The Ten Scariest Creatures in Magic

Posted in My Favorite Flavor on October 27, 2015

By Cassie LaBelle

Cassie LaBelle is a freelance writer. When she's not at her keyboard dreaming up stories, you can find her playing with his cats, listening to records, or building yet another Magic deck.

Boo!

Did I scare you just now? It's okay if I didn't—I'm sitting at my computer wearing a green t-shirt and drinking diet soda, which is about as far from spooky as it gets. Halloween is only a few days away, though, which means that I'm running out of time to figure out how to look scary.

Luckily, Magic has a lot of frightening creatures that I can learn from. The Eldrazi are all terrifying, I've had nightmares about the Phyrexians for years, and you can't throw an eyeball on Innistrad without hitting a spooky monster. Magic and horror go together like Zombies and brains, so it'd be a shame to ignore my favorite game while I plan for one of my favorite holidays.

James was a shoe-in for the Innistrad Plane Fair eyeball toss competition.

In honor of Halloween, then, let's spend the week looking in at the scariest creatures in the history of Magic. I asked my Twitter followers to help me out (by messaging me using @ChasAndres), and we were able to assemble a terrific rogue's gallery of Magic's most spooktacular creatures.

I don't want you to get too scared, though! Just in case this Halloween turns into an "all the scariest things in your brain come to life and wander around your neighborhood" type of situation, I've come up with plausible weaknesses for each of them. You can never be too careful, right?

Anyway, let's get to the cards:

Why It's Scary:

  • Unlike most of the creatures on this list, it's hard to actually imagine running into Spirit of the Night in a darkened hallway. Spirit of the Night is more conceptual than that—it bleeds into the background and almost appears to flow out of the panel. It's hard to believe that this is an actual, corporeal monster, but it's easy to imagine Spirit of the Night as an overwhelming sense of terror that will never go away. And that is much, much worse.
  • What is up with the nautilus shell in this thing's eye? Nautilus shells aren't inherently scary, but for some reason it's the most frightening part of the card. I think it's the fractal imagery that the shell evokes—the nautilus looks like a spiral into infinity, which makes me feel like Spirit of the Night is consuming my soul as I watch it.

Potential Weakness:

  • Are we sure that Spirit of the Night can do anything during the day? This Demon looks like it's tethered to the darkness. Wait it out until sunrise or buy yourself a really big flashlight.

Why It's Scary:

  • When you first look at Childhood Horror, your eyes will be drawn to the deep red void inside of its mouth. That's when you notice how sharp its teeth are. The next thing you'll notice are its fingers, long and bony. Then you'll see the hairy tentacles spouting from every part of its face and head. This card takes me right back to that deep chill of cowering under the covers in my first-ever bed.
  • We can go further than that, though. This card is called Childhood Horror, after all, and those long fingers and that hairy face reminds me of the warped picture of old age that I had as a child. It's easy to forget that old people can be really scary when you're two years old and you don't know any better. This plants Childhood Horror deep within my actual memories, which makes the whole thing so much scarier.

Potential Weakness:

  • Maybe this thing is powered by imagination? I'd attempt to find the nearest frightened kid and try to convince him or her that monsters aren't real.

Why It's Scary:

  • Brain Maggot might be the grossest card in Magic. I've picked worse cards over Brain Maggot in Theros Block drafts simply because I didn't want to spend my evening staring at this card in my hand. The worm, the blood, the ear... It's awful.
  • Most of Magic's horror is fairly unreal, but Brain Maggot looks just enough like a real maggot for me to feel a visceral reaction to it. What if there's a Brain Maggot inside of me right now?

Brain Maggot | Art by Min Yum

Potential Weakness:

  • The same things that makes Brain Maggot scary makes it easy to defeat. At the end of the day, it's a bug that can fit inside the human ear. As long as you get to it in time, you can squash it with your sneaker.

Why It's Scary:

  • Like Brain Maggot, Dungeon Shade takes on the image of something familiar—in this case, a fish head—and twists it into something surreal. Those teeth, man. Those teeth.
  • Also, Dungeon Shade can float through walls. This skeletal fish face, ghostly beyond belief, will slowly appear from the empty dungeon wall right in front of you. How are you escaping, especially if you're trapped in said dungeon?
  • The flavor text, particularly the part where a sickness stirs in its eyes. Brr. This thing will eat your soul, but you'll go mad first.

Potential Weakness:

  • Cut it off from black mana and you're just dealing with a 1/1. Unfortunately, that's not likely to happen inside the dungeon. The good news is that this thing doesn't look particularly fast. As long as you're not locked up, start running and don't stop.

