On its path to conquering every industry, and the entire world, Artificial Intelligence has had a very bad week. In the world of MTG, at least, the burgeoning technology has been hit with setback after setback. Resulting in major controversies, one after the other, AI programs and the art they create haven’t had a break.
Thankfully for the tireless overworked hands of our soon-to-be robot overlords, they might finally be getting that long-overdue break. This is thanks to Wizards of the Coast being caught red-handed, once again, leading to them updating their policy… Again. Apologizing for using AI to create something humans proudly do, Wizards will supposedly never use this much-maligned software again.
A Brief History of Getting Caught
Despite its potential to be a rather versatile and undoubtedly impressive tool, Wizards has always been wary of AI. Since way back in 1993, when AI was just a sci-fi pipe dream, MTG has always been staunchly human. Throughout the game’s 30 years of history, Wizards has kept to this principle, by dissuading artists from using AI.
While Wizards had always held their artists to this high standard, it recently seemed they’re willing to fault their own rules. Back in November of 2023, Wizards promoted their Tomb Raider x Secret Lair cards with a rather unusual image. Blatantly created using AI, MTG players featured the worst, quickly pushing back against the use of this controversial technology.
Following this swift and harsh reaction from fans, Wizards denounced AI in a late December news post. Drawing a line in the sand, it seemed this entire ordeal was put to bed. In the words of Wizards themselves: “We require artists, writers, and creatives contributing to the Magic TCG to refrain from using AI generative tools to create final Magic products.” It couldn’t get clearer than that, right?
Unfortunately, that emphatic statement seemingly left some wiggle room that Wizards could still exploit. Starting off 2024 with a blunder, in January, Wizards was caught promoting cards using AI art once again. On its own, this was already bad, however, by boldly stating AI was not used, Wizards dug their own grave.
Just like before, it was not hard to see that AI art had been used to create the image promoting Ravnica Remastered. Pointing this out, players didn’t hesitate to kick up a fuss. An artist for MTG even quit following this blatant breaking of their own rules.
Another Controversy, Another Apology
Following on from the waves of backlash and mounting pressure, Wizards of the Coast backtracked on their previous statement. Deleting the tweet that assured players no AI was used, Wizards fessed up and admitted to their mistakes. In a new thread on Twitter, Wizards confirmed that yes, AI was used in the offending image.
“Well, we made a mistake earlier when we said that a marketing image we posted was not created using AI.”Wizards of the Coast
Continuing on from this obvious admission, Wizards stated that, technically, they’re not to blame for this offending use of AI. Instead of being a wholly in-house affair, “the art came from a vendor.” Despite this detail, however, Wizards of the Coast is still taking responsibility, as they should.
“It’s on us to make sure that we are living up to our promise to support the amazing human ingenuity that makes Magic great.”Wizards of the Coast
To ensure they’re living up to that promise in the future, Wizards revised their AI guidelines once again. Outlined in a news post, Wizards stated how they “need to update the way we work with vendors on creative beyond our products.” Specifically, this applies to marketing images on social media, which have been causing all the problems.
Alongside this commitment to be better, Wizards stated they want to “get better at understanding whether and how AI is used in the creative process.” Hopefully, this learning should help Wizards detect that AI has been used before any players see it. In theory, this should prevent any further controversy, and keep AI art out of MTG altogether.
Unfortunately, while Wizards does seem to be genuinely anti-AI, they know they might slip up. Acknowledging “We can’t promise to be perfect in such a fast-evolving space,” it’s refreshing that Wizards is being so transparent. At the end of the day, Wizards “aim is to always come down on the side of human-made art and artists.”
Considering the game’s past and long history of gorgeous human-made art, this is definitely the right decision if you ask us.
A Good Move, But Not Enough for All
Considering AI art could become a major plight within Wizards, many MTG players and creators have welcomed Wizards’ latest statement. Unfortunately, however, not everyone has been won over by the updated guidelines. MTG artist Dave Rapoza, for instance, isn’t immediately returning to MTG, despite Wizards technically not being at fault.
“Got a lot of messages about the WotC response, I’m not going to return for work, let’s see how this all pans out over time. my hope is they stick to their word but everyone seems to be heading that direction so I’ll hang for awhile”Dave Rapoza
While Rapoza may be keeping their distance for the time being, others have been more reassured by Wizards’ comments. MTG Artist Jason Rainville, for instance, was pleased by the response, although, Wizards is still on thin ice. Vowing to keep an eye on Wizards and their vendors going forward, it’s clear we’re not out of the woods yet.
Hopefully, in the future, Wizards of the Coast and the vendors they use will both be better about using AI art. Whether or not that will happen, however, remains to be seen. Ultimately, we’re just going to have to keep our peepers peeled and see what the future holds…