Magic: the Gathering is a game of epic fantasy at its core — but deep within the game's dank cellars, rotting tombs, and loathsome sewers lies a slimy, rotting heart of darkness. Here are our favourite artworks of demons, zombies, and other horrors from Magic's long history.
Claustrophobia by Ryan Pancoast (Innistrad). Someone thoughtfully left a creepy blue light in this guy's coffin so he can watch his fingers splinter as he desperately, futilely claws at the lid.
Amnesia by Mark Poole (The Dark). Seeing this art at full size brings out horrific details, like how slimy his brains look.
Treacherous Urge by Steven Belledin (Planar Chaos). This is a lot of horror packed into a single image, but it's really the look on his face that puts it over the top.
Blood Funnel by Thomas Baxa (Ravnica: City of Guilds). It's a little tough to parse exactly what's going on here, but the card is called Blood Funnel so I think that pretty much sums it up. You can't have a Blood Funnel without fun!
Empty the Pits by Ryan Alexander Lee (Khans of Tarkir). The aggressive body art sets these zombies apart from the average shambling horror. They're beautiful in a way.
Ad Nauseam by Jeremy Jarvis (Shards of Alara). Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa...
Mindstab Thrull by Mark Tedin (Fallen Empires). I want you to take a close look at this thing, a good long look. Now crank up your imagination to its most vivid setting, and think about meeting this scampering up your street late some night.
Innistrad Swamp by Jung Park (Innistrad). Sometimes really simple cards, in this a basic land, get great art, like this perfectly gothic graveyard.
Vampiric Embrace by Thomas Baxa (Urza's Saga). I miss the days when Magic card art could be weird and abstract like this. It's amazing seeing this image at full size — it feels like the poster for some lurid Italian horror film from the 1970s. Sogno di sangue od i Signori della Morte.
Symbiotic Elf by Wayne England (Onslaught). This is the only card I was actually a little disappointed in when I saw the hi-res art. Not that the art is bad! But for years I've thought this was an elf who literally had living centipedes as his arms. It's still creepy to wear living centipedes as sleeves, but it's not quite the same.
Fallen Angel by Matthew Wilson (Eighth Edition). I reserve a special place in my heart for the original version of Fallen Angel, but this updated take is such a perfect high school goth's fantasy (you either wanted to be her or be with her). None so goth.
Latch Seeker by Vincent Proce (Avacyn Restored). A sad blue ghost draped in chains made of old keys is probably the Goth Homecoming King every year.
Abomination by Mark Tedin (Fourth Edition). Mark Tedin was the master of creepy cards in Magic's early days, along with Anson Maddocks. This thing has always creeped me out. It's like a Cenobite, some poor bastard who got turned inside out.
Witch-Maw Nephilim by Greg Staples (Guildpact). This...it's...I just...look, it's a giant walking penis with a mouth full o' teeth and that's quite scary enough thank you.
Spinal Villain by Anson Maddocks (Legends). This was the first card on this list when I started compiling it. One of the best monster designs ever, and with one of the best monster names ever too.
Kheru Bloodsucker by Daniel Ljunggren (Khans of Tarkir). At first glance you're just like, "Oh it's just a creepy vampire with a big tongue and OH GOD IT'S WEARING SOMEONE'S FACE!"
Macabre Waltz by Jim Murray (Dissension). I'm repeating the top image so you can get the full effect of the blood pool and everything. I've always imagined this card as the cover to a Tool album that never existed.
Cranial Archive by Volkan Braga (Khans of Tarkir). A wonderfully gothic blend of detail, beauty, rot, and horror.
Wall of Limbs by Yeong-Hao Han (M15). This just disturbs the hell out of me.
Plagiarize by Jeremy Jarvis (Torment). Nope nope nope nope nope nope.
Mirrorweave by Jim Pavelec (Shadowmoor). It would have been easy for this list to have nothing but black cards, all zombies and demons. But this card, which is white and blue, might be the most chilling of all. The in-game effect is that you pick a creature, and every creature in the game becomes a copy of that creature for one turn. The art takes that to a super creepy place. And look carefully — they seem to be casually stealing someone's baby.
Rotting Mastodon by Nils Hamm (Khans of Tarkir). What makes this card for me isn't so much the zombie mastodon, although that is metal as hell, but the storm clouds and crows in the background.
Living Wall by Anson Maddocks (Alpha). On the right you will find what is clearly an intestine. This image is so wrong.