Last updated on June 22, 2022
Metamorphic Alteration | Illustration by Livia Prima
Magic cards have some of the most unique and beautiful art out of any trading card game. Or just in general, for that matter. But sometimes players don’t like the official art or want to expand on the art on cards they include in their decks, Cubes, and collections. They want to create or get their hands on an alternative version.
Cards that are painted, drawn on, printed over, or altered in any other way with the intention of changing their appearance are called “alters.” Alters are incredibly popular in the more die-hard side of the Magic community, especially when an artist paints on a card to expand the art onto the entire card, like this:
It’s important to know that alters are not the same as proxies or custom cards. Proxies are fake versions of real cards meant for playtesting or casual play, and custom cards are non-existing cards designed by players for fun.
Today I’d like to go over some of the most beautiful, creative, and unique MTG alters out there. Ready? Let’s go!
Tide Pod Food Token
I really like this token and I think it’s a great way to start off this list. It’s a joke on that old tide pod “challenge” that happened back in 2018 and it works great on this token. It’s also a full card alter leaving only the name and oracle text, which I think is very creative.
Lo-Fi Rhystic Study Girl
One of my personal favorite cards, Rhystic Study is featured with a total card alter. This is the famous Lo-Fi Hip-Hop study girl as seen from YouTube and Spotify, studying at her desk. This is super cool and very well done!
Urza, Lord High Artificer Pop-up
This interesting Urza, Lord High Artificer by Reddit user Vatarants was made from multiple copies of the art cards for Urza. This style of cutting out various segments from cards allows the artist to create a 3D piece with various layers. The creator also tacked on the mana cost so it could be played, but I suspect this is mostly for show since it seems delicate and hard to transport.
Sacred Foundry Panorama
This alter is a combination of three cards to create a three-card-wide piece. It wonderfully combines the Gatecrash Sacred Foundry with some Zendikar basic lands, which is very creative and would look great on any playmat.
Full-Art Forest Autumn Canopy
While this card is just an altered Forest of which there will probably be many more, this one depicts a unique perspective from somebody looking up through the trees instead of the conventional scene of a wide view over a large forest itself. It’s also a full-art version, which is always nice. Absolutely stunning.
Judge Foil Gaea’s Cradle
This is a very expensive alter, with the regular judge foil Gaea’s Cradle going for over $2,300. Reddit artist RockyAlters paints over the card’s typical scene and expands into the top corner and overall frame, showing the ever-expanding forest and wildlife in a beautiful way.
Dr. Seuss-Style Atraxa
Currently the most popular Commander, Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice is shown completely painted over (minus the mana symbols and name) to make a beautiful Dr. Seuss-esque piece that’s both easy to look at and stunning at the same time.
SpongeBob Rhystic Study
I know it sounds crazy, but this SpongeBob-themed Rhystic Study really captures the essence of players who like to remind their opponents of Rhystic’s triggers. I really like this one. It’s probably my favorite so far, and the annoyance factor is certainly part of that.
Sun-bleached Krosan Grip
This alter is quite unique compared to the ones I’ve already looked at. This card was actually half sun-bleached over 10 months, creating a wonderful edge between regular and bleached. This “alter” fits perfectly with the art on Krosan Grip.
Stormtrooper Rite of Replication
This alter by Reddit user MRBalters, a popular alter artist on Reddit, features a scene of a full legion of stormtroopers painted directly on Rite of Replication. This is a great piece for a couple of reasons.
The first being that the stormtroopers’ blue hue fits in with the color of the card itself, and the fact that the mass group of identical beings falls in line with the card’s function. Great job!
To the Beach!
Through tactically removing some letters, reddit artist BonJob turned Through the Breach into a much more whole To the Beach! This alter even includes the monstrosity coming through the portal holding its own beach ball, enjoying a nice sunny day.
Da Vinci Solemn Simulacrum
Artist Snikrot914 turned one of their favorited cards, Solemn Simulacrum, into a DaVinci parchment-paper-style card, keeping only the name and oracle text. This alter looks great and is in theme with the artifact-humanoid-style of the card. I’d love to have this in my EDH deck, but it unfortunately isn’t for sale!
A much more lighthearted alter, this Windows 98 error message on top of a Cancel is sure to induce rage in your opponents, which is what any good blue player is looking to do. Something about the sarcastic and smug attitude of this art fits so perfectly with the playstyle.
Retrowave Sol Ring
Next up is a retrowave-themed Sol Ring still on the easel from Reddit user Dsp-alters. This card is simply beautiful and keeps the actual ring itself from the art while everything else is perfectly painted over. The artist actually does giveaways for these alters and they have an Instagram where they post their work.
Elvis Fatal Push
In case the title wasn’t enough, this Fatal Push pokes fun at how Elvis Presley literally died on the toilet, which fits perfectly with the card’s name and is sure to get some laughs at the table. The black color dominating the scene looks good with the black color pip on the card and isn’t too distracting.
Darth Vader Skullclamp
Star Wars is an incredibly famous and widespread IP, and its influence extends into the MTG alter community. This iteration of Skullclamp features Darth Vader getting his helmet/mask put back on as seen in The Empire Strikes Back. Any Star Wars fan (including myself) would love to have this in their collection or Commander decks.
Similar to the Da Vinci Solemn Simulacrum, this blueprint-themed Ornithopter by Reddit user Snikrot914 is very on theme. The idea of having blueprint-themed artifacts is very appealing and visually pleasant to look at. This is just great all around.
Full-Art Command Tower
Reddit user msjalters blessed us with a full-art version of Command Tower. This piece includes various dragons, possibly a callback to Commander’s original name, Elder Dragon Highlander. While the coloring of the background fits in well with a white or Orzhov () deck, the overall neutral tone makes it visually inclusive to any color pairing in Magic.
Destructive Cyclonic Rift
This version of Cyclonic Rift by Reddit user bigupalters is incredible. It has the originally depicted tornado amplified to the point where it’s destroying the border and oracle text of the card itself. This shows the destructive and catastrophic nature of the card when overloaded on your opponent’s board. I really like this alter.
Extended Cascade Bluffs
This alter isn’t anything special in terms of new dimensions or redoing the art, it’s just a simple extension into the frame of the card. These simpler (but just as beautiful) alters are some of my favorites, and I think the blue and red on this Cascade Bluffs is simply amazing.
This basic Island is a wonderful piece with only the title of the card remaining. This alter is stunning. The sunset peaking over the back of the island helps center your attention without distracting you from the most important part of the art: it’s an Island.
Full-Art Extended Spell Pierce
This Spell Pierce on Etsy by NebulaAlters is up for sale for $30 and is a complete extension and touch up of the original art. The ocean has been painted over to reinforce the green-blue hue and the spell being pierced is also touched up and extended into the border.
Full-Art Extended Court of Bounty
This alter from Reddit user BoliaArt is a wonderful extension of Court of Bounty with tree branches and other foliage extending into the border, oracle text, and title bar. It really emphasizes the green color and nature theme, which is pleasant both aesthetically and in terms of flavor.
Cat-Wizard Qasali Pridemage
If cats or wizards are your favorite tribal theme, then you’re in luck with this alter of Qasali Pridemage. Already having the cat wizard creature type, Reddit user Chilichilichilo saw the potential with this alter, painting a light blue background over the original art and border and adding a little cat wizard onto the card. Wonderful.
Extended Spinerock Knoll
I personally really like this extended-art version of Spinerock Knoll, mainly because the art style and color pallet was preserved by the artist, Reddit user saxophoneplayingcat. A lot of Magic cards have a very rough fantasy art style, and this almost cartoonish nature scene stands out to me even more when it’s in this larger form.
jom-art Deflecting Swat
Deflecting Swat, a card that’s done me in more times than I can count by Storm players, has been completely redone by one artist in their own art style. Reddit user Jom-art completely painted over the entire card minus the title bar and added their own dragon swatting away some magical bolts. This is a great alter and perfectly fits in with the theme and color of the card.
Bojuka Bog & Reliquary Tower Expeditions
Bojuka Bog and Reliquary Tower are some of the most popular Commander utility lands, but there are very limited versions for players to choose from. Wanting an expedition version of the card, Reddit user Juju114 took it upon themselves to alter the borders of these cards to make them! Juju is a popular MTG alter creator who has many cards to sell on their Facebook page.
