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Nightmare Fuel / Magic: The Gathering

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All Will Be One

From a plane which is Gothic Horror personified, to a race of Eldritch Abominations that threaten to corrupt and erase whole planets, to The Virus that assimilates its victims via Body Horror, as well as having some of the most graphic and grotesque card art in trading card game history, to say that The Multiverse doesn't have its fair share of Nightmare Fuel would be a lie.

As a Moments subpage, all spoilers are unmarked as per policy. You Have Been Warned.

  • Pretty much the majority of The Seer's Parables (except a few sections), which illustrates how lovecraftian Shadowmoor is.
    "It burns
    How it burns."
  • Phyrexia in general is an excellent source of nightmares. Check out the art on Vivisection. Yes, that is indeed a human head split open and picked through while its owner is still alive.
  • The Phyrexian recruitment video contains a mix of electronic moans and surreal, gruesome imagery. All Will Be One indeed. And the sequel video: Phyrexia won. Mirrodin is clinging just barely to life. The Father of Machines is coming.
  • The Phyrexians in the books are absolutely terrifying, having a disturbing fixation on perfection, and in some books, you see events through a Phyrexian's eyes. And in one case, you see a complete metamorphosis in perspective. Mind Rape through Body Horror and cybernetics eating your soul. There is the oh so subtle hinting in Planeswalker and Time Stream that anyone you know or love might just be a Sleeper who is waiting to call on the Negators. Their appearance and fighting style lends heavily toward implanted weapons and other nasty things. They look like mishmashes of mummies and magitek. And any Sleeper can call on them. And some of the said Sleepers don't even know they are one until a voice starts up in their head. In New Phyrexia, the Negators got worse.
    • As the stand out example of Negator Nightmare Fuel, there's the horrific "Negator Massacre" of Tolaria Academy - which resulted in the deaths of Barrin, Jhoira and Teferi before Karn time traveled back to prevent this.
  • Crovax. He's a vampire who fell in love with an artificially created angel. He joined the Weatherlight crew to try and find said angel, who had kidnapped his parents and ends up killing her, setting off the madness he has up to this point suppressed. He ends up taking over the hellhole that is Rath but not before killing another Weatherlight crew member (Mirri) and breaking Ertai utterly. When Tsabo Tavoc encounters him after the Overlay, she finds him having a tea party with the skeletons of his dead parents; he's even providing voices for them, talking about how they would have let him kill them a long time ago if they knew what he would become. Oh yeah, he ends up tearing her to pieces and eating her, just so no one else can gain her power/intelligence/etc. He has an organ that uses living creatures as the pipes, just in case the rest wasn't bad enough. While it was suggested that he was redeemed after he died, it doesn't seem like he really deserved it.
    • He was a good guy in the alternate timeline presented in Planar Chaos, but that required Mirri to inherit the vampirism and insanity that made him the monster he was. Some of the flavor texts suggest that she was actually worse than he was; we do know for sure that she exterminated the Mogg goblins, and she corrupted the Kor to fill their place. Fun times . . .
  • Grave Titan. A walking Zombie Apocalypse. Animated corpses crawl out of his chest. The Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 promotional art is particularly chilling.
    • Even better; in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014, there is a new feature that makes the art of some card have little effect on them when you zoom in (this works better than it reads). Grave Titan's unliving zombie-innards wiggle around to a horrifying effect.
    • Grave Titan is NOT a zombie himself. Whatever the hell it is,note  it is completely alive yet continuously produces undead corpses.
  • Tivadar's Crusade shows a goblin strung up and stretched out on some kind of battle standard, very clearly disemboweled and its guts hanging out. Even if Tivadar of Thorn himself has a fanatical hatred of goblins, this is still gruesome to look at.
  • The Innistrad block is based on gothic horror, and the artwork doesn't disappoint. Just consider the chilling feel of Village Cannibals and the very aptly named Creepy Doll.
