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Set Information
Set symbol
Symbol description Pennant
Design Skaff Elias (lead)
Jim Lin
Chris Page
Dave Petty
Development Charlie Catripino (lead)
Skaff Elias
William Jockusch
Joel Mick
Bill Rose
Paul Peterson
Mark Rosewater
Art direction Sue-Ann Harkey
Release date June 10, 1996[1]
Plane Dominaria (Terisiare)[2]
Themes and mechanics Alternate and additional cost, cantrips and Snow
Keywords/​ability words Cumulative upkeep
Set size 144 cards
(55 commons, 43 uncommons, 46 rares)
Expansion code ALL[3]
Development codename Quack
Ice Age block[note 1]
Ice Age Alliances Coldsnap
Magic: The Gathering Chronology
Homelands Alliances Rivals Quick Start Set
ALL booster

Alliances booster

Alliances is the eighth Magic expansion and was released in June 1996 as the second set and first small expansion in the Ice Age block.

Set details[ | ]

Alliances is black-bordered and was the first set to be printed on sheets of 110 cards. The set's rarity breakdown is: 55 commons (40@C2, 10@C3, 5@U6), 43 uncommons (40@U2, 3@R6), 46 rares (46@R2).[4] Each common card and the 5 uncommons cards @U6 have 2 pieces of art,[5][6] making collectors view this as a 199 card set. Since the ratio of uncommons to rare is 3:1 in a booster pack, the 3 rares @R6 are considered as uncommon even if they could be found in the rare slot of an Alliances booster pack. A similar statement can be made about the 5 commons @U6. The expansion symbol of the set is a banner, or pennant, to reinforce the “alliance” concept.[7]

The Alliances lands have a unique violet-colored text box and Alliances is the last expansion set to have this feature. The Mirage and Visions sets share the same color scheme, and from Fifth Edition on, land text box color was standardized.

Marketing[ | ]

Alliances was released eight months after the less-than-spectacular Homelands, which is the longest gap between expansion sets in the history of the game. Prior to the Coldsnap release it was the third and final set in the Ice Age block with Homelands being the second set.[8] It was sold in booster packs of twelve cards which included eight commons, three uncommons and one rare.[9] A booster box contained 45 booster packs. This was the last time that boosters contained twelve cards. All boosters feature the same artwork from Benthic Explorers.

This was the last expansion to feature regular multiple artworks on cards. The practice was discontinued to ease the identification of cards by their artwork, which was important to the global community as Magic was beginning to see print in languages other than English.

Alliances is also the last standard Magic expansion that was under-printed, as supply did not meet demand in many areas. Alliances was highly anticipated after the long wait from the release Homelands.

Storyline[ | ]

After the planeswalker Freyalise cast her World Spell, thereby ending the Ice Age, a population long adapted to the cold had to re-adjust to warm weather. With the new climate came devastating floods and plagues, and the necromancer Lim-Dûl has built an army of undead bent on world domination. An alliance is formed between races to defeat Lim-Dûl and his army.

Mechanics and themes[ | ]

Alliances didn't introduce any new keywords, but it did introduce the popular alternate cost mechanic, popularly referred to as "pitch cards", that allowed a player to discard cards of specific colors (and in the case of two cards, with an additional life payment) to cast a spell instead of paying its printed mana cost. In Magic: The Gathering history, this mechanic, or a derivative or variant thereof, appears on rare cycles in the Masques block, the Betrayers of Kamigawa expansion, and the Coldsnap expansion. There are also a number of cards that exile the top of the library as a cost.

Alliances builds on many of the themes of the Ice Age block. Cumulative upkeep and cantrips return, as does the allied color theme and a few new legendary creatures. The Snow mechanic appears on only a few cards.

Design & Development[ | ]

Alliances was the second expansion by the quartet known as the "East Coast playtesters",[10] which also designed Ice Age. While it was sold as an Ice Age expansion, design diverged from it. For example, the Snow mechanic was considered a failure, and it was completely ignored. The vast majority of the mechanical tie-ins were added in Development, including a few Snow-matters cards because the mechanic rated highly on flavor.[11]

At some point, Continuity (the department responsible for the storyline) decided that Alliances would have a race of sentient gorillas. The design team thought this was a silly idea and protested by renaming all the cards in the set to have "Gorilla" in their names.[12][13][14]

Creature types[ | ]

The following creature types are introduced in this expansion: Aesthir (later changed to Bird), Bird, Gorilla (later changed to Ape), Harlequin (later changed to Human), Heretic (later changed to Human Cleric), Mosquito (later changed to Insect), Pigeon (later changed to Bird), Spy (later changed to Human Rogue), Starfish, Swarm, Tactician (later changed to Human Advisor), War-Rider (later changed to Human Warrior).

