The expansion symbol is a small icon found on the right side of the middle line or type line on a Magic: The Gