The mists are rising, all manner of specters prowl the woods, and the witching moon shines brightly in the heavy sky! Halloween is a spectacular time in Magic: The Gathering, where all sorts of fun themes and strategies are possible. Find your favorite Black Cat and get ready. Today, Douglas Linn looks at some creative ways to work the holiday into your Magic games tonight.
Halloween’s Celtic Origins Blend Into Magic’s Past
Halloween has its origins in Samhain, the Celtic harvest festival. The connection between the spirit world and ours was especially easy to cross on that night, and all manner of spirits and faeries could come across. Thanks to the depth of Magic’s lore, you can play with references to this.
Some cards, like the Standing Stones that the spirits contacted are best looked at and not played. There are much better options for the same effect unless you’re a stickler for a theme. However, all manner of mischievous creatures make their appearance in the game, especially in the Lorwyn block. There you’ll find the horse-dwarf Noggles and the mercurial Pucas. Both are traditional elements of the Celtic mythos and have several good representatives in Magic.
Not into dipping that deep? Grab a Banshee and spread the pain around! The Banshees were female spirits whose wail would portend doom. But according to lore, only those whose last names started with O’ or Mac- could hear them. The Banshee in Magic will do your bidding by killing just about anything on the battlefield, but she extracts a deadly price for it.
Modern Horror Makes Its Magical Appearance
Magic also has a bunch of cards that pull from modern horror, if that’s more your angle. They are, by and large, unplayable unless you’re using casual decks with your friends, but they are fun and fit a theme! You can haunt dreams with Childhood Horror, and the art on The Fallen will haunt yours! The Headless Horseman is a classic card with amazing and horror-appropriate art, even if it dies to a stiff breeze these days. In a multiplayer game, you can spread the wicked power all around with a Witch Engine that changes loyalties. Meanwhile, Frankenstein’s Monster plunders the graveyard for extra strength. It seems a pity to me that it doesn’t combo with Rooftop Storm, seeing as that’s how you create the protean monster in the first place.
Brew up a tasty potion by summoning a Bogbrew Witch. She’ll find a Festering Newt and toss it into a Bubbling Cauldron, devastating the opponent. Her noxious brew will kill the most stalwart opponent and knock out creatures all along the way. If you’re looking for a different kind of witch, then Coffin Queen is your lady. She’s no Elvira, but this four armed mistress of the night is ready to haunt the battlefield with ghostly reanimated bodies.
And no Halloween deck is complete without a copy of All Hallow’s Eve, though you’ll be saving up those pennies you get in your candy bag for a long time to buy one.
Why Not Trick Or Treat?
Magic is full of cards that present difficult choices for your opponent. Though they’re not spookily themed, they can make the opponent take some serious pain or give you exactly what you want. This is referred to as the “punisher” mechanic, but I prefer to think of it as “trick or treat!” Take a look at Browbeat or Temporal Extortion – you give me something juicy or you lose a pile of your life!
For me though, nothing beats the ultimate no-win situation: Choice of Damnations. What better way to scare your opponent this Halloween than to ask them to play a little bit of a bluffing game! They can lose their life or their board, but they’ll never be happy with their choice. It's all tricks and no treats! Typically, the best number to name seems to be 7, but let’s hope people get the memo of the day and confidently say… thirteen!
Put Your Creatures in Costumes
There are lots of ways for your creatures to play dress-up. For example, they can put on the guise of their favorite animal with an Aura, packing Armadillo Cloak or a Spider Umbra. They can hide behind an Illusionary Mask if you can figure out how the card works. I prefer to give a guy an Imposing Visage and attack with a giant Goblin mask on!
Why stop at just costumes, though? Part of the devilish fun of this holiday is surprise! The Morph mechanic, originally in Onslaught and now back with Khans of Tarkir, is a great scare. Your opponent will look at a blank 2/2, wondering if it’ll end up stealing her best creature with Chromeshell Crab or bringing a whole warband of Goblins with Ponyback Brigade. No matter what, you’re going to love attacking your terrified opponent with a horde of faceless 2/2s!
Dig Deep For The Best Themes
While your friends are pulling that same tired Zombie deck or the Vampires list they’ve been tuning up, you’ll be turning heads with some fun and interesting cards from all across Magic’s history. This Halloween, I guarantee you’re going to have a great time with these thematic cards – and you’re bound to have more than one friend stop to read your cards and admire the art!