White ruins everything and doesn't apologize. I'm still traumatized by the last time I played a "friendly, casual" game against a white control deck and wasn't allowed to forfeit and just leave the table after it became clear I wouldn't actually be playing anything. White is the reason we can't have nice things, and you know what? I hope they don't get card draw because things are bad enough.
Now that personal biases are out of the way, let's look at Disenchant and its 11 unique art pieces sorted from least favorite to most.
First up would be this version from Amy Weber. I'm not exactly sure what this image depicts—it might be something from the lore but outside my sphere of knowledge. I wouldn't be able to guess from the art alone what this card does, as there isn't an obvious action occurring. The polished stone texture is cool, and I like the colors, but I just don't see an artifact or enchantment getting destroyed here. Featureless backgrounds are tough because they leave the subject floating without reference or context. The same thing happened with id="Giant Growth" variantId="4701". The art was cool, but we couldn't tell much about the subject because there was nothing else in the image to compare it to.
Speaking of Williams, he also did a version of Disenchant! This one is low in the rankings because it's not super apparent that anything is being destroyed here. Usually a bright light and a gentle touch like in this illustration would be seen as healing or mending. The two pillar composition creates an image with a lot of stability but not much dynamism. However, I think the light and shadow contrast is really great, and he's made some awesome textures here that are really interesting together. The chitinous exoskeleton on the Sliver is convincingly hard and shiny, just as much as the folds of Hanna's shirt look like fabric.
Next up is this edition from Colin Boyer. We're starting to get a little more action now with information in the background and increased movement in the main figure. Where this one falls short for me is in the color palette. This monochrome grisaille puts all the values in the right place, but still feels a bit flat. I think this isn't necessarily an effect of the art piece though, but rather on the card as a whole because of the white frame. So much of the frame and the art share the same midtone/light value that they sort of blend together, and the art loses definition because of that. Grisaille on its own is a strong painting method, but it's done a disservice with this framing.
It's also really challenging to make Kor look alive (or like they have blood flow beneath the skin) because they're so pale. Many portrait painter's favorite tricks for breathing life into a figure have to be majorly adjusted to work for Kor, and a lot of art for them ends up looking wooden. Seb McKinnon's art for Giver of Runes is probably my favorite example of pushing the colors in Kor skintones. It's still subtle, but if you look around the lips and throat of his character you can see where he has used a range of reds, yellows, and violets to create the illusion of living flesh, while still preserving the local color of the skin as "white."
Pieces 8, 7, and 6 are all variations on the same idea. I was actually really surprised to find so many versions of this card that share the same basic premise: a hand holding a thing. Heather Hudson's was printed in full art and standard frames, and gets the first slot of this set because the action happening in the image is the least definite of the three. The diagonal energy beam going into the hand could be seen as making or unmaking an enchantment, so we're relying a bit on the name of the card to know what's happening in the illustration. The definition of anatomical structures in the hand is excellent, and any artist will tell you that this hand-drawing skill is a flex. The background doesn't tell us much, but it is nice to look at and achieves what I'm always talking about with temperature contrast. It's warm and soft, creating an interesting opposition to the cold, blue artifact held in the hand.
Donato Giancola's gets spot 7. Like the previous, we have a hand and a thing. This hand has less anatomical definition, but is still very correct. What I really like about this piece is that it's becoming obvious that the object is having the magic pulled out of it. This is emphasised by how the energy comes together in bunches at the fingertips, drawing together and getting gathered up. The artist has done a great job here with creating a sense of directional flow for something intangible. And again, really successful at balancing temperatures. The cool blue in the background (and even the cold yellow of the artifact) oppose the warm flesh tones of the hand, and in doing so make the hand feel more alive and believable.
This one is my personal favorite printing of Disenchant, although not the most interesting from an artistic perspective. It's yet another hand-with-object composition with a plain colorfield background. I will say orange is a nice divergence from what we've seen so far, but an expanse of plain orange doesn't say as much as a fully illustrated background would. The cool thing about this piece is that it actually does provide a full setting, time and place, even without a background or even a full human figure.
