Stunning Magic: the Gathering art breathes new life into classic fantasy tropes

Every summer, Wizards of the Coast releases a new core set for Magic: the Gathering. This year's set, Magic 2013 (or M13) will introduce a set of new characters to the world of Magic, including a goblin crime lord, a majestic merman, and an elegant elf shaman. And even though there are some time-honored fantasy elements here, you've never seen them done like this before.

Check out a gallery of amazing new Magic: the Gathering art right here. Click these images to enlarge — they're big enough to use as desktop wallpaper.

Magic's summer core sets have an interesting goal — they focus on general fantasy tropes, eschewing Magic's sometimes convoluted mythos. Most of the esoteric place and race names are banished, in favor of dragons, zombies, fireballs and other elements that resonate with fans of fantasy. Plus, the sets are designed to be somewhat simpler to understand and play, so they're the ideal on-ramp for new or lapsed players.

Unlike the early days of Magic's history, when core sets were all reprints, half of the modern summer sets are made up of completely new cards. This year, Wizards is introducing five new characters to Magic, each one based on a basic fantasy archetype. There's Talrand, a merfolk who controls flying drakes; Nefarox, an angry demon; Krenko, a goblin who runs a gang of street-thugs; Odric, a holy warrior who fights against the undead; and Yeva, an elf with a strong bond with nature.

In this gallery we have an image of each new character. Talrand is mind-blowingly awesome, and I love how Yeva looks feminine without resorting to the old chain-mail bikini. I'm not sure if these images will show up on cards or just in promotional materials. Paired with each new character is art from a new card in the set that references that character. I particularly love Nefarox's Servant — so disturbingly vivid. Yeva's Forcemage is a bit of a fashion disaster though.

A few of these characters call the plane of Ravnica home, which ties in to the next new set that Wizards will release, coming in October of 2012. That set will feature the long-awaited return to the giant magical world-city of Ravnica.

M13 comes out on July 13, 2012.

Stunning Magic: the Gathering art breathes new life into classic fantasy tropes

Stunning Magic: the Gathering art breathes new life into classic fantasy tropes

Stunning Magic: the Gathering art breathes new life into classic fantasy tropes

Stunning Magic: the Gathering art breathes new life into classic fantasy tropes

Stunning Magic: the Gathering art breathes new life into classic fantasy tropes

Stunning Magic: the Gathering art breathes new life into classic fantasy tropes

Stunning Magic: the Gathering art breathes new life into classic fantasy tropes

Stunning Magic: the Gathering art breathes new life into classic fantasy tropes

Stunning Magic: the Gathering art breathes new life into classic fantasy tropes

Stunning Magic: the Gathering art breathes new life into classic fantasy tropes