A History Of Phallic Art In Magic: the Gathering

Jake FitzSimons • February 14, 2023

Armada Wurm by Volkan Baga

Ever noticed how much phallic Magic art there is?

There's been much ado about doodles in the world of Magic: the Gathering lately. It became major news when Wizards of the Coast announced the Secret Lair: Ssssssnakessssss printing of Stonecoil Serpent would have its art changed.

A casual observer might think this incredible, a shocking case of Hasbro allowing genitalia into what is arguably a children's game, but keen-eyed art fans know Magic has a rather long and firm history of questionable artistic decisions...

The Blissful Nineties

Some have called the first decade of Magic "the golden age of doodles"1. You can pin this to less oversight and looser guidelines from Wizards, but it really comes down to one man: Robert Bliss.

Binding Agony

Binding Agony Phallus
Binding Agony, Robert Bliss, 1996

Be honest with yourself. You can't deny what you're looking at. It has everything; the shape, the shaft, the shift in color, even the detailing on the stone (or whatever this creature is cowering on top of) has a certain veiny quality to it.

Ekundu Cyclops

Ekundu Cyclops Phallic
Ekundu Cyclops, Robert Bliss, 1996

How many can you count? Ekundu Cyclops might be the most egregious example on this list, if not in quality, then at least in quantity. You've got the enormous green tree branch on the left, a rough phallic outline against the smaller moon, and whatever the Cyclops has between its legs. "Isn't that just a loincloth?" I hear you ask. I wondered the same, until I saw the rest of the Robert Bliss's artistic package.

Teferi's Curse

Teferi's Curse Phallic
Teferi's Curse, Robert Bliss, 1996

Okay fine, maybe Ekundu Cyclops is wearing a loincloth; this creature certainly is. The color, the fabric going over the hips, I can't pretend this is a doodle. What I can do is infer a lot based on the shape of the loincloth and the way it, uhhh... hugs what's underneath. "Bulge" doesn't begin to cover it.

Withering Boon

Withering Boon Phallic
Withering Boon, Robert Bliss, 1996

Maybe it's a loincloth. It's tempting to give Bliss the benefit of the doubt, but the more of his art you look at, the more you realise his intentions go well beyond a reasonable doubt.


Polymorph, Robert Bliss, 1996

Possibly the most phamous phallus in the history of Magic: the Gathering. Mentally remove the arms and the head, and there's no question what's going on here. Polymorph was first printed in Mirage and has never received new art. If you've seen a Polymorph in the wild, this is the art you've seen it with. Well, almost this art. While it was reprinted identically in Sixth Edition, every printing thereafter has cropped the bottom of the art out.

Polymorph (cropped), Robert Bliss, 1999

That means Bliss' signature is missing, but more importantly, it means the base of the "body" of this creature is cut out. You can only see its upper torso, far less suggestive than it was originally. Near as I can tell, this is the first example of Wizards changing art on account of its phallic qualities, a good 23 years prior to the recent Stonecoil Serpent debacle. Given it was last printed in M10, it's a safe bet the next time we see Polymorph, we'll be seeing new art as well.

Maybe I sound like I'm reaching, stretching even, but take it from Sue Ann Harkey, art director at Wizards from Alliances through to Weatherlight:

"[Bliss] got me in so much trouble! Oh my god. Because Rob, being the naughty chap that he is, would put penises in everything. Nobody saw that penis for ages and ages until we printed millions of them. And ever since then, everyone looked for penises... and then I couldn't commission him any more.2" - Sue Ann Harkey

Academy Rector

Academy Rector, Heather Hudson, 1999

Bliss almost has a monopoly on members, but Heather Hudson managed to sneak one in just before the turn of the century. I'd always heard there was something hiding in Academy Rector, but it wasn't until seeing the piece blown up that I saw it: zoom in on her lower palm. Given the natural flesh tone and unmistakable shape, you don't need much of an imagination. Did Heather Hudson intend this? I doubt it, but it's interesting to note how much thought went into the hands:

"The model was an attractive middle-aged woman with long spidery hands, surgeon's hands, hands completely unlike my own sturdy proletarian paws, and as a long-time fool for drawing hands I wanted a chance to draw her.3" - Heather Hudson

The Naughty Noughties

Embermage Goblin

Embermage Goblin (foil version), Pete Venters, 2002

Embermage Goblin is a tricky one. The art above does have a noodly appendage protruding from the usual location, but it could easily be dismissed as some sort of root, perhaps a yam or stringy carrot. After all, tying an onion to your belt was the style at the time. More likely it's just another piece of fabric. In any case, Wizards wasn't having it, because it was exclusive to the rarer, foil version of the card. The standard printing of the card is below.

Embermage Goblin (dongless), Pete Venters, 2002


Drill-Skimmer, Mark Zug, 2004

Did Mark Zug really have to give Drill-Skimmer such a girthy, drooping drill? We can only guess the prompt Wizards gave Zug, but I'm wondering if it was something like "draw a flying robo-dong". Whatever it might have been, what you can see above was what we got.

