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Oct 08 2014 12:00pm
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by: Adam "Boosh" Clayton

Hiya Folks. After creating A History of Saprolings for PureMTGO's Vegetation Theme Week, I enjoyed it so much I knew I wanted to do another one.

My goal is to produce a History-themed article for this site about twice a month. I figured I would start this article trend with some terrifying things in Magic the Gathering, to coincide with October-- which, in America, is the month of Halloween, and subsequently the month that most people tend to enjoy terrifying themselves by watching horror movies in the dark or playing pranks on their friends. You get the idea. Thus, the first 'History' article for October is spiders. I've written about why spiders are horrible before, and IFLscience and National Geographic also say that humans are evolutionarily predisposed to fear spiders.

Anyway, the Giant Spider has been a part of fantasy tropes for a while. My first experience with a "giant spider" was in books about prehistoric times, and then it was in The Hobbit. Then, as a child, Rankin & Bass released The Hobbit as a half-terrible, half-nostalgic, somewhat terrifying cartoon.

Remember these guys?

From there, we move on to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2.0 and up, and then there's Harry Potter's run-in with them, and Sheelob, and tons of other fantasy places we find awful giant spiders. Magic the Gathering has included the trope since Alpha, and for those Tribal-inclined, a spider deck is a real possibility these days.

For my own part, I actually despise spiders. I used to fear them, like shriek-like-a-girl fear them, but as you get older you get bolder, they say. When you are in charge of a toddler and must protect him from all the things, including spiders, your perspectives change.

My best friend in the whole world and I used to play paper Magic religiously, like it's our only religion; he's also  the most hardcore arachnophobe you'll meet. So, I first created a spider deck, despite my own disgust, to mess with his head during multiplayer games. It worked.

Anywho, enjoy this compendium of Spiders in Magic. You will dance, you will laugh-- no, probably, you'll have phantom itches and have nightmares about spiders and the fact that scientifically, on average, each human eats 4 spiders in their lifetime (hint: they crawl into your mouth during your sleep and you involuntarily snort on swallow and bingo bango, you're a gross statistic.)


The O.G. Spider (Original Giant)

Giant Spider is the grand-mack-daddy of spiders in Magic. He's the original spindly representation of horror. In the early-early-early days of Magic, humans were strictly 1/1. A 2/4 was gigantic. Before Reach was a vanilla code word, the Alpha version clarified that it could block flying, thus setting into motion a trait shared by nearly all spiders in the game. This plucky spider appeared in all of the core sets, and portal, except for M13 and the recent M15. It is the most reprinted spider. In 5th Edition, the card got updated art and, in my opinion, the most terrifying. 6th Edition brought the picture we all know; from 8th Edition onward the 6th Edition artwork has been used. 7th Edition updated the picture to the least terrifying picture.

Giant Trap Door Spider

Ice Age Spiders:

(Trapdoor Spider) is the first multicolored spider, and the first one without reach.
Woolly Spider is Ice Age's answer to a Woolly Mammoth as a spider.

Originally, Homelands was lumped into Ice Age and Alliances but has since been Errata'd back out into its own little world. Root Spider, while not online, is probably the worst spider ever printed.

Woolly SpiderRoot Spider

Dominarian Invasion Spiders
(Post-Ice Age until the end of Apocalypse)

We start with Tempest, and Canopy Spider, which was later reprinted in some core sets. It's a fair common creature.
We then have no spidery additions to Magic until Urza's Block. Urza's gave us Hidden Spider which is as close to a creature that a noncreature card can be, and Plated Spider.
Invasion's Pincer Spider looks more cartoony than scary, and tries to make use of Kicker at common-level, which makes the card pretty unplayable even in Spider-tribal.
Planeshift's Ancient Spider is MTG's first rare spider, and is the second multicolored-- this time pairing green with white. Though not an overly impressive card, it was the first rare I ever pulled from a Planeshift pack in paper, and so it holds a special place in my heart.
Prophecy gave us Rib Cage Spider and Spitting Spider, an uncommon that does more than block fliers; land can be sac'ed to damage all fliers a point at a time. Prophecy's mechanics were all land-based; either tapping all your lands, having your lands all untapped or sacrificing them.

So far, nothing too crazy for the spider tribe. It's mostly standard fair.

