SCG Talent Search – Alterations: Hate Is Such A Strong Word

Monday, December 6th – Evan Erwin’s theme this week was “Card that you hate.” Well, hate is a strong word… but Jeremy hates Frost Titan.

Raising children isn’t easy, as I’m sure you’ve all heard, or in some cases, experienced. We try to do our best raising them, teaching them manners and etiquette, and sharing our morals and belief systems with them, all in an attempt to have a perfect little angel emerge from the fifteen-year manufacturing process. If only it were that easy.

It’s a great feeling when we see the effort we’ve put in to them pay off. I received a telemarketing call a few evenings ago, and after I managed to get off the phone, I said to Tiffany (my wife), “I absolutely hate those phone calls!” Immediately Megan answered with: “Don’t say hate, daddy; it’s not a nice word.” Finger wagging included. Of course, she was right. We teach them to say that they
don’t like

something as opposed to saying hate. Hate is such a strong word, and we generally don’t fully mean it when we say it.


Frost Titan.

Playing Frost Titan means playing blue. Playing blue means playing Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Playing Jace means… umm…. owning Jace? So as you can imagine, I’m usually on the opposing side of the Frost Titan windmill slam, and it really doesn’t feel that great.

Sean untaps and draws his card. I can see the relief on his face, eyebrows slightly raised. He rearranges his lands and Chalice as a smug little grin appears. “Wipe that grin off your face and just put the damn thing on the table,” I said. He obliges… three turns later, buried under a pile of Jace card advantage and the uncontrollable twiddling that’s going on from across the battlefield, I tank, conclude that I have no outs, and scoop.

Jace and Frosty are like having Georges St. Pierre and Brock Lesnar as your bodyguards, what can I do? I like Jace, but I hate Frost Titan.

Remember back when Frosty was the unplayable Titan? The one that everyone complained about because it wasn’t close to being on the same level as the others… the red-headed stepchild so to speak. That was when I received a commission for a playset from my buddy Prem who owns a small shop near Toronto. He sent a Baneslayer, a couple Inferno Titans, and four Frost Titans because they were just sitting in the case. I finished the Baneslayer and the Infernos pretty quickly and shipped them back, and then got started on the Frostys.


I started eagerly enough, laying all four in front of me to begin the transformation from ‘worst Titan’ to ‘painted Titan in an EDH deck somewhere’ figuring the playset would take maybe two evenings to complete. I figured that I’d be using gray a fair bit when mixing, so I started by base coating them all in gray on the bottom, and I used blue for the sky. Instead of just doing the base in black or white, I find that if I have a color close to the art color, I’ll use that, and it turns out nicer.

Frost 1

Once the base coat was laid down, I began bringing the gray sky outwards and played a little bit with the dark areas in the mountains, as I was having trouble visualizing what these were going to look like. In the right-hand image, I started the first white level of the mountain. White is very translucent and can take many coats to get actual coverage over a dark base coat, so if you’re working with white and you find yourself getting frustrated at the lack of coverage… it’s not you. Keep adding white layers until you get the coverage level you’re looking for, but keep it thin, or you’ll end up with streaky bits that look caked on down the road (this goes for any color).

Frost 2

With the grays and blues out of the way, the darker portions of the clouds were the next thing to go in. In the pictures above, the black definitely looks too dark beside the original art, but that can be fixed down the road. On the right side, the second layer of white was added to the mountain and to the uppermost cloud.

Frost 3

The left side here has no paint differences, but I included it as a reminder to clean up your edges after a few steps. With this round of tooth-picking done, another layer of white was given to the left mountain and the bottom right mountain section. I also worked on the top white cloud a little bit here.

Frost 4

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to block the poor lighting on the image to the left, so you can’t really see the amount of building I did on the top cloud. I also darkened the bluish mountain shadows in this step… for some reason. This was when I started getting a little down about the whole project. The cloud was looking horrid, and the dark bits on the mountain seemed so out of place to me, but I trudged on. The cloud definitely came together a lot better in the next image, as I shrunk it in half, so it wasn’t as dominant in the picture. While I was shrinking the cloud, I used the same gray levels to shade in that absurdly black section in the top right from earlier.

Frost 5

Finally that cloud is looking like a cloud, after a bit more shading. Off to the rolling hills we go. These two images focus mainly on the hill on the right side, including the grass. You don’t really see the grass detail in the picture, but I used three shades of green to match the dark to light gradient that Mike Bierek used in the original. The brightened snow tip of the ‘one tree hill’ was also added in this step.

