Card game flavour text is something that I’ve always enjoyed. “Best flavor text for MTG” is a topic that I’ve already talked about before on CelJaded, with a first and second volume of top 20 lists already published.
Whilst my first-hand experience with Magic remains largely casual (I don’t see myself buying in to the ultra-expensive Magic: The Gathering: Arena any time soon), I have begun following various Arena streamers in an attempt to indulge the vice by proxy.
Of course this means I’ve been exposed to new cards, so to celebrate that for no particular reason, here’s another top 20 list of some of my new favourite flavour text on Magic: The Gathering cards!
#20 – Irontread Crusher
“We’ve been through a lot together.”
The Kaladesh and Aether Revolt expansion sets are prime examples of “flavour win”. Vehicle cards like this one prove why.
Tip: read it slowly!
#19 – Skyline Scout
“Sometimes an angel passes by and gives me a little nod, like, ‘You’re a daring one!’ That always makes my day.”
The plane of Ravnica has always benefitted from good flavour, with this particular example drawing attention to not only the city’s imposing verticality, but also the many fascinating creatures who live there.
#18 – Douser of Lights
The party of Rakdos revelers cackled and capered as the thing approached. It hissed, and they jabbed their torches at it, giggling when it recoiled. Then, one by one, the torches went out—and the screaming began.
Another example of how vanilla creatures benefit from the added space on their cards. Its statsitics may not be too interesting, but this creature’s combo of terrfiying artwork and flavour text helps sell the unerving themes of the Horror subtype.
#17 – Affectionate Indrik
The problem isn’t the indrik’s enthusiasm, it’s Ravnica’s lack of guardrails.
A nice quality of Magic is that it can take a simple concept like creatures fighting each other and turn the concept on its head.
Rather than depicting a violent exchange, the poor human here is “fighting” just to avoid some rather perilous affections!
#16 – Duskdale Wurm
“Last time, it tore up the Wilt-Leaf, turned Mistmeadow into a mudhole, and made the river jump its banks. On the bright side, we were eating venison for weeks.”
—Donal Alloway, cenn of Kinscaer
A “Timmy” favourite. Duskdale Wurm has fallen from its top spot over the years due to power creep, but that flavour text is still among the best for communicating the hilarious enornomity of green creatures in general.
#15 – Molten Vortex
If you can’t take the heat . . . well, that’s going to be a problem.
Flavour text like this is why Red will always remain my favourite mana colour!
#14 – Irencrag Feat
The greatest challenge isn’t the stifling heat but the crushing weight of those who failed before.
A slightly more interesting example here that also benefits from some generous artwork.
Notice the discarded weaponry and ghostly swords, and the threads of a story begin to emerge.
#13 – Ravnica at War
The heart of Ravnica disappeared before anyone could strike a blow in its defense.
If there’s one feature of the newer Magic: The Gathering cards that I absolutely adore, it’s these Story Spotlight cards that deliver the broad strokes of an expansion’s narrative.
The huge War of the Spark expansion has many of these cards, with Ravnica at War setting the stage for a climactic battle still to come.
#12 – Sorin’s Thirst
“I see you’re out of the wall.”
Another Story Spotlight depicting Sorin Markov’s vengeful duel with his rival Nahiri.
The flavour text refers to a castle wall that Nahiri (a geomancer) trapped Sorin inside; an event that happened a dozen expansions ago from the release of this card!
#11 – Eviscerate
“Fear the dark if you must, but don’t mistake sunlight for safety.”
It occurs to me that Black has many great examples of sinister flavour text. This ranks pretty highly among them.
#10 – Goblin Gaveleer
“When everything looks like a nail, you really need to get yourself a hammer.”
—Krol, goblin furnace-priest
My one (hilarious) Goblin contribution for this list.
A man has to pace himself.
#9 – Syncopate
The fire spell stuttered and broke. Its pieces reached Teferi out of rhythm, meaningless.
This may seem like another generic counter spell, but the detailed flavour text does an excellent job of visualing what the action of countering must feel like to a wily Blue mage.
#8 – Yet Another Æther Vortex
It puts the “vortex” in “flavortext.”
An incredibly inventive and hilarious example from the parodic expansion, Unhinged.
#7 – Death’s Shadow
The shadow of the candle looms tall even as its light grows dim.
Another strong showing from Black.
This is another example of flavour text suiting the mechanics of its card so very well.
#6 – Thwart the Enemy
“Your prey is in my custody now.
The final Story Spotlight on this list reminds me of a scene in Moby Dick. There, Captain Ahab aims a rifle at his first mate and threatens him to back down with a couple of incredibly stern sentences.
Vivien’s threat sounds more lawful by comparison, but it’s the placement of that new paragraph that gives the utterance of “Withdraw” such power.
I’ve yet to read the story behind the Ikoria expansion, but it’s cards like these that get me very interested in doing so.
#5 – Clinging Darkness
“There’s an experience worse than blindness—it’s the certainty that your vision is perfect and the horror that there’s no world around you to see.”
Clinging Darkness is not our first card to offer up some wildly creepy flavour text, but it may be one of the best.
#4 – Return to Nature
“Long after the magic wore off, the mice still dreamed of glorious galloping.”
—Tales of the Fae
This reprint of Return to Nature hails from the fairy tale inspired Throne of Eldraine expansion, where even the mice who transport Cindarella’s carriage get a moment to shine.
The flavour text, which reads like a fairy tale itself, was described as “darling” on MythicSpoiler. I couldn’t have said it any better!
#3 – Ovalchase Daredevil
“Let me guess. You thought I was dead.”
If you want to see flavour text in perfect sync, then look no further than this card.
The card name, rules, keywords, flavour text and artwork all make such perfect sense, that the pilot at the centre of the card emerges from the frame a totally believable figure.
#2 – Borborygmus
“It’s easy to see why those Gruul dirtbags follow him—the only orders he gives are ‘Crush them!’ and ‘We eat!'”
I’ve always enjoyed this amusing barb delivered by Teysa Karlov; a rival guild leader to the mighty cyclops at the centre of this card.
What earns this one some sneaky bonus points is the existence of two other flavour quotes from Borborygmus himself. Of course those other examples simply read: “Crush them!” and “We eat!”.
#1 – Nightveil Predator
“Three daggers left in an angel’s back, three enforcers with memory loss, three keys stolen from my own belt—and you talk of peace?”
—Tajic, to Aurelia
There’s so much going on in this flavour text that it’s probably easier if I just list everything I’ve taken away from the events alluded to in Tajic’s quote:
- The guilds of Ravnica are at war (again).
- Being sent as a lone agent of treachery speaks very highly of this creature’s talents.
- Stabbing an angel in the back certainly makes sense of the Deathtouch keyword being here.
- The Blue/Black aligned House Dimir handle things in a very underhanded way. Who’d have thought?
- This vampire has a fast finger and the power to wipe memories, thus explaining the Hexproof keyword. You can’t kill what you can’t see or remember seeing!
- Tajic isn’t getting along with this Aurelia person and he certainly doesn’t agree with the idea of a truce between the guilds. Can’t say I blame him!
There’s probably even more detail that I could tease out of this, but even so, just look at the astonishing amount of theme and backstory that can occupy a single card!
It’s just further proof of why Magic: The Gathering has the best flavour in the business, and another reason why it will rule its CCG roost for a very long time.