Card: Duelist of the Mind | Art: Darren Tan

Look, Ma! They Put My Face On a Magic Card

Look, Ma! They Put My Face On a Magic Card

Art mimics reality, or so the saying goes. Throughout the history of Magic, we have seen powerful wizards depicted on cards. Sometimes, those faces look awfully familiar! Today, I’ll be taking a look at Magic breaking the fourth wall. Let’s discuss the times real people have appeared on cards!

Magic Invitational and Player Spotlight Cards

Let’s begin with the one a lot of you already know. The Magic Invitational was a 16-person tournament that ran between 1997 and 2007. The best of the best played head-to-head for victory and the winner got to design a Magic card with their likeness featured in the art!

The tournament gave us eleven cards featuring winning competitors. Some of them are familiar faces still seeing play! Sylvan Safekeeper, Solem Simulacrum, and Snapcaster Mage are classics. However, many of these cards have had their chance to shine across Magic’s history.

The Mythic Invitational is the spiritual successor to the Magic Invitational, which brought back the player-designed cards for the winner. Currently, World Champions Javier Dominguez, Paulo Vitor da Rosa, and Yuta Takahashi have been immortalized. They appear on Fervent Champion, Elite Spellbinder, and Faerie Mastermind, respectively. All of these cards made an impact in various formats. It goes to show the power when R&D and pro players collide.

Nathan Steuer (2022) became the face of Duelist of the Mind, which will arrive this month in Outlaws of Thunder Junction. Meanwhile, Jean-Emmanuel Depraz (2023) eagerly awaits his card’s print debut. It seems pro players love their blue card selection!

In The Bolt Zone Episode 20, Steuer discusses the process behind his card design. Steuer described wanting a card that would play well in the decks he is known for and something that could play well in Vintage Cube. The design had to strike a careful balance since WOTC does not want to ever ban a player card. Therefore, extra attention is paid to ensure the card is strong enough to see play while not being outright banned.

Previous versions of Duelist of the Mind gave the creature +1/+1 or did not have the “once per turn” clause. These were ultimately changed for balance reasons. The art also went through some changes. Initially, Steuer’s depiction on Duelist of the Mind featured a cowboy hat, but this was changed over time.

Cody DeBos and Nathan Steuer discuss Duelist of the Mind in great detail over on The Bolt Zone podcast. If you would like more insight into the design process behind a World Champion card, I recommend giving it a listen. In general, the duo discusses all things competitive Magic. Check it out on iTunes, Spotify, and other platforms.

Pro-player designs are always an interesting reference point. With the growth of Commander and casual play in general I wonder what a Player Spotlight card would look like designed for multiplayer Magic.

Pro Tour Player Cards

Sticking to the pro scene, these cards are not tournament-legal Magic cards, however they are an interesting tribute to the game’s professional scene. The Pro Tour Player cards resemble baseball cards and appeared in tournament packs, preconstructed theme decks, and fat packs. The goal here was to bring exposure to the game’s top pro players in a unique way. A portrait of the player is on the front, while the back shows the player’s career.

While not playable, they are a great souvenir for fans. On a personal note, my partner has a framed copy of Gabriel Nassif on our wall. She doesn’t follow Pro-Magic, but she loves Yellow Hat! Nassif, if you’re reading this, hit me up at MagicCon Amsterdam! These cards could be found around Ravnica: City of the Guilds and Eventide. Some of these players are still active today. While it was a short run, this is a cute part of Magic’s history!

These make neat collector’s items or a unique way to support your favorite players. On average, they cost a dollar or two, but you can often pick them up for less.

Self Portraits & Muses That Inspired MTG Cards

Many artists use themselves, friends, or family as inspiration. There are plenty of examples throughout history, and I am sure plenty slip through the cracks. I love Dan Frazier’s self-portrait on Soldevi Simulacrum. It screams 90’s fantasy. I’m sure I have seen him in a Dungeons & Dragons manual at some point!

Zack Stella has illustrated over 100 Magic cards. He is immortalized on the Eternal Masters Counterspell! I adore this piece. The art is one of my favorite renditions of Counterspell. A wizard breaking free from a spell. An explosion of blue sparks. It all screams, “You’re not resolving that.” This pairs well with the simple, centered text box. No flavor text, just pure and simple Counterspell!

Finally, I will give a shoutout to all the furry friends who make their way onto Magic cards. Sam Fraiser’s cat Mika appears on Nine Lives. Alayna Danner’s rendition of Jason LeMahieu’s puppy on the Karlov Manor Dog token. To the whole host of animals on this Secret Lair Plains, thank you to all our four-legged friends who inspired these pieces!

