A Comprehensive Reference Guide To Every Magic: The Gathering Set (Inc. Lore, Mechanics, Etc), by Kerry Meyerhoff

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A Comprehensive Reference Guide For Every Magic The Gathering Set 3

A comprehensive and ongoing reference guide to every Magic: the Gathering set (inc. lore, mechanics, release dates, etc)

This article will be updated on the release of every new Magic: the Gathering set. It might be worth bookmarking this page. You can find all our resources content here.

Tip: Please use the “Ctrl + F” function if you’d like to jump to a specific piece of information.

Magic: the Gathering has been around since 1993 – nearly 25 years now – and during that time, we have seen hundreds of different sets hitting the shelves. Not only the main core and block sets, which now number in their hundreds, but also supplementary products; intro decks, commander decks, anthologies, Conspiracy sets, theme decks, duel decks, From the Vaults, starter sets and even Un-sets. To someone new to the game, it’s very hard to tell all these various supplementary editions apart from the main blocks, and even more difficult to understand the timeline – when did it all come out? Where does everything fit into the story?

This article constitutes a short summary of each Magic expansion from the ex-Standard-legal releases, which will effectively provide a list to newer players of what’s currently out, what came before, and the order it came out in (and crucially, which sets are the main product), and for anyone who’s interested to know, a little about the story behind each set, right up to where we find ourselves in the current release.

I have included Core Sets for the sake of completeness, though after the first few I will not write in-depth about them, as they are primarily reprint sets intended for new players to gain access to evergreen cards.

If you want to know about any supplementary products or sets that were not Standard-legal upon release, check the alternative products guide.

 

Limited Edition [Core Set] – released August 1993

We’ll start back at the very beginning, when Ye Holy Father Garfield and his team at Wizards released the first ever Magic set, Limited Edition, which included what we know as Alpha and Beta, nicknames for each of the print runs of this set. It didn’t have any real storyline other than the concept that the players were powerful planeswalkers dueling each other. After the initial print run (Alpha), there was more demand than expected so they ran two additional runs, now known as Beta and the first white-bordered set, Unlimited. White borders were introduced as a way of marking ‘reprint’ sets.

Set Symbol: None

Number of Cards in the Set: Alpha 295, Beta 302, Unlimited 302

Three-Letter Code: LEA, LEB, 2ED

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Fear, Landwalk, Protection

Magic: the Gathering was intended to be the original name for the set, and each expansion thereafter would change the name: Magic: Ice Age, or Magic: Arabian Nights. However, they decided afterwards for consistency reasons to keep the Gathering for every set.

 

Arabian Nights – released December 1993

The story of Arabian Nights is set on one of the planes of Rabiah, which experienced an event called the Thousandfold Refraction, creating one thousand and one identical planes. The story told the life of the planeswalker Taysir – he was refracted into five pieces by the Thousandfold Refraction, and manipulated by Queen Naliah into becoming one again, reigniting his planeswalker spark. He chose to leave, however, and Naliah afterwards cast a spell that prevented planeswalkers from ever coming to the 1001 versions of Rabiah ever again.

Set Symbol: A scimitar

Number of Cards in the Set: 92

Three-Letter Code: ARN

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Landwalk, Protection

The plane was sealed off due to real-world reasons; Rabiah is not the intellectual property of Wizards, so it is very unlikely we could ever see a return.

 

Antiquities – released March 1994

This set returns to the original setting of the game, Dominaria, and covers the Brothers’ War between Urza and Mishra, two powerful artificers. After an accident which killed their tutor when they were young, they separated, and Mishra became corrupted with Phyrexian technology through the machinations of Gix, Yawgmoth’s servant. Mishra fought Urza for forty years in an ongoing conflict that divided the nation. It ended when Urza activated the Golgothian Sylex, which released a blast wave that caused Urza to gain his planeswalker spark, Mishra to perish, and most of the civilisations on Dominaria to be wiped out, causing the beginning of the Dark Age.

Set Symbol: An anvil

Number of Cards in the Set: 100

Three-Letter Code: ATQ

Notable Mechanics: Banding

 

Revised Edition [Core Set] – released April 1994

Set Symbol: None

Number of Cards in the Set: 306

Three-Letter Code: 3ED

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Fear, Landwalk, Protection

Revised Edition was a reprint set, indicated by its white borders, to bring more copies of the ‘core’ cards into circulation. They also took the opportunity to solidify the rules into a physical guide. It was the first set to be printed in French and German as well as English.

 

Legends – released June 1994

This was the brainchild of two Magic fans introduced to the game by Garfield and later recruited to Wizards’ development team. It was the first set to include multicoloured cards, and mainly consisted of the game’s legendary creatures and places and their individual stories, rather than one overarching tale. Nicol Bolas makes his first appearance here, in the cycle of Elder Dragons.

Set Symbol: Half a Roman column

Number of Cards in the Set: 310

Three-Letter Code: LEG

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Landwalk, Protection, Rampage, Shroud

Legends is the oldest set to have been printed in Italian.

 

The Dark – released August 1994

The Dark takes us back to Dominaria, picking up after the Sylex blast. The debris blots out the sun, creating a Dark Age where a new anti-magic religion has risen after mages were blamed for the disaster. They are holed up in the Conclave of Mages to the west, while dark powers rule in the City of Shadows to the east. During the set, there are conflicts between the two strongholds, while the other creatures of Dominaria – thrulls, goblins, orcs, merfolk and homarids – struggle for control of the wilderness between them.

Set Symbol: A crescent moon

Number of Cards in the Set: 119

Three-Letter Code: DRK

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Landwalk, Protection

 

Fallen Empires – released November 1994

This continues the storyline somewhat from The Dark. This set focuses less on the conflict between the wizards and the powers-that-be, and more on the non-human races and their existence in the ruined cities destroyed by the Sylex blast. The set follows the stories of several different societies and their attempts to vie for power on the ruins of old human settlements. It is also when the goblin tribes migrate south out of the mountains and overthrow the Dwarven empires.

Set Symbol: A three-point crown

Number of Cards in the Set: 187

Three-Letter Code: FEM

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

 

4th Edition [Core Set] – released April 1995

Set Symbol: None

Number of Cards in the Set: 378

Three-Letter Code: 4ED

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Fear, Landwalk, Protection

This was the first set to be printed in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.

 

Ice Age – released June 1995

Ice Age began the ‘blocks’ system which was used up until the end of Ixalan block. We are still on Dominaria, and an event originally triggered by the Sylex blast has now finally occurred; the energy of twelve planes fused into The Shard of Twelve Worlds, which encased Dominaria away from the rest of the Multiverse, trapping planeswalkers inside the shard and preventing others from entering it. This caused the beginning of the Ice Age, where all major civilisations have now collapsed from the ongoing wars and the ice. Urza had been corrupted by Yawgmoth after his attempt to stop the Phyrexians failed, and is having his mind healed. The powerful necromancer Lim-Dul is defeated and banished.

Set Symbol: A frozen snowflake

Number of Cards in the Set: 383

Three-Letter Code: ICE

Block: Ice Age

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Cumulative Upkeep, Fear, Landwalk, Protection

Ice Age had a special mechanic known as ‘snow’, which powered certain spells. There were ‘snow-covered’ basic lands available in Ice Age packs, and snow permanents were a key feature of the set.

 

Chronicles and Renaissance – released July-August 1995

Set Symbol: None

Number of Cards in the Set: Chronicles 125, Renaissance 122

Three-Letter Code: CHR/none

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Fear, Landwalk, Protection

Chronicles is one of the most important sets in the history of the game. It had such a massive print run that all the cards which had been reprinted fell heavily in price and were worth very little. Collectors were aghast at the loss of value and many people left the game, feeling that they had been betrayed.

This led to the emergency promise that still affects the game today: The Reserved List. Wizards put the remaining cards from Revised edition backwards onto the list and created a formal document stating that they would never reprint these cards again. This brought back a lot of faith from the players, however, nobody could have imagined the repercussions such a promise would have in 20 years’ time – a game lasting that long would be unprecedented.

 

Homelands – released October 1995

This set was originally the second set of Ice Age block, but was later replaced by Alliances as Coldsnap became the third. It was a bit of a disaster from the off, and Garfield never actually wanted it printed. It is a standalone story on the plane of Ulgrotha, where a planeswalker called Feroz decided to protect the plane and rebuild it after it was destroyed by wizards. However, he died casting the spell to ban planeswalkers from entering it, and his widow left the plane, grief-stricken; after that, its inhabitants fell prey to the sinister vampire Baron Sengir.

Set Symbol: A globe

Number of Cards in the Set: 140

Three-Letter Code: HML

Block: Ice Age (now none)

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

 

Alliances – released June 1996

Alliances is the second part of the Ice Age block. Freyalise, a powerful planeswalker, has used the freak occurrence of another plane, Shandalar, passing close by to devise a way to end the Ice Age on Dominaria, and turned the snow to rain. The Shard of Twelve Worlds collapses, leaving Dominaria vulnerable to outside invasion, the Flood Ages begin, and the population has to adapt once more. The exiled necromancer Lim-Dul returns and summons a horde of undead, and the scattered former enemies of the Dark Age have to unite to defeat him or face extinction.

