portray that the storm is coming from the brain and not going into it.
As one of the more iconic Legacy cards I will be playing with my set of these for a long time to come.
The final card I want to highlight from Christopher Rush is also one of my favourites to play. Booster Tutor appears in the cube of a good friend of mine and without fail finds me a tasty goody when I need it most.
My favourite story with this card is casting it to find a Crucible of Worlds from a cube pack when I was short of mana (with two fetches in my graveyard) and then using Snapcaster Mage to recast it finding a Strip Mine to assemble a nice little lock package which wasn’t even in my deck at the start of the game.
Whilst the art on it is not as technically brilliant as some of his other pieces, I enjoy the more light-hearted feel that the piece has. It feels a lot more comical and brighter than a lot of his other works, due largely to the brighter background and sketch-like appearance of the hand.
In Wayne’s World, Austere Command is the very first Wrath of God type card I owned, and is one of the best and most flexible in the game. I almost always run it in my commander decks as it holds such a soft spot in my heart.
I love the art on the command cycle, with the contained spells bursting out of the jar and forming these beautiful spiralling patterns.
As a young gamer Karplusan Minotaur really intrigued me. I could never understand why I would want a card that could hurt me if I played it in my deck. And it was a rare as well!
These days I have a new appreciation for it in my minotaur tribal commander deck as politics allow you to team up and remove a threat of someone else’s with it whilst the fact that you’re flipping coins makes it a more unique mini game.
The dark, angry feel of the minotaur in this piece is very evocative of the “bull in a china shop” feel of the card mechanics. He’s big, angry, dominates the card and is going to cause some serious damage!
The final card I’d like to highlight is one that blew my mind when I first saw it used in Vintage: Worldgorger Dragon For those of you who don’t know, this card ends games literally by itself (or at least when reanimated by an enchantment spell) which if your deck isn’t properly built or your board isn’t set up right can cause the game to be drawn.
However, the art of this piece is very typical for one of this part of Magic’s history. I’m no art expert but I believe that it’s a pencil and watercolour piece that encapsulates a lot of what fantasy art is about for me with his beautiful dragon that reminds me of the early Warhammer dragons. This is possibly not just a coincidence as England also worked for Games Workshop as well as having done pieces for Dungeons and Dragons too.
My final tribute to the pair is to create something that I’ve only done a few times before: create a deck around them. Up until now I’ve only done Commander decks for this sort of thing, but with their passing happening so close together it felt right to pit these legendary artists against each other. I present you:
Duel Decks: Rush Vs. England
Duel Deck: Christopher Rush by Christopher Cooper
Christopher Rush’s deck started with a four of that I know a lot of you will be wondering why I haven’t mentioned it so far. Lightning Bolt is yet another iconic card from Rush and deserves to be here in multiples. You can see plenty of hits from throughout the years in Manabarbs, Rod of Ruin, Rukh Egg and Stone Rain, all of which have seen strong tournament play from the very beginnings of the game and still remain powerful today.
As a black/red deck this deck is looking to hit hard and hit fast. We have plenty of cheap creatures to bring the beatdown and removal to back them up by taking out our opponents’ creatures. The single Snow-Covered Plains is there for Goblin Rimerunner, as that was also illustrated by Rush.
Duel Deck: Wayne England by Christopher Cooper
Wayne’s deck features two of each of the creatures in the deck, a nod to Commander non-bo Doubling Chant. With ways of getting cards in the graveyard quickly, cards like Kessig Cagebreakers can become threatening very fast, while the combo or Words of Wilding and Pulse of the Grid can ensure infinite bears for days!
You will also likely have noticed another hugely iconic card from Wayne that I just couldn’t leave out. Cryptic Command is one of the defining cards of Modern and has been my personal bane since I started attending FNMs back when it was printed in Lorwyn Block. Seriously, who thought a 4 mode choose two spell would be worth making into a textless promo card? It does show off the artwork beautifully though.
Community Question: What are your favourite cards by these two great artists and why?
Thanks for reading,