Last updated on May 23, 2023
Avarice Amulet | Illustration by Steven Belledin
What’s your favorite part about Magic’s art? Is it the fantastic scenery of a new set of basics, or perhaps an artist’s rendition of a towering dragon? Maybe it’s a subtle Pac-Man reference, or a homage to Finding Nemo hiding right in front of your eyes. Wait… what?
You read that right. Today we’re exploring some of the most bizarre, surprising, and downright clever Easter eggs that have shown up in Magic art.
What Is an Easter Egg?
Roc Egg | Illustration by Paul Bonner
Easter eggs in Magic art are hidden references to something outside that card’s actual art. It might be a subtle reference to another card, a clever nod to some real-world art or location, or even just something completely silly that the artist snuck into their piece.
I’ll be separating the “in-house” Magic references from ones that evoke outside sources. There are a lot of fun ones to share with your friends, including some that completely caught me by surprise.
Identical Art Easter Eggs
#7. Tainted Lands and Basics
Torment had a disproportionate emphasis on black cards. This carried over to the Tainted land cycle, four lands representing each black-based color pair. Each Tainted land shows a corrupted version of a corresponding basic land from Odyssey, the set preceding Torment. Compare Tainted Peak and Mountain #346 from Odyssey for a clear example.
#6. Back From the Dead
Shivan Dragon was an early frontliner for players’ favorite creature in the game, but the hype eventually died down on the beloved dragon. The skeletal remains of the dragon on Grave Betrayal evokes the image of Seventh Edition‘s Shivan Dragon, giving it new life, so to speak.
#5. Compleated ‘Walkers
Phyrexia: All Will Be One saw the compleation of five beloved planeswalkers (well, four plus Lukka). What you might have missed is how some of the compleated planeswalker art mirrors those characters from another one of their iconic cards. Nissa, Ascended Animist mirrors Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Jace, the Perfected Mind mirrors Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Vraska, Betrayal's Sting mirrors Vraska the Unseen.
#4. Retrace Your Steps
RK Post’s art for Flame Jab depicts a fiery explosion transposed directly on top of the art for Swamp #292 from Lorwyn. I’m not sure what the creative reasons were, but I always assumed it was a riff on the card having retrace.
#3. And They Don’t Stop Coming…
Relentless Dead was such a cool card when it released. Zombie lovers rejoiced, and art lovers immediately noticed the homage to the stained-glass window in Endless Ranks of the Dead.
#2. Drawn to Scale
Dominaria United’s Tolarian Terror might have looked familiar to Magic veterans. Rumor has it the art was meant to pay tribute to Craw Wurm, the original big bad green serpent from Alpha.
#1. Goblins Are Bad at Hide & Seek
Karl Kopinski had some fun when asked to illustrate a few cards for M13. The first was the new goblin legend Krenko, Mob Boss. What better goblins to join the party than the two from Krenko's Command, which can be seen hanging out in the background of Krenko’s art.
Easter Eggs with References to Other Magic Cards
#24. Two Sides of the Same Battle
It’s easy to miss that Raid Bombardment and Unified Will illustrate the same battle being fought from opposite sides. Matt Cavotta created both pieces with the same fiery projectiles, and the gangly outstretched goblin arm in both arts ties them together.
#23. They’re Keepers
I dare you to name a better couple than Spellkeeper Weird and Spellgorger Weird, which each make a cameo appearance in the other’s art. It must’ve been real lonely when Spellgorger got reprinted in M21 but Spellkeeper didn’t.
#22. All Grown Up
The tiny friend in Highspire Artisan’s hand shows up in another card from Kaladesh. The +3/+3 from Highspire Infusion supersizes the construct, which has now reversed positions with the elf.
#21. The False God Cometh
Karona, False God was a Dominaria big-bad introduced in Scourge. They take front and center on Decree of Silence, but their shadowy image looms on the other four Decrees, including Decree of Savagery, Decree of Annihilation, Decree of Justice, and Decree of Pain. Karona’s image appears again on Dominaria’s Memorial to War and Dominaria Remastered’s Decimate.
