A Magic: The Gathering Creature Review by Jonathan Wojcik
Having reviewed Magic's few but memorable Slugs not long ago, I've little excuse not to cover another squishy, slimy invertebrate blessed with its own card type, similarly small in number, but more than big enough in creativity. You can also read about the real thing elsewhere on the site!
Illustrator: Quinton Hoover
Magic's first-ever leech themed card was appropriately simple and straightforward. "Land Leeches" are something that exists anyway, and a great number look exactly like these two. The land leeches hearken back to Magic's early years, when many creatures were entirely unique, had little to no special abilities and weren't really part of a grander storyline.
Illustrator: Mark Nelson
Years later, in 1998, the "Mana Leech" would debut with the rarely-used "worm" card type, but has since been retconned into a proper leech. These rather interesting looking creatures resemble arthropods much more closely than annelids, though annelids with clawed legs and armored plates aren't uncommon. I like how their anteriors look a little like distorted animal skulls, though with long clumps of needles where a "nose" would be.
Illustrator: Wayne England
It was in 2000's "Invasion" set that leeches made their most major appearance in the setting, with a single leech for each of the five main mana colors, which they drained parasitically and stored in their colorful, crystalline body growths.
Andradite leech, the black-mana sucker, was probably the least leech-like of the bunch, more like some devilish reptile, but we won't fault him for that. A leech is a leech, even when it's a lizard.
It's just too bad these these things drained mana from their masters in-game, making them true parasites of only minimal benefit to those who would wield them. Hey, sometimes an eye for style takes some sacrifices.
Illustrator: John Howe
The green mana leech is significantly more invertebrate-like, though as with many other fantasy leeches, it opts for a much more lamprey-like than leech-like maw, and the body seems to combine aspects of a slug and a maggot. I like the little legs, and it seems to have rows of insectoid eyes down the sides of its head, which, if you've read my article on actual leeches, you know is completely within biological reality.
Illustrator: Jacques Bredy
I shouldn't have to explain what mana color this one is. The Ruby Leech is even less leech-like than the others, with a scorpion-like tail and a mouth that seems drawn from a deep sea fish, especially in the tooth region. If you're going to give a leech a predatory vertebrate's head, I can't think of many better choices.
Illustrator: Edward p. Beard Jr.
That's really more like it, though! You wouldn't have expected the white leech to be the strangest looking and by far the scariest, but hey, the same was true for Spirits and Elementals, too. It's hard to even really figure out that slimy, alien face; my best guess is that we're seeing one huge, wide, toothless smile and a single gaping nose-hole, but I could have it all wrong.
Illustrator: Ron Spencer
Of course they gave a leech to Ron Spencer, the master of glistening parasitic mutants, and of course, his is the one leech almost perfectly following the anatomy of the real thing, except the addition of membranous "wings" for this aerial terror. It's probably tied with Alabaster for my favorite, and those little alien bug-bats are quite charming themselves.
Illustrator: Dave Allsop
Invasion's leeches would mostly spell the end for Magic's Hirudinea, but every so often, a new one has reared its suckered head. I originally included this one in my review of the game's Zombies, but this undead worm truly belongs here, with its true family. Leeches stick together, don't you know.
It's interesting that just one leech would be printed all alone like this, and as a zombie as well. It's also interesting how it seems to have an insect's mouthparts, at least on its head end, while its whole underbelly is peppered with fang-lined holes! It's a gorgeous trypophobian nightmare, rendered in some of my favorite color combinations, to boot.
Illustrator: Daniel Gelon
Our very last leech was another loner, a Time Spiral evolution of the good old Mana Leech, now apparently capable of levitation and presumably larger. I really love what Gelon did with the design, making it much softer and fleshier looking without otherwise changing much; it's a little more believable now as a "worm" rather than some oddly shaped crustacean, and I can just see the little tooth-spines wriggling in that gummy flesh.
Will leeches rear their heads again in future releases? Will more of them actually look like leeches? Only time will tell, and until then, I know we'll all spend I spend every day of our lives in excrutiating anticipation.