Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Scary Magic Cards
If there's one thing Magic excels at, it's card art, painting such vivid portraits that some non-players collect the cards simply for their artwork. From the beautiful landscapes in green to the dynamic flames of red, art is what turns a card from a set of numbers into an imagined character, spell, or setting.
Not one to shy away from horror, several Magic cards depict ominous events or characters, especially in the nefarious black faction—which cards are most unsettling? For those able to stomach gruesome, disturbing, and sometimes bloody scenes, these are the 30 creepiest spells in Magic: The Gathering!
30. Lingering Tormentor
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
This insidious Babadook lookalike isn't all that powerful at 2/2, but he's still pretty creepy. Plus, his fear trait means he's only blockable by black or artifact creatures, and persist let him revive from death with a -1/-1 counter.
29. Oblivion Crown
Here's a lovely image you can change a friend's background to on April Fool's. Sadly, Crown's effect isn't amazing, simply giving a creature the ability to discard a card to get +1/+1 for the turn, but that artwork will surely catch the eye.
Getting some real Friday the 13th vibes here, and in mono-black decks, Defile is as dangerous as it is eerie, giving a creature -1/-1 for the turn per swamp you control. At instant speed and with just one mana, that's one of black's most effective removals, and it can bypass indestructible by reducing toughness to zero.
27. Phyrexian Rager
For all his maniacal horror, Rager's just a 2/2, but on entry he expends one life to give you a draw, keeping your hand stocked. Mediocre card, shuddersome image.
26. Surgical Extraction
The only thing scarier than Extraction's spine-removed victim is its competitive effect, picking a card in a graveyard other than a basic land and exiling any cards with the same name from its owner's graveyard, hand, and library.
Not only will this eliminate duplicate threats, it triggers at instant speed, lets you peek at your opponent's hand and deck, and can be paid for with either one black mana or two life thanks to its phyrexian symbol.
25. Kindly Stranger
At first, Kindly Stranger looks like a friendly old lady, but she shows her true colors after transforming into the Demon-Possessed Witch. Yikes. Not only does this boost her 2/3 stats to 4/3, it lets you destroy a creature on entrance, but you'll need three mana and active delirium (four or more card types in graveyard) to trigger the change.
24. Victim of Night
Here's one of the game's goriest scenes, showcasing some poor sap's final moments. The card itself also deserves mention, instantly destroying a creature that isn't a vampire, zombie, or werewolf. Although zombies and vampires are pretty common in black, that's a small limitation for a cheap and fast answer to most threats.
Well, that's grotesque, especially for a non-black card. The effect is pretty nasty too, stealing any draws a player would receive that turn for yourself.
22. Demonic Collusion
No thanks, demon, I'll pass on the scalp massage. Although Collusion's effect is interesting, adding any card from your deck to hand. At five mana, that's pricier than most tutors, but Collusion's optional buyback lets you discard two cards to put it back into hand after resolving.
21. Eliminate the Competition
Yep, nothing like a knife in the arm to trigger nightmare fuel. But don't worry, you probably won't see this one used much, as in addition to its five mana cost, it has you sacrifice X creatures to destroy X creatures. Decent with token fodder, but still a costly removal compared to simple board wipes like "Damnation".
20. Brain Maggot
This one's pretty gross, especially since real-life equivalents actually exist. On entrance, Maggot reveals an opponent's hand and lets you exile a non-land from it until Maggot leaves the field. Plus, as an enchantment creature, he'll activate any enchantment supports you run.
19. Nightmare's Thirst
For all we know, here's what happens when we sleep. But you'll forgive the gothic image for the tempting effect—with just one mana, you gain one life, then a creature gets -X/-X for the turn, where X is the amount of life you've gained that turn.
This works great with lifelink or life-gaining lands, and the fact that it reduces power as well as toughness makes it a nasty play once blockers are cemented.
18. Goryo's Vengeance
If there's a Magic card that brings to mind The Ring, it's Goryo's Vengeance. Its ghostly ability returns a legendary creature from your graveyard to the field and gives it haste, but exiles it at end of turn.
Still, that's pretty impressive for just two mana, and you can splice Vengeance onto arcane spells for three. Of course, since Vengeance itself is arcane, multiple copies can empower each other.
17. Feast or Famine
We're never exactly sure how we'll die, but hopefully it's not from getting devoured by a zombie that's gouging our eyes out. Famine's mana cost is a bit high, but it has instant speed and lets you pick between a 2/2 zombie token or destroying a non-black non-artifact creature and preventing regeneration.
16. Uninvited Geist/Unimpeded Trespasser
Honestly, both halves here are pretty creepy. Grim Reaper-esque Geist has mediocre 2/2 stats, but his skulk makes him unblockable to creatures with greater power. Hopefully, this will let him deal combat damage, transforming him into his multi-armed spectral form.
Not only does Unimpeded Trespasser jump to 3/3, he also becomes completely unblockable, scoring easy damage each turn.
15. Lotleth Troll
Zombies and trolls are already unpleasant, and here's what happens when you mix them. Despite his intimidating appearance, Troll only needs one mana, offering a 2/1 trampler who can spend one black to regenerate. He can also discard a creature card to get a +1/+1 counter.
With low cost, zombie synergy, and a graveyard-filling effect, Troll's perfect for Golgari decks and one of today's cheaper cards, costing less than a single dollar!
