Welcome back! The doom-laden chuckle-train chugs on down the pessimistic tracks! In other words, we’re going to hit the ground running with more inglorious inspection of how humor operates or rears up in Black cards. Part 1 hoped to try and show that humor is a key part of Black cards, but not always successful. Here, we’re doing a tad better. I will be carrying on with the same sets that we looked at from last time, but adding a few interesting additions from elsewhere. (Keep an eye out for a potential Part 3…wherein your intrepid authors digs for humor among sets like Theros and Kaldheim!)

More Funny Black Cards than You Can Shake a Stick At

Plaguebearer – First off, the Ron Spencer art here is phenomenal. The flavor text is just a tad above silly with “Its respiration is your expiration.” However, the punning here has been created unintentionally. We all know respiration is breathing. And we know expiration is a way to say “dying,” but it also means exhalation. So, in a sense, the text could read: Its breathing is your exhalation. Which, in a sense, make no sense. (The same way Panera Bread basically means Bread Bread.) The rhyming of the Latin suffix (-ation) is what carries this flavor text. And, honestly, all it does it point to the hilarity in the imagery. The zombie is holding a woman’s arms as it breathes toxic fumes into hers. The victim’s skin has melted off and created an almost R. Crumb-like effect in the exposed skull. The image is a call back to old Merrie Melodies or Loony Tunes where a character would burp a fireball into another’s face and scorch all the fur off. Classic. 

Putrefaction – What’s hilarious about this card is that it cost so much. Har har. But seriously folks, the humor is all visual here. And I’ll say it: it’s the healer’s downcast and gormless look. That’s what’s selling this. Of course, the poor patient with the gangrenous arm, chewing on a bit, desperately trying to see what’s happening. The humor relies on our peaking in on what shouldn’t be seen. Is the healer bored with his job? Unsure? Actually asleep? The approach could’ve been way more in a gruesome direction and lost all humor. But has a soft touch about it. Subtle. 

Plague Spitter – I won’t lie. Chippy’s art on this just makes me smile. Probably because this overswollen chocolate chip is labeled a “horror” on the card but also is soft just silly looking. It’s like a lumpy factory. Something from the opening credits of Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Bottomless Pit – This one is clever in that it forces a player to assume what was asked of Gerrard to make him: “I’m sure it came with the place. I don’t think you build one on purpose.” A rare instance of where the image isn’t necessarily creepy or scary, but the flavor text and the art work well together. 

Cursed Monstrosity – Another solid dialogue-based flavor text. And another horror that looks more like some kind of mutant mole. “Run away! It’s an … um … run away!” Funny precisely because the sentry knows he has to flee, but, for a brief second, can’t clock what it is he’s running from. 

Ad Nauseam – So, many may ask, funny how? This card welcomes the entry of paradox, reversed wishes, and what I call The Twlight Zone Ending. In this case, the character in the card isn’t allowed to stop. His hands have whittle down to nubbins and he has replacements in the form of pens. In many ways, this is the ultimate form of the writer. To finally have something to say, to write, but to do it literally “to sickness”–what ad nauseam in Latin means. Without a doubt, this card is also ultra creepy. The art has something of the movie Se7en about it. Then again, that movie had some seriously dark laughs in it. We want to get as sick as we can without actually pitching over into oblivion. Much as the card itself wants.

Revenant – Depends on what your definition of “subtle” is. But here I’d say it’s because of what exactly a revenant is, what it does. The point of it is to return over and over. So the flavor text, “Not again,” is so perfectly matched for it. And the art is pleasantly absurd. The spirit is about to violate a cute bunny? But why? Maybe we don’t understand what kind of bunny that is…a Vizzerdrix perhaps?

Rank and File – The flavor text is the key here: “Left, right, left, right … hmm. Okay—left, left, left, left, …” Just some good, clean zombie humor about limbs falling off. 

Intimidation – A jaunty woman stands at the mouth of an alley with two massive beasts behind her. She says: “If they move, kill them. In fact, kill one now to make sure the other understands.” Magic loves taking a well-known phrase, then twisting that phrase into a more hyperbolic or absurd version of the original. 

Dash Hopes – What, I think, is the only instant speed counterspell in Black? You may look at this card and ask, “How in the hell is this funny?” Let me explain. It’s the pose of the man in the art with the name. The player using the card seems to have it out for the man in the art, slumped over, his armor unused, unloved, staring out into the landscape. It’s funny because his hopes are dashed. Not the opponent’s. Not yet, anyway. Again, it’s another one of those odd misalignments of card name, art, and flavor text. 

Drill Bit – However! Here’s my vote for funniest, wittiest, cleverest, punniest card in Magic. A blind folded man is being carried aloft by demons while a leader demon is hefting a massive drill aimed at the man’s head. This will not be pretty. But the flavor text reads, “Never boring.” God. What a great line. Why? Because boring means “lacking in interest” but it also is what you do with a drill. You bore into things. And so, in a way, it’s ironic. Of course it’s boring! That’s all a demon drill does is bore! Mwahaha! But! The only way this line could’ve been even better is if it said, “Always boring.” There, it can have the double meaning and deeply emphasize the joke on “lacking interest.” And yet, alas, the writers somehow missed this. The art, too, is superior. The lighting is gaudy, almost like a demonic club. The man’s scream is slightly amusing. The demon is funny as is the contraption he’s shouldering. Everything adds up to a perfectly executed card. 

All of the humor in Black revolves around death, decay, destruction, failure. And it’s compelling and interesting that so much of the game’s slice of the pie centers on this. Magic is intense enough without all the highly stylized and fantastical imagery. Competition is agonizing, draining. Sitting down across from an opponent is a miniature version of warfare. But every so often, looking down after your turn to adjust your cards, it’s a small but vital relief to see that blindfolded victim of am underworldly sacrifice is about to have his head obliterated by the big kahuna demon with the cartoon-sized power drill. 

Never boring, indeed.

Kyle Winkler (he/him) is a teacher and fiction writer. While he was pre-teen when Magic: The Gathering was released, he didn’t start playing until recently. He’s the author of the cosmic horror novella (The Nothing That Is), a collection of short stories (OH PAIN), and a novel (Boris Says the Words). He’s trying to make Obzedat, Ghost Council work as the commander for his most recent deck.

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