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.
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 Commander 2017.
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. 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.
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.
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.
The Two-Block Paradigm proved to be unsuccesful in some cases. The demise of the block structure was announced by Rosewater on June 12, 2017. From 2018 on, three large standalone sets are to be released each year (spring, autumn and winter), supplemented by a revamped core set in the summer. This is called the Three-and-One Model.
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] 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
Theme Decks[edit | edit source]
Core sets[edit | edit source]
Core sets form the base set of cards for tournament play and rotations.  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. This was reversed with the introduction of the Three-and-One Model.
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.  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]
- Vanguard: promotional oversized cards that modify the game rules of each player.
- Conspiracy: A multiplayer variant intended for Draft instead of Constructed.
- Archenemy: Asymmetrical multiplayer
- Un-sets: Self-parody sets Unglued, Unhinged and Unstable. They were sold in booster packs, and are silver-bordered to denote they are not tournament-legal. Championed by Mark Rosewater, they are themed around mechanics that would be impossible to print in a normal expansion.
Innovation products[edit | edit source]
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.
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]
- Chronicles (1995)
- Modern Masters (2013)
- Modern Masters 2015
- Modern Masters 2017
- Eternal Masters
- Masterpiece Series
Rating system[edit | edit source]
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 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 sets are the core sets of the game.
Expert-level sets[edit | edit source]
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]
|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|
|1995-10||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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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]
- 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]
- Aaron Forsythe. (January 6, 2014.) “From the Director's Chair: 2013”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Zac Hill. (April 27, 2012.) “Size Matters”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (August 25, 2014.) “Metamorphosis”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Blake Rasmussen. (August 25, 2014.) “Building Blocks”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (June 12, 2017.) “Metamorphosis 2.0”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Randy Buehler. (June 20, 2004.) “The Size of Sets”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (2008 June 02.) “The Year of Living Changerously”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (December 7, 2009.) “Playing With Blocks”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (September 02, 2015.) "What are reasons behind changing the Draft format?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
- Mark Rosewater. (September 7, 2015.) "Is 184 the new default size of small sets?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
- Sam Stoddard. (December 4, 2015.) “Double Small-Set Drafting”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (May 16, 2016.) “Ramp of Approval”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Doug Beyer. (July 20, 2011.) “Core Curriculum”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (January 6, 2014.) "Why does Magic 2015 have 269 cards instead of the usual 249?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
- Michael G. Ryan. (December 5, 2011.) “Taming the Beast”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (July 20, 2009.) “The Silver Lining”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (July 27, 2017.) "How did 'Un' begin?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
- Mark Rosewater. (June 5 2017.) "I'm starting to lose track of the product slots...", Blogatog, Tumblr.
- Wizards of the Coast. (November 7, 2014.) “PAX Australia Magic Panel”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- 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.