The thing that always bothered me about Koth's art is that he looked way too relaxed. We hear all this jazz about how he's a hothead (and it's reinforced in the books) and I think of this big, bulging, ferocious guy (sort of how Garruk's depicted in a lot of his assault-art) with lava dripping from his eyes and mouth...just ready to tear your face off. As we've established before, Koth as shown is more the sexy, steady guy who sells you Old Spice body wash.
When I set out to do these alters for the sweetest ever family I met in SCG Seattle (2011, cringe) my goal was to make them something that highlighted the art and added to it, since they expressed being collectors of sorts - just buying cards to hang the wall and admire, etc.
Part of the delay with finishing this commission was not being able to think of a solution to the artistic problem of "zesting up" Koth. It drove me bananas. I read the books. I thought. Finally, I had the idea to base the alters on Koth's journey (with Venser) deeper and deeper into the Phyrexian heart of Mirrodin. What if, I thought, I just extended the art but add elements that Koth may have encountered on this loooooong (thank you Robert Wintermute) journey?
It made sense. The elements would be encroaching on Koth's personal bubble from our first-person (as in the person holding the card) perspective, so we wouldn't see what Koth saw in total, only a part of it. That would add intrigue and mystery. The part of the elements shown on the card would hint at what he saw, and would be done in contrasting colors, visually adding interest.
I decided to make the added elements based on a different color of mana for each Koth. Since he's reppin' red, I altered the playset to have green, black, white, and blue elements featured in each. I was very happy with the result.
Suddenly Koth was no longer just standing there waiting for his taco order to get plated up...He was enraged at the sight of blackened Phyrexian horrors defiling the landscape of his home...He was nervous and unsure at the sight of one of Venser's light spheres floating up from the mist - was the other planeswalker alive or dead?...He was disgusted at and ready to burn a plant-like Phyrexian that slithered atop the water...He was afraid, and trying not show it, at the sight of a carcass in the swamp and the Elesh-like warrior that rose from the path and stood to face him in battle...