This isn't about power level. Stop saying it's about power level in the comments! It's not! You degenerate Spike, you! Knock it off!
All right, let's just get through this.
95. Fallen Empires
I'm using this slot to tell you that I'm not using Alpha, Unlimited, or any supplemental products. Alpha and Unlimited are just Beta with worse borders and omitted cards. Revised cut a lot of the power, so it's different enough. What's that? Fallen Empires? Who cares.
I put a +1/+0 counter on the thing with +2/+2 counters after I counter your spell in the game that calls noncreature cards spells even though creatures are spells. Seriously, why would anyone play Magic?
94. Ice Age
None of the card names make sense. They're in the wrong colors.
Card with a Full Film Script Typed onto It:
To this day, whenever a new card with too much text is released and someone asks me what I think of it, I don't read it and just link to this card. I've also made the choice to never read or internalize Ice Cauldron. Because that's important to me.
The destruction of this set is still being felt across Magic finance. In fairness to those who made those decisions, it was impossible to think Magic was going to continue indefinitely. After all, these sets all came out around this time. It was totally reasonable to think Magic was going to die any minute.
Hopefully whatever intern proposed the idea of fun gameplay by getting rid of copious amounts of your own resources is still locked away. And no, this still isn't about power level; however, the set fundamentally makes zero sense. Prophecy is like Monopoly if all the Chance cards said either "Go to Jail" or "Drool."
Card with Best Art Direction:
Frame the small pig in the largest way possible. Good job outta you.
91. Starter 2000
Which one of these had Time Warp?
90. Starter 1999
Scratch that. I don't care and have fully lost interest.
89. Saviors of Kamigawa
Nothing says balanced and interactive games like mechanics that reward you for having too many cards in hand or that ask you to essentially stop playing the game.
"Epic fail, amirite!" - Me, driving my annoyed children to their friend's house. I'm in the front seat of the van and there are juice stains all over the upholstery.
Ayumi, the Last Magic Pack Sold.
88. The Dark
You'll notice a lot of old Magic sets are basically new Magic sets except terrible. This is what Innistrad looked like before people that played the game designed it.
To the Devotees:
This set's green cards had a weird obsession with shoving 400 mana symbols on each card. So if you want to really set yourself apart from the other weirdos at your next cult meeting, something to look into.
The Susan Van Camp art that has that "creepy family from the 80s" imposing style is so upsetting.
Case in Point:
Cruel Ultimatum. Targeting myself.
Of all the second sets of blocks with little or no identity of their own, this one stands out. Or doesn't. You know. Whichever is the bad one.
This card is noteworthy because if a creature now isn't like this one, it's unplayable. There. I just made you incredible at Magic. Does it do Flametongue Kavu-type things? If not, bin it.
85. Portal: Second Age
This set probably taught someone to play. Nobody we've heard of, but someone.
This combos with Flametongue Kavu.
Mirrodin except awful.
To this day I can't read this card without laughing.
Before this set, it was possible to think Magic could be a game that only consisted of creatures. Now we know how terrible that would be.
A More Innocent Time:
Before Magic's biggest creature was an iconic alien...it was this. This. A giant dozen-armed dog that got itself stuck in the ground somehow and was too dumb to get out. Or that popped out of a little magic Pokeball. Has anyone explained what morph's flavor actually is yet? If so, how many words in did they get before the sane people in the room ran for the fire exit?
Black cards were insane in this set. Everything else was awful. It's like every set now if you change out the black cards for white ones.
Not Even Trying:
Get out. You're not even trying.
A bunch of lazy-design sideboard cards and a legendary creature that positively ruined our summer.
This isn't to be cheeky. This set is fascinating. It is all its own. Its cards are dark and intriguing. The plane is relatable.
Look at them! I'd like to be there having a good time! I get these people!
Now, I have no idea why this other woman qualifies as a "folk" all on her own, but it basically sums up why Homelands isn't the bottom of the barrel everyone remembers it as. It inspired Innistrad to a degree, and it's so disjointed and weird that it's actually a little charming. There comes a certain point in game design where something makes so little sense that it starts to intrigue you. Beast Walkers is that point.
79. Seventh Edition
Foils! New art! Yeah, we're done.
Legends is funny because for a long time people thought it was worth a damn. From 1998 to 2017, the number of cards people thought were nifty in this set went from around eighteen to negative four.
What You Think Legends Is:
What Legends Is:
77. Ninth Edition
Nothing important happened here, and the borders weren't nearly ugly enough when compared to Eighth. I will use this opportunity to remind you that Greater Good is Modern-legal, though. Someone do something dumb with it.
76. Magic 2015
The tagline for this set was "Another set that happened."
75. Magic 2014
The tagline for this set was "A set that happened."
74. Betrayers of Kamigawa
There comes a distinct moment in your game about flying carpets, tameable apes, and bird women that things just stop making sense. What the hell is the flavor of ninjutsu? I get that the Ninja jumps in out of nowhere, but where did the other creature go? The mechanic is more like "relief pitcher" than "ninjutsu."
Cool Art No One Remembers:
I like to think some of these sweet Kamigawa works were done to make up for that upside down flip ugliness. It's a good thing we didn't have the SCG Tour® then. Imagine the confusion when chat sheep try to figure out if someone who just turned a card upside down is "a reader" or if it's just the wacky trigger.
73. Fifth Dawn
When a new card type was introduced back during this time, it was broken. Not this new form of "broken" that just means "good," but actually bad for the game and not developed correctly. By the way, absolutely nothing has changed on this front since then.
Magic is a game of already infinite possibilities. Better go ahead and make up some new stuff that can't possibly meet the quality control standard of twenty-plus years' worth of lessons.
72. Dragon's Maze
Maybe this isn't kosher to say publicly, but a lot of us at SCG made fun of this set name way more than any of others. Probably all the others combined, in fact.
Have you ever seen someone hit a home run but then get called out because they failed to step on one of the bases?
This is what that moment looks like in card form.
Wait for it...
In a melodramatic, deep, and cheesy wizard voice... "Dragon's Maze!"
71. Journey into Nyx
I can't name four cards from this set, but people I trust tell me it was lame.
70. Eighth Edition
In many ways, this was the last truly old-school Core Set. Old Core Sets didn't just give you sideboard cards; they ruined somebody's day.
Add to that the fact that the layout is ridiculous and you have a winner, in my book. The best basic lands of all time are here and nowhere else. That pretentious Arabian Nights Mountain can tear itself in half.
Tribes and such! Onslaught was the last block before Magic took a good hard look at itself in the mirror and went, you know, I could use some new clothes. And it was right. Because even with the cool tribal wars stuff going on, morph didn't make any sense. And all these years later, we still know it's an Exalted Angel.
See above, except Dragons are great. I'm not even a huge Dragon fan, but it's undeniable. Has there ever been a Dragon too good for competitive play? No? Then why don't they just take cards that are at risk for being too good and make them Dragons? Emrakul, the Promised End would've been fine as a Dragon. Umezawa's Jitte would've been fine as a Dragon. This isn't rocket science.
How cool are these cards? It's a shame that WotC stopped printing Dragons after this set. They really could've been something.
Ah yes, Darksteel. When the irrefutable rule of "we're probably going to do this eventually anyway, so why don't we do now" gave birth to indestructible, which begat hexproof. There's nothing more bemusing to me than when old-school cards like Counterspell and Stone Rain are shunned in favor of "the cards people want," the cards that make current Magic truly great:
I don't have a lot to say about Darksteel. It was a development train derailment and non-interactive keywords make me angry. So file that grievance here.
Oh! But I like this card:
Why? Because sometimes it can be interacted with. Progress!
66. Battle for Zendikar
Our final entry for the day involves a set that, as of time of this writing, is Standard-legal. Now, although I wasn't the biggest Zendikar fan—Indiana Jones stuff isn't really my speed; it's not colorful and there are too many rocks, and rocks are boring—I do acknowledge that it was a well-fleshed-out world and a set with a lot of novel identity. What does BfZ have? Well it has the exact moment we all learned the difference between a set that takes previous concepts from a former set and expands upon it to achieve a new level of greatness (Return to Ravnica) and a set that puts on another set's T-shirt and tries to convince people how great it is to remember things sometimes.
Last time, we had an intriguing world with the promise of a big revelation (that we got). This time, we had the big revelation shrunk down to X/2 creatures and the word "devoid" typed onto them, as in, "we are devoid of ideas for this set, but again, it has the name of something you probably liked on the box."
Some of the creatures don't have faces. Spooooooky!
I'll see you again soon with more of the sets that defined greatness in Magic's deep and storied history. Also, some of the sets will be garbage because we still have a ways to go. Yay for history! Also, garbage.