A Magic: The Gathering Creature Review by Jonathan Wojcik

   According to me, we're smack in the middle of Halloween, and that means everything on Bogleech needs an extra-ghoulish twist, regardless of how ghoulish it already is by default 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It's been a while since my last Magic: The Gathering creature feature, so let's take a look at some of the wildest and wackiest of the zombie creature type!

The Plaguebearer

Illustrator: Ron Spencer

   Ron Spencer's repulsive Plaguebearer feels like the best possible zombie to start out with. Not too far removed from your typical shambling corpse, but neither too conventional. This was easily one of the grossest, most graphic cards ever released back in the day, with the pure, steamy essence of disease just boiling that poor sap's flesh. I love those transparent cheek sacs, swollen with infectious filth like some kind of pus-filled hamster. In fact...

by Lulu Witch

It's kind of exactly like a Hamster. Good one, Ron.

The Bone Dancer

Illustrator: Scott Kirschner

   A long time favorite of mine, this spindly-limbed funkmaster can reanimate your opponent's dead creatures and bring them back to your side, presumably to re-enact Thriller. Scott Kirschner's striking, stylish artwork really sets this one apart, especially with that freaky mask, those cloven hooves and purple pocketbook. What does he even keep in there? More bones? You've got bones, Bone Dancer! You're dancing on them! Some people.

The Shambling Remains

Illustrator: Nils Hamm

   This one isn't just any zombie, but a zombie horror! It's also exactly what I think of when you say the words "shambling" and "remains" together. I dig the vertical, toothy maw peeking from behind all that ragged, drooping flesh, and the single, bulging, glazed over eyeball!

The Severed Legion

Illustrator: Dany Orizio

   What's a proper undead army without some disembodied, crawling hands? I don't know how the hell some of them are able to move while carrying things, unless they're supposed to be using strands of muscle as tiny tentacle-legs, which almost seems to be the case here. This ruthless gang of appendages marching through the streets is an overall fun image, and they couldn't have possibly picked a cooler name.

The Gravespawn Sovereign

Illustrator: Adam Rex

   This is another one that makes loyal minions out of any dead creatures you want, but a little more surreal than the dancer. That huge, nearly skeletal head makes a wonderfully nightmarish visual, and apparently regurgitates more zombies into existence. It also always looked to me like it was flying, which is the only worse thing it could have possibly been doing. It could just bust in through your window, puke zombies into your bedroom and soar off into the night sky, oblivious to the screams as it waves farewell, content with a job well done.

The Carnophage and Sangrophage

Illustrator: Pete Venters

   This eyeless, skinless flesh eater would be pretty horrifying groping blindly from the shadows behind you right now. I'm glad that isn't me! I especially like the crazy shard-like teeth just impaled through its lips. This is a zombie from the Rath cycle, which as we've discussed before, took place on an alien plane lorded over by a guy with an evil laboratory.

Illustrator: Pete Venters

   Later, in the Time Spiral sets, we meet the Sangrophage, basically the same monster, but even less human, almost saurian with its now massively oversized chompers and more bestial skull!

The Cyclopean Giant

Illustrator: Mark Tedin

   Scary. As. Hell. The only thing worse than a giant-sized zombie is definitely a giant-sized zombie missing huge chunks of its gross, mostly hollow head, and its flavor text says something about "tomb eyes," which we can assume are giant, brain-like stone eyes from which giant, broken corpses emerge. Why? I don't know of any story materials explaining this one, which makes it all the more disturbing. Imagine a land just littered with these freaking tomb eyes. Imagine the Cyclopean Giant trying to eat you and you just sort of fall back out one side of his face. Chilling!

The Nested Ghoul

Illustrator: Dave Kendall

   This is exactly what it both looks and sounds like. An undead bio-mechanical monster in another undead bio-mechanical monster, with apparently even more where that came from. This isn't even all that unusual for the creations of Phyrexia, which you met when we went over the Horrors. The littler zombie looks damn near insane, too, and subtly insect-like, perching like a locust to form the thing's "head."

The Marrow Chomper

Illustrator: Lars Grant-West

   Marrow Chomper is the only "zombie lizard" I'm aware of, and immediately cool for its upturned pug-like skull face, loosely connected flesh and winding tongue. It also took me a while to notice that this thing is gigantic. Look at the little dude on the horse!

The Nim Abomination

Illustrator: Jim Murray

   The "Nim" are a whole family of undead warped and twisted into strange, half-metallic forms, and the abomination lives up to its name as the most twisted of all. It took me an embarrassingly long time (we're talking years) before my mind ever pieced together this thing's anatomy. I'd glance at it, fail to register what I was looking at besides some odd tangle of unrelated body parts, admire how cool that was and wonder no further. Eventually, it just sort of "clicked," like an optical illusion, and while making more sense should theoretically make it less cool, I really enjoy this thing's layout. If you're having any trouble yourself, let me help:

Mine is at the beach!