Altered Extended Mystic Tutor
This Mystical Tutor is simply an extension of the original art onto every area of the card except the oracle text area. It has a very dark and shadowy tone on the borders to keep the audience’s attention on the Tutor with the promise of expansion and new cards by the window behind them.
Kaldheim Izzet Signet
This card was simply too beautiful and well done to pass up. This is a conventional foil Izzet Signet with a Kaldheim border. This works wonderfully, mirroring the wings of the Signet as well as being on theme with the Izzet () colors. I know many players at my LGS who would immediately start bidding for such a card. This is amazing.
Extended Bloody Blood Moon
If Blood Moon’s art wasn’t ominous and foreboding enough, Reddit user Necrone_alteredart completely leveled it up with this alter. Dark blood now washes over all areas of the card with some highlighted by the Moon in the sky above it. This is an amazing piece of art and one of the best alters I’ve ever seen for such an infamous MTG card.
Showcase Arcanis the Omnipotent
If you’re like me and Arcanis the Omnipotent is one of your favorite cards of all time, then you’re drooling looking at this alter. This is a Modern Horizons showcase border peeled and glued onto a foil Arcanis, which perfectly fits with the foiling already on the card and creates a wonderful showcase version of a card that deserved one.
Bugs Bunny Negate
Again with the condescending counterspells. Nothing hits like being in complete worry-free control and having Bugs Bunny on your Negate when countering an opponent’s win condition or Counterspell of their own. This is as good as it gets. I couldn’t find anywhere to buy this card, so your options are to either enjoy it in spirit or make it yourself!
Dr. Seuss-Style Thassa’s Oracle
Another Dr. Seuss-style alter by Reddit user MRBalters. This isn’t the first on this long list nor is it going to be the last. I particularly enjoy these alters since they completely change everything about the card and add on something other than just art. The Dr. Seuss-style paragraphs are a treat and actually explain the card’s mechanics at the same time!
Commander Tower of Babel
This list was bound to get biblical at some point, and what better way to start us off other than a Command Tower made to look like the Tower of Babel. Every Commander player loves being able to literally touch god and reach heaven and you’ll need this alter to get there.
On a serious note, this is incredible. This art is Tower of Babel painted by Tobias Verhaecht in 1600, but it fits so perfectly with the theme and original art for Command Tower.
Repaired Survival of the Fittest
It isn’t unheard of for alters to be a way of repairing scuffed or damaged MTG cards, and this one is a great example. The before and after of this copy of Survival of the Fittest done by Reddit user Msmadduh for his brother-in-law completely saved the card and probably double or tripled its worth!
Shooting Star Enlightened Tutor
This is a particularly unique alter because it interrupts the borders of the card in a way that lines up with the art. This artist added shooting stars and an expanded sky into the border with the stars falling through the card and past the Tutor. The blue is particularly beautiful on this card and I think leaving the white border was a good way to visually maintain the color identity.
Dr. Seuss-Style Sol Ring
Yet another Suess-style alter by MRBalters, a very frequent alter artist and poster online. This time around its Sol Ring with a caption that reads: “Only one to cast, But I tap for two! Not many rocks, Can do what I do!” which is as cute as it is true and informative.
Elixir of Immortality ft. Link
This alter is very unique for the colors featured so predominantly across all areas of the card. Link is the focal point here, but the magentas and yellows are colors very rarely seen on Magic cards in such intensity, and I really like it. It stands out on the table, is sure to draw compliments, and is a great alter in every single way.
Extended Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise is a very popular and powerful Magic card, maybe one of the most popular of all time. It’s a common inclusion in many cubes, and Reddit user Silvent opted to completely transform this card into something wonderful.
The foliage below and around the bird extends into the border and its wings flap into the title bar and through the art borders. This is a very beautiful card that encapsulates everything important about Birds of Paradise.
Princess Leia Organa, Weatherlight Captain
Everyone’s favorite Leia Organa is featured on this Sisay, Weatherlight Captain in extreme detail. Not only is the background beautiful and so recognizable to Star Wars fans everywhere, but the care with each brush stroke is shown when you take a closer look at Leia. The strokes of her hair, skin, and even patterns on her skin are all visible which help emphasize the level of detail the artist put into this masterpiece.
