Magic: the Gathering has taken inspiration from all sorts of places, as the newest Throne of Eldraine set makes abundantly clear. Through the storied history of the game, however, few things have been as influential to card design as the holiday of Halloween and all of its associated folklore. We've scoured the entire Magic library in order to find what we believe are the twenty most Halloween-esque Magic cards ever made.
Take a look:
20. Howling Banshee (Magic 2010 Core Set, 2009)
No horror film, spooky soundtrack, or haunted house is complete without a bloodcurdling scream, and there's nothing that screams quite like a Howling Banshee. Other Banshees exist in Magic, but this one has the best name and the best art, and it's scary enough to drain the life from everyone - including the caster.
19. Bad Moon (Unlimited, 1993)
Every horror aficionado knows that all of the worst things happen when the moon is full, and Richard Garfield knew it even back when Magic was first released. This Bad Moon is the ultimate symbol of spooky times ahead, especially when it powers up all of the black-colored monsters.
18. Brood of Cockroaches (Visions, 1997)
Cockroaches are bad enough as it is, and this writer can attest that when a cockroach runs over you while you're sleeping, it's utterly terrifying. A massive swarm of them crawling up onto a bed is sure to be more than some people can bear. Plus, just like a real cockroach, it's almost impossible to get rid of this card.
17. Greater Werewolf (Homelands, 1995)
The werewolf is one of the quintessential Halloween monsters, yet there are shockingly few of them in the Magic canon. Between the Lesser Werewolf and the Greater Werewolf, the latter is definitely more intimidating, and just like a real werewolf, this card becomes more powerful as dusk falls (and the turn ends).
16. Dawn of the Dead (Torment, 2002)
Any card paying tribute to the great George Romero deserves a spot on this list, which is how Dawn of the Dead manages to beat out nearly every other zombie card, of which there are many. This card's original release features some excellent art from Pete Venters, and an ability to zombify any of your dead creatures.
15. Frankenstein’s Monster (The Dark, 1994)
There's no greater way to celebrate Halloween than to pay homage to the creator of science fiction, Mary Shelley. True to form, this monster is created from the remains of all the dead creatures in your graveyard, creating a powerful (and surprisingly well-spoken) beast. Between The Dark and Legends, June 1994 was a great time for spooky Magic cards.
14. Cemetery Gate (Homelands, 1995)
Nothing good ever happens in a cemetery on Halloween, and this card is the ultimate symbol of that fact. Make sure that the gate door is locked tight, and all of the horrible monsters are on the other side.
13. Barrow Witches (Throne of Eldraine, 2019)
The newest Magic expansion brings the Halloween-est witch card the game has seen yet. A true witch lives in a bog, brews potions in a cauldron, and often has other witch friends with which to cause toil and trouble, and Barrow Witches checks off all the necessary boxes.
12. Ancient Tomb (Tempest, 1997)
Just because a card is a land doesn't mean it can't be spooky as well. Ancient Tomb sports some fantastic art from its original 1997 release, and offers great power at the cost of your soul (or, to be precise, two life points).
11. Vampire’s Bite (Zendikar, 2009)
There is no shortage of vampires across the various Magic sets, but this card gets right to the point (pun intended). The scariest part of a vampire is its ability to spread its curse with its pointed teeth, and this card will spread its curse to any of your creatures.
10. Zombie Apocalypse (Dark Ascension, 2012)
Of all the zombie hordes in the Magic canon, this is the most on-the-nose of all of them, tapping directly into what all good zombie horror films threaten. This devastating card will reduce all humans to zombies, sharply turning the tide of battle if played right.
9. Carrion Rats (Torment, 2002)
Magic is absolutely rife with rats, but by far the goriest and creepiest are the Carrion Rats from the Torment set. These rats feed on the bodies of the dead, and the only way to avoid their bite is to offer them a more tasty corpse instead (by exiling one of your dead creatures).
8. Vampire Bats (Legends, 1994)
Bats are absolutely synonymous with Halloween, and any decorator worth their salt will spread plenty of bats about when October rolls around. These fliers can power themselves up twice, making for a quick-to-deploy flying creature that's sure to irritate.
7. Ghosts of the Damned (Legends, 1994)
This card features more spectacular art from the Legends set, bringing to mind visions of things like Tales from the Crypt or Vincent Price. The card's effects are nothing to write home about, but the visual impact gives it a high ranking on our list.
6. Manor Skeleton (Innistrad, 2011)
Skeletons are another popular Magic creature, but the one that most embodies the spirit of Halloween is the Manor Skeleton, mainly due to its art. It comes at you fast, and like all of the best skeleton enemies, it will come right back after you put it down.
5. Crow of Dark Tidings (Shadows over Innistrad, 2016)
Crows are another iconic Halloween animal, and they've been treated as omens for hundreds of years. Naturally, the most Halloween-esque crow in all of Magic is one that is an omen itself; when this crow shows up, and when it leaves, bad things definitely happen for your opponent.
4. Headless Horseman (Legends, 1994)
Directly inspired by the work of Washington Irving, the Headless Horseman pays homage to one of the most famous horror tales in the literary canon. It might cost one mana too many, but the original art is fantastic to behold.
3. Black Cat (Dark Ascension, 2012)
Few animals represent Halloween quite like a black cat, but one didn't show up in Magic until the late year of 2012. This otherwise unassuming feline certainly brings bad luck to your opponent, who will coincidentally "lose" a card as soon as the Black Cat leaves the battlefield.
2. Season of the Witch (The Dark, 1994)
This powerful card directly pays homage to the third Halloween film, sharing a name and even a similar visual style. Once this card goes into play, great chaos is sure to follow, as creatures are forced to attack or be destroyed. The witching hour has nothing on witch season.
1. All Hallow’s Eve (Legends, 1994)
The only way this list could possibly end is with Halloween: the Card. The art is full of classic Halloween iconography, including one of the few instances of a jack-o-lantern. By bringing back all of the creatures that have died and forcing them into battle, this card certainly embodies the scary and chaotic nature of the holiday.
Happy Halloween, from Magic Untapped!