Set Symbol: A flag

Number of Cards in the Set: 199

Three-Letter Code: ALL

Block: Ice Age

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Cumulative Upkeep, Landwalk, Rampage, Shroud

 

Mirage – released October 1996

Mirage takes us to an entirely different part of Dominaria, Jamuura. It introduces the planeswalker Teferi and his island, which have both mysteriously phased out of existence. Three spellcasters set out to look for him; Mangara, Jolrael and Kaervek. They discover three warring cities nearby and Mangara diplomatically brings an end to the conflict, however, Kaervek plots to overthrow him, and with Jolrael’s assistance traps him in an amber prison, beginning the Mirage War.

Set Symbol: A palm tree

Number of Cards in the Set: 350

Three-Letter Code: MIR

Block: Mirage

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Cumulative Upkeep, Fateseal, Fear, Flanking, Landwalk, Phasing, Protection, Rampage, Shroud

 

Visions – released February 1997

In Visions, Teferi and his island have phased back into the time stream unnoticed. The nation of Femeref has been destroyed in the war, and neighbouring nations Zhalfir and Suq’Ata are still in conflict. Teferi convinces Jolrael to turn against Kaervek, and Jolrael’s visions prove to be the key to defeating him. They free Mangara and bring an end to the war.

Set Symbol: A capital V

Number of Cards in the Set: 167

Three-Letter Code: VIS

Block: Mirage

Notable Mechanics: Cumulative Upkeep, Fear, Flanking, Landwalk, Phasing, Protection, Shroud

 


Fifth Edition [Core Set] – 
released March 1997

Set Symbol: A Roman numeral 5

Number of Cards in the Set: 449

Three-Letter Code: 5ED

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Fear, Landwalk, Protection, Rampage, Shroud

 

Weatherlight – released June 1997

This is the first set of the lengthy Weatherlight saga, which took place over several blocks. It sets out the premise for the story; Yawgmoth sits poised to invade Dominaria now the Shard has fallen. The plane’s only hope lies with the Legacy weapon, a collection of ancient artifacts which can be combined to produce the power to defeat the Phyrexians. We are introduced to the flying ship the Weatherlight and its crew: Gerrard Capashen, the brave leader; Squee, the goblin cabin boy with the strange toy; Tahngarth, the fierce minotaur; Hanna, the navigator; and Captain Sisay, who has been kidnapped by the evil Volrath and taken to Rath, his artificial plane.

Set Symbol: The open Thran tome

Number of Cards in the Set: 167

Three-Letter Code: WTH

Block: Mirage

Notable Mechanics: Banding, Cumulative Upkeep, Fear, Flanking, Landwalk, Phasing, Protection,

 

Tempest – released October 1997

The crew of the Weatherlight journey to Rath to save Captain Sisay. They battle through the stormy plane, created and ruled by Gerrard’s blood brother Volrath, who has turned to evil and become Yawgmoth’s deputy.

Set Symbol: A thundercloud

Number of Cards in the Set: 350

Three-Letter Code: TMP

Block: Tempest

Notable Mechanics: Buyback, Fear, Landwalk, Protection, Shadow, Shroud

 

Stronghold – released March 1998

The skyship journeys through Volrath’s stronghold, searching for the pieces of the Legacy weapon and their missing comrade. As they fight their way through the horrors, they discover that Rath is the exact size and shape of Dominaria, and has been created as an attempt to overlay it onto their home plane and bring invading Phyrexians with it.

Set Symbol: A closed portcullis

Number of Cards in the Set: 143

Three-Letter Code: STH

Block: Tempest

Notable Mechanics: Buyback, Fear, Shadow, Shroud

 

Exodus – released June 1998

At the culmination of Volrath’s plans, the crew successfully rescues Sisay and collects the pieces of the Legacy weapon. As they try to make their escape from Rath, Crovax, one of the crew, is cursed with vampirism by the dark angel Selenia and becomes a threat to the ship, so he is left behind, along with Ertai, the ship’s wizard, who has become separated from the rest. The ship escapes Rath, but does not end up back on Dominaria.

Set Symbol: An arch bridge

Number of Cards in the Set: 143

Three-Letter Code: EXO

Block: Tempest

Notable Mechanics: Buyback, Fear, Protection, Shadow, Shroud

Notably, Exodus was the first set which used different colours on set symbols to depict rarity.

 

Urza’s Saga – released October 1998

This set provides a flashback of hundreds of years, to the end of the Brother’s War, and the events that Urza has brought about since. It is revealed that Urza has been making plans to destroy the Phyrexians, documenting the existence of the Legacy weapon and its whereabouts.

Set Symbol: Two gears

Number of Cards in the Set: 350

Three-Letter Code: USG

Block: Urza

Notable Mechanics: Cycling, Echo, Fear, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

 

Urza’s Legacy – released February 1999

We are shown the rise and fall of the Tolarian Academy, a school for talented artificers, where Urza created Karn the Silver Golem, intended as a dummy for his time experiments. Teferi and Jhoira, two brilliant students, are involved in projects to ‘phase’ objects and people into time bubbles. Jhoira and Urza discover the Thran Mana Rig and begin creating the metal that would form the Weatherlight; meanwhile, the Phyrexians invade the Academy.

Set Symbol: A hammer

Number of Cards in the Set: 143

Three-Letter Code: ULG

Block: Urza

Notable Mechanics: Cycling, Echo, Fear, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

Urza’s Legacy was the first set to introduce foil cards randomly inserted into booster packs.

 

Classic Sixth Edition [Core Set] – released April 1999

Set Symbol: Roman numeral 6

Number of Cards in the Set: 350

Three-Letter Code: 6ED

Notable Mechanics: Fear, Landwalk

 

Urza’s Destiny – released June 1999

We also discover Urza’s Bloodline Project, and how he has manipulated the ancestors of the Weatherlight crew to create the perfect people to fight Phyrexia. He completes the construction of the ship using the Thran metal, and prepares to take the fight to Yawgmoth directly, as he discovers the existence of Rath and its purpose.

Set Symbol: A filled vial

Number of Cards in the Set: 143

Three-Letter Code: UDS

Block: Urza

Notable Mechanics: Cycling, Echo, Fear, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

 

Mercadian Masques – released October 1999

We return to the Weatherlight as they have crash-landed on Mercadia. The ship is stolen by a tribe called the Cho-Arrim, along with a crew member Orim. The rest of the crew are arrested and taken to the capital. Much dealing and backstabbing takes place in Mercadia City, and eventually, the crew are sent on a raid with the Mercadian army to take back the ship, which is successful, and the army indiscriminately kill almost every member of the Cho-Arrim. They feel uneasy about this, and Orim opts to stay with the remainder of the tribe, having fallen in love with its leader. The crew bargain for parts with the local merfolk tribe, repair their ship, and escape Mercadia.

Set Symbol: A masquerade mask

Number of Cards in the Set: 350

Three-Letter Code: MMQ

Block: Masques

Notable Mechanics: Fear, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

During the final revision of the Reserved List in 2002, Wizards decided that from Masques onwards, no more cards would be added.

 

Nemesis – released February 2000

Yawgmoth prepares for his final invasion of Dominaria. Volrath is dead, unmasked and killed by Gerrard, and Crovax the cursed ex-crew member has been chosen to take his place as evincar. Yawgmoth sets his sights on Urza, the last thing standing in his way, as Crovax must deal with rebellion from Rath’s population, who have risen up against Phyrexian tyranny in Eladamri’s name.

Set Symbol: Crovax’s halberd

Number of Cards in the Set: 143

Three-Letter Code: NMS

Block: Masques

Notable Mechanics: Fading, Fear, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

 

Prophecy – released June 2000

Back on Dominaria, there is trouble brewing. One of Urza’s geneticists from the Bloodline Project has used his knowledge to improve the Keldon race, and they have declared war on the new city-state of united Jamuura, still recovering from the Mirage Wars. The Ki’pamu stronghold on Zhalfir fought back and managed to repel the invaders.

Set Symbol: Three spiked crystals

Number of Cards in the Set: 143

Three-Letter Code: PCY

Block: Masques

Notable Mechanics: Fear, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

 

Invasion – released October 2000

Yawgmoth begins his assault on Dominaria. Phyrexian warriors are pouring onto the plane through a portal, and its inhabitants look to Urza for guidance. Urza, his hopes hinging entirely on the missing Weatherlight crew, gathers together the Nine Titans – the other planeswalkers currently living on Dominaria – in an attempt to stay the Phyrexian’s power. Barrin, the master wizard, destroys all of Tolaria and himself with it, to hide the secrets of the Academy from the invaders. After a battle at Koilos, the portal to Phyrexia is closed.

Set Symbol: The mark of the Coalition (Urza’s allies)

Number of Cards in the Set: 350

Three-Letter Code: INV

Block: Invasion

Notable Mechanics: Domain, Fear, Kicker, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud, Split Cards

 

Planeshift – released February 2001

The true invasion now begins. With the portal closed, the Dominarians celebrate, but soon the plane of Rath begins its overlay, bringing millions of Phyrexians into the battle. The Weatherlight returned, but was destroyed, and Urza, Karn and Gerrard were captured. However, the stronghold appeared in Urborg, and the remaining Dominarians beseiged it, with the help of the remaining Titans who took the fight to Phyrexia itself. In the meantime, Teferi has created a time bubble around the entirety of northeastern Jamuura and all its inhabitants and phased it out of existence, to prevent it being destroyed by the invasion.

