Pitiless Carnage | Outlaws of Thunder Junction | Art by Richard Kane Ferguson
17, Apr, 24

The Best Art From Outlaws of Thunder Junction

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Stunning pieces worthy of a place on the saloon wall.
Article at a Glance

Whenever a new Magic set rolls into town, it’s the text boxes on each card that get the most attention. Cards are evaluated based on how they’ll impact competitive formats, with those that don’t make the cut are quickly discarded from the collective memory. I believe that Magic cards are worth celebrating not just for their gameplay functionality, but their aesthetic value as well. To this end, I’ve put together my picks for the best new card art in Outlaws of Thunder Junction.

You may not see any of these cards across the table from you at FNM, but you might just see their art on desktop wallpapers or playmats. These are the pieces that sell the world of the set the best and those that push boundaries when it comes to style. Grab yourself a drink and a leather armchair: I’m going deep in this one.

5 | Tinybones, the Pickpocket | Ekaterina Burmak

Tinybones, the Pickpocket | Outlaws of Thunder Junction

Let’s kick things off with a classic character study. Tinybones is a key member of the criminal gang at the heart of Thunder Junction’s storyline, and Ekaterina Burmak captures his uniquely whimsical brand of villainy perfectly here. This starts with the setting of the piece. Taking full advantage of his diminutive size, Burmak places Tinybones on a piano in a saloon bar, creating a humorous scene that you can practically hear just by looking at it.

This chaos is exacerbated by the saloon patrons in the background. There are a few visible in the art, and they all have their hands raised as if trying to catch Tinybones as he sprints by. The high level of detail here creates a cartoony sense of momentum, reinforced by the scattered papers flying back into the scene. The fact that these background details fade into red helps clearly differentiate them from the foreground as well.

Speaking of the foreground, this is where Tinybones himself steps into the spotlight. He cuts a fine figure here, sporting a natty hat and a messenger bag stuffed with stolen spurs. His scaled-down cowboy look is strangely adorable, even when illuminated by his eerie blue fire. All in all, it’s a great new look for a fan-favorite character, and one of the best pieces of art in Outlaws of Thunder Junction by far.

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4 | Intrepid Stablemaster | Svetlin Velinov

Intrepid Stablemaster | Outlaws of Thunder Junction

Svetlin Velinov has a bit of a reputation in the Magic art world for working with unusual materials, and this is more evident than ever in his pieces for Thunder Junction. For my money, Intrepid Stablemaster is the very best of these. With its vibrant color palette, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a card from Ixalan or even Lorwyn. Look closer, however, and the cowboy hat in the center gives the game away.

The heavy use of acrylics here gives the piece a hand-crafted feel that’s rare in modern Magic art. It’s the kind of art that you can imagine reaching out and touching, feeling the scratchy individual strokes on the canvas. This choice of materials is backed up by the other stylistic choices made in the piece.

The way in which the ground under the Mount, and the mountains upon it, curve round beneath it helps reinforce the impact of its tread. The exaggerated, almost totally flat, claws on the Mount’s feet play into this aspect as well. Essentially, the medium and style here create a slightly surreal vibe that conveys the speed and weight of the Mount in a way that more traditional art simply couldn’t. The unique pose of the rider on the back is a great bit of world-building as well. It really helps to emphasize that these people have mastered their environment and its wildlife.

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3 | Lazav, Familiar Stranger | Tyler Jacobson

We’ve seen Lazav a few times now (or have we?), but never quite the way Tyler Jacobson shows him here. This piece marries flavor and function in a way that few pieces achieve, telling a kind of mini-story that ties into the card’s mechanics. While most of the best art in Outlaws of Thunder Junction succeeds on pure visual merit, this piece gains an edge through its flavor.

Lazav, as has been previously established, is a Shapeshifter. Jacobson cleverly shows this through the myriad wanted posters on the wall behind him here, each representing a form he’s taken previously. The eyes on each of these posters glow blue, just like the one visible eye of Lazav himself. This is a nice touch that subtly confirms the link for those who missed it.

The sheer number of wanted posters also implies a string (or Spree, to use the mechanical parlance) of crimes by Lazav, which is consistent both with his character and the world. In this one frame, we see a miniature history of his crimes written on the walls. Which is a serious feat of storytelling, in my book.

Beyond that, the way in which Lazav is presented is effective too. He’s shown in profile, as might be expected of a criminal mugshot. His face is also shrouded in darkness under the brim of his hat. This reflects his mysterious personality and tops off the piece perfectly.

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2 | Another Round | Darrell Riche

The best pieces of Magic art are often the ones that bend the rules of realism a little. Another Round is a fantastic example of this, presenting a scene straight out of a mirage. A set of finely-edged saloon doors open in the middle of a desert, revealing a swirling vortex within. Three shadows, likely belonging to travelers who went astray, extend out from the center.

It feels surreal, and by normal standards it certainly is. The beauty here, however, is how the flavor text leaves room for interpretation. Without it, we’d be safe to assume this was more of a concept piece, the idea of ‘tavern as oasis’ represented literally. The tall, curving cacti in the background certainly support that idea, looking just a bit too perfect for real life.

With the flavor text, however, this becomes an interesting world-building wrinkle we can dig into. Is the Eversaloon a real place? Does it really come to travelers in need, like a sandy Room of Requirement? There’s a huge possibility space here, and the art sells that wonderfully. The slightly off coloring of the environment contrasts with the otherworldly haze of the vortex, creating just the right mood for speculation.

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1 | Pitiless Carnage | Richard Kane Ferguson

Anyone who’s surprised by my choice of top spot really shouldn’t be. Richard Kane Ferguson is an absolute icon of Magic: The Gathering art, contributing pieces in his inimitable style since the days of Legends. He makes a welcome return for this cracker in Thunder Junction, which puts the brutality of the Hellspur gang on full display.

As is typical of Kane Ferguson’s style, he abstracts his subject matter a fair bit here. Akul’s features are simplified, the gouts of flame he’s unleashing reduced to swathes of orange-yellow. The unfortunate victims, who we learn from the flavor text also include his own followers, are little more than scrambling silhouettes.

Some may see this abstraction of violence as toothless. I believe it’s actually more effective than most of the more direct depictions we see in Magic. Without the typical details of character and gore, the violence is reduced to mere shapes and blurs. This is a surprisingly effective analog for real violent situations. It’s also one that taps into something primal, almost like a cave painting.

Overall, Pitiless Carnage is the kind of artwork that can stick in your mind long after looking at it. Kane Ferguson’s signature style is as potent as ever, and the simple color palette works wonders here. There are also some nice touches, like the horned statues in the foreground. We often see these in his pieces, but oddly they make more sense here than usual. For my money, this is the best art in Outlaws of Thunder Junction.

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