Magic's 30th Anniversary: The Most Important Set of each year
10/02/22 0 comments
In October, Magic will begin its 30th anniversary celebration. In this article, we've listed the most important sets of each year since the game's launch!Edit Article
Magic: The Gatheringwill be celebrating its 30th anniversary starting in October, with a major event in Las Vegas and a host of new additions throughout late 2022 and 2023. To celebrate this historic milestone, Cards Realm will be carrying out within the next month a compilation with thirty important elements of the most famous card game in the world. Today, I bring you the thirty most impactful sets of each year, starting with 2022 and going all the way down to 1993.
Magic's Most Important Set on Each Year
2022 - Kamigawa: Neon DynastyWhile I'm wary of putting
Kamigawa: Neon Dynastyas the most important set of the year ahead to the release of
The Brothers' War, it's unavoidable to disregard that a return to one of Magic's most beloved but least mechanically relevant planes was a huge success. Neon Dynasty has been at the forefront of previous sets, and has a far more exciting visual design and mechanics than any other in 2022 up to this point. The cyberpunk theme fit very well with the plane's proposal, its lore continued the New Phyrexia cycle, and countless cards impacted constructed formats.
2021 - Modern Horizons IINo other set in 2021 has been as powerful and controversial as
Modern Horizons II- a release focused exclusively on eternal formats and consequently having a much higher Power Level cap and forever changing Modern, Pauper and Legacy.
Bridgespolarized Pauper's competitive Metagame and led to a streak of bans that may have indirectly led to the creation of an official committee for the format. , the
Pauper Format Panel. However, where things really changed were in Modern and Legacy, starring essentially the same cards:
Evoke Elementals, powerful creatures that can be cast for free by exiling a card, and the presence of that cycle in Modern basically turned the format into a "Legacy-lite". Modern Horizons II also brought a number of other cards that enabled multiple archetypes in their target format, such as Archon of Cruelty, Shardless Agent, Esper Sentinel, among others. So, due to its very high-power level that changed the game forever, it is the most important set of 2021.
2020 - Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths
Ikoria: Lair of Behemothsdidn't have the same hype and commercial success as Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and it didn't even bring a superpower level boost like Modern Horizons II, but it was definitely the most important release of 2020 for bringing two things that changed Magic forever: Triomes and Companions.
fetch lands, were the centerpiece of improving Modern's manabase, where Four-Color Goodstuff and even five-color decks have become more viable thanks to the interaction between these lands.
Companion. It was created based on the idea that you had a creature represented as your companion during games, and to access them, you had to make some deckbuilding concessions. However, two problems made it so powerful that it needed errata. First, the concessions required by them weren't
punitive enough, and even helped certain archetypes to develop better: Lurrus of the Dream-Den basically became ubiquitous in any aggressive archetype because it favored cost efficiency, while Yorion, Sky Nomad motivated players to try 60+ card builds when they discovered that if all you do in the game is an irreversible value bomb, having 20 more cards in exchange for 4/5 Flying that blinks all your permanents is definitely worth it. Second, casting Companions
from outside the game— leaving no room for any interaction outside of counterspells — made them too powerful, forcing Wizards to errata the mechanics, by making players pay three mana to place the Companion on their hand before casting them.
Legacy, as well as being the first card in years to be banned from
Vintagefor power level concerns.
2019 - War of the Spark2019 was a year full of crucial releases for Magic:
Throne of Eldrainewas the most controversial for the banning of Oko, Thief of Crowns and Once Upon a Time in various formats, in addition to several other bans in Standard.
Modern Horizonswas the first product dedicated to inserting cards into Modern without having to go through Standard, but in historical terms, none of them surpassed the power of marketing and hype generated with
War of the Spark.
War of the Sparkbrought several impactful cards and spells that are still present in the competitive landscape. Its biggest innovation was the passive abilities in Planeswalkers, which made them even more impactful, and the highlight in this regard were Teferi, Time Raveler which to this day is a staple on Modern and Legacy and is banned on Pioneer, and Karn, the Great Creator, who stars in a number of archetypes today. Mainly because of how well its publicity was executed with a trailer that moved fans,
War of the Spark, despite not having as high a power level as other sets this year, was the highlight of 2019.
2018 - Dominaria
Dominariawas the most important set in 2018 for a variety of reasons: no other release that year was as exciting as it was, as the Ixalan block wasn't impactful enough, the Master sets didn't bring anything beyond expected and Guilds of Ravnica felt a little more of the same. Additionally, the set was the first return to the plane since
Time Spiral, and it gave players a broad view of everything that followed our last visit, while bringing new versions of classic characters like Squee, Jhoira, Multani, Karn, Jaya, Teferi, among others.
Sagas, enchantments that would become a recurring element in future releases, as well as a variety of cards that directly cared about legendary spells.
2017 - Aether RevoltAt first glance, none of the 2017 releases seem too impactful because basically all the sets were average, and probably the most well-known product of that year were the Commander 2017 decks, which featured some of the best tribal commanders ever released. However,
Aether Revolthas a permanent historical impact.
