Set

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A set in Magic: The Gathering is a pool of cards released together and designed for the same play environment. Cards in a set can be obtained either randomly through booster packs, or in box sets that have a fixed selection of cards. An expansion symbol and, more recently, a three-character abbreviation is printed on each card to identify the set it belongs to.[1]

Expansions are sets that feature the latest Standard-legal cards and mechanics. The most recently released expansions form a large part of the game's Constructed and Limited environments. Each expansion has a theme running through the gameplay and flavor of its cards. Expansions are organized into blocks according to their theme and release date. The newest expansion is Archenemy: Nicol Bolas.

Expansion sets[edit | edit source]

Expansions are the focal point of Magic, especially its primary gameplay format, Standard. Standard annually rotates out older sets in favor of newer ones, putting less emphasis on legacy cards. With the discontinuation of the core sets in 2015, expansion sets now make up most of the card pool in Standard.

Most Magic expansions are grouped into blocks, which carry an overarching theme across two or three sets. A large expansion establishes each block's setting and mechanics, followed by one or two set(s) that develop on the block's themes.[2] Under the current system, referred to the "Two-Block Paradigm," Wizards of the Coast produces two blocks per year. Each block has two sets, allowing a new expansion every calendar season.[3]

History[edit | edit source]

The game's first expansions, from Arabian Nights (1993) to Homelands (1995), were independent releases as they came out before the introduction of blocks. Mirage block established a convention of making expansions in blocks of three, one block per year. This practice would remain the default for Magic from 1996-2014. Exceptions were Coldsnap (2006), an extra summer expansion that was retconned into Ice Age block; and Lorwyn–Shadowmoor block (2007-08), two mini-blocks of two sets apiece.[4]

The latter's structure was adopted into the "Two Block Paradigm," the block structure effective since Magic Origins (2015). Under this system, Wizards eliminated the core set to allow them to make four expansion sets each year. These are divided into two blocks annually: one including the autumn and winter sets, and a second including the spring and summer sets.

Large and small expansions[edit | edit source]

A large expansion is one with more than 240 cards, while a small expansion has 200 or fewer. The typical block structure begins with a large set, followed by small set(s) in a supporting role. However, the second or third set can also grow into a large set as needed by R&D.[note 1][4] Historically (under the three-set block formula) this has been due to a need for the third set to expand on the block's existing themes while also having its own unique flavor and mechanics.[2][3]

The exact number of cards in a set has varied widely over the years, especially those from before the block structure was well defined. Mirage block through Onslaught block established a convention of 350 cards in the first set, and 143 cards in each of the second and third sets. This changed with Mirrodin block, which reduced the size difference between the large and small expansions by shifting some uncommons and rares from the former into the latter.[5] The new custom (306 large, 165 small) continued until Coldsnap.

Time Spiral block increased the size of its expansions to accommodate its timeshifted cards. The Standard card pool consisting of Time Spiral, Lorwyn, and Shadowmoor blocks was the largest in Magic history. Following this, feedback regarding the number of cards printed annually caused Wizards to cut back the size of sets.[6][7]

Beginning in the fall of 2015, there were two large expansions released each year, one in the fall and one in the spring. This is called the Two-Block Paradigm by Mark Rosewater.[3] The Standard play format rotates with the release of each large expansion, rather than just once a year as had been the case since 1997. In this new structure, core sets were eliminated. After the introduction of the Two-Block Paradigm, the second set of a two-expansion block will be usually small (but not always). To facilitate the new draft structure (2 boosters of the second set / 1 of the first set) the average size for a small expansion went up to around 184.[8][9][10]

The Two-Block Paradigm proved to be unsuccesful in some cases. The demise of the block structure and small expansions was announced by Rosewater on June 12, 2017.[11] From 2018 on, three large standalone sets would be released each year (spring, autumn and winter), supplemented by a smaller revamped core set in the summer. This was called the Three-and-One Model.

Theme Decks[edit | edit source]

Preconstructed theme decks are released in fixed box sets. They were later replaced with planeswalker decks.[12]

Core sets[edit | edit source]

Core sets form the base set of cards for tournament play and rotations. [13] After the Limited Edition, all core sets through 10th Edition consisted solely of reprinted cards; as of Magic 2010 they feature new cards beside reprints. Following Magic Origins, the core sets were discontinued to allow room for four expansions annually under the Two Block Paradigm.[14] This was reversed with the introduction of the Three-and-One Model.[11]

Standalone sets[edit | edit source]

A standalone set is a set that is designed to be played by itself. Ice Age, Mirage and Tempest were all marketed as such. [15] The concept became outdated when the block structure was improved upon, but was reinvented with the Three-and-One Model.

Supplemental sets[edit | edit source]

Supplemental sets are products not intended for Standard environments. They usually introduce new casual game variants, often with oversized cards. Some are sold in box sets, others in booster packs.

Innovation products[edit | edit source]

Like Conspiracy and Planechase products, Archenemy sets take the "Innovation Product" slot in Wizards of the Coast's annual release schedule.[17]

Portal and Starter[edit | edit source]

Portal and Portal Second Age were entry-level products that used a simplified form of Magic. Portal Three Kingdoms was an adaptation of the series for the Asian market, based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Starter was another attempt, after the Portal series, to ease new players into the game.

These were eventually replaced with intro pack, planeswalker decks, and Deck Builder's Toolkits to accommodate starter-level players.[18]

Commemorative sets[edit | edit source]

Commemorative sets are non-tournament-legal, gold-bordered sets that honor and celebrate certain sets or decks.

Compilation sets[edit | edit source]

Compilation sets are reprint sets distributed in booster packs. Compilation sets are also considered to be supplemental sets. [19]

Rating system[edit | edit source]

The new rating system

A rating system for complexity in the line of sets was introduced with Fifth Edition, Tempest and Portal Second Age, (1997-1998). These ratings stopped appearing on packaging with the release of Lorwyn (2007).

Starter-level sets[edit | edit source]

Starter level

Starter-level sets were sets attempting the lowest possible level of Magic mechanical complexity. Starter-level sets were aimed to introduce, and teach, prospective and newer players to the game. They have been discontinued for awhile as they did not fulfill this purpose, but have been brought back recently in the form of Planeswalker decks.


Advanced-level sets[edit | edit source]

Advanced level

Advanced-level sets are the core sets of the game.



Expert-level sets[edit | edit source]

Expert level

Expert-level sets are sets that are generally of the highest level of Magic thematic and mechanical complexity. Expert-level sets are all expansion sets.


List of Magic expansions and sets[edit | edit source]

The following is a chronological list of all Magic: The Gathering expansions and sets released thus far.