Wizards of the Coast Staff on Magic Cards

It’s not just artists who show up on cards. Various WOTC staff have appeared on cards in one way or another. Many players have seen Richard Garfield, Ph.D in Unhinged. Anyone familiar with “Mental Magic” will feel right at home here. The card depicts the game designer behind Magic, Netrunner, King of Tokyo, KeyForge, and many more! If you have a board game collection, there is a good chance Garfield is on that shelf somewhere!

Carol Monahan is likely a lesser-known name. She was the first head of sales at Wizards of the Coast. Her likeness was used for the Legends version of Rubina Soulsinger. I can’t say I know much about Monahan, but I hope she enjoyed appearing in the illustration!

Finally, we have Luc Mertens. He was Magic’s liaison at Carta Mundi up until his retirement in 2013. This promo card was made as a thank-you for years of working with Wizards of the Coast. Carta Mundi still works with Wizards of the Coast to this day and is their main producer.

Universes Beyond with Real Faces

Universes Beyond has brought a whole host of real faces into Magic. “The Walking Dead,” “Stranger Things,” “Doctor Who,” and “The Princess Bride” are just some of the crossovers we have seen in recent years. This section will by no means be an exhaustive list.

Some people even appear on multiple cards! The person with the most cards bearing their likeness depends on your definition. Jodie Whittaker appears on nine cards, a clue token, and a planeschase card, which makes eleven altogether. David Tennant appears on ten cards (Coincidence? Likely not). All of them can be played in your main deck. Regardless, there are certainly more Universes Beyond cards coming down the pipeline. Be prepared to see more familiar faces on your cards.

Outside the world of actors, Universes Beyond also features some real-life historical figures! The Assassin’s Creed mini-set features Leonardo da Vinci and Cleopatra, Exiled Pharaoh. It is a fascinating concept to see real people being represented in the game. I will leave it to the historians to decide if these mechanics reflect these historic figures.

Famous Faces on MTG Cards

Sometimes famous people just appear on Magic cards. These are some of the strangest entries on our list today.

Actor Special Guest Gift Cards

The Actors Special Guest Gift Cards were created to promote the Hollywood Pro Tour in 2008. Each celebrity depicted was given a set of cards in the hope they would attend the Pro Tour. 2008 is well before my time playing Magic, so I cannot confirm if Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt attended. If you were at the Pro Tour in 2008 let me know if you got to meet any of these folks! In terms of the cards themselves, they were printed on a different card stock. The backs are also much glossier than a normal card and if you ever find one of these in the wild, they will not feel like a normal card. However, the odds of finding these are low. Only 45-60 cards are suspected to exist.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice cards might be Magic’s first thoughts of a Universe Beyond-style product. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a 2010 film in which “A protege of the magician Merlin must train his teacher’s successor.” I’ll be honest: I have not seen this film. However, the film did have a Magic tie-in since the character Drake Stone is sponsored by Wizards of the Coast. He is such a celebrity that he appears on Magic Cards throughout the movie. According to an article from 2010, “Instead of just mocking up regular cards, Magic R&D was called upon to make new cards for Drake Stone’s appearance.”

There are five Drake Stone MTG cards altogether. Concentrate is the only “real” Magic card of the bunch. While the others are completely new designs. I am surprised by how restrained these cards are. Many of them are quite simple effects by today’s standards. I wonder if we will ever see these cards reprinted in a traditional Magic set. Of note, it is unknown if these cards ever saw print. All we have are these digital versions of the promo material. If anyone has seen The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, what do you think? I would love to hear what happens to Drake Stone!

Post Malone

Post Malone has become a big name in Magic over the past years. He has appeared on “Post the Enchanter” as a reskinned Zur, the Enchanter to celebrate his birthday. This is a unique copy for the occasion. The art was later reused in a Post Malone-themed Secret Lair without the borderless treatment. The Secret Lair featured reskins of Bolas’s Citadel, K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth, Jet Medallion, and Leshrac’s Sigil, all featuring Post in the artwork.

Sheldon Menery

A familiar face in the Commander community, Menery, has been depicted on two cards: Inkshield and Sheldon, the Commander. These cards were created as part of the “Sheldon’s Spellbook” Secret Lair, done in collaboration with the American Cancer Society. Menery served on the Commander Rules Committee, provided coverage for Pro Tour and StarCityGames tournaments, and contributed many articles to the site. He passed away in 2023.

This Secret Lair is a wonderful sign-off featuring quotes, artwork, and some of his favorite cards. If you are interested in the story of this Secret Lair, I suggest taking a look at “Creacting Sheldon’s Spellbook” on Wizard’s site.


That brings us to the end of our tour of famous faces in Magic. I hope you enjoyed this strange little corner of our game. Special thanks to the Magic Librarities, who supplied images and context for some of the stranger examples seen today.

What do you think of real people appearing in the game? Is it distracting to see Matt Smith on a card, or do you like the thrill of playing Duelist of the Mind only to be sat across from Nathan Steuer himself? Let us know what you think!

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