Thursday, July 21, 2016


Leaving the blog intact for now, but have little to no plans to post new content. Enjoy what is here!


Friday, February 12, 2016

Lighting Bolt 11 Ways

This post dedicated in memory to Christopher Rush, 1965-2016.

Let's talk about frames shall we? WOTC has many many official frames, far more than you might realize. The history of the frame really doesn't seem to have too much written about it. I'll leave the particulars to Evan or Mike for that. I'm going to instead focus on the purely visual, and then break form with some custom looks.

Bolts. Lots and lots of bolts. 

In the beginning, there was Alpha.

A fine frame really. Iconic today. The printing process' of the day provided almost unreadable text on some cards if you were more than a foot or so from it. Alpha and Beta are the only sets to ever feature the double border. Whether this was intentional or not, it's a nice touch to the dawn of the game.


Revised's text box was actually much lighter than this. This will be a recurring theme.

Basically the same frame, though brightened and far more readable. The large rules text used prior is gone, now scaled down to a maximum 9pt. Sure, Revised was a white border set, but most folks look down their noses at WB so I've done all the renders today in BB.


Further color changes that became much more uniform as the game aged. The textbox was widened to the same width as the art, and the card title became left justified to the art as well. The artist info eventually migrated to be centered under the art. This was the frame until...

8th Edition

A radical change, New font for the title and card type. Especially for the red cards, the artist and set info became completely unreadable. This frame underwent very few changes in its time in the limelight. In fact, the only major frame change between this and the M15 frame is up next.

Future Sight

Wrong font. Should be Matrix, used Beleren. Lazy.

Thought the 8th Edition change was radical? This at first glance looks like a completely different game. Things innovated with this frame are the mana cost of the left, and a symbol to easier tell you what kind of card it is whilst in your hand.


The current (as of Feb 2016) frame. When this was 1st released, it was  dismissed as the wrong direction to go by the community at large. brand new font again for the title and type. This is my favorite of the frames thus far. Fixing the set info makes sorting much, much faster. The border was shrunk, the frame pushed out towards the border, which resulted in more room for the art. All in all, excellent changes.

Custom Frames

Up until now, we've looked at official frames, anything you could find in a booster pack. The beauty of the process for me is seeing what might be possible. What could frames have looked like?

First up is a side-by-side. I've mentioned I'm a big fan of the M15 frame, and I am. That doesn't make it sacred or exempt if from tweaking. Here's the previous M15 Bolt next to the tweaked one. Can you spot the changes?

They appear pretty close at first. I added overlays to the default textures for the title and type bars (Twins in the parlance of proxy templates) and a textbox background overlay. The complete intent of these changes is to visually make them look different than an official card. The most important part of physical proxies, to me, is to take away the shadow of doubt that a card might be real.

Here are some more examples of cards that are obviously not official. 

The modern frame using the classic textures with some brightness tweaks were needed.. It mostly works. Not a bad frame in any way.

I dubbed this FutureFuture Sight. New frame, huge art area, but keeping the FUT mana cost idea. This frame passes the "Progenitus Test", something the original frame does not. The test is simple, can you put 10 mana symbols on it?

Modern classic. Modern border, classic frame elements. One of my favorite custom templates. This one was a lot of fun to visualize and create.

Ahh, my eyes!

This is ugly, really really ugly. Classic fame with Modern textures. Super busy visually. This works on exactly zero levels.

We've had a look back at the amazing Lightning Bolt art by Chris Rush, and the many faces of Magic cards through the years. The possibilities when creating proxies are limitless, and there is no way for anyone to create a master list of those possibilites. And don't get me started on white border variants...

Social Media

As always, I can be found on Twitter @TheProxy Guy Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Behind the Curtain Part 2

Today's topic comes to you via a Twitter poll I recently ran asking this same question; What would you the reader like to see here?
Here are the results.

Looks like you want to take another peek behind the curtain, so let’s dive right in.

Working Backwards

Yesterday I posted this render to Twitter.  I've included some of the replies as I was quite stunned at the positive response it generated.

Seeing this as an opportunity to peel back the skin a bit, I'm going to reconstruct this render to show you the process in taking what at its surface is a vanilla render and making it much more dynamic.I discussed recently some of the sites I use to source art, and as I've been in a funk of late I've been browsing ArtStation just looking for inspiration.

Though I wasn't planning on rendering anything in particular, this art jumped out and I immediately thought "Karrthus".

Now, what to do to make an oft-rendered card stand out from the crowd? It’s a very vertical piece, so maybe Super Art? Nah, let’s go full textless to really let the art tell the story. A few edits of the template later gives us this initial look.

First thought? Boring. I don’t like it at all. Too much gold, and nothing stands out.  Maybe tweaking the frame color to a 3-color gradient and adding some texture and effects to the frame elements and text will help.

