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Top Ten Spooky Cards

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Happy Halloween!

I hope that you all are having a great Halloween today! I hope you have some plans to mix it up. Unlike most modern holidays, Halloween has actually made a lot of appearances in Magic in a number of forms. There are cards that evoke the characters, concepts, and more. And they aren’t in the Silver Bordered land either. We don’t have many Christmas themed ideas, or things like Easter Eggs, Canada Day cards (Or Bastille Day or 4th of July, etc) nor do we have a bunch of holidays like Thanksgiving in there either. But Halloween? Definitely.

Frankenstein's Monster
Black Cat
Baron Sengir
Festering Mummy
Bogbrew Witch
All Hallow's Eve

But my goal with this article is not to give you a Halloween Troped Article. We’d have Black Cat, a Werewolf, a Ghost, Frankenstein's Monster, a Vampire Lord, a token Zombie, a token Mummy, a Witch (I’d go for the triad of Bogbrew Witch, Festering Newt, and Bubbling Cauldron) and then mix them all together, capped with the obvious All Hallow's Eve and call it an article. I could create that list in 15 minutes of real life, and write in 60 more minutes.

But that’s punting. I don’t like to punt an Article, I like to do research. I like to be evocative. I like to go places you may not be going with other writers who do a quick blog post or a YouTube video and call it a day.

So today, in honor of Halloween, I do want to do a Top Ten article, but instead of looking at quick little Halloween Tropes that live in Magic cards, instead I want to consider cards that are great at evoking a spooky, horror-infused feeling.

In short, I want cards that are creepy.

So today I am looking at cards whose art, title and/or flavor text combine to create a disquieting sense of uncomfortableness. Of something that has gone wrong. Something palpably sinister.

Something creepy.

So let’s take a look at the dark halls of Magic’s past.

Honorable Mention. The Damned

Ghosts of the Damned
Songs of the Damned
Yoke of the Damned
Screams of the Damned

I like the “Of the Damned” set of cards because they have an interesting catalogue of various cards. Of them, my favorite is Songs of the Damned for its mechanics, and Yoke of the Damned for its name, art and concept.

Songs of the Damned is actually a card I consider criminally underplayed considering how good it is in any deck that cares about its graveyard and builds it up, which seems likes at least 50% of all Black decks in casual Magic. Even later on, the mana acceleration of swapping this one card for seven or eight mana on the crucial turn is enough to make it a key tool in Commander and other formats. It’s like a BFF with something like Buried Alive.

Screams of the Damned is a fun way to swap resources in your graveyard for removal. That’s not a bad idea in general, although the five mana cost to play it, and the simple one damage it deals to everything feels a bit light. Had it been two damage it would be a winner. As it is, it’s always been a bit of a missed opportunity to my mind. Yoke of the Damned is a unique card that pairs well with self-sacrifice creatures such as Sakura-Tribe Elder, Viscera Seer, and Burnished Hart. And the Ghosts of the Damned are just an average card that no one really, ever, thought much of, believe me. But they have some flavor!

10. Gaze of Pain

Gaze of Pain

What is this person willing to sacrifice to acquire the Gaze of Pain? This card creates a question with the creepy art. Did she disfigure herself on purpose? You can see her full eyeballs behind the torn lids. Is the Gaze of Pain a ritual that happened to herself, or it is what she can do to others now that she has gone down this dark path? Questioning of this card leads to some problematic places.

9. Treacherous Urge, Creepy Doll

Treacherous Urge
Creepy Doll

When done right, the idea of something else taking control over you is just maddening. When done right, the idea of puppets, dolls, and marionettes as toys and playthings of dark powers is fascinatingly off-putting. Both of these cards hit those notes. Now Creepy Doll is the obvious choice for a list of Top Ten Creepy Cards at first . . .  but when you drill down into what the card is doing, and the flavor text, the card is suitably perturbing. From the scissors and smiling doll-face to the flavor text of disappearance of the magistrate. So creepy . . . 

But that doesn’t hold a candle to Treacherous Urge! Take a look at that thing. Where Creepy Doll combines the concept of all three major aspects of flavor — title, art, and flavor text perfectly, Treacherous Urge just rocks this art. But what an image that is! What a soul-rendering concept we have! From the marionette strings as barbed wire to the doll being forced to carve into its own body with that saw to the gasping shriek which will never be heard that dominates it’s features. This is a winner. And the best part? It even evokes the feeling of the card without doing the obvious picture you might expect for this card.

8. Mutilate

Ah yes, Mutilate. The classic creepy card. This body horror card features people melting into themselves. The twisted and tortured scream centered in the front with the disfigured jaw, dismembered teeth and more is dark. The artwork here reminds me of a 1960’s Sci-Fi classic short story by Harlan Ellison that was later made into a creepy adventure game – I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.I recommend reading it.

In other creepy news, given its reputation for creepy art, one of the follow ups to this card also featured some warping although not to this level.

While one is still on the creepier side of life, although nowhere near the hit the first art was, the other is pretty tame compared to the others, and just feels like most other Black kill spells.

Note that the creepy Liliana text in these makes you wonder how Liliana, the woman who enjoys such pain, would begin her Heel-turn-Face transition that she is making a bit in the overall storyline. Anyways, Mutilate for the body warping win!

7. Living Wall

Living Wall

The color miss on Living Wall is obvious. Put this thing in Black where it belongs! The art here is creepy. If you look closely, you will see a fetus in the body parts that are used in the Living Wall.

