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Insider: Artful Maneuvers – Choosing a Card

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So far we've gone through the basics of how to paint cards, and why to paint cards. Today I'll be discussing which cards to paint.

There are tens of thousands of Magic cards to choose from, and some of those cards have two, three or even four different versions with unique art. Some cards are worth altering, some are worth practicing on and some are barely worth your time at all. I want to go over a few basic factors in choosing your next project.

Does Anybody Want This?

Bloom Tender was one of my all time favorite alters. I couldn't move it to save my life though...
The first and foremost thing to consider is the cards' playability. If it is played in any format then you have a winner. Even if the card is a one-of in the sideboard of a fringe deck in a fringe format, it has a market.

Obviously you'll want to target cards with a wider market than this, but if you really want to paint on that Swans of Bryn Argoll then go for it. Somebody somewhere is going to want it.

Of course if you find a card in high demand like Thunderbreak Regent after Pro Tour: Dragons of Tarkir, then you have a choice to make. The card may lose momentum and bottom out while you work on it, or it may spike in price and suddenly you are the only one with an extended Thunderbreak Regent in your binder. Hopefully we have provided you with enough financial insight to make the right decision.

Personally, I stick to popular Commander cards and cards that see play in eternal formats. The prices and positions in certain decks are a bit more stable this way.

Valuable Cards

At the time I painted this, Vengevine was $50. People thought I was crazy to paint on it, but every one of those people flipped through my binder while saying it.
High value cards are also intriguing projects. Dont look past the Karn Liberated in your binder due to its $40 price tag. Altering cards can raise the value of any card, regardless of its original value.

Altered high value cards attract the most attention in your collection. These cards are valuable due to the serious demand for them. This means there are more internet searches and more binder inquiries. You have a huge market to play to, and if you advertise correctly you can draw more attention to your portfolio as a whole.

Remember, it's all about getting your cards in front of as many faces as possible. The person who stumbled upon your online store looking for a Vendilion Clique may not be able to afford your $70 altered faerie wizard, but they may be interested in that $12 Spell Pierce next to it.

The Earth Without "Art" Is Just "Eh"

After I consider the potential market a card has I look at the artwork. We all know that time is money. I prefer to spend 90 minutes altering three cards rather than 90 minutes altering one--therefore I want a card that is easy to alter.

This means the artwork has straightforward coloring and a distinct lack of detail. Splinter Twin is a great example of this.

If a card has a good market then I won't turn down detailed artwork. I need to be able to picture how the detail will play out across the borders of the card before I start it. If it seems like I won't be able to get a price worthy of the work I put into creating the alter, than I will skip over it.

Cards like Attrition fall into this category. Painting character forms is demanding work, and there is only so much money a person will pay for a card like this, even if it is perfectly done.

A card will get bonus points if it is used as a general in singleton formats like Commander and Tiny Leaders. These are the most sought-after alters you can have in your binder, and the most common commission jobs. They are often worth any amount of work put into them, and also the most fun for me to paint. Which cards do you enjoy painting?

A classic Commander and a very popular alter. I've painted this card four times through various commissions
A classic Commander and a very popular alter. I've painted this card four times through various commissions.

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