Released Set Symbol Code Type Notes
1993-08 Alpha (Limited Edition) LEA (A) Core set Core set #1 (1st printing); Cards do not show the expansion symbol.
1993-10 Beta (Limited Edition) LEB (B) Core set Core set #1 (2nd printing); Cards do not show the expansion symbol.
1993-12 Unlimited Edition 2ED (U) Core set Core set #2; Cards do not show the expansion symbol.
1993-12 Arabian Nights ARN (AN) Expansion set 1st (non-block) expansion
1994-03 Antiquities ATQ (AQ) Expansion set 2nd (non-block) expansion
1994-04 Revised Edition 3ED (RV) Core set Core set #3; Cards do not show the expansion symbol.
1994-06 Legends LEG (LE) Expansion set 3rd (non-block) expansion
1994-08 The Dark DRK (DK) Expansion set 4th (non-block) expansion
1994-11 Fallen Empires FEM (FE) Expansion set 5th (non-block) expansion
1995-05 4th Edition 4ED (4E) Core set Core set #4; Cards do not show the expansion symbol.
1995-06 Ice Age ICE (IA) Expansion set 6th expansion
1995-07 Chronicles CHR (CH) Compilation set
1995-08 Renaissance Compilation set
1995-10 Homelands HML (HL) Expansion set 7th (non-block) expansion
1996-06 Alliances ALL (AL) Expansion set 8th expansion
1996-10 Mirage MIR (MI) Expansion set 9th expansion
1997-02 Visions VIS (VI) Expansion set 10th expansion
1997-03 5th Edition 5ED (5E) Core set Core set #5
1997-05 Portal POR (PO) Starter set Starter set #1
1997-06 Weatherlight WTH (WL) Expansion set 11th expansion
1997-10 Tempest TMP (TE) Expansion set 12th expansion
1998-02 Stronghold STH (ST) Expansion set 13th expansion
1998-06 Exodus EXO (EX) Expansion set 14th expansion
1998-06 Portal Second Age P02 (P2) Starter set Starter set #2
1998-08 Unglued UGL (UG) Un-set Un-set #1
1998-10 Urza's Saga USG (US) Expansion set 15th expansion
1998-11 Anthologies ATH Box set First box set
1999-02 Urza's Legacy ULG (UL) Expansion set 16th expansion
1999-04 6th Edition 6ED (6E) Core set Core set #6
1999-06 Urza's Destiny UDS (UD) Expansion set 17th expansion
1999-07 Portal Three Kingdoms PTK (P3) Starter set Starter set #3
1999-08 Starter 1999 S99 Starter set Starter set #4
1999-09 Mercadian Masques MMQ (MM) Expansion set 18th expansion
1999-11 Battle Royale BRB Box set
2000-02 Nemesis NEM (NE) Expansion set 19th expansion
2000-04 Starter 2000 S00 Starter set Starter set #5
2000-06 Prophecy PCY (PR) Expansion set 20th expansion
2000-09 Invasion INV (IN) Expansion set 21st expansion
2000-10 Beatdown BTD Box set
2001-01 Planeshift PLS (PL) Expansion set 22nd expansion
2001-04 7th Edition 7ED (7E) Core set Core set #7
2001-05 Apocalypse APC (AP) Expansion set 23rd expansion
2001-10 Odyssey ODY (OD) Expansion set 24th expansion
2001-12 Deckmasters 2001 DKM Box set
2002-02 Torment TOR (TO) Expansion set 25th expansion
2002-05 Judgment JUD (JU) Expansion set 26th expansion
2002-10 Onslaught ONS (ON) Expansion set 27th expansion
2003-01 Legions LGN (LE) Expansion set 28th expansion
2003-05 Scourge SCG (SC) Expansion set 29th expansion
2003-07 8th Edition 8ED (8E) Core set Core set #8
2003-10 Mirrodin MRD Expansion set 30th expansion
2004-02 Darksteel DST Expansion set 31st expansion
2004-06 Fifth Dawn 5DN Expansion set 32nd expansion
2004-10 Champions of Kamigawa CHK Expansion set 33rd expansion
2004-11 Unhinged UNH Un-set Un-set #2
2005-02 Betrayers of Kamigawa BOK Expansion set 34th expansion
2005-06 Saviors of Kamigawa SOK Expansion set 35th expansion
2005-07 9th Edition 9ED Core set Core set #9
2005-08 Salvat 2005 Compilation set Magic Encyclopedia set #1
2005-10 Ravnica: City of Guilds RAV Expansion set 36th expansion
2006-02 Guildpact GPT Expansion set 37th expansion
2006-05 Dissension DIS Expansion set 38th expansion
2006-07 Coldsnap CSP Expansion set 39th expansion
2006-10 Time Spiral TSP/TSB Expansion set 40th expansion
2007-02 Planar Chaos PLC Expansion set 41st expansion
2007-05 Future Sight FUT Expansion set 42nd expansion
2007-07 10th Edition 10E Core set Core set #10
2007-09 Masters Edition MED Compilation set Magic Online Masters set #1
2007-10 Lorwyn LRW Expansion set 43rd expansion
2007-11 Duel Decks: Elves vs. Goblins EVG Box set Duel Decks set #1
2008-02 Morningtide MOR Expansion set 44th expansion
2008-05 Shadowmoor SHM Expansion set 45th expansion
2008-06 Eventide EVE Expansion set 46th expansion
2008-08 From the Vault: Dragons DRB Box set From the Vault set #1
2008-09 Masters Edition II ME2 Compilation set Magic Online Masters set #2
2008-09 Shards of Alara ALA Expansion set 47th expansion
2008-11 Duel Decks: Jace vs. Chandra DD2 Box set Duel Decks set #2
2009-02 Conflux CON Expansion set 48th expansion
2009-04 Duel Decks: Divine vs. Demonic DDC Box set Duel Decks set #3
2009-04 Alara Reborn ARB Expansion set 49th expansion
2009-07 Magic 2010 M10 Core set Core set #11
2009-08 Commander Theme Decks TD0 Box set Magic Online only
2009-08 From the Vault: Exiled V09 Box set From the Vault set #2
2009-09 Planechase (2009) HOP Supplemental set Planechase set #1
2009-09 Masters Edition III ME3 Compilation set Magic Online Masters set #3
2009-10 Zendikar ZEN Expansion set 50th expansion
2009-10 Duel Decks: Garruk vs. Liliana DDD Box set Duel Decks set #4
2009-11 Premium Deck Series: Slivers H09 Box set Premium Deck Series set #1
2010-02 Worldwake WWK Expansion set 51st expansion
2010-03 Duel Decks: Phyrexia vs. The Coalition DDE Box set Duel Decks set #5
2010-04 Rise of the Eldrazi ROE Expansion set 52nd expansion
2010-05 Deck Builder's Toolkit (2010) Box set Deck Builder's Toolkit #1
2010-06 Duels of the Planeswalkers DPA Box set Inspired by the digital game
2010-06 Archenemy ARC Supplemental set Archenemy set #1
2010-07 Magic 2011 M11 Core set Core set #12
2010-08 From the Vault: Relics V10 Box set From the Vault set #3
2010-09 Duel Decks: Elspeth vs. Tezzeret DDF Box set Duel Decks set #6
2010-10 Scars of Mirrodin SOM Expansion set 53rd expansion
2010-11 Magic Online Deck Series TD0 Box set Magic Online only; Same set code and symbol as the Commander Theme Decks
2010-11 Premium Deck Series: Fire & Lightning PD2 Box set Premium Deck Series set #2
2010-11 Momir Basic Event Deck Box set Magic Online only
2011-01 Salvat 2011 Compilation set Magic Encyclopedia set #2
2011-01 Masters Edition IV ME4 Compilation set Magic Online Masters set #4
2011-02 Mirrodin Besieged MBS Expansion set 54th expansion
2011-03 Deck Builder's Toolkit (2011) Box set Deck Builder's Toolkit #2; After this release the toolkit was always part for a core or block set.
2011-04 Duel Decks: Knights vs. Dragons DDG Box set Duel Decks set #7
2011-05 New Phyrexia NPH Expansion set 55th expansion
2011-06 Commander (2011) CMD Box set Commander set #1
2011-07 Magic 2012 M12 Core set Core set #13
2011-08 From the Vault: Legends V11 Box set From the Vault set #4
2011-09 Duel Decks: Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas DDH Box set Duel Decks set #8
2011-09 Innistrad ISD Expansion set 56th expansion
2011-11 Premium Deck Series: Graveborn PD3 Box set Premium Deck Series set #3
2012-02 Dark Ascension DKA Expansion set 57th expansion
2012-03 Duel Decks: Venser vs. Koth DDI Box set Duel Decks set #9
2012-05 Avacyn Restored AVR Expansion set 58th expansion
2012-05 Planechase 2012 PC2 Supplemental set Planechase set #2
2012-07 Magic 2013 M13 Core set Core set #14
2012-08 From the Vault: Realms V12 Box set From the Vault set #5
2012-09 Duel Decks: Izzet vs. Golgari DDJ Box set Duel Decks set #10
2012-10 Return to Ravnica RTR Expansion set 59th expansion
2012-11 Commander's Arsenal CM1 Box set Commander set #2
2013-01 Duel Decks: Mirrodin Pure vs. New Phyrexia TD2 Box set Magic Online Duel Deck
2013-02 Gatecrash GTC Expansion set 60th expansion
2013-03 Duel Decks: Sorin vs. Tibalt DDK Box set Duel Decks set #11
2013-05 Dragon's Maze DGM Expansion set 61st expansion
2013-06 Modern Masters (2013) MMA Compilation set Masters set #1
2013-07 Magic 2014 M14 Core set Core set #15
