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Sorry We... Put Brainwash Online Instead of These Cards (Part 11)

And over here we have Magic's most bloated and unrecognizable set of all time. Time to examine the "goiter" of Magic sets, it's Fifth Edition!

Fifth Edition is by far the largest Magic set of all time, and like Zhou Yu, Chief Commander, probably always will be the "largest" of its kind in Magic. Unlike Zhou Yu, however, Fifth Edition was somewhat less than a world-history-changing success.

And as you stuff yourself full of food and presents this holiday season, sit back and let me tell you a tale. A tale of the time Magic stuffed itself to the point of a cardboard food coma.

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At an astonishing 449(!) cards, how did Fifth Edition get so "husky"? No one seems to know for sure. "If we're legally allowed to, throw it in!" seemed to be the philosophy, similar to prison soup makers and hot dog factories. I guess it made the good cards rarer and harder to find? And let me assure you, it is REALLY hard to find any good cards in this set. Mission accomplished, I guess.

Here's the pitch meeting: "I have an idea for our next core set! Let's rotate out Balance, Black Vise, Blue Elemental Blast, Channel, Control Magic, Hypnotic Specter, Land Tax, Lightning Bolt, Mahamoti Djinn, Mind Twist, Mishra's Factory, Red Elemental Blast, Sengir Vampire, Serra Angel, Strip Mine, and Swords to Plowshares. Let's replace them with cards from Fallen Empires, Ice Age, and Homelands! Also, let's make sure to put Necropotence back in Standard, that's a nice simple card that should be fun for everyone. And you know, I think this "drafting" thing Mirage started last year is a passing craze so let's make the most undraftable Magic set we possibly can." It's almost like they were trying their best to piss off the rest of Magic R&D.

So, yeah, Fifth Edition was a pretty big shock to the system on multiple fronts. Almost all the remaining nostalgic cards from Alpha got the old heave-ho overboard like they were fat pirates. I'm not saying that cards like Balance, Channel, and Strip Mine should have stayed in Core sets until everyone quit playing Magic forever, but removing every classic card at once (including many of appropriate power level) was a tough pill to swallow. Especially when you opened Sibilant Spirit instead of Mahamoti Djinn and Serra Paladin instead of Serra Angel. Ugh.

And Fifth Edition is also where the art contract issue caught up to Wizards, and they had to redo a huge amount of artwork. Out of the 449(still not a typo) cards in Fifth Edition, a full 218, just short of half, got completely new artwork. Not only didn't you know most of the (terrible) cards, you didn't recognize the ones you did know!

There are also a ton of new artists debuting this set, a large portion of whom never did much else in Magic. I will say this to the art director's credit - in general, the new Fifth Edition art is of higher quality than what it replaced. But there are a handful of exceptions where it seems Wizards couldn't find artists quickly enough and recruited directly from community college art classes (and not at the good community colleges, either). The art direction's really all over the map in style and tone and then occasionally rips holes in the map in terms of quality.

But, uh, you say, who could possibly forget the super-memorable new art for these iconic cards... (*voice trails off*)

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Yeah, I don't think I could have picked a single one of those out of a lineup, even if they had punched my mom and looked me right in the face while they did it.

So why are we talking about Fifth Edition today? It's because of all this new art. 31 of the 218 new art cards have never made it online, and that's my jam. As Game of Chaos (Fifth Edition version here) and this article's namesake, the infamous Brainwash (Fifth Edition version here) show, Wizards CAN put these cards online without spending extra moola to create "new for online" art. They're free except for some very minor programming time, since most of them are Core set simple. The question is, are any of them worth even THAT extremely minimal effort? I answer that with a resounding "meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-meh-YES!" There's totally one card!

Fifth Edition was also the last core set to feature "the crap rules", before Sixth Edition when Wizards finally got a handle on templating and rules interactions. Even casual players had to learn Fifth Edition core set concepts (every one of these is in here) like interrupts and batches and mana sources and burying and islandhome and banding and rampage and activating triggers "during" upkeep, etc. Man, I just realized that most Magic players playing today have no idea of the complicated crap we had to deal with (and occasionally get into rules screaming matches about) back in the day. You don't even know how easy you have it, young whippersnappers. Get off Dakkon Blackblade's well-manicured lawn!

