Eight of My Favorite Old School Magic: the Gathering Illustrations

To those of you that are unfamiliar with Magic: the Gathering, it’s a collectible trading card game, or TCG (the first ever, actually), that more closely resembles Dungeons & Dragons than anything else, insofar that it’s needlessly complicated and highly fantastic. It draws from a wide range of folktales, creation myths, and fantasy authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, incorporating fairies, knights, dragons, and spell casters — yeah, there’s a heavy focus on pretty much everything from Medieval literature — as well as a bunch other legends from around the globe. Though I’ve played this game for well over a decade now, I consider myself a casual collector at best, as it’s just too expensive for my tastes. Below are eight of my favorite illustrations from Magic’s heyday in the 90s. I guess it’s no surprise that most of the cards on this list are black, the color of death, necromancy, and general evilness — you know, the good stuff.

Lord of the Pit, illustrated by Mark Tedin
This card and artwork first appeared in: Alpha

My description: A sinewy, bat-winged demon whose skin was vacuum sealed like one of those space saving storage bags.

Card Lord of the Pit

Carnophage, illustrated by Pete Venters
This card and artwork first appeared in: Exodus

My description: A toothy, fleshless ghoul I’m assuming is shrieking like the Velociraptors from Jurassic Park.

Card Carnophage

Child of Gaea, illustrated by Paolo Parente
This card and artwork first appeared in: Urza’s Saga

My description: An embodiment of nature itself rising up from the Earth to kick the asses of people who discard pop cans and Cheetohs bags in the woods.

Card Child of Gaea

Terror, illustrated by Ron Spencer
This card and artwork first appeared in: Alpha

My description: An extremely emaciated fellow curled up in a fetal position who either has blue hair or is being zapped by force lightning.

Card Terror

Magmasaur, illustrated by Daniel Gelon
This card and artwork first appeared in: Tempest

My description: An evil, red-eyed Sauropod dinosaur that lives in volcanoes and drinks lava, then just kinda drools it back out of its mouth as if to say, “Come at me, bruh.”

Card Magmasaur

Phyrexian Ghoul, illustrated by Pete Venters
This card and artwork first appeared in: Urza’s Saga

My description: A cave-dwelling cyborg monstrosity with a crocodile head that looks like a Xenomorph spliced with the robot from Death Machine.
Card Phyrexian Ghoul

Sliver Queen, illustrated by Ron Spencer
This card and artwork first appeared in: Stronghold

My description: An incredibly spiny and serpentine insect mutation with scythe-like Praying Mantis arms.

Card Sliver Queen

Vebulid, illustrated by Ron Spencer
This card and artwork first appeared in: Urza’s Saga

My description: Some kind of a heaving, pustulous sac of organs growing atop three spindly spider legs.

Card Vebulid

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Have you played this game? What are your favorite cards and illustrations? Let me know.

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