#20. This One’s Gonna Sting
Stingscourger is a Planar Chaos card, where colors were reimagined to do things they don’t typically do. It’s a red creature with a bounce ability, something that’s traditionally associated with blue creatures like Man-o'-War. Speak of the devil, what’s that on the end of Stingscourger’s stick?
#19. A Good Book Can Change Your Life
Hard Cover from M20 shows a wizard casting a spell from some sort of tome with the threat of two assailants approaching. The name is a great pun, and the art was referenced the following year in M21. Rousing Read continues where Hard Cover left off, with the wizard now using the power of literature to escape their attackers.
#18. What’s Yours Is Mine
Expropriate is an absolute treasure hunt for easter eggs. Leovold, Emissary of Trest makes quite the acquisition, including all five Alpha Moxen and items from other legendary creatures that appeared in Conspiracy: Take the Crown. There’s even the original card art for True-Name Nemesis hanging near the ceiling.
#17. I Can Win Again!
Platinum Angel makes you unable to lose the game, but everyone knows the best way to get around this is to just kill the angel itself. I recommend trying out Oxidize, which made good work of a Platinum Angel in its Darksteel art.
#16. Imperial Recruiter
I love a good meta reference, like the Modern Horizons 2 alternate art for Imperial Recruiter. Look closely and you’ll notice two shadowy figures hovering in the background. Those belong to Pestermite and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, two halves of a famous infinite combo, and both of which are tutor targets for Recruiter.
Nine Lives flavorfully captures the joke that cats do in fact have nine lives to live. The art suggests this particular cat has lived some very eventful lives, with legends like Kaheera, the Orphanguard and Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist making an ancestral appearance in the sky. I’ll let you figure out the rest.
#14. That’s the Spirit
The Secret Lair version of Heritage Druid does its best Nine Lives impression by referencing iconic elves in the spirits floating around the art. The Ninth Edition Elvish Piper is nestled on the left, right next to a Deranged Hermit. Rovina Cai’s full art is obscured by the text box, but the original art has even more elvish references.
#13. If You Recall…
If you squint hard enough, you’ll see a nod to Alpha’s Ancestral Recall in the art for Inexorable Blob. On the right side around the purple splotch on the blob, you can see a picture frame with the person from Mark Poole’s original art.
#12. Let’s Play a Game
Goblin Game has one of the strangest effects of any Magic card, asking players to hide real-world objects as part of the spell’s effect. Yes, this card is tournament-legal. I can’t say for sure everything the goblin’s hiding behind its back, but I’m pretty sure there’s a Null Brooch hanging out back there.
#11. In This Dust That Was a City
Many artists have offered their take on the iconic Wasteland, but we’re focusing on the Eternal Masters version. If the art looks familiar, that’s because it’s reminiscent of the Modern Masters City of Brass. The art alignment and the crumbling walkway suggest these portraits represent the same location at different points in time.
#10. The Meek Shall Inherit…Oh, Nevemind
I don’t know the lore behind Sword of the Meek, but it’s made an appearance in other card arts. A sleek unscathed version is seen being handled by Tribute Mage. A less fortunate version is shown being destroyed twice, once on Return to Dust and again on Time Spiral’s Krosan Grip.
#9. A Fiery Hero
M14’s Young Pyromancer clearly loves two things: Fire, and Chandra. The first seems obvious, but if you’re having doubts about the second, zoom in on the locket around Young Peezy’s neck. Now that you mention it, those goggles look familiar too.
#8. Totally Lost
Fblthp, the Lost is the “Where’s Waldo” of Magic, making their debut on Totally Lost and meme-ing themselves onto a legendary card in War of the Spark, and even inspiring an entire Secret Lair.
Fblthp has a habit of wandering into other card arts to. Some guest appearances include March of the Multitudes, Captive Audience, Conspiracy’s Unquestioned Authority, and Statute of Denial, though that last one looks fishy if you ask me.
#7. Boats Beware
Thing in the Ice is a fan favorite, but did you know Awoken Horror returned for Crimson Vow? Hullbreaker Horror shares the same artistic design as Awoken Horror. Add the same statlines, creature types, bounce-related mechanics, and clear disdain for boats, and the continuity all adds up.
