7, Jan, 24

MTG Artist Resigns in Response to Continuing AI Controversy

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Article at a Glance

At the moment, artificial intelligence is one of the touchiest subjects in the world of art. Skills that artists took years to develop can now be replicated by a well-crafted prompt and the click of a button. Recent discoveries that AI art giant Midjourney is referencing known MTG artists adds fuel to the fire, establishing a direct link between existing artists and AI generation.

Magic: the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons stand as a pillar of man-made art, especially in the fantasy genre. Magic players are treated to some of the most beautiful pieces of artwork in the entire world, all to bring their cards to life. Dungeons & Dragons is much the same, breathing color to the imaginative minds of players who are undertaking their own journeys.

In order to ensure players of both franchises that this artful bastion will continue to be held up by people, Wizards of the Coast stated that no AI will be used in the finished product for Magic: the Gathering.

Unfortunately, AI art is still appearing in promotional images for MTG, with players of all kinds calling out Wizards of the Coast for the many questionable elements in a recent image. Fans are angry, but artists are making their thoughts known, too. One renowned MTG artist is walking away from Wizards of the Coast thanks to the mismanagement of this AI situation.

AI Issues

Last week, players began calling out Wizards of the Coast for a promotional image that appears to use AI generation. Showing off the new retro bordered Shock Lands releasing in Ravnica Remastered this Friday, the background elements of the image looked… sketchy, to say the least.

Including a pressure meter that becomes increasingly difficult to discern as you go to the right, a book whose pages seem to blend into one another, and some pipework with some questionably squashed elements, if this wasn’t AI generated, the artist’s intentions are extremely confusing. You can take a closer look at the controversial piece here.

After many players called out Wizards of the Coast for using AI, Wizards doubled down on their claims, stating that this piece has nothing to do with AI generation:

“We understand confusion by fans given the style being different than card art, but we stand by our previous statement. This art was created by humans and not AI.”

Wizards of the Coast

Fans grew angrier after this statement, as the multiple bizarre elements in the controversial image have convinced many players that, no matter what Wizards of the Coast says, this was AI generated. Even artists seem to be convinced that this was image was generated with the help of AI, as one artist walks away from Wizards of the Coast.

UPDATE: A recent statement from Wizards of the Coast has proven fans’ concerns to be true. You can read further on the statement here. Wizards of the Coast is still committed to keeping Magic AI-free despite this recent mistake.

Dave Rapoza Resigns

Perhaps the most shocking reaction to Wizards of the Coast’s AI drama was from former MTG artist Dave Rapoza, credited as David Rapoza on his many artistic contributions to the game. Dave was one of the many immensely talented MTG artists who created works for the card game. With as many as 67 different cards (including some art cards) archived on Scryfall featuring his art, David Rapoza definitely made his impact on the world’s biggest trading card game.

Many MTG fans, new and old, may have Dave Rapoza to thank for some of the beautiful artistic creations on their favorite cards. Starting work for Wizards of the Coast back in 2007, Rapoza is responsible for many different MTG artworks. For example, Rapoza is responsible for an entire scene in the recent best-selling Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set. The nine-card Isengard Destroyed scene is entirely done by David Rapoza. That scene includes these full-art cards:

  • Saruman of Many Colors
  • Dunland Crebain
  • Storm of Saruman
  • Pippin’s Bravery
  • Fangorn, Tree Shephard
  • Nasty End
  • Foray of Orcs
  • Last March of the Ents
  • Quickbeam, Upstart Ent

Other recent works from Rapoza include Blanka, Ferocious Fiend, Zevlor, Elturel Exile, and the full art artwork for the Zendikar Rising Planeswalkers including Nissa of Shadowed Boughs, Jace, Mirror Mage and Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients. Finally, Rapoza is responsible for the incredible original artwork on Thought Scour.

Further clarifying his decision, Rapoza specifically has an issue with Wizards of the Coast making a strong statement against the use of AI, only to use AI generated artwork, even if by accident, in their promotional artwork shortly afterwards. If, for example, Wizards of the Coast had simply stated that AI would be used to some extent, Rapoza may not have had an issue.

Many MTG players applaud Rapoza’s decision to stand up to the AI controversy.

Rapoza asks players not to be too harsh on artists who are not leaving Wizards of the Coast over this AI controversy. Rapoza has stated that he can afford to walk away from Wizards because he has ongoing deals with other clients, freelancing for 17 years. Other artists may not have this choice, and therefore cannot afford to make this decision.

Will Others Follow Suit?

This statement from Rapoza suggests that Wizards of the Coast’s handling of this AI situation could have some serious consequences. If more artists start walking away from Magic and D&D like Rapoza did, who knows what might happen?

This is hardly the beginning of the AI controversy for Wizards of the Coast. If you want to read more about it, you can find everything you need to know here.

For now, though, Wizards of the Coast has redoubled on their promise to keep art in Magic human-made. We’ll be sure to cover that in more depth shortly.

Read More: The Most Controversial MTG Cards of 2023

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