Trouble in Pairs
26, Mar, 24

MTG Artist Accused of Blatant Plagiarism

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Article at a Glance

With the set;’s debut scheduled for later today, all eyes are on Outlaws of Thunder Junction right now. Well… most eyes, at least. Despite its troubles, Murders at Karlov Manor has continued to foster discussion since its release in February. With meta-breaking staples and new decks being fostered, this set is a lot more than its mismatched setting.

While there’s no denying a lot of good has come from Murders at Karlov Manor, sadly, there are some problems. Over two months after the card was first revealed, it now seems some of the set’s art was plagiarised. While Wizards of the Coast has yet to release a statement confirming this, MTG players on social media are nonetheless convinced.

Trouble With Trouble in Pairs

Trouble in Pairs and Cyberpunk 2020 The Ravengers book cover

Over the weekend, Reddit user u/100percenter asked a simple question “How good is Trouble in Pairs?” Noting that it seemed good, 100percenter wondered if it was the real deal or just a repeat of Smuggler’s Share. Responding to their question, Reddit users were quick to confirm their suspicious, Trouble in Pairs is actually good.

Offering a steady stream of draw that can activate multiple times each turn, Trouble in Pairs is theoretically fantastic. On top of this, the card also denies opponents from taking extra turns, which is always a nice bonus. Of all the cards in Murders at Karlov Manor, Trouble in Pairs is seeing the second-most cEDH play.

While the card is great, sadly there is a problem with it, the art appears to be plagiarized.

Following up on 100percenter’s post, u/hypnotichog took to Reddit with their damning discovery. After flipping the image, Hypnotichog stated they “couldn’t help but notice the art’s plagiarism,” which is seemingly very clear. While one character has been added, the artwork is almost unmistakably similar to a piece from artist Donato Giancola.

First created back in 1994 for the Cyberpunk 2020 book “The Ravengers,” Donato Giancola’s artwork was used as the cover image. Now, it appears that it has been used again, with the main character and background being lifted, albeit modified. Showcasing this, Hypnotichog put Giancola’s art alongside the flipped piece from Fay Dalton while also overlaying the art.

While every detail is not exactly the same, the similarities between the two pieces are undeniable. For example, the face and pose of the red-haired character are almost identical outside of a few fantasy tweaks. The same is true of the building seen in the top right cover of the flipped artwork which is incredibly detailed and similar to Giancola’s work.

Caught Red Handed

Donato Giancola's Statement from Facebook
Donato Giancola via Facebook

With the glowing circle in the background and stairs under the character’s arms also matching, the evidence appears conclusive. Due to this, it’s no wonder that MTG players on Reddit were quick to accuse Dalton for what seems obvious. Beyond the sleuthing eye of MTG players, even Donato Giancola noticed the plagiarism.

Taking to Facebook, Donato Giancola stated this was “Criminal copyright infringement.” Due to this, Giancola wrote that while they’re speechless, they’re “not speechless enough to not contact a lawyer.” From this, it seems Wizards of the Coast and Fay Dalton may have a messy legal situation on their hands.

Beyond their claims of legal action, Giancola also highlighted the similarities between the two pieces once again. “To be clear, there are exacting details in the neck, arms, background, and hand which show clear copied structures from my art.  Copied and pasted. This is not about  ‘similarities’, this is about direct copying.” 

As of now, Wizards of the Coast has not yet addressed these allegations of plagiarism. Considering the proof that Giancola and MTG players have provided, however, it’s likely a statement will be imminent. This would follow the past trend, where Wizards is rightfully quick to act on these issues whenever they appear.

Currently, there’s no telling what action Wizards will take regarding Fay Dalton. That being said, it is highly likely that Wizards will cut ties with them. This would follow the trend set by past instances of plagiarism in MTG, most recently from David Sondered. After being caught red-handed plagiarising work from MTG Artist Lorenzo Lanfranconi, Wizards suspended future work from Sondered until further notice.

Crime Before Crime

Hardbristle Bandit | Outlaws of Thunder Junction
Hardbristle Bandit | Outlaws of Thunder Junction

Ultimately, given the gravity of this situation, we can only hope Wizards will make an official statement very soon. Should they delay, the timing of this reveal will be very unfortunate, as Outlaws of Thunder Junction is being debuted today. Featuring a mechanic literally called Crime, there could be no end of ironic comments and calls to action.

While the timing for these comments may be somewhat poor, they’re nonetheless important. Plagiarism has no place in MTG as the art is a major part of what makes the game so enjoyable and interesting to many players. Hopefully, we won’t see this happen again in the future, however, it’s difficult to hold onto that hope.

With two premier sets in a row now being plagued by plagiarism, this trend is becoming startlingly common in MTG. We can only hope that Outlaws of Thunder Junction won’t make this a plagiarism hat trick. Going forward, we can only hope that this won’t happen again, but we’ll just have to wait and see about that.

Read More: MTG Players Support Suggested Card Border Change

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