An official MTG post from head designer Mark Rosewater reveals that artists working on Phyrexia: All Will Be One were repeatedly told to tone down gore in the set’s art. Two of the four Magic: The Gathering cards discussed by Rosewater on January 30, Anoint with Affliction and Experimental Augury, were given art direction dictating blood and guts be kept to a minimum.
The art for Anoint with Affliction comes from David Astruga. According to the notes in Rosewater’s post, the card art was instructed to show a Steel Thane writing Phyrexian inscriptions into the naked back of a humanoid. The writing is being done with steely Phyrexian claws, and the notes set the mood as “horrifying ritual”. However, they also explicitly say “avoid blood and gore”.
Donato Giancola, artist for Experimental Augury, received similar notes. The requested card art is a shot of a Phyrexian’s head as a Phyrexian scientist performs surgery on it. The mood is “science and horror”, but “this is not a gory surgery”. The notes describe what Wizards of the Coast wantd as “mostly mechanical with machine and organic matter”.
In one vein, it’s surprising to see so little body horror in a Magic set where the villains literally look like something from Hellraiser. MTG Phyrexians want to turn squishy organic creatures into mechanical monstrosities, after all. We’ve also already seen several horror-tinged spoilers ahead of the Phyrexia: All Will Be One release date. These include a Junji Ito Elesh Norn card and a big, sinewy Phyrexian that looks like a Biblically accurate angel horror.
In another vein, maybe it’s not so surprising to see the Phyrexians sanitised. MTG is a billion-dollar brand now, and horror often appeals to niche groups. And while we at Wargamer don’t know how many Magic consumers are children (or careful parents), it’s not impossible that Wizards of the Coast has taken this group’s sensitivity levels into consideration.
Find out more about these cards in Mark Rosewater’s official post.
For more upcoming Magic bits (horror or otherwise), be sure to check the MTG 2023 release schedule regularly. If, like a Phyrexian, you want everything to involve technology, we can also help out with MTG Arena codes and MTG Arena decks.