Frost 6

In the left image, you can see where more detail was put into our tree hill, so it remains looking like it’s in the shadows a little. I also brought the blue sky across the right side to define the shape of the mountain and the bottom of the cloud in one fell stroke. It was here that I would succumb to my ridiculous procrastination.

Frost 7

This stage of the project was just before I began working on my first Talent Search article. I had all four Titans roughly to the stage shown on the left, and I was becoming quite jaded by the task. This was my first time doing a playset, previously doing only one or two alters at a time, and I found it quite draining. I sort of likened the process to my other passion: video games. The games that always get me hooked are the ones where progression is measured via a leveling system. Most of you will be familiar with World of Warcraft, where progression is the true core of the game. With each level or each new item, you feel a sense of gratification, of relief coupled with a yearning for more. This is what altering is like for me. When I took on four of the same card at a time though, it dramatically slowed down the ‘leveling’ process to a point where it was no longer enticing to grab my brush and start painting. Although I knew I had someone waiting for these, I just couldn’t muster up the strength to get back
into them, so I turned to the Molten-Tail Masticore of
my Introductions article

to fulfill my needs.

It’s amazing how writing grants me this bizarre insight that I’ve never had… or maybe just never acknowledged. I can say that I’ll be much less apt to take on playset commissions in the future, for fear of the possible burnout.

Cue Evan’s theme: “Cards you hate.” What a perfect time to get back into the Frostys! After about two months of skipping over them, I had the kick I needed to get back in there. So we’ll shift focus to the Titan on the right side. This is a different Titan than the one I’ve been chronicling thus far. I had forgotten which one I was working on and was too lazy to flip through the pictures on the camera apparently. This one is a great example of the ugly mountain though, with its dark blue monstrosities doing lord knows what. The bridge started coming together though, and making those few steps forward really got me back into the swing of things.

I decided it was finally time to take on the clouds, and both these pictures show the progress I made there. Of course there were many more steps and colors to take this from no clouds to decent clouds, but that would be excessive to display. They still don’t really look like the rest of their brethren though.

Frost 8

Surprise! From zero to mountain in three seconds. When I started working on the distant mountain range behind the tree, I was making such progress that I forgot to take some pictures of my work. I also added some peachy lining to my clouds to work a little better with Mike’s. Over on the right-hand picture, for my first time ever, I rage-quit a portion of an alter. Generally when I’m unhappy with the way something is looking, I’ll just keep adding paint until I get it where I can live with it (or I set it aside and procrastinate for two months). This time, I killed it with the X-Acto knife. Seriously, I had so much paint on there that the toothpick wasn’t able to take it off. Back to the mountainous drawing board.

Frost 9

One coat of an ivory and one coat of the white, add a few little dabs of blue and voila! The mountain is passable again. I also brought the light color down below the bridge a bit here as it just seemed odd being gray.

Frost 10

The white also looked odd under the bridge, so I filled it in with a little darker color to make it look more like the bottom section was in the shadows. You’ll notice I also did the rest of the timbers on the bridge, including tiny highlights which look really cool in person. I bandied about the idea of some sort of river running under the bridge and off the page but tossed that out due to flavor. It’s Frost Titan territory; everything up there is frozen anyway; the bridge is probably just there to get over a deep crevice in the mountain. Based on that thought, I blackened out the bottom section and used a gray/brown gradient under the bridge so it almost looks like the edge of the mountain just falls off there. Another tiny modification to point out would be the dome of Frosty’s head, which now peeks into the text bar ever so slightly.

Frost 11

Here he is, in all his glory. The end of the saga, and the weight is lifted off my shoulders in a snap. Oh wait, three more to go… right. After my Titan hiatus, I just pulled this one through the rest of the process, leaving the others behind. When I realized what was holding me back (the slower leveling process), I decided it was best to focus on one and see how it went. What do you think?

Final Frost Titan

I’m very pleased with how this all turned out. I spent the full range of emotions on this card and to see it coated and in a sleeve is such a relief. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my process during this one, and hopefully I can channel these discoveries into quicker painting and a better mindset. Although I hate you, thank you, Frost Titan.

For my next article, I’d like to do something a little different, with your support. I can’t divulge my plans yet, as I have to see it all come together first, but I’d like for you guys to tell me which of these three cards you’d like to see altered! I’ve had a bit of a bromance with Steve Argyle since meeting him in Toronto, so all three are his original art.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, hate mail or commissions…

E-mail: jfroggatt at persona dot ca
Twitter: @Jerfroggatt
SCG Forums: Jfroggatt
MTG Salv Forums: Kyrian

This is Jeremy Froggatt … painting the cards, so you don’t have to.