Hello and welcome, players, collectors, and other fans of Magic: The Gathering, the premier trading card game by Wizards of the Coast! Over the whole of the month of October 2021, we looked at cards from Innistrad, the game's gothic horror setting, that evoke a series of very specific emotions. For the most part, these evocative emotions were negative or themed in a way that tracks with the spook factor of the month, as, after all, Halloween comes at the very end of it. This article will be a bit different; although it is still set in Innistrad and its associated sets, we will be looking at cards that give a feeling of triumph.
Merriam-Webster's online dictionary for "Triumph" essentially defines it as such:
1: a great or important victory (They earned/gained a magnificent triumph over the invading army. / They celebrated their triumph with a parade through the streets of the city. / They were able to achieve an important triumph against their chief rivals.)2: a great success or achievement (Quitting smoking was a personal triumph for her. / The party was a triumph. / The bridge is an engineering triumph.)3: the very happy and joyful feeling that comes from victory or success (They had a feeling of triumph after finishing the project. / shouts of triumph / They stood atop the mountain in triumph.)
1. Innistrad's Ancient Grudge
To begin, we should take a look at Ancient Grudge, a card from Innistrad. Ancient Grudge, a reprint originally from the Time Spiral set of 2006, is a card that many players know well from its constant use in competitive Magic play, mostly to be found in sideboards as anti-artifact tech.
The art from this card, illustrated by frequent Magic illustrator Ryan Yee, depicts a werewolf destroying a depiction of Avacyn's Collar, the symbol of the most major religious order on the plane of Innistrad. This wanton destruction is not the most triumphant art we will see in this article, or even this block, but it can be a joyous moment to destroy an effigy to something you hate, as anyone who has had experience in a rage room could likely attest.
2. Dark Ascension's Drogskol Captain
At first, we were hesitant to include Spirits or Zombies in this article, as they're dead and triumph seems to be an alien concept to those with literally nothing to lose but their soul/body (this comes up again with our entry for Shadows Over Innistrad). But Drogskol Captain, the entry we chose for Dark Ascension, with its skeletal grin and its combative nature, felt like a good choice in a set where triumph is so close, but far away enough that Humans could not possibly fathom reaching for it.
Illustrated by the incomparable Peter Mohrbacher, Drogskol Captain as depicted appears to inspire its army to reach for that aforementioned victorious triumph. While they may not have won yet, they are assured that it is in their grasp, and sometimes that's all that matters.
3. Avacyn Restored's Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Avacyn Restored, the third set from the Innistrad block, brought forth into the public imagination a figure of extreme hope, inspiration, and, most relevant to this article, a sense of triumph as well. Avacyn, Angel of Hope is an extremely iconic legendary creature from the set, as its namesake, and her visage is a wonderful embodiment of victory over adversity.
With stunning artwork by Jason Chan, Avacyn, Angel of Hope is a realm-shakingly vital character for the plane of existence known as Innistrad and for the Magic Multiverse as a whole. Her fate was tragic, but many prefer to remember her in this way, both in-world and in real life as well.
4. Shadows Over Innistrad's Relentless Dead
In the original Innistrad set, there was one card that absolutely evoked a feeling of fright that couldn't be compared to. Endless Ranks of the Dead is one of those cards that people remember fondly from that set, so much so that a card was printed that had a fairly direct reference to it in its art. Relentless Dead is the result of plenty of hard work to get through that stained-glass window from Endless Ranks of the Dead. With this victory, the sun can be seen rising behind the Zombie who got through first.
With even more art by Ryan Yee, who also did the original art for Endless Ranks of the Dead (in addition to Ancient Grudge from way back at the top of this list), Relentless Dead is a the terrifying result of coordination (or the sheer mindless luck) of plenty of undead working together to perform a horrifying facsimile of redecoration. Spooky!
5. Eldritch Moon's Voracious Reader
Have you ever looked for a story from your childhood that you long thought was missing? Curious Homunculus, and especially its flipside, Voracious Reader, is a great example of the same kind of vibe as that one.
This card – both sides of it! – was illustrated by Filip Burburan, whose artist portfolio in Magic: The Gathering also includes cards dating all the way back to Khans of Tarkir and even has a Heroes of the Realm card in it (Inzerva, Master of Insights, for those keeping track). It truly gives a vibe counter to the fear it induces, but it also grants the feeling that there was a big victory in this small task of tending to one's own curiosity.
6. Midnight Hunt's Gisa, Glorious Resurrector
Speaking of fear being a potential side effect of triumph, our final card in this article delves even more into that idea. Gisa, Glorious Resurrector from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is a fantastic example of obsession turning into victory, in its own twisted, maddening way.
After the arrival of the Eldrazi Titan Emrakul upon the plane of Innistrad, the Planeswalker Liliana Vess summoned a massive zombie army via necromantic magicks to fight off Emrakul's Eldrazi brood, warped iterations of some of the humans and other beings of the plane. When the dust cleared, Emrakul had been imprisoned in the moon and her brood was killed off entirely. Liliana left the plane and its main human-led city, Thraben (the epicenter of this calamity) shortly thereafter. However, her zombie horde was still there, ready to be commanded by someone with similar prowess over the undead. That commander ended up being Gisa. Gisa used Liliana's throwaway zombie army to take over Thraben and turn it into a necropolis where she would reign as its queen. The Magic: The Gathering art you see above, illustrated by Yongjae Choi, shows the absolute glee Gisa has at having done all of this.
What do you think about this article, and this series as a whole? Were there some instances of triumph that we failed to mention from the Innistrad sets of Magic: The Gathering? Let us know in the comments below!