Art of Magic – Nightmare Fuel

Magic: the Gathering, I think we can all agree, has pretty great art. Its stable of artists excel at pumping out epic pieces of artwork depicting kickass heroes of legend, ferocious beasts, awesome artifacts, breath-taking landscapes, and powerful spells. The art of Magic is, to lots of people, one of the main selling points, and probably the main thing that draws new players into the hobby.

Of course, there are times when the art of Magic: the Gathering is meant to evoke an emotion in you besides awe. There are times when the art gets… creepy. What follows is a list of M:tG cards I feel that have the most nightmare inducing artwork; you’ll probably won’t be surprised that nearly all of these cards are a) black and/or blue, traditionally the “mind-screw” colours, and b) from “horror” sets like New Phyrexia, Innistrad, and Shadowmoor. Let’s get this over with…


It’s the point of view in this card that gives me the heebie-jeebies. Imagine you’re that guy at the bottom of the grave, feebly protesting as creepy men in capes throw shovel after shovel of dirt on you, knowing that they’re not going to stop until you’re choking and suffocating, and no one is coming to help you…. urgh. Claustrophobia has similar art, but the lack of the first-person perspective means that it doesn’t have the same sort of punch.


So you’re walking through Ravnica one fine day, hoping you can avoid getting sodomised by Rakdos murder-clowns and wondering if that Selesnya girl likes you, and then BAM! WALL OF SCREAMING MOUTHS! OH JESUS OH JESUS GOD CHRIST NO. Go ahead though, you can run, they won’t chase you… they don’t need to. They’ll wait, and wait, and wait.


Again, it’s the viewpoint here that makes this terrifying. Imagine you woke up in the middle of the night, and your neighbours are standing around your bed, with no explanation to their presence other than the hungry looks on their faces.


OH COME ON. Do I really need to explain why I think this art is terrifying? The extreme close-up and the expression of utter anguish and suffering… this is like something from one of the Saw films.


To me, this art is scary not because of the gruesome zombie who’s the focus (though he is pretty messed up and mutilated), but it’s in the smaller details, and the name of the card. Ad Nauseam; as in, repeat over, and over, and over. This guy is going to keep drawing that symbol until he physically wears himself away; he’s already worn away his arms. It’s the idea of the unending, agonising repetition here that gives me chills.


The only green card in this list, but deservedly so. Look at the art. LOOK AT IT. That thing is dragging a burlap sack full of children, who seem to be very much alive, and very, very scared. And you just know that those children aren’t going to be seen again. This card is basically the embodiment of every parent’s fear.


“You’re coming with us.” Tell me you can look at that art and honestly not be creeped out. The scariest thing I find in this art is not what’s shown… it’s the suggestion of what’s around the corner, and if their arms look like that, what does the rest of them look like? Fuck this, I’m gone.


Oh sure, that’s fine, it’s not like I needed to sleep tonight or anything.



One thought on “Art of Magic – Nightmare Fuel

  1. Endless Ranks of the Dead is one of my favorite MTG card art pieces of all time. Especially in foil, it’s absolutely gorgeous. You’re standing in a church, a place of sanctuary. In the center is a stained glass window, a beautiful woman standing serenely – and on the other side of that window is a horde of zombies, clawing at the glass in their attempt to get in and end you. The trappings of safety are all around you… but you don’t feel safe. You don’t feel safe at all.

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