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MAGIC: THE GATHERING’s Next Set is a Veritable Jurassic Park of Feathered Dinosaurs (Exclusive)

Picture a dinosaur in your mind’s eye. What does it look like? It probably looks close to what “dinosaur” means: “terrible lizard.” And why shouldn’t it? Many children’s books, TV shows, and the Jurassic Park franchise portray the creatures as scaly green reptiles. But over the last few decades there’s been a dinosaur renaissance. New scientific research argues that many of the beasts weren’t sluggish or scaly at all, but active like warm-blooded animals and covered in what would become the feathers of modern birds (themselves technically dinosaurs). The same renaissance, unfortunately, hasn’t extended to pop culture portrayals in the same way, outside of a few video games, comic books, and illustrations.

That’s why any dino geek is going to love the next set of cards from Magic: The Gathering, currently the world’s most popular trading card game. It’s filled with wonderfully feathered dinosaurs, and Nerdist is exclusively revealing three more cards from the set, Ixalan.

First up, a triceratops like you’ve never seen before:

Click to enlarge.

Of course, many of the cards in Ixalan, releasing on September 29, take some artistic liberty with the feathers fact. While smaller dinosaurs like Velociraptor were very birdlike, the larger ones, like Tyrannosaurus rex, likely didn’t have many feathers at all. But we don’t yet have the data to say the wonderful colors we see on the cards aren’t possible. Heck, we have flamingos and birds of paradise, and they are dinosaurs.

Click to enlarge.

“We knew that the world would be inspired by Central and South American places and lore, so we took inspiration from feathered serpents as well as birds of the Amazon rainforest and combined their look with the current scientific understanding that many dinosaurs actually did have feathers,” Cynthia Sheppard, Senior Art Director for MTG told Nerdist.

Wizards is aware of both the liberties taken and the state of the science. The choice to fantastically feathers their ferocious creatures was an acknowledgement of the science and a way to tell the story MTG wanted to tell with Ixalan.

“That inspiration gave them a unique look that diverges from science into something striking, and led to a few other worldbuilding solutions,” says Sheppard, “such as using radiating colors on the dinosaurs’ feathers to mimic a sunburst, visually relating the dinosaurs (and Sun Empire, who wear their feathers) to the sun.”

Click to enlarge.

MTG cards are known almost equally for their gorgeous art, and Ixalan will also be featured in Wizard’s continuing “The Art of” series. Below, another exclusive image shows the design process behind the ferocious feathers.

Click to enlarge.

Ixalan‘s portrayal of every kid’s favorite animal probably goes beyond what any scientist would claim — T. rex likely didn’t have brilliant plumage, and many dinosaur feathers were more like quills and fluff than parrot — but by choosing to embrace the science we now know, MTG is actively pushing the pendulum back the other way. Brilliant plumage is likely closer to the truth than dry, green scales on every creature.

Oh, and the dinosaurs are fighting pirates in this set. Game on.

All images used with permission from Wizards of the Coast

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