Cycle

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A cycle is a collection of cards that have one or more relationships with one another or share a common theme (such as creature type or a particular game mechanic). A cycle can be made of any number of cards; the most common cycles consist of five cards, one for each color or pair of enemy or allied colors, or three cards of different rarities. Cycles are widely applicable and easy to use design tools and are very prevalent in practically every set.

Simple and complex cycles[edit]

Simple cycles consist of cards in the same set. Complex cycles consist of cards that don't belong to a single set. Complex cycles include mega cycles (cards in a single block) and mega-mega cycles (cards in different blocks). Ravnica block cycles, mostly based around Ravnica's guild theme, are typical examples of mega-cycles while Mirrodin blocks' "swords cycle" is an example of a mega-mega-cycle.

Tight and Loose cycles[edit]

Cycles can be differentiated into tight and loose cycles. A tight cycle tends to have overlap between some of the following: mana cost (with just colored mana swapped), card type, creature type, rules text, and power/toughness. Examples are the Return to Ravnica block guildmages and charms.[1]

A loose cycle is a cycle in which all cards have a thematical link but are not bound to mana costs or effects. An example of a loose cycle is the Praetors of New Phyrexia. They're all legendary creatures who provide a beneficial effect to their controller and the opposite effect to their opponents but vary widely in cost, power/toughness, strength, and type of effects.

Types of cycles[edit]

Horizontal cycles[edit]

The "Command" horizontal cycle.

What characterizes "horizontal cycles" is that the cards range among the different colors of Magic. A horizontal cycle can be made of:

  • one card of each of the five colors (such as the "command cycle" in Lorwyn or the "titan cycle" in Magic 2011);
  • one card of each of the five two-color allied pairs (such as the "XMN uncommon cycle" in Mirage or the "two-color bears" in Invasion);
  • one card of each of the five two-color enemy pairs (such as the "enemy-colored two-drop cycle" from Apocalypse);
  • one card of each of the ten two-color pairs (such as the "guildchampion mega-cycle" from Ravnica block);
  • one card of each of the five three-color enemy (wedge) sets (such as the "commanders" from Commander);
  • one card of each of the five three-color allied (arc) sets (such as the "Elder Dragon Legend cycle" in Legends);
  • one card of each of the ten three-color sets (such as the legendary dragons from Invasion and Planar Chaos, which form a mega-mega-cycle);
  • one card of each of the five four-color sets (such as the "Nephilim cycle" in Guildpact).

Most horizontal cycles consist of cards that hold multiple similarities (the same naming scheme, rarity, mana cost, types, abilities, and eventual power and toughness), but only two are typically necessary. Rarity is the most common similarity, though by no means absolute:

  • The "boons" cycle from Alpha share mana cost, mechanical identity, and card type, but not rarity (four commons and a rare).
  • The Throne of Eldraine same-color hoser cycle share only rarity (uncommon), but clearly share a mechanical identity of spells that are superior against their own color. Their card types (two creatures, two instants, and one sorcery), costs (two ones, two fours, a three), and naming schemes are not shared.
  • The legendary creature cycle in War of the Spark share rarity, but nothing else, not even mechanics, but follow a naming scheme by way of being all characters of note in the lore of Ravnica.


The "Bloodfire" vertical cycle.

Vertical cycles[edit]

Main article: Vertical cycle

A "vertical cycle" ranges among rarities instead of colors. The cards of a vertical cycle usually made of three cards that belong to the same color. Examples of such a type of cycle include Apocalypse "Flagbearer" (in white), "Whirlpool" (in blue), "Bloodfire" (in red), "Phyrexian", and "Penumbra" cycles.

Unlike the horizontal cycles, which are made of one card per color (combination), a vertical cycle can have several cards in the same rarity. A typical example is the "Ramosian cycle" in Mercadian Masques.

Since the fourth rarity level has been introduced, there are vertical cycles made of three cards, with one of the rarities (usually uncommon or rare) missing, such as the "planeswalker signature spells" cycles in Magic 2011 and Magic 2012, in which for each color there is a mythic rare planeswalker with two related spells.

Other cycles[edit]

There are several kinds of cycles that do not belong necessarily to one of the previous categories. Typical examples are the following.

  • Tribal cycles, such as the "harbingers" in Lorwyn (for creature/tribal types).
Other color-based cycles[edit]

Besides horizontal cycles, color-based cycles can be refer to the five colors but do not consist of one card per color.

Two-card cycles[edit]

Pairs can sometimes refer to as a two-card cycle.

Three-card cycles[edit]

Besides vertical cycles, three-card cycles (mini-cycles) can also be found.

Four-card cycles[edit]

Trivia[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]