I'm not going to go card-by-card for all 31 cards, because even _I_ can't care that much about putting all of these crapolas online, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to make fun of some terrible cards. I'll group them by color and save the "good one" (that term is used as loosely as an incompetent hangman's noose) for last. Also, if you're part of that 10% of the Magic population that becomes violently ill when you see a white border, you might want to skip this article. Oh, too late? Sorry. Let me get you some paper towels...


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I don't understand anything that's going on in Hipparion's Fifth Edition art. Either the lead horse is a) a host/augment frankenstein horse where someone stitched together an albino with a palomino or b) a teleporting horse that's creating a portal from a nice prairie land to a snow-covered desolation, and somehow changes its coat colors as it's doing so. Maybe they're (front) half-chameleon horses? (Simic would totally go for that.) None of the tele-chameleon powers displayed in the artwork seem to be part of their amazingly bad ability, which is more like "I'm terrified of death, please don't make me leave the barn." It's called living, buddy, get used to it.

According to Hipparion's flavor text, General Jarkeld, the most incompetent man in Magic, won't give them a recommendation. Wow, that's like having your local sewer hobo say that you're just not "sewer material". I mean, they are 1/3s for 2 mana that can't even block normally, which is all that 1/3s are good for, so I kind of see Jark's point.


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Serra Paladin can pay 3 mana and tap to give another creature vigilance. Huh, that's certainly a thing one could legally do in a game of Magic. In terms of 4-mana creatures that grant vigilance, they're not quite Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice or Heliod, God of the Sun. Or even a Paragon of New Dawns. I'm not sure why the vigilance ability is the one that costs 3 mana when his Samite Healer tap ability is almost always more useful. It's so good, in fact, we haven't even been allowed to tap creatures to prevent damage to any target for the past 8 years of Magic. Yes, yes, losing to onboard tricks feel bad, but you could still throw in a bad rare every now and then. I also think it's hilarious that a guy with the flavor text "One light, one blade, one purpose" has two tap abilities that don't interact or complement each other in any way. "One purpose! Except for any other equally valid purposes!"

I don't want to know what's going on with their necks in the Homelands art, it's right on the verge of becoming some Junji Ito horror manga stuff, but it's definitely something your book club could discuss.


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Donato Giancola's amazing art for Truce (rah, terrible white card draw) kinda makes the Homelands version look like a reject from a high school art fair in comparison. Here's his other contributions to Fifth Edition, all of which are already online. See if you can pick out a theme.

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Why is Donato Giancola so darn good at drawing hands? I don't know, but a better question might be "Why did Wizards let him draw card after card of nothing but prominent hands in a game of fantasy wizard combat?" (There's way more than just these, across almost a decade.) And my answer would be "Eh, who cares, the man knows his appendage niche and rocks it like a hurricane."


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Anti-Magic Aura was the proto-shroud card before shroud was a thing. Then shroud wasn't a thing, but you get the idea. It's pretty awful compared to Robe of Mirrors, the only bonus being that it can randomly destroy Pacifisms and the like. The Legends art shows a Russian provincial wrestling champion surrounded by an actual forcefield aura of yellow anti-magic. Fifth Edition decided to show a terrified guy menaced by spectral purple goblins wrapping themselves around his legs. The goblin's smeared out lower half definitely seems entwined with the guy's feet. One of these seems to get across the point of "anti-magic" and "aura" more effectively to me.


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The original Rob Alexander art(s) for Dark Maze are not only super sweet, the card is even super vaguely playable. It's also one of only two good uses of "alternate arts commons" in the history of Magic, the other being the previously mentioned Martyrdom. Fifth Edition instead chose to show us this:

Why is there a 1960s flower child in the front, holding a metal flower/personal electric fan? Why is she calmly sitting during an earthquake? Where exactly is a 4/5 creature hiding in this picture? Why is she not wearing any pants? WHY IS THE GUY IN THE BACKGROUND WEARING A BONDAGE HARNESS AND ALSO NOT WEARING PANTS?

My guess: this sentient stone maze eats used clothing and specifically demands pants as a toll, but even then sometimes it might decide to sacrifice its life by collapsing on you. I really wonder what the art description was: "Draw like, some rocks, or whatever. Be sure to include your own interests, even if they are frivolous and/or S&M-related." Definitely a top pick for your "totally inexplicable Magic artwork" cube. Someone please put that together.


