MTG artist shares a nostalgic behind-the-scenes of 90s cards

Magic The Gathering card art for Brainstorm, showing a woman in a blue headscarf with curly black hair closing her eyes, smiling, and touching her fingers to her temples

Plenty of artists use real-life as a reference when they create. The same is true for Tony DiTerlizzi – who is perhaps best known as the author of the children’s book series The Spiderwick Chronicles, but who also provided plenty of art for Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons back in the 1990s and 2000s (plus the more recent MTG set, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms). On July 7, DiTerlizzi shared some lighthearted insight into how he created some classic MTG cards.

“Throwing it back to the 1990s – and my wife and friends who were cool enough to pose with blankets as capes and pretend they were wizards for a totally awesome card game”, DiTerlizzi said on Twitter. The tweet was accompanied by a thread of DIY reference photos (which you can see below).

The photos show how a group of enthusiastic friends (and one talented artist) can turn a heap of items you’d find around the house into props for one of the world’s biggest tabletop games. Through DiTerlizzi’s pictures, you can see how cards like Brainstorm, Coercion, Nether Shadow, and Venomous Breath came to life.

DiTerlizzi also shares references for Elvish Ranger, Exhaustion, Skyshroud Troopers – and a very creative, for-some-reason shirtless Sea Spirit. “Good times!”, DiTerlizzi reminisces on Twitter.

At a fan’s request, DiTerlizzi also shares the superstar model behind the Giant Growth card – and it’s just an ordinary mouse found in a nature book. Granted, they’re a very distinguished-looking rodent.

DiTerlizzi’s photos take us back to a time when Magic: The Gathering wasn’t the polished powerhouse we know it as today, and MTG sets’ styles weren’t as consistent across the board. “This was back when you could create the characters depicted on the cards (before the style guides),” DiTerlizzi explains. “It forced you to be creative with what you had.”

This isn’t the first time DiTerlizzi has shared some tabletop nostalgia on Twitter. On July 2, DiTerlizzi dug out some of his art from the 1994 Advanced Dungeons and Dragons setting Planescape. It’s unclear who modelled for these fantasy beasties, however.

For more interesting Magic: The Gathering artwork, why not check out our guide to MTG Secret Lairs? We also have guides to MTG planeswalkers and the best MTG Commanders for you to take a look at.