A Look at Real-Life People on Magic Cards


Believe it or not, actual real people have appeared in the art of Magic: The Gathering cards.

Finding real world references on Magic: The Gathering cards can be hard nowadays. Besides special promotional cards of different series which has been happening since the late 2010s, you'll be hard pressed to find any direct movie, TV, video game, political, or really any other sort of real life figure in an expansion.

And it's pretty obvious why.

Having Walter White as a planeswalker or an art piece showing a dragon outside a Starbucks would be, at the very least, distracting. While it might be hilarious, it's only in that fever dream sort of way. (Apologies to Secret Lairs and Universes Beyond content, of course.)

But it used to be somewhat prevalent.

Entire early expansions, like Arabian Nights, were based off of centuries old source material. Flavor text had a ton of odd quotes too, ranging from Calvin Coolidge to William Shakespeare to Douglas MacArthur to other people who would make odd drinking buddies in the afterlife.

So much so, in fact we actually did an entire article about it.

But, despite the real world leaking into Magic a bit during the early years, there was one place they never really went: the card art.

Famous people just did not pop up on cards. And, again, this is outside the scope of promotional cards or cards where they kind of based it off of legends and whatnot.

Well, except for that one major time.

For this, we have to go back to 1994 to the Legends set.

An enchantment card, Presence of the Master cost three generic mana and a white. It counters any new enchantment spells. It's pretty handy to have, really.

And, once you played it, well, there was a glaring thing about it.

Can you spot it?

It doesn't take an Einstein to see it because, well, it is literally Albert Einstein.

Yup. Albert Einstein is featured on a Magic card.

The obvious juxtaposition of magic/science notwithstanding, the image is so glaring that many players have thought of it to be fake or part of the UN series. But it is very much real. 

As more modern Magic cards have eschewed references like that, the Urza's Saga reprint of the card came with new art that, in our humble opinion, kind of misses the mark -- especially when you compare it to the original done by Phil Foglio.

Now, will Magic players eventually see more cards with famous scientists featured in the art?  Well, odds are players won't even see the original Presence of the Master art on a card ever again, so probably not.

And, of course, there's the Un-card, Richard Garfield, Ph.D., as well as the Invitation cards, but those are a different matter altogether.

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.