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POR logo.png
Set Information
Set symbol
Symbol description A portal
Design Bill Rose (lead),
Dan Cervelli,
Joel Mick
With contributions from
Mike Elliott
and Mark Rosewater.
Development Bill Rose (lead),
Dan Cervelli,
Joel Mick
With contributions from
Mike Elliott,
William Jockusch,
Mark Rosewater
Henry Stern
and Jonathan Tweet.
Art direction Sue-Ann Harkey
Release date May 1, 1997
Plane Dominaria
Set size 215
(20 basic lands, 85 commons, 55 uncommons, 55 rares)
Expansion code POR[1]
Development codename Harvey
Portal trilogy
Portal Portal Second Age Portal Three Kingdoms
Magic: The Gathering chronology
Fifth Edition Portal Weatherlight

Portal is a starter-level set released on May 1, 1997.[2] It was Wizards of the Coast's first major attempt at a set catering to prospective and newer players. It was designed to provide them a format with simpler rules than a core set or an expansion set.

Portal booster

Set details[edit | edit source]

Portal contains 215 black-bordered cards (55 rare, 55 uncommon, 85 common, and 20 lands).

In an effort to facilitate learning Magic, Portal was markedly aesthetically and mechanically different from previous non-starter-level sets. To simplify game play, Portal featured no instants, enchantments, or artifacts and, subsequently, had a simpler set of rules. Some sorceries could be played outside the normal timing rules for sorceries, and these cards received errata as appropriate.[3] Creature cards printed in Portal featured no creature types, and their type line read "Summon Creature". These cards also received errata.

Portal also featured different terminology from that established in previous sets. These terms included "intercepting" for blocking, "deck" for library, "discard pile" for graveyard, "offense" for power, and "defense" for toughness. Although these new terms were intended to simplify learning Magic, particularly as a stepping stone for more complex sets, they were a source of distress for players if and when they started to use advanced-level and/or expert-level cards, which do not use this terminology. Cards featuring these terms also received errata but are otherwise functionally the same.

To facilitate interpreting cards, the established layout was changed such that the power/toughness parameters printed on creature cards were accompanied by sword and shield symbols to more readily clarify the meaning of these numbers. Furthermore, rules text was in bold type to distinguish it from flavor text. Moreover, a thick line was drawn between rules text and flavor text to reinforce the distinction.

In the beginning, many on the design team were confused about the expectations behind the Portal concept. As a joke, they named it "Harvey", after the invisible rabbit in the famous play and movie. Like the fictional Harvey, Portal at the time was big, invisible, and no one knew what it was.[4] Portal was not a legal set for official tournament play in any organized format until October 20, 2005, when it and other starter-level sets were made sanctioned for Legacy and Vintage formats.[5]

Marketing[edit | edit source]

Portal was advertized as a beginners version of the game. Aside from Portal boosters (1 rare, 3 uncommon, and 11 common cards), there is a Portal 2 Player Starter Set in existence. 7 of the Portal cards included in the Starter Set feature additional rules text and are therefore different from their booster pack counterparts. Portal boosters feature artwork from one Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, Elvish Ranger and Spined Wurm.

Each Portal booster contained one of ten different strategy cards with deck-building tips. There are 5 strategies described in all, one for each of the five friendly color pairs. Each of these five strategies has two different versions. :

  • {W}/{U}Air Superiority
  • {U}/{B}Card Domination
  • {B}/{R}Fiery Doom
  • {R}/{G}Gargantuans
  • {G}/{W}The Horde

Portal Demogame boosters were given away as a free product to advertise Magic. Out of the 24 Portal cards they contain, 6 cards feature additional rules text and are therefore slightly different from their counterparts found in booster packs. Portal Demogame boosters were also offered in the Guru program. the Official Guide to Portal explained the rules, featured an overview of the set with reproductions of all the cards, and hints on succesful strategies for play and deck construction.

Cardboard folding binoculars given out during Portal promotions.
Binoculars backside.

WotC launched a major advertsing campaign, including commercials on MTV and popular TV shows, to introduce Magic to a major audience. They expected some players to stick with Portal but most to learn with it and the move on to standard Magic. As it turned out, most people learning Portal were taught by experienced players. When those players used standard rules and terms rather than the Portal ones, the differences caused confusion. This would be rectified in Portal Second Age.

Flavor and storyline[edit | edit source]

No specific storyline was developed for Portal, but flavor is conveyed throughout the flavor texts of cards.

Themes and mechanics[edit | edit source]

Portal introduces no new themes or mechanics to Magic, and was essentially the same game introduced in Limited Edition, with exception to the absence of instants, enchantments, and artifacts.

Pairs[edit | edit source]

Matched pairs[edit | edit source]

  • Anaconda and Bull Hippo are both uncommon creatures costing {3}{G} with a landwalk ability associated with basic lands of an enemy color.
  • Armageddon and Wrath of God are both rare white sorceries with a CMC of 4 that destroy all permanents of a specific card type.
  • Baleful Stare and Withering Gaze are both uncommon sorceries costing {2}{U} and allow their controllers to draw cards equal to the number of cards of a specific enemy color and land cards of a specific basic land type associated with an enemy color.
  • Boiling Seas and Flashfires are both uncommon sorceries costing {3}{R} and destroy all lands of a specific basic land type associated with an enemy color.
  • Nature's Ruin and Virtue's Ruin are both uncommon sorceries costing {2}{B} and destroy all creatures of a specific enemy color.
  • Starlight and Renewing Dawn are both uncommon sorceries costing {1}{W} that gain life depending on the amount of enemy color associated permanents the opponent has in play (black creatures and mountains respectively.)

Mirrored pairs[edit | edit source]

  • Arrogant Vampire and Starlit Angel are both uncommon creatures costing {3}MM that fly. Their power and toughness are also mirrored: 4/3 and 3/4.
  • Charging Bandits and Charging Paladin are both uncommon creatures that gain a bonus (to their power or toughness respectively) when they attack.
  • Earthquake and Hurricane are both rare sorcery spells costing {X}M and deal X damage to each creature with/without flying and each player.
  • Mercenary Knight and Thundering Wurm are both rare creatures costing {2}M that have power and toughness 4/4 and require you to discard a card when they enter the battlefield (a creature and a land respectively.)
  • Personal Tutor and Sylvan Tutor are both rare sorcery spells costing M that search for a card of a particular type and put it on top of your library.
  • Rain of Tears and Winter's Grasp are both uncommon sorcery spells costing {1}MM that destroy a land.

Reprinted cards[edit | edit source]

The following cards have been reprinted from previous sets and included in Portal:

Functional reprints[edit | edit source]

Portal has seven functional reprints:

Since there are no instants in Portal some cards were reprinted as sorceries:

Preconstructed decks[edit | edit source]

For the content of the decks, see Portal 2 Player Starter Set.

Notable cards[edit | edit source]

While Portal was full of vanilla creatures and simple spells, a few of its cards have had some impact on Magic as a whole and on the Core Sets in particular:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wizards of the Coast (August 02, 2004). "Ask Wizards - August, 2004". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Portal Spoiler Card List — Wizards of the Coast
  3. Magic Arcana (April 15, 2004). "Portal Instants". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater. (March 1998). Insider Trading, The Duelist #23
  5. Aaron Forsythe (March 11, 2005). "More About March 1st". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.

External links[edit | edit source]