Ranking Every Magic Set Ever, Part 3

Danny West is back to ranking Every Magic Set Ever! Warning: some of these sets might actually be good! But that won’t save them from the Sultan of Snark…

I have a fear that I’m going to get to the end of this and realize I miscounted. I counted twice, so it has to be right. Right? Probably.

Here’s the review. We’ll wait for you. Ready? Okay.

48. Shadowmoor

This was a really cool concept. You take the merry Faerie pie smell of Lorwyn and make everyone hit the dark age of thirteen at the same time. Sad!

Most Sorry Character in Magic:

Stupid Rosheen. Look at her! She has it right! Why does she remember happy Lorwyn? What is her curse? Is this covered in the lore somewhere?

In fairness to the denizens of this plane, she does look untrustworthy. If a twenty-story wanderer with ivy hair is rambling about cosmic truths, does it really matter how right they are if they smell bad enough?

Quick note that there weren’t planeswalkers in this set. Or Morningtide. Or Eventide. Sweet rollout.

Great Cards I Don’t Have Jokes For:

47. Oath of the Gatewatch

Remember when I wouldn’t shut up about how this list isn’t about power level? Case. In. Point.

This set, in a vacuum, is a monster. It has more amazing cards and novel concepts and colorful bits and so forth than any set I can remember after Urza’s Saga. High-powered Eldrazi, creative new enchantments, creative creature design, ridiculously awesome planeswalkers, sneaky good gold creatures, Ally subthemes, Octopi, new Kalitas, new Linvala; it has everything!

And Standard sucked for most of its stay. One of the greatest tragedies of this set is that it will forever be buried by development mistakes around it in other sets and by being in the wrong place and wrong time of the well-intentioned Standard rotation experiments.

Also, the “teammate” thing is weird, since nothing more really came of it and it seems out of place to me. What up with that?

Somehow Not a Marquee Card:

The power of the cards in this set is horrifying.

46. Portal


I don’t know who thought “intercepting” was more intuitive than “blocking,” but hopefully they’re getting the help they need.

Where the hell do I draw cards from?!

Oh, I see.

45. Mirrodin Besieged

Actually Unbeatable in Limited:

Actually Unbeatable in Constructed:

Actually Keeping Me Up at Night Brewing for Over Six Years:

Literally Restoration Angel. You can flash in Sword of Feast and Famine! Someone break this little fella!

44. Dark Ascension

The sequel is never as good. Except Empire Strikes Back. And maybe The Godfather. Or The Dark Knight. Or Terminator. Or…

Fateful hour is a cool mechanic that has to have more space than what has been used so far.

Late to the Party Award:

Get a load of this clown. “The end is nigh!” Is anyone denying that Innistrad is a trainwreck at this point? This set came out in February. Zombies and Ghosts and Skeletons have been running around in the open since October. The entire plane has been stabbing Vampires and Werewolves since before Christmas. Thanks for the heads up, genius.

43. Visions

It’s kind of bothersome that we’re getting into respectable sets now. It’s a lot harder to make fun of them.

Never mind. We’re good.

A few innovations from this set off the top of my head: moving Draft as a format forward into a multi-set structure, bringing old school subjects (Djinns, the ill-fated enchant world types) into cohesive set design. The game was still hogwash here, but it was starting to make a lot more sense.

42. Coldsnap

We can’t really have a lot of opportunities for what this set showcases: taking old and unrefined Magic and “fixing” it up a bit. The flavor of a lost set is awesome, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that Ulgrotha needs to be done right.

This set still isn’t a home run, but the concept of a plane that’s barren and cold in its entirety is cool (no one laugh!). It was just smart to see old Magic done better.

Gee, I wonder if players would love to play a “fixed” Alpha in a Draft setting. You know, since the very nature of it prevents Reserved List problems, appeals to newer and older players, and the concept is so lucrative in principle alone. Hintedy-hint. Hint hint hint.


41. Morningtide

This set reminds me a lot of Oath of the Gatewatch. It has a lot of great cards, but the Limited format is more cohesive and bad Standard development wasn’t as punished by the market then as it is now.

This was a naughty card for dirty people.

Ha! Look at that one! He’s like a pocket monster.

40. Alara Reborn

“Cascade is so dumb, haha.”

Spoiler: It isn’t. It has cool interactions with suspend cards and Bloodbraid Elf was a monster. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of fun. Lumping it in with storm is lunacy. There’s nothing broken about this:


I don’t like what this set did to the Draft format, but it has an inherently good theme and appeal. It’s aged pretty well to boot. I have 100% sleeved this card up for Modern:

I took it out of the sleeve before the tournament. I’m not an idiot. It’s not like it’s Shimmer Myr.