  • The way werewolves transform according to the Planeswalker's Guide for Innistrad (the article about Kessig):
    "The transformation process is harrowing for the lycanthrope and incredibly disturbing to any witnesses. The eyes change first, the whites darkening and the iris filling with color. The claws go next; the hands elongate, knifelike claws extend from the fingertips, and the thumb forms a claw back near the wrist. The muzzle thrusts forward out of the human's skull, and the teeth jut through the gums in sharp points. Bones crack as they rearrange. Marrow spills into the bloodstream as ribs and skull fracture and telescope. Thick, wiry fur pushes through the skin, often pushing out normal human hair. The tailbone elongates and becomes a shaggy wolf's tail. Metabolism speeds up, increasing blood flow, oxygen flow, and glandular production, creating cravings for protein and fat. Any clothing that was worn at the time of the change is generally torn to shreds and falls away. If a werewolf dies in beast form, it changes back to human form, a process called death reversion."
    • In addition, the Leeraug pack apparently specialized in killing children. Thankfully, they probably are gone or made into Wolfir after Avacyn returned, but still...
  • From the magic 2012 expansion; "Deathmark" Is very subtle but full of Eye Scream. One can only imagine what horror's would make your very pupil leak out of your eye.
  • The 2012 Core Set edition of Distress covers its share of creepiness as well.
    "Of course I'm sure I've gone mad. The little man who crawled out of my eye was quite clear on this."
  • Eldrazi can be rather eerie. Particularly the biggest one - Emrakul, if you look at its art closely. It looks like a titanic mushroom or mold thing from Dali's nightmares with a nest of swarming tentacles at the bottom, but the creepiest thing is that some of those tentacles are actually hands and fingers, twisted into unspeakable shapes.
    • This gets worse when the mechanical aspects of what Emrakul actually does comes into play. The player who summons it gets an extra turn when they do so, which would imply that this thing showing up is a big enough event to distort time (its title, The Eons Torn, is not just a fancy nickname). Being put into the graveyard by anything (including regular combat) puts the entire graveyard into that player's deck... plus, it is unaffected by any spells that use colored mana, which covers about 95% of the cards ever published. So in-universe, it's a giant, mushroom-like Eldritch Abomination that is completely unaffected by almost everything that can be thrown at it, and if someone manages to muster enough forces and it finally does somehow die, the person who summoned it gains most of their spells back... and is perfectly capable of summoning it again.
    • The signature Eldrazi ability, Annihilator, is also this in the flavor it gives. Whenever an Eldrazi attacks, the defending player is forced to sacrifice at least two permanents. There are two particularly disturbing implications here. The first is that it bypasses indestructibility (by virtue of being a sacrifice effect), implying that the Eldrazi are powerful enough to annihilate even those who cannot be killed by conventional means. The other is that the defender (not the attacker) chooses what gets sacrificed. While it's necessary gameplay-wise to prevent the Eldrazi from being even more of a Game-Breaker than they already are, it's also a perfect illustration of The Chains of Commanding when facing such a cataclysmic threat. There is simply no possible way of surviving an Eldrazi attack without casualties, forcing the opponent to make a Sadistic Choice as to what forces are expendable and what has to be kept in reserve to stand even a shadow of a chance to claim victory.
    • While it's not exclusive to Eldrazi alone, they might be the best illustration of it: Planeswalkers (i.e. players) fight by summoning creatures through magic. Just take a moment to think about what kind of individual you would be in-universe if you're willing to summon a reality-destroying abomination to destroy your enemies.
  • The Planeswalker Ashiok embodies Nightmare Fuel both in and out of universe. Ashiok is essentially a Humanoid Abomination, a grey-skinned something with a pair of horns and a cloud of manifest nightmare magic where the upper half of Ashiok's head should be and an obsession with causing fear. It's as if a Cenobite joined the Sinestro Corps.
    • And to make matters worse, Ashiok's summoned nightmares seem to be utterly indestructible. They will kill you in gruesome ways, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.