2013-08 From the Vault: Twenty V13 Box set From the Vault set #6
2013-09 Duel Decks: Heroes vs. Monsters DDL Box set Duel Decks set #12
2013-09 Theros THS Expansion set 62nd expansion
2013-11 Commander 2013 C13 Box set Commander set #3
2014-02 Born of the Gods BNG Expansion set 63rd expansion
2014-03 Duel Decks: Jace vs. Vraska DDM Box set Duel Decks set #13
2014-05 Journey into Nyx JOU Expansion set 64th expansion
2014-05 Modern Event Deck MD1 Box set
2014-06 Conspiracy CNS Supplemental set Conspiracy set #1
2014-06 Vintage Masters VMA Compilation set Magic Online Masters set #5
2014-07 Magic 2015 M15 Core set Core set #16
2014-08 From the Vault: Annihilation V14 Box set From the Vault set #7
2014-10 Duel Decks: Speed vs. Cunning DDN Box set Duel Decks set #14
2014-10 Khans of Tarkir KTK Expansion set 65th expansion
2014-11 Commander 2014 C14 Box set Commander set #4
2014-12 Duel Decks Anthology DD3 Box set Duel Decks reprint set
2015-01 Fate Reforged FRF Expansion set 66th expansion
2015-02 Duel Decks: Elspeth vs. Kiora DDO Box set Duel Decks set #15
2015-03 Dragons of Tarkir DTK Expansion set 67th expansion
2015-05 Tempest Remastered TPR Compilation set Magic Online Masters set #6
2015-05 Modern Masters 2015 MM2 Compilation set Masters set #2
2015-07 Magic Origins ORI Core set Core set #17
2015-08 From the Vault: Angels V15 Box set From the Vault set #8
2015-08 Duel Decks: Zendikar vs. Eldrazi DDP Box set Duel Decks set #16
2015-10 Battle for Zendikar BFZ Expansion set 68th expansion
2015-10
2016-01
Zendikar Expeditions EXP Compilation set Masterpiece Series set #1 (Battle for Zendikar block)
2015-11 Commander 2015 C15 Box set Commander set #5
2015-11 Legendary Cube PZ1 Compilation set Magic Online only
2016-01 Oath of the Gatewatch OGW Expansion set 69th expansion
2016-02 Duel Decks: Blessed vs. Cursed DDQ Box set Duel Decks set #17
2016-04 Welcome Deck 2016 W16 Compilation set Welcome Deck set #1
2016-04 Shadows over Innistrad SOI Expansion set 70th expansion
2016-06 Eternal Masters EMA Compilation set Masters set #3
2016-07 Eldritch Moon EMN Expansion set 71st expansion
2016-08 From the Vault: Lore V16 Box set From the Vault set #9
2016-08 Conspiracy: Take the Crown CN2 Supplemental set Conspiracy set #2
2016-09 Duel Decks: Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis DDR Box set Duel Decks set #18
2016-09 Kaladesh KLD Expansion set 72nd expansion
2016-09
2017-01
Kaladesh Inventions MPS Compilation set Masterpiece Series set #2 (Kaladesh block)
2016-10 Treasure Chests PZ2 Compilation set Magic Online only
2016-11 Commander 2016 C16 Box set Commander set #6
2016-11 You Make the Cube Compilation set Magic Online only
2016-11 Planechase Anthology PCA Box set Planechase set #3
2017-01 Aether Revolt AER Expansion set 73rd expansion
2017-03 Modern Masters 2017 MM3 Compilation set Masters set #4
2017-03 Duel Decks: Mind vs. Might DDS Box set Duel Decks set #19
2017-04 Welcome Deck 2017 W17 Compilation set Welcome Deck set #2
2017-04 Amonkhet AKH Expansion set 74th expansion
2017-04
2017-07
Amonkhet Invocations MPS Compilation set Masterpiece Series set #3 (Amonkhet block)
2017-06 Commander Anthology CMA Box set Commander set #7
2017-06 Archenemy: Nicol Bolas E01 Supplemental set Archenemy set #2
2017-07 Hour of Devastation HOU Expansion set 75th expansion
2017-08 Commander 2017 C17 Box set Commander set #8
2017-09 Ixalan XLN Expansion set 76th expansion
2017-11 Duel Decks: Merfolk vs. Goblins DDT Box set Duel Decks set #20
2017-11 Iconic Masters IMA Compilation set Masters set #5
2017-11 Explorers of Ixalan E02 Supplemental set
2017-11 From the Vault: Transform V17 Box set From the Vault set #10
2017-12 Unstable UST Un-set Un-set #3
2018-01 Rivals of Ixalan RIX Expansion set 77th expansion
2018-03 Masters 25 A25 Compilation set Masters set #6
2018-04 Dominaria DOM Expansion set 78th expansion
2018-07 Core 2019 M19 Core set Core set #18

