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Magic: The Gathering plagiarism allegations might cause Trouble (in Pairs) for card artist

Donato Giancola has threatened legal action over allegedly illegal use of Cyberpunk 2020 art in recent MTG card.

Card art for Magic: The Gathering's Trouble in Pairs, which is allegedly plagiarised
Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

Another Magic: The Gathering artist has been accused of plagiarising their illustrations on a card for the popular trading card game, and this one’s a doozy. Fay Dalton’s submission for Trouble in Pairs from the recent Murders at Karlov Manor commander decks has at least three separate allegations levelled against it.

Reddit user “hypnotichog” first raised suspicions on the main MTG subreddit by comparing the red mohawk figure from Dalton’s full composition to the cover of a Cyberpunk 2020 novel, The Ravengers, which featured a figured that shared more than a few identifying features. The original artist, Donato Giancola, later posted to Facebook accusing Dalton of stealing the art and infringing on his copyright.

“Wow. Nearly speechless, but not speechless enough not to contact a lawyer. Copyright infringement.

What were you thinking Wizards of the Coast?” Ciancola wrote. “To be clear, there are exacting details in the neck, arms, background, and hand which show clear copied structures from my art. Copied and pasted. This is not about ‘similarities’, this is about direct copying.”

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A Wizards of the Coast representative informed Reddit users on March 26th that the publisher was actively investigating the issue, but we haven’t heard any more official word since. The internet immediately began poring over Dalton’s 17 other pieces featured on official MTG cards in hopes of finding evidence of more alleged plagiarism. Instead, they found two additional instances of seemingly stolen artwork inside Trouble in Pairs’ full illustration.

A different Reddit thread alleges that the bandaged figure’s face comes from a Trapped magazine cover created by Will Hulsey, while his arm, neck and upper body were supposedly pulled from a Boris Vallejo pulp sci-fi novel cover illustration. Not content to stop with the hat trick, Twitter user HowlingSaltMine pointed out the same figure’s hand may be pulled from a painting titled “The Bull Toughest Marine in the Whole Damned Corps", by Morton Kunstler.

Dalton is far from the first artist to be accused of stealing artwork. Just last year, David Sondered publicly apologised for stealing parts of another artist’s painting in Lost Caverns of Ixalan’s reprint of Wayfarer’s Bauble - Wizards of the Coast later suspended any future contracts with him. The publisher took similar action against Jason Felix over his plagiarised version of Crux of Fate that appeared in the Strixhaven set’s Mystical Archive.

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Chase Carter


Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.