  • Born of the Gods gives us the Forlorn Pseudamma, a Returned (Theros' equivalent to zombies) that creates zombie tokens. It's heavily implied by the art and the flavor text that it makes its zombie minions out of kidnapped children.
    "More children taken. This is an evil we will track without mercy." - Anthousa of Setessa
    • "Implied" is an understatement. On the Forlorn Pseudamma card's art, you can see the Returned leading two children (who seem to have no face) by the hands. On the official art of the zombie tokens, you can see two withered silhouettes wearing golden masks... and the exact same clothing as the two children.
  • If you want to make the situation worse, consider exactly what the Returned are. Lost souls escaping from the Theros' equivalent of Hades to return to the world of the living... at the price of losing their face and being able to create long-term memories. They retain the abilities and skills they once had, but are unable to create a new identity or relationships. They are poor shades looking for a new life, but suffer a Fate Worse than Death instead. Daxos is suffering from this fate.
  • Brain Maggot. If the name of the card already gives you an uneasy feeling, do not click the link. Seriously, don't look at that picture if you get squicked easily.
  • The full version of the Theros Block animations, with such gems such as ghastly appearances of Karn, Elesh Norn, Koth, and Daxos and the implication that Elspeth is now a Returned.
  • Nissa's origin story. As an animist, she can feel the evil of the Eldrazi buried under Zendikar, gnawing away at the world. She sets out hoping to confront and destroy the evil, but just getting a good look at the Eldrazi is enough to defeat her. The psychic blast ignites her spark, and she's thrown across the Multiverse to Lorwyn. Lorwyn just hours away from becoming Shadowmoor.
    The evil in this land was not far under the surface. It was bubbling up, ready to release; a thousand shadowy spiders had been growing and now were chewing through their silken egg casings.
    The Great Aurora brings the night… as Death reveals its door… shadows fast obscure the light… unleashing Shadowmoor.
  • Ugin's description of Ulamog in Revelation at the Eye, likening all of the greater Eldrazi to fingers reaching into a pond; and describing the seemingly unkillable Ulamog, Kozilek and Emrakul as hands. Now, imagine what the actual beings those hands are attached to would be like...
    • In Zendikar's Last Stand, Ugin's words to Jace are shown to ring true when the Gatewatch bind the two Eldrazi titans Ulamog and Kozilek and pulled their larger firms into Zendikar. Suddenly, the two titans stretched so much that they literally filled the sky and merged with each other, tentacles stretched to the ground like tornadoes and it literally rained Eldrazi. One gets the feeling that our heroes aren't so much as pulling the two titans' forms into reality as they are pulling a massive entity by its appendages. Of course Chandra with the help of Nissa managed to destroy Ulamog and Kozilek by channeling Zendikar's mana into a fiery blast but, based on Ugin's reaction, the Gatewatch's victory may be temporary at best.
  • The Blight We Were Born For depicts the true power of Kozilek. We know he can distort thoughts and cause pure panic, but here, we see that it's capable of causing General Tazri's life to flash before her eyes... and it doesn't stop there. She sees a Bad Future where the Eldrazi win, the Gatewatch are dead, and she's been driven mad by Kozilek. Ulamog isn't anywhere on the plane, meaning either Kozilek killed him, or he has gone to another plane. When Gideon finally dies, Kozilek is described as making such a bizarre noise that Tazri can only describe it as laughter. For literally billions of years after that, she attempts to re-construct Zendikar to lure him back. Cosmic Horror doesn't begin to describe it.
  • We return to the nightmare fuel-laden land of Innistrad, but now for the opposite reasons. A Gaze Blank and Pitiless starts off innocently enough, with Avacyn finding a lost child. But something starts buzzing in the back of her mind and she tries to seek refuge from it. She starts to see what she believes that humans are just as bad as the monsters she was created to destroy. And with the help of Gisela and Bruna (Sigarda notably refuses), she starts to wipe out humanity with her fleet of angels to purify the land, starting with the village in the beginning of the story.
  • In Drownyard Temple, Nahiri's magic is starting to get to Jace...
