Hello and welcome to the second part of our thoughts on the top ten coolest Mystical Archive cards from the new Magic: The Gathering set, Strixhaven: School of Mages! We have compiled our ranked tenth through sixth in this series in another piece, and in this one we will be going over our ranked fifth through first favorites, with some Honorable Mentions right after the second coolest artwork.
As a note on those Honorable Mentions, with 63 different pieces in the global prints of these cards and 63 variants in Japanese, it was quite difficult to find any of the cards that could stack up against the Japanese variants as those are so wildly different. Furthermore, as the Japanese variants are only obtainable via Japanese packs (and Collector Boosters of any language), these cards are far more scarce than their global counterparts. Therefore, as you may have already noticed, the list is judging the cards in the Mystical Archive's global print run, and, as you may have inferred, the Honorable Mentions will cover the top three Japanese variant cards. Without any further ado, here are the top five coolest pieces of art in the Mystical Archive!
#5: Natural Order
Natural Order, a card illustrated here by Anato Finnstark, is one of the most epic cards on this list, as far as scale and scope goes. The detail almost looks like something out of the alternate Booster Fun cards from Kaldheim, where the magnificent and detailed art is concerned. You kind of get the idea that this person is beholding a gargantuan beast of some indiscernible species and coming to the realization that there is more to the world, or the "natural order" of things, so to speak, than himself. That is a truly breathtaking concept to bring to this style of art and Finnstark manages it with aplomb.
#4: Mind's Desire
With superb art by Minttu Hynninen, this version of Mind's Desire, a card from back in the days of Scourge, seems to illustrate the spell better than the original version ever could. The "spiral staircase to infinity" trope is a bit cliche, but in this instance we don't seem to really care that it is, as it's done in such a beautiful and stylistic manner. Mental magic is difficult to portray in a 100% perfect way, so Hynninen's artistry is noted here as being quite skilled given the subject matter.
#3: Day of Judgment
Anato Finnstark strikes artistic gold once again with the second coolest card on this list, Day of Judgment. Mass destruction by a divine, unknowable source has often been a staple concept in Magic: The Gathering's aesthetic design repertoire, and Day of Judgment has been a tough card to get perfectly right for many card illustrators, but, like with Natural Order in the #5 spot, Finnstark manages to get the concept nailed just right. It truly drives home the idea that the spell is so dangerous that, as the flavor text implies, it had to be locked behind some tightly closed doors and the key thrown far, far away.
#2: Time Warp
Artist Dominik Mayer does it again! Pardon the pun, as a reference to not only the Rocky Horror Picture Show's "The Time Warp" but also the Magic character Squee on the original printing of this card, but this version of Time Warp is beautifully done and is rendered in a manner that behooves the card's frame exquisitely. The spiral in the art is altogether aligned in a way that makes the focus of the viewer's eye go directly to the temporal magicks of the caster in the artwork. Mayer certainly knows his way around blue cards, and for that, we applaud his skill.
Honorable Mentions: Duress, Divine Gambit, and Demonic Tutor
Of the 63 Japanese variants of the Mystical Archive, all of which are stunningly gorgeous, we found three that stood out only just barely above the rest. They all have extended art, as that's how these variants are printed, and all of their names, out of pure coincidence, start with "D". In no particular ranked order, those cards are: Duress, Divine Gambit, and Demonic Tutor.
Just gazing upon these works of traditional art makes us nostalgic for all sorts of pieces of Japanese popular culture. It is clear upon the first look at these that the Japanese variants of the Mystical Archive would run away with this top ten list by miles if they were fully considered. However, there is a card that could be a contender in the article series either way, and it's our #1 spot in this top ten list.
#1: Tendrils of Agony
The top slot on this list goes to Rovina Cai's art for Tendrils of Agony. The original art for this card shows a very literal interpretation of the spell's effects (namely the tendrils) and while that's great for most of the cards on this list, Cai's rendition not only does that just enough to grab our attention but also shows the psychological effects of the spell through aesthetic means, in a manner that is more than enough to keep it.
Do you agree with this list? Are there any pieces you thought should have been included, or perhaps stricken from the top ten? What is your favorite card in Magic: The Gathering's Mystical Archive series? Let us know in the comments below!