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Benalish Hero Art


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One of old-school Magic's most famous faces

ArtistDouglas Shuler
MediumAcrylic on illustration board
Size6.75" x 5.75" image area
Rarity1 of 1
SourcePrivate collector, Utah
The Magic art market

Public demand for original paintings from Magic: The Gathering has exploded since the early 2000s, creating a well-established and competitive market. As the game’s subculture has matured, the weight of nostalgia has built up around famous and powerful cards from years past.

You can look at Magic as one of the world’s most powerful and extensive networks for promoting original art. Any card art printed today will become recognizable to tens of millions of players worldwide!

What’s more, associating the art with game pieces leads players to develop deep emotional attachments to those images. This explains why the most important factor in valuing Magic artwork is not the artist or even aesthetics, but the preeminence of its card within Magic subculture.

Arcbound Ravager (Carl Critchlow, 2004) sold for $45,000  in May 2018.
For years it was the beloved centerpiece of popular tournament decks.
Sharazad (Kaja Foglio, 1993) sold for $72,000  in July 2018.
Artwork from Magic’s first few years carries a particular premium over even the most famous cards and artists from recent years.

Benalish Hero is a perfect example of the kind of art the community is most interested in: an iconic era-defining creature from Magic’s very first printing (Limited Edition Alpha), featuring bold, memorable art.

Other paintings from that historic Alpha set are rarely seen on the market; the majority change hands in private deals. Mythic Markets is extremely proud to be able to offer the broader community an opportunity to invest in Alpha art.

The Making of a Hero

Striking, noble, boldly awaiting duty’s call. The iconic Douglas Shuler artwork for Benalish Hero defined one of Magic: The Gathering’s five colors for years in the 1990s. The painting’s distinctive strengths and flaws embody Magic as it was at its debut, and hint at the qualities which made the card game an instant success.

Magic: The Gathering has become a pillar of fantasy and gaming culture, standing alongside Dungeons & Dragons as a household name and globally recognized phenomenon. An instant hit upon its release in 1993, Magic managed to maintain that momentum essentially unbroken over the next few decades, selling tens of billions of cards worldwide.

Clearly, there was something exceptional about early MTG beyond the fundamental idea of a competitive trading card game that let it capture the market so completely. There are an impressive number of players from 1993 who are still proudly involved in Magic today.

But even they might not immediately single out the artwork on the cards as being that secret weapon! Painted mostly by fresh art school grads with limited interest in Magic’s fantastical subject matter, Alpha art like Benalish Hero is worlds away from the technically-polished house style the game would cultivate in the 21st century.

Nevertheless, these Alpha images remain central to a subculture of 35 million Magic players - even the generations who were born well after the Alpha set left circulation! Even more than the cards they were printed on, these paintings represent the building blocks of fantasy - the dragon, the wizard, the angel, the zombie, the hero!

The importance of imagery can be seen in the most famous Magic card, Black Lotus. The illustration by the late Christopher Rush is a huge part of the card’s mystique and a massively valuable piece of art.

When a Shivan Dragon and a Sengir Vampire clash on the tabletop, that artwork tells a story far more exciting and captivating than one faceless game piece taking another. Alpha artwork was the vanguard which drew you into the engaging but complex card game beneath.

Side-by-side comparison of the Arabian Nights printing of Serendib Efreet and the green version from Revised.
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Asset details

Douglas Shuler painted Benalish Hero in 1993. In 2011, he sold it to Vintage Magic. Benalish Hero's previous owner, businessman and prolific fantasy art collector J.P., acquired it in 2013. It most recently joined the Mythic Markets collection in June 2020.