• Magic: The Gathering
  • Magic: The Gathering Online

Which game do you want to buy from?

How to Buy at a Glance

  • 1. Search for items
  • 2. Purchase via PayPal or CC
  • 3. Receive items in the mail
    (usually in less than a week!)
Want Magic prices from CardShark.com on your Mobile device? - Try the Decked Builder app

CardShark Content - Beatdown Bedford Crenshaw (4/22/2005)

A couple of times a week, I hear newbies ask about whether or not they should buy this or that out of print expansion. Most of the time, they are encouraged not to buy the boosters and just to buy select cards from the set. There is some wisdom to this. Buying the same composition of 11 commons, 3 uncommons, and 1 rare from a Cardshark dealer will typically cost $3.05 (after shipping), and the typical booster costs $3.69. Still, there is just something fun and exciting about the unexpected; buying a booster having no idea what “treasures” may be found there. Consider this a guide to these expansions. You will find out that expansions place in history, how the commons stack up, and whether or not you have a good chance of getting a nice rare or not. I’m starting with Fallen Empires, as you won’t find any booster expansion before FE to be cheap enough to just casually obtain. Due to the number of expansions, I am going to make this a series of articles, breaking them up as the DCI does for block rotations in Extended. I also added my personal history with each set, to help illustrate how to add personal details in one’s writing in a way to make it interesting.

FALLEN EMPIRES:
PLACE IN HISTORY: Before Fallen Empires, WotC would not ship all the boosters boxes that retailer would order, sometimes only shipping 10%-50% of the ordered product. Retailers took this into account when they ordered Fallen Empires. But this time WotC decided to honor all the orders, leaving retailers far more product than they wanted. To make matters worse, all the good cards were common, making it unnecessary to buy lots of boosters to get a playset. This drove many retailers out of business. Long considered one of the worst expansions ever, it has in recent years been given more respect.
PERSONAL HISTORY: This was my first expansion, so I will always regard it fondly.
THEME: Just prior to the Ice Age, each color would wage war against itself. Red vs. red, White vs. white, etc.
COMMONS: Each color had a great selection of weenies. Few fatties were in the set. If you just want neat commons, this is a good set, especially since each common had 3-4 different pieces of artwork, adding to the collectibility. Hymn to Tourach
Hymn to Tourach
Hymn to TourachSet: Fallen Empires
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
12
Artist:
Susan Van Camp
Text:
Target player discards two cards at random from his or her hand. If target player does not have enough cards, his or her entire hand is discarded.
and the various Orders were the best.
RARES: Here was FE’s major weakness; it had no good rares. All the rares were just good for tribal.
SUGGESTION: Prices for FE have only just risen. Even still, it’s not impossible to find a booster for $1.99. However, as there are only 8 cards in a booster, you might get more bang for your buck somewhere else. I definitely wouldn’t pay over $3, and probably wouldn’t pay over $2.

4th EDITION:
PLACE IN HISTORY: 4th Edition would continue the trend started by Revised/3rd Edition to weaken the base set of power cards. This was the last base set to have ante cards. This was also the first base set to be widely distributed.
PERSONAL HISTORY: I collected more from this base set than any other base set.
THEME: Standard base set, sanitized for general audiences by eliminating demon references, including the pentagram from the original artwork for Unholy Strength
Unholy Strength
Unholy StrengthSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Black
Type:
Enchant Creature
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Text:
Target creature gains +2/+1.
.
COMMONS: Lots of love here. Lightning Bolt
Lightning Bolt
Lightning BoltSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Red
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Text:
Lightning Bolt does 3 damage to one target.
s were still in, and all colors were roughly equal.
RARES: Lots of power here
SUGGESTION: Maybe worth $4-$5 for 1-2 packs. I recommend searching the internet for foreign black border versions of this base set, the last base set to have foreign black-bordered cards available.

ICE AGE:
PLACE IN HISTORY: Ice Age was the first stand-alone expansion. It was the last expansion that was hard to obtain when first released. This was also the first expansion to have a “pre-release”, but it was only at one location (Toronto, Ontario).
PERSONAL HISTORY: I remember traveling all over town trying to find packs when they first came out, managing to finally find them at a game shop in a mall 12 miles from where I live. It took months to get a decent collection of these cards.
THEME: Dominaria was undergoing an Ice Age due to the actions of Urza
Urza
UrzaSet: Vanguard
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Character
Rarity:
X
Number:
7
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Power:
-1
Toughness:
+10
Text:
3: Urza deals one damage to target creature or player.
and Mishra
Mishra
MishraSet: Vanguard
Sub Type:
Character
Rarity:
X
Number:
3
Artist:
Anson Maddocks
Power:
+0
Toughness:
-3
Text:
Double all damage dealt by creatures you control.
. WotC intended this set to strengthen the use of allied-color combinations, with many cards requiring a player to use two colors that were allies in the color wheel. The set added mechanics like Cumulative Upkeep and Snow-covered lands, but both were implemented so badly that they never took off. As Ice Age was originally designed to utterly replace “The Gathering”, making it “Magic: The Ice Age”, there are many cards that are just renamed versions of cards found in Alpha/Beta.
COMMONS: These were largely hit or miss. The best new common was Incinerate
Incinerate
IncinerateSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Red
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Scott M. Fischer
Text:
Incinerate deals 3 damage to target creature or player. Creatures damaged by Incinerate cannot regenerate this turn.
. As for remakes, Fyndhorn Elves
Fyndhorn Elves
Fyndhorn ElvesSet: Ice Age
Cost:
1
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elves
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Justin Hampton
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
T: Add G to your mana pool. Play this ability as an interrupt.
gave players the ability to add more Llanowar
Llanowar
LlanowarSet: Planechase
Cost:
0
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Plane
Sub Type:
Dominaria
Rarity:
C
Number:
22
Artist:
Kev Walker
Text:
All creatures have "{T}: Add {G}{G} to your mana pool." Whenever you roll {C}, untap all creatures you control.
s Elves to their decks.
RARES: Mostly leaned towards the bland side. Necropotence
Necropotence
NecropotenceSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
Skip your draw phase.Whenever you discard a card, remove that card from the game.Pay 1 life: Set aside the top card of your library. Put that card into your hand at the beginning of your discard phase.
is the best one here.
SUGGESTION: When I see these boosters, they are normally $4.99. I’d skip buying boosters of these.

CHRONICLES:
PLACE IN HISTORY: Chronicles earned its place in history by being the cause of the Reserved list. There were many cards printed in Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark that were highly overrated but because they were underprinted, people did not realize how bad they were. Once the cards were widely seen, prices for the original dropped like rocks.
PERSONAL HISTORY: My main memories of this set was playing in my first DCI sanctioned tournament, which was 150 miles away (it was the closest one yet at the time). It was also done with ante (yep, originally sanctioned tourneys had ante rules). Also, not everyone who played had a DCI number, so only those matches where both were DCI members counted for one’s ratings; this match never affected my points.
THEME: Cards that were hard to come by when first released in 1994.
COMMONS: Quite a few interesting commons, especially in red. Nothing spectacular.
RARES: A few good rares, but most were bad. Ernham Djinn and the Elder Dragon Legends are the best of the lot.
SUGGESTION: Maybe worth $3-4, any more and you should just buy the singles from Cardshark.

