Monster Menagerie: Sphinxes

Posted in Arcana on June 25, 2014

By Bonnie Bruenderman

Bonnie Bruenderman is a visual designer for DailyMTG. The authors write the articles; the editors edit; then she gets to add cards, images, funnies, charts, graphs... whatever the article needs above and beyond the text. She has a very nerdy sense of humor. (Someday, her illustrated mutant amalgamations shall take over the Multiverse! Patience, my pet. Patience.....)

I love cats.

There, I said it. Somehow, I doubt anyone is surprised. Let's just say when we all got a Funko Pop figure delivered to our desks as a gift, I begged, bartered, and pleaded until I was able to trade for Ajani.

Sphinxes are pretty amazing as well, and they are part cat! Depending on the mythological tradition, Sphinxes might be male or female, benevolent or malevolent, and have the head of a human but body of a lion. It is mostly agreed that sphinxes are highly intelligent and generally quite ferocious.

Magic has taken all these traits and combined them into a robust and interesting creature type with lots of variety. The one (mostly) consistent feature is color. With the exception of Petra Sphinx, all Magic Sphinxes contain blue. Considering their affiliation with riddles, intelligence, prophecy, and the like, it makes sense.

M15 has a shiny new Sphinx card for us! It's an outside-designer card by David Sirlin, but we're here about art! I like my Sphinxes old, wise, and fluffy. I also prefer benevolent sphinxes, perhaps with some indication that a wild Neverending Story–type adventure could happen with my wise, winged friend! That seems pretty unlikely with Master of Predicaments.

Master of Predicaments | Art by Matt Stewart

The art description itself calls for:

"a huge, powerful looking winged sphinx who is glaring menacingly at the camera. This is not a benevolent sphinx that grants knowledge. This is a malevolent and cruel being who enjoys forcing people to choose their doom. Behind his throne/perch/pedestal we can see formidable doors. Each of the doors has a small window in it (like the eye-contact slots on solid prison doors) the bars are all backlit with soft, ominous blue light from whatever is behind the doors.

He makes you choose which door you open to travel through. One of them will probably kill you."

I get uneasy looking at this kitty. I would not try to pet him. The art is lovely, though. When I first looked at the art, it struck me that the eyes mirrored the doors, in color and shape and spacing. The trio of objects makes a great focus for the piece. I love how Stewart was able to achieve a recessed background when that is where the light seems to be emanating from. Usually, the typical rules of "blues/darks recede, reds/lights bring forward" are leaned on. He broke the rules, but did so well, and with purpose. The focus of the piece is certainly the doors: They are what tie the art to the mechanic of the card: You must make a choice! Mwahaha!

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