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Rise of the Eldrazi, Avacyn Restored, and Dragons of Tarkir are each the third expansion of its respective block. They are large expansions to highlight and provide room for a dramatic reboot in gameplay and tone. The second set in Return to Ravnica block, Gatecrash, was made large to allow a new distribution of the ten guilds.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Aaron Forsythe. (January 6, 2014.) “From the Director's Chair: 2013”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  2. a b Zac Hill. (April 27, 2012.) “Size Matters”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  3. a b c Mark Rosewater. (August 25, 2014.) “Metamorphosis”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  4. a b Blake Rasmussen. (August 25, 2014.) “Building Blocks”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Randy Buehler. (June 20, 2004.) “The Size of Sets”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Mark Rosewater. (2008 June 02.) “The Year of Living Changerously”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Mark Rosewater. (December 7, 2009.) “Playing With Blocks”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Mark Rosewater. (September 02, 2015.) "What are reasons behind changing the Draft format?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  9. Mark Rosewater. (September 7, 2015.) "Is 184 the new default size of small sets?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  10. Sam Stoddard. (December 4, 2015.) “Double Small-Set Drafting”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  11. a b Mark Rosewater. (June 12, 2017.) “Metamorphosis 2.0”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Mark Rosewater. (May 16, 2016.) “Ramp of Approval”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Doug Beyer. (July 20, 2011.) “Core Curriculum”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Mark Rosewater. (January 6, 2014.) "Why does Magic 2015 have 269 cards instead of the usual 249?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  15. Michael G. Ryan. (December 5, 2011.) “Taming the Beast”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  16. Mark Rosewater. (July 20, 2009.) “The Silver Lining”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  17. Mark Rosewater. (June 5 2017.) "I'm starting to lose track of the product slots...", Blogatog, Tumblr.
  18. Wizards of the Coast. (November 7, 2014.) “PAX Australia Magic Panel”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  19. Mark Rosewater. (February 22, 2016.) "We're getting three supplementals this year; Con2, Eternal Masters and Commander - is this the norm for the future?", Blogatog, Tumblr.