The sword blade is engraved with runes. When I first looked at this piece with my Norse-rune-reading eyes, I had to squint and wonder why the artist was mixing alphabets, and then I wondered what "MAW-GIR" was. So that was my bad, because these aren't Norse runes at all. They're Anglo-Saxon, or Anglo-Frisian, an alphabet that was first used around the 5th century in ancient Frisia, what today would be the northern coast of the Netherlands into Germany. The rune that clued me in was ᚪ (pronounced like "a"), which doesn't appear in the Elder or Younger Futhark. The runes on the sword (when you're reading the right alphabet) spell "MAGIC."
What's even cooler than an ancient alphabet that actually says something legible is the fact that inscribing objects with runes for a magical effect was something people in this time and place actually did. We have a ton of archaeological evidence for this in the form of bracteates and other objects (check out the Seeland bracteate for a great example), many times preserved as grave goods. So the visual the artist has created on this card of removing an enchantment from the sword by removing the runes works on two fronts. For one, it's literally removing "Magic," the word, from the blade, and on the other, it's removing the intent of magic from the object that is imbued by the runic inscription. Bravo, Snõddy. History nerds see this printing and smile.
With this printing we're really getting into "destroy target artifact" territory, although I still have trouble identifying what that artifact actually is. If I had to guess, I would say it's a millstone. I love how obvious the destruction in this piece is; it's almost edging on red card levels of aggression and definitely captures what the card is all about. The sharp contrast of super dark shadows and really bright lights creates a lot of visual interest, and the colors are fearlessly saturated.
My main critique here is that the figure and artifact, while both appearing fairly heavy (that stone slab is thicc), are floating. Totally disembodied from any kind of support. I get that it's "magic," but something in my brain really wants to see the stone supported on something and the legs of the figure peeking out from the bottom, because it looks a little weird like this.
Sometimes you can blow an enchantment out of an object like you'd blow dust out of an N64 cartridge, and that's exactly what this card art shows. It could be argued that this is the final installment of "hand-and-object" Disenchants, since the hand is still a major compositional component here. It forms one side of a triangle, the corners of which would be the person's face, the orb they're blowing on, and the V of their elbow.
Triangular composition is a classic choice that keeps the viewer's eye engaged and moving through the image. A great example of this can be seen in Raphael's Madonna del Prato.
At number 3, I've put this piece by Adam Rex. Expressions of wizardly befuddlement aren't just for Counterspell anymore, just look at this guy. He's so confused! I love that! And he bears a striking resemblance to Governor Ratcliffe from Disney's Pocahontas, so his confusion is all the better. For real though, I enjoy seeing stand-out character designs in Magic illustrations that diverge from conventional standards of beauty.
We have another triangular composition here as well. Actually, this one is two triangles layered one above the other. The man's clothes form the bottom point of the big triangle, and the other two corners are the spots of bright light to either side of his head. The small triangle's corners are his face and hands, with the beam of magical energy forming one side. This double triangle creates a lot of action for your eyes to follow, and that's why you're able to enjoy this piece for quite some time before getting fatigued.
Sometimes the best way to break an enchantment is to Whack Thing With Sword, and that's why I like this version of Disenchant so much. Up to now, every illustration for Disenchant has been removing magic with more magic, so this sword-based approach is fresh and stands out. The artist captured force and movement really well here with that stone cylinder that's flying up (on the left) after impact. The shadow of that object on the white plane is the most important thing in this image. If you put your finger over it, you'll see how the depth and movement just disappear from the illustration. The composition is really bold too, with its stark separation of planes between the white foreground and the dark background.
The top spot for Disenchant is going to this beauty from Victor Adame Minguez. This painting shows masterful use of light and texture. He really nailed it with the metallic shine on the central artifact and the lesser glint of the sword in shadow. His choice to make the table surface a warm, matte texture opposes those metallic elements beautifully, and really convinces me that these objects have weight and rest upon a supporting plane. It makes them tangible. Then the beam of light itself has such brilliant luminosity, and the cold blue is perfect with the warm oranges in the ground layer.
Most important of all is how darkness was embraced here. The white light relies completely on those deep shadows to appear so blinding, and within the white card frame, the darkness is even more dramatic.