Circle Of Protection: Black - The Crazy Story Of The First Digital Art Magic Card

Illus: Jesper Myfors

The first Magic: The Gathering card with digital art wasn't exactly planned as such.

Nowadays, digital art is common in Magic, as well as pretty much any other card game. Considering that digital art even a few decades ago was a bit clunky, it's often hard to pinpoint when your first one pops up. But for Magic, it happened all the way back in Beta. By necessity.

Back in 1993, Magic contracted all sorts of artists for their cards. As the deadline approached for print date, there was only one straggler - Circle of Protection: Black. Originally meant for Limited Editions's Alpha release, they reportedly had to push it to Beta because of the delays. And, when they called the artist up whom they had contracted to do the card's illustration, it turns out he had bailed.

With no other option, and the deadline, like, now, then-art director, Jesper Myrfors, quickly came up with a solution: make it quickly on his early 1990s computer with a then-early version of Adobe Photoshop. He had to break his own rules to do it, but what other option was there with it being so last minute?

While good for 1993, you can kind of tell nowadays that it was made on, well, a early 90s computer. It certainly has one of the most basic pieces of art ever to grace a card:

According to an interview with Myrfors, "Deadlines. It had accidently been left out of Alpha and by the time the mistake was noticed Beta was about to go to press, that same day. So I had to create an illustration with no art supplies on hand. So I broke my own rule and did it in Photoshop so that the product could go to press. Not a proud moment. Not a good result."

While Myrfors wasn't happy with the finished piece, it did the trick. Job done. But Myrfors, in the years later after leaving Magic, kept on making a lot of money from it as early artists got $50 per piece, plus 6% royalties and $50 in stock. Circle of Protection: Black wound up making him a lot of money plus, well, anything digital from back then is going to look at least a little dated today.

In the end, Wizards of the Coast got their CoP: Black artwork and the card ended up getting a ton of reprints. Oh, and it made Myrfors made a decent amount of money.

Everyone sort of won. Plus, it led a precedent into having more and more digital artwork for the future.

Evan Symon

Evan Symon is a graduate of The University of Akron and has been a working journalist ever since with works published by Cracked, GeekNifty, the Pasadena Independent, California Globe, and, of course, Magic Untapped.