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Magic the Gathering Symbols
In this part 2 of the Magic the Gathering Symbols and Sets article series, I cover the Odyssey block all the way to the present, in the upcoming Scars of Mirrodin. Read on to find a few bits of trivia for each set, links to more in-depth set overviews, and pictures of each Magic the Gathering symbol for each set.
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Starting a new plotline, the Odyssey block follows the characters Kamahl, Chainer, and Jeska as they interact with Laquatus, Aboshan, Seton, and others. It takes place roughly 100 years after the events of Apocalypse, on a remote continent. The plot revolves around a mythical artifact known as the Mirari, which reportedly grants it's user their wishes, but also drives them mad.
Odyssey - Beginning a new plotline entirely, Odyssey takes the game in a whole new direction, but still stays true to the feel of the game. The protagonist, Kamahl, is red-aligned. The antagonist is blue-aligned, to keep the balance of colors. It also explores themes in black about corrupted capitalism and the glory of pit fighting. All colors in the set interact heavily with the graveyard, making it a valuable resource. The keywords that reflect this are Flashback, which allows you to play a card from the graveyard for a certain cost, and Threshold, which activates certain abilities when there are seven or more cards in the graveyard. The set symbol for Odyssey is the Mirari, an orb on a helix.
Torment - A first for Magic, Torment focuses on one color above the others, with a heavy reliance on black. It follows Chainer, the dementia summoner of the cabal, as she finds the Mirari and gains power. Black's influence is felt everywhere; tainted lands can only be tapped if you control a swamp, but offer either black or another color. Some cards get better the more swamps you control. "Posessed" creatures have a threshold ability that turns them black. Foremost, though, is Madness; an ability that allows you to play a card while it is being discarded, usually for a cheaper cost than usual. Torment's set symbol is an oroboros.
Judgement - Mirroring Torment's color skew, Judgement focuses on black's enemy colors, green and white, and has only sixteen black cards in the entire set. In the climax of the war over the Mirari, the set introduces some interesting cards. The "Wishes" are cards that allow the player to bring forth a card they own that's not in their deck, pulling it from outside of the game itself. It also introduced the Incarnations, which are creatures that give effects to all other creatures you control when they're in the graveyard. Fittingly, Judgement's set symbol is a set of scales.
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Following the plot of Odyssey as it ended in Judgement, Onslaught deals heavily with creature types, a precursor to the tribal mechanic. K amahl becomes the guardian of the forest and becomes green-aligned, while his sister Jeska becomes Phage the Untouchable, a black-aligned pit fighter.
Onslaught - Among the events above, Ixidor and his partner Nivea fight in the pits and Nivea is killed by Phage. Ixidor learns the art of reality sculpting in his grief, and creates an angel in Nivea's image. This angel is the famous Akroma, angel of Wrath. The fight between Akroma and Phage leads Kamahl to an alliance with the Cabal to stop the struggle. Among other things, Onslaught brought back cycling from the Urza's block, and introduced the new Morph mechanic. Morph allowed a player to play a creature face-down as a straight 2/2 with no abilities. A cost could then be paid at any time to flip the creature face-up. Onslaught's set symbol is an artist's depiction of a Morph creature.
Legions - The first set in Magic history to ignore spell cards completely, Legions was made up entirely of creatures. This plays heavily on the tribal intent of the block, and allowed Magic to bring back the fan-favorite creature type, the Slivers. The abilities include amplify, which allowed you to reveal cards in your hand to boost the power of a creature. Provoke allows an attacking creature to choose a blocker for itself, though the defender can then assign additional blockers. It's also the first appearance of Double Strike, in which a creature does both first strike and regular damage. Boosting morph, Legions included cards with abilities that were triggered by morphing creatures. As for plot, Ixidor is killed, but Akroma and Phage continue their battle, and in a climactic final fight they merge into one being, Karona th e False God. Legions' set symbol is a shield with crossed spears.
Scourge - Much like the previous war over the Mirari, factions begin to war over the right to claim Karona as their god. Meanwhile the Mirari continues to pollute the continent, causing various races to evolve to become more powerful, or merge with their weapons or ideals to grow. Meanwhile Jeska is eventually freed from Karona by Karn, who brings her to the plane of Argentum, which he created. Jeska is a planeswalker, and Karn asks her to travel the multiverse with him, leaving his guardian Memnarch in charge of his plane. Mechanically, Scourge introduced Storm cards, which copy themselves for the number of spells cast previously in the turn. It also included a variant on Cycling, called Landcycling, in which you cycle a card to draw a land. Scourge's set symbol is a dragon's head.
