Friday, July 02, 2010

Magic: the Gathering - Bone Shredder

The "Bone Shredder" is another "Horror" type creature (see last post) and won't be the last one I talk about, by far. It also won't be the last card I show that was designed and illustrated by the awesome Ron Spencer, who has even lurked a little around Bogleech himself. This creature strongly resembles the planktonic larvae of certain real-world mollusks, but with a gigantic mouth, an arthropoid exoskeleton and what appear to be rows of eyes on its wings. Geek that I am, I actually have a little clipping about this card from an old gaming magazine, where Ron is quoted with "Conceiving the physiology of the Pteragastrula Osteophagus was akin to cranial evisceration."

I can imagine, but he still came up with a badass and even rational anatomy for a flying horror that exists to mangle skeletons. His latin name for it, if you're not a science geek, basically means "flying stomach that eats bones."

Magic: The Gathering - Krovikan Horror

When Magic first debuted sixteen years ago, it immediately came under fire from groups who felt that a fantasy-themed card game was "occult" in nature, singling out the "demon" creature cards as examples of how pieces of cardboard were trying to corrupt their children. Caving in to pressure, Wizards of the Coast phased out demons for many years, replacing them with the more vaguely named "horror" creature type. Though this sounds like crummy censorship, it was probably one of the best things to happen to the game, because it only forced more creativity upon the artists. Far from just watered-down demons, the "Horror" cards tended towards bizarre, almost alien designs worthy of the Cthulhu Mythos, and by the time actual demons trickled back into the game, the "horrors" had permanently established themselves as their own unique category and continue to be a mainstay of the "black" cards, which represent death, plague and destruction.

One of my all-time favorite horrors is actually one of the more obscure, forgotten creatures from the early sets, the "Krovikan Horror:"

This beautiful design by "Rush" calls to mind some sort of transparent, deep-ocean invertebrate, but truly looks like nothing on this Earth. It's not mollusk-like, insect-like or even worm-like, it's just something wholly original. I love the candle-like appendages on its back and the chest(?) orifice that appears to either emit or intake energy. That's another thing - are those spooky ectoplasmic bolts coming or going from the victim? The card allows you to sacrifice one of your own creatures ("feeding" it to the horror) to do a single damage to your opponent. It's actually not a very good card (there are less costly ways to do far more damage) but it's a pretty interesting concept, vaguely hinting at how this monster operates.

I also wonder if this thing has large, insect-like eyes on the sides of its head or if I'm just imagining them. I always thought it was eyeless, but looking at it now, it seems like it might have almost mantis-like oculars. I'm not sure which I prefer.