Three weeks ago, Wizards of the Coast made the bold declaration that use of generative AI tools at any stage of the creative process for Magic: The Gathering products was forbidden. Little did it know that declaration would soon be smashing a proverbial rake in its face.
Over the weekend Wizards of the Coast came under fire from artists and the Magic community after posting a series of promotional images of retro-themed cards from the upcoming Ravnica Remastered set, depicting the cards in a fantastical library setting. Almost immediately audiences clocked the backgrounds—not the cards themselves—as having erroneous mistakes and oddities that were hallmarks of AI-generated art, including haphazard wires and impossible filaments in bulbs, or strange warping on elements like a pressure gauge readout and other fantastical machinery. But Wizards was having none of it, and stood by the images as human-created works.
“We understand confusion by fans given the style being different than card art, but we stand by our previous statement,” The publisher wrote in a now-deleted response on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “This art was created by humans and not AI.”
Reader, we do not regret to inform you that the artwork was, as artists and Magic fans across social media continued to point out, in fact generated by AI. Less than a day after defending the artwork, Wizards deleted the posts as well as its defense, replacing it with a new statement that opened practically with “Well, that happened.”
“As you, our diligent community pointed out, it looks like some AI components that are now popping up in industry standard tools like Photoshop crept into our marketing creative, even if a human did the work to create the overall image,” the statement reads in part, partially placing the blame for the usage—in contradiction to Wizards’ own policies over AI art tools—on an external marketing team. “While the art came from a vendor, it’s on us to make sure that we are living up to our promise to support the amazing human ingenuity that makes Magic great.”
“We already made clear that we require artists, writers, and creatives contributing to the Magic TCG to refrain from using AI generative tools to create final Magic products. What’s now apparent is that we need to update the way we work with vendors on creative beyond our products—like marketing images we use on social media—to make sure that we’re supporting the amazing human ingenuity that is so important to Magic,” an expanded statement continued on the official Magic: The Gathering website.
“Along with so many others, we also want to get better at understanding whether and how AI is used in the creative process. We believe everyone benefits from more transparency and better disclosure. We can’t promise to be perfect in such a fast-evolving space, especially with generative AI becoming standard in tools such as Photoshop, but our aim is to always come down on the side of human made art and artists.”
Wizards’ formal ban on AI tools was likewise born out of a retroactive realization over summer 2023, when artist Ilya Shkipin confirmed that several pieces of art they had made for the Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook Glory of the Giants were “enhanced” with AI tools. Months later, Wizards updated the digital and physical release of the book with new artwork to replace Shkipin’s work, as part of a formal announcement that the company would forbid the use of such tools going forward for D&D artwork.
However, for some, the damage of Wizards’ initial defence was already done. At least one artist who has worked on Magic, Dave Rapoza—who has worked on art for dozens of Magic cards, including releases in sets based around The Lord of the Rings and Baldur’s Gate 3—publicly severed ties with Wizards over the error. “If you’re gonna stand for something you better make sure you’re actually paying attention, don’t be lazy, don’t lie,” Rapoza wrote on X. After Wizards apologized for not vetting the artwork in advance, Rapoza still insisted he would no longer work for the company.
“I’m not going to return for work, let’s see how this all pans out over time,” the artist added. “My hope is they stick to their word but everyone seems to be heading that direction [with generative AI] so I’ll hang for awhile.”
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