Why It's Scary:

  • On pure aesthetics alone, Demons don't come much scarier than Lord of the Pit. Lord of the Pit's sinewy, skinless body would be frightening enough if it were posed normally, but the way it holds its wings out makes it looks like it's about to wrap you inside himself and suck your soul into its ribcage.
  • Lord of the Pit has been printed nine different times. That's a Freddy Krueger-esque number of lives. You might think you've killed Lord of the Pit, but it's coming back.

Potential Weakness:

  • It's unclear how scary a Lord of the Pit is when it doesn't have a pit to lord over. It tends to turn on its master if it isn't fed on a regular basis, so if you can hide long enough you might be able to wait it out.

Why It's Scary:

  • There's nothing scarier than religious dogma twisted in on itself, and Elesh Norn's Machine Orthodoxy takes that to the extreme. Norn believes in unifying and perfecting all life, but don't let that fool you into thinking she's on the side of good—if she ever got her hands on you, she'd tear you down to your component parts and reassemble you into a grotesque creature that was part metal and part death.
  • Elesh Norn's lack of eyes terrifies me. The only thing worse than too many eyes is no eyes at all.
  • Look at that flavor text! The Phyrexians have heard whisperings of other worlds, and they're actively searching them out. What if she finds a way to get here? What if she's already arrived?

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite | Art by Igor Kieryluk

Potential Weakness:

  • Elesh Norn is a bureaucrat. The Machine Orthodoxy is very hierarchical, and Norn relies on her followers to carry out her demands. How much can she really do on her own?

Why It's Scary:

  • First of all, the Returned are easily the creepiest Zombies in the history of Magic. Unlike on most planes, where reanimated corpses are mindless husks, the Returned Zombies are souls forced to give up their senses of self—personality, memories, hopes, dreams, everything—in order to leave the underworld. They don't even get to keep their faces, hence the gold masks. It's truly a fate worse than death.
  • Why is Forlorn Pseudamma stealing children? Was she a mother in a previous life, still clinging to the tiniest scrap of her old personality? Or do the Returned simply want to increase their ranks in the creepiest way possible? Regardless of her motivations, the idea of a Returned who spirits children into Nyx is blood-chilling.
  • Remember how I was scared because Elesh Norn didn't have any eyes? Well, neither do the children on this card. Their souls have already been taken by Erebos. Dang, Forlorn Pseudamma. Dang.

Potential Weakness:

  • Forlorn Pseudamma is only a 2/1, so you or I could probably defeat her in battle if we had to. Let's hope it never comes to that.

Why It's Scary:

  • Are you scared of snakes? Are you scared of teeth? Frightcrawler somehow manages to be the answer to the equation "Snakes + Teeth = X." Frightcrawler barely even makes physical sense, but it is still the worst because snakes and teeth are the scariest things that there are.

Potential Weakness:

  • Have you ever seen Nimble Mongoose? It's basically the same card but better. Mongooses are very good at taking down snakes, and I have a few of them stocked away in my collection. If a Frightcrawler ever shows up, I know where to go for help.

Why It's Scary:

  • Well, how much do you value your sanity? Emrakul has a devastating psychological attack that no living being is immune to. If you are anywhere near Emrakul, you will experience her silent terror in a very visceral way. That's why she gets to take an extra turn while you sit there gibbering like a lunatic. Now sacrifice six permanents and take 15 damage, please.
  • It is speculated that Eldrazi are akin to fourth-dimensional beings, which means that they can exist on multiple planes at once without necessarily having to travel between them like Planeswalkers do. That means that Emrakul is unlikely to be killed and very likely to be right behind you.
  • Oh, and she flies, which really feels like overkill.

Potential Weakness:

  • Allergic to hedrons. Is anyone else dressing as a hedron for Halloween this year? We might be able to form an aligned network and trap her.

Why It's Scary:

  • Let's be honest: Most Vampires aren't that scary. These days, Vampires in popular culture are more likely to be attractive than menacing. I wanted to put a Vampire on this list, though, because when they are done right they are absolutely terrifying.
  • Let's start with the fangs. Kheru Bloodsucker has four, not two, and they're much bigger than what most Vampires are packing. Then we get to the tongue—long, creepy, and probing. This Vamp has no problem draining its victims of their blood, and fast.
  • The scariest part of Kheru Bloodsucker by far, though, is that it is still wearing the face of its last victim. Like, it wasn't satisfied drinking some guy's blood—it had to rip his face off and decided to spend the rest of the day staring through its victim's eye sockets. This is beyond creepy, even for a Vampire.

Potential Weakness:

  • If Buffy the Vampire Slayer is around, I'd suggest asking her for help. Otherwise, you're left with the usual accoutrements: wooden stakes, garlic, crosses, and holy water. You probably have at least two of those in your kitchen right now.

That's all for this week. Until next time, have a great Halloween!

—Chas Andres

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