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Famous piece by binned MTG artist sells for $350k

The original artwork for the Magic card Force of Will, by controversial MTG artist Terese Nielsen, has been sold via auction for $350,000.

A well known illustration by an MTG artist dropped over their involvement in the alt right has sold for $350,000. Terese Nielsen hasn’t had a card featured in a Magic: The Gathering set since 2020, when Wizards of the Coast cut ties. But her work appeared on some of the game’s most influential early cards, including Rhystic Study and Force of Will. On December 16, 2023, the original Force of Will illustration sold on Heritage Auctions for $350k.

From what we can tell, that makes Force of Will the most expensive Magic: The Gathering art piece ever to go through the Heritage Auctions site. Other famous pieces have been sold for a pretty penny, including Demonic Tutor by Douglas Shulter, going for $168,000; and Dan Frazier’s Alpha Swamp, which sold for $75,000, but none come close to the $350,000 figure.

It probably helps that Force of Will is considered one of the best MTG cards of all time. It’s an MTG counter spell you can cast for free by exiling a blue card from your hand. Even if you’ve not used the card itself, if you’ve played Modern in the past year or followed the recent banlist changes, you’ll know how strong free spells like this can be.

The artwork’s creator, Terese Nielsen is the source of a great deal of controversy among Magic: The Gathering fans, mainly thanks to her activity on social media. Twitter users noticed in 2018 that her account followed alt-right figures like Mike Cernovich, as well as Alex Jones’ show InfoWars. She’d also liked tweets that supported anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and hosts of the now-banned QAnon YouTube channel Edge of Wonder claimed she’d sent them signed artist prints.

In 2019, Nielsen released a couple of statements, seemingly in response to the backlash against her. The first, in particular, riled fans up even more. “I embrace the fact that many opposing viewpoints can and should exist,” Nielsen said, comparing her treatment by the Magic community to her ostracization by Mormons over her relationship with her wife. A few months later, Nielsen gave another statement saying that she supported trans rights, presumably to address the ‘Terf’ accusations often leveled against her.

The anger and controversy, covered in more depth by Hipsters of the Coast, continued to mount. Pressure grew, and many fans wanted Wizards of the Coast to stop working with Nielsen, the discourse reviving each time her work appeared in an MTG set. In 2020, it seems the company took notice.

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“We hear you”, said designer Doug Beyer in a Weekly MTG stream on June 19, 2020 (timestamp 39:40) “We haven’t commissioned any art from Terese Nielsen in quite a while. The last product that will have any reprint art from her is this Fall with Zendikar Rising.” While Wizards didn’t comment on the controversy itself, it was clear they’d decided to stop working with the artist..

Obviously, being dropped by Wizards of the Coast hasn’t stopped Magic fans wanting Nielsen’s art, however – as evidenced by the astronomical sum of money paid this month for Force of Will.

According to Nielsen’s own website, the piece originally sold in 1998 for $2,200 which she describes as “an astonishing amount of money for a piece of original art at that time”. Again, according to Nielsen, the person selling it now is that original buyer, who kept it for 25 years before putting it back up for auction.

Whoever they are, they’ve made a tidy $348k profit on a pretty great trade. They’ve sold the card art for 84 times what they paid for it (after you adjust for inflation.)

For more old and powerful Magic cards, check out our guide to the MTG Power 9. You might also be keen to learn about the best MTG Arena decks, and the MTG release schedule for next year.