The following creature types are used in this expansion but also appear in previous sets: Barbarian, Cleric, Druid, Elemental, Elf, Gargoyle, Goblin, Guardian, Homarid, Horror (later changed to Horror Spirit), Insect, Keeper (later changed to Avatar), Knight, Mercenary, Merfolk, Paladin (later changed to Human Knight), Phantasm (later changed to Illusion), Rat, Skeleton, Soldier, Spirit, Wall, Wizard and Zombie.

Cycles[ | ]

Alliances has seven cycles:

Cycle name {W} {U} {B} {R} {G}
Double hosers Royal Decree Tidal Control Dystopia Omen of Fire Nature's Wrath
Rare spells that have a negative effect on both of its enemy colors. This cycle was the first to attempt to hose both enemy colors at once and inspired the creation of similar cycles in the Mercadian Masques and Coldsnap expansions.
Pitch cards Scars of the Veteran Force of Will Contagion Pyrokinesis Bounty of the Hunt
Uncommon instants that have an alternate casting cost that includes exiling a card of its color.
Replacement lands Kjeldoran Outpost Soldevi Excavations Lake of the Dead Balduvian Trading Post Heart of Yavimaya
Rare lands that are sacrificed when it enters the battlefield unless you sacrifice a basic land of a given type and have a mana ability that produces mana of that land's type and another activated ability.
Common allied-color ability spells Kjeldoran Pride Soldevi Heretic Phantasmal Fiend Agent of Stromgald Undergrowth
Each of these common spells gives you a benefit for playing one of its allies. Except for Kjeldoran Pride, they all benefit the previous color in the color wheel.
Uncommon allied-color ability spells Juniper Order Advocate Viscerid Drone Balduvian Dead Primitive Justice Nature's Chosen
Each of these uncommon spells gives you a benefit for playing one of its allies. Except for Juniper Order Advocate, they all benefit the next color in the color wheel.
Cycle name {W}{U} {U}{B} {B}{R} {R}{G} {G}{W}
Uncommon gold spells Energy Arc Lim-Dûl's Vault Lim-Dûl's Paladin Surge of Strength Nature's Blessing
Uncommon multicolored spells that require two mana of allied colors to cast.
Cycle name {G}{W}{U} {W}{U}{B} {U}{B}{R} {B}{R}{G} {R}{G}{W}
Tricolor spells Phelddagrif Wandering Mage Lord of Tresserhorn Misfortune Winter's Night
Rare multicolored spells that have a shard mana cost.

Pairs[ | ]

Alliances has three mirrored pairs.

Mirrored Pairs[ | ]

Mirrored Pairs Description
Suffocation ({U}) Burnout ({R}) Each of these uncommon instants uses an out-of-color-pie effect from the other's color and draws you a card at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep.
Library of Lat-Nam ({U}) Fatal Lore ({B}) Each of these rare sorceries has your opponent choose between letting you draw three cards or another effect.
Reinforcements ({W}) Misinformation ({B}) Each of these one-mana instants puts three cards from a graveyard to the top of a library.

Strictly Better or Worse[ | ]

Trivia[ | ]

Main article: Alliances/Trivia
  • Only Alliances and the Chronicles set were sold in packs of 12 cards.
  • Alliances was the only set to feature different tiers within its rare cards, until the introduction of mythic rare cards. A few rares appeared six times on each rare sheet while most appeared twice, making a few rares three times as common as others.

Notable cards[ | ]

Notes[ | ]

  1. Coldsnap replaced Homelands.

References[ | ]

  1. OCTGN Fansite
  2. Wizards of the Coast. "Dominian FAQ (archived)".
  3. Wizards of the Coast (August 02, 2004). "Ask Wizards - August, 2004". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Alliances Checklist
  5. Magic Arcana (July 23, 2002). "Two Adnates". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Magic Arcana (March 28, 2007). "Double Boon". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Brady Dommermuth (October 31, 2006). "Ask Wizards". Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Mark Rosewater (April 29, 2013). "Third Time's the Charm". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Mark Rosewater (October 22, 2018). "How Trivial". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Mark Rosewater (July 6, 2003). "Of Ice and Men". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Mark Rosewater (December 07, 2009). "Playing With Blocks". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Skaff Elias (May 28, 2002). "Ask Wizards". Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Monty Ashley (July 30, 2012). "Know Your Gorillas". Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Mark Rosewater (August 4, 2023). "How Trivial with Mark Rosewater (Video)". Magic: The Gathering. YouTube.

External links[ | ]