Ravnica Allegiance has been out for a little while, so you've probably seen a lot of these beautiful pieces at card size in person or coming alive inside MTG Arena. What you haven't seen are the pitches our art directors created to inspire the artists. So now, without further ado, let's go behind the scenes to share a few of the pitches that led to several of my favorite pieces of art from the set.
Bankrupt in Blood
Color: Black spell
Intention: This spell sacrifices two creatures so its caster can gain knowledge. We'd like to show this as an abstract take on a lethal Orzhov religious ritual.
Action: Two humans, one male and one female, sit back to back. Their mouths are open, screaming. (They're tied up, if we can see that far down). The tops of their heads are dissolving into a mixture of coins and blood mist that drifts upward and out of frame from the dissolving heads. The coins and blood mist coming from the two heads should mix.
Focus: The magical transformation of their bodies into coins
Mood: Unsettling, powerless
Notes: Although this calls for blood and for bodies coming apart, we don't want gore or body horror here—we're looking for a sense of being literally transformed.
Color: Black-red spell
Location: The audience at a Rakdos performance
Action: This is a crowd shot of the audience of a Rakdos show reacting to something particularly gruesome on stage. Show us a variety of guilded and unguilded audience members with a variety of genders, ethnicities, creature races, and ages. Have fun with what each person thinks of the show—most are disgusted, some are terrified, maybe one is retching, maybe only one person is having a good time.
Rakdos performances are horrifying, violent, and disturbing. How can we get that across by just showing the audience reaction?
We do want to get an important gag in here: make sure one of the audiences is Fblthp. Fblthp is a small homunculus with a bad habit of getting lost, and we want to imply that he accidentally wandered into this performance. Fblthp is definitely shocked by what he's seeing—maybe he's covering his mouth in surprise.
Focus: The disgust/shock/terror of the audience
Mood: An amusing glimpse at what a Rakdos performer sees during their shows
Clear the Mind
Color: Blue spell
Location: Abstract; perhaps set in a street scene
Intention: This is an abstract representation of a spell that erases your past but gives you insight into the future. The description below gives some ideas for how to do that, but none of the details in it are as important as getting across that big idea.
Action: Show an unguilded human mage walking through a street scene. Behind them, the scene is fading out or disappearing—perhaps looking like a DaVinci sketch, or an unfinished watercolor, or like it's being literally erased. The scene in front of them, if we can see it, might look supernaturally vibrant, or outlined in shimmering blue, like a vision.
Focus: The abstract magical effect
Mood: Leave the past behind, and look to a beautiful future.
Color: Black-red creature
Location: Performing in any Ravnica street scene or at a Rakdos environment of your choice
Action: Each guild has its own specialized spellcasters to practice their style of guild magic. This is a guildmage of the Rakdos: a male human who looks like a mad jester and puppeteer. Give him a marionette that's a mocking caricature of the Planeswalker Jace Beleren. Maybe the puppeteer-mage grins unsettlingly as he makes the wooden Jace puppet dance a ridiculous dance.
Focus: The jester
Mood: "Jace the wooden, Jace the blind, Jace got termites and lost his mind! Doot-dooty-dooo, HA-haha-HA!"
Color: Land associated with red and green
Intent: In the city-world of Ravnica, every guild has two "guildgates"—entrances to that guild's territory. One of them is big and spectacular, and the other that is small and secretive. This one is the small and secretive version.
Action: Imagine a part of the city that has been reduced to rubble, and the only thing left standing is a modest archway with a wooden door that remains intact. For this shot, focus on the door, which has the Gruul symbol painted on it in red paint. The gag here is that you can just walk around the door because everything around it is wrecked.
Focus: The small door
Mood: A savage place; also a bit absurd
Color: White-black spell
Location: Inside a luxurious Orzhov treasure room
Intent: This spell shows a key story moment when the Planeswalker Kaya murders the Ghost Council, a group of old dead dudes who run the Orzhov guild. In the game, the card destroys all creatures, so we're going to see some mayhem. Kaya uses a signature purple-white magic to physically interact with ghosts, so anywhere we see her touching one, her body or weapons should turn into that glowing purple-white energy.
Action: This is a cinematic, slow-motion shot during an epic, many-against-one fight scene. Kaya is in the middle of the shot dealing out death to the ghosts who surround her. She might have her knife in one's chest, while another flails backward, his throat slit, spilling smoky "ghost blood" as he falls. Kaya throws small knives of purple-white magic that impale more ghosts, all of them spilling smoky "ghost blood" as their undead life slips away. Really emphasize the action here—every single ghost in this room is dead, dying, or about to die. And through it all, Kaya smiles wide, loving every minute.
Focus: The epic multiple murder
Mood: They had her outnumbered and surrounded. They never stood a chance.