Flavor text?

Some fiendish mage had created a horrifying wall of living flesh, patched together from a jumble of still-recognizable body parts. As we sought to hew our way through it, some unknown power healed the gaping wounds we cut, denying us passage.

You can see a bit of a modern take on this with Wall of Limbs as well as Wall of Putrid Flesh. The Wall of Limbs has cooler and creepier art, but the Wall of Putrid Flesh gets gold for the card name.

Wall of Limbs
Wall of Putrid Flesh

Note that Living Wall is a homage to the Dungeons and Dragons monster of the same name:

It’s pretty creepy and eerie as well. Even the flavor text of Living Wall, the card, reads more like a dungeon encounter than a magical battle with Planeswalkers.

6. Mind Maggots and Brain Maggot

Mind Maggots
Brain Maggot

Both of these concepts, of giant, nasty Maggots that burrow into your head, are already pretty nasty. So right there you have something uncomfortable going on, just in theory alone. But there are a lot of cards like that that wind up being tamer than you think in art form. Not these two winners though. In both cards you have a close up view of something very creepy going on. Check out the altered skin coloration in the Ron Spencer piece or the effect in the Brain Maggot around it, included that red art, by Min Yum. Wow are those Creepy and disturbing cards!

5. Kheru Bloodsucker

Kheru Bloodsucker

I’m not sure why, but there is something that I find very disturbing in playing with faces. The art, the concept, the core attributes are all pretty big. So, take a look at Kheru Bloodsucker as a good example of a concept. Note that, mechanically, the Bloodsucker is pretty similar to most other Vampires out there. You can sacrifice another creature to put a +1/+1 counter on it, and you can drain people of some life when your bigger stuff dies. These are both mechanics that are pretty par for the course, and both seem pretty minor compared to other abilities. In other words, nothing here requires the card to hit all of the creepiness factors. But it does. For those of us who played a lot of Khans of Tarkir limited, you are probably used to it and know the feel of the card. Now, if you didn’t play a lot of Tarkir Block limited, you may not have seen them close up, so take a look now.

At the face.

See how it seems a little off center, and plastic? Notice the spikes (Tusks? Teeth? Horns?) that are coming around the face and seem to pin it there?

Now read the flavor text. It wears the face of those it drains. Note that this is not some magical cloning effect like Clone, or some copying effect from Evil Twin. It literally tears off the face and wears it.

That’s a creepy card.

4. Macabre Waltz

No, not the one from Shadows over Innistrad where Liliana is dancing with a Zombie, but this one. This is creepy. The blood dance here is just . . .  dark. The open mouth, the apparently enjoyable dance, the entire thing exudes wrongness. As such, it is one of the creepiest cards ever pictured. It’s hard to talk about just how visceral and wrong this card hits. But it does.

So it winds up being mostly a relief that it was replaced by new artwork later . . . 

3. Thought Scour

Thought Scour

Thought Scour is a great combination of both unsettling imagery and the flavor text as well. Let’s consider the picture first. We have a bunch of detailed machines drilling into a head scalped open on the top, with a yelling figure shouting its protest. Meanwhile the flavor text discusses the procedures going on with Stitcher Geralf instructing someone as to the horrific process undergoing as if he were simply a lecturer in a classroom.

2. Ad Nauseum

Ad Nauseam

After looking at Ad Nauseum, if you don’t get ad nauseous, then you must have a stronger stomach than I. To be obsessed with something so much it kills you, and then you are continuing the obsession is creepy enough by itself. But when you add in the fact that this person likely rubbed off its hands by drawing? And rather than stop it rigged up some tool on its undead stumps so it can keep on going? That is just creepy dimensions beyond creepiness. Ad Nauseum is my call for the 2nd most creepy card of all time.

1. Plagiarize

They took a perfectly normal Blue card and then somehow made it more creepy than you would imagine. This card’s art is beyond normal levels of such an odd, disquieting feeling. I don’t run this art of Plagiarize in my decks, because of how disturbing I find it, instead I run the original Torment copy. From the eye teeth to the eyeball I the mouth and more, this thing is a level of nightmare fuel that transcends everything else. Yuck.

See how mild the original copy is?

Anyways, there we have it! I hope you found my choices suitably creepy! Anything I missed? What do you find oddly unsettling? Oh, and Happy Halloween!

PS —

Last week I reached out to the artist, Lubov, to find out what original art she still had available for the Magic cards she drew. Lubov is an artist who was originally born in Russia, but emigrated to the states. She has created art for five Magic cards, all from the Portal 2 set.

Alaborn Trooper

Talas Merchant
Temple Acolyte

Now I was looking for Temple Acolyte. It was unsold, and I picked it up. I did many happy dances in my apartment. It’s been one of my favorite cards for a long time, and I have long extolled its virtues to you in my various articles. I am very happy to have picked it up.

Nature's Lore and Breath of Life have been purchased as well. But she still has both Alaborn Trooper and Talas Merchant for sale, and is asking $500 for each one. You can find her art and contact info here at her site.

Now Talas Merchant is a Pirate, and has some pretty cool art. Given the huge love letter for Pirates in Ixalan, I think it would be a good time to own some Pirate art! I think Talas Merchant, in particular, is a very evocative style and suits Lubov well.

And as always, thanks for reading!


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