Skaff Elias (lead)|
Charlie Catripino (lead)|
|Art direction||Sue-Ann Harkey|
|Release date||June 10, 1996|
|Alternate and additional cost, cantrips and Snow|
or ability words
(55 commons, 43 uncommons, 46 rares)
|Ice Age block|
|Magic: The Gathering chronology|
Set details[edit | edit source]
Alliances is black-bordered and was the first set to be printed on sheets of 110 cards. The set's rarity breakdown is: 55 commons (40@C2, 10@C3, 5@U6), 43 uncommons (40@U2, 3@R6), 46 rares (46@R2).  Each common card and the 5 uncommons cards @U6 have 2 pieces of art  , making collectors view this as a 199 card set. Since the ratio of uncommons to rare is 3:1 in a booster pack, the 3 rares @R6 are considered as uncommon even if they could be found in the rare slot of an Alliances booster pack. A similar statement can be made about the 5 commons @U6. The expansion symbol of the set is a banner, or pennant, to reinforce the “alliance” concept. 
The Alliances lands have a unique violet colored text box, and is the last expansion set to have this feature. The Mirage and Visions sets share the same color scheme, and from Fifth Edition on, land text box color was standardized.
Marketing[edit | edit source]
Alliances was released eight months after the less-than-spectacular Homelands, which is the longest gap between expansion sets in the history of the game. Prior to the Coldsnap release it was the third and final set in the Ice Age block with Homelands being the second set. It was sold in booster packs of twelve cards which included eight commons, three uncommons and one rare. A booster box contained 45 booster packs. This was the last time that boosters contained twelve cards. All boosters feature the same artwork from Benthic Explorers.
This was the last expansion to feature regular multiple artworks on cards. The practice was discontinued to ease identification of cards by their artwork, which was important to the global community as Magic was beginning to see print in languages other than English.
Alliances is also the last standard Magic expansion that was underprinted, as supply did not meet demand in many areas. Alliances was highly anticipated after the long wait from the release Homelands.
Storyline[edit | edit source]
After the planeswalker Freyalise cast her World Spell, thereby ending the Ice Age, a population long adapted to the cold had to re-adjust to warm weather. With the new climate came devastating floods and plagues, and the necromancer Lim-Dûl has built an army of undead bent on world domination. An alliance is formed between races to defeat Lim-Dûl and his army.
Mechanics and themes[edit | edit source]
Alliances didn't introduce any new keywords, but it did introduce the popular alternate cost mechanic, popularly referred to as "pitch cards", that allowed a player to discard cards of specific colors (and in the case of two cards, with an additional life payment) to play a spell instead of paying its printed mana cost. In Magic: The Gathering history, this mechanic, or a derivative or variant thereof, appears on rare cycles in the Masques block, the Betrayers of Kamigawa expansion, and the Coldsnap expansion.
Alliances builds on many of the themes of the Ice Age block. Cumulative upkeep and cantrips return, as does the allied color theme and a few new legendary creatures. The Snow mechanic on only a few cards.
Design & Development[edit | edit source]
Alliances was the second expansion by the quartet known as the "East Coast Playtesters" , which also designed Ice Age. While it was sold as an Ice Age expansion, design diverged from it. For example, the Snow mechanic was considered a failure, and it was completely ignored. The vast majority of the mechanical tie-ins were added in Development, including a few Snow-matters cards, because the mechanic rated highly on flavor. 
At some point, Continuity (the department responsible for the storyline) decided that Alliances would have a race of sentient gorillas. The design team thought this was a silly idea and protested by renaming all the cards in the set to have "Gorilla" in their names.  
Creature types[edit | edit source]
The following creature types are introduced in this expansion: Aesthir (later changed to Bird), Bird, Gorilla (later changed to Ape), Harlequin (later changed to Human), Heretic (later changed to Human Cleric), Mosquito (later changed to Insect), Pigeon (later changed to Bird), Spy (later changed to Human Rogue), Starfish, Swarm, Tactician (later changed to Human Advisor), War-Rider (later changed to Human Warrior).