Keening Banshee

Keening Banshee, Robert Bliss, 2005

Oh, you thought we wouldn't be seeing more Robert Bliss just because Sue Ann Harkey stopped commissioning him? Think again. Can you see it? It took me a moment. It's not that Keening Banshee has one, you can't even say Robert Bliss drew one - it's what he didn't draw. I'll leave you to find the negative-space noodle, hiding in plain sight on the lower half of the Banshee.

Snow-Covered Swamp #153

Snow-Covered Swamp #153, Robert Alexander, 2005

I count myself lucky enough to have seen real glaciers (I want to be able to describe them to my grandchildren), but I was never lucky enough to see one like this. They do exist, but I don't think they're exactly common. Given the shrinkage associated with cold weather, we can only imagine how big this Swamp really is.

Witch-Maw Nephilim

Witch-Maw Nephilim, Greg Staples, 2006

Everything we've looked at so far is comical by comparison, a caricature of the real thing. Witch-Maw Nephilim is something else entirely, on account of just how graphic the damn thing is. Its shape goes without saying, but the details go well beyond. The sparse hair, the taut skin peeling back, the wrinkles; it even glistens! This is phallic art at its most vulgar.

Siege Wurm

Siege Wurm, Carl Critchlow, 2006

Given their usual shape, it would be easy to accuse all Wurms of being somewhat phallic, but some are more egregious than others. Siege Wurm is the first of them, and the third card from Ravnica on this list. It's not the angle or the framing so much as it's the helmet that fans out at the base. Wizards may even agree, given that Siege Wurm was reprinted with all new art when we returned to Ravnica a second time in Guilds of Ravnica.

Siege Wurm, Filip Burburan, 2018

Whatever you think of the old art, if you think the new art is phallic, I'd wager there's something seriously wrong with the peckers you've been looking at.

Troubled Teens

Grappler Spider

Grappler Spider, Austin Hsu, 2010

You've heard of a third leg, but what about a ninth leg? Once you've seen it, it's hard to unsee Grappler Spider. Sure, spider abdomens are typically hairy and spherical, that alone doesn't earn Grappler Spider a place, but is there any reasonable explanation for this "leg"? None of the other legs have the same mushroom-esque dome at the joint.


Oculus, Dan Scott, 2011

I'm already running out of unique ways to say "hehe it looks like a Johnson", so I'll just note the first syllable rhymes with one of the less family-friendly euphemisms for willy.

Olivia Voldaren

Olivia Voldaren, Eric Deschamps, 2011

Once you notice her legs and feet, there's only one conclusion you can draw: Olivia Voldaren is absolutely packing. Or so you'd be forgiven for thinking. In reality, Olivia's art was changed at the very last moment, but Wizards missed the memo, so the above art is what went to the printers. Take it from artist Eric Deschamps himself:

"That was a minor mistake on my part. One of the last things I did was open up that space around the hand a bit more so that it looked less bulky and more like hanging cloth from her hand. Unfortunately I accidentally saved it to my backup drive instead of the regular drive. When I sent the final to the Wizards it was the older version that didn't have that final minor tweak."4

A mistake indeed, but not a minor one, nor an unwelcome one.

Nearheath Stalker

Nearheath Stalker, Michael C. Hayes, 2012

Nearheath Stalker makes for the smallest willy on the list, if indeed you consider it a willy. To the right of the Stalker's arm dangles a body, from which dangles a dangus. Or so we (read: I) would like to think. Realistically, based on the position and proportion of the figure's legs, I think it's more likely light bouncing off the lower part of his belly, but it's much more fun to think of it as a sausage.

Soulsworn Spirit

Soulsworn Spirit, James Ryan, 2012

The Azorius of Ravnica are growers, not showers, and Soulsworn Spirit is one of three "condom ghosts". The other two are Vassal Soul and Soulsworn Jury. Why these hooded members of the Azorius guild are so flaccid isn't clear, but the implication is.

Armada Wurm

Armada Wurm, Volkan Baga, 2012

What is it with Ravnica and wurms? Some will accuse me of seeing things that aren't there, but I challenge anyone to look at Armada Wurm and tell me it isn't a massive wang. I've not a shred of proof, but I imagine Volkan Baga was honoring Carl Critchlow's Siege Wurm.

Gluttonous Cyclops

Gluttonous Cyclops, Steve Prescott, 2014

Gluttonous Cyclops is in the same category as Witch-Maw Nephilim: "phallic" isn't a strong enough word to describe it. The bulging veins, the coarse curly hair, the unnaturally long neck, even the eye is vaguely phallic! Of course having only one eye goes with the territory of being a cyclops, but it's curious this one is vertically aligned, not horizontally. At a quick glance, it wouldn't be hard to mistake the sheep spilling out of its mouth for... something else entirely.