3D Sapphire Charm
This alter is a 3D version of Sapphire Charm, which was done by taking multiple copies of the card, cutting different segments out, and layering them on top of one another. This means it won’t fit into any sleeves but becomes an excellent showcase or even decoration as a result. This can be expensive since you’ll need three or more copies to get this effect, so it isn’t usually done with expensive cards.
Flooding Mana Leak
This extension of Mana Leak by Reddit user Honeeduu is very interesting to me. It extends the art into the black border but keeps the blue card border intact which makes it into a frame of sorts. I really like this design and I think it’s the best choice when you’re extending the smoke and background of a card like this.
Ponder the Orb
Inspired by the “pondering my orb” meme from October 2021, reddit artist BonJob decided to paint not only the art from the meme but also “the orb” onto the title bar. I really like this card not just because I love Ponder, but also because it’s so cleanly done and the art’s color pallet really fits the colors on blue cards.
Extended Full-Art Mana Drain
This has got to be one of my favorite alters so far. It’s just the normal Mana Drain art fully extended into all parts of the card, but it just looks so good. The swooping waves and red mana is such a good color pairing, and the greenish-blue of the water looks so… tasty!
Calvin & Hobbes Exploration
This is a very tender and sweet alter by Reddit user MikePlayingWithpower, who took it upon themselves to paint an excellent scene from the popular Calvin & Hobbes comic. The lush and vibrant landscape fits with Explorations’ theme and color and the white background exhibits the possibilities of the future with bountiful resources (and love).
Altered Brago, King Eternal
This completely redone version of Brago, King Eternal is both incredibly terrifying and stunning to look at. The level of detail and time put in by the artist is breathtaking and absolutely gorgeous. I can’t express enough how much I enjoy this art, and it fits perfectly with Brago’s theme and colors.
Seven Layer Maja, Bretagard Protector
Another 3D alter, this time with Maja, BRetagard Protector. This alter, however, has many more layers than some of the other 3D ones I’ve looked at. I see at least seven or eight layers total, which keys us in on just how much time and effort was put in.
Looking at the details it seems like the artist, Reddit user Lord-Keithulhu, carved into the cards themselves to further create depth and features that take this alter to the next level.
Egyptian-Style Lotus God
It makes perfect sense for there to be an Egyptian hieroglyphics version of The Lotus God, and this alter does a perfect job of making that a reality. The simple background made to look like the extremely common limestone works wonders for the very simple and perfectly drawn figure. This commission leaves nothing to be desired and is as good as it gets for this style and card.
Extended Steam Vents
The Return to Ravnica Steam Vents is one of my favorite arts for the shock land, and this simple but gorgeous extension makes me quite jealous. The color pallet was preserved, the vents extended without losing the depth, and the flooring on the bottom of the card matches the shades of red present on the right half.
Set of Extended Basics
Reddit user madness_hazard extended some of their favorite basics which includes a Mountain, Swamp, Island, and Plains. The artist mentioned they like to “diversify the bottom part a bit,” which is a great idea in my opinion.
Many extended art alters just color in the bottom, but this artist put in the effort to continue the art downwards and give you something to actually look at other than just an on-color section.
Gurmag Angler Swamp
This extended Swamp features a complete painting over all parts of the card and even includes the monster from Gurmag Angler peering out from the dark depths. This is a great Swamp and the inclusion of the monster is not only on theme but a great reference.
Through some careful painting and a complete do-over of the art, Reddit user BonJob (we’ve seen some of their work before) was able to turn Old Rutstein into “Old Rusty” and paint on an old rusting car in a vegetative area.
I like this alter a lot. Its visual appeal says enough and the amount of work put it is unfathomable, but the idea of a rusting car being absorbed by the earth is actually in line with the Golgari () theme.
Extended Najeela, the Blade-Blossom
This artist, Reddit user RockyAlters, opted to extend the art of Najeela, the Blade-Blossom down through the oracle text, which is refreshing and unique compared to many of the alters we’ve already seen. The monochrome color pallet is very nice, especially when it contrasts with Najeela’s swirling red hair and galaxy-background.
Extended Zendikar Islands
These extensions of some Zendikar Islands are stunning and look nearly identical which is incredibly impressive. I’d imagine it would cost a huge amount of money to commission 25 of these for my Commander deck, but god would it be great. Something about these lands is just so magical and it’s emphasized when they’re in their fullest possible form like this.