  • Because just having regular Savage Wolves would have been too vanilla for a second trip into Innistrad R&D decided to give them Spikes of Doom. Oh goody...
  • What's scarier than an Undead Child or Creepy Twins? How about a combination of the two?
  • Chas Andres points out all the really subtle Body Horror in Shadows Over Innistrad.
  • The last we heard of Gisela and Bruna before Eldritch Moon was them joining Avacyn in her purge. The latest Uncharted Realms reveals their fate...
    "We are Emrakul!"
    • Narm-y as everyone merging Emrakul's name into their words is, the thought is genuinely creepy. All of these people have become little more than extensions of Emrakul and her mere presence is turning all life on Innistrad into her spawn.
    • Jace attempts to read Emrakul's mind. Cue Mind Rape:
    The enteral infinity—this world is mine.
    The absolute—I shall have all.
    The beginning—I shall be all.
    The being—all are'mrakul.
    The end.
    The end.
    The end.
  • How does the story of Eldritch Moon end? Tamiyo, working with Nissa and Jace, sealed Emrakul in the moon. That's all fine and good, until Tamiyo tells Jace that she didn't have the power to do it herself; the only reason she was able to seal away Emrakul was because Emrakul herself gave her the strength to do so. As best we can discover about her motivation for doing so, it was either because she'd gotten tired of "playing" with them, or was disappointed that the people didn't embrace her as she expected them to. There is even an indication she was keeping her "word" with Jace to end the struggle if he beat her in chess. Either way, the giant Eldritch jellyfish capable of wiping out all of Innistrad LET herself be sealed... for reasons we can't decipher. If that isn't a Greater-Scope... SOMETHING to terrify everyone, it's impossible to know what is. But all we know is that Emrakul playing a much deeper game, beyond our scope of understanding. And her so-called "loss" likely isn't even an inconvenience.
    Emrakul: "I can do anything I want. Anything at all. Remember that. The only thing saving you is... I don't want anything."
    • Which makes the ability of her card all the more chilling: take over your opponent for one turn, and they take an extra turn afterwards. It is actually so tied into the lore it is a brilliant stroke of foreshadowing - Emrakul used this ability to take control of Tamiyo, and used her to seal herself in the Moon.
  • The Writing on the Wall gives us a glimpse of what has happened to Amonkhet. Nicol Bolas didn't create the plane. He corrupted it, mostly killing its soul in the process, killing/banishing/something else three of the eight original gods while twisting the other five, and altering somehow the population that not even the gods remember what happened. The description of the event is chilling, and it's not even getting into what Nissa gets from communicating with the plane.
    "I protected the vessels to keep their souls alive and he... took them... He took them! Please, he took them all, corrupted them all, end my guilt, I could not protect them—!"
    • How he does it is also worthy of this page: Upon arriving on Amonkhet shortly post-Mending, while he's bleeding omnipotence and growing weaker by the second, Bolas immediately goes to work setting up. The Gods are the plane's primary protectors, and they're powered by faith, right? Step one, Bolas annihilates every single adult left on the plane, leaving only the faith of scared and panicked children, crippling the Gods in a single move. He then casually does away with three of them and corrupts the remaining five into his personal slaves. In the end, he'd slaughtered and enslaved the whole plane, Gods and mortals alike, in less than a day.
    • Maybe worse still: Nicol Bolas did not cause the Zombie Apocalypse that helps reinforce his Path of Inspiration. He merely took advantage of it. Amonkhet was dying before Bolas showed up.
  • Hour of Glory follows up on the above with a horrifying reveal: what Bolas did to the other three gods. He twisted them into nightmarish monstrosities whose apparent purpose was to slay their brethren during the Hours. Their cards are only named The ____ God, for Bolas stripped them of name and domain. All that's left are shells whose reason for being is to bring about the apocalypse on Amonkhet, with nothing left of the noble guardians they once were. The Scorpion God kills Rhonas without a word or any recognition of fighting its very brother, while the Locust God sends a swarm to devour the Hekma, inevitably dooming Naktamun's citizens to death at the hands of the undead and horrors wandering beyond its protection.