Set Symbol: A portal

Number of Cards in the Set: 143

Three-Letter Code: PLS

Block: Invasion

Notable Mechanics: Domain, Fear, Kicker, Protection

 

Seventh Edition [Core set] – released April 2001

Set Symbol: Stylized number seven

Number of Cards in the Set: 350

Three-Letter Code: 7ED

Notable Mechanics: Fear, Landwalk

 

Apocalypse – released June 2001

Urza and Gerrard are forced to fight in an arena endlessly. Gerrard breaks the cycle by escaping with Urza’s head (Urza did not die from decapitation, as he is a planeswalker). The Titans destroy most of Phyrexia. As they escape back to a crumbling Dominaria, Yawgmoth appears as a black cloud of death, reanimating every dead thing on the plane, and the allied forces are overwhelmed. Urza tells Gerrard to take his powerstone eyes and put them in Karn, who has been fused with the Legacy. He does so, thus completing the Legacy Weapon, and releasing a burst of white mana which destroyed Urza, Gerrard, and Yawgmoth. Karn received a planeswalker spark from the Weatherlight and ascended amid the ruins of the plane.

Set Symbol: Yawgmoth’s mask

Number of Cards in the Set: 143

Three-Letter Code: APC

Block: Invasion

Notable Mechanics: Domain, Kicker, Protection, Shroud, Split Cards

 

Odyssey – released October 2001

Odyssey is set 100 years after the invasion. Karn has left a probe on Otaria, a small continent on Dominaria, so he will be able to keep an eye on its progress, and left to create his own artificial plane, Argentum. This set introduces us to the new world a century after the war, with its new civilisations that have sprung up in the wake of disaster – and new enemies in the form of the Cabal, a sect of humans that practice dark magic. We meet Kamahl, the protagonist of the block, a young man with a thirst for adventure.

Set Symbol: The Mirari

Number of Cards in the Set: 350

Three-Letter Code: ODY

Block: Odyssey

Notable Mechanics: Fear, Flashback, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud, Threshold

 

Torment – released February 2002

In Torment, a Cabal agent named Chainer discovers an artifact called the Mirari. It is the probe Karn left a century ago, but it has malfunctioned and is leaking mana, causing it to be irresistible to the plane’s inhabitants. With the power of the artifact he rises through the ranks of the Cabal, and befriends Kamahl with whom he trains as a pit fighter. In the kingdom of the merfolk, Ambassador Laquatus plots a coup.

Set Symbol: An ouroboros serpent

Number of Cards in the Set: 143

Three-Letter Code: TOR

Block: Odyssey

Notable Mechanics: Flashback, Landwalk, Madness, Protection, Threshold

 

Judgment – released May 2002

Chainer becomes unstable with the Mirari and Kamahl is forced to kill him. Cabal City is destroyed by its power. Kamahl takes the orb intending to hide it away, but is hounded by Laquatus and the aven leader Eesha who want it for their own political ends. His sister Jeska and mentor Balthor both advise he stays as far away from it as possible, but his conscience over killing Chainer will not let him. Eventually, war breaks out over the Mirari, and Kamahl strikes his sister under its corrupted inflience. Seeing that it cannot be kept among civilisation, he takes it to the depths of the Krosan forest and plants it in the soil, so the mana leaks into the land and makes the trees grow.

Set Symbol: A set of scales

Number of Cards in the Set: 143

Three-Letter Code: JUD

Block: Odyssey

Notable Mechanics: Fear, Flashback, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud, Threshold

 

Onslaught – released October 2002

Since the events of Judgment, many thousands of people have migrated to Otaria in the wake of the Mirari’s power revitalising the land, and created a refugee city called Sanctum. Kamahl lives in the forest guarding the Mirari. His sister Jeska has been captured by what remains of the Cabal and is turned into Phage, a pit fighter with special abilities. She kills Nivea, beloved of the talented illusionist Ixidor, who is subsequently thrown out by the Cabal for gambling debts and left to die. He accidentally manifests his rage and heartache into a real angel, Akroma, whom he tasks with the mission of avenging his lost love.

Set Symbol: A four-legged insectoid creature

Number of Cards in the Set: 350

Three-Letter Code: ONS

Block: Onslaught

Notable Mechanics: Cycling, Fear, Landwalk, Morph, Protection, Shroud

 

Legions – released February 2003

Kamahl goes to find Jeska, and discovers what she has become. He hopes to return her to her original form. They go to fight Akroma and Ixidor, and Phage seemingly destroys Ixidor by summoning a wurm made of darkness which eats him. Kamahl realises he cannot save her and returns to the forest. He meditates for one year before being awakened by the power of his axe, Soul Reaper, imbued with magic. He heads to Sanctum to find Phage and Akroma engaged in a battle with the leader of Sanctum, Zagorka, watching. He swings his axe at them and kills all three women; however, the resulting magic from the axe forges them into a new being – Karona. Meanwhile, the underwater laboratory Riptide has fallen to the slivers it reanimated from fossils, and the creatures have found land and multiplied.

Set Symbol: A shield and spears

Number of Cards in the Set: 145

Three-Letter Code: LGN

Block: Onslaught

Notable Mechanics: Amplify, Cycling, Morph, Protection, Provoke

 

Scourge – released May 2003

Many warring factions now compete for control of the raw mana incarnate, Karona, whom all worship as a goddess. The magic of the Mirari is out of control and has begun warping the people of Otaria mentally and physically. Additionally, from the explosion that created Karona, the Sliver Overlord appeared, a leader for the hive-mind of the reanimated slivers which have begun to overrun the continent. Karona leaves the plane, taking all mana with her, and finds Karn, who realises what she is and escorts her back. She proceeds wage a holy war, destroying all who do not follow her. The last city standing is Sanctum; Karona faces Kamahl wielding the Mirari which has been turned into a weapon. She is killed by her own followers, who use the Mirari under Karn’s direction, and manifests back into Jeska, but with a planeswalker spark. Karn takes Jeska and the Mirari to Argentum.

Set Symbol: A dragon face

Number of Cards in the Set: 143

Three-Letter Code: SCG

Block: Onslaught

Notable Mechanics: Cycling, Fear, Morph, Protection, Shroud, Storm

 

From here on, every set mentioned is legal in Modern.

 

Eighth Edition [Core Set] – released July 2003

This set debuted the new bordered card face, which is still used today.

Set Symbol: An 8 overlaid on three cards

Number of Cards in the Set: 357

Three-Letter Code: 8ED

Notable Mechanics: Fear, Landwalk, Shroud

 

Mirrodin – released October 2003

Mirrodin is set in a plane of the same name. After Karn took the Mirari back to Argentum, the plane he created, he used it for the core of a new guardian, Memnarch, whom he left in charge of the plane whilst he went away planeswalking. Memnarch unfortunately went mad due to some Phyrexian oil that Karn had trailed behind him (having picked it up during the invasion of Dominaria) and renamed Argentum to Mirrodin, and began stealing other life forms to populate it. The plane combines metal and organic matter in both its environments and its citizens. It has four suns in all colours of mana except green. We are introduced to Glissa Sunseeker, a young elf resident on Mirrodin.

Set Symbol: The sword of Kaldra

Number of Cards in the Set: 306

Three-Letter Code: MRD

Block: Mirrodin

Notable Mechanics: Affinity, Entwine, Equipment, Fear, Imprint, Protection, Shroud

 

Darksteel – released February 2004

Pursued by unknown enemies for unknown reasons, Glissa and her allies Slobad and Bosh journey to the centre of the plane to find out what is driving the evil on Mirrodin’s surface. After fighting their way through the Vedalken city Lumengrid, they come upon the core of Mirrodin, and discover who their enemy is. Memnarch himself draws power from the missing sun burning with green mana at the nucleus of the plane, and has almost finished his new creation – the Darksteel Eye, which will enable him to become a planeswalker. He is chasing her because she has a latent spark, one he greatly desires.

Set Symbol: The shield of Kaldra

Number of Cards in the Set: 165

Three-Letter Code: DST

Block: Mirrodin

Notable Mechanics: Affinity, Entwine, Equipment, Fear, Imprint, Modular, Protection, Shroud

 

Fifth Dawn – released June 2004

Glissa attacks Memnarch, having gathered all of the artifacts of Kaldra together; but he takes control of the avatar and forces it to pursue her out of his lair. When all seems lost, Glissa’s latent power causes the green sun to destabilise and erupt from the core into the sky, restoring Mirrodin’s fifth dawn. Memnarch, deprived of his power source, puts Glissa into an enchanted sleep for five years, hidden away in the Tangle. He tortures her companion Slobad, who alters his machine to absorb souls instead, while war rages on the surface between his Vedalken and the other Mirrans. When Glissa wakes, she assaults Memnarch once again, throwing herself alongside him into the raw mana core of the plane. With Memnarch’s death, Karn can finally return to the plane; he resurrects Glissa, along with everyone else who died in Memnarch’s war, deconstructs Memnarch’s body and leaves the Mirari under Glissa and Slobad’s care.

Set Symbol: The helm of Kaldra

Number of Cards in the Set: 165

Three-Letter Code: 5DN

Block: Mirrodin

Notable Mechanics: Affinity, Entwine, Fear, Imprint, Modular, Protection, Shroud, Sunburst

 

Champions of Kamigawa – released October 2004

Kamigawa is a plane maintained by the presence of spirits called the Kami. However, when the spirits suddenly wage war on the mortal inhabitants of the plane, an alliance has to be formed between unlikely comrades – the thief Toshi Umezawa and the lord’s daughter Michiko Konda – to discover the source of the kamis’ anger and prevent the total annihilation of everything on Kamigawa.