Island (Theros #236)

Island, Adam Paquette, 2015

They call it Pen Island. It would need two boulders by the base to qualify as a full package, but near enough is good enough. That's what I tell myself anyway.

Drawn from Dreams

Drawn from Dreams, Chris Seaman, 2019

The fish on the left is a pretty standard looking fish, but I'm not sure we can say the same about the fish on the right. They usually have dome shaped heads, and the area below the mouth was surely meant to be gills, but that's not how I see it. What I'm looking at is the first underside angle of a tallywhacker ever to find its way onto a Magic card.

The Turgid Twenties

Piru (Pairoo), the Volatile

Piru, the Volatile, Greg Staples, 2021

There's nothing phallic about Piru's art, but I couldn't resist making note of the name here. Brazilian readers already know where I'm going with this, but to the uninformed, "Piru" is Portugese Brazilian slang for the P word that I've so far avoided writing. "Dick, the Voltatile" certainly has a ring to it, but Wizards figured this would be way too much fun for Brazilian Magic players, so changed the name to:

The Brazilian Portuguese version, "Pairoo".

This isn't the first time Brazilian Portuguese has caused translation problems: everyone's favorite meditation expert, Nicol Bolas, translates to "Nicol Balls" in the eyes of native speakers. That wouldn't be too much a problem (context is everything) where it not for all the cards that use "Bolas" in isolation.

All references to Bolas in Brazilian Portugese have to include Nicol as a prefix, lest conversations like "I will attack your Domri, Anarch of Balls with my Disciple of Balls" cause spontaneous fits of laughter. One can only hope we'll eventually see both dragons on the same card and they call it "Piru and Bolas".

Stonecoil Serpent

Stonecoil Serpent, Laynes, 2023

Which brings us finally, mercifully, to the most recent and undeniable offender: Stonecoil Serpent. It is the only card anywhere on this list and anywhere in the history of Magic: the Gathering that genuinely depicts a real willy. There's no explaining it away, no pretending it was an accident, no question as to the intent or effect.

Honorable Mentions

A comprehensive list of every card deemed "naughty" is outside the scope of this article, but I'd be remiss to forget some of the more suggestive art printed over the years. After all, you don't need to depict a phallus to imply one.

Clergy En-Vec

Clergy En-Vec, Heather Hudson, 1997

Presented without comment.

Frazzled Editer

Frazzled Editor, Jim Pavelec, 2004

This is the only time the word "penis" has ever been printed on a Magic card. Given it was printed almost twenty years ago, I'm starting to think it will be the last.

Daily Regimen

Daily Regimen, Warren Mahy, 2008

I can only think of one Daily Regimen that would give you a comically overdeveloped arm, but maybe that's on me. Perhaps all this giant is trying to do is get his rocks off... the ground.

Serum Visions

Serum Visions, Dan Scott, 2015

I don't imagine there was anything intentional about this, but we're an immature bunch, we Magic players.

The Uktabi Orangutan Saga

Uktabi Orangutan, Una Fricker, 1999

I don't want to, but I'm going to give Fricker the benefit of the doubt. Monkeys sit like this all the time, there's nothing inherently sexual about sitting or standing behind someone. But that's when we're looking at the art up close, when we can make out the details. On the card itself is a different story, it's hard not to let your mind wander to the gutter.

Uktabi Kong, Una Fricker, 2004

The notion that the monkeys in the background of Uktabi Orangutan were up to some hanky panky certainly took root among the Magic community and Wizards even honored it years later with Uktabi Kong.

Kibo, Uktabi Prince, Zoltan Boros, 2022

Cause and effect dictated a baby, and after an 18-year gestation period, the natural conclusion arrived in the form of Kibo, Uktabi Prince. Now that I think on it, there's nothing that naughty about the Uktabi saga; it's wholesome if anything.

The Pen Is Mighty

The problem with looking for phallocentric art is that you end up a bit like Jim Carrey in 23: you start seeing what you're looking for everywhere. The above list is far from comprehensive; there are dozens more debatable dongs hiding in Magic art, many of which you'll find in your bulk box at home. If you'd like to see everything I missed, check out Scryfall's Phallic tag!

To the real question, why did I write this? No doubt, Freud would have a field day, but if nothing else I hope I've illustrated that the Secret Lair Stonecoil Serpent wasn't the first time a trouser snake was printed on a Magic card. It might be the most obvious, the most egregious, but it's just another in a long line of magical willys, whackers, and wieners. Either that, or I'm committing a terrible phallacy.

  1. Citation needed.
  2. An Interview With Sue Ann Harkey, Magic's Greatest Art Director, April 21, 2015
  3. Thoughts On The Academy Rector, Heather Hudson, April 24, 2018
  4. Email correspondence between u/Filobel and Eric Deschamps.

Jake FitzSimons is a writer from Sydney and a Magic fiend. He's either the johnniest spike or the spikiest johnny, nobody is sure which. When he isn’t brewing or playing cEDH, he can be found writing, playing piano, and doting on his little cat.