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In this last part of the set symbols article series, I cover Zendikar, Worldwake, Rise of the Eldrazi, Scars of Mirrodin, and Mirrodin Besieged. I'll also give you what hints I know of the sets even further in the future; so far all they have are code names. But first, time for a little something different. Two "blocks" that were passed over earlier. One block is famous for being a joke, while the other is famous for being so newbie-friendly as to be almost boring. Which two? The Un-sets and the Portal sets, of course.
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Unglued and Unhinged
Unglued and Unhinged are both ridiculous joke sets. They have no plot, their keywords are made for game-breaking, and they're not meant to be played in any serious setting. Together, they are awesome.
Unglued is full of jokes. Every card has a word at the bottom that, in the right order, the entire set spells a paragraph of card names that didn't make it. Several flavor texts form a limerick. Most cards are references to scenes famous among players, or are overpowered broken items, and cards that were cut for power or rules reasons.
While Unglued was not a huge success, it's full-art basic lands were the inspiration for the full-art lands in Zendikar. It did well enough to spawn Unhinged, the second in the "block", at least. Unhinged continues the trend of the first set, comedy gold and ridiculous cards. Cards that tap for infinite mana, cards that cost half mana, dealing damage in the form of half a life point at a time, and so on. Just like Unglued, it had a list of words that formed the cards that got cut, even from the joke set.
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Portal was a trio of sets, published in 1997, 1998, and 1999, geared to getting new players to join the game. Free of many of the more complicated rules interactions, Portal cards featured symbols next to power and toughness, as well as a lot of extra rules text on cards, explaining even the most basic keywords in easy language.
Portal - First of the starter sets, Portal made a lot of simplificat ions to the rules that aren't seen elsewhere. It calls blockers interceptors, it calls the graveyard the discard pile, and it calls the library the deck. Among other things, it includes no instants, only sorceries.
Portal Second Age - Second of the three starter sets, and it again left out instant cards. It labeled creatures as "Creature - type" as opposed to earlier summon types. It had all the same "simplifications" as Portal, which may have made the game easier to understand, but could also have the effect of a new player not knowing what some things are; Instants, for example.
Portal Three Kingdoms - last of the Portal sets, three kingdoms was primarily released in asian markets, including chinese. It had a limited run in english, but wasn't designed for english audiences.
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The Zendikar block takes place on a plane where the world itself is a violent and unpredictable entity. Forests can spring up over night, and mountains can crumble on top of civilisations. Scattered around the world are mysterioius hedrons that, as it is revealed, are the building blocks of an ancient and powerful race called the Eldrazi. The Eldrazi were once contained by three planeswalkers, but were being released once more by the machinations of Nicol Bolas, for reasons unknown. The Eldrazi take calls from Cthulhu mythos, and are beasts from beyond mana, aligned to colorless, but not artifacts. All of them are amazingly expensive and amazingly powerful.
Zendikar - This set revolves around lands, and abandons the gold cards of previous sets, with every card being mono-colored. The set is large, with over 200 cards, rather than the smaller sets like Lorwyn. To promote the "adventure world" feel of the set, certain "priceless" cards were packaged, including some banned cards Wizards had claimed never to reprint. Zendikar's set keywords revolve around this setting. Ally is a new creature type, that triggers abilities when other allies enter play. Intimidate is basically Fear, only works with any color instead of just black. Landfall is an ability that triggers when a land is put into play. Quests are enchantments that gain counters as certain triggers are met, and when they reach a certain number of them, trigger a new ability. Finally, traps are spells that can be played for low cost or free if certain conditions are met. Zendikar's symbol is a hedron.
Worldwake - Zendikar's themes were continued in Worldwake, as the hedrons begin to activate, and the world prepares for the return of the Eldrazi. It includes more allies, traps, quests, landfall abilities, and so forth. It does include Multikicker, which is the old-school kicker ability, only you can pay it as many times as you want and trigger it's ability for every one. It includes the planeswalker Jace, the Mind Sculptor, the only planeswalker with four abilities. Worldwake's symbol is a hedron beginning to open.
Rise of the Eldrazi - Rise of the Eldrazi is the final awakening of the colorless god-beings, cards so powerful that merely the act of attacking causes the defender to sacrifice permanents. ROE introduced the Level Up mechanic, which small cards had a cost they could pay to become larger. Rebound spells are cast, then exiled, then are played for free the next turn and resolve into the graveyard. Totem Armor were auras that, when the attached creature died, bounced the creature back into play with only the aura sacrificed. Meanwhile the Eldrazi's signature, Annihilator, is a number of permanents that are sacrificed whenever that creature attacks. ROE's set symbol is a fully opened hedron.
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Scars of Mirrodin Block
Now that Wizards has established several planes, characters, and plotlines, it's time to tie them all together. The Scars of Mirrodin set is the first set since the Mending to return to an established plane, and with good reason; the Phyrexians have begun an invasion of Mirrodin, with a slow corrupting oi l. The invasion is happening again, and there's no one around to stop it.
Scars of Mirrodin - Scars introduces a new planeswalker, Koth, as well as bringing Venser from the past into the present as a force to be considered. The primary mechanic of the Phyrexians is Infect; which deals damage in the form of wither, to creatures, or in the form of poison counters to players. Meanwhile the Mirrans center around Metalcraft, an ability that makes them better if you control three or more artifacts. Proliferate is a mechanic that works for both sides; when you proliferate, you choose a number of creatures and players with counters on them, and add one of that type of counter. It's set symbol is the symbol of the Mirrans.
Mirrodin Besieged - is the middle set of the Scars block. It's tagline is Steel yourself for war. It adds one more planeswalker to the mix; Tezzeret, now blue-black. It continues the work of the Phyrexians on Mirrodin, and reveals that Mirrodin's creator is trapped in the center of the planet and is infected by the Phyrexians! It introduces a new type of Equipment called a Living Weapon, that comes into pay already equipped to a 0/0 creature. It also brings into play the Battle Cry mechanic, which boosts the power of all your attacking creatures. Wonderful for red and white rushing. Mirrodin Besieged's symbol is the Mirran and Phyrexian symbols superimposed.
New Phyrexia - is the final set in the Scars block. It adds another new planeswalker to the mix; the colorless Karn, broken free of Phyrexian rule and traveling through time on your side. New Phyrexia retains the keywords from the previous sets and brings back Imprint, as well as introducing a new type of mana; Phyrexian mana! This mana is colored and can be paid with either one mana of the relevant color, OR with a payment of 2 life! This allows certain cards to exist at discounted cost or even free!
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!