Set Symbol: A Japanese-style open gate

Number of Cards in the Set: 306

Three-Letter Code: CHK

Block: Kamigawa

Notable Mechanics: Bushido, Fear, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud, Soulshift, Splice

Kamigawa Block had a unique set of cards called ‘flip cards’ which had two ends, and would be turned upside down to become a more powerful iteration when a condition was fulfilled. Almost all of them were legendary creatures.

 

Betrayers of Kamigawa – released February 2005

Michiko and Toshi discover that Michiko’s father Lord Konda is the reason the kami attacked – he went to the spirit world and stole the divinity from the most ancient and powerful kami, O-Kagachi. Thus, the other spirits waged war on the mortal world to recover That Which Was Taken. After their failure to retrieve it, in the twentieth year of the Kami War, O-Kagachi himself enters the mortal realm and destroys Konda’s castle; however, Umezawa uses dark contracts to steal That Which Was Taken away once more.

Set Symbol: A shuriken

Number of Cards in the Set: 165

Three-Letter Code: BOK

Block: Kamigawa

Notable Mechanics: Bushido, Fear, Ninjustu, Offering, Protection, Shroud, Soulshift, Splice

 

Saviors of Kamigawa – released June 2005

Michiko frees the divinity from its stone prison and it takes the name Kyodai, bonding with Michiko to form a powerful divine entity. It is grateful for its freedom from its ‘father’ O-Kagachi. When the great kami descends on them, they fight together to kill it, and thus bring an end to the Kami War; they then take on the role of protecting the barrier between the spirit and mortal worlds. Toshi has betrayed his dark master the Myojin, and so it takes revenge by transporting him away to another realm, which turns out to be Dominaria, and taking his sight away. He would become head of the Umezawa clan and ancestor of Tetsuo, the man who killed and sealed Nicol Bolas on Dominaria.

Set Symbol: A lantern

Number of Cards in the Set: 165

Three-Letter Code: SOK

Block: Kamigawa

Notable Mechanics: Bushido, Channel, Epic, Fear, Protection, Shroud, Soulshift, Splice, Sweep

 

Ninth Edition [Core Set] – released July 2005

Set Symbol: A 9 overlaid on three cards

Number of Cards in the Set: 359

Three-Letter Code: 9ED

Notable Mechanics: Fear, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

 

Ravnica: City of Guilds – released October 2005

We are introduced to Ravnica, the giant city-state that covers the entire plane. It is jointly ruled by ten guilds, each in charge of separate duties and each representing two colours of mana. There is a celebration planned for the ten thousandth anniversary of the Guildpact, the document which keeps the peace between them; but there is a sinister plot afoot.

Set Symbol: A tower

Number of Cards in the Set: 306

Three-Letter Code: RAV

Block: Ravnica

Notable Mechanics: Convoke, Dredge, Fear, Hybrid Mana, Landwalk, Protection, Radiance, Transmute

 

Guildpact – released February 2006

The Gruul are tearing up the streets of Ravnica seemingly with no purpose, and the Orzhov set out to “cleanse” the city of the menace, straining tensions between all the guilds. However, a Boros agent senses that not is all as it seems, and slowly begins to unravel the machinations behind the attacks, which point to one guild in particular – the shadowy Dimir who dwell beneath the surface of the plane.

Set Symbol: The seal of the Guildpact

Number of Cards in the Set: 165

Three-Letter Code: GPT

Block: Ravnica

Notable Mechanics: Bloodthirst, Fear, Haunt, Hybrid Mana, Landwalk, Protection, Replicate, Shroud

 

Dissension – released May 2006

A nuance in the Guildpact’s magic is discovered; it keeps harmony between the guilds and prevents any other planeswalkers coming in, but it also prevents anything leaving, including spirits. The dead exist in a place called Agyrem, a spirit realm woven into the fabric of Ravnica. One of the spirits, called Szadek, has returned and taken control of the Dimir guild he founded. At the Decimillenial celebration, he is arrested, but not before the Guildpact’s magic is broken; guild feuds erupt in the streets into full-on warfare as the leaders scramble to regain control. The city’s chaos is eventually reined in and a new Guildpact formed, but without the magic of the former keeping it in place. Agyrem is overlaid onto Ravnica, forming a ‘ghost quarter’ in the city, and Szadek’s soul escapes into hiding.

Set Symbol: The seal, but inverted

Number of Cards in the Set: 180

Three-Letter Code: DIS

Block: Ravnica

Notable Mechanics: Fear, Forecast, Graft, Hellbent, Hybrid Mana, Protection, Shroud, Split Cards

 

Coldsnap – released July 2006

Coldsnap was printed as the replacement for Homelands as the final instalment in the Ice Age block from long ago. We return to pre-Apocalypse Dominaria, to the continent where the Brothers’ War occurred, and witness The Thaw occurring as a result of Freyalise’s world spell. The Cult of Rimewind is a secretive mage society dedicated to preventing The Thaw, as they believe ice amplifies magic. They halt The Thaw’s process, and resurrect ancient Phyrexian remains to defend themselves as the rest of the population descend upon them. Before long, they are driven mad by exposure to Phyrexians, their forces are wiped out and their spell broken, restoring the thawing process to its natural course.

Set Symbol: A hanging icicle

Number of Cards in the Set: 155

Three-Letter Code: CSP

Block: Ice Age

Notable Mechanics: Cumulative Upkeep, Fear, Protection, Recover, Ripple, Shroud

Coldsnap continued on the theme of Ice Age with snow permanents, and included a new run of ‘snow covered lands’ in its booster packs.

 

Time Spiral – released October 2006

We return to present-day Dominaria, a wasteland littered with death and decay. Save the few human civilisations that managed to escape the Apocalypse, and the elves of Skyshroud forest still protected by Freyalise, there is very little life left on the shattered continent. Teferi reappears amid this ruin, and realises the Phyrexian war is over – and it is almost time for the section of Jamuura he phased out to return. However, the land seems to be dying, entirely disconnected from its mana – it is being drained by time rifts, caused by phasing out of time. In his absence, they have spring up all over the plane. Teferi is forced to give up his planeswalker spark to safely return one section of the land, however, there are many more.

Set Symbol: An hourglass

Number of Cards in the Set: 422

Three-Letter Code: TSP

Block: Time Spiral

Notable Mechanics: Buyback, Domain, Echo, Fear, Flanking, Flashback, Landwalk, Madness, Morph, Protection, Rampage, Shadow, Shroud, Split Second, Storm, Suspend

Time Spiral has a cycle of ‘timeshifted’ cards which have the old border and represent events occurring outside of the proper timeline. One of these reprints was randomly inserted into every pack.

 

Planar Chaos – released February 2007

Teferi, along with Jhoira and Venser (an artificer they found living in Urborg’s desiccated swamps) attempts to heal more of the time rifts. Without his planeswalker magic, though, it seems an impossible task, and the problems are worsening; the rifts are spreading, overlapping alternate timelines with reality, causing glimpses of possible pasts and futures that never really existed. Venser accidentally brings Bolas back to life. Freyalise has given her life to seal the rift over Skyshroud Forest, but not before Phyrexian horrors have escaped onto the plane from the future. Lord Windgrace has sacrificed himself to heal Urborg.

Set Symbol: Two planes overlapping

Number of Cards in the Set: 165

Three-Letter Code: PLC

Block: Time Spiral

Notable Mechanics: Echo, Fear, Flanking, Kicker, Landwalk, Madness, Morph, Protection, Shadow, Shroud, Split Cards, Split Second, Suspend, Vanishing

Planar Chaos has ‘colour shifted’ cards, which do things their colours would not usually do. Some of these cards have seen a lot of play, as they give certain decks access to spells they wouldn’t normally have.

 

Future Sight – released May 2007

Most of the rifts are gone, but the rift above Tolaria is too volatile to seal, so Jhoira calls Karn – the only living being who has travelled through time successfully – and he manages to go back into the past, to when Barrin destroyed the Academy at the beginning of the Phyrexian invasion, and contain the blast which ripped the rift open in the first place. Jeska returns to Dominaria for the first time since Karn took her away, and falls under the influence of the evil Leshrac – but Leshrac is swiftly killed by Bolas, who sacrifices him to close the penultimate rift, before Jeska gives her own life to close the final one. Venser realises his latent planeswalker potential and leaves to explore the Multiverse, while Teferi and Jhoira seek to repair the damage that their time experiments caused.

Set Symbol: An eye staring through a rift

Number of Cards in the Set: 180

Three-Letter Code: FUT

Block: Time Spiral

Notable Mechanics: Absorb, Assemble, Aura Swap, Bloodthirst, Buyback, Contraption, Convoke, Delve, Dredge, Echo, Fateseal, Fear, Flanking, Flashback, Forecast, Fortify, Frenzy, Graft, Grandeur, Gravestorm, Hellbent, Kicker, Landwalk, Madness, Morph, Poisonous, Protection, Shadow, Split Second, Storm, Suspend, Transfigure, Transmute, Vanishing

The culmination of the Time Spiral block saw ‘future shifted’ cards with special borders, which previewed mechanics that had never before been seen. Some of these mechanics have now been revisited, and others probably never will be.