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Originally the plane of Argentum, created by Karn the Silver Golem, Mirrodin went to hell when he left. The guardian he set in charge, Memnarch, grew power-mad. The world of Mirrodin is made primarily of artifacts, and is orbited by four moons (or suns, as some cards reference them.) These moons represent Red, Black, White, and Blue mana. Green is absent, until one of the characters becomes the conduit for it's return. The five main parts of the world are the goblin-infested Oxidda Chain of mountains, the elf-home Tangle, the zombie-swarmed Mephidross Swamp, the Vedalken's Home in the Quicksilver Sea, and the leonin tribes of the Razorgrass Fiel d.
Mirrodin - The first set in the Mirrodin block, the plane of Argentum was renamed to Mirrodin, after the Mirari. Memnarch was left in charge and is responsible for the name change, as well as most of the events in the block. Mirrodin brings a lot of changes to the game, including a whole new card design, making artifacts almost white in color, compared to the brown they used to be. It's a shift away from old dusty tomes and fragile clockwork, and towards polished and deadly machines. Mirrodin introduced a cycle of lands that were also artifacts, which played in with the Affinity mechanic. Affinity reduced the cost of a spell per how many artifacts are under your control. Imprint was a mechanic where you exile a card when another comes into play, giving that card either special effects or the ability to function. Spells with Entwine had two effects you could choose from, and a cost to pay if you wished to play them both. Mirrodin is also the origin of the Equipment subtype of artifacts. Mirrodin's set symbol is the Sword of Kaldra, an avatar created when three artifacts are brought together.
Darksteel - This set has the honor of having the first card banned since Masques, the Skullclamp, a powerful card-drawing engine. Darksteel follows the plot of Glissa Sunseeker as she hunts down the machines that killed her family, visiting each area of Mirrodin in turn. Darksteel introduced three new mechanics; Indestructible, Charge counters, and Moduar. Modular creatures were 0/0 and came into play with +1/+1 counters on them, and when they die, the counters can be moved to another creature. Charge counters were just regular counters put on an artifact, which would be spent for some effects or made other effects more powerful. Indestructible means t he permanent can't be destroyed and for creatures lethal damage doesn't kill it. The only way to kill indestructible creatures is to reduce their toughness to 0, via -1/-1 counters. Darksteel's symbol is the Shield of Kaldra.
Fifth Dawn - Fifth Dawn further modifies the artifact card design, with the original change making them look too much like White cards. They're now closer to silver. Fifth Dawn's plot centers around the rebirth of the Green Sun, long absent from the plane. It's primary new mechanic, sunburst, reflects that. Sunburst cards get +1/+1 counters or charge counters, depending on if it's a creature, for each color of mana used to play it. Fifth Dawn also keyworded Scry, which is the "look at the top X cards of your library and put any number of them on the bottom of your library in any order, and the rest on top in any order" mechanic. This set's symbol is the Helm of Kaldra.
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Kamigawa is a new focus for Magic the Gathering, for the first time ever heavily using Japanese mythology as a source, rather than traditional western ideas. This is reflected in the use of terms like Samurai and Ninja, as well as the design of the dragons and spirits, called Kami. The set is about the rebellion of the spirits, and their war on mortals. The set has a vastly large number of legendary cards, with Champions alone having over 80.
Champions of Kamigawa - Champions introduced many new mechanics. It labeled many spells as "Arcane", as in "Instant - Arcane". Certain other spells had a cost to "Splice onto Arcane" meaning to pay the cost and play the spell without using the card when you play an arcane spell. The soulshift mechanic appeared on spirits, allowing them to bring a spirit with a certain cost from the graveyard to play when they die. Bushido was an ability that samurai had, giving them a certain boost in power when they block or are blocked. Some cards, called Flip cards, have two sets of text, one upside down. When certain conditions are met, the card flips, changing it's name, text, power and toughness, and so on. Champions also changed the "wall" creature type t o be a normal creature, and eratta'd all walls to have Defender. Champions' set symbol is a torii gate from Shinto.
Betrayers of Kamigawa - Betrayers continues the plot of the spirit rebellion from the first set, adding Ninja and their ability, Ninjutsu. Ninjutsu was a cost to pay to put a card from hand into play tapped and attacking, at the additional cost of returning an attacking creature. A cycle of cards also had the Offering mechanic, allowing you to sacrifice creatures of a cert ain type to call into being the powerful patron creature. Certain other cards used Ki counters, which worked much like Charge counters. Betrayers' set symbol is a shuriken.
Saviors of Kamigawa - Saviors has the first card without a mana cost, making it unplayable except with it's splice mechanic. Plotwise, it covers the end of the spirit war. Sweep cards got more powerful the more lands you returned to your hand. Channel is similar to cycling, in which a cost is paid and the card discarded to produce an effect. Epic cards were powerful spells that prevented you from casting any other spells for the rest of the game; in exchange, you're able to copy the Epic spell every turn. Saviors' set symbol is a lantern.
Did you know Magic the Gathering has a plot? That each set has a symbol, and each symbol has a meaning in that plot? Well, whether you knew that or not, this article will explain each set and it's symbol. Check back often for updates!