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Core sets (stylized as Core Set) form the base set of cards for tournament play and rotations.[1][2] After Limited Edition in 1993, all core sets through Tenth Edition consisted solely of reprinted cards. From Magic 2010, they feature new cards alongside reprints. Core sets were discontinued in 2015, then returned for three years[3] before being discontinued again in 2021[4].

History[ | ]

Core Set symbols

Evolution of the Core Set Expansion symbol.

Up to Eighth Edition core sets were referred to as base sets or basic sets.[5] However, a base set was broader defined, because the Fourth Edition base set included the Chronicles extension. The name change came into being because there were concerns that older base sets confused newer players—their primary audience—by making them feel like they "missed out" on five or six previous editions and were hopelessly behind.[6]

Fifth Edition was the first core set to implement expansion symbols on its cards (though only on the Simplified Chinese printing), implementing a Roman numeral style logo, which appeared in all languages with Sixth Edition. Seventh Edition used a stylized numeral 7, while Eighth Edition and Ninth Edition used a fan of cards with the numeral 8 or 9, respectively, on them, and Tenth Edition went back to using a Roman numeral. Starting with Magic 2010, the core set expansion symbol became the stylized 'M' from the Magic logo and an abbreviation of the set year number, with the exception of Magic Origins, which had its own unique symbol.

Core sets were printed with white borders from Unlimited Edition through Ninth Edition, but a Tenth Edition poll resulted in that set's cards being printed with black borders, a trend that continued with all subsequent sets. Foil cards were black-bordered beginning from their core-set introduction in Seventh Edition.

Core sets were released at varying intervals. Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Editions were scheduled erratically, followed by biannual releases through Magic 2010. From Magic 2011 until Magic Origins, they occupied an annual summer product slot.[7][8]

Discontinuation and reintroduction[ | ]

Core sets were discontinued after Magic Origins in 2015, but were reintroduced in 2018. Like the sets from Magic 2010 to Magic Origins, these sets continue to contain a mix of new and reprinted cards, but differ in that they are geared primarily toward new players.[3][9][10] They have a strong integration with the welcome decks, planeswalker decks and Deck Builder's Toolkit, allowing for an easier transition between the products.[3] These core sets go through exploratory or vision design.[11]

Second discontinuation[ | ]

The product released the fourth quarter of rotation in 2021 was Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, which started out in design as core set but was later transformed in a more complicated expansion set.[12] The 2022 cycle was intended to also be a Three-and-One year with "Innistrad 3", "Kamigawa 2", and Streets of New Capenna, but instead Innistrad was expanded into Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow and Capenna moved to the unneeded Core Set slot[13]. As such, 2022 changed the schedule to one where there was four premier sets without a Core Set analogue.[14][15] Jumpstart has proven to be great jumping on product instead, and R&D is working on other things to offset having no core set.[16]

Replacement[ | ]

In 2024, the role of Core sets was taken over by the "evergreen" Magic: The Gathering Foundations set.

Description[ | ]

Core sets formerly contained more cards than expansion sets and ranged from 249 cards (Magic 2010) to 449 cards (Fifth Edition).

Core sets may be distinguished from expansion sets by the addition of reminder text on cards, so as to elucidate abilities and mechanics that are unfamiliar or initially incomprehensible to newer players, such as first strike, flying, haste, protection, regeneration, and trample.[17] While core sets tended not to re-use expert level keywords unless they were slated for promotion to evergreen, from Magic 2012 to Magic 2015 a single keyword was reused, often a factional keyword expanded to new colors:

Magic Origins was the first to introduce its own new keyword, Renown.

Most core sets do not have a unified storyline among cards. Cards' flavor text may nevertheless refer to expansion sets and their settings or even real-world people, texts, or things (e.g., the Fifth Edition Boomerang and the Seventh Edition Boomerang). Seventh Edition was an exception, where it narrated the story of a war among the paladinsEastern Paladin, Northern Paladin, Southern Paladin, and Western Paladin— through the flavor text of cards from the set.

The core sets in Magic 2010 onward used the cycle of planeswalkers and sometimes legendary creatures as an anchor, alongside several referential cycles. A few went a little further:

Magic 2013, 2014 and 2015 all had Duels of the Planeswalkers campaign modes designed around storylines of their respective planeswalker.