At this point in time, the Mending occurred, as a result of events beginning with the Sylex blast and concluding at the devastation caused by the time rifts. The Mending reduced all living Planeswalkers from immortal, godlike beings (ie players) to essentially more powerful mortals that could travel across the planes. This was, lore-wise, to make them more relatable, as well as to introduce the ‘Planeswalker’ card type in the next block, and make their power levels balanced.

 

Tenth Edition [Core Set] – released July 2007

Set Symbol: Roman numeral 10

Number of Cards in the Set: 383

Three-Letter Code: 10E

Notable Mechanics: Fear, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

 

Lorwyn – released October 2007

Lorwyn is a utopian, idyllic plane filled with light and beauty. Its daylight never ends, and it exists in a perpetual state of midsummer, with nature thriving and its inhabitants peaceful. The Queen of the Fae rules over the land, and all is as it should be.

Set Symbol: A leaf

Number of Cards in the Set: 301

Three-Letter Code: LRW

Block: Lorwyn

Notable Mechanics: Champion, Changeling, Clash,  Evoke, Fear, Hideaway, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

Lorwyn block introduced us to the first five Planeswalker cards, previewed in Future Sight by the card ‘Tarmogoyf’. Four of these five are still main characters, and currently in the Gatewatch.

Morningtide – released February 2008

We follow a young elf called Rhys who lives on Lorwyn, but who has been cast out by his clan, and a flamekin called Ashling. The aurora is occurring – an annual event when the night sky can be seen above Lorwyn – but something is wrong. On the other side of the plane, Oona, Queen of the Fae, is panicking; her usual control is waning and she creates an image of herself, Maralen, to store her memories in in case the worst should happen.

Set Symbol: A sunrise

Number of Cards in the Set: 150

Three-Letter Code: MOR

Block: Lorwyn

Notable Mechanics: Champion, Changeling, Clash, Evoke, Fear, Kinship, Landwalk, Protection, Prowl, Reinforce, Shroud

 

Shadowmoor – released May 2008

The aurora above Lorwyn became a Great Aurora – an event that happens every one hundred years. The beautiful daytime world vanishes, making way for a century-long night. Horrific monsters lurk in the shadows and the elves and kithkin retreat into their strongholds, desperate to survive. Nobody on the plane has any memory of Lorwyn except an ancient few. Oona relaxes – though the events that occurred in Time Spiral brought on the Great Aurora sooner than she had planned, she has retained her memories and seeks to regain control. Maralen, though, has other plans.

Set Symbol: Reaper King’s crown

Number of Cards in the Set: 301

Three-Letter Code: SHM

Block: Shadowmoor

Notable Mechanics: Conspire, Fear, Hybrid Mana, Landwalk, Persist, Protection, Shroud, Wither

 

Eventide – released July 2008

One of the other beings who remembers is Colfenor, an ancient treefolk. He plots together with Rhys and Ashling – both transformed by the plane, but accepting Colfenor’s word – and they take his Sapling to fight Oona. They find Maralen, who joins their cause. Together, they defeat Oona and Maralen becomes the new Queen of the Fae. With Oona’s death, the regular day/night cycle returns to the plane.

Set Symbol: An eclipsed sun

Number of Cards in the Set: 180

Three-Letter Code: EVE

Block: Shadowmoor

Notable Mechanics: Chroma, Fear, Hybrid Mana, Landwalk, Persist, Protection, Retrace, Shroud, Untap Symbol, Wither

 

Shards of Alara – released October 2008

Millennia ago, an unknown planeswalker smashed Alara, a world rich with mana, into five pieces by absorbing its power. Each of these ‘shards’ has access to three of the five colours, and each has developed and adapted differently. We meet Ajani Goldmane, a leonin planeswalker whose card featured in Lorwyn. He was born on Naya, one of the five shards. After an attack on his pride in which his brother is slain, he discovers his spark and finds himself on Jund, another shard, where he meets Sarkhan Vol. Sarkhan shows him how to planeswalk, and he returns to Naya for revenge, and is injured. He planeswalks to Bant, where he meets Elspeth Tirel, who heals him, and he returns once more to Naya. There, he finds out that a dragon called Nicol Bolas is the source of his pride’s woes.

Set Symbol: A five-piece gem

Number of Cards in the Set: 249

Three-Letter Code: ALA

Block: Alara

Notable Mechanics: Cycling, Devour, Exalted, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud, Unearth

 

Conflux – released February 2009

Ajani knows of only one place where dragons exist, so he tries to return to Jund to seek out Sarkhan; however, when he tries, he finds Jund no longer exists. The shards of Alara are fusing back together to form one plane, and as they begin to overlap, catastrophe occurs. Unfamiliar colours of mana fly from shard to shard, tribes and civilisations clash, as everyone tries to vie for power in this strange new reality.

Set Symbol: A 5-piece shield

Number of Cards in the Set: 145

Three-Letter Code: CON

Block: Alara

Notable Mechanics: Cycling, Devour, Domain, Exalted, Fear, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud, Unearth

 

Alara Reborn – released April 2009

Ajani lands on a different part of Alara and finds the combined armies of Naya and Jund warring for control. He is surprised to see Sarkhan involved in the combat. As they fight, Nicol Bolas emerges from the Maelstrom caused by the reunification, and begins to absorb its power in an attempt to regain the godlike powers he had before the Mending. Ajani recognises that this dragon is the architect of his despair, and in a desperate attempt to stop him, absorbs the tiny bit of mana that Bolas hasn’t, and uses it to banish him from the plane. In the aftermath of the war, he leaves his friend in charge of his pride and goes to search for Elspeth, who had planeswalked away to Dominaria.

Set Symbol: The 5-part gem fused together

Number of Cards in the Set: 145

Three-Letter Code: ARB

Block: Alara

Notable Mechanics: Cascade, Cycling, Devour, Exalted, Fear, Hybrid Mana, Protection, Shroud, Unearth

 

Magic 2010 [Core Set] – released July 2009

Set Symbol: M10

Number of Cards in the Set: 249

Three-Letter Code: M10

Notable Mechanics: Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

 

Zendikar – released October 2009

Zendikar is a land full of volatile mana. Strange natural phenomena called hedrons dot the landscape – none know their purpose – and an occurrence called the Roil causes the landscape to shift and change periodically, erupting in bursts of mana. Zendikar block introduced more planeswalkers as protagonists; Chandra Nalaar arrives on the plane, seeking the ruin sage Anowon. Jace Beleren, currently an agent of the Consortium, follows her – he has decoded a scroll she stole, which he recovered from her three years ago.

Set Symbol: A hedron

Number of Cards in the Set: 249

Three-Letter Code: ZEN

Block: Zendikar

Notable Mechanics: Intimidate, Kicker, Landfall, Landwalk, Protection

The original Zendikar packs had randomly inserted ‘Priceless Treasures’ – leftover cards such as the Power Nine and Dual Lands from Alpha, Beta and Unlimited print runs, to fit with the set’s treasure hunting theme and to boost pack sales. These cards had inflated massively in price thanks to the Reserved List, and Zendikar sold out fast.

 

Worldwake – released February 2010

Jace tracks Chandra and the sage to the Eye of Ugin, where the pair encounter Sarkhan, his mind twisted and controlled by Nicol Bolas. The three planeswalkers duel, Jace briefly allied with Chandra to defeat the mad Sarkhan. Unfortunately, their duel triggers reactions in the surrounding hedrons, and the Dragon Scroll’s magic removes the lock that was trapping the Eldrazi. Scores of the brood creatures descend upon the unwitting citizens of Zendikar.

Set Symbol: A hedron part-opened

Number of Cards in the Set: 145

Three-Letter Code: WWK

Block: Zendikar

Notable Mechanics: Kicker, Multikicker, Landfall, Landwalk, Protection, Shroud

 

Rise of the Eldrazi – released April 2010

Nissa Revane, a native planeswalker, is defending her home against the Eldrazi when Sorin Markov, an ancient vampire planeswalker, arrives. He instructs her to take him to the Eye, which she obeys; however, when Sorin tries to repair the lock, Nissa questions him and an accident causes the hedron keeping the Eldrazi Titans underground to smash. Sorin planeswalks away, leaving Nissa with the new, impossible threat. Gideon Jura arrives on the plane shortly after, in search of Chandra. He glimpses the Eldrazi Titan Emrakul in the distance; knowing that this is a fight he cannot win, he planeswalks to Ravnica, where he has heard there is a consortium of other planeswalkers that can help him.

Set Symbol: A hedron fully opened

Number of Cards in the Set: 248

Three-Letter Code: ROE

Block: Zendikar

Notable Mechanics: Annihilator, Landwalk, Level Up, Protection, Rebound, Totem Armor

 

Magic 2011 [Core Set] – released July 2010

Set Symbol: M11

Number of Cards in the Set: 249

Three-Letter Code: M11

Notable Mechanics: Landwalk, Protection

 

Scars of Mirrodin – released October 2010

We return to the metal world of Mirrodin. Since the events of Fifth Dawn, Glissa has become corrupted by the Phyrexian taint, which has spread across the plane. New Praetors have risen up, commanding armies of Phyrexians. Karn is nowhere to be found, and has not been seen since his involvement with the time rift over Tolaria. A native planeswalker, Koth, goes to Dominaria to seek help, and finds Elspeth Tirel and Venser; they return with him to Mirrodin.

