A hot potato: Not for the first time, Magic: The Gathering / Dungeons and Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast has found itself embroiled in an AI art controversy. After insisting that a promotional image was entirely the work of humans, it has now admitted that generative AI components were used in its creation.

The situation began a couple of days ago when fans accused Wizards of the Coast of using generative AI in promo images for its new Magic: The Gathering cards. The accusations stemmed from small discrepancies in the steampunky items in the background – the gauges, bulbs, wires, etc. They might be small, but it's the kind of tell-tale weirdness that can indicate when something was created by an AI, much like the tech's inability to create convincing hands.

Wizards of the Coast's response was to vehemently deny the accusations. "We understand confusion by fans given the style being different from card art, but we stand by our previous statement," the company wrote in a now-deleted post on X (via PC Gamer). "This art was created by humans and not AI."

But the accusations and evidence continued to flood Wizards' social media accounts. Artist Dave Rapoza was so incensed that he quit working for the company.

Eventually, Wizards of the Coast admitted it was wrong. "Well, we made a mistake earlier when we said that a marketing image we posted was not created using AI," it wrote.

The publisher says that the image background came from a third-party vendor. "As you, our diligent community pointed out, it looks like some AI components that are now popping up in industry standard tools like Photoshop crept into our marketing creative, even if a human did the work to create the overall image."

The controversy has been made all the worse by Wizards' history with AI art. Back in August, Ilya Shkipin, a 14-year veteran D&D artist, admitted that he had used AI to enhance his original images in a book called Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants, something that the publisher claimed it was unaware of. There were also arguments over whether some art in the 2024 D&D Player's Handbook was created with AI following claims a dwarf was missing an arm, though those allegations turned out to be incorrect.

What's jarring to most people is that following the outrage last year, Wizards of the Coast brought in a strict rule that its artists, writers, and creatives refrain from using generative AI to create its products. Following the latest incident, the company says it is updating its policies regarding how it works with vendors.