Tuesday, 25 May 2021 09:33

The original Withengar Unbound: How new artwork changed everything up

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Concept sketch for Withengar. Concept sketch for Withengar. WOTC / ERIC DESCHAMPS

Sometimes commissioned art doesn't work out. Magic: The Gathering has an entire history of cards where there were crossed wires or something was misunderstood and the intended piece of art became something else entirely.

And, in 2011 a big one happened. That's the year Innistrad came out, and, for the entire block, there was to be only one legendary double-faced card: Withengar Unbound.

Initially, the card's artist, Eric Deschamps, had big plans for it.

In the original artwork, Withengar was supposed to be missing a finger, with the opposite side of the card being that finger crafted into a knife that can summon him when wanted. The guy would have basically been a powerful demon that could only be summoned with the knife -- a bit of complex card play for players that can do quite a bit of damage when utilized correctly.

So, what happened?

Well, Wizards of the Coast found that the demon simply wasn't intimidating enough. So, they had Deschamps draw him to be even bigger. And by the time he was done, Withengar was huge. So huge, in fact, that his finger-claws would be way too large to be made into a knife....or sword...or weedwhacker. See if you can spot that in the concept art:

Concept artwork for Withengar // WOTC-ERIC DESCHAMPS

So Withengar Unbound simply became a creature card, with the knife being reutilized into Elbrus the Binding Blade. While still useful, especially with Withengar tacked onto its backside, it just didn't have the same one-two flippable punch of what had been proposed.

In Eric Deschamps' own words on Twitter years later "In the original sketch for Withengar Unbound the demon is missing a finger/claw. I intended for the card's reverse side to be that missing claw crafted into a blade that summons the demon. In the end he had to be redrawn as a large as a building, so the idea was thrown out." 

Despite the change, Innistrad came to be one of the most popular sets in years and is still producing offshoots a decade later. Had it stayed in it's original form, Withengar could have influenced more cards to be double sided or even base entire summoning mechanics around them. But, thanks to an art change, a few things were scaled back (ironically, thanks to the demon being scaled up). But hey, at least we got some pretty awesome concept art out of it.