Creators of Magic: The Gathering accused of using AI-generated imagery

January 6, 2024

AI Magic

Wizards of the Coast, the creators of Magic: The Gathering, have conjured up a controversy over a recent promotional image.

Fans and artists have accused the artwork, which showcases a new range of cards in a retro frame, was generated using AI. 

This is foreshadowed against the company publicly stating they wouldn’t use AI for Magic: The Gathering content.

The statement said Magic: The Gathering “require[s] artists, writers, and creatives contributing to the Magic TCG to refrain from using AI generative tools to create final Magic products.”

Eagle-eyed observers zoomed in on parts of the artwork to reveal dodgy edges and warped forms. Would a human make that mistake? Probably not – it may not even be possible to make those sorts of mistakes with modern graphic design techniques. 

Addressing the controversy, Wizards of the Coast has firmly denied the accusations. 

In an X post, they reassured fans and critics: “We understand confusion by fans given the style being different than card art, but we stand by our previous statement. This art was created by humans and not AI.”

Critics weren’t convinced by Magic’s plea, however. One observer noted, “Have you looked at the pressure meter? The window? The wall next to it? AI was definitely involved here.” 

Calls have also been made for Wizards of the Coast to credit the human artists involved, as a measure to prove the absence of AI in the artwork’s creation.

Some have stated a human artist might have generated the backdrop using AI and then placed the cards into it. AI wouldn’t have been able to generate the cards, so a human certainly had some input in creating the image.

Also, let’s not forget that graphic design and editing tools like Photoshop have AI built into them.

Magic: The Gathering’s statement did expressly cover work on “final Magic products,” so that wouldn’t implicate this promotional work.

However, for many, the principle remains.

AI artwork whipping up controversy

A comparable situation this week unfolded with Xbox’s ID@Xbox program, which supports indie game developers. 

They faced backlash for using AI-generated artwork in a promotional post, somewhat of a similar blunder to Magic: The Gathering. 

In the Xbox case, the post in question showcased a wintry scene that, upon closer examination, displayed distorted facial expressions characteristic of AI-generated images. 

The reaction from the community was swift and critical, with observers and indie game developers expressing disappointment about the underappreciation of human artists. 

Meanwhile, Midjourney has been lambasted after a spreadsheet containing 16,000 artists’ names was leaked, indicating their willingness to subvert people’s intellectual property when training their models.

This inflammatory debate reflects a growing unease about the role of AI in artistic creation, especially in areas traditionally reliant on human talent.

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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