Monday, July 29, 2013

Revisiting Reprints: Tome Scour

It may interest some of you reading this that Tome Scour is old. Really old. In fact, I think it may have been around the 5th or 6th painting I ever did for Magic: the Gathering, which would mean that it was painted in 2006. Despite this fact, the piece did not see the light of day until the Magic 2010 core set which was released in 2009.

Why the delay? My suspicion is that whatever the image was originally commissioned for either got dropped, cancelled or kicked down the road. Perhaps the set the card was originally intended for was no longer necessary. Perhaps the card was set aside in order to preserve mechanical balance within its intended set. Or perhaps the designers just couldn't get the original card's mechanic to function properly. Who knows? Such things happen in the wonderful world of games.

And so it was put into the flat files at Wizards of the Coast where it would sit among all the other images that have never been published for three years. Three years, it turns out, that saw a noticeable degree of artistic growth from yours truly. Enough growth, in fact, to come to the realization that I wasn't quite happy with that piece anymore. Well, I would have been unhappy with it had I remembered it existed in the first place.

Don't worry, fate made sure I was reminded upon the arrival of my artist proofs1 for the M10 Core Set in the summer of 2009. There the image was atop a card called Tome Scour. My heart sank. There the image was, exposed for all to see, and one of many that I would end up wishing I could take back. Indeed, had I known that Wizards intended to use the piece in M10, I would have made the time to paint a new piece or go back into the original version. But it was too late.


So let's take a look at the piece in question. It sports a young wizard gleefully pulling the writing from off the pages of a large mystical book, the words and diagrams once formed of ink consumed by magic as they float away in the air. Sounds potentially cool when I write it. But somehow less so when I painted it. But then I'm kind of blind to any charms the piece might still retain.

©Wizards of the Coast
The finished piece was done on Strathmore illustration board and measured 11" wide by 8" tall.

The painting is one that falls short of being the worst thing I've painted for Magic, but falls far shorter of being the best. What bothered me more than anything is that because it came out with other pieces done more recently that I was actually happy with, it had the appearance of being the ball I'd dropped. There was no way for anyone to tell that it was just an old piece that I'd outgrown.

Sigh. Again.

I wish I could tell you that it got printed and the game moved on — that it was a one-off and didn't see a lot of play. But that wouldn't be accurate. A year later, it was reprinted in the Magic 2011 Core Set. And I grew to dislike it a bit more. Another year had gone by and I'd like to believe I'd progressed a little further. But then time passed, and I saw the card less and less. I became optimistic that I might not see it as often anymore. But alas, it was not to be. The thing has reappeared in the new Magic 2014 Core Set.

Now, reading this, one might get the sense that I'm completely down on this piece. Surprisingly, that's not so. Like I said before, it's not the worst thing I've ever painted for Magic, and it represents a very wonderful thing that I intend to share with you. While I do feel like I've outgrown the image, I can't say I have any true animosity toward it. Instead, I see it as a reminder in some ways of how fortunate I actually am. You see, under most circumstances with gaming art, this piece would have disappeared and passed out of the public consciousness long ago. Why? Because under normal circumstances, the game likely would no longer be in print. Indeed under normal circumstances it might even be considered a miracle if the company that produced the game was still in business.

You see, the nature of the business, I'm sad to say, is that few companies have had any kind of longevity. Of the imprints manufactured by those few companies that have managed to stick around, even fewer games have had anything even resembling a long life. The only reason I even have the opportunity to complain about this less than stellar piece of art still kicking about is that I just happened to have done it for a game that has withstood the test of time and has continued to grow over 20 years — something that is pretty special. If I'm honest, having pieces that I'm not happy with floating out there for all to see is a pretty small price to pay for being a part of the Magic brand and I have to say once again that I'm honored to be a part of the the game and the community that goes along with it.

1 For those not in the know, artist proofs are copies of the artist's cards provided to the artists which have a face — which includes the artwork — but no printed back leaving a white side instead of the usual printed Magic card bacing. These artist proofs are also referred to as "white backs" for this reason, and are considered highly collectible due to the fact that only fifty are made of any given card.


  1. Loved reading this. I dont often say that.

    1. Thanks! I appreciate you saying things you don't often say. Hopefully I manage to write more stuff that you enjoy.


I welcome all comments, questions, and discussion so long as you keep it civil.