The right seasoning makes all the difference.
There’s a lot that goes into making a Magic: The Gathering card. Of course you need an intricate design, striking art, and a memorable name… but every now and then, the one thing that ties everything together is the card’s flavor text.
Flavor text is that tiny italicized text at the bottom of a card that acts as a window into the world of Magic. Whether it’s a quote from the character or a tidbit about the plane we are visiting, flavor text adds dimension and depth to the game we love.
I’ve seen many articles cover funny or silly flavor text, but not many that cover more serious pieces, flavor text that evokes something other than laughs. While I love the flavor text on cards like Goblin Grenade and Werebear, I wanted to share some pieces that strike me.
#1: Abomination of Llanowar
Abomination of Llanowar
Commander: Kaldheim | Uncommon
“Run!” screamed its living mouths. “Come!” cried its dead ones.
Very rarely does flavor text send a chill down my spine, but wow… Abomination of Llanowar does just that. It perfectly conveys just how terrifying this elfball is: a mass of melted elvish flesh.
The art is definitely freaky, but the flavor text really sells the image. All it wants is more bodies for the ball to grow bigger (which is displayed perfectly in the card’s design). In all honesty, the art and flavor combination really reminds me of John Carpenter’s The Thing. The fact that the dead elves can speak?! Are you kidding me? Ugh, I love it.
Timeshifted | Special
Market Price: $13.44
“If I must die, I will encounter darkness as a bride, / And hug it in mine arms.” —William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Back in the old days, Magic cards would often use quotes from literature for their flavor texts. Pieces like Karakas, Ancestral Memories, and Dark Banishing take some beautiful quotes and link them with the wonderful world of Magic. However, none of them hold a candle to the card Darkness.
I love everything about this flavor text. Sure, it might not have been written by a WotC employee, but I love how beautiful it is. It personifies death and darkness as a lover, something to be embraced and welcomed rather than feared. The art is a stark contrast, however, depicting darkness as a Xenomorph-type monster. Regardless, there is something beautiful about the combination that I will always adore.
#3: Stony Silence
Innistrad | Rare
Let moss grow over gargoyles —Gavony saying meaning “forget painful memories”
The first piece of flavor text I ever fell in love with was on the Innistrad printing of Stony Silence. I had recently gone through a very painful breakup and was considering quitting the game. My friend invited me over to his house to play some Magic, I borrowed one of his decks, and in his deck was Stony Silence. When I read that flavor text, I cried a little bit.
I thought it was beautiful, and I read it at a moment where I really needed it. There was even a brief moment where I contemplated getting it tattooed on me. When combined together, Stony Silence will probably be one of my favorite flavor pieces in the game ever.
#4: Doran the Siege Tower
Doran, the Siege Tower
Lorwyn | Rare
“Each year that passes rings you inwardly with memory and might. Wield your heart, and the world will tremble.”
Another piece of flavor text that hit hard comes from Doran, the Siege Tower. When I first started playing Magic, Doran was one of the decks that I started out with. There was something about him that really drew me in.
“Wield your heart, and the world will tremble.” There is something really powerful in that final sentence. It tells you to unapologetically be yourself, that there is power in being who you are. “Each year that passes rings you inwardly with memory and might.” The older you get, the stronger you become. This flavor text was a lesson that took me a while to learn.
#5: Ogre Resister
Mirrodin Besieged | Common
He didn’t have a word for “home,” but he knew it was something to be defended.
Sometimes the cards that have very little impact have some of the best flavor texts, and one such example is Ogre Resister. This is a vanilla common from Mirrodin Besieged. Is it great? Not really. Is it impactful? No. But the flavor text is something to behold.
Very rarely do we take the time to think about the perspectives of characters in the game, especially when it’s something as low-level as an Ogre. The flavor of this piece, however, allows us a small glimpse. His lack of understanding doesn’t trump his desire to defend. The art depicts a brutal, desperate fight. The fact that we know it’s over home makes it all the more emotional.
#6: Selfless Savior
Core Set 2021 | Uncommon
She raised him from an orphaned pup and gave him a life of love. With his last act, he thanked her.
I need you to know that when I first read this flavor text, I cried. I honestly like to ignore the second sentence of the text and just believe in the reality where the Dog didn’t need to sacrifice himself and that he continued to live happily by his owner’s side.
For real, Wizards, who gave you the right to take my heart and shatter it like that? Also, this card is now officially a vanilla card with no sacrifice ability. This is my official decree.
#7: Impostor of the Sixth Pride
Impostor of the Sixth Pride
Modern Horizons | Common
The tribe was as strong as his longing, their territory as vast as his isolation. The changeling knew he had found a home, and a form.
In the same vein of emotional cards, let’s dive into Impostor of the Sixth Pride. While not heartbreaking like Selfless Savior, Impostor of the Sixth Pride has a melancholy tone to it that turns into something heartwarming.
Changelings have no shape, no identity, no memory of their origin. While they take on many forms, they don’t truly belong. It’s truly heartbreaking. However, there is a happy ending. The Impostor is an impostor no more. He found a home for himself, a family where he could take his final form and truly belong. The art, showing him defending his new tribe, definitely warms my heart and brings a smile to my face.
Lorwyn | Common
Bulgo paused, puzzled. What was that rustling sound, and why did he feel so stiff? And how could his feet be so thirsty?
One card that always brings a smile to my face is Lignify. Sure, it might not be as serious or emotional as the other pieces on this list, but it brings me a lot of joy.
I see that big, lumbering giant feeling both confused and thirsty and it makes me chuckle. It might be a bit gruesome that he’s turning into a tree, but at least we can take some joy that his feet are thirsty for a bit.
#9: Reckless Cohort
Battle For Zendikar | Common
“You have a family. Mine died at Sea Gate. You go to yours, and I’ll go to mine.”
Like I said before, some of the best pieces of flavor come on some of the most inconspicuous Magic cards. Reckless Cohort is a common from Battle for Zendikar. It isn’t very impactful or powerful (though I never played Standard during that time). However, what is impactful is that flavor text.
We see a man sacrificing himself so that his companion may return to see his family. However, his sacrifice is not purely selfless, for he knows he will be reunited with his family in death. There is something really beautiful and heartbreaking about it. While the card calls the Human reckless, I view him as brave.