Modern Horizons 2 Preview Card & Interview with Chris Rahn

Scott CullenCommunity

This week, we’re kicking off the preview season for Modern Horizons 2 with a bang by showcasing one of the mythic rares from the upcoming set. Not only is it a reprint of a popular card from the original Modern Horizons set, but it’s been given the beautiful old border treatment!

Sword of Truth and Justice was a new addition to the “Sword of X and Y” cycle when it was first released in Modern Horizons, and it has since found a home in many creature-based decks in Commander. The artwork looks particularly striking surrounded by the beautiful brown border; the card’s earthy tones coalesce with the background to perfectly frame the iconic pose and shining blade.

To celebrate my first official preview card from Wizards of the Coast, I wanted to have a chat with the artist that created its beloved artwork: Chris Rahn.

Chris Rahn is a prolific Magic artist, with more than 200 pieces of his fantastic artwork on some of the game’s most iconic cards. The first cards their work featured on were a handful of Bant related cards from Shards of Alara, and have been regularly featured in most sets since then. Their newest piece is the recently previewed Tiamat, from the upcoming set Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.

Chris is not just a Magic artist, either; they are experts in painting fantasy, and have worked with other massive companies like Random House, Harlequin, and Blizzard Entertainment.

What made you want to become an artist?

Chris Rahn (CR): That’s a tough one. I was always drawing as a kid, as far back as I remember. My mom’s pretty artistic, so I’d draw with her when I was really small. She tells me she had to stop around age four or five because I was too competitive and would become upset when her drawings were better than mine.

Do you have any particular rituals when painting? Do you listen to music while working? If so, what genres or moods do you gravitate towards?

CR: I listen to a lot of music and podcasts, sometimes TV shows. I try not to watch anything too visual or that I have to pay much attention to.

Which came first: playing with Magic cards, or painting them?

CR: Oh, I played back in middle school in the 90’s! It was definitely one of the things that got me focused on fantasy art in particular. As my interest in art grew, I stopped playing MTG and spent more time drawing. Then, of course, ten years later, I got my first card. Pretty strange how it all came full circle.

What is your favorite piece of art that you’ve made for Magic?

CR: My favorite one hasn’t been released yet, haha. But aside from that, it’s probably Ajani Steadfast. It was my first planeswalker and everything just kind of fell into place in a way they rarely do.

How long would a typical painting take, from concept to finished piece?

CR: Typically, it’s a day on the sketch, 1-2 days on final drawing, board prep and transferring, then 4-5 days of painting in oils. So a total of 6-8 work days per assignment. 

What is the greatest challenge when creating a new piece?

CR: For me, sketch day is always the most stressful. It’s high stakes because you’re making quick decisions that you’ll have to live with for a long time.

Are there any Magic artists whose work you particularly admire, or are influenced by?

CR: Way too many to count, both newer and classic MTG artists. Brom was a big one for me along with Donato [Giancola], Justin Sweet and many others.

It seems you are now the “Swords artist” for Magic, as the artist behind the “Sword of X and Y” cycle. Are there any other card cycles you’d like to make art for?

CR: I mean, it would be cool to do all the basic lands. So far, I’ve only done a Mountain and a Plains. Aside from that, I’m not sure. It’s been a long time since I’ve seriously played MTG, so my knowledge is a little out of date unless it’s something I worked on.

Sword of Truth and Justice is your first piece of art to be featured in the old school brown frame. How do you feel about this? Do you think the old school look suits your work more, or do you prefer the new frame?

CR: Personally, I love the old frames. That’s what MTG cards looked like back when I played, so it’s a fun bit of nostalgia.

We recently were treated to the card for Tiamat from the upcoming D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set, and it looks phenomenal. Are we going to see more of your work in the rest of the set?

CR: Yeah, I’ve got a couple more in there 🙂

I’d like to extend a huge thanks again to Chris Rahn, for taking the time to be a part of this interview. I’m personally looking forward to the other new cards we’ll see from Chris in Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.

What is your favorite Chris Rahn piece? Do you prefer his work in the new or old border? Do you have any Modern Horizons 2 predictions? Let me know over on Twitter!