Canopy SpiderHidden SpiderPlated SpiderRib Cage Spider
Spitting SpiderPincer SpiderAncient Spider
Silklash Spider

Printed in Onslaught, reprinted in 9th, M13, and Commander2013, Silklash Spider gets its own category.

From a Johnny perspective, and thus my perspective, it is the best spider around, hands-down. It can do a lot of fun combo stuff.

Give your Stuffy Doll flying and this spider can gatling gun it. Put lifelink on this spider and any damage it does gains you life. Put Basilisk Collar on it and you gain life and murderdeathkill anything it damages. Attack, and cast a Twisted Image. Of course, this card is prime in a Doran, the Siege Tower Commander deck. You can give it infect, with Tainted Strike or something, or wither maybe with Tower Above and go to town weakening fliers. If you have out Vigor and your own field of fliers you can have some real fun. The possibilities are a lot more bountiful with this spider.

Mirrodin, Ravnica, Coldsnap:

  1. Mirrodin Block gave us Tangle Spider, the first spider with Flash, though at an overcosted CMC; and Arachnoid, a very unimpressive 2/6 reach for 6 mana, that started life, before the great creature type update, as just an "artifact creature" and wasn't even a spider!
  2. Ravnica Block had Goliath Spider, the toughest, baddest, shut yo' mouth----I'm just talkin' 'bout Goliath Spider, a decent uncommon and Aquastrand Spider, a spider that finds its way into +1/+1 counter decks, not Tribal-Spiders.
  3. Coldsnap gave us Steam Spitter, the first spider to incorporate red, and Frostweb Spider, the only Snow spider and one that kicks Rib Cage Spider in the face because he is so much cooler.

Time Spiral Block:

  • And WOTC said let there be Swarmyard, and the Spider aficionados said yea, WOTC is good.
  • Needlepeak is the only monored spider, and is Planar Chaos' reenvisioning of Giant Spider; note the 4/2, colorshifted to red.
  • Penumbra Spider is the second best spider IMHO, and it is the only spider to also produce a token-- and that token is the only monoblack spider.
Needlepeak_Spider_f.jpgPenumbra Spider

Lorwyn-Shadowmoor, Shards, Various Core Sets and Special Sets
(A lot of spiders to cover)

Core Sets:


Shards Block:

Planechase 2012:

  • Dragonlair Spider: Currently the most expensive spider in Magic, owing to its sheer awesomeness, especially in multiplayer, and that it has only been released in Planechase.
Deadly RecluseDragonlair SpiderGloomwidowJuvenile GloomwidowNetcaster SpiderSentinel SpiderStingerfling SpiderPale RecluseJungle WeaverEmber Weaver

A great combo that came out during Shadowmoor which is still as fun today as it was then is:


You just have to have out enough creatures and then you can cast your Gloomwidow, and when you mirroweave you have an army of unblockable spiders, because your opponents spiders can't block the incoming army! Let's hope there's no Akroma's Memorial in play on their side.

Arachnus Spinner gets its own little section because it's not the Spider lord we wanted, but it's the closest we got.
You can tap any spider to find the matching web to 'mostly' Arrest a creature.
The Spinner and it's web are just another Core Set Voltron/Assemble-the-Pieces mini combo set, joining the 'Of Empires' artifacts and the recent cauldron/with/newt shenanigans.
Fits okay in a Spider-Tribal, but otherwise it's really nothing special; sadly.

Arachnus Spinner
Arachnus Web

Zendikar & Scars:

  1. Grappler Spider has a horrifying picture, and is one of a handful of spiders to have better power than toughness.
  2. Oran-Rief Recluse has a Stingerfling Spider thang goin' on, but with a kicker.
  3. Sporecap Spider punts Rib Cage Spider to the moon. Awesome in a Doran, the Siege Tower Commander deck.
  4. Spider Umbra bears mentioning..
  5. Acid Web Spider has a useful EtB trigger than can be Flickered for fun.
  6. Blightwidow, I think a spider with infect is only logical.
Yaaay Innistrad, the horror-trope-themed Magic Set, making Halloween articles that much easier. The set aptly had numerous spiders. Gloomwidow was reprinted, and it had the following spidery spider stuff:
Kessig RecluseGloomwidowSomberwald Spider
Spider SpawningEaten by SpidersSpidery Grasp

Return to Ravnica &Theros:

