Exploring Ixalan - Captivating Crew

Posted in Feature on September 12, 2017

By Nicholas Wolfram

Nicholas Wolfram fell promptly in love with tabletop and video games when he was only two years old, and he has been writing about them since he figured out how words worked. Now he puts together words about Magic, which he started playing way back in 2000.

As part of our preview season for Ixalan, we are going to take a deeper look at some of the cards previewed on our own homepage. Today, we'll be peering behind the scenes of the process that went into creating the design and art of Captivating Crew, which was previewed in Sam Stoddard's article today.


The ability on Captivating Crew is one we've seen as an enters-the-battlefield effect on several red creatures: Zealous Conscripts, Conquering Manticore, Molten Primordial, and more. But the inspiration for Captivating Crew was a card with this effect that sported an equally captivating figurehead: Enthralling Victor. The set team wanted to call back specifically to this fan-loved card, so they stuck with the four-mana cost and made a few design tweaks.

First, they decided to upshift the rarity to allow for a splashier effect and bigger payoff. At rare, they felt that making the ability activated instead of triggered was reasonable and added a great amount of value. Furthermore, without any tap cost, the payoff of the ability continues to scale into late game where it can potentially be triggered twice per turn for devastating swings.


While the effect of Enthralling Victor is great, it is almost certainly the art that elevated the card to a true Magic icon. So, when the art team had a card inspired by Enthralling Victor that also represented an irresistibly charismatic figure, they knew exactly who to call: Winona Nelson, Enthralling Victor's artist. Here is what Winona was sent:

Setting: Ixalan

Color: Red creature associated with the Brazen Coalition

Location: In the Pirate floating city, in an open area (maybe once the deck of a ship, or several ships lashed together), with torches and lanterns surrounding it, creating a festive atmosphere

Action: Show a handsome male Human Pirate, a dashing rogue rather than a muscle-man. He stands in a sort of flamboyant pose, extending a hand to the viewer as if inviting us to dance. We might see a couple behind him already dancing, and perhaps a musician as well.

In addition, a male Ogre sits behind him, looking at him with star-struck admiration, as if hoping to be picked next for the dance.

Focus: The handsome Pirate

Mood: Festive, exciting

Note: This card is very similar to Enthralling Victor, and we're aiming for a similar sort of vibe to it.

This is what Winona delivered:

Captivating Crew
Captivating Crew | Art by Winona Nelson

Clearly, she nailed it. This is a party I would definitely go to. The soft lighting from the lanterns and jovial nature of the background characters make the scene inviting enough, but the main Pirate's posture and expression really drive things home. One may come to wonder what happened to his hand . . . but the correct answer is clearly "Who cares?" Just accept his invitation and join the party!

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