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The existence of this card is all the proof anyone needs that Wizards was forced to redo the art for this set, and it's not because they wanted to. Because there's just no way an art director would look at the first seven cards and think: "Huh. You know, I don't think Magic has enough artwork of completely unrelated crab/shrimp/lobster people that are all supposed to be the same species. Let's try again with commission number eight! Because I don't think Magic's yet fully explored and visualized the true Jungian crustacean/man concept. Maybe this time..."


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Of all the animals you could choose to show being levitated, is there a particular reason you chose to show a Siamang Gibbon with an inflated throat pouch? A "normal" person might think that the air-filled sac on its chest had something to do with it flying, but then you included some rocks floating nearby to make sure that us morons couldn't possibly make that mistake. So it's just a completely 100% unrelated coincidence that a monkey with an attached air bladder gained the power of flight? Ok, sure thing.

Also, are all Magic cards that grant flight from this era required to show random earth animals? Yes. (See end of article.)


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How the heck is Frozen Shade not online yet? It's an Alpha classic!

Oh, it's worse than every other shade ever printed? It has 1/6th the power/toughness as Dread Shade at the same CMC? It would be a 15th pick more often than a basic land? Right, yeah, I remember now. Got it.

While the original Alpha art is pretty creepy, I love me some DiTerlizzi. His artwork lives on the edge of "cartoony" without going full Foglio. (Never go full Foglio without medical supervision.) His Nether Shadow from this set walks that line perfectly.

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Internet research tells me he has a perfectly normal first name "Tony" but chooses to go by his long and hard to pronounce last name with a single R but a double Z plus a mid-word capitalization. I can respect that, the man was google search optimizing back in 1996. Also, I learned he co-created the Spiderwick Chronicles, the children's book series that was made into a movie, so he doesn't have to paint Magic cards anymore. The more you know!


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The ability here's pretty interesting (though definitely part of red's modern color pie). This is the very unusual bad card that was definitely underpowered back in the day but is probably overpowered now, based on how terrible our so-called "land destruction" has become.

The Ice Age artist took the name "mole worms" way, way too literally and just stuck a mole's claws and face (complete with sideburns) on an earthworm's body, and also completely ignored the plural part of the assignment. It ends up looking like a wise creature that would be consulted by an animated mouse on some kind of underground quest. For Fifth Edition, the artist drew a bunch of disgusting baby grubs whose father was a Graboid and whose mother was the Sarlaac. (If you get both references, give yourself a NERD: LEVEL 3 achievement sticker.) You can go ahead and tap my lands - I don't think I'd want to touch a land infested with those things anyway.


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Hey, the Cave People got civilization. Good for them. If you zoom in, you can see clothes and agriculture and armor and bridges and forged weapons. Nice!

Previously, their culture consisted of one naked guy crouching in a cave, so they've come a long way in three years. Frankly, with the original Drew Tucker art, we're lucky to be able to identify a humanoid figure at all. (See: His Necrite. Or Necrites? No one knows.) Magic's first pure impressionist (a few others skirt the line), I did dislike Drew's art back in the day but I've come to appreciate it a lot more over the years. It's got "character" and "style" and "personality", I say, grasping for some words an art critic might use. Like when the waiter gives me a wine cork to sniff and I look at him and say "Uh, sure? Has a fragrant aromatic bouquet of smelling like wine. Notes of peaches?"


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Hey, menace, aw... you sure have some adorable baby pictures. I remember back when yeh were a wee bairn of a keyword, laddie. Sorry, sometimes my Scottish heritage takes over random sentences. I remember your mom couldn't decide on a name so we used to just write you out on cards. You were an adorable toddler as a Two-Headed Sliver. Now look at you, all grown up and evergreen and ready to be mean. Brings a tear to my eye.

Phil Foglio is a great artist. Not only for his pure artistic talent, but because he knew when to properly apply the principle of "less is more". By showing us a completely hooded figure and then the reactions to seeing its face, we can imagine something that terrifies us. He knows that he draws cartoony and not scary and doesn't even try. The same can't be said about the Fifth Edition version...