#6. Excuse Me, You Dropped Your Bomb
Jesper Ejsing has a knack for goofy Magic art, as evidenced by their Eternal Masters rendition of Goblin Charbelcher. It’s easy to notice the Black Lotus being shot into the air, but I initially missed the Ratchet Bomb laying on the ground, and what’s supposedly a Storm Crow being fired out as well.
#5. Kitchen Sink Engine
The individual pieces of Ingenuity Engine can be dissected into individual cards. The entire device is comprised of famous artifacts, from Door to Nothingness at the top to an original Alpha Mana Vault as the base. There are nearly 15 artifact references here, some of which are hard to spot.
#4. Quiet in the Library
The Ultimate Masters art for Frantic Search is stacked with easter eggs, mostly nods to famous books in Magic. The character is holding the Book of Rass, the boney spine of Grimoire of the Dead is visible on the right stack of books, and Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII is easy to spot on the left. The foreground is also a mini scavenger hunt of iconic artifacts, with everything from Fabrication Module to Modern Master’s Aether Vial.
#3. Please, Enlighten Me
Enlightened Tutor received new artwork in 2016’s Eternal Masters. The book cover in this version calls out the iconic dove in the original art for Idyllic Tutor, paying homage to another enchantment tutor.
#2. The Unluckiest
The voodoo doll held by Lynde, Cheerful Tormentor has an entire backstory. It’s an unnamed character referred to as “The Unluckiest Planeswalker.” The joke is that they end up in trouble no matter where they go. Originally shown on a cycle of curses from Commander 2017, it seems that Lynde might be responsible for this planeswalker’s misfortunes.
#1. A Relic of the Past
Invasion’s set symbol comes from Coalition Relic’s original art. The relic carries story significance that I’m not familiar with, but this is clearly the exact same object as Dominaria United’s Relic of Legends.
Easter Eggs with References Outside of Magic
#4. Rampant Growth
I have to thank Sam from Rhystic Studies for pointing this out. Tenth Edition showcased Steven Belledin’s version of Rampant Growth, which parallels a famous piece of art titled “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” You’ve probably seen it on a lunchbox or T-shirt before.
#3. Orcish Settlers
Orcish Settlers is a not-so-hidden spoof of American Gothic. It’s a funny reference for sure, and I love that this art is tied to a land destruction ability.
#2. Just Keep Swimming
The borderless Shivan Reef from Dominaria United is hiding a “Finding Nemo” easter egg just out of view on the normal card border. The same goes for the digital-only Kiora, the Tide's Fury. In both arts, you can spot a family of familiar fish swimming in the bottom left corners.
#1. Insert Coin to Play
Pac-Man also makes two guest appearances in Magic art. The first is referenced in Avarice Amulet, using the crack in the artifact to form the iconic image. This card was co-designed by members of Penny Arcade, a popular video game web comic.
The second sounds skeptical at first, but artist Cyril Van Der Haegen reported hiding a Pac-Man easter egg in their Whetwheel art. It’s obscure, but sure enough there’s the iconic video game character and one of the ghosts in the upper left corner.
Lore-Based Easter Eggs
#12. Squee’s Toy
All three versions of Squee picture the goblin character clutching a round white object. It’s best shown in Squee, the Immortal, and of course comes from Squee's Toy, which itself is a play on the phrase “squeeze toy”.
#11. Ach! Hans, Run!
“Ach! Hans, Run!” was a meta Unhinged reference to the flavor text on Ice Age’s Lhurgoyf. This phrase was yelled by Saffi Eriksdotter, whose death by Lhurgoyf goes unnoticed by brother Hans Eriksson. Eriksson is blissfully unaware of the scene playing out right behind them.
#10. Pact with a Dragon
According to Dominarian lore, Zirilan of the Claw brokered a peaceful treaty with the dragons of Dominaria. In the present day and you have Rivaz, a Dominarian viashino who maintains that treaty. The stained-glass alternate art for Rivaz of the Claw pays homage to Zirilian’s art.
#9. Before & After
Tree of Redemption and Tree of Perdition represent the timeline of Innistrad, showing how the plane twisted and bent to the Eldrazi’s influence. I never noticed the Helvault in the background of both cards, fully intact in Redemption’s art and blown to pieces in Perdition’s.
