Master of the Landscape: Rob Alexander

Posted in Event Coverage on November 7, 2003

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

There is nobody who has illustrated as many tournament-significant lands as Rob Alexander. Going all the way back to his masterful takes on the dual lands up to his stunning oil painting for Flooded Strand, Alexander has put his deft brush to some of the most desirable cards in the game's history--and those are just the rares! He has also done beautiful renditions of the basic lands including the new Arena lands to debut later this year.

A long line of Japanese fans awaited him when he arrived this morning with binders plump with his most famous pieces. I saw at least one binder stuffed with page after page of Alpha/Beta Taigas and Underground Seas that was slowly getting autographed--eight items at a time, thank you very much! Occasional Sideboard reporter Eli Kaplan was cheated out his obligatory round two feature match when his opponent failed a deck check. He took his win and high-tailed it over the line to get his fetch lands and dual lands signed--one of each that Alexander painted. "His work really depicts a sense of majesty. His landscapes are a nice contrast to the recent change in art direction toward more aggressive pieces. He and Rebecca Guay are important contributors in that regard."

Despite having almost a full round worth of time to wait, Kaplan was in danger of not making it to the front of the line before round three began. Alexander is the ideal guest artist at any event. He takes time and care with each person and their cards despite a formidable language barrier. (Alexander is thinking about studying Japanese but only knows a smattering of words.)

Alexander was exceedingly gracious with each person and was even doing quick sketches upon request. He did a metallic marker drawing of Taiga on one lucky gentleman's binder. He was even recreating some famous pieces on blank cards--like the ones accompanying Worlds decks. He did more than one recreation of his rendition of Armageddon from the original Portal series. That was also one of the most popular artist proofs he was selling.

His first creations for Magic were his dual lands as well as Lance, Web and Twiddle for the Alpha edition. While Twiddle had to wait until New Orleans to get its due--Rob was surprised by how many of those he was asked to sign--the dual lands are among the most significant cards in the game's history. A history that Rob had no inkling would come to pass when he first accepted the assignments from then art director Jesper Meyfors.

"I had no clue how big the game would become. I actually turned down Jesper several times. Fortunately he was very persistent!" At the time Rob was pretty new to the field of illustration. He had a few book covers and magazine illustrations to his credit but Magic really launched his career and he has become one of the premiere artists in the fantasy gaming field.

While Alexander is mostly known as a landscape artist, his figurative work is equally stunning. His work on Jinxed Choker stands out as one of the finest pieces in Mirrodin. When asked for his favorite Magic piece, Rob was quick to answer, "Spectral Cloak. I loved doing that piece. I also loved the stuff for Metalworld--I mean Mirrodin, sorry. That work was very challenging but also very rewarding."

Among the four fetch lands he lent his talents to, Flooded Strand stands apart from the pack conveying a sense of serenity that is rarely seen in Magic. Alexander explained that was a special piece he did in oil--most of his other work is watercolors. "Whenever I can do an oil painting like Flooded Strand or Divergent Growth I am pleased, but it is more intensive and I rarely have the time."

Alexander's time is mostly consumed by illustration for Magic and other card games. "Trading card games take up most of my time. When I do have an opening in my schedule I have become more interested in conceptual work. I am doing some stuff for a Microsoft video game and that is a lot of fun!" Rob was also involved in the concept and design work for the next block of Magic expansions codenamed, "Earth", "Wind" and "Fire". "I did most of the landscape and architectural design for the new set."

Asked if he minded being known as the land guy, Alexander smiled, "I grew up in the Canadian Rockies so whenever I can do a snow-covered Mountain, I am happy.

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