Custom Mana Confluence
This beautiful art looks to be printed onto a foil Mana Confluence and I can’t stop looking at it. The assortment of colors represents the five colors of Magic and also blends well with one another thanks to the shades picked by the artist, a Redditor named Mox_Cardboard.
Full-Art Custom Foil Forest
This Forest appears to be a foil land that was stripped of everything but the title box using some acetone or a similar compound. The artist, Reddit user CT Alters, then painted on a scene that was inspired by a classical Japanese woodblock print. The background appears to be a blank foil, which actually works well as the sky for the setting.
Custom Foil Eternal Witness
This foil FNM promo Eternal Witness was painted over with its art extending into the black border. It’s a totally new piece of art for the card and is completely breathtaking. The greens and blues work wonderfully with the already dominant presence of green and all the colors swirl together thanks to the foiling.
Return to Monke Pongify
I know for a fact I (and probably some of you) have made the “return to monke” meme joke when somebody in your Commander game casts a Pongify. It’s just too easy. This artist, Reddit user Alpha Omega Alters, painted a lovely monkey onto a green background on this Pongify. I really like the style in which this is made, the intentional brush strokes is very appealing.
Dr. Seuss-Style Mystic Remora
The fish in Mystic Remora has been asking to be turned into a Dr. Seuss-style alter for some time now. MRB Alters, the same artist for the previously listed Dr. Seuss cards, has given us this beauty. The little rhyming poem on this card flows very well and sounds just like the Dr. Seuss children’s books while still explaining the purpose of the card.
Selvala, Explorer Returned by Kevin Altered
This is probably the most completely changed card we’ve seen so far. The card is nearly unrecognizable from the original printing. The only things kept seems to be Selvala herself and the title/mana value box. Everything else has been completely redone including the background, the border style, the oracle text container, the power and toughness bar, even the creature type. This is truly a masterpiece.
Full-Art Custom Forest
This is a beautiful and serene Forest alter done by Reddit user and popular MTG alter creator Snikrot914. This is one of my favorite Forests I’ve ever seen, and I think it’s because of the calm misty environment. It’s a nice contrast to the usually beastly, large, rough animalistic Forest and green cards we’re so accustomed to.
SCP Unstable Obelisk
This is a very unique alter in that it doesn’t totally change the art or extend it in any way. It instead removes aspects and builds upon others to call on that classic SCP theme. Various parts of the flavor text are redacted, some of the art is scratched out, there are things implying this is a camera recording our perspective; it’s great.
Four Seasons Gaea’s Cradles
Here we have one and a half years of my in-state tuition. Or in other words, four Gaea’s Cradles. Each one commissioned to be painted in-theme with each of the four seasons, which looks simply amazing when they’re all together. I’m sure this was horrifying for the artist, Redditor CarrotCakeAlters, knowing they’re working with $3,000 cards, but gosh did they do a good job.
25 Full-Art Swamps
A full set of Swamps for somebody’s mono-black deck is featured here. Each one is totally unique and two sets of five actually blend together to make one large landscape scene. This is incredible talent at work and something I’d possibly kill for to have in my own collection.
Simpsons Thing in the Ice
I’m surprised this is the first Simpsons alter on this list. This one features Jasper Beardsley when he was trapped in the freezer, which fits perfectly with Thing in the Ice. The art on this one was really well done and looks identical to how it does in the show, which shows some serious thought and effort was put into the alter.
While we’re on the topic of pop culture and TV shows, we have a Rick and Morty-themed alter on a copy of Mortify. This alter features Morty in the bathroom being confronted by Mr. Jellybean, which leads to Morty literally being mortified in some horrible ways.
Journey Golos, Tireless Pilgrim
Despite being a banned Commander, players still make alters of Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and there are some really creative examples out there. This one is inspired by the game Journey and replaces our wandering Pilgrim with the main character in a surprisingly similar scene.
If the header of this section wasn’t obvious enough, this alter is of the popular card Mulldrifter replaced by a winged Toyota AE86, emphasizing the “drift” of this classic card. I think this alter is great and it really doesn’t have to change much to express itself. The car just happens to fit perfectly with the wings.