I guess it's supposed to be a jokey card, which in general I'm all for, but giving menace to anyone wearing a muppet on their head makes it feel a little bit too easy. Can anyone wearing a butterfly costume get flying? Can anyone holding a letter opener get first strike?  Maybe Dominaria has a deep-rooted psychological fear of googly eyes, after the poorly documented Puppet Invasion of 3033. (#19 in a series of 37 Dominarian Apocalypses, collect 'em all!)

Imposing Visage is part of a proud family of terrible auras that grant a single evergreen keyword and do absolutely nothing else. Of course, when he was born he had no idea he was actually part of the family, like a Victorian housemaid's illegitimate child.

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And we might as well throw in those disowned by the family, the black sheep keywords that used to be evergreen.

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Welcome to the evergreen family, Menace, from Goblin War Drums (your first picture) to today. I have a hard time believing that the designers of Fallen Empires had enough vision to even accidentally create an evergreen keyword, but somehow they did!


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Pashalik Mons is probably one of the top 5 most famous goblins in Magic history, he just got name-dropped in Dominaria, and in Fifth Edition he finally got new artwork worthy of it. So.... he and all of his raiders add up to a 1/1? Does that mean he's a 0.2/0.2? Or maybe because he's boss, he's a 0.4/0.4, and the other 4 are each 0.15/0.15 creatures?

Here's a (very) incomplete list of the things that can kill Pashalik Mons (again, one of the top 5 most famous goblins in Magic) and his ENTIRE WARBAND of goblin raiders in a single battle:

1) a squirrel
2) a poet
3) two Little Girls
4) a Sanctuary Cat -or- an Adorable Kitten
5) a Tree Monkey
6) an ant
7) a plant
8) a single normal-size Spider, Rat, Ferret, Bat, Fish, Fox, Turtle, Dog (I mean Hound), Deer (I mean Elk), etc.
9) a tiny newborn lobster, or whatever the hell a "camarid" is
10) a sponge
11) one Goblin Raider, who can apparently single-handedly defeat 10 of these goblin raiders, which makes no goddang sense at all

Mons is also archenemies with the Nalathni Dragons and their weird yellow alien dude-bros, who are called the Olesians. Apparently, the Olesians are literally straight out of a science fiction novel. Magic got some unused concept art for that novel, had the artist draw in a dragon, and voila! They printed it. So, next time we return to Dominaria, let's please remember to visit the yellow aliens and their archenemies, the goblins killed by paper cuts and skinned knees.


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If this card was created in meme-tacular 2018, it'd be called either "GET SWOLE" or "THICC BOI". Apparently Wizards' opinion of extreme bodybuilding is very low, because they decided in 1994 that muscles = brutish behavior. Then when reprinting it with new art, when they could have done almost anything to show a "brute", decided to express that exact same point again only with added muscle lightning for some reason. When I imagine a Magic card called The Brute, this is not exactly the first thing to spring to mind. The Steroid, yes, The Brute, no.

It's always been really weird that the card's called _THE_ Brute. There's not a single other aura or equipment in Magic's 25 year history that starts with "The". We would've got the point if it was just named Brute or Brutish, ya know? "The Brute" sounds like a terrible 1980s cologne with a highly abstract and more-than-slightly-misogynistic TV commercial where you never see anyone's face, but only people's lips as they whisper things like "she's yours... take her... your power is undeniable... The Brute from Calvin Klein." (Not to be confused with Brut, which is an actual cologne but isn't nearly fancy enough to use an unnecessary "The".)

Ignoring exactly how "being muscular" means you "can regenerate from death", here's some other ways to get +1/+0 that don't involve 7 years at the gym and shrunken testicles:

Like, just move faster
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Be super hangry
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Get some rad tattoos
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Pick up a stick, or a piece glass
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All of that just seems way, way easier than getting swole to become a thicc boi.


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Let's compare these guys to their original artwork. I personally like the Fifth Edition art a bit more, but even if you don't, the Alpha/Legends versions are definitely way more cuddly and less "fantasy combat".