ArchweaverGraverobber SpiderNyx Weaver

Spider Tokens

Penumbra SpiderGloomwidow's Feast
Spider Spawning Weaver

There are currently four cards in Magic that produce Spider Tokens:

  • The first one came out in Time Spiral, Penumbra Spider. It's a great card.
  • The second, coming out in Shadowmoor, Gloomwidow's Feast, is conditional to get the token, but produced the first 1/2 reach which would become the convention. I noticed 1/2 is precisely half of Penumbra's 2/4 token.
  • The third came out in Innistrad, keeping the 1/2 reach; Spider Spawning.
  • The fourth, and thus far last, to make a spider token: Renowned Weaver. Based on the Greek myth of Arachne, the 1/2 reach token is also an enchantment.

Tsabo Tavoc

If the Borg Queen from First Contact got into the teleporter from The Fly alongside Lolth, Queen of Spiders they'd goldblum into Tsabo Tavoc.

She is absolutely spider-like, with WOTC even going as far as printing Tsabo's Web to heighten the correlation between Tsabo and being unto an arachnid.

Here's a helpful link to give her backstory, which also includes lists of her appearances in art and/or flavor text.

In the MTG novel Invasion by J. Robert King, King refers to Tsabo no less than 14 times as "the spider woman."

She was also a playable character in the game Magic: Battlegrounds.

Giant Solifuge

Giant Solifuge confuses and angers me, as it does much of the Magic Community. I am sure if you are a scientist specializing in arachnids (Sorry I don't know the term and don't feel like looking it up) you are probably infuriated.

See a Solifuge is, in fact, an arachnid-- but it's not a spider. It's distinctly spider-like, but varies in its eyes, it's pincer-things and it has no venom. It's an arachnid though, like Scorpions are. Unfortunately, in Magic, this thing is hard to classify-- so I really wonder how this thing made it through R&D. It shouldn't be an insect, insects have six legs and most have wings or a member of their hive/species that do.

Magic has Insect, an overarching creature type that includes ants (Ant Queen), Hornets (Hornet Queen), Humanoid Insects (Nantuko Mentor), Praying Mantis (Giant Mantis), Beetle, (Carrion Beetles), Cockroaches (Endless Cockroaches); Heck, even fireflies, dragonflies-- a whole crapton of insects all have Creature - Insect. But Scorpions are Creature - Scorpion; Spiders are Creature - Spider. They should be Creature - Arachnid, and all be able to be in the same Tribal deck, and Giant Solifuge should be a Creature - Arachnid.

But that can't Happen, so it should either be, *sigh* a spider, or a spider insect (oooo, fun), or Creature - Solifuge.

Other Spidery Spells:

There's a whole bunch of other spider related cards, from Spider Climb to Web to Spidersilk Armor. Spidersilk Armor is the best one; one of my top ten favorite green commons of all time, it's excellent in green tribal decks who don't employ a  lot of flying and is great in a Doran, the Siege Tower deck.

Okay, I seriously hope you aren't Eaten by Spiders-- unless it's your metaphorical planeswalker self being destroyed by my spider deck.

If you like compendiums, try some of my other ones:

I'm fairly grossed out now, feeling a wave of nausea after all that spider talk.

Adam E. Clayton
adam_the_mentat -
atomicboosh - MTGO client  


A++ for presentation. Also by Paul Leicht at Wed, 10/08/2014 - 14:57
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A++ for presentation. Also glad to hear your voice on this week's FFTR.

Spiders! by Fred1160 at Wed, 10/08/2014 - 16:54
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My favorite Magic critter has always been the lowly spider. During Innistrad/RTR standard I won a lot of packs at my local store's FNM with a homebrew called Spiders with Guns. It was fun to play, win or lose.

The AD reference alone earns by Procrastination at Wed, 10/08/2014 - 18:33
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The AD reference alone earns you all five stars. The rest of the article could be the word spider repeated 5,000 times and I wouldn't care....

...but it's not, the rest of it is amazingly well done too! Great job.

What Procrastination said! by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 10/08/2014 - 23:16
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What Procrastination said!

I've been trying to work "Illusion, Michael!" in an article myself. (I might have to do an article about the Illusion tribe for that).

Goldblum as a verb. Love it. by AJ_Impy at Thu, 10/09/2014 - 21:34
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Goldblum as a verb. Love it.