The expansion symbol is a small icon found on the right side of the middle line or type line on a Magic: The Gathering card and is a characteristic of that card. If a card is copied, the copy will keep its original expansion symbol.
Expansion symbols were black-and-white through the Stronghold expansion. Since the Exodus expansion, expansion symbols have incorporated colors to identify the rarity of each card: common cards have black symbols, uncommon cards have silver or black-to-white fade symbols, and rare cards have gold symbols. A fourth expansion symbol color, purple, was introduced in Time Spiral to represent the 121 bonus timeshifted cards in the set. Mythic rare was added with Shards of Alara, its symbol is red-orange.
The Chronicles expansion consists entirely of white-bordered reprints. It is unusual because it does not have its own expansion symbol and instead uses the expansion symbols of the cards' home expansions.
- Expansion Symbol
- A card’s expansion symbol is a small icon normally printed below the right edge of the illustration that has no effect on game play. See rule 206, “Expansion Symbol.”
- 206. Expansion Symbol
- 206.1. The expansion symbol indicates which Magic set a card is from. It’s a small icon normally printed below the right edge of the illustration. It has no effect on game play.
- 206.2. The color of the expansion symbol indicates the rarity of the card within its set. A red-orange symbol indicates the card is mythic rare. A gold symbol indicates the card is rare. A silver symbol indicates the card is uncommon. A black or white symbol indicates the card is common or is a basic land. A purple symbol signifies a special rarity; to date, only the Time Spiral® “timeshifted” cards, which were rarer than that set’s rare cards, have had purple expansion symbols. (Prior to the Exodus™ set, all expansion symbols were black, regardless of rarity. Also, prior to the Sixth Edition core set, with the exception of the Simplified Chinese Fifth Edition core set, Magic core sets didn’t have expansion symbols at all.)
- 206.3. Previously, a spell or ability that affected cards from a particular set checked for that set’s expansion symbol. These cards have received errata in the Oracle card reference to say they affect cards “with a name originally printed” in a particular set. See rule 700.8 for details.
- 206.4. Players may include cards from any printing in their constructed decks if those cards appear in sets allowed in that format (or those cards are specifically allowed by the Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules). See the Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules for the current definitions of the constructed formats (WPN.Wizards.com/en/resources/rules-documents).
- 206.5. The full list of expansions and expansion symbols can be found in the Card Set Archive section of the Magic website (Magic.Wizards.com/en/game-info/products/card-set-archive).
A designer must infuse recognizable fantasy flavor into an expansion symbol while also fulfilling these tough requirements:
- Hold up at about 4 millimeters high and 8 millimeters wide.
- Can't look too much like any other expansion or game symbol.
- Has to work in solid black, as well as in silver, gold, and orange-red.
- Has to be a scalable, vector-based design (because sometimes it will also be seen really big).
Expansion symbols matter
- Apocalypse Chime hoses cards from Homelands.
- City in a Bottle hoses cards from Arabian Nights
- Golgothian Sylex hoses cards from Antiquities
There are three cards from Unhinged that mention expansion symbols:
- Greater Morphling, for this card's expansion symbol becomes the symbol of your choice until end of turn.
- Symbol Status puts a 1/1 colorless Expansion-Symbol creature token into play for each different expansion symbol among permanents you control.
- World-Bottling Kit lets you choose a Magic set for . Remove from the game all permanents with that set's expansion symbol except for basic lands.
- Monty Ashley (December 01, 2010). "The Status of the Symbol". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (January 08, 2016). "For purposes of Symbol Status, does Mirrodin Pure count as a separate expansion from New Phyrexia?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
- Matt Cavotta (December 12, 2011). "Before, During, and After". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
Brady Dommermuth (October 2, 2006). "Have you ever listed anywhere what all the different expansion symbols represent/mean?". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.