Magic: The Gathering – Innistrad's Six Most Poignant Cards So Far

Hello there, fans, players, and collectors of Wizards of the Coast's premier trading card game Magic: The Gathering! We have been delving into the meanings of certain words that resonate well with the setting of the most current Magic set, the gothic-horror world of Innistrad, and showcasing some of the most resonant cards for those words. Two weeks ago we looked at an easy one – "Creepy" – and last week we took a stab in the dark (if you'll pardon the expression) at "Haunting" cards in the setting. Today, we are looking at cards that seem most poignant in each set.

The art for Grapple with the Past, a card from Eldritch Moon, a set from Wizards of the Coast's card game Magic: The Gathering. Illustrated by Howard Lyon, this card is one example of poignance.
The art for Grapple with the Past, a card from Eldritch Moon, a set from Wizards of the Coast's card game Magic: The Gathering. Illustrated by Howard Lyon, this card is one example of poignance.

The website for the Merriam-Webster dictionary lists the word "poignant" as having this first definition (among others, although this is the most relevant one):

1a(1)painfully affecting the feelings PIERCING
(2)deeply affecting TOUCHING
bdesigned to make an impression CUTTING (poignant satire)
For this article, we will be looking mostly at the second entry in this definition. What makes this word so different from "Haunting", as we used in the previous article, is that while poignance in this setting is lasting, similarly to the other word, it has a less negative connotation, especially if we seek to work with the "deeply affecting" definition. Moreover, "Haunting" is more visceral and can be far scarier as well as more negative. This list will not seek to scare, per se, but rather aim to make you, the readers, feel a certain way that lasts. With this, let us begin!

1. Innistrad's Make a Wish

Make a Wish, a card that we will see come up in a bit for reasons that will become clear soon if they haven't already been deduced, is a card that tells a story all on its own. One of two important green cards to grace this list, it is touching and even a little bit hopeful, something that may be worth looking at in a future article.

Make a Wish, a card from the first Innistrad set for Magic: The Gathering.
Make a Wish, a card from the first Innistrad set for Magic: The Gathering.

If the images are loading properly, you already know the other green card in this article, but if not, we will explain. Make a Wish is in the first Innistrad set and was illustrated by Howard Lyon, who depicted the action in this card as a young girl with a teddy bear throwing a coin down a well in the Gavony province of Innistrad. This scene will show up a few Innistradi sets later.

2. Dark Ascension's Helvault

Unfortunately, most of the poignance of the original story of Innistrad came in the beginning, when establishing the world of the block, and the end, during Avacyn Restored, when hope was at its highest point (in more than a figurative sense, to be sure). The second set in the block, Dark Ascension, was mostly the rising action that crescendoed into the destruction of the Helvault, the prison that held the savior of the world, Avacyn, as well as a host of other far more wicked monsters and demons.

Helvault, a card from Dark Ascension, a set from Magic: The Gathering.
Helvault, a card from Dark Ascension, a set from Magic: The Gathering.

Helvault's art was done by Jaime Jones, and while not the absolute most-poignant card on this list, it may be the most poignant shot of the set. The mechanics of the card also acted as a proper foreshadowing of the moments to come, so that's nothing to scoff at.

3. Avacyn Restored's Gallows at Willow Hill

While speaking on what constituted as "Haunting" in the previous article, we stumbled upon the following card,  called Gallows at Willow Hill. Innistrad is a scary world with some twisted forms of justice at times, and the hanging of the condemned was one of those cards that made us think.

Gallows at Willow Hill, a card from the Avacyn Restored expansion set for Magic: The Gathering.
Gallows at Willow Hill, a card from the Avacyn Restored expansion set for Magic: The Gathering.

This card, illustrated by the incomparable John Avon, is not haunting so much as it is something that gives us pause to contemplate morality, mortality, and the things that make us human. And while the card is a bit questionable in today's society, Wizards of the Coast has not decided to do anything about its existence. Is that something to inspect in the future? Perhaps, but that's for Wizards to act upon in the end.