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I love me the classic Magic artists, but Magic card art was a very different thing in '93 and '94. Alpha's Ironroot Treefolk is a grumpy sitcom neighbor, whereas the grins on the Fifth Edition ones are super creepy, as if they're debating the merits of human flesh as a fertilizer. The Alpha Wall of Brambles has a random single flower and/or strawberry; thank you wall that's poking me to death. And the Legends Wolverine Pack shows an adorable wolverine family on vacation where they have to warn junior not to get too close to the edge as they debate where they're going to eat lunch, and if they should call ahead because not every place can seat seven, and who has the phone that doesn't charge for roaming again? Fifth Edition shows us an actual rampaging Wolverine Pack in a berserker rage right before Colossus throws them in a fastball special. I mean - not that. Sorry, after a while everything blends into an amorphous pop culture amoeba in my head.


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You know that I'm big a fan of Joven and Chandler, two of the very few cool legends to come from the abyss that is Homelands. See article 4 for some of my gushing about them. If only this card had an ability that was more useful than its flavor text.

Joven's Tools are part of Magic's decade-long series of proto-equipment artifacts before they knew they wanted equipment, like, for sure. They even redid it exactly as an equipment you've completely forgotten exists, Prowler's Helm. Note that the Helm costs 2 and 2, and you don't have to pay every turn. After 4 turns of using it, you'd have invested 4 mana versus the 22(!) mana you'd need to get the same effect with Joven's Tools. And the Helm was barely playable in limited. Joven's Tools definitely has its ticket punched to the Bad Card Ball.

The Homelands art definitely shows Joven's thieving tools, ready to pick some locks and break some windows, etc. The Fifth Edition art looks more like it's part of his "tools" at Snarg's House of Sin (yes, still a real Magic thing). There's a rope, and some kind of sky blue leather strap, some kind of metal hot dog holder, and what appears to be a severed thumb. And it's all laying on a red silk curtain. Yeah, that has to be awkward when he gets his bags mixed up and has to break into a house using silk handcuffs and leather whips.


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I'm not saying the Fallen Empires art for these lands is fantastic or anything, but they're like, places? The Fifth Edition ones are more like the results of an Iron Chef-style competition where the artist had 15 minutes to paint 5 pieces, and the secret ingredient was "ARCHES". They're all super weird. The Bottomless Vault, Dwarven Hold, and Sand Silos are all just random ruins. How secure is this vault if the roof is leaking and there are big holes in the floor? Does the dwarven army live under that one arch that hasn't fallen down in this rubble? Is there sand and/or a silo anywhere in that picture?

The Icatian Store is less of a retail outlet and more of a high-end art gallery, displaying floating armor and spears, plus a Caesar statue in the background I guess you can buy too if you're rich enough. If it's supposed to be an actual store, my recommendation is that they get some products to sell that aren't armor or spears, or at least get the armor in some different sizes, sheesh. How many size XXL ab-enhancing breastplates can you sell in a month? You could try selling some hair gel. Everyone needs hair gel.

The Hollow Trees deserve some extra pixels. At small size it looks like a random mess, but blown up you realize how literally the artist took it.

Yeah, those are a bunch of swords and spears hanging out in the middle of the Hollow Trees. It's actually kinda cool, in a "This has absolutely nothing to do with storing green mana and green creatures almost never use weapons" kind of way.

This is also the same artist that did the rather "interesting" Dark Maze above, and total of two other Magic cards I haven't mentioned, and that's it. But lest you think I'm picking on him, he's now a super-successful sci-fi/fantasy artist who goes by Dave (not David) Seeley, and who does Star Wars book covers and such. All his Magic cards are from 1997, when he was first starting out, and way less polished than he is today. Of course, that's unless my google-fu has led me completely astray and I found the wrong guy. Regardless, you can check out some of Dave Seeley's awesome artwork here.


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Did you forget? Yeah, I almost forgot. But there's one card among these 31 that I think Magic should actually bother bringing online, and that's Alpha classic color hoser and color pie breaker Lifetap. C'mon, it's one of 5 mono-U lifegain cards in the history of Magic, and it's not terrible in multiplayer. Someone's going to have some forests, and by turn 10 you've gained 25 life on average, in tiny 1 life increments ripe for "whenever you gain life" triggers. And unlike Powerleech, its sorta-kinda companion card, it totally goes in Oloro, Ageless Ascetic.

And that's not even mentioning the amazing artwork by Sandman co-creator Mike Dringenberg. I indulge too much, but here, let's take another zoom in.

