This week, I’m taking a break from my “This Day in Magic History” series. Instead, I’m going to give my picks for the spookiest planes in the Magic multiverse!
In Magic, planes are self-contained universes that serve as the settings for each set. These are the five planes you least want to be trapped on because they are home to a multitude of frightening creatures that might just take your life. At the same time, these are sets with spooky aesthetics, which are the exact kind of sets you’d want to play with during October.
No. 5: Ikoria
We have only had one set on this plane, but it came with the subtitle Lair of Behemoths — and that goes a long way toward explaining what is so frightening about this plane. It is dominated by monsters, with humans at the bottom of the food chain.
While the plane is home to lots of frightening monsters, some of which are on a scale similar to Godzilla, the scariest among them have got to be the Nightmares. While they aren’t the largest monsters on the plane, they like to lurk in the darkness as ambush predators.
At least with monsters the size of skyscrapers, you know where they are. With the Nightmares, you could meet your doom simply by walking past the wrong shadow.
No. 4: Zendikar
Don’t get me wrong, Zendikar was always a little bit scary. It is a plane of exploration and adventure, and lots of people meet their deaths while on these adventures. However, dying while exploring is a lot different than being devoured or trampled by a frightening monster.
The three most powerful Eldrazi are Emrakul, Kozilek and Ulamog. This trio is the progenitor of all other Eldrazi and they are aptly the most frightening of the bunch. They possess absolutely massive size, even dwarfing the monsters of Ikoria. On top of that, they also have lots and lots of tentacles.
Rise of Eldrazi revealed that monstrous beings known as the Eldrazi were imprisoned on the plane — and then they escaped! These frightening, Lovecraftian creatures are among the most powerful beings in the Magic multiverse.
These monsters dominated the plane during the events of Rise of the Eldrazi and both sets in Battle for Zendikar block before the Gatewatch finally defeated them. It took a team of super powerful planeswalkers to take down both Ulamog and Kozilek, but Emrakul was nowhere to be found. More on that later…
No. 3: Phyrexia/New Phyrexia
Alright, so I have two planes here — and that might sound like cheating! However, all three of these planes fall under the dominion of the Phyrexians.
Phyrexia is the original plane of the Phyrexians, a race of biomechanical monsters originally engineered by Yawgmoth. These beings are largely motivated by a desire to convert all organic life into biomechanical life like themselves. They are intent on conquering the rest of the multiverse and achieving this goal.
Phyrexians have attempted to invade Dominaria several times, including during the events of the current set, Dominaria United. Meanwhile, New Phyrexia is just the plane of Mirrodin following its conquest and compleation. It is ruled by Elesh Norn and her fellow preators.
Phyrexia and New Phyrexia aren’t just inhabited by scary-looking creatures, though. On both of these planes, if you’re an organic lifeform, you will quickly be captured by prowling Phyrexian horrors and forced to undergo that process I mentioned, Compleation. This turns you into a biomechanical organism in the most physically and mentally painful way possible.
I think this process is best embodied by the art of Phyrexian Unlife. It features a human who has just been compleated, and you can see them examining their new face.
While their face seems entirely emotionless, if you look into this character’s eyes, you can see utter horror about what has happened to them, which is heart-breaking! It definitely looks like a fate much worse than death.
We’ll be taking another visit to New Phyrexia in the very near future with 2023’s Phyrexia: All Will Be One, so get ready for some more Phyrexian horror.
No. 2: Shadowmoor
I feel like Shadowmoor and Eventide are two of Magic’s most unappreciated sets, and I think they often get overlooked. Still, this plane absolutely deserves a spot on any list talking about Magic’s spookiest locales! While it might not be quite as dangerous as the various Phyrexian or Eldrazi planes, it is a very scary place that even features a Halloween aesthetic.
Shadowmoor is a dark reflection of Lorwyn — sort of like the Upside Down and Hawkins, Indiana in Stranger Things. While Lorwyn is a plane of endless light, Shadowmoor is a plane of endless darkness. Also, every 300 years, Lorwyn transforms into Shadowmoor and vice versa.
Both Lorwyn and Shadowmoor are inhabited by creatures inspired by British and Celtic folklore. While Lorwyn was inhabited by some more benevolent beings inspired by that folklore (like elves and Kithkin), Shadowmoor is inhabited by some of the scarier ones: selkies, duergars and hobgoblins.
In addition to these frightening elements, the set also has lots of cards that reference Halloween! Reaper King is the king of scarecrows, and he has a pumpkin for a head. Meanwhile, Gilder Bairn sure looks like a Trick-or-Treater!
No. 1: Innistrad
Putting this plane at the top of the list was probably fairly predictable. There just isn’t a place in the Magic multiverse spookier than Innistrad.
The plane was inspired by gothic horror, and that bleeds through into its art and lore. The basic idea of Innistrad was to fill it with all kinds of horrific monsters who seek to destroy the plane’s humans, who are woefully outnumbered — especially at night.
This theme even shines through in the set design. Our first two visits to Innistrad featured a heavy tribal spin, with allied color pies each occupied by one of the following factions: Spirits (Blue-White), Vampires (Black-Red), Zombies (Blue-Black), Werewolves (Red-Green) and Humans (Green-White), who were protected by the plane’s angels.
But if you happened to visit Innistrad during the events of Eldritch Moon, you also had a variety of Eldrazi monstrosities to contend with, making things even worse! Turns out, this is where Emrakul ended up, and her influence on the plane changed things.
Zendikar’s Eldrazi were bad enough. But on Innistrad, some creatures that were already pretty scary mutated into Eldrazi, creating some truly frightening nightmare fuel.
The humans of the plane were likely the most terrified about their guardian angels who were melded into an Eldrazi monster!
Over the years, they have really leaned into the format’s Halloween-friendly themes, with Innistrad: Midnight Hunt even featuring a Jack-o’-Lantern!
Innistrad is certainly the spookiest plane out there, and it also happens to be one of the most popular. It is very likely we will make another return to the plane in the future and get even more amazing gothic horror-themed Magic.
Jacob has been playing Magic for the better part of 24 years, and he especially loves playing Magic’s Limited formats. He also holds a PhD in history from the University of Oklahoma. In 2015, he started his YouTube channel, “Nizzahon Magic,” where he combines his interests with many videos covering Magic’s competitive history. When he’s not playing Magic or making Magic content, he can be found teaching college-level history courses or caring for a menagerie of pets with his wife.