4. Shadows Over Innistrad's Pale Rider of Trostad

Shadows Over Innistrad in many ways suffers the same pitfalls as Dark Ascension did in the original Innistrad block. It was mostly rising action resulting in the epic reveal of the climactic storyline moments of the set that came after it. Such is the way of a three-act plotline, but for Shadows Over Innistrad, Wizards of the Coast only had two acts to work with. Therefore, there's an even bigger need for these poignant moments. Our entry for this set, Pale Rider of Trostad, is a bit more strained but no less interesting.

Pale Rider of Trostad, a card from Shadows Over Innistrad, a set from Magic: The Gathering.
Pale Rider of Trostad, a card from Shadows Over Innistrad, a set from Magic: The Gathering.

There is something deathly silent and still about the Rider and his steed, illustrated by modern fan-favorite Seb McKinnon. The air feels calm and yet somehow disquieted in this art. Is the Pale Rider of Trostad a force of malice or of pity? The story doesn't give distinctive clues one way or the other as to the answer to this question, but feel free to draw your own conclusions.

5. Eldritch Moon's Grapple with the Past

Do you remember point #1 on our list, Make a Wish? Well, spoiler alert: Somewhere between her deposit of a coin in that Gavony well and the events of Eldritch Moon, the young girl also seems to have lost her teddy bear in that same well, and, roughly around five years later (in our span of time – perhaps not in the span of the plot), she came back to get it.

Grapple with the Past, a card from Eldritch Moon, a set from Magic: The Gathering.
Grapple with the Past, a card from Eldritch Moon, a set from Magic: The Gathering.

Grapple with the Past is a card that shows a tragic resolution for an unfortunate event. It's only fitting that Howard Lyon, who illustrated Make a Wish, had the honors of illustrating this card's artwork as well. As grotesque as the girl became when twisted by the biology-warping powers of the Eldrazi Titan known as Emrakul, it's oddly heartwarming to see that she at least got her teddy bear back.

6. Midnight Hunt's Beloved Beggar

The last card on this list, Beloved Beggar from Midnight Hunt, touches me in a way that the other cards on this list have not even come close to being able to do. This card depicts a homeless man being cared for by his community, an act which is something the world could likely stand to have more of.

Beloved Beggar, a card from Midnight Hunt, a set from Magic: The Gathering.
Beloved Beggar, a card from Midnight Hunt, a set from Magic: The Gathering.

While there are all sorts of poignant cards in Midnight Hunt that have disturb (the ability keyword deriving from the term to "disturb the dead's rest", as opposed to "disturbed", either mentally or otherwise), such as Mourning Patrol and its back face, Morning Apparition, Beloved Beggar hits me in a close-to-home way. And it's all the more heartwarming to see Generous Soul, the back face of the Beggar, who has died but returned to protect his home, the community that helped him to the end.

Generous Soul, the back face of Beloved Beggar, a card from the Midnight Hunt expansion set of Magic: The Gathering.
Generous Soul, the back face of Beloved Beggar, a card from the Midnight Hunt expansion set of Magic: The Gathering.

With art by Francisco Miyara, Beloved Beggar is a fantastic card that has us inquiring who has been cutting up onions in our office.

What do you think? Are there other poignant cards in this setting that deserve mention? We didn't include cards outside of the Innistrad sets proper, but we know there are a few more from outside of these sets that are from Innistrad and bear mention, such as Blessed Spirits. But what else did we neglect to mention here? Let us know in the comments below!

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About Joshua Nelson

Josh Nelson is a Magic: The Gathering deckbuilding savant, a self-proclaimed scholar of all things Sweeney Todd, and, of course, a writer for Bleeding Cool. In their downtime, Josh can be found painting models, playing Magic, or possibly preaching about the horrors and merits of anthropophagy. You can find them on Twitter at @Burning_Inquiry for all your burning inquiries.
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