HOMELANDS:
PLACE IN HISTORY: Generally regarded as the worst expansion ever. Most of the cards were extremely overcosted, as R&D was responding to the overpowered cards in Arabian Nights, Antiquities, and Legends. This was the first expansion which was never hard to get, even when first released. At one time, WotC gave packs of Homelands to give to tourney organizers just to get rid of the boosters. I have seen these packs go for 39 cents apiece.
PERSONAL HISTORY: This was the first expansion where I never had any troubles getting packs, which should have been a sign. I remember building a fairy deck using nothing but Homelands cards; it of course was bad.
THEME: This was the plane from which many of the classic creatures came from. The Serra
Serra
SerraSet: Vanguard
Sub Type:
Character
Rarity:
X
Number:
4
Artist:
Matthew D. Wilson
Power:
+1
Toughness:
+1
Text:
All creatures you control get +0/+2.
from which Serra Angel
Serra Angel
Serra AngelSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
5
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Angel
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Power:
4
Toughness:
4
Text:
Flying Attacking does not cause Serra Angel to tap.
s were (for storyline purposes) named had her story told here. She was in a relationship with a fellow Planeswalker named Feroz, who wanted to stop other Planeswalkers from summoning the creatures of this plane. There was a nice graphic novel for this set. Also, this was the best attempt to make Minotaurs a valid tribe.
COMMONS: EEK, they’re bad. Mesa Falcon
Mesa Falcon
Mesa FalconSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Falcon
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Mark Poole
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
Flying 1W: +0/+1 until end of turn
s and Sea Sprite
Sea Sprite
Sea SpriteSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Faerie
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Rebecca Guay
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
Flying, protection from red
were the best
RARES: See above, although Baron Sengir
Baron Sengir
Baron SengirSet: Homelands
Cost:
8
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Legend
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Pete Venters
Power:
5
Toughness:
5
Text:
Flying Whenever a creature is put into the graveyard the same turn Baron Sengir damaged it, put a +2/+2 counter on Baron Sengir.T: Regenerate target Vampire.
and Autumn Willow
Autumn Willow
Autumn WillowSet: Homelands
Cost:
6
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Legend
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Margaret Organ-Kean
Power:
4
Toughness:
4
Text:
Cannot be the target of spells or effects.G: Target player may target Autumn Willow with spells or effects until end of turn.
are still somewhat collectible. Soraya was always underrated, and has been errata-ed to work on all Birds, not just Falcons.
SUGGESTION. Maybe buy 1-2 for $2, but anything over $1.50 and you’re getting screwed. Remember that only 8 cards come within a booster.

ALLIANCES:
PLACE IN HISTORY: After the severe shortage of power that the last 3-4 expansions, this was the set that saved Magic from disappearing forever. Alliances was vastly overrated originally because its cards were much better than the previous expansions’ cards.
PERSONAL HISTORY: This was the last expansion where I had any trouble getting packs, although I eventually found a Waldenbooks that still had a (almost) whole box six months after it was released; I ended up giving some boosters to my girlfriend in her Christmas stocking. (I think she liked it better than any other gift I gave her ever.)
THEME: The end of the Ice Age had just occurred. Alliances was the only expansion originally intended to be an Ice Age expansion, and so carried on the themes of Ice Age, namely the allied-colored combinations and snow covered lands cards.
COMMONS: The last expansion to see duplicate commons with different artwork. There are some fun commons in this set, like Guerrilla Tactics
Guerrilla Tactics
Guerrilla TacticsSet: Alliances
Cost:
2
Color:
Red
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Randy Asplund
Text:
Guerrilla Tactics deals 2 damage to target creature or player.If a spell or effect controlled by an opponent causes you to discard Guerrilla Tactics from your hand, reveal Guerrilla Tactics to all players, and it deals 4 damage to target creature or player.
or the female Elvish Ranger
Elvish Ranger
Elvish RangerSet: Alliances
Cost:
3
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elf
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Terese Nielsen
Power:
4
Toughness:
1
.
RARES: A mix bag. A Black control magic and dual-color hosers are probably the most interesting rares for newbies.
SUGGESTION: The last regular expansion to not have 15-cards in a booster (it only had 12). It rose in price per booster to $5 almost overnight. I doubt you will find boosters cheap enough to simply open, but if you can find them for less than $4 (and that’s extremely doubtful; winning Powerball or Mega Millions seems more likely) go ahead and pick up a couple.

MIRAGE:
PLACE IN HISTORY: Mirage introduced 5th Edition rules to Magic. It was also the beginning of the “block system”, where one huge expansion would be followed by two smaller expansions to expand its themes. Mirage first premiered at a Pro Tour, where the players had no foreknowledge of the cards, making for the most interesting of all Pro Tours. There were a few prereleases for Mirage, but they were sparse.
PERSONAL HISTORY: This expansion first revealed my prowess at Magic, where I dominated an Arena
Arena
ArenaSet: Timeshifted
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
R
Number:
117
Artist:
Rob Alexander
Text:
3, T: Tap target creature you control and target creature of an opponent's choice he or she controls. Each of those creatures deals damage equal to its power to the other.
league with my Mirage-constructed deck (this was before even Visions
Visions
VisionsSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
NéNé Thomas
Text:
Look at the top five cards of any library. You may then shuffle that library.
was released). Given that the Fall of ’96 was probably the happiest point of my life, I will always have a fondness in my heart for the expansion.
THEME: There was a strong African theme to this set, done far better than Kamigawa’s Asian theme. Flanking and Phasing were advertised as starting a revolution for Magic, even through both mechanics would never be used again outside of the block.
COMMONS: There are too many good ones to name
RARES: Lots of interesting ones. Dragons for all colors, interesting artifacts, highly recommended
SUGGESTION: Definitely worth picking up a couple if less than $5

VISIONS:
PLACE IN HISTORY: This was the first expansion which there were widespread prereleases for.
PERSONAL HISTORY: This was my first prerelease. (I went to the one held in Lexington KY). Starting with the Visions
Visions
VisionsSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
NéNé Thomas
Text:
Look at the top five cards of any library. You may then shuffle that library.
Prerelease, I have never failed to attend a prerelease for an expansion, making it 25 in total. This was also the first time I preordered a whole box of boosters. I remember opening them up at the store right after I picked them up, and was sorting them while munching a whole bag of Plain M&Ms, being sure to save all the green ones for my girlfriend (the expression on her face was priceless when I showed her the ones I saved for her.) :-)
THEME: This was an overflow for cards that couldn’t make it into Mirage. And what a great overflow it is. Great cards along all rarities.
COMMONS: There are dweebs who say there were too many good commons in this set. What an idiot; you can never have enough good commons, especially in all colors. Fireblast
Fireblast
FireblastSet: Visions
Cost:
6
Color:
Red
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Michael Danza
Text:
You may sacrifice two mountains instead of paying Fireblast's casting cost. Fireblast deals 4 damage to target creature or player.
and River Boa
River Boa
River BoaSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Snake
Rarity:
U
Number:
249
Artist:
Steve White
Power:
2
Toughness:
1
Text:
Islandwalk (This creature is unblockable if defending player controls an island.) G: Regenerate River Boa.
are the alpha males in a host of alpha male commons.
RARES: Quite a few nice ones, but the commons steal the show
SUGGESTION: If you wanted to do a draft with OOP cards, then this is the one to do it with. Might be the one booster worth buying a few for $6. If you can pick up boosters for less than $5, then consider getting some friends to booster draft it. If you do, please invite me. :)

5th EDITION:
PLACE IN HISTORY: This was the weakest base set in the history of Magic. Any remains of power from Beta were finally expunged in this set, and the replacements were from the weakest series of expansions ever (FE, Ice Age, Homelands). This was also the first base set where they used brand-new artwork, as WotC wanted to get out of the compensation promises they gave the original Magic artists.
PERSONAL HISTORY: None really, save that this was the base set from which I experienced my greatest constructed glory.
THEME: Base set. A very, VERY, bland set.
COMMONS: Ugh! Don’t bother. You can get any decent commons, of what little they were, from different boosters.
RARES: Mostly bilge; the only decent rares were Necropotence
Necropotence
NecropotenceSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
Skip your draw phase.Whenever you discard a card, remove that card from the game.Pay 1 life: Set aside the top card of your library. Put that card into your hand at the beginning of your discard phase.
, Ball Lightning
Ball Lightning
Ball LightningSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Ball Lightning
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Quinton Hoover
Power:
6
Toughness:
1
Text:
Trample Ball Lightning can attack the turn it comes into play. At the end of any turn, bury Ball Lightning.
, Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise
Birds of ParadiseSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Mana Birds
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Poole
Power:
0
Toughness:
1
Text:
Flying T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. This ability is played as an interrupt.
, and the dual lands from Ice Age.
SUGGESTION: Homelands was better than this. Don’t buy unless you want to booster draft, and don’t pay over $3 a booster if you do.