#8. Peaceful Lovers
Guardians of Meletis is a forgettable common with some flavor text about two historical figures from Theros history. Those two peaceful lovers would be revealed as Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis, whose art depicts the same statues in the background.
#7. Sultai Swag
The time travel story of Fate Reforged altered the Khans of Tarkir timeline. The renewed Dragons of Tarkir timeline shows the Dragonlords in full control, with Dragonlord Silumgar leading their own clan. Silumgar must not have been a fan of the previous Sultai leader, because you can see the body of Tasigur, the Golden Fang dangling around Silumgar’s neck.
#6. Seems to be Broken
I’m somewhat familiar with the early dominance of Masticore. This card ravaged the tournament scene, earning a meta-reference on Torment’s Deep Analysis. A Masticore head is seen in the art, with the flavor text cleverly calling it “broken.”
#5. Careful What You Wish For
What do you think the child on Make a Wish asked for? If you guessed “please let me mutate into a cosmic alien monster,” you’d be right. Grapple with the Past shows the aftermath of this scene, but hey, at least the teddy bear’s mostly intact.
#4. Supper Time
Here’s a real “pick your poison” situation: Would you rather be the person whose POV is facing down the Village Cannibals, or the person in the same situation in M21’s Village Rites? I’m honestly not sure which one’s worse, but they’re clearly meant to mirror one another.
#3. “Hey, I Like Your Hat!”
Liliana’s been adorned with an iconic headdress since the original Liliana of the Dark Realms. That headdress originated from Archangel of Tithes, and you can check Unholy Hunger to find out how it got from the angel to Liliana. This makes me hesitant to ask how Young Necromancer got theirs.
#2. The Sun Shall Rise Again
Sun Titan has an entire storyline drawn out across three cards, starting with the debut M11 card. Things take a turn for the worst when MM3’s Terminate shows the Titan being blown into oblivion. Don’t worry though, they’re right back at it in PD3’s version of Animate Dead.
#1. Thus the Grand Evolution Began
The cryptic text on Phyrexian Scriptures is another revelation covered by Sam from Rhystic Studies. Apparently that text has been deciphered to match the flavor text previously seen on Dark Ritual from Urza’s Saga. There’s even a direct correlation between the art on Scriptures and this version of Dark Ritual.
Miscellaneous or Surprising Easter Eggs
#5. Something Odd
Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13, so appropriately the art pictures 13 of… well, a lot of things. From logs in the fireplace to utensils hanging above, it’s fun to see how many instances of 13 you can find in this one art.
Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign does a similar thing with odd numbers. Everything from this card’s mana value to letters in its name to collector’s number and power and toughness is just completely odd.
#4. On the Prowl
I love that the Dragons of Tarkir version of Summit Prowler is identical to the Khans of Tarkir version, except for a flavor text swap and some additional dragons peppering the background. Whether lazy or genius, it’s a fun way to use an otherwise forgettable common to flesh out the changes in the world between those two sets.
#3. SNL Presents: Land Shark
The Commander 2014 art for Desert Twister is hiding something very strange in its swirling sands. It’s not easy to spot on a paper version of the card, but a good “zoom and enhance” should reveal the mouth of a shark cleverly hidden in the art.
#2. Do the Wave
Flame Wave is also hiding something right in front of us. The skull inside the wave is easier to spot than the shark in Desert Twister, but other astute observers have pointed out a surfer riding the flame wave. Gnarly.
#1. Great Art Comes From Great Pain
Blood Artist is an iconic Magic card by every definition of the word. Players spend a lot of time staring at the sanguine painting in the center, pointing out the similarity to the art for Curse of Oblivion. However, if you’ve ever wondered where Blood Artist gets its blood from, take a peek at the body dangling in the left side of the background.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Totally Lost | Illustration by David Palumbo
I scoured the internet up and down for the most fun and surprising Easter eggs in Magic art. I’m a sucker for in-game meta references, and I was genuinely caught off guard by some of the ones I found.
I’m always interested in more, so if you have a fun Easter egg in mind that wasn’t represented here, let me know in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.
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