More sets, more objective rankings. The numbers don't lie. Unless you disagree with them. Then they might.
Let's do this.
64. Born of the Gods
Why didn't Journey into Nyx do better than this set? Because it's sort of the same, but this one came first. So you know, whatever. Everyone hates this thing, but I don't think it's that bad. It has this card:
That one killed people a few times. It probably will again. I don't know. I never got into togas. This whole Theros thing doesn't mean anything to me.
63. Mercadian Masques
See, here's the thing: Urza block was obviously a powered-up development debacle, and this block was the scale-back. The issue was it didn't have much better development, so you got a set with crappy cards that also had absolute rubbish like this:
Yeah, common. That's probably fine.
Feelgood Story of the Day:
Jonathan Suarez (Commander VS star and Hardee's stockholder) has the original art to this because a bunch of us pitched in. He loves this card, and who can blame him? That's some Cronenberg. I don't know what sound that thing makes, but I bet it's gurgly.
Again, weird counts for something. There was a special charm about Odyssey that kept players coming back to sets that weren't Odyssey.
Zero Awareness of Insularity Award:
Anyone worried about complexity creep? Could be worse. We could be designing cards like this still. Fun fact: six people quit playing Magic just from looking at this card. Just now. Wait...wait...seven.
Still Got It:
After all these years, baby. You still look incredible.
61. Fifth Edition
This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this list is objective in every way and cannot be disagreed with. Fifth was all over the shelves when I got addicted to this madness, so I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it.
We were so sick of this Lorwyn stuff by the fourth set. The draft format wasn't great, and this plane just went on forever.
If the Noggles aren't back within the next two sets, I'm quitting my job. Haven't I given the game enough? Don't I deserve a Noggle lord? Or a Noggle land? Donkey Farm. Tap to take all my money.
I think that animals that are humanoids and that can talk and such get to be new things. For instance, if Siege Rhino could juggle and end relationships with other talking Rhinos, he'd be a Rhox. If you're a Rhino, you just live in the zoo. If you're a Rhox, you pay rent. I'm not talking about the Rhox, but a Rhox. Rhox is also a card. And yeah, he's obviously a Rhox. That's not from this set, though. That's an older card, I think. Wait, where am I?
The sets that weren't first in a given block had a pretty hard time. Before we moved to the two-set structure, these planes just went on and on. So some of these deserve recognition for not ending up a lot lower. Apocalypse had a lot of identity; and honestly, it's one of the first sets in this list that I look at as a whole and think, "You know, that one doesn't suck a whole bunch."
Baz Luhrmann Loves This Set:
"So what do you think the palette should be?" - Assistant
"Yes." - Baz Luhrmann
Greatest Planeswalker of All Time Award:
In my day, planeswalkers didn't have loyalty or cards or hotel suites. They stopped by, said something cool, and cut people in line at water parks. Yawgmoth jobbing to Freyalise is awesome. Freyalise is the best.
Man, this set's flavor text is cool.
In storyline, Gerrard had to die because his card was so inexplicably lame.
58. Arabian Nights
Yeah, yeah. First expansion. Real cool. Old style, weird packs, subgames, blah di blah.
Let's cut to the money:
Free idea, WotC: buy the rights to other properties and make limited-edition novelty expansions out of them. Star Wars and The Simpsons Chess. Final Fantasy Monopoly. How cool would it be to play Magic like that?
Anyway, Arabian Nights and another set on the list both are the closest I think the game has flirted with that brilliant idea that I'll never get any money for. Geniuses are never recognized in their time.
Everyone sort of remembers this set as hot trash (because it is), but the big importance is that it launched what will always be Magic's first accessible storyline. And that's something that becomes more important every year they dress Gideon up in a new indestructible outfit in an effort to sell movie tickets.
Let's meet the crew of the now-famed Weatherlight airship:
Oh, these two. Will they ever stop Volrath and his machinations? Will they learn to love? Can they make it in the big city as roommates with opposing viewpoints on the hot issues?
This set has a lot of sneaky powerful cards. (Even though, again, this list is not about power. Yes, I'm talking to you, commenter who says it is.)
Card I'm in Love With Because Design:
The only thing this card needs is a picture of Freyalise. Man, I love Freyalise.
Another middle-child set that just couldn't make it in the world on its own. Nothing in this set will ever amount to anything.
Note that this set also brought back the most old-school and awesome villain in the Multiverse: Bone Saw.
55. Fate Reforged
Middle. Set. Death.
It gets a pass over Conflux for being slightly better to draft.
Finally! A set late in the block that does cooler things than its opening acts.
Obviously nobody has done anything fair with these cards, but the point is that even my grandpa (who wears suspenders to everything) looks cool holding cards that say Nightmare Dragon and Nightmare Beast on them.
The best creature in Magic is also in this set:
This thing was unstoppable! And look! Its toughness number is bigger than the mana cost number! Who let this thing out of development?!
53. Fourth Edition
52. Planar Chaos
Well, you can't put the random color pie-ruining cards back in the bag. But for a few amazing weeks of Damnation ads on LGS posters, it was totally worth it!
51. Magic 2013
An excellent draft set that you could use to teach people to play the Magic game. A tight expansion that just didn't have the same luster of the ones that came before it. The novelty of the new Core Sets had started to grow a little old.
A Freyalise card would've fixed that, but they went a different direction.
I was excited for this set. A proper enchantment set? Sign me up! Sadly, they just sort of put the word "enchantment" on creatures, so it was more of, ya know, a creature set with a long type line.
The storyline was cool, though. I mean, probably. Apparently, Elspeth's dead now? Or in the Underworld? This is something a lot of people know about that don't even keep up with this sort of thing, myself included. It seems kind of silly to have a character "die" (Venser, Yawgmoth) when Gravedigger has been in half the sets in this list. The graveyard isn't even a discard pile anymore so much as it is "your other hand." So why should it mean anything when a character dies? "Oh no, Danny, they're like...really dead, though." Sure. I'll equip my big hammer to my Crab and hit you with it. Yeah you're right. Absolute death is totally a reasonable thing to use in this game's narrative.
49. Shadows over Innistrad
Well, they tried, didn't they? I know time flies these days, but it just seemed way too early for an Innistrad homage. I'm sure the marketing idea was, "Everyone loves Innistrad!" But the thing is, we didn't like just the plane or the word. Time, place, inspiration. These things count for a lot. And doing a set that's half-homage to another beloved set and half cards that are less interesting isn't a great way to keep the old Innistrad on its pedestal or keep us invested. And no, adding Jace doesn't do anything either.
Innistrad just got a whole lot hoodier!
Endless Planes. Endless possibilities. The Blind Eternities of existence and imagination. And we keep running into the same face-painted dork like this whole incredible Multiverse is actually just a half-empty mall.
I keep ending these on a Standard-legal set that I'm making fun of for trying to milk the poor bruised udder of the nostalgia cow. Maybe next time I'll end on something a little less desperate. Like, I don't know, one of the sets these are all referencing.
Remember Ravnica? I remember.