As many MTG players will know, there are a lot of things that make Magic: The Gathering great. For starters, Magic obviously boasts incredible complexity, allowing for near-infinite replayability. As if this wasn’t enough, the game is also fantastically customizable, with countless collectible options. Alongside these all-important details, MTG also has oodles of gorgeous artwork to admire.
Unfortunately, while the outstanding artwork is one of the best parts of MTG, it can cause some problems too. Sometimes, for instance, artwork can be too difficult to discern, causing substantial legibility issues. More problematically than this, however, the artwork in MTG can also cause legal issues from time to time. Disappointingly, it seems this latter problem has reared its head once again, as it appears an artist has been caught stealing another’s work.
In The Lost Cavern of Ixalan, there’s a lot of absolutely stellar art to be excited about. The Borderless Oltec cards, for instance, each look utterly fantastic with beautifully striking visuals. Alongside these, the set’s non-showcase cards are stunning too. Just look at the new art for Cultivate, for instance.
Oozing with style and flavor within the Mesoamerican aesthetic, every card in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is beautiful. Unfortunately, however, there is still a major problem with some of the set’s artwork. For starters, all of it is not coming to MTG Arena. More problematically than this, however, is the fact one card may feature stolen artwork.
Over the weekend, MTG Artist Lorenzo Lanfranconi took to Twitter with major art-stealing accusations. According to Lanfranconi, the new art for Wayfarer’s Bauble, prominently features their work. Problematically, however, Lanfranconi is not the artist on this new card. Instead, David Sondered is the artist credited for this piece.
Highlighting the problem, Lanfranconi showcased their own work, and Wayfarer’s Bauble side by side. While not every detail is exact, and Wayfarer’s Bauble is flipped, the similarities are nonetheless obvious. So much so, in fact, that Lanfranconi wasn’t quiet about calling out this stolen artwork.
“@wizards_magic just want to let you know one of you artists stole one of my paintings to paste it as it is in the background of their illustration. I don’t even want to know the reason behind this. It’s so stupid that deserve a prize. LOL”
While we can trust Lanfranconi to recognize their own artwork, this art theft isn’t just speculation. In a follow-up tweet, Lanfranconi confirmed that the artist, Sondered, reached out to both themselves and Wizards. While we don’t know exactly what was said in this exchange, it appears to confirm Lanfranconi’s artwork was indeed used without permission.
What Happens Now?
As if the confirmation from Lanfranconi wasn’t enough proof, David Sondered also owned up to their mistake. In a now-deleted tweet, Sondered explained their side of the story, claiming Lanfranconi’s work was used as a reference. While this practice isn’t entirely unheard of, Sondered admits they made a mistake this time around.
“In my process of painting I collect references, especially for things I feel uncertain about, and sometimes I put those positioned on the canvas and paint over them,” explains Sondered. “I sometimes use this as a way to make my illustration unique by overpainting and altering the reference until it isn’t possible to see the original piece anymore.
In this case, I have unfortunately not done a good job of turning it into a uniquely mine painting. I could show how I have painted over things but in the end it does not matter.”
David Sondered (Via The Gamer)
Despite the potential severity of this situation, on Twitter, Lanfranconi seemed rather understanding of this rather blatant theft. In a follow-up tweet, Lanfranconi theorized that “Probably overwork led to this,” before issuing a final statement on the matter. I would just say, continue making your art but without pasting/painting over stuff taken from other people’s work.”
As much as Lanfranconi may seem fairly accepting on the surface, currently, there’s no telling what’s going on behind the scenes. There’s no word, for instance, on whether or not Lanfranconi will receive compensation for their artwork being used. Additionally, there’s no telling if David Sondered will ever make art for MTG again.
The last time an artist was caught using another’s work on an MTG card, Wizards has not worked with them since. Most recently, this happened with Jason Felix, who created Crux of Fate for the Strixhaven Mystical archive. In creating this piece, Felix “overtly featured” fan art of Nicol Bolas by artist Kitt Lapeña. Following this discovery, Wizards released a statement, cutting ties with Jason Felix.
“It has come to our attention that the card Crux of Fate from the Strixhaven: School of Mages Mystical Archive may overtly feature Magic: The Gathering fan art and the contracted artist did not receive permission for this incorporation. These actions do not reflect the values of Wizards, and, as a result, we will be suspending future work with Jason Felix until we have been able to bring this matter to successful conclusion.”
Currently, Wizards of the Coast has not released a statement on the latest art theft situation. Since they are reportedly aware of what has happened, however, it may only be a matter of time before a statement is released.
The People Aren’t Happy
While Wizards of the Coast may not have yet ruled on this latest debacle, MTG players have already had their say. As you might imagine, the majority of players are seriously not pleased with this faux pa. So much so, in fact, that it’s reasonable to think these disgruntled players could sway Wizards’ decision-making.
Across both Twitter and Reddit, MTG players weren’t shy about voicing their disappointment. More prominently, however, players were quick to mention the card’s ironic flavor text. Mentioning how “Chimil never sees the same lands twice,” there’s definitely a sad irony in this MTG artwork debacle.
Beyond just users on social media, MTG card gallery Scryfall was quick to take a stance. Seemingly unprompted, Scryfall added Lorenzo Lanfranconi to the artist credits of the new Wayfarer’s Bauble. This move, however, was swiftly reverted once Lanfranconi spoke out against this change, not wanting to seem involved with the decision.
Currently on Scryfall, a caveat is attached to The Lost Caverns of Ixalan’s version of Wayfarer’s Bauble. Reading “Card art incorporates an original piece by Lorenzo Lanfranconi,” hopefully this note will help to clear up any confusion. As helpful as this may be, however, we’re still waiting on Wizards to issue a formal response.