Set Symbol: A hexplate, the symbol of Mirrans

Number of Cards in the Set: 249

Three-Letter Code: SOM

Block: Scars of Mirrodin

Notable Mechanics: Imprint, Infect, Intimidate, Landwalk, Metalcraft, Proliferate, Protection, Shroud

 

Mirrodin Beseiged – released February 2011

Karn reappears, but has been corrupted with the Phyrexian oil himself, and retreats down to the core of the plane where he is hailed by the invaders as the Father of Machines. The Mirrans despair as their forces are overwhelmed, and Koth and his allies must fight their way down to the core of the plane to cure Karn of the taint.

Set Symbol: The Mirran and Phyrexian symbols overlaid

Number of Cards in the Set: 155

Three-Letter Code: MBS

Block: Scars of Mirrodin

Notable Mechanics: Battle Cry, Imprint, Infect, Landwalk, Living Weapon, Metalcraft, Proliferate, Protection, Shroud

 

New Phyrexia – released May 2011

The war has been won. The Phyrexians control every area of Mirrodin, with the few remaining Mirran forces slowly being snuffed out – except in the domain of Urabrask, who is at odds with the other Praetors and allows safe passage to the Mirrans under his rule. The three planeswalkers journey to the centre of what is now New Phyrexia, and find Karn almost fully corrupted. Venser gives up his own life and transfers his spark to Karn, cleansing the golem, who joins Koth in the last, desperate attempt to take back his plane. Koth attempts to assassinate Elesh Norn with a powerful spellbomb before retreating alive into the furnace layers. Elspeth planeswalks away, convinced that the plane is lost, and her friends with it.

Set Symbol: The letter Phi, the Phyrexians’ mark

Number of Cards in the Set: 175

Three-Letter Code: NPH

Block: Scars of Mirrodin

Notable Mechanics: Imprint, Infect, Intimidate, Landwalk, Living Weapon, Metalcraft, Phyrexian Mana, Proliferate, Protection

 

Magic 2012 [Core Set] – released July 2011

Set Symbol: M12

Number of Cards in the Set: 249

Three-Letter Code: M12

Notable Mechanics: Bloodthirst, Intimidate, Landwalk, Protection

 

Innistrad – released September 2011

For the first time, we are introduced to Sorin’s home plane of Innistrad. It is a world that’s dark and full of terrors, and where the unwary will swiftly meet their deaths. Liliana has adopted it as her home world, tolerated by the vampire who rules it, and she seeks answers to a pact she made long ago. Currently, Innistrad is in despair, as its protector, the archangel Avacyn, Sorin’s own creation, is missing – nobody knows where she has gone, and without her protection, the horrors of the night are running rampant.

Set Symbol: Two stylized herons facing outward

Number of Cards in the Set: 264

Three-Letter Code: INN

Block: Innistrad

Notable Mechanics: Flashback, Intimidate, Morbid, Protection, Transform (double faced cards)

Innistrad block was the first set to showcase ‘double faced’ cards. These cards did not have a back, but instead two front faces, and would transform when conditions were met, similar to the Kamigawa flip cards. Many of them were werewolves. The mechanic was popular and has since been featured in Shadows Over Innistrad block, and the Magic Origins core set.

 

Dark Ascension – released February 2012

The dark creatures of Innistrad are beginning to overwhelm the human populations. Without their angel to protect them, they are swiftly losing hope. Liliana is searching for her demon, Griselbrand, to whom she owes a part of her soul; with her new acquisition, the Chain Veil, she hopes to defeat him and nullify the agreement. She discovers his location – the Helvault, a prison made of the moon’s silver – and that Avacyn, the world’s protector, is trapped in there as well.

Set Symbol: The Innistrad symbol inverted

Number of Cards in the Set: 158

Three-Letter Code: DKA

Block: Innistrad

Notable Mechanics: Fateful Hour, Flashback, Intimidate, Landwalk, Morbid, Protection, Transform (double faced cards), Undying

 

Avacyn Restored – released May 2012

Liliana, armed with this knowledge, tricks Thalia, one of the last remaining human commanders, into breaking open the Helvault with her magic sword. Avacyn and Griselbrand burst free from the vault, and Griselbrand is quickly cut down by Liliana. Avacyn rallies her angels and drives back the evil hordes that have preyed on her people, vowing to remove every demon from the plane and hope is once again restored to the people of Innistrad.

Set Symbol: Avacyn’s collar, the symbol of her church

Number of Cards in the Set: 244

Three-Letter Code: AVR

Block: Innistrad

Notable Mechanics: Intimidate, Landwalk, Miracle, Protection, Soulbond, Transform (double faced cards),  Undying

 

Magic 2013 [Core Set] – released July 2012

Set Symbol: M13

Number of Cards in the Set: 249

Three-Letter Code: M13

Notable Mechanics: Exalted, Intimidate, Landwalk, Protection

 

Return to Ravnica – released October 2012

The written Guildpact that was drawn up following the events of Dissension has done little to keep the peace on Ravnica. The rise of the Guildless, a rebel faction causing trouble on the streets, and the inter-guild rivalries are becoming problematic, and Jace Beleren, newly returned from Zendikar, works with Niv-Mizzet, leader of the Izzet, to find a solution. Gideon Jura arrives from Zendikar and learns of the Consortium. He starts to seek out Jace.

Set Symbol: The tip of a fountain pen

Number of Cards in the Set: 274

Three-Letter Code: RTR

Block: Return to Ravnica

Notable Mechanics: Detain, Landwalk, Overload, Populate, Scavenge, Unleash

 

Gatecrash – released February 2013

Jace discovers the Implicit Maze. It is a mechanic that was implemented as a failsafe to the original, magical Guildpact, should it ever dissolve. It manifested after the events of Dissension and now stands below the city. All ten guilds must send a runner to complete the maze at the same time, and the winner will receive immense power for his guild; the maze’s true purpose, though, is to create a new Guildpact.

Set Symbol: A pointed arch

Number of Cards in the Set: 249

Three-Letter Code: GTC

Block: Return to Ravnica

Notable Mechanics: Battalion, Bloodrush, Cipher, Evolve, Extort, Intimidate, Protection

 

Dragon’s Maze – released May 2013

The maze runners are chosen and they set off. Jace also runs the maze, not as an advocate of any guild but out of his own curiosity and instinct. When he arrives at the finish, he finds all ten guild runners fighting, and a failsafe called the Supreme Verdict, which if harmony could not be achieved, would be activated, and would destroy the guilds in their entirety. Jace uses his powers to combine the minds of all ten of the runners, allowing them to see each others’ thoughts and simultaneously preventing the Verdict from being activated. At this, Lavinia, the Azorius runner, declares Jace the new Living Guildpact – a mediator who can keep the peace and see things from every guild’s point of view. Peace on Ravnica is restored.

Set Symbol: The RTR and GTC symbols combined

Number of Cards in the Set: 156

Three-Letter Code: DGM

Block: Return to Ravnica

Notable Mechanics: Battalion, Bloodrush, Cipher, Detain, Evolve, Extort, Fuse, Landwalk, Overload, Populate, Protection, Scavenge, Split Cards, Unleash

 

Magic 2014 [Core Set] – released July 2013

Set Symbol: M14

Number of Cards in the Set: 249

Three-Letter Code: M14

Notable Mechanics: Intimidate, Landwalk, Protection

 

Theros – released September 2013

We land on the plane of Theros, a new world dominated by its pantheon of 15 gods. It is the home plane of Gideon Jura. Elspeth has come here after the events of Mirrodin, saddened by the loss of her friends. She encounters a hydra and defeats it, catching the notice of Heliod, leader of the gods. He strives to make her his champion. She meets Daxos of Meletis and they engage in a brief affair. Meanwhile, Xenagos, a satyr native to the plane, has his planeswalker spark ignite, and leaves to explore the Multiverse.

Set Symbol: Greek-style column and arches

Number of Cards in the Set: 249

Three-Letter Code: THS

Block: Theros

Notable Mechanics: Bestow, Devotion, Intimidate, Heroic, Monstrosity, Protection

 

Born of the Gods – released February 2014

Xenagos returns, and after his experiences beyond his plane, no longer believes in the power of the Theros gods he spent his life worshipping. He believes himself equal to them, and seeks to join their pantheon himself as the God of Revels. As he makes preparations, the barrier between Nyx (the land of the gods) and Theros wavers, and strange creatures of enchantment appear called the Nyxborn. The gods wage war on the mortal realm, keen to destroy Xenagos’s attempt at ascension for fear that he will succeed. Not long after, though, Nyx becomes full of strange beasts and Kruphix enacts the Silence, forcing the gods to withdraw to Nyx to sort out the mess. The celebration that follows their departure becomes Xenagos’s ascension ceremony, and he achieves his goal while the gods are distracted. Daxos is slain, and Elspeth is blamed for the ritual and outcast by Heliod.

