Every year when fall finally arrives I begin to get the urge to pick up my tome of the collective works of Edgar Allan Poe and delve into his fascinating tales of Gothic macabre. I simply love the way he weaves his tales and infuses them with that early macabre style that has eerily resonated with readers for nearly two centuries.
This got me thinking about the early days of Magic the Gathering when the artwork of the cards had a much darker feel. I decided to take a look back into the hallowed past of Magic the Gathering and create a list of the top ten cards that most encapsulated that macabre style.
This list represents the top ten cards that in my humble opinion capture the style of Edgar Allan Poe. I invite you now to journey with me back to a time considered by many to be the most hallowed years of our game. Let us embark upon a grand descent into the macabre past of Magic the Gathering!
10. Bad Moon from Limited Edition Alpha (August1993)
Kicking my list off with the number ten spot is Bad Moon from the very first set of Magic the Gathering. Bad Moon is one of those cards that you look at the artwork and immediately get a feeling of dread. The haunting look of the moon cascading its profane light upon a dark and foreboding landscape really captures that macabre feel.
9. Oubliette from Arabian Nights (December 1993)
Coming in at the number nine spot on my list is Oubliette from the Arabian Nights expansion. Take a moment to really take in the scene depicted in this card. A skeleton left to rot in a prison cell. Who was this poor wretch that withered away in this cell and was left to rot for an immeasurable amount of time? This card truly depicts the inescapable fact that death awaits us all as we are all locked away in a prison of flesh that in time shall be no more.
8. Black Carriage from Homelands (October 1995)
Coming in at the number eight spot on my list is Black Carriage from the Homelands expansion. This card depicts an ominous black wooden carriage being driven by a team of ebony skinned horses as it barrels its way along a dark countryside. A dreadful feeling begins to creep up your spine as you behold this Black Carriage whisking it’s dark passenger through the countryside to conduct some measure of dark deeds. A scene that has been repeated in numerous tales of horror and the macabre.
7. Haunting Wind from Antiquities (March 1994)
Coming in at the number seven spot on the list is Haunting Wind from the Antiquities expansion. This card is intriguing as it depicts an artifact of some sort drawing in two spectral ghosts. You cannot look upon this scene and not be filled with a morbid curiosity as you wonder what is that device and more importantly why are these spectres drawn to it? One would be hard pressed to find a more iconic image of the macabre than one depicting a spectral host.
6.Headless Horseman from Legends (June 1994)
Occupying the number six spot on this list is the Headless Horseman from the Legends expansion. One of the most iconic tales of the macabre is the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. This card depicts the sinister Headless Horseman made famous by Irving’s tale of horror. Who among us would not soil ourselves at the mere sight of the terrifying horseman of the hollow?
5. Leshrac’s Sigil from Ice Age (June 1995)
Coming in at the number five spot on this list is Leshrac’s Sigil from the Ice Age expansion. Leshrac’s Sigil has some very intriguing artwork that depicts a series of incantations and an iconic symbol of the macabre. You cannot look at the artwork of this card and not feel as though you are reading some sort of infernal incantation that when triggered will unleash a most terrible and horrific ending upon the unfortunate souls who have come upon it. Just the mere thought of what this sigil is capable of is quite terrifying to dwell upon.
4. Blanket of Night from Visions (January 1997)
Taking the number four spot on this list is Blanket of Nights from the Visions expansion. Much like an earlier card on this list, Blanket of Nights depicts an eerie landscape that fills the viewer with a foreboding sense of dread. You get a sense that this landscape is a very dark and evil place and not somewhere one would wish to find themselves traveling in. Needless to say Kaervek has tainted this land with his profane existence.
Before we get to the top three spots on this list I would like to mention a few honorable mentions that came close to making my list. These cards could have easily made the list and it was definitely a hard choice cutting the choices down to ten.
Spirit of the Night from Mirage (September 1996)
Dance of the Dead from Ice Age (June 1995)
Midnight Ritual from Mercadian Masques (September 1999)
Volrath’s Dungeon from Exodus (June 1998)
Infernal Tribute from Weatherlight(May 1997)
3. Infernal Harvest from Visions (January 1997)
As we enter the top three spots on this list we come to Infernal Harvest from the Visions expansion. The card text says it best “I offered you eternal life; I just didn’t say where”. The artwork of this card depicts quite a terrifying scene of the macabre. The bones of those foolish enough to have taken the offer of eternal life have now become a part of the infernal harvest and now serve a dark master. The imagery is quite stunning to behold as you take in the sight of this gruesome necromantic harvest and realize just how many fools accepted this terrible offer of eternal damnation and servitude.
2. All Hallow’s Eve from Legends (June 1994)
Taking the number two spot on this list is All Hallow’s Eve from the Legends expansion. Anyone who is familiar with the older sets should have known that this iconic card would find its way onto this list somewhere. I have to admit that I struggled in deciding between the top two selections for this list. This iconic card in many ways is the epitome of the macabre style of artwork from Magic the Gathering’s past. You have a card depicting a ghostly moon overlooking a jack-O’-lantern, a spectral face and an ominous black cat-like creature. When I behold this card I truly do think of everything that makes up the fall season.
1. Season of the Witch from The Dark (August 1994)
Well we have finally arrived at the top spot on this list. Taking in the number one position on the list is the iconic Season of the Witch from the Dark expansion. This card truly depicts quite a horrific scene with a demonic face wreathed in clouds of darkness and a fiery horizon overlooking a dread forest. You cannot help but experience a tingling feeling of fear as you gaze into those dark eyes in the clouds. What better way to depict the season of the macabre than the terrifying artwork found on Season of the Witch?
As I close out this article, I wanted to thank you all for joining me on this trip back to the hallowed years of Magic the Gathering. I have thoroughly enjoyed this descent into the macabre artwork of the formative years of the game many of us have enjoyed from its earliest days. I truly hope you all have enjoyed this list of the top ten card artwork that most depicts the macabre Fall season in my humble opinion.