|Symbol description||A dragon skull|
Brian Tinsman (lead),|
Randy Buehler (lead),|
|Art direction||Jeremy Cranford|
|Release date||May 26, 2003|
|Themes and mechanics||
"Cost matters" and "CMC-6-or-more matters",|
Cycling and landcycling,|
(55 commons, 44 uncommons, 44 rares)
|Development codename||Jack |
|Magic: The Gathering Chronology|
Scourge contains 143 black-bordered cards (44 rare, 44 uncommon, and 55 commons; 1 rare and 1 uncommon less than Legions). Its expansion symbol is a dragon skull to reflect its dragon theme. Like its preceding expansions, Onslaught and Legions, the set featured a theme that focused heavily on "tribal" cards, or cards that are concerned with creature types. Scourge was notable for having a focus on cards with high converted mana costs ("cost matters" or "size matters") and dragon/dragon-related cards. With Bladewing the Risen, the set even featured a dragon lord. Scourge was the last set to feature the old-style card faces or a storyline set in Dominaria until the release of the Time Spiral block.
Scourge was marketed as the '"Dragon Set". The cards were sold in 15-card boosters (which featured art from Dragonstorm, Dragon Tyrant and Bladewing the Risen), in four preconstructed theme decks and a fat pack. At the Scourge prerelease (May 17–18, 2003), a foil Soul Collector was handed out. The set was accompanied by the novel of the same name.
Flavor and storyline
With the vicious war between Phage and Akroma, and their followers, over with their deaths and fusion into Karona, an incredibly destructive and powerful avatar formed from all five colors of mana, Otaria is, once again, torn by various militant factions, all keen to claim Karona for themselves. In addition to this, the continent that was spared from a majority of the devastation occurring elsewhere on the plane of Dominaria during the events of Apocalypse, remains poisoned by the profuse perfusion of mana from the Mirari, with warping effects upon the populace; the weapons and armor of soldiers are merging with the soldiers themselves to produce virtually featureless, greatly muscle-bound living juggernauts; wizards becoming insubstantial and tenuous, as though they consisted of water or energy; elves, becoming taller, stronger, and wilder, begin to resemble the trees amongst which they live and that they protect; and, more grotesque variations of zombies, with more heads, limbs, and other appendages, are seen.
On top of this, from the explosion that spawned Karona, the Sliver Overlord, a new leader of the slivers, controlling others via the hive-mind, was born.
Kamahl frees his sister, Jeska, from both Karona and Phage, her undead form, and Karn returns to Otaria, Dominaria, to take her to Argentum (or Mirrodin), a plane that he substantially shaped. Karn intimates that Jeska is a planeswalker and beseeches her to travel the multiverse as his companion. Initially, she is reluctant to leave Argentum, until Karn informs and shows her Memnarch, a golem that he forged from the Mirari and the guardian of the plane.
Themes and mechanics
Tribal and creature types were the main theme of Onslaught.
|Creature subtype||Tribe name||Primary color||Secondary color(s)|
|Birds||Aven (in white and blue only)
|Goblins||Red ()||Black ()|
|Illusions||Mistform (or Mimics)[note 1]||Blue ()|
|Soldiers||White ()||Blue ()|
|Slivers||All colors ()|
|Wizards||Blue ()||All other colors ()|
The set featured a prominent dragon subtheme, as reflected by the higher-than-usual number of dragons cards, auxiliary or support cards (e.g., Bladewing's Thrall, Dragonspeaker Shaman, Dragonstorm), and other dragon-related cards (e.g., Day of the Dragons, Dragonstalker, Form of the Dragon). In addition, Scourge featured a theme dealing with high converted mana costs ("cost matters") and, specifically, mana-cost-6-or-more, and various cards were printed to support this theme and reward players for utilizing costly cards, such as the cycle of Dragon auras, Accelerated Mutation, Ancient Ooze, Fierce Empath, Krosan Drover, and Kurgadon, and other cards, such as Pyrostatic Pillar, punished players for utilizing cheaper cards.
Scourge introduced the novel keyword abilities landcycling and storm. Landcycling, a variation upon cycling, is an activated ability that allows the owner of a card with landcycling to discard the card and pay a cost to search their library for a card with a specific land type. Landcycling is itself a specific case of typecycling, which was featured on cards in Future Sight, as Slivercycling on Homing Sliver and Wizardcycling on Vedalken Æthermage, and the Alara block, as landcycling and, more generally, basic landcycling.
Cost matters was a theme that encouraged players to use spells with high mana costs. In addition to providing numerous creatures and other spells with converted mana cost 6 or greater, several cards were printed that enhanced or facilitated them.
Storm, designed by Brian Tinsman, is a triggered ability on instant and sorcery cards that triggers when the spell is cast. It allows the controller of a spell with storm to put copies of the spell on the stack (with new targets). A number of cards with storm in Scourge, namely Brain Freeze, Mind's Desire, and Tendrils of Agony, were so powerful, particularly with 0-CMC spells (e.g., Ornithopter), virtually free spells (e.g., Cloud of Faeries), and other cheap spells, that they essentially formed the crux of a deck archetype that dominated the competitive Magic. In retrospect, Head Magic Designer Mark Rosewater, amongst others, have regarded storm as one of the most, if not the most, "degenerate" or "broken" abilities or mechanics thus printed.
No new creature types were introduced in Scourge.
Scourge features six cycles.
|"Cost matters" spells||Reward the Faithful||Dispersal Shield
Rush of Knowledge
|Cabal Conditioning||Torrent of Fire||Accelerated Mutation|
|Each of these non-permanent spells has an scalable effect that is dependent on the highest converted mana cost amongst permanents its controller controls.|
|Decrees||Decree of Justice||Decree of Silence||Decree of Pain||Decree of Annihilation||Decree of Savagery|
|Each of these expensive, game-changing rare cards features Karona in their artwork  and may be cycled for an effect that is similar to their original effect, albeit at a smaller size ("supercycling").The initial concept of the Decrees is the inspiration of the Resounding cycle (Resounding Silence, Resounding Wave, Resounding Scream, Resounding Thunder, and Resounding Roar) in Shards of Alara; each of which featured a smaller base effect and a larger, cycling-triggered effect.|
|Dragon auras||Dragon Scales||Dragon Wings||Dragon Shadow||Dragon Breath||Dragon Fangs|
|Each of these common auras costing M confers a bonus to the enchanted creature. Furthermore, to further the theme of "cost matters", if the aura is in a graveyard and a creature with converted mana cost of 6 or more enters the battlefield, the aura may be returned to the battlefield enchanting that creature.These auras, particularly Dragon Breath, were used to great effect in reanimator decks, often with Sutured Ghoul as the reanimation target.|
|Landcyclers||Noble Templar||Shoreline Ranger||Twisted Abomination||Chartooth Cougar||Wirewood Guardian[note 2]|
|Each of these common creature cards costing at least M may be cycled for for a land with a basic land type.|
|Common storm instants||Astral Steel||Hindering Touch||Reaping the Graves||Scattershot||Sprouting Vines|
|Each of these common instants has storm.|
|Warchiefs||Daru Warchief (Soldiers)||Mistform Warchief (Illusions by default)[note 3]||Undead Warchief (Zombies)||Goblin Warchief (Goblins)||Krosan Warchief (Beasts)|
|Each of these uncommon creature cards allows its controller to cast creatures of a shared creature type for less mana than normal. In addition to this, each warchief has an additional ability.[note 4]|
- Enrage, red colorshifted version of Howl from Beyond (Alpha)
- Rain of Blades, white colorshifted version of Scorching Winds (Portal)
- Coast Watcher, upgrade from Sea Eagle (Starter 1999)
- Spark Spray, upgrade from Scorching Spear (Portal)
- Stifle - used a lot since new rulings made the combo with Phyrexian Dreadnought viable. Also used a lot on Onslaught 's fetch lands, acting as an unexpected Stone Rain for .
- Brain Freeze - An alternative Finisher for storm-based decks. It has the disadvantage of not killing the opponent before their next draw step.
- Carrion Feeder - featured in some builds of Hulk Flash in Legacy as a means to sacrifice Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to set up a loop with Kiki-Jiki and Karmic Guide.
- Decree of Justice - Primarily used in Astral Slide decks, but also saw play in many other white decks.
- Dragon Breath - used in Cephalid Breakfast decks to give Sutured Ghoul haste.
- Eternal Dragon
- Goblin Warchief
- Dragonstorm - initially overshadowed by the other storm cards, it became a key part of a top-tier Standard deck when it was reprinted in Time Spiral.
- Forgotten Ancient - the first card created through the "You Make the Card" online promotion. Known affectionately as Mr. Babycakes.
- Mind's Desire - A card preemptively restricted in Vintage due to concerns over its power in that format.
- Siege-Gang Commander - A powerful top-end finisher for Goblin decks in Standard.
- Silver Knight - A counterpart to White Knight, this was a strong answer to aggressive red decks such as goblin tribal.
- Tendrils of Agony - The Finisher of choice for most storm-based decks.
- Xantid Swarm - Sees play in Vintage and Legacy. Its ability was a rejected idea from "You Make the Card".
Scourge has one monocolored and three bicolored theme decks.
- Mistform creatures all have the ability to change their creature type.
- Alternatively, if Elvish Aberration is considered as the green member of this (then no longer common-only) cycle, each of these creature cards cost M and have landcycling.
- Mistform Warchief can reduce the cost of casting any creature that shares a creature type with it, and its creature type may change with its ": Mistform Warchief becomes the creature type of your choice until end of turn." ability.
- Two other cards from the expansion, Dragonspeaker Shaman (Dragons) and Edgewalker (Clerics), similarly grant a discount for casting creature or tribal spells that share a creature type with them or are associated with their creature types; these cards are not, however, members of this cycle.
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