Set Symbol: The horns of Xenagos

Number of Cards in the Set: 165

Three-Letter Code: BNG

Block: Theros

Notable Mechanics: Bestow, Devotion, Inspired, Intimidate, Heroic, Protection, Tribute

 

Journey into Nyx – released May 2014

Elspeth takes it upon herself to regain the gods’ favour and avenge Daxos. While they are embroiled in battle against Xenagos and against the strange beasts borne of his rise to power, she and her friend Ajani Goldmane, who has sought her out, hoping to convince her to come back and help him forge peace on Alara. He travels with her into Nyx, where Elspeth takes on Xenagos and defeats him, casting him back down to the mortal world. Heliod, terrified of the power that could destroy a god, fatally wounds Elspeth, and Ajani takes her back to Theros, swearing his revenge against Heliod. Elspeth dies, and her spirit is trapped within Nyx. Ajani leaves the plane.

Set Symbol: The column and the horns

Number of Cards in the Set: 165

Three-Letter Code: JOU

Block: Theros

Notable Mechanics: Bestow, Constellation, Heroic, Inspired, Intimidate, Monstrosity, Strive

 

Magic 2015 [Core Set] – released July 2014

Set Symbol: M15

Number of Cards in the Set: 259

Three-Letter Code: M15

Notable Mechanics: Convoke, Intimidate, Landwalk, Protection

 

Khans of Tarkir – released September 2014

We find ourselves on a new plane, Tarkir, ruled by five clans which each represent three colours of mana. The clans are each ruled by their khan, all of whom are fierce warriors and leaders. This is the home plane of Sarkhan Vol, who used to be a general in the Mardu Horde. He has returned here after being freed from Bolas’s control, but his mind is broken, and he does not know what to do other than seek a new draconic master. Dragons, though, died out on Tarkir centuries ago, so Sarkhan is left to wander aimlessly.

Set Symbol: A shield and two crossed scimitars

Number of Cards in the Set: 269

Three-Letter Code: KTK

Block: Khans of Tarkir

Notable Mechanics: Delve, Ferocious, Landwalk, Morph, Outlast, Protection, Raid

 

Fate Reforged – released January 2015

Sarkhan wanders into Jeskai lands and meets the khan, Narset, who tells him that she has had a vision of his arrival. He confides to her what Bolas told him – that Ugin died thousands of years ago. Narset tells him that Ugin is the soul of Tarkir, and without him, the plane has twisted irrevocably, and is not as it should be. They travel to Ugin’s Nexus, and are beset by Zurgo Helmsmasher. Narset is killed, and Sarkhan escapes into the Nexus. He arrives in the past, and successfully thwarts Bolas’s plan by saving Ugin’s life with a hedron he has carried with him since Zendikar.

Set Symbol: Mirrored stylized fangs

Number of Cards in the Set: 185

Three-Letter Code: FRF

Block: Khans of Tarkir

Notable Mechanics: Bolster, Dash, Delve, Ferocious, Hybrid Mana, Manifest

 

Dragons of Tarkir – released March 2015

Sarkhan vanishes from the past and appears on present-day Tarkir once more. Everything has changed; dragons soar through the skies, and the clans are ruled by dragonlords instead of khans. Though the humans he knew still exist, nobody has any memory of him. He travels to where he used the hedron and finds Ugin. Ugin is curious as to how he was saved by a hedron from Zendikar, so Sarkhan explains what has happened. Ugin surmises that he does not exist in the new timeline, but has created a paradox, because the new timeline exists because of him. Sarkhan accepts this and seeks out Narset, who is a planeswalker in this timeline, as her latent spark has ignited. He explains the alternate timeline to her and the events that occurred, and they set out to explore the new Tarkir together.

Set Symbol: A shield shaped like a dragon’s face

Number of Cards in the Set: 264

Three-Letter Code: DTK

Block: Khans of Tarkir

Notable Mechanics: Bolster, Dash, Exploit, Formidable, Megamorph, Protection, Rebound

 

Magic Origins [Core Set] – released July 2015

Though it is a core set, Magic Origins was slightly different, as it was due to be the last ever core set. As such, it has a story and theme to it, which the other core sets did not. It explores the origin stories of each of the main five planeswalkers which are later to form the Gatewatch.

Jace Beleren was born on Vryn, and bullied as a child despite his high intelligence and talent for magic. He showed signs of telepathy at an early age, and had a tutor, a sphinx named Alhammaret, hired by his father. He showed great promise and found he could control the thoughts of others with ease. However, when he tried reading Alhammaret’s mind as a young man, he discovered that the sphinx knew Jace was a planeswalker and had hidden that fact from him; in a fit of anger, he wiped his tutor’s mind. Suddenly realising what he’d done, he collapsed, his spark igniting. He arrived on Ravnica, and erased his own memory of the traumatic event, determined to start over fresh on the new plane.

Nissa Revane is an elf of the Joraga tribe born on Zendikar. She is an animist with a deep connection to the land. She experienced visions of the Roil, and set out to find out why. She followed the soul of Zendikar to Akoum, where she finally understood the horror that lurked beneath the surface of the land, and that the Roil was not a natural phenomenon but Zendikar’s cry for help; the plane was physically hurting from the Eldrazi. Experiencing the land’s pain ignited her spark and she planeswalked away to Lorwyn. She met other elves there, and wanted to learn their customs, but soon the Great Aurora happened, and she left to go back to Zendikar after seeing the darkness of Shadowmoor.

Chandra Nalaar is native to Kaladesh. She had a happy childhood with her parents, but magic is forbidden on her home plane due to the rules set down by the Consulate. When she began to show signs of being a mage, she was forced to hide it. Chandra, though, was wilful and stupid; after her parents tried everything they could to cure her, and eventually suggested her marrying someone as an attempt to settle the magic down, she set off an explosion in a fit of rage. The Consulate arrived at her village and believed them to be an entire group of fire mages, so they forced them into huts and let them burn alive. Chandra witnessed this, and gave herself up to save her family, but she watched them die before her spark ignited and she was whisked away to Regatha. There, she found her kin, joined the abbots of Keral Keep and learned to control her flames.

Liliana Vess is a lot older than she appears – she was born before the Mending. As a young girl, she was very privileged, being the daughter of a lord. She fell to misfortune when her beloved brother became sick, and she went out to find the root that would save him. Her father’s enemies had destroyed the groves where it grew. A mysterious figure appeared and told her to reanimate the roots – she did so, but the resulting tonic drove her brother mad. She was forced to kill him. This ignited her spark and she ended up on Innistrad. Sorin found and dueled her, and pronounced her too weak to be a threat. He told her she could stay as long as she was a civil guest. Liliana acquiesced and spent time honing her necromancy, swearing revenge on the mysterious Raven Man who had cost her brother his life.

Gideon Jura was born as Kytheon Iora on Theros. His father left and his mother died when he was young, so he grew up on the streets as part of a gang, of which he became the leader. They stole from the rich to survive and gave away what they didn’t need. Kytheon soon discovered his powers of hieromancy and his indestructibility. On one particular heist, they were caught and Kytheon sent to prison. When the prison was beseiged by troops of Erebos, Hixus, the warden, released all the prisoners willing to fight. Kytheon agreed, and surrounded once more by his irregulars he successfully repelled the threat, and then, having gained the favour of Heliod, used the god’s spear to kill one of Erebos’s titans. He was filled with hubris, though, and threw the spear once more at Erebos himself; the god deflected it and it killed all his irregulars. Beset with grief, Kytheon’s spark ignited, and he planeswalked to Bant, where he became Gideon Jura. He trained with the warriors of Bant, determined to make up for his arrogance, and spend the rest of his life defending the weak and the innocent.

Set Symbol: The planeswalker symbol under the sun

Number of Cards in the Set: 272

Three-Letter Code: ORI

Notable Mechanics: Protection, Renown, Spell Mastery, Transform (double faced cards)

 

From this point on, all sets are currently legal in Standard. 

 

Battle for Zendikar – released October 2015

Gideon succeeds in recruiting Jace’s help on Ravnica, and the blue mage comes with him back to Zendikar to find it already heavily beseiged. While Gideon rallies a force at Sea Gate along with the merfolk planeswalker Kiora and her forces, Jace travels to the Eye and finds Ugin, attempting to find out how the Titans might be locked up again. Ugin warns Jace not to kill them, but he ignores the dragon’s words. Nissa Revane is drawn to their camp during the assault and immediately recognises them as planeswalkers. She tells them the purpose of the hedrons, and they fight Ulamog, attempting and failing to imprison him. Chandra Nalaar, whom they had attempted to persuade to help them, arrives in time to see this, and pledges herself to the cause, even as the situation looks bleak. Just as the last of Kiora’s forces are defeated, Kozilek rises from the ground.

Set Symbol: A broken hedron

Number of Cards in the Set: 274

Three-Letter Code: BFZ

Block: Battle for Zendikar

Notable Mechanics: Awaken, Converge, Devoid, Ingest, Landfall, Rally

Battle for Zendikar block was the first time we returned to Zendikar since the Priceless Treasures. In the same vein, Wizards inserted ‘Expedition’ cards into the packs – highly valuable foil lands, not legal in Standard but for collectors only. The idea proved popular again, and they capitalised on this, continuing the ‘Expedition’ theme in Kaladesh block and Amonkhet block.

 

Oath of the Gatewatch – released January 2016

Facing two Eldrazi Titans, the situation looks bleak. The demon planeswalker Ob Nixilis, having regained his spark, attempts to stop them but is beaten. Jace uses the knowledge he obtained from Ugin to work with Nissa. Gideon and his forces draw them in, then the two mages use the power of the leylines to draw the Titans out of the Blind Eternities, and Chandra blasts them with fire. The four planeswalkers swear an oath to keep watch on the Multiverse and help wherever they are needed. Ugin appears and berates them for killing the Titans, warning that there may be implications in the Multiverse, before leaving angrily. Jace resolves to track down Emrakul, the last missing Titan, who has escaped through the Blind Eternities.

Set Symbol: Kozilek’s blades

Number of Cards in the Set: 184

Three-Letter Code: OGW

Block: Battle for Zendikar

Notable Mechanics: Cohort, Devoid, Landfall, Support, Surge

In Oath of the Gatewatch, a new basic land type was added – Wastes – that taps purely for colourless mana. Colourless mana gained a new symbol, and previous cards were errata’d. Cards that required colourless mana to cast now require ‘generic’ mana, which can be generated by any coloured source, and ‘colourless’ refers specifically to mana generated by colourless sources. It can no longer be generated by regular basic lands.

 

Shadows Over Innistrad – released April 2016

Jace arrives on Innistrad, where he believes Emrakul may have fled to. A strange madness seems to have taken hold of its inhabitants, including its once-protector Avacyn, who has begun slaughtering humans instead of defending them. He contacts Liliana, as the two have a past romantic history and he believes she may help him. She points him to Markov Manor, but refuses to go there herself, afraid of Sorin’s wrath. Sorin, meanwhile, finds Avacyn and regrettably had to end her existence, as she has succumbed to the madness. He sets his sights on Nahiri – a planeswalker he trapped in the Helvault when it was made thousands of years previously. She was released with Avacyn and Griselbrand and is seeking her revenge.

Set Symbol: Avacyn’s collar inverted

Number of Cards in the Set: 297

Three-Letter Code: SOI

Block: Shadows Over Innistrad

Notable Mechanics: Delirium, Investigate, Madness, Skulk, Transform (double faced cards)

 

Eldritch Moon – released July 2016

Jace encounters Tamiyo, a moonfolk planeswalker from Kamigawa, at Markov Manor. She has been living on Innistrad studying its moon for years. Together, they discover the source of the madness and travel to the Nephalia Drownyard, where a series of hedrons have been placed. Emrakul has been lured to the plane deliberately by Nahiri, as revenge against Sorin for leaving her own plane, Zendikar, to die. Emrakul begins to wreak destruction on the city of Gavony, but Liliana shows up at the last minute with an army of the dead and fends her off. Tamiyo and Jace work together to trap Emrakul inside Innistrad’s silver moon like a hedron, ending the madness. Liliana agrees to come with Jace and join the Gatewatch. Meanwhile, Nahiri confronts Sorin, the two duel and Sorin is left alive but trapped in stone, unable to planeswalk.

Set Symbol: Emrakul’s shadow

Number of Cards in the Set: 205

Three-Letter Code: EMN

Block: Shadows Over Innistrad

Notable Mechanics: Delirium, Emerge, Escalate, Madness, Meld, Protection, Skulk, Transform (double faced cards)

 

Kaladesh – released September 2016

The Gatewatch are approached by a man from the Consulate on Kaladesh hoping they will aid to suppress a rebellion. They arrive on the plane and quickly discover that all is not as it seems. The Inventor’s Fair is coming up, and while the Consulate assures them they are there for security purposes, Chandra finds it hard to trust them, and is determined to seek the truth. They meet a rebel, Oviya Pashiri, who tells them that the Consulate regulate the aether on the plane, which is the source of all power, despite it flowing freely in the sky. Chandra begs her friends to help her take down the Consulate. Liliana discovers that Tezzeret, an agent of Nicol Bolas, is in charge of the Fair.

Set Symbol: Stylized vines

Number of Cards in the Set: 264

Three-Letter Code: KLD

Block: Kaladesh

Notable Mechanics: Crew, Fabricate, Energy Counters, Vehicles

 

Aether Revolt – released January 2017

Chandra and Oviya Pashiri are captured by the Consulate and left in a poison trap. They are freed by Ajani, who has been on Kaladesh for a while. At the Inventor’s Fair, the Gatewatch appear and fight Tezzeret. Although they are victorious, the Consulate vanish with all the inventions. They siege the headquarters to retrieve them, as Jace and Liliana realise the danger; one of the inventions was a Planar Portal, and if Tezzeret were to activate it, it would be able to transport objects and people across planes. Jace takes down the Consulate skyship while Liliana fights Tezzeret; Chandra and Gideon, with the help of Chandra’s mother Pia who she thought was dead, create a device which destroys the portal. Tezzeret, defeated, planeswalks away. Ajani does not want to get involved with Bolas again, remembering his previous encounter, and though he joins the Gatewatch, he does not follow them. After an emotional reunion, Chandra follows the Gatewatch and leaves Pia behind to pick up the pieces of the Consulate and form a new government.

Set Symbol: Stylized flower

Number of Cards in the Set: 184

Three-Letter Code: AER

Block: Kaladesh

Notable Mechanics: Crew, Improvise, Revolt, Energy Counters, Vehicles

 

Amonkhet – released April 2017

The Gatewatch arrive on Amonkhet, a plane with another pantheon of gods, and all dedicated to the return of the God-Pharaoh, whom they quickly learn is Bolas. Nothing on the plane can die – everything returns, and while champions fight in the trials to be proven worthy, mummies made of failed initiates do all the manual labour and serving work around the city. Nissa hears the land crying out, and from listening to the leylines she discovers that Bolas arrived in the past and corrupted the plane with the never ending death cycle, as well as removing three of the gods and poisoning the minds of the remaining five. Liliana is anxious, as she knows one of her remaining two demonic masters are here, and she hopes her friends will aid her in defeating him. Gideon is reminded of his past by the presence of gods, and has a harrowing encounter with Hazoret, who reminds him that he is not immortal, and makes him bleed for the first time in his life.

Set Symbol: Pyramid with a floating summit

Number of Cards in the Set: 269

Three-Letter Code: AKH

Block: Amonkhet

Notable Mechanics: Aftermath, Cycling, Embalm, Exert, Split Cards

 

Hour of Devastation – upcoming

Set Symbol: Nicol Bolas’s horns

Number of Cards in the Set: 184

Three-Letter Code: HOU

Block: Amonkhet

Notable Mechanics: Unknown

 

Ixalan – upcoming

Set Symbol: Unknown

Number of Cards in the Set: Unknown

Three-Letter Code: Unknown

Block: Ixalan

Notable Mechanics: Unknown

 

The below mechanics are what is called Evergreen, and have featured in every set since their creation. I have not included them individually as they are ubiquitous, but instead listed them here; you can safely presume that every set released after the mechanic’s ‘keyword’ date will include it. Some are activated or static abilities of cards, and others are actions the player takes during a game.

Activate – First seen in Alpha (Mechanic) // Sixth Edition (Keyword)

Attach – First seen in Mirrodin

Cast – First seen in Alpha

Counter – First seen in Alpha

Create –  First seen in Alpha (Mechanic) // Kaladesh (Keyword)

DeathtouchFirst seen in Future Sight

DefenderFirst seen in Alpha

Destroy – First seen in Alpha

Discard – First seen in Alpha

Double StrikeFirst seen in Legions

EnchantFirst seen in Alpha

EquipFirst seen in Mirrodin

Fight – First seen in Visions (Mechanic) // Innistrad (Keyword)

First StrikeFirst seen in Alpha

FlashFirst seen in Time Spiral

FlyingFirst seen in Alpha

HasteFirst seen in Alpha (Mechanic) // Sixth Edition (Keyword)

HexproofFirst seen in Portal Three Kingdoms (Mechanic) // Magic 2012 (Keyword), replacing Shroud as Evergreen

IndestructibleFirst seen in Alpha (Mechanic) // Darksteel (Keyword)

LifelinkFirst seen in Mirrodin (Mechanic) // Future Sight (Keyword)

MenaceFirst seen in Fallen Empires (Mechanic) // Magic Origins (Keyword)

Play – First seen in Alpha

ProwessFirst seen in Khans of Tarkir

ReachFirst seen in Alpha (Mechanic) // Future Sight (Keyword)

Reveal – First seen in Sixth Edition

RegenerateFirst seen in Alpha (Mechanic) // Removed as Evergeen in Oath of the Gatewatch

Sacrifice –  First seen in Alpha (Mechanic) // Revised (Keyword)

Scry – First seen in Fifth Dawn

Search – First seen in Alpha

Shuffle – First seen in Alpha

Tap/Untap –  First seen in Alpha (Mechanic) // Revised (Symbol – Tap) // Eventide (Symbol – Untap)

TrampleFirst seen in Alpha

Vigilance – First seen in Alpha (Mechanic) // Champions of Kamigawa (Keyword)

 

This article will be updated on the release of every new Magic: the Gathering set. It might be worth bookmarking this page.

You might also be interested in: A Comprehensive Reference Guide to the MTG Banned and Restricted List

Do you have any questions? If so then please do let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Kerry Meyerhoff

A Comprehensive Reference Guide To Every Magic: The Gathering Set (Inc. Lore, Mechanics, Etc), by Kerry Meyerhoff
This article constitutes a short summary of each Magic expansion from the ex-Standard-legal releases, which will effectively provide a list to newer players of what's currently out, what came before, and the order it came out in (and crucially, which sets are the main product), and for anyone who's interested to know, a little about the story behind each set, right up to where we find ourselves in the current release.

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