Energydecks as a viable option in the competitive Metagame and was present in a broad and detailed ban for Standard in 2018, alongside Attune with Aether. Finally, Walking Ballista was banned from Pioneer many years later for its combination with Heliod, Sun-Crowned which allowed infinite damage, and Heliod Company is a viable deck in Modern.
2016 - Oath of the Gatewatch2016 saw some interesting releases with a return to Zendikar at the end of the previous year and a new set in Innistrad afterwards, as well as Eternal Masters, which brought some of the first major reprints to Legacy. But
Oath of the Gatewatchleft its mark on history not only for supposedly ending two Eldrazi Titans and starting the Gatewatch cycle, but also for being the cause of one of the most fateful moments in the competitive landscape: the
Eldrazi Winter, where the format largely evolved around figuring out the best variant for the tribe, while the rest of the Metagame struggled to keep up with their speed — eventually leading to Eye of Ugin's ban.
2015 - Dragons of Tarkir
Dragons of Tarkir, the final set of one of the most powerful blocks of all time, may not have the same impact that Khans did, but it has brought some of Magic's most important staples to date, such as Kolaghan's Command, Atarka's Command and Collected Company, which are featured in some of Pioneer's top competitors in 2022.
2014 - Khans of TarkirAbsolutely nothing in 2014 compared to
Khans of Tarkir— the set was barely out, and it was already dictating how Standard should behave.
Delve, and as expected, some of its cards simply broke the symmetry and balance of the Metagame in Modern, Legacy and Pauper by rewarding too much Tempo decks with Treasure Cruise and combos with Dig Through Time — eventually both spells were banned from eternal formats.
Allied Fetch Lands, which not only merged with Zendikar's enemy Fetchs in Modern, but also altered Standard to the point where they influenced the deckbuilding that eventually led, alongside the Tango Lands, to several variants of three-color archetypes with a slight splash, as well as a significant increase in the format's price tag. Finally, it was with Khans of Tarkir that we started naming enemy color combinations based on the plane's clans:
2013 - Modern MastersIt might seem strange to have a reprint set as the most impactful of a year, but
Modern Masterswas the first Master set in history and started a precedent that would greatly help Modern and other formats' community acquire the cards they needed — adding punctual reprints on a Booster set.
2012 - Return to RavnicaStill in the same logic of making Modern staples more accessible,
Return to Ravnicabrought the first reprint for
Shock Lands, originally released in 2005, and also stood out as the first sets to revisit a plane that wasn't Dominaria.
2011 - New Phyrexia2011 had two important sets with long-term impact for Magic:
Innistrad, which brought several staples such as Delver of Secrets, Liliana of the Veil, Snapcaster Mage, among others, and
New Phyrexia, which brought a smaller variety of staples, but had a much bigger impact on the game by featuring one of the most broken mechanics in the game's history:
Pauperfor giving out too much information at no relevant cost.
2010 - Worldwake
Worldwakeleft its mark thanks to the release of two cards that would star in a moment that, until then, was rare in Standard.
bannedfrom Standard the following year for being the centerpiece of a deck that dominated the Metagame, breaking a tradition of avoiding bans in rotating formats, and perhaps it would be the first precedent that would make direct interventions in Standard a common practice in a few years later. Interestingly, while Stoneforge Mystic really needed support to be worthwhile, and it didn't exist properly at the time — Caw-Blade only became an issue when they released Sword of Feast and Famine in Mirrodin Besieged — Jace, the Mind Sculptor was criticized upon its release and seen as "weak", with one of the most common complaints referring to the fact that his Brainstorm wasn't a +1 ability. These players were proven wrong when
Shards of Alararotated, and the Metagame became so geared towards Jace, the Mind Sculptor that players commonly ran copies of Jace Beleren to fight him with an old rule where there could only be one Planeswalker of each type on the battlefield.
2009 - Zendikar
Zendikarchanged the structure of the game and mainly dictated the eternal formats by bringing, after many years, the
enemy Fetch Lands.
2008 - Shards of Alara2008 had good releases within the Lorwyn block, but in a historical context — while it doesn't have as many important cards —
Shards of Alaraset a precedent that would become a commercial standard from that moment on.
Mythic Rares, with the orange symbol and seeking to portray cards that were important to history, Planeswalkers, or powerful spells. The set was also responsible for naming the three-color combinations allied with names we still use today:
2007 - LorwynFuture Sight may have brought Tarmogoyf and some other cards that made history, but
Lorwynwent well beyond bringing not only staples that are still some of the best cards in their categories, in addition to introducing the
Tribalsupertype, Lorwyn was a set entirely focused on synergies between creature types. With that, Elves, Merfolks and Goblins were some of the most prominent tribes at the time.
2006 - Time Spiral
Time Spiralwas the first return to Dominaria after many years visiting other planes, and one where we observed a crisis that would unfold over the course of the block and change the lore forever with the Mending.