With the reintroduction of core sets for Core Set 2019, each set had a singular focal planeswalker that the storyline was designed around:

Core sets were often seeded with cards that reinforced the themes of upcoming blocks, or used to provide answers to cards that were more powerful than was anticipated in the year preceding it. The last goal of core sets was to play well with the block that was leaving Standard, while not relying so heavily on it that the cards would not work after rotation.[18]

List of core sets[ | ]

Edition Set size Released
01a Limited Edition Alpha 295 1993-08
01b Limited Edition Beta 302 1993-10
02 Unlimited Edition 302 1993-12
03 Revised Edition 306 1994-04
04 Fourth Edition 378 1995-05
05 Fifth Edition 449 1997-03
06 Sixth Edition 350 1999-04
07 Seventh Edition 350 2001-04
08 Eighth Edition 357 2003-07
09 Ninth Edition 359 2005-07
10 Tenth Edition 383 2007-07
11 Magic 2010 249[19] 2009-07
12 Magic 2011 249[20] 2010-07
13 Magic 2012 249[21] 2011-07
14 Magic 2013 249[22] 2012-07
15 Magic 2014 249[23] 2013-07
16 Magic 2015 269 (+15)[24] 2014-07
17 Magic Origins 272 (+16)[25] 2015-07
18 Core Set 2019 280 (+34) 2018-07
19 Core Set 2020 280 (+64) 2019-07
20 Core Set 2021 274 (+123) 2020-07

Theme decks[ | ]

Starting with Seventh Edition core sets had 5 mono-colored theme decks. Since Magic 2010 core sets had 5 two colored intro packs. In Core Set 2019 and the following sets intro packs were replaced with 5 Planeswalker decks.

References[ | ]

  1. Doug Beyer (July 20, 2011). "Core Curriculum". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater (June 27, 2011). "Please Sir, I Want Some Core". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. a b c Mark Rosewater (June 12, 2017). "Metamorphosis 2.0". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater (November 1, 2021) "From Vow On, Part 1" Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Magic Arcana (October 31, 2002). ""Revising" the base set". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Magic Arcana (March 31, 2003). "Core Set". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Aaron Forsythe (June 28, 2010). "Magic 2011 Has Big Shoes to Fill". Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Diego Fumagalli (June 13, 2017). "(Nearly) 25 Years of Magic in Graphics". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Mark Rosewater (August 25, 2014). "Metamorphosis". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Mark Rosewater (June 18, 2018). "Getting to the Core". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Mark Rosewater (April 07, 2018). "Do core sets still go through all of the new vision design, set design, and play design steps?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  12. Mark Rosewater (July 5, 2021). "D&D-esign, Part 1". Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Mark Rosewater (November 1, 2021). "From Vow On, Part 1". Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Mark Rosewater (August 25, 2021). "Are Core sets gone for good?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  15. Mark Rosewater (August 25, 2021). "Which set announced yesterday is replacing the Core Set?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  16. Mark Rosewater (August 25, 2021). "Since core sets are gone (for now) does that mean you found alternative solutions to the problems with no core sets brought up in Metamorphosis 2.0?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  17. Mark Rosewater (July 14, 2003). "Let's Start at the Very Beginning". Wizards of the Coast.
  18. Sam Stoddard (July 12, 2013). "Core Developments for Standard". Wizards of the Coast.
  19. Magic 2010 — Wizards of the Coast
  20. Wizards of the Coast (January 6, 2010). "Announcing Magic 2011". Wizards of the Coast.
  21. Monty Ashley (January 3, 2011). "Announcing Magic 2012". Wizards of the Coast.
  22. Monty Ashley (January 3, 2012). "Announcing Magic 2013 Core Set". Wizards of the Coast.
  23. Monty Ashley (January 7, 2013). "Announcing the Magic 2014 Core Set". Wizards of the Coast.
  24. Wizards of the Coast (January 6, 2014). "Announcing Magic 2015". Wizards of the Coast.
  25. Wizards of the Coast (February 8, 2015). "Announcing Magic Origins". Wizards of the Coast.