You might not think about horror or being scared when playing Magic: The Gathering, but if you ever take a proper look at some of the cards, you’ll notice that it’s a treasure trove of unpleasant things. The sheer range of cards is enough to scare some people off, but the scariest cards in MTG do things a little differently.
Horror comes in many forms. That’s because what scares you is specific to you. Everyone has their own special fears, and tapping into those is tricky without knowing what they are. That being said, there are some things which are so universally unsettling that they’ll put The Fear into basically anyone who thinks about it or looks upon it for long enough. Not every single one of these cards is going to scare you specifically, but we reckon we’ve got a little something for everyone.
Scariest MTG cards for Halloween
- Phyrexian Unlife (New Phrexia): Oh, that’s just not right.
- Sensory Deprivation (Innistrad): Sewing is fun.
- Transgress the Mind (Battle for Zendikar): That’s not where hands go.
- Ad Nauseam (Shards of Alara): This man works far too hard.
- Brisela, Voice of Nightmares (Eldritch Moon): No, thank you.
- Pelakka Predation (Zendikar Rising): You think migraines are bad?
- Doom Whisperer (Guilds of Ravnica): Not ideal if you think eight is already too many limbs.
- Harmless Offering (Eldritch Moon): Look, a kitty!
- Treacherous Urge (Planar Chaos): Please don’t do that.
- Plagiarize (Ninth Edition): Nope.
We’re fairly certain that every single one of these cards could easily be described as nightmare fuel and that’s why they’re some of the scariest MTG cards around. We’re not talking about what the cards do, by the way - we’re looking at the artwork here. We’ve avoided the obvious things like big old spiders and opted to go for things which are a little more unsettling across the board. Let’s get stuck in, shall we?
1. Phyrexian Unlife (New Phrexia)
Oh, that’s just not right
Phyrexian Unlife is the first part of the Ad Nauseam combo - we’ll visit the other part shortly. It’s a card which means that you don’t lose the game for having less than zero life, but also means that you’ll take infect damage instead and will probably die to that.
The artwork features what appears to be a newcomer to the Phrexian way of life, which means they were once truly alive, but have since been converted into a mechanical form. They’re crying oil and appear to be touching their face in horror. What makes it worse is that while the face is emotionless, the eyes appear to be screaming. It’s deeply unsettling.
2. Sensory Deprivation (Innistrad)
Sewing is fun
Sensory Deprivation is a one-mana enchantment that lowers the attack of a creature by three. It also happens to have a person whose eyes and mouth has been sewn up and are now straining against those stitches. This is one of those cards which is made worse by looking at the flavour text, which reads: “They call it “stitcher’s anaesthesia,” a spell to deaden the senses while the mad doctors begin their grisly work.” That means that this person is not only alive, but about to be butchered and probably sewn onto a bunch of other people to make a Skaab Goliath or something.
3. Transgress the Mind (Battle for Zendikar)
That’s not where hands go
There are two things that bind a lot of these cards to this list, and those tend to be that the cards are hand disruption and that they’re somehow linked to the Eldrazi, which are MTG’s answer to Cthulhu. Transgress the Mind forces your opponent to exile a card from their hand, and you even get to choose which one. It also features artwork where an Eldrazi tears the head of some poor denizen of Zendikar apart from the inside. The longer you look at it, the more hands you’ll notice too. It’s not nice and definitely not very hygienic.
4. Ad Nauseam (Shards of Alara)
This man works far too hard
You might have heard of Ad Nauseam because it’s a combo in Modern that basically means you end up sat there while your opponent spends five minutes deciding whether or not you’re dead yet. Basically, it’s an instant that lets you draw cards by expending your own life force.
The card depicts an undead who’s been working on something since the good old days when they were alive. However, they’ve been working so hard that their arms have worn down to stumps and they’ve fashioned quills that use their own blood to write with. If you want to know what writing from home is like in 2020, this is it folks. A big old mood. (This is a joke and not a cry for help - I’m fine, honest.)
5. Brisela, Voice of Nightmares (Eldritch Moon)
No, thank you
This one’s fun because it uses the meld mechanic from Eldritch Moon, which combined two cards into one. That means you ended up with a gigantic creature on the field that was often the result of some abhorrent eldritch interaction. Brisela, Voice of Nightmares is the fusion of two once heroic angels from Innistrad called Bruna and Gisela. Here though, they’ve been smushed together into one of the most disgusting versions of a fallen angel we’ve ever seen. There are tendrils and tendons and extra limbs and unsettling colours all over the damn place. Neither of the angels looks all that happy about the situation either.
6. Pelakka Predation (Zendikar Rising)
You think migraines are bad?
Pelakka Predation is a sorcery spell that makes your opponent reveal their hand and then discard a card from it. It’s a standard kind of spell that can also be played as a land in a pinch. The artwork shows a big old centipede monster devouring some poor person’s head. There are claws, tentacles and just a general vibe that screams, “No thanks, I’m good.” Thankfully centipedes don’t get that big anymore (although the Scolopendra Gigantea shows that even at 30cm they’re horrifying bugs) but, if they did, we’d invest in a good bug repellant.
7. Doom Whisperer (Guilds of Ravnica)
Not ideal if you think eight is already too many limbs
Given that Doom Whisperer is a nightmare demon creature, it makes perfect sense that it’d appear on a list of the scariest MTG cards. It’s not a bad card either, as a flying trample 6/6 for only five mana that can also help you sift through your own deck and fill your graveyard.
None of that makes it scary, though. That all comes from the sheer volume of limbs that it has. Most of us only have four limbs, and some people get scared when a creature has eight. Well, Doom Whisperer appears to have over 24 limbs of different shapes and sizes. While it might just want a cuddle, we wouldn’t trust it not to try and dissect us or tear us apart first.
8. Harmless Offering (Eldritch Moon)
Look, a kitty!
Given that Harmless Offering is a sorcery that lets you give an opponent one of your permanents, you’d expect something cute and fluffy in the artwork too. Well, you’d be right. At first glance, you’ll notice that there’s an incredibly adorable ginger cat being offered as a gift to somebody. Aww.
However, this is a list of scary MTG cards, so if you then take a moment to look at the cat’s tail, you’ll see that it’s started transforming. It’s being warped by the eldritch influence on Innistrad, the plane which this card comes from, and it’s already taken a chunk out of the poor person’s finger. This one is the kind of thing that’ll have you checking your own pets very carefully.
9. Treacherous Urge (Planar Chaos)
Please don’t do that
As a card, Treacherous Urge is fun, but not incredible. It’s an instant that makes your opponent reveal their hand, and you can then choose to put a creature from their hand into play under your control before sacrificing it at the end of your turn. The artwork, however, is haunting. It shows a puppet with barbed strings sawing itself in half as it leaks sawdust and screams. There’s no way you could show this with something alive in a more traditional sense, but the facial expression really sells you on how horrific this whole thing is.
10. Plagiarize (Ninth Edition)
Plagiarize is an instant that lets you draw a card instead of your opponent for a turn. The artwork depicts someone who has mouths for eyes and a big old eye for a mouth. That’s just not where eyes go, nor where mouths should be. The whole thing looks incredibly uncomfortable.
We’ve no idea how the artwork ended up like this, but it makes our skin crawl. Presumably, your jaw would have to be broken or dislocated for this to happen, and the person doesn’t look like they were born like this, which means something transformed them into it. The eye mouths are definitely screaming too, right? We would be, almost constantly.