The following creature types are used in this expansion but also appear in previous sets: Barbarian, Cleric, Druid, Elemental, Elf, Gargoyle, Goblin, Guardian, Homarid, Horror (later changed to Horror Spirit), Insect, Keeper (later changed to Avatar), Knight, Mercenary, Merfolk, Paladin (later changed to Human Knight), Phantasm (later changed to Illusion), Rat, Skeleton, Soldier, Spirit, Wall, Wizard and Zombie.
Notable cards[edit | edit source]
- Balduvian Horde was initially heralded as the "new Juzám Djinn," then considered the best creature in Magic, as a 5/5 for . It later proved to be only mediocre and has seen print in 6th Edition.
- Diminishing Returns is the first attempt at creating a "fixed" version of Timetwister. Despite its decrease in power compared to Timetwister, Diminishing Returns sometimes still sees play in Vintage alongside Timetwister.
- Elvish Spirit Guide had a new unique feature: remove from the game from your hand to get mana. Elvish Spirit Guide sees play in the popular Legacy Belcher deck.
- Force of Will continues to be an important and potent card in every format it is legal in because it can counter any spell without the use of mana. Because it was one of the most powerful cards in the set and any blue card can be used to cast it, players joked that every blue card in Alliances is the most powerful, leading to the running joke that Storm Crow is one of the game's strongest cards.
- Ivory Gargoyle was powerful because it was difficult to get rid of it permanently and was used in some control decks as a win condition.
- Kjeldoran Outpost was used as a win condition in Counterpost-style control decks.
- Lake of the Dead was used to speed up already-powerful Necropotence decks.
- Thawing Glaciers was used in many different decks, especially after the Sixth Edition Rules came into effect, allowing players to use cards like this one with delayed triggered abilities twice thanks to the reconstruction of the new End of turn step.
Cycles[edit | edit source]
Alliances has five cycles:
- Double hosers: Each of these rare spells has a negative effect on both of its enemy colors — Royal Decree, Tidal Control, Dystopia, Omen of Fire, and Nature's Wrath. This cycle was the first to attempt to hose both enemy colors at once and inspired the creation of similar cycles in the Mercadian Masques and Coldsnap expansions.
- Pitch cards: Each of these uncommon instants has an alternate casting cost that includes removing a card of its color from the game — Scars of the Veteran, Force of Will, Contagion, Pyrokinesis, and Bounty of the Hunt.
- Replacement lands: Each of these rare lands is sacrificed when it comes into play unless you sacrifice a basic land of a given type and has a mana ability that produces mana of that land's type and another activated ability — Kjeldoran Outpost, Soldevi Excavations, Lake of the Dead, Balduvian Trading Post, and Heart of Yavimaya.
- Tricolor spells: Each of these rare multicolored spells has a mana cost that includes MNO, where M and O are two colors of mana that are allied with N, a third color of mana — Phelddagrif, Wandering Mage, Lord of Tresserhorn, Misfortune, and Winter's Night.
- Uncommon gold spells: Each of these uncommon multicolored spells requires two mana of allied colors to cast: — Energy Arc, Lim-Dûl's Vault, Lim-Dûl's Paladin, Surge of Strength, and Nature's Blessing.
Strictly Better or Worse[edit | edit source]
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- Only Alliances and the Chronicles set were sold in packs of 12 cards.
- Alliances was the only set to feature different tiers within its rare cards, until the introduction of mythic rare cards. A few rares appeared six times on each rare sheet while most appeared twice, making a few rares three times as common as others.
References[edit | edit source]
- OCTGN Fansite
- Wizards of the Coast. (August 02, 2004.) “Ask Wizards - August, 2004”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Alliances Checklist
- Magic Arcana. (July 23, 2002.) “Two Adnates”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Magic Arcana. (March 28, 2007.) “Double Boon”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Brady Dommermuth. (October 31, 2006.) “Ask Wizards”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (April 29, 2013.) “Third Time's the Charm”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (October 22, 2018.) “How Trivial”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (July 6, 2003.) “Of Ice and Men”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (December 07, 2009.) “Playing With Blocks”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Skaff Elias. (May 28, 2002.) “Ask Wizards”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Monty Ashley. (July 30, 2012.) “Know Your Gorillas”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
[edit | edit source]
- Official Alliances Information Product Page — Magic: The Gathering (old)
- Official Alliances Information Product Page (new)