The Art of Magic: The Gathering is a regular series written by Lowen singer Nina Saeidi. Check out the band here!
Nils Hamm is Magic: The Gathering’s master of graveyards. The eerie glow of his monsters, angels and Inexorable Blobs have graced over 150 cards across the game to date.
Hamm’s glowing Ooze creature is depicted in an appropriately threatening manner due to the ease with which they can suddenly take over a battlefield by spawning and copying tokens within the game. This particular blob generates tokens based on graveyard related factors, hence the bones strewn across its many sagging maws. Ooze are usually drawn in more organic, natural settings such as forests due to their almost always mono-green card assignation within the game. However this inexorable creature aptly looks more like an undead Golgari (green/black) creature and is particularly suited to that kind of deck build.
Hamm effortlessly shifts from Lovecraftian horror to graceful depictions of creatures of the night whilst maintaining a poisonous colour palette that threatens to invade the battlefield from outer space.
The desiccated wings of the Baleful Strix are one of Hamm’s most recognisable works. The flavour text describes this creature as having a beak that “rends flesh and bone, exposing the tender marrow of dream”. This ethereal death-owl will rend your flesh into a different dimension so it can feast on the delicious insides of your dream-bones.
The piercing, hungry eyes of the Strix are the only part of the image not blurring between worlds or on the edge of changing colour. They stare directly into your soul as it prepares to take flight, undoubtedly towards you and your tasty flesh.
Flesh is definitely on the mind of the Grave Titan, for whom meat is definitely on the menu. He prowls the battlefield with a bellyful of the dead and dying with mysterious green light streaming from utterly tonk shoulders and a single cyclopean eye. If you saw this guy in a fight you’d know it was time to die.
The hour of your death is exactly what the Grindclock heralds. Another utterly terrifying yet conceptually tongue-in-cheek representation of time, death and green-tinged shades of agony.
“Pray you never hear it chime”
Though we can’t hear this picture, it’s clear that the monstrous creatures around it are experiencing the ringing of their final moments whilst the skeletal heap of bones in the foreground shows us what their ultimate fate will be. The scrape of blood-stained metal grinding sparks is shown at what looks to be the very beginning of their gruesome movement, and those around it only just realising that they are about to have a very bad time.
The mystery of the Gilder Bairn is one of my favourite Hamm pieces. The flavour text sets the scene for what initially appears to be an innocent child-thing enjoying the glow of the objects around it in a nefariously twisted forest:
Do the glowing trinkets show it the way home, or do they set a twisted path for someone else to follow?
Why is this small creature wearing another creature? Is it Halloween? Is it a sick monster that likes wearing the skin of other monsters? It has forward facing eyes and a row of sharp pointed teeth so this fellow definitely enjoys the taste of meat. Strangely the contented turtle with a glowing green mushroom seems to be safe. The untold story of the Gilder Bairn will always haunt me.
There is no doubting the nature of the Grixis Battlemage, who is a heightened embodiment of the green majesty and terror of Hamm’s artistic talent. The mage billows out of blurred smoke, the focus increasing a hairs breadth between the background and foreground of the image to create a sense of movement and direction towards the viewer. Bones and skulls are borne in mid-air as the crackle of putrid yellow electricity storms out of the crooked staff of the bellowing battlemage. This is an album cover waiting to be made into a limited edition run of sold-out vinyl.
Based in the German town of Dusseldorf, Hamm also writes a comic series called Astro and teaches art to classes of kids when not creating inexorable terrors for Wizards of the Coast. You can see more of his work on Instagram and ArtStation.
Click here to view more pieces in Nina’s The Art of Magic: The Gathering series.
Words: Nina Saeidi
All MtG artworks are property of Wizards of the Coast, used in accordance with the Fan Content Policy.