    • The story also shows just how much even the five gods were twisted. Rhonas begins the story musing on the fake creation myth Bolas planted in his mind, with absolutely no doubt that it's how he was born. It's only right as the Scorpion God kills him that the illusions he's been living under for decades are broken and he realizes to his utter horror and despair that he and his siblings have been nothing but shepherds for Bolas, raising Amonkhet ready for the harvest of the Hours and that his killer is none other than the horribly twisted form of his brother god.
  • And then Favor adds the final cherry on top of the whole sundae of horror: One of the gods was Not Brainwashed. Bontu the Glorified joined Nicol Bolas of her own free will, and even helped maintain the magics that kept her siblings enslaved to the dragon-usurper.
  • Hour of Devastation shows just how powerful Nicol Bolas is, post-Mending. He effortlessly mind fucks Jace, terrifies Liliana just by reminding her WHO he is, outclasses both Chandra and Nissa in their types of magic, then pierces through the once-impenetrable shield of Gideon with a single talon. Sure, pre-Mending, the Gatewatch would be just as equally powerful, but it's Bolas' experience and wisdom that gives him an even greater edge.
  • The art of the basic lands in Amonkhet block and Archenemy: Nicol Bolas, show Naktamun's transformation from a beautiful and thriving city into a grim and hostile desert, where there are zombies everywhere and if they don't kill you, locusts will.
  • War of the Spark trailer opens and ends on a lovely close-up of Liliana screaming in anger and pain alike as she is being burned alive from the inside and rest of the trailer is telling the viewer how we got there. After seeing a young girl and her brother, very much like her and Josu before his death, trying to get away from the Eternals destroying Ravanica, only to be crushed to death by falling boulders she finally turns on Bolas. And the dragon in response makes tattoos symbolizing her contract ignite and start burning her to cinders. It's also implied what really pushed her over the edge was Bolas telepathically ordering her to raise the children as zombies. On top of that, we have Deck Fayden having his soul and/or Spark sucked out and sent to Bolas as a wisp. There are dozens of such wisps flying through the sky constantly, implying a huge number of Planeswalkers, likely including many beloved characters, is just being murdered left and right.
  • The early card art released shows something truly horrifying: Bolas has Eternalized the slain gods of Amonkhet, and brought them to Ravnica with him.
  • One of the cards in Modern Horizons shows us some very ominous details about what might happen to Ixalan.
    Sun Empire priests thought they were digging a well. What they tapped was something different entirely.
  • The Elderspell. The Eternals may have been fearsome, but they were still little more than zombies with fancy armor. Then, they suddenly gain the power to drain Planeswalkers of their sparks with a single touch. And to make things worse, there is no escape. Bolas has used the Immortal Sun to cut of all planeswalking away from Ravnica. The planeswalkers are hunted like animals.
    • Of course, why the hell would it come without a nice and juicy chunk of Body Horror? After a spark is harvested by Eternals, the Planeswalker's body loses all of its liquids and is left as a dry and lifeless husk.
  • At a glance you'd wonder why Dandân has the Fish creature type when all you see are boats. Then you notice what's below the water's surface...
  • Ashiok, supreme Jerkass who revels in inflicting suffering and nightmares, is aware of the Phyrexians. Imagine the oil as Ashiok's plaything. The potential for new horrors is limitless.
  • Heliod may be the worst of the Theran gods, but, as the Omen cycle shows, they are all selfish, entitled children. Each card's flavor text describes the gods' ideal world, and all of them are different flavors of Crapsack World.
  • Among the Judge Promo cards for 2020 is a reprint of Demonic Tutor with new art. The image and the flavor text alone make this card very unnerving, but it gets worse the more you look at it. Note the decapitated teddy bear in the background, or the fact that there's some black liquid coming out of the doll's eyes.