Now there's something playmat worthy. I mean, the original Alpha artwork is... uh... probably on the wrong card.

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If you can figure out what that art has to do with forests, or lifegain, or the color blue in any conceivable way, you should probably just take over my bad-card-reviewing-job, because I don't even know where to begin. Into the Inexplicable Art Cube it goes!

Anyway, Lifetap is the best Fifth Edition card not online, which says something about either A) how thorough they've been at getting every playable card online, or B) how terrible Fifth Edition was. And I have 150 counter-examples for point A.


Alright, that's the main article, but there's 218 new pieces of art that are almost never seen, so I wanted to do a quick lightning round where I show you some of the oddest artwork from the set. A few of them might be familiar from later printings, but all of them debuted here. Nothing against the artists, it was more than 20 years ago and it's just my personal opinion. Plus, it's all part of the fun.

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I don't know what's going on with Sleevy McSleeverson here, but I am not getting it. He doesn't even seem to have a torso, much less any legs.

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This is how Easter Island feels every time someone comes to visit. Go 'Way!

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The others in this cycle are pretty good, but it's tough to pass (over) this one - it's a piece of poop. The swamp has literally formed a poop circle that you're supposed to sit in to feel safe and protected. Zoom in the art as close as you like - still poop. Not sure how the heck Wizards let it get to print but I imagine a big meeting where everyone saw it on the slide but no one wanted to be the first to speak up lest they be called "Poop-Seeing Johnny" for the rest of their career. So they all just let it go, figuring at some point SOMEONE would stop it. Nope.

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Did you just spill some ink on that guy's face and not bother to wipe it off? I really should make this Inexplicable Art Cube that I keep threatening to do.

When you hire someone to paint 4 forests, one for each season, you should probably stop and check that they are not an alien and know what a tree looks like first. (Supergirl the terrible 1980s movie had this same problem.) I'm not sure what these pinecone-looking things are, except probably painful to step on, but my brain just can't get there in terms of seeing a forest in these images. Weird comforters? Tiny ice cream cones? Celery and nut party trays? Brussel sprouts dipped in cheese? Maybe. Forest? No.

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Pretty good on a technical level, but it's also hilarious and awkward. "My gauntlets have suddenly come alive and want to take me... dancing?"

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Nope. Next!

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I didn't know that the ringmaster guy from Moulin Rouge had a cat. I guess we did know he had some kind of terminal illness, because everyone in that movie had some kind of terminal illness. (Harold Zidler played by Jim Broadbent, to save you the look up.)

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I think you're going to fail pottery class.

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For mud hobos, they have some pretty glam matching orange boots going on.

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Solemn Simulacrum is a sad robot. This particular robot makes me sad. I can't tell if he's actually a two-nosed robot, or if the real him is hiding under there and wearing a Darth Vader-style mask with breathing tubes, or what. Regardless, if I was a Shapeshifter, I wouldn't be caught dead wearing two-nose-golden-gorilla-robot. 

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You just watched the Mad Max movies. We get it. WE GET IT. STOP. STOP PAINTING THAT.

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Tawnos's Weaponry was originally depicted as a single sword, which worked just fine since it proto-equipped just a single creature. That's all we needed. You really don't need to show us every decoration that Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice meticulously hung up in some kind of obsessively-symmetrical macho wall display. Tawnos is the kind of guy who buys two swords "to impress the ladies" at every comicon. You know that guy.

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I'm pretty sure this isn't a Magic card, but part of a college band flyer that accidentally fell into the printing press.

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Yes, I'd like a side of fires with that.


Seems only fair to show ya some of my favorite Fifth Edition artwork as well. I won't do them individually, because having me say "Good job, gold star!" each time is kind of boring. It's why I don't write 5000-word articles of glowing reviews of Jace planeswalkers. (Except you, Jace, the Living Guildpact. Bad job, no star!)

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Ah, cool art trapped indefinitely in a white border prison - and generally also trapped on terrible cards, but there's no helping that. Now that our gluttonous holiday tale is done, let me leave you with what's probably the most famous (or infamous) piece of art in Fifth Edition. Perhaps this Christmas you'll have a vision of this very "unique" reindeer landing on your roof as you drift off to sleep. Have a great holiday season, talk to you again sometime next year!











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