The 5 (and a bit) Colors of Magic ““ Red (1994)

The story so far: In 1994 I created a series of promotional images for Magic: The Gathering. These pieces were meant for flyers timed for the ’94 con season, and the game’s first anniversary.

Unless you’re one of about a dozen people, you’ve never seen them before. To find out why, check out the prologue to this series.

The project was to be six images, one for artifacts, and one for each color of mana.

This time it’s Red.


Since Red is – among other things – the color of chaos, it seemed fitting that the creatures would be fighting amongst themselves, and of course firing off highly destructive red spells.

This is only the second time I had ever painted goblins, the first time being the binder image shown in the prologue. Goblins, of course, have become a staple of Magic and a feature of my own career in the game. Back in ’94 the logical opposite to the goblins seemed to be dwarves, but by 2013 it’s fair to say that dwarves aren’t really a big component of Red and are thoroughly, exponentially, outnumbered by goblins. If I was creating this today, the dwarves probably would have been replaced with another race.

Red is also the color of fire and flame is especially tricky to paint with non-digital media. Generally, you need to get it right first time because the underlying white of the paper is vital to producing sufficient luminosity in the flame. I hadn’t quite learned that lesson yet but that’s the thing with any creative profession; you’ve got to make the mistakes to improve.

Red is also tied in with war and anger and that’s reflected in the planeswalker’s demeanor. I’d keep your distance, he’s not gotten his quadruple shot semi-skim latte this morning…

So, take a shot at naming all the cards in the image. I’m pretty certain that this one is far easier than the Artifacts piece. The answers to the cards in the red image are behind the cut –

Next time, we’ll continue clockwise around the mana circle to Green…

Red Answers – What Cards Hidden Where?


  1. Shivan Dragon. It’s a very different color from the card and I’m not sure if I trusted to memory and got it wrong or if I decided if I gave the dragon its usual green scales that there would be too much green in the image. Either way, I agree with that last point and I’m glad I made this a red-scaled version of the mighty Shivan.
  2. Mana Flare masquerading as jewelry. Nobody spotted this!
  3. Goblin Balloon Brigade
  4. Mountain
  5. Orcish Artillery
  6. Initially, the only dwarves I could remember from Alpha were the Dwarven Demolition Team, but this is actually Dwarven Warriors as indicated by the golden horned helms. It’s also possible they’re singing a Dwarven Song. Maybe.
  7. Earth Elemental
  8. Fire Elemental
  9. Disintegrate. Ouch.
  10. Fireball
  11. Mons’s Goblin Raiders. These ones too.
  12. Goblin King
  13. Orcish Oriflamme
  14. Kind-sorta bonus: It looks a bit like the Rod of Ruin, but that’s an artifact so I’m assuming this isn’t the actual Rod, it’s just included for flavor. I think. Yeah, it was 19 years ago, so some of the details are hazy. Obviously a straight damage dealer is very in-flavor for Red.

The goblin in robes had me looking through my card binders but I couldn’t find any match. I suspect that he was added as a vehicle for using the disintegrate spell and it didn’t seem a stretch that the goblin king would have a spellcaster in his retinue. If I’d done it now I probably wouldn’t have had him be the dominant goblin in the image, but maybe I was thinking his red robes would help offset the large amount of green already filling the right half of the image.

Color balance is always tricky. Even more so in a color-themed image.

~ by Pete Venters on September 16, 2013.

3 Responses to “The 5 (and a bit) Colors of Magic ““ Red (1994)”

  1. I’m guessing that’s kaervek?

  2. This is awesome. Your depiction of goblins has been really inspiring and I think it has really set the bar for what most people’s mental image of goblins looks like. I know they remind me of one of my favorite books from my childhood; Bruce Coville’s “Goblins in the Castle.” 🙂

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