A Magic: The Gathering Creature Review by Jonathan Wojcik

   I upload this review nearly five long years after I first reviewed a handful of my favorite Magic creature types, though I actually wrote this review only shortly after I wrote up the Slugs. I guess I just kind of forgot about this one, despite the fact that it represents one of my favorite animals, and one I've already reviewed in detail for real! Luckily, a number of other leeches have been added to the game's canon in the half-decade that this page has been gathering dust, and of course, we're going to add them on!

The Land Leeches

Illustrator: Quinton Hoover

   First, let's review what was once the only leech themed card in the entire game. The 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 any grander storyline, but kind of represented every last little monster the designers could come up with for a hypothetical sorceror to conjure up.

The Mana Leech

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 in the ocean. I like how their anteriors look a little like distorted animal skulls, though with long clumps of needles where a "nose" would be.

The Andradite Leech

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 sacrifice.

The Jade Leech

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.

The Ruby Leech

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.

The Alabaster Leech

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.

The Sapphire Leech

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.

The Putrid Leech

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.

The Mana Skimmer

Illustrator: Daniel Gelon

   Our next leech was another loner for a while, 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.

The Mindleech Mass

Illustrator: Kev Walker

   So this creature doesn't actually get the "leech" type, but happens to be considered a horror, so I guess "mindleech" is more of a colloquialism and these little darlings aren't actually annelids. I think they deserve inclusion here, regardless - anyone can be a leech if they believe in themselves!

It's interesting just how often I've now seen humanoid monsters made entirely out of leeches. Who started that? There was a whole buttload of them in the Resident Evil games, the Leechwalker in Dungeons and Dragons and more. A good trope. A good, solid trope that unfortunately doesn't show a lot of variation to talk about, usually, but Kev did a bang-up job differentiating this fella from the usual leech swarm person with a spooky "mouth" and "eyes" illuminated by magical blue energy!

The Squelching Leeches

Illustrator: Svetlin Velinov

   What a beautiful painting, and what a beautiful name! These are nothing but plain old ordinary leeches who happen to be very, very plentiful and also squelching, which is good enough for me! Actually a pretty decent card, with power and toughness each equal to the number of swamps you control. In a mostly black deck, these squelchers can be pretty tough! They can squelch up a storm!

Abundant Maw

Illustrator: Greg Staples

   So this next monster actually belongs to a category known as the Eldrazi in addition to being a leech, and boy have a lot of people requested I do a page of these guys. I guess I ought to, if I'm getting back into the groove of doing these in general...though it's getting harder and harder to reliably find high-res scans of card art. This isn't even the entire illustration of Abundant Maw! The only nice, large, visible image I could find is this CROPPED one!

It'll just have to do. I haven't that much to say about Abundant Maw itself; it's a fat, slippery leech with the usual cartoon leech teeth and a whole bunch of little leeches branching off like tentacles. Simple concept, but solidly executed and I really love Greg's shines here. This is one shiny, shiny child!

The Jorubai Murk Lurker

Illustrator: Clint Cearley

   I think this might actually be my favorite leech in the game, even if that's even more explicitly the mouth of a lamprey this time! It's still situated in such a lovely multi-petaled mouth, one of my favorite kinds of monster mouths that I oddly never get around to using all that often in my own artwork. I really love everything going on here, including all the extra little ooks and pores and ciliated legs and whatever the heck those bright magenta sacs are. What does this thing actually look like with its mouth closed?

The card itself is blue, but gains a boost up to 2/2 if you control a swamp, and with black mana, it can give any other creature the "lifelink" ability, meaning you gain health for every damage that creature deals! I guess that means...I don't know. The Murk Lurker rides around on your creature to steal some blood from your opponent? It uses some kind of magical leech power to leechify the other creature? Whatever, it's just neat!

The Leechridden Swamp

Illustrator: Lars Grant-West

   The last card in our list isn't actually the newest one, or very new at all, but I neglected to add it when I originally wrote this page, and it gets a special ending spot for not actually being a creature card at all, but a land card that can deal a single damage to every opponent for a small fee. Artistically, this is a truly gorgeous image of a black and foreboding swampland, with at least two serpentine, fingery-fanged bloodsuckers lurking among the roots and branches, no doubt but a small glimpse into the riddliness we were just promised.

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