Specters: Mind-Draining Undead

Posted in Arcana on July 31, 2007

By Wizards of the Coast

Specters have one of the most consistent relationships between their flavor and mechanics of all creature types in Magic.

Almost every Specter is a black flying creature with a "saboteur" ability (an ability that triggers when the creature gets through unblocked, or deals combat damage) that causes the opponent to discard. And almost every Specter is depicted as a brooding, hooded figure riding a flying mount, an undead creature whose frightening appearance and Specter's Wail causes the mind-draining discard effect.

Onslaught's Silent Specter is a classic Specter: hooded figure, flying mount. Compare with Invasion's Blazing Specter and Legions' Hollow Specter.

Silent Specter Silent Specter art by Daren Bader

Blazing Specter Blazing Specter art by Marc Fishman

Hollow Specter Hollow Specter art by rk post

Abyssal Specter in Ice Age was the earliest example of the flying mount convention for Specters. In Magic's early years, that spectral flavor link was not yet established, so there are a few counterexamples to this pattern. Tainted Specter from Mirage is a flyer with a discard ability, but isn't depicted as a mounted figure. Same with Entropic Specter from Exodus. Mirage's Dread Specter is probably the strangest oddball of the bunch—like honorary Specter Mistform Ultimus, it isn't mounted, doesn't fly, and doesn't have a discard ability!

Entropic Specter
Dread Specter

The original Specter, Alpha's Hypnotic Specter, was reillustrated to bring it in line with the other recent Specters when it resurfaced in Ninth Edition. What was originally a ghostly knight is now firmly part of the Specter tradition, as a hooded figure riding a flying mount.

Hypnotic Specter
Hypnotic Specter

Specters in Gatherer

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