The Organ Grinder

Illustrator: Adam Rex

   This silly pun looks fairly terrifying as it slices open its conscious victim to suck something or other through its freaky, doll-like face and into collection bottles. That stuff certainly doesn't look like any "organs" that I know of.

The Hand of the Praetors

Illustrator: Izzy

   At first glance, this Phyrexian zombie is just a totally awesome biomechanical vulture-man with freaky metal eyes and an adorable smile, but look closer at his "torso!" Does it just look that head-like for fashion purposes, or does he even have his brain in there, the "bird" head little more than a feeding and/or speaking appendage?

The Coffin Queen

Illustrator: Kaja Foglio

   Coffin Queen wasn't originally printed as a zombie (I believe "coffin queen" was also its card type) but has since been retconned as a zombie type for future prints, so a zombie she is! A real cutie, too, yet fairly unnerving with her pale face, four arms and defiance of gravity. Love that background, too. This is another of those older cards with a really painted look to it, rather than attempting the utmost realism.

The Phyrexian Ghoul

Illustrator: Pete Venters

   From the same mind who brought to life the Carnophage, this zombie looks even less like we've come to expect. It seems to have an exterior of mostly rusted metal, and those enormous crocodilian jaws rest upon a surprisingly tiny body, when we really look him over.

The Gloomdrifter

Illustrator: Adam Rex

   This is another "retconned" zombie, originally printed as just a "minion" creature type. Zombie or otherwise, there is everything delightful about a pallid, monstrous ghoul just floating around in a nightcap and a cartoon wizard's cape - or maybe that's just a child's bedsheet. It seems to put people to sleep with its very presence, but doesn't have any other clear intentions here, destructive or otherwise. It's half silly, half disturbing, my favorite combination!

The Skinrender

Illustrator: David Rapoza

   The very least zombie-like zombie here, Skinrender combines the aesthetics of Alien and Pumpkinhead into a reasonable scary, slimy skinned predator, but are those nostrils above its mouth, or incredibly tiny, dopey eyes? I have to say I prefer the latter visual, which gives it the deranged stare of some nightmarish moray eel.

Geralf's Mindcrusher

Illustrator: Steven Belledin

   Ths laboratory construct is another that looks fairly plain at a distance - especially with the tiny size these cards are printed at - but you can probably see what's supposed to be so brain-hurting about it:

   I don't know if this would crush my mind, exactly, but innumerable, scattered human eyes are always pretty fun, especially on a monster whose head looks this much like a potato.

The Infectious Horror

Illustrator: Pete Venters

   One more weirdo by Venters, and easily the nastiest. He really has a knack for twisted, alien undead and I find everything about this design extremely cool, from the totally alien lower mouthparts to the disgusting, gaping armpits. The fused human skulls are the only explicitly human element, and the sheer mindless misery in their eyes is enough to double the horror of the whole damn thing. It does seem to have several additional, less human eyes, unless those are just more orifices full of ickiness.

The Phyrexian Delver

Illustrator: Dana Knutson

   According to Phyrexia, a "zombie" can just be a big, silly robot with a couple of zombie heads fused into it. Do you dare question their genius? This is such a strange, unreal thing, even by the standards we've already established, and looks exactly like it belongs in a video game like Contra or Doom. Of the two heads, I have to say I vastly prefer the one on the right, which looks substantially ghastlier and really deserved to be the "lead" head. What function do additional heads even serve this daft contraption?

The Ragamuffyn

Illustrator: Rk Post

   They look completely different in almost every sense, yet something about the Ragamuffyn reminds me heavily of the Organ Grinder. Like, they would just look and sound really cute together, with their creepy doll features and whimsical names. I really think they should hook up.

The Plague Dogs

Illustrator: Chippy and Matthew Wilson

   One more from Phyrexia, and one more that I believe was only later made into a zombie, though I could be mistaken. You may already be aware that "plague dogs" is the name of an incredibly depressing book and animated film, which was probably intentional. I love how these look nothing like dogs in any way whatsoever, with elongated eyeless skulls and an almost insect-like appearance. The concept that they just perch atop these rocky pillars, pouring their contagion into the wind, is a fairly haunting image.

   I'm not really sure what to end on anymore, now that I moved Putrid Leech over to a new home. I will say that this didn't feel as fun as the previous creature reviews, perhaps because even the most divergent zombies still aren't much more interesting than the most mundane Thallids or Horrors, but I needed to get my thoughts on some of these guys off my chest. This is important stuff, people.

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