Witch’s Oven & Cauldron Familiar
This alter is a double with two cards included in the set. They’re made together to assemble that one meme of the lady screaming at the cat, with the two women featured on Witch’s Oven and the cat conversely on Cauldron Familiar. This is incredibly well done and any observer will instantly know what they’re looking at if they’re at all familiar with the meme.
Dexter’s Laboratory Maniac
Dexter is a perfect fit for this alter of Laboratory Maniac. He’s just that, and anyone who sees Dexter come down into play probably knows exactly what card is being played. That’s a very unique characteristic of an alter and an underappreciated one at that.
Here’s another set of basics, this time Islands, depicting a classic SpongeBob scene where Patrick is trying to spook Squidward. Each character is on a separate Island so they can be assembled and viewed left to right to make one large image, which I’m a huge fan of.
UNO Cancel Negate
Who would’ve guessed, another Negate on the alters list. We’re looking at another sarcastic image this time around: the UNO cancel card. The blue here is naturally on that card, so it just fits so perfectly with the blue coloring of MTG. I actually think Negate is the best card to put this on since it’s closer to “cancel” than Counterspell is.
Full-Art Treasure Cruise
This is a full-art extended Treasure Cruise with the most important words on the Oracle text preserved. I think this is a very clean style overall, almost looking legitimate, so I’m a big fan.
The altered art looks very similar to the original piece and it blends so well to the point that I can’t really find the border between printing and paint without looking at a normal version side by side.
Another Retrowave Sol Ring
Another retrowave alter, this time we’re blessed with a new Sol Ring. I like how the “Sol” is really shown by the sun in this image. I didn’t catch it at first, but it fits really well. I also love the purple and violet colors blending with the sun’s yellows and oranges.
Full-Alternate-Art Azusa, Lost but Seeking
This version of Azusa, Lost but Seeking is hardly recognizable. It’s been completely redone with an incredible landscape view. Azusa is still pictured on the bottom in the foreground, but it’s really what she’s seeking that’s displayed so prominently. The wonderful mixture of colors also plays well with her ability to get more lands into play, which gives this card thematic bonuses.
Another playset of altered full-art Islands, this time four individual ones. I’m a sucker for these if you couldn’t tell. I think the artist, Reddit user Aeridiame, did a really great job doing these for their brother and I quite frankly wish I was the brother. I can’t stop looking at them and feeling so cozy and safe in my room compared to the storms and crashing waves depicted.
Batman Smacking Robin Counterspell
This alter by Mongeliam definitely wins the funniest alter award for this list. The touch of having Batman wearing Jace Beleren’s robe and hood is the icing on the cake for this card, especially since the card is Counterspell. I was actually going to pursue commissioning a copy of this card but this was posted over four years ago and the artist is no longer making alters.
Four Seasons Oath of Druids
Here’s another exceptional four seasons-themed alter, with it being Oath of Druids this time. These green cards are excellent templates for these kinds of alters because they offer so much room to depict the seasons in such a recognizable fashion. I’m a fan of this and the previously shown Gaea’s Cradles, but I’m not playing Legacy Elves.
… Sorry Reid Duke.
Dracula Vampiric Tutor
This Vampiric Tutor is very on theme with the main scene depicting a famous view from Boring Vallejo’s Dracula. This is an exceptional piece, not just as an alter but as a painting as well.
Demons Deck Sol Ring
This version of Sol Ring is absolutely terrifying and is going to be a perfect fit for the demons EDH deck it’s being included in. I like how the original ring of fire from the first printing is sort of kept as the portal the demon is being summoned by.
Halo Sol Ring
Another Sol Ring, but this one was bound to happen. This time we have a feature from Halo: the Halo. I think this is so cool and such a good idea for a Sol Ring alter. It’s beautiful and grand and something about the space background is just so clean looking.
SCP Kozilek’s Channeler
Last on the list is an SCP version of Kozilek’s Channeler. I really enjoy these SCP alters. They’re very easy to do for just about anyone, but this one is spectacular. The Eldrazi are also an excellent thing to turn into SCPs given their uncanny and terrifying nature.
Finale of Eternity | Illustration by Daarken
Wow that was a long list, but a very fun one to make! This has inspired me to actually try and make some alters myself.
What did you think? Which alter was your favorite? Or was there one that wasn’t included that you’d like to give a spotlight to? Let us know in the comment section below or over on our official Draftsim Discord.
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