39. Eldritch Moon

You know what’s not a great storytelling medium for sudden twists? A card game with limited amounts of characters that hundreds of thousands of people are exposed to and have months to discuss before the payoff [sic].

Ulamog. Then Kozilek. Gee, what could be coming next?! In the set that comes out forever from now! It could really be anything!

So long as that thing is Emrakul. This “mystery” got solved faster than recent Standard formats.

“Remember…they came as three…”

Cool story, bro.

Meld is too little and too weird—and yeah, the set’s entire theme is whoa! Weird! —but there are some really amazing ideas going on here. Bringing cosmic horror to Innistrad is an excellent idea, but it was too soon, it suffered too much from the wonky environment, it’s infected with Gatewatch-ism (Oath of Liliana flavor text ranks right around Ash Zealot on the cringe-meter)…but if you can get past all of that…

There’s some eloquent sweetness lurking.

38. Magic 2012 Core Set

Good. Tight. Reasonable. Not a world-changer, though.

37. Aether Revolt

I love when Magic does piggybacking off other popular gaming properties. Zendikar‘s Vampires were around right after those books about monster makeouts were all the rage. Kaladesh came about with its energy themes just a century after Pokemon took off. And here we have Aether Revolt released just months after Overwatch and its robots and ethics debates.

Put this in your Cube or I quit playing:

Ragavan is the coolest name for a monkey I’ve ever heard. I’m going to the courthouse tomorrow to fill out the papers to change my name, or my name ain’t Ragavan.

Pirate Queens are second only to space cowboys and monkeys with cool names in underutilized Magic creature design.

36. Portal: Three Kingdoms

P3K is the second set in this list where I’ll pitch my “buy other property rights and make limited edition Magic sets out of them” idea. Just think of how expensive sealed The Simpsons draft sets will go for in ten years. Dr. No is unbeatable in James Bond Draft. The possibilities are endless.

P3K also gets credit for having the most card names that could vaguely describe unsavory activities:

“I couldn’t make it to work this morning. I went with my cousin to Vegas and we borrowed the East Wind, if you catch my drift.”

35. Urza’s Destiny

No further comment.

34. Urza’s Legacy

These sets had to play second fiddle to the power maelstrom of Saga, but they were plenty good in their own right. Sure, they were horrible for a format’s balance, but nothing’s perfect! I respect busted formats from the early years because of how much simpler the card design was. These sets had tons of cycles, which made them more digestible as a whole.

Sweet cards that deserve a hat tip:

As I age, I always think of this guy when I’m annoyed by loud music or confusing teenager behaviors:

33. Invasion

Great Draft format. Great story elements that weren’t overbearing. Great. Great. Great.

This set was gold.

Thank you, thank you.

It also had some of the best Dragons of the time, which was smart. Now, all the marquee cards are the same overbearing Gatewatch geeks.

Crosis beats Jace. Get purged, blue boy.

32. Magic 2011 Core Set

Another fine addition to the growing pantheon of fine editions, this was the second “new world” Core Set after Magic 2010. It wasn’t quite as nifty as the first time, but it had giant monsters that beat the everloving piss out of everything else on the battlefield without any regard for human (or any other) life, so that was neat for a minute.

I had this at a Prerelease. I feel winning that event should’ve put me on the Pro Tour, as it took a number of skillful maneuvers, like continuing to breathe and not leaving the room and going home. Grave Titan and Ajani Goldmane did the rest. I think. I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.

31. Scars of Mirrodin

Yes, this was a revisit set, but here are several reasons why it succeeded:

First of all, we hadn’t gone into “What? This place again?” fatigue like where we are now. This was actually genuinely interesting at this point.

Next, the original Mirrodin had…problems. It had good qualities, but all those were devoured by its half-assed development for Constructed play. It was a second chance for a cool world.

Finally, it brought old Magic villains into a new Magic setting. Contrast this the recent invasion of new Magic villains into a new Magic plane because if you take a bunch of food you like and just put it all in a blender, you’re 100% going to like the sludge that comes out.

I never met a Molder Beast I didn’t like.

Between Mox Opal, Mimic Vat, Livewire Lash, and others, nothing about this set felt like it was trying too hard to be something else. It was a fixed Mirrodin, which was perfectly good.

Taking All Sets

Getting down to it, aren’t we? Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation would put this list at 97 entries, which means that the game will strike 100 before we know it. How cool is that?

Anyway, I’ll see you soon with more sets, more snide remarks, and more Shimmer Myrs as we crawl our way toward the top 10.