WEATHERLIGHT:
PLACE IN HISTORY: This was the official start of the whole Phyrexian Invasion saga that ended in Apocalypse
Apocalypse
ApocalypseSet: Tempest
Cost:
5
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Artist:
L. A. Williams
Text:
Remove all permanents from the game. Discard your hand.
, even through Antiquities, Mirage, and Visions
Visions
VisionsSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
NéNé Thomas
Text:
Look at the top five cards of any library. You may then shuffle that library.
all featured figures prominent in the saga. This was not originally announced as an official expansion to Mirage, although it quickly became one de facto. This was the last appearance of banding and cumulative upkeep.
PERSONAL HISTORY: My first big tourney dominance, as I made it all the way to the Top 4 (we decided we had all had enough for the day, so we did a 4-way split for prizes) at the prerelease at Fort Knox, KY). My somewhat-grey opponent in the Top8 would become a prominent judge in Louisville, and starting from this match he was never able to beat me, which is why he would eventually have another judge, who was quite moody, to alter the official results of a match in 1999 where I once again beat him due to his own foolishness, so that the DCI to this day has it as him beating me, when instead I beat him again.
THEME: This was the start of the overly long story arc that ran thru the next four blocks. Only based around Mirage due to having the story start in Jamuraa, which was where the African-based Mirage and Visions
Visions
VisionsSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
NéNé Thomas
Text:
Look at the top five cards of any library. You may then shuffle that library.
storyline took place. There was no flanking, and only one phasing. The main expansion mechanics was cumulative upkeep and graveyard effects, although not nearly to the same degree as would be seen in Odyssey block.
COMMONS: Some decent stuff, with Empyrial Armor
Empyrial Armor
Empyrial ArmorSet: Weatherlight
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Enchant Creature
Rarity:
C
Artist:
D. Alexander Gregory
Text:
Enchanted creature gets +X/+X, where X is equal to the number of cards in your hand.
being the best
RARES: Nothing spectacular, but a few cool cards like Thundermare
Thundermare
ThundermareSet: Portal
Cost:
6
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Creature
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Bob Eggleton
Power:
5
Toughness:
5
Text:
Thundermare is unaffected by summoning sickness. When Thundermare comes into play from your hand, tap all other creatures. (This includes your creatures.)
, Call of the Wild
Call of the Wild
Call of the WildSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
4
Color:
Green
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
218
Artist:
Brom
Text:
2GG: Reveal the top card of your library. If it's a creature card, put it into play. Otherwise, put it into your graveyard.
, and Abeyance
Abeyance
AbeyanceSet: Oversize Cards
Cost:
2
Color:
White
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
X
Artist:
Thomas Gianni
Text:
Until end of turn, target player cannot play instants, interrupts, sorceries, or abilities requiring an activation cost.Draw a card.

SUGGESTION: I wouldn’t pay over $4, and would only buy a couple. Some cool stuff, but Visions
Visions
VisionsSet: Fourth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
NéNé Thomas
Text:
Look at the top five cards of any library. You may then shuffle that library.
set the standard.


Next week, as we are biding our time until Saviors of Kamigawa, the next wave of expansions: Tempest thru Prophecy
Prophecy
ProphecySet: Homelands
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Christopher Rush
Text:
Reveal the top card of target opponent's library to all players. If it is a land, gain 1 life. That opponent then shuffles his or her library. Draw a card at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep.
.


Rate Article



Discuss Article

Click here to discuss this article in forum or leave comments for the author.

RSS feed RSS Feed


This article is provided to you by CardShark.com - A Better Way to Buy and Sell Collectable Games Online. Please check out the rest of our site - you won't be disappointed.

View More ArticlesView More Articles