Wizards of the Coast tries to keep MTG cards to a 13+ age rating, but you don’t have to be graphic to be terrifying. Plenty of MTG artists excel at packing psychological horror into card art, and there’s still plenty of gruesome imagery and body horror besides. Below we’ve picked out the 10 most scary MTG cards we could find.
We’ve dug through many, many MTG sets to select the most disturbing, gruesome or creepy MTG cards we could find. As a result, most of these cards are long out of Standard and won’t fit into a lot of MTG Arena decks. If you’re building a horror-themed MTG Commander deck, though, or you just want to see some nightmarish Magic: The Gathering artwork, feast your eyes on the 10 scary MTG cards below.
- Fleshtaker – A folk horror slasher
- Banewasp Affliction – Do you like bugs?
- Village Cannibals – Human monsters
- Phyrexian Unlife – Compleatly awful
- From Under the Floorboards – Classic zombie horror
- Ad Nauseam – Twisted zombie horror
- Terror – Nothing to fear but fear
- Sensory Deprivation – Truly uncomfortable
- The Fallen – A subtle and disturbing monster
- Peer into the Abyss – Why, just why?
A folk horror slasher
At first this card appears to be some kind of cow-headed spooky farmyard creature, perhaps a charming young Innistradian minotaur. Then you look at its MTG creature type and realize it’s just a freaky human wearing a cow’s head.
The surroundings, lighting, and first person perspective of this card really add a lot to the horror; it’s as if you’ve just unwittingly stumbled into this faceless murderer in the midst of a dark corn field. You really don’t want to meet someone called ‘Fleshtaker’.
Do you like bugs?
There are a lot of unpleasant insects in Magic: The Gathering, but only one makes our list of the scariest MTG cards. Banewasp Affliction depicts a swarm of ravenous maggots chowing down on a guy, and it’s almost cartoonishly horrible. Your attention is probably automatically drawn to the one going into the man’s mouth, but arguably even more disturbing is the maggot boring into his right shoulder, and that horribly swollen, envenomed left arm. Genuinely hard to look at.
A 2/2 human creature that gets a little bit bigger whenever another human dies, there’s no doubt about the grisly story being portrayed by Village Cannibals. Despite the obvious narrative, there’s a lot of subtlety to the horror of this creepy MTG card. There’s no blood, gore, or even knives showing, and the piece is all the more effective for it.
Village Cannibals’ art places you in the perspective of the unlucky victim, powerless, below and surrounded by their tormentors. The expressions of the cannibals are particularly interesting: some look on with cold, inhuman indifference, while others seem to be experiencing their own horror at what they have become.
Artist Bud Cook later produced a follow up piece for Village Rites, which shows one of the cannibals themselves being sacrificed. How the turntables.
Few cards portray the fear-factor of the Phyrexians like Phyrexian Unlife. This creepy MTG card shows a humanoid that was likely only recently converted into a half-mechanoid monster. The contrast between the porcelain, doll-like face, and the sorrow and pain in the eyes behind it is quite chilling to behold. It’s hammered home by the poor sap’s oily tears, and their hands held up like they can’t quite comprehend what has happened to them.
From Under the Floorboards
Classic zombie horror
Zombies are an age-old classic horror movie monster, and there were all kinds of MTG zombies to choose from for our Halloween list. In the end, From Under the Floorboards takes the prize, for the relatively simple, but still horrible scenario it presents – just a trio of nasty zombies bursting up into your home to eat you.
Endless Ranks of the Dead is also a strong contender; this beautiful piece separates the viewer from the hordes with a beautiful stained glass window which provides a veneer of safety that seems easily shattered.
Twisted zombie horror
Ad Nauseam shows a really unhappy zombie, depicting a fate worse than undeath. The image is of a man who’s been copying and copying the same symbol since they were alive.
Their present state is truly horrific, like something out of a Saw film. Their arms have either worn away or been deliberately removed and they now paint with two brushes that are attached to them, using blood from their own veins. If that wasn’t bad enough, their eyelids seem to be pried open with some sort of headgear. Pure nightmare fuel.
Nothing to fear but fear
Magic has always had scary cards, right from its very first set, and Terror from Alpha is here to prove it. Rather than a horrible creature or scary scenario, it’s simply the feeling of being frightened out of your wits that Terror portrays. This bedraggled and wretched figure is clearly very, very scared, but of what we don’t know.
Artist Ron Spencer made an interesting choice with the framing of this character, sticking them halfway up the card and leaving a third of the art box black and blank. Are we viewing them from above, or are they somehow standing halfway up a wall?
Sensory Deprivation makes our eyes water.
A subtle, disturbing monster
Another retro pick, this frightening MTG card is both disturbing and enigmatic. Who are ‘The Fallen’? Just what has happened here to transform this man, giving him those sunken red eyes and sharp teeth? Is he possessed?
The flavor text ‘Magic often masters those who cannot master it’ provides a clue. Lore-wise this is actually a wizard who’s fallen victim to mana burn, a now defunct rule in Magic which made players’ own unspent mana deal damage to them. We think this strange fate actually makes the card scarier – it makes the very act of using magic seem sinister, as though the mystic arts are a sentient force seeking to control you.
Peer into the Abyss
Why, just why?
One of those Magic cards that gets more horrible the longer you look at it. Okay, it’s a recursive image, a face with identical faces in its eyes and mouth, pretty gross I guess. But the truly shudder-inducing moment comes when you spot the horribly stretched lips around the card’s edge. And why is it all so moist? Ugh.