Much better.  I now see this as standing out from the usual WOTC framing conventions. What use is having a template if all I use it for has already been done? Dropping in the art gives us this:

This works, kind of. The art appears flat and listless for the content, and I’d like to brighten some of the dragon’s facial elements to add some needed contrast. While I’m at it, I’ll add a radial gradient layer above the art and set it to “Vivid Light” to see if that helps the art to really stand out.

Using the Dodge tool brightens the ares you paint over in varying degrees.

Here we have what could easily be considered a “final render”. We’ve sufficiently deviated from the norm enough to have folks take notice of this particular piece. To me, that’s simply not enough. At this stage, this is what I would still call a vanilla render. I’ve done very little additional work to get to
this stage, and it therefor is a lazy render. I could easily post this and be done.

But I wan’t more.

I need to stretch my legs and see what else is possible. What else can I do to take this from a render to what some have called “art”?

Looking at the art again, I see the dynamic destruction of the castle and it folds under the weight of the dragon. Maybe the force of the castle finally giving way has sent out a shockwave. How can I change the card to signify its presence? Now that I have the idea of what I want to do, it’s time to bring it out and make it happen.

Warning, there’s some technical Photoshop jargon coming up, so bear with me. First, the template is far too complex to edit that many layers cohesively. Fortunately, Photoshop has made this a very easy task to accomplish. To begin, I turned off the art layer because I just want to edit the frame. By selecting the entire canvas (Ctrl+A on PC) and then copying the contents of every visible layer (Ctrl+Shift+C), I can paste in a new layer (Ctrl+V) just the elements I needed.  Once done, I hid the template layers and groups so I would only see this layer.

Now I can turn the art layer back on, and get to work. What I need to do is 3-fold;  Warp the frame somehow to show the effect of the wave, add a texture over the frame to show it’s impending destruction, and add a motion element to tie it all together. The warp is actually the easiest because I don’t need to source any other art for it. With the pasted layer selected, use Filter->Distort->Pinch. I went with around 50% to achieve this result.

Nice bulge to the edges of the frame, and more importantly, the text is all still readable. Now for the texture.  Searching for “shock wave” yielded this:

The color was not what I wanted, so there was a bit of fiddling to get to the orange/red I was hoping for. What I want to do here is have it just affect the frame, so I paste it into a layer above the frame layer and make it a Clipping Mask. The alternate method involves creating a Layer Mask, but I’m lazy. Playing with the size and position and then the Blending Mode and Transparency I find that this combination gives me what I’m looking for.

Now that I’m almost done, it’s time to add that motion element. This was the most interesting addition for me as it’s appears so simple, yet took the most work to achieve the final result.
I’m going to add motion lines that blur away from the dragon, and are the colors of the destruction. Another jaunt over to GIS and I find this waiting for me;

This will work, with some modification. I could invert it and set the layer to screen to have just white lines, but I want color. And if I overlay a color, the whole layer changes, not just the lines. In the end it was easy enough to fix by using the Magic Wand too. Just click in the white and Cut. Done. Going into the Layer Style from there I added a radial gradient to give it the color I wanted.

A quick Filters->Blur->Gaussian Blur and a transparency tweak from there and voila! A piece now ready for the world.

Social Media  and Closing

As always, I can be found on Twitter via @The ProxyGuy.  I hope you liked this peek into what I do to challenge myself and try to create something that I hope you all will enjoy.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Oath of The Gatewatch Beta Seven


For those seeing one of these for the first time, the thought is to take 7 cards from the most recent set and reimagine them as if they had existed in Beta. There will be much discussion of rules text that doesn't work, is broken, or is flat out wrong.

With this particular set of cards, this project has reached its end. It's been quite a run, 18 sets, and it's past time to let it rest.

Will it return? Probably. When? No time soon.


Some point to Day 1 posts as these were once spread out over a week.

The Cards

Whenever possible, I'll tag the cards whose text I consulted or flat out stole as reference.

Casting cost from the Arabian Nights Aladdin's Lamp
Draw text from Verduran Enchantress
Draw text gleaned from Ancestral Recall. Force!
Made most of this up. Italicized or from Library of Alexandria.
Abilities becomes fast effects and damage taken from Earthbind.
Any mana color text from North Star.
Mono means tap! Only the mana ability would be an interrupt, so it's templated that way. :)

Social Media

Like what you see? Have a request for a render? Feel free to hit me up on Twitter @TheProxyGuy

Art Links

Stone Haven Outfitter:

Comparative Analysis:

Remorseless Punishment:

Oath of Nissa:

Tears of Valakut:

Seer's Lantern:

Kozilek, the Great Distortion: