It's October... aka spooky, scary season. Personally, this season begins for me as soon as September rolls around. Nonetheless, October 1 begins 31 days of scares, creeps, and chills.
To help kick off the season and get you in the mood, I wanted to share with you some of Magic's most gruesome and horrific art and the cards they belong to. Reader beware, you're in for a scare!
Content warning: body horror. Seriously.
The art of Serpentine Spike warrants a second look over. Eldrazi are definitely terrifying in nature. From their large size to their annihilating abilities, these creatures are downright terrifying. However, most cards depicting Eldrazi don't hint at the violence they can inflict.
Serpentine Spike shows just how cold and ruthless these creatures can be. In this piece we can see a shocked Zendikarian Vampire looking down to see his fate already sealed with an Eldrazi tentacle piercing his heart. Behind him lies his comrade, falling to his knees. Lastly, we have the final few left alive in the distance, standing before they succumb to an untimely death.
While this art is one of our tamer pieces, it definitely stands as a chilling reminder of the all-too-grounded consequences of cosmic horror.
Keeping in the same vein as Eldrazi, this next piece shows us what happens when you cross a horse, a human, and the insane powers of an ancient insanity-giving eldritch being. I tend to be less impacted by horror than most, yet this art unsettles me quite a bit.
The horse and human have become one, minds melting and bodies contorting. From the horse's lopsided, gaping jaw to its numerous legs, to the axe made of flesh, this piece stands out as a nightmare. This piece very much reminds me of that one Fullmetal Alchemist episode… so… yeah, you get it. It's rough.
Alas! Our final Eldrazi-related piece. It took me a while to pinpoint exactly why I feel so unsettled by the art in Whispers of Emrakul.
Then I finally realized why… this piece depicts a man stabbing a tentacle-covered flesh mass with a single human arm contorting, reaching towards him. His face is crying out in agony as three tentacles wrap around his head, drawing him into madness.
What strikes me about this piece is the human hand. This creature was once human in nature, and seems to be reaching toward the man. Whether it was reaching in agony or a desire to spread is unknown, however—that's what makes it so chilling. The flavor text pairs perfectly with this art, showing us that these terrifying creatures can rob you of your very essence: your mind.
Oh loooooord this card. Abomination is a relic from a time when Magic's art was truly horrifying. This piece evokes major discomfort as the creature's hollow white eyes stare you down.
The creature being depicted is definitely human in shape, though it lacks the basic features of ears, a nose, and a mouth. This art falls into the uncanny valley, a terrifying place where what we see before us is not quite human. This fleshy monster shares some features with Resident Evil's Nemesis, and I feel as though we all know what that monster is capable of. Thankfully, it and this card's art aren't real.
Mutilate has had its fair share of art changes, but nothing is more chill-inducing than its original printing in Torment. The realism depicted in this art feels almost too real, like a funhouse mirror gone wrong.
The men in the background are depicted as growing and elongating, legs cracking and necks reaching. But the true horror is the woman in the foreground. Her jaw is slack and unhinged, her eye is drooping as if it were being melted, and her hands are fusing with her face. I absolutely haaaaate this piece, however, I love how terrifying it is without leaning on some rather gruesome horror tropes.
Whenever I think of gross and creepy Magic art, I always think of Pulling Teeth.
The plane of Lorwyn is best known for its fantastical creatures and whimsical aura… and then there's Pulling Teeth. There is a lot about this art that unsettles me. The dry lips, the rope tied around the teeth, and the small worm slithering into the unfortunate individual's mouth are just a few things that make me uncomfortable. However, what strikes me the most is the finger pulling the mouth open wider and the uncomfortable sense that those two ropes are about to be yanked as hard as they can. Even the red background gives this piece an even greater sense of discomfort.
I definitely wonder though… what's the plan for the teeth?
Innistrad definitely allows artists to stretch their creepy, spooky legs. One perfect example of this exercise comes in the form of Sensory Deprivation.
While most of the pieces on this list are black, I want to make note that this is a blue card… A BLUE CARD! The poor soul depicted in this piece is being harvested for parts to create terrifying monstrosities known as Skaabs. His eyelids and mouth are haphazardly stitched shut in an attempt to dead his senses so the stitcher can perform their work.
While the art is unsettling on its own, the flavor text amps this discomfort factor up to a whole other level. The fact that this is called "stitcher's anesthesia" adds another horrifying fact to Innistrad lore I wish I never knew.
Unmake's Unmake is definitely a bit freaky. Unsettling? Not particularly. The player rewards promo however? Oh my god I don't like it. Not one bit.
This piece reminds me quite a bit of Junji Ito's manga "The Enigma of Amigara Fault," depicting a man contorting and elongating into an unrecognizable monster. His legs are bent at an uncomfortable angle, his fingers are almost noodle-like, and he's even losing a few teeth. The terror in the subject's eyes is palpable. His removal from existence is definitely a painful one, which makes this art truly terrifying.
Let's go back in time to Homelands to take a peak at one of Magic's freakiest pieces of art: Greater Werewolf. We are no stranger to depictions of werewolf transformations in media (I'm looking at you Jacob from Twilight). Some seem painless, others painful. However, none of them seem as painful as the transformation depicted in our #5 slot.
Not only is the subject in a half transformed state, but his skin gives off a large Freddy Krueger vibe. Rather than transforming normally, the wolf seems to be growing out from the side of his face, allowing the subject to see his horrific transformation in full view... and clearly he's not a fan.
I hate bugs. I hate bugs. I hate bugs. I hate bugs.
This art gives me a phantom feeling and I absolutely despise it. Bugs are literally crawling out of the subject's ears and onto the side of her head. I don't even have to provide an in-depth analysis as to why this art is gnarly. Bugs are gross. So, so so so so gross. Next!
Ah, yes, a cEDH favorite! There has always been a reason why I personally don't play this card. 90% of it has to do with the art (the other 10% is that it hurts my brain).
The subject's skin is translucent, his eyes are pinned open, and his hands are missing. However, that isn't what freaks me out the most. What makes me cringe when I see this piece is the fact that there are two openings into his back that reveal his bones and his brittle muscles. He is no longer a living being, but a walking tool. Even the flavor text adds to this horrifying conclusion, making it fall into my Top 3.
I find it funny that promos are often more gruesome than their original counterparts. Putrefy and Brain Maggot definitely come to mind, however, one stands out from them all: Bile Blight.
The 2014 FNM promo of this piece is absolutely unsettling. Like wow. The people in this art have no bones and are turning into goo. The way this art depicts the men has me wondering if they will stay this way or simply melt into an unrecognizable puddle. Simply put: ew.
I feel like we saw this one coming. I hate this art so much, I love it. Nothing truly captures creepy, gross, spooky, and unsettling like the art in Living Wall.
At first glance it seems like the art is just a mass of flesh, teeth, and eyes all contorting in a gruesome snarl. This art reminds me of John Carpenter's The Thing, depicting a fleshy mass that is contorted, horrified, and angry. However, there is one detail that seems to be eclipsed in this piece. Do you see it?
THERE'S JUST A RANDOM FETUS FLOATING IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS ANGRY FLESHY WALL.
WHY IS THERE A BABY IN THIS ART? WHAT'S GONNA HAPPEN TO THE BABY? HOW DID THIS WALL GET A BABY?!?!?
This art raises so many unsettling questions without providing a single answer, which makes it the perfect candidate for the #1 spot.