The Most Terrifying Magic: The Gathering Cards

Magic: The Gathering has plenty of shambling zombies and fearsome monsters to create a deck that’s as terrifying as it is effective.

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October means we’re officially in spooky season, so what better time to explore some of the more terrifying corners of Magic: The Gathering? Plenty of monsters and villains occupy each color of Magic, but it’s the black swamps that host the most vile and decrepit. Among the infinite shadows of these landscapes, few threats are as immediately fear-inducing as zombies.

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If you’re looking to build a deck that’ll send shivers down your opponent’s spine, or just devour anything they throw at you, an army of the living dead is the way to go. Though often quite weak on their own, the dead quickly outnumber any adversary with the right strategy, and the right leaders. Rare, high-powered ghouls are key to any good zombie deck, whether in commander, standard, or otherwise – here’s a list of the best and rarest for you to track down for your own nefarious means.

Magic: the Gathering Scariest Cards - Mikaeus, the Unhallowed

Mikaeus, The Unhallowed

Here’s a legendary zombie priest to start with, and a very troublesome one at that. As part of Dark Ascension, Mikaeus can’t be used in standard, but he’s perfect for running a shambling black commander deck. The strengths of Mikaeus, The Unhallowed are three-fold. First, when a human card deals damage to you it gets destroyed, which is already a worthwhile defense. Then, other non-human creatures you control get +1/+1, so your ghouls already out are getting buffed, and on top of that, they have undying, meaning they’re resurrected with a +1/+1 counter if they died without one. With him out, the plague does not stop coming.

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At around $35, Mikaeus is an investment, but one that puts the edge on any black commander build. For less than ten bucks more, you can find the foil version, which could be even better as trade fodder, too.

Magic: the Gathering Scariest Cards - Sidisi, Undead Vizier

Sidisi, Undead Vizier

A slightly cheaper purchase is Sidisi, Undead Vizier, a rare from Dragons of Tarkir. Sidisi’s less about immediate strength, and more about strategy. When the zombie naga comes into play, you can sacrifice a creature. If you do, you can search your deck for any card and put it into your hand. In the commander format, since everything beyond lands can only be included once, that’s a handy tool to have in your arsenal.

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Outside of that, the Undead Vizier has deathtouch, meaning any damage he deals to an opposing creature will kill that creature. At a converted mana cost of five and four strength and six toughness, Sidisi can deal some serious blows if need be. The pleasure of doing so will run you just over $10, so not too cost prohibitive an acquisition.

Magic: the Gathering Scariest Cards - Balthor the Defiled

Balthor the Defiled

Magic: The Gathering has a penchant for producing some truly heavy metal card concepts, and Balthor is a classic. A zombie dwarf legend, which should tell you enough, Balthor’s two abilities are to strengthen minions, or bring back all red or black creatures in everyone’s graveyards to play. The first is self-explanatory, all minions in play get +1/+1, but the second can be explosive. For three black and removing Balthor from the game, every black and red creature in a graveyard returns from the dead. If you’ve been heavy on the low-level, easy-to-kill creatures, that could be catastrophic for whomever you’re against.

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Balthor’s services are pretty easy on the wallet, at $10 or so, four times that if you’d like the foil version. “He remembers enough of his life to weep for what he has lost,” his description reads. Heavy.

Magic: the Gathering Scariest Cards - The Scarab God

The Scarab God

If mono-black feels a bit limited, The Scarab God is a strong way to expand, requiring one blue along with one black and three colorless. This undying God – the title’s not just for show – is a literal zombie machine that trades corpses for powerful tokens. Its main ability is, for two colorless, one blue and one black, that you can exile a creature from a graveyard to create a 4/4 black zombie token in its place. Then, if that wasn’t enough, this legendary inflicts one damage to each opponent for every zombie under your control at the start of tour upkeep, and gives you scry for each zombie too.

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What’s more, Scarab God returns to your hand the turn after it dies. At $15, you’re getting a serious asset for a commander deck that can overwhelm most anything it’s up against.

Magic: the Gathering Scariest Cards - Geralf's Messenger

Geralf’s Messenger

Of course, all these commanders are nothing without the frontlines, the wave of undead soldiers that battle in their stead. You can find many a decent pile of rotting flesh to fill out your ranks, of which Geralf’s Messenger is a fine addition. The three black, 3/2 zombie enters the battlefield tapped, but gives your opponent two damage right from the off, just so they don’t think they’re getting off easy. Then, this shambling corpse has undying, meaning it comes back with a +1/+1 counter if it dies without one, so once your opponent kills it, it returns stronger, like any good ghoul.

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Commander, modern, legacy, Geralf’s Messenger is legal in a number of formats, and his price of $7 reflects that. Not everyone is meant to be a leader, some are almost criminally good at being a follower.

Commander, modern, legacy, Geralf’s Messenger is legal in a number of formats, and his price of $7 reflects that. Not everyone is meant to be a leader, some are almost criminally good at being a follower.

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Magic: the Gathering Scariest Cards - Murderous Rider

Murderous Rider

The current playing field for standard offers a couple of cheap options if you want to incorporate rotting flesh and zombification into your repertoire. Murderous Rider is one, a Throns of Eldraine rare zombie knight. This resurrected knight on horseback gives you two lovely abilities that can be useful in the right circumstances. As an instant, with swift end, it can destroy a creature or planeswalker, but you lose two life and it’s exiled. If it dies normally, it goes to the bottom of your library.

For a converted mana cost of three for a 2/3, it could be the trump card you need in a bind, and at $3 at the minute, it’s a bit of a steal.

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Magic: the Gathering Scariest Cards - Polukranos, Unchained

Polukranos, Unchained

Zombie hydra – need I say more? This green-black legendary creature is a costly behemoth, but if you can tame it, you can do some heavy damage. It enters the battlefield with six 1/1 counters, so for two colorless, one black and one green, you’re getting bang for your mana. The drawback is that damage is calculated using those counters, so whatever damage it takes, it lose that many counters. For one colorless, one black and one green, however, Polukranos can can fight another creature, so you can bounce this thing around the opposition.

Four colorless, one black and one green, and six exiled cards from your graveyard lets this multi-headed monster escape back onto the battlefield if it’s killed, this time with 12 1/1 counters. Costs around $3 at the moment, and allowed in every format. A legendary zombie in every sense of the word.