  • In Zendikar Rising, Nahiri is trying to terraform Zendikar back to what it was before the Eldrazi. A noble goal, but Zendikar's life has adapted in the thousands of years the Eldrazi were imprisoned, and most of it would not survive such a drastic change. That's terrifying enough on its own, but the blight caused by the terraforming is vaguely reminiscent of Ulamog's wake...
  • Commander Legends gives us a glimpse of the Abomination of Llanowar, a pants-wettingly terrifying Undead Abomination made up of numerous unfortunate elves fused together through uncontrolled necromancy... not all of whom are actually dead.
  • The Phyrexians are on Kaldheim.
    • What's more, the recent story chapters give an insight into Vorinclex's...unique approach to Green's style of magic. He can regenerate by absorbing people into himself, growing even stronger in the process. Presumably he's on a multiverse-wide flesh-sampling tour, thus making Vorinclex MTG's version of The Thing from Another World. He also demonstrates the ability to infect someone with a "seed", and a greater amount of premeditation and planning than one might expect from the supposed Dumb Muscle Praetor.
    • The story ends on a rather ominous note. With the rest of Kaldheim distracted by the Doomskar, Vorinclex sneaks into the Tyrite Sanctum, mortally wounds Esika (or possibly worse), steals a sample of Tyrite, and heads back to his master (presumably Elesh Norn) on New Phyrexia via some form of interplanar gateway. The Bad Guy Wins this round, and this is just the first step of whatever the Phyrexians are planning...
  • The art for Darkness is pretty grotesque in itself (essentially xenomorphs with eyes, and one of them is staring at you and grinning) but to make it worse, the context kind of implies that these things didn't look like that before the spell was cast. Is the one in the foreground dripping slime, or is it melting?
  • The Midnight Hunt trailer. While seeing the abusive orphanage owner being torn to shreds by the children he abused carries a certain Catharsis Factor, it doesn't change the fact that a werewolf managed to get into an orphanage, turn a bunch of innocent children into savage beasts, and got away scott free. The ending of the trailer has a bunch of children jump the owner and maul him like wolves.
    • The card Fleshtaker. It's a Serial Killer seemingly wearing the flesh of things it has killed... Seemingly, because the flavor text implies that it is not human at all.
      • What's even more frightening about Fleshtaker is that despite that, it's still listed as a human. Is it a cannibalistic serial killer? A victim of some kind of curse? A person whose soul is being manipulated to kill by an outside force? No one knows.
    • Midnight Hunt's story is the first to end on an outright Downer Ending since Amonkhet, which is appropriate considering the plane. The Harvesttide Festival, the first ligthspot the people have had for months, is attacked by werewolves. The planeswalkers, cathars and witches present manage to fend them of, but only barely, losing countless innocent lives who were just looking for hope. Finally, when it looks like the ritual to bring back the sun will succeed, Olivia Voldaren shows up as a Diabolus ex Machina and steals the moonsilver key, seemingly For the Evulz, and kills the only witch who knows how the ritual is performed. The sun sets and, as far as anyone knows, it will never rise again.
    • It can be easy to forget in MTG that vampires are monsters: Sorin is an anti-hero, the vampires of Zendikar were valued allies against the Eldrazi, and even the Legion Of Dusk had a level of honor and a rigorous code they held to. Sorin's kin have no such redeeming qualities, and Crimson Vow really emphasizes just how hedonistic and without conscience Innistrad's vampires really are: they gleefully cause pain and suffering like it's a game, with no thought to the long-term consequences of their actions, and these impulses even extend to each other; Olivia's wedding sees vampires gleefully murder each other with as little care and thought as they do humans, and this is traeted as par for the course. One aristocrat watches her long-time friend get murdered right in front of her, and barely feels anything at his death, while Olivia treats these "festivities" as delightful party games.
    • The Devouring House pities Strefan Maurer, a bloodline founder vampire, against an Eldritch Abomination. The Surreal Horror is pretty unsettling by itself, but seeing a human-killing predator on the receiving end shows how hostile to all life Innistrad is.

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