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Dark Ascension
Dark Ascension
DKA logo.jpg
Set Information
Set symbol
Symbol description Innistrad symbol turned inward
Design Mark Rosewater (lead),
Jenna Helland,
Zac Hill,
Graeme Hopkins,
Matt Tabak
Development Tom LaPille (lead),
Mark L. Gottlieb,
Zac Hill,
David Humpherys,
Ken Troop
Art direction Jeremy Jarvis
Release date February 3, 2012
Plane Innistrad
Themes and mechanics Double-faced cards, Cursed, Graveyard matters, Tribal, Human sacrifice
Keywords/​ability words Fateful hour, Flashback, Morbid, Transform, Undying
Set size 158
(64 commons, 44 uncommons, 38 rares, 12 mythic rares)
Expansion code DKA[1]
Development codename Rattle
Innistrad block
Innistrad Dark Ascension Avacyn Restored
Magic: The Gathering Chronology
Premium Deck Series: Graveborn Dark Ascension Duel Decks: Venser vs. Koth

Dark Ascension is the second set in the Innistrad block. It is the 57th Magic expansion and was released on February 3, 2012.[2]

Set details[]

Dark Ascension, like its predecessor, is top-down designed with a horror theme.[3] The set contains 158 cards (64 Common, 44 Uncommon, 38 Rare, 12 Mythic) and includes randomly inserted premium versions of all cards in the set. The set puts a stronger emphasis on tribal creature types, such as providing a lord for each of the main types (vampires, ghosts, werewolves, zombies and humans).[4][5] All the major mechanics of the previous set, including double-faced cards, return. New mechanics are Fateful Hour and Undying.The expansion symbol of the set is the Innistrad symbol "turned inward", which represents humanity hunkering down.[6]

Flavor and storyline[]

“  Command the Night  ”

Innistrad has been overrun by creatures of the night. While the forces of good struggle to hold back the threat, villagers cower behind walls and pray for the morning light. The humans are on the verge of extinction and have to take desperate measures to stem the tide.[7][8][9] It is revealed that Avacyn, the guardian angel created by Sorin is locked in the Helvault.[10][11][12][13]


Dark Ascension 6-card booster

Dark Ascension was sold in 16-card boosters, 6-card boosters, five intro packs, two event decks and a fat pack.[14] The 16-card boosters featured artwork from Havengul Lich, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and Werewolf Ransacker.[15] The small booster featured artwork from Beguiler of Wills.

The prerelease was January 28–29, 2012, the launch party on February 3–6, 2012, the Magic Online release on February 20, 2012.[16] The Game Day was held on February 25–26, 2012.

At each prerelease, some number of people were designated by some flashy stickers as a vampire, werewolf, zombie, or spirit at the start of the event. Any time a monster defeated a human in a match, the monster would convert the human to their cause. At the end of each Prerelease, the remaining humans and the largest tribe or tribles of monsters would be declared winners, but the rewards were up to the organizers.[17] The prerelease cards was the double faced Ravenous Demon / Archdemon of Greed.[18] The Release card was Mondronen Shaman / Tovolar's Magehunter.[19] The promotional card at the Game Day event was a full-art Strangleroot Geist, while a full-art foil Zombie Apocalypse was given to the top-8 participants. The Buy-a-Box was Gravecrawler.

Regular boosters of Dark Ascension come with a bonus sixteenth card that is either a Dark Ascension checklist card, a creature token, an emblem or a rules card with an advertisement on the reverse side.

Tokens and emblem[]

Dark Ascension checklist card

The new Dark Ascension tokens and emblem are:[20]

  1. {W} 1/1 Human produced by Gather the Townsfolk, Increasing Devotion, and Thraben Doomsayer
  2. {B} 1/1 Vampire with lifelink produced by Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
  3. Emblem for Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Themes and mechanics[]

The set introduces a new keyword mechanic in Undying. It functions very similar to Persist, but instead of a -1/-1 counter, it adds a +1/+1 counter to the creature when it returns from the grave.[21][22]

Fateful hour is a new ability word, which creates an ability that functions if the controller of the effect is at 5 life or less.[23][24]

Double-faced cards return with this set, further showcasing the transformation mechanic. As for Innistrad a special Checklist card is provided to facilitate play with the double-face cards.[25][26] Flashback, Morbid, and Curses also return.

Creature types[]

No novel creature types were introduced in this expansion.


Dark Ascension breaks the mold for cycles to a certain extent, as some of the cycles only contain four cards. In cycles which emphasize an allied color-pair, the green-white part of the cycle is missing. This is likely due to the higher emphasis on monster tribes, as the white/green pair is tied to humans.

Three flashback cycles:

Cycle name {W} {U} {B} {R} {G}
Increasing flashback cards Increasing Devotion Increasing Confusion Increasing Ambition Increasing Vengeance Increasing Savagery
Five rare spells with Flashback, which double their effect if they are flashed back
Allied flashback cards Ray of Revelation Saving Grasp Reap the Seagraf Fires of Undeath Wild Hunger
Each of these common spells has a flashback cost involving its counter-clockwise ally on the color wheel. This cycle mirrors the ally cycle from Innistrad, which had flashback costs in the color's clockwise ally on the color wheel.
Enemy flashback cards Lingering Souls Mystic Retrieval Deadly Allure Burning Oil Tracker's Instincts
Each of these uncommon spells has a flashback cost involving the enemy color two slots later on the color wheel. They are the reverse of a cycle from Innistrad, as the colors of the flashback cost and the regular casting cost are flipped.

Two monster tribal cycles:

Cycle name {W}{U}
Mythic Rare Drogskol Reaver Havengul Lich Falkenrath Aristocrat Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells
Four mythic rare creatures that are of an allied pair associated with one of four monster tribes associated with Innistrad.
Lords Drogskol Captain Diregraf Captain Stromkirk Captain Immerwolf
A cycle of uncommon cards that are allied-colored lords tied to one of the monster tribes on Innistrad. They all provide some form of benefit in addition to the standard lord effect. Immerwolf is the only one which is not named Captain.

Mega cycle[]

Vertical cycle[]

Cycle name
Red Riding Hood Werewolves Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells Lambholt Elder // Silverpelt Werewolf Scorned Villager // Moonscarred Werewolf
A cycle taking inspiration from the classic fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood", but where all the characters are also the Big Bad Wolf - the little girl, the grandmother, and the hunter that saved them.

Reprinted cards[]

Functional reprints[]

Strictly better[]

Notable cards[]

  • Gravecrawler and Geralf's Messenger formed the backbone of Zombie decks in Standard, as both are hard to kill and can push a lot of damage through in early turns. Geralf's Messenger, in particular, is a conceptual mirrored version of Kitchen Finks which was a popular aggro card during Lorwyn-Shadowmoor block; providing life loss against life gain, getting stronger upon death as opposed to weaker and being extremely inflexible in casting as opposed to being fairly easy to cast.
  • Grafdigger's Cage — A powerful hoser card against strategies that attempt to cheat cards into play. This card incited widespread skepticism and anger but turned out to not be as threatening as expected. It nevertheless became a staple in the eternal formats, especially out of the sideboard.
  • Lingering Souls saw widespread application in nearly all formats and was banned in Block Constructed due to providing a large number of creatures with the cost spread over multiple turns.
  • Huntmaster of the Fells — Providing two bodies in one card, as well as lifegain and potential damage output, this card saw much tournament attention.
  • Elbrus, the Binding Blade is a very flavorful artifact, depicting an expensive but weak dagger, which transforms into the gigantic and nigh-unstoppable Demon Withengar who feasts on the souls of defeated opponents.
  • Tragic Slip is considered by many to be one of the best spot creature removal cards in the game, due to its ability to destroy almost any creature for one mana, provided that another creature already died that turn.
  • Faithless Looting showed the shift toward "looting" (a la Merfolk Looter) abilities in Red, but with the distinction that would be demonstrated in later sets that discarding would occur as a cost to differentiate it to the Blue version of looting. Its position as a Red mechanic would later be solidified in Magic 2013.
  • Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a staple in Death and Taxes in both Legacy and Modern.

Preconstructed decks[]

Intro packs[]

Dark Ascension features five intro packs.[27]

Intro pack name Colors Included Foil rare
{W} {U} {B} {R} {G}
Relentless Dead U B Havengul Runebinder
Monstrous Surprise R G Flayer of the Hatebound
Dark Sacrifice W B Fiend of the Shadows
Swift Justice W R Requiem Angel
Grave Power U G Ghoultree

Event decks[]

Dark Ascension features two event decks.[28]

deck name
Colors Included
{W} {U} {B} {R} {G}
Gleeful Flames R
Spiraling Doom B G


  1. Product info
  2. Wizards of the Coast (July 25, 2011). "Announcing Dark Ascension". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Zac Hill (January 20, 2012). "Hooked on a Feeling". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater (January 09, 2012). "Dancing in the Dark Ascension, Part 1". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Mark Rosewater (January 16, 2012). "Dancing in the Dark Ascension, Part 2". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Ask Brady (dead link)
  7. Doug Beyer (January 02, 2012). "In These Desperate Times: A Backstory Update for Dark Ascension". Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Jenna Helland (January 16, 2012). "Preview Article: Mikaeus, the Unhallowed". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Monty Ashley (January 04, 2012). "Dark Ascension Art Gallery". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Wizards of the Coast (January, 2012). "The World of Dark Ascension". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Doug Beyer (January 11, 2012). "Sorin's Homecoming". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Doug Beyer (January 18, 2012). "The Prison of Silver". Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Doug Beyer (January 25, 2012). "The State of the Faith". Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Monty Ashley (January 16, 2012). "Dark Ascension Fat Pack". Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Monty Ashley (January 10, 2012). "Dark Ascension Booster Packs". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. Wizards of the Coast (February 7, 2012). "Magic Online Dark Ascension Release Events". Wizards of the Coast.
  17. Tim Willoughby (January 23, 2012). "Dark Ascension Prerelease Primer". Wizards of the Coast.
  18. Monty Ashley (January 9, 2012). "Dark Ascension Promo Cards". Wizards of the Coast.
  19. Monty Ashley (February 2, 2012). "Alternate Launch Party Art". Wizards of the Coast.
  20. Monty Ashley (January 18, 2012). "Dark Ascension Tokens". Wizards of the Coast.
  21. Staff (January 09, 2012). "Dark Ascension Mechanics". Wizards of the Coast.
  22. Zac Hill (February 24, 2012). "(Un)Die Another Day". Wizards of the Coast.
  23. Dave Humpherys (January 30, 2012). "First Impressions". Wizards of the Coast.
  24. Zac Hill (March 09, 2012). "Fateful Desperation". Wizards of the Coast.
  25. Tom LaPille (January 13, 2012). "Transformation Transformed". Wizards of the Coast.
  26. Monty Ashley (February 16, 2012). "Same Place, Different Side". Wizards of the Coast.
  27. Monty Ashley (January 12, 2012). "Dark Ascension Intro Packs". Wizards of the Coast.
  28. Monty Ashley (February 01, 2012). "Dark Ascension Event Decks". Wizards of the Coast.

External links[]