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The Art of Gatecrash

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The letter T!he last five guilds. We had a lot of ready-to-go assets from the concept push as well as from the original Ravnica block. Aleksi, Wayne, Pete, Sam, and Richard had nailed down many great ideas and several final drawings for the Gatecrash guilds during the concept push, but, admittedly, those guilds were lower priority. While we wanted to accomplish as much as possible for all ten guilds, the reality is that three weeks is not much time and the Return to Ravnica guilds simply had to be prioritized. You'll notice that there is more black and white work here representing the Gatecrash guilds, and that is because more of that work was being hammered together at the eleventh hour. The clock was bearing down on us as Richard and I clawed and struggled to have all ten guilds in a presentable form in the Return to Ravnica style guide, rather than just the first five.

With that said, I want to jump right back in with same the format from my Return to Ravnica article. If you missed it, you should take a couple minutes and read that first. You can find it here.

Orzhov

What was working:

The Orzhov certainly felt like a corrupt "church." Trappings of ceremony and of crime both came through plenty well in the original block

What to push:

Orzhov was an odd case to me. Part of it was pretty well fleshed out originally, but that part was the fighting part: soldiers, enforcers, and all different manor of armored humans. We picked up all of that original work in the new style guide, intact and unaltered. What was oddly thin was the churchy part of Orzhov. We needed to broaden that aspect into the quasi-religious order the Orzhov are supposed to represent, rather than just showing that same corpulent priest over and over again.

Richard came up with some of my favorite new gags in the entire block here... replacing ceremonial beads with coins and using some costuming elements that forced physical subjugation.





Alms Beast | Art by Dan Scott

Basilica Guards | Art by Dan Scott

Cremate | Art by Cynthia Sheppard

Cartel Aristocrat | Art by James Ryman

Orzhov Cleric Token | Art by Jason Chan

Deathpact Angel | Art by Jason Chan

High Priest of Penance | Art by Mark Zug

Blind Obedience | Art by Seb McKinnon

Motif sheet:


Architecture:

MOAR OPULANCE! It's more difficult than you think to convey both piety and back-alley dealings in a static image. We ended up pushing the architecture into way overblown, grandiose churches: ceilings and arches far too high for any sort of practical purpose at all, then filled with walls of stained glass. Unlike Rakdos, whose architectural gag was human-sized steps and demon-sized openings, the Orzhov gag was needlessly high ceilings and arches with only human-sized doors. These enormous "church 2.0" environments would give us the "piety" part and the scenario or action playing out on the card would give us the "organized crime" aspect—as opposed to trying to infuse a sinister vibe into the architecture itself, for example.


Orzhov Guildgate | Art by John Avon

Godless Shrine | Art by Cliff Childs

Art by Richard Wright

Dimir

What was working:

Okay, honestly, Dimir was a challenge. The entire guild was on the DL in the first block and worked completely in secret and in private, so how they were visually represented against the rest of the guilds was not super important. The result was a fairly ghastly looking guild that required a lot of work to update for this new Ravnica.

What to push:

They needed some level of "street readiness." The original designs relied heavily on monstrous humans or humanoids wearing skeletons on top of their clothes, which I lovingly referred to as "dudes wearing other dudes." That's pretty visually jarring if you try to show them doing anything above ground or on the street, and honestly a bit misguidedly necromantic in flavor.

The House Dimir is now known and even has a public-facing presence and some level of political representation within the Ravnican guilds.

Bane Alley Broker | Art by Clint Cearley

Their true motives and activities are, of course, still mostly nefarious. With this in mind, we pushed for them to be wholly less monstrous but still presented as thieves and assassins. They wear lots of black and blue leather to blend into shadows, but with three design angles:

  1. This is the one guild whose members never wear its guild symbol. The guild symbol is present in spirit, however, through a symmetrical "threesy-ness" derived from the guild symbol's three sets of primary "legs."
  2. Lots of adjustable straps. Richard had the idea that their outfits would be loaded with built-in tourniquets... should they get injured on the job they simply pull a belt or strap on that limb two notches tighter to stop any blood loss/evidence trail.
  3. Use costume elements to more subtly quote their "worn skeleton" origins (see motif sheet).


Assassin's Strike | Art by Chase Stone

Way of the Thief | Art by Igor Kieryluk

Mental Vapors | Art by Mark Winters

Motif sheet:


Architecture:

We decided not to have an outside Dimir architecture look, but rather some definition of the interior spaces where their dirty deeds occur.


Watery Grave | Art by Raymond Swanland

What does Dimir architecture look like from the outside? A dark alley that you should have known better than to walk down.

Dimir Guildgate | Art by Cliff Childs

Art by Richard Wright

Gruul

What was working:

Barbaric and a feeling of being antiestablishment certainly came through.

What to push:

Again, "street readiness." We didn't want to push it too far, but we did want to add some level of plausibility that they live on a plane covered in architecture. Mostly, we looked for opportunities for the Gruul to wear things and wield things that helped place them in an urban setting: scavenged armor elements from other guilds, broken pieces of buildings, etc. Borborygmos already did this with his bracer made of shields; we simply tried to push similar ideas into a guild-wide sensibility.




Rubblebelt Raiders | Art by Chippy

Predator's Rapport | Art by Matt Stewart

Scab-Clan Charger | Art by Nils Hamm

Alpha Authority | Art by Dave Kendall

Click to Enlarge


Motif sheet:


Architecture:


Gruul Guildgate | Art by Randy Gallegos

Stomping Ground | Art by David Palumbo

Art by Richard Wright

Reclaimed, "bombed-out" buildings. Tear the entire outer façade off of a luxury hotel, magically reinforce the remaining structure with vines and trees, and then move into the empty holes.

Boros

What was working:

I felt that the existing design motifs of both armor and the little architecture we had seen during the initial Ravnica block were strong.

What to push:



Art by Mike Sass

Truefire Paladin | Art by Michael C. Hayes

Assemble the Legion | Art by Eric Deschamps

Boros Elite | Art by William Murai

Arrows of Justice | Art by James Ryman

We needed to "double down" on Boros... add variety but within an even more deliberate look. Basically, I wanted to present a Boros Legion that was a tighter "brand" within Ravnica. In marketing speak, I wanted them to have clearer messaging and a tighter presence. More impressive architecture clearly emblazoned with their newly redesigned guild symbol. Of all of the guilds, I felt that the Boros would be the one to most proudly and consistently present themselves as a faction.

Motif sheet:


Architecture:



Boros Guildgate | Art by Noah Bradley

Sacred Foundry | Art by Sam Burley

Art by Richard Wright

I liked the no-nonsense original take on Boros architecture. It has an almost a communist design sensibility: it is strict, stern, and visually regulated. I really pushed for a sense of top-heaviness, which I like as a visual metaphor for "bearing the weight of responsibility" (I used that in Bant too).

Simic

What was working:

Simic was an almost total reboot for two reasons: (1) Momir Vig was dead and (2) cytoplasts were no longer present.

What to push:

We needed a non-Vig-inspired angle for elves (and other humanoids as well) and we needed crazy bio-engineered creatures that cytoplasts were not a part of. Simic was so wide open during the concept push that the target was difficult to define. Should everything be aquatically inspired? Reptile inspired? Are merfolk here now? How much technology should be incorporated versus things that felt strictly magically manipulated?

Simic came together in the most time-consuming and, frankly, frustrating way possible: one piece at a time. Wayne and Aleksi in particular shouldered into Simic pretty hard. Wayne would nail down a great Simic elf. Aleksi would nail down a great Simic creature. Someone would springboard from that. We would work to bring those designs in line with each other. More things would springboard from that work. I am very happy with where Simic ended up, but I can tell you that those of you who play Simic got more art-blood, art-sweat, and art-tears than any other guild of Ravnica to get to the final result.







Zameck Guildmage | Art by Chase Stone

Frog Lizard Token | Art by Jack Wang

Simic Fluxmage | Art by Karl Kopinski

Simic Manipulator | Art by Maciej Kuciara

Unexpected Results | Art by Mike Bierek

Shambleshark | Art by Wesley Burt

Motif sheet:


Architecture:

Art by Mike Sass

Breeding Pool | Art by Mike Bierek

Simic Guildgate | Art by Svetlin Velinov

Art by Richard Wright

There are no drawings of Simic architecture motifs. We ran out of time. At the eleventh hour I had to choose between Simic buildings and unguilded clothing designs and I felt that the unguilded work was more critical to the block as a whole. Given that, I entrusted our fantastic card illustrators to help us define the architecture on a card-by-card basis. Mike Bierek, Svetlin Velinov, Richard Wright, and Mike Sass were all key in nailing down the new look of Simic environments and were fantastic in working with me to adapt and revise their first Simic pieces to set precedent for everyone else.

Unguilded Ravnica

What does it mean to be "gateless," or without guild affiliation? In the first block, it didn't mean anything... unguilded cards were orphans, visually speaking. No unguilded content was addressed in the style guide and therefore none of the card artists really knew what to do with that content when they had to paint it. And I say that as a card artist who worked on the original block. I felt strongly that we needed to address that.

While the concept artists were in-house, the idea of adding a section on "production design" to the style guide was something we talked about. We were excited by the prospect but by the end of the push the ten guilds had proven to be more than enough work for the mere three weeks. We simply didn't have the time.

Fast forward to the JJ/Richard last-minute, cram-session, weekend concept push. In gearing up for that work binge I had been trolling fashion blogs and pulling textures and examples to use as springboards for Ravnican apparel. Richard was kind enough to draw some "paper doll" silhouettes, male and female, and print a ton of them out so I could just draw on top of them without having to think about anatomy or proportions. Don't judge me. My drawing hand is really rusty at this point.

My self-imposed goal was to end up with enough of a fashion vocabulary that if Magic had a plane-jumping "monster of the week" sort of television show and you tuned in late and saw only three (unguilded) people talking around a table you would immediately know that this episode was set on Ravnica.

We know that both Jace and Liliana have spent time on Ravnica, so I played with the idea that Ravnican fashion be informed by their original costumes... maybe they were already wearing "superhero" versions of Ravnican clothing. Working between that idea and the reference images I pulled, here is what we ended up with:





We also cranked out a few armor examples for Ravnican soldiers:


If you've been playing Return to Ravnica you've already seen a lot of the results this yielded. I'll be reading the forums to get sense of how successful you think we were.

Crosstown Courier | Art by Chase Stone

Stealer of Secrets | Art by Michael C. Hayes

Axebane Guardian | Art by Slawomir Maniak

Verdant Haven | Art by Daniel Ljunggren

Slate Street Ruffian | Art by Jim Murray

Holy Mantle | Art by Maciej Kuciara

Righteous Charge | Art by Svetlin Velinov

Ivy Lane Denizen | Art by Winona Nelson

All right folks, that's the end of the guided tour of the new sights of Ravnica.

Thanks for loaning us your eyeballs,

JJ



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