14. Ad Nauseam
Devastating in both artwork and effect, Ad Nauseam lets you draw as many cards as you like, losing life equal to each's CMC. So, you can either hope you draw lots of lands, which won't harm you, or protect yourself with cards like "Platinum Emperion", who prevents your life total from changing.
13. Drown in Filth
As if drowning weren't bad enough, now you're drowning in the wretched decay of a swamp-turned-graveyard, and even our poor knight's horse gets dragged down with him.
Pretty cool effect though, milling four cards from your deck, then giving a creature -1/-1 for the turn per land in your graveyard. Use this to both fill your discard pile and weaken or destroy a threat.
12. Feast of Blood
Vampires have plenty of ominous spells, but the way these ones face usis especially unnerving. You can only play it if you control at least two vampires, but it both destroys a creature and gives you four life, perfect for life-based vampire decks (be sure to combo with Nightmare's Thirst).
11. Rotting Rats
Rats are creepy. Four-eyed rats are really creepy. Decayed four-eyed zombie rats are really creepy. When these diseased vermin hit the field, everyone (including you) has to discard a card. You can also unearth the rats from your graveyard by spending two mana, reviving them with haste but exiling them at the next end step.
10. Death's Caress
At least some of today's victims are mercifully unconscious, but this poor girl is awake and rightfully terrified of death's skeletal red arm. But you shouldn't ever see this in competitive play, destroying a creature for five mana and giving you life equal to its toughness if it was a human.
You can get instant-speed creature removals for two—it's a shame such a menacing scene is wasted on a bad card.
9. Shardless Agent
Green/blue Simic cards are usually pretty peaceful, so you just don't expect to see a freaky upside-down blade-wielding masked combatant in their colors. And it's a competitive card too, giving you a 2/2 artifact creature that cascades, playing the next spell of lower cost from your deck for free.
8. Transgress the Mind
Though it needs black mana, Mind's devoid trait makes it colorless, which helps it dodge certain obstructions. It also features an eldrazi ripping a body apart through its mouth. It happens.
Mind has an opponent reveal their hand, then you exile a card with cost three or more. That's a worthy hand attack, eliminating a looming threat and sending it to exile rather than the graveyard.
7. Invoke Prejudice
Invoke Prejudice depicts suspiciously-clad figures who, when combined with the spell's effect of countering opposing creature spells that don't share a color with your own, bear a disturbing resemblance to the KKK.
Maybe that wasn't intentional, but I don't think it's a coincidence that Harold McNeill doesn't illustrate for MTG anymore, Prejudice was never reprinted, and that no other spell in the game bears the same cost (four pure blue symbols).
6. Phyrexian Unlife
Yep, even white gets its share of disturbing spells. Unlife gives you the enormous benefit of not losing if your life is zero or less. However, while at or below zero, damage dealt to you is dealt as though it had infect, meaning you'll take poison counters (losing once you have ten). So playing Unlife is kind of like gaining ten extra health, but remember its shield dissipates if it gets removed.
5. Inquisition of Kozilek
Many of today's cards have excellent flavor text that further depicts their horrors. Some, like Inquisition, actually have different flavor text depending on which set you find it in; my favorite is depicted from its Rise of Eldrazi to Conspiracy renditions and chillingly reads "You will scream out your innermost secrets just to make it stop."
4. Sadistic Obsession
Class, here we have a smiling creep holding a knife and bleeding black blood through his eyes. Those of you still with us, fear not—the card kinda sucks, simply enchanting a creature and letting it spend one mana and tap to place a -1/-1 counter on a creature. Lame, overpriced effect—horrific art.
For a close-up of those eyes, look no farther than...
This card's art may be disturbing, but it's also pretty clever. The spell is black, represented by the pupil being shaped as the swamp symbol. Meanwhile, the green and white colors of the eye correspond to the spell's effect, destroying a green or white creature.
While somewhat restricted in what it can target, that's a super-cheap removal at one mana—use against decks where you know what you're up against, or in multiplayer where someone's bound to run one of the colors.
2. Pulling Teeth
Yea, this one's just gross, but you can play it alongside "Tooth Collector" for some horrific flavor. Intriguing effect too: you clash with an opponent, each revealing the top card of your deck. If your revealed card has a higher cost, you win the clash and Teeth makes your opponent discard twice; if you lose or tie, they discard once.
If you win, that's a bargain price; if you lose, it's forgettable. Use with scry effects that can help set your deck.
1. Creepy Doll
The closest we have to an Annabelle card, Creepy Doll's colorless nature means you never quite know when she'll show up in a deck. And she's pretty interesting; while her stats are a pathetic 1/1, she's indestructible and has deathtouch 50% of the time, flipping a coin whenever she damages a creature and destroying it if you win.
More Disturbing Magic Cards
Today we examined many of Magic's most terrifying spells, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. With thousands of cards, many of which have multiple artworks, you're bound to find other disturbing images—feel free to share your picks in the comments below.
But for now, as we await more gruesome spells from Wizards of the Coast, vote for your favorite and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on January 20, 2020:
I enjoy the darker artworks too; the weirder and more disturbing, the bigger an impact a card has. But I'm also glad there's often tamer alternative images available for those who prefer them.
Idris Elba on January 17, 2020:
I wish the newer sets would return to these grotesques art again. I so prefer the aesthetic of the older arts even though it may creep the author out.