2005 - Ravnica: City of GuildsRavnica: City of Guilds changed a variety of things in Magic — for the first time, we had nomenclature for the two-color combinations we still use today, it introduced a new theme for a multicolored set, introduced hybrid-cost spells, and brought what is perhaps the second most important land cycle in the game's history: the
Dual Lands, the
Shock Landshave a greater historical impact due to their recurring reprints every time we return to Ravnica since then, making them legal in more Competitive formats, such as Pioneer, while being a centerpiece whenever it was present in Standard.
2004 - DarksteelWhile Mirrodin was the set that introduced one of the most broken keywords of all time - Affinity - it was
Darksteelwho took the block's power level into the stratosphere by introducing a dozen powerful cards, in particular one that would be promptly banned almost everywhere.
2003 - Mirrodin
Mirrodinleft a permanent mark on history by showing that Wizards end up making mistakes when they focus too much on artifacts in their launches, introducing one of the most broken keywords of all time:
Artifact Landswere released in this same set made casting Myr Enforcer and other spells for cheap, or even for free, too easy and the only way to fight it was basically focussing on maindeck interactions such as Akroma's Vengeance and Viridian Shaman, Eventually, all artifact lands, along with other essential pieces of the archetype, were banned.
2002 - Onslaught
Onslaught, part of the last block that would take place on Dominaria for a few years, changed Magic forever by bringing to the world a cycle that would impact eternal formats forever:
Thresholdfrom the previous block, Fetch Lands entirely changed the way we've played Magic through their interaction with
basic land types, which allowed to fetch Dual Lands with them, significantly improving Legacy's mana flexibility, and later this would be reflected in the now-defunct Extended and Modern with the Shock Lands.
Fetch Landsare by far the most important land cycle in Magic history, as they set a new bar for how to upgrade your manabases whenever they are available in a format, making the option to play three or more colors way more tangible than before its existence. And, precisely because it facilitates access to colors and reduces diversity, this cycle is currently
bannedfrom Pioneer since the format's launch.
2001 - Apocalypse
Apocalypsewas the set that, through its lore, ended the greatest saga of Magic: The Gathering, putting an end to the story of the Phyrexian Invasion on Dominaria, with the death of the villain
Yawgmoththrough the sacrifice of several important characters, like
Gerrard, and I consider it the most important release of 2001 for representing the end of the most famous arc in the game.
2000 - InvasionStarting a block and in a relatively weak year of releases,
Invasiondeserves its spot on this list because, among 2000s sets, it has the most cards that have stood the test of time and, by chance, still are present in the competitive scenario.
1999 - Urza's DestinyUrza's block was a historic moment for the game in the most controversial ways possible, regarded as the
most broken block of all timedue to the high-power level of its cards at a time when R&D was still experimenting — and
Urza's Destiny, despite being the least controversial of the three sets, is still the one with the biggest historic impact on the game in its year.
1998 - Urza's SagaTo say that
Urza's Sagawas the most important set of its year is practically an understatement: The set that opened Urza's Block is seen as
the most broken Magic set ever released, being a benchmark for a variety of things R&D would avoid for years to come.
Urza's Sagaalso brought what many consider the most powerful spell in the game.
Yawg-Winas it's called since you'll usually win the game on the turn you cast it, is an essential piece for a multitude of combos, being banned in Legacy for being too powerful.
Urza's Sagawas the most important set from 1998.
1997 - Tempest
Tempestbrought to the game some cards that made history and/or are still important for the competitive and casual world.
fun police. For these historic additions, Tempest is the most important set of 1997.
1996 - Alliances1996 wasn't the most exciting year for Magic in a release and story context, so just like the year after, we need to assess the practical impact sets had on the game's history, and how its cards were or still are present in the game.
Force of Will, considered by many to be the pillar that sustains the viability of fair decks in Legacy, came out as part of the first "free spells" cycle to exist in the game, in
Alliances. Both for introducing such an important piece to the competitive world and for pioneering the design of playing spells without paying mana costs, the second set of the Ice Age block deserves the most impactful set title for 1996.
1995 - Chronicles
Chronicleswas a reprint set released in 1995 to facilitate the acquisition of certain cards by increasing their availability on the market, and was the first one entirely focused on reprints outside the core sets. However, what makes it so important is how its negative repercussion was because, despite Wizards having left out some more expensive cards, certain reprints such as the Elder Dragons have lowered their price, making collectors upset.
1994 - Legends
Legendswas one of the first expansions for Magic: The Gathering, and it brought two very important points to the game's development:
Multicolored Spells, in addition to introducing some of the iconic characters from the lore that would eventually develop, including one of the most iconic villains in the game — Nicol Bolas.
restrictedfor flavor reasons: it shouldn't be possible to have more than one copy of it in the deck if it's... well, legendary. This rule was changed when Ice Age came out, in 1995.
1993 - AlphaAs cliché as this sounds,
Alphais definitely the most important set of Magic's first year because it was the one that brought the game to life. Nothing would be what it is today if Alpha hadn't been a success.
Power 9, considered the most powerful spells in the game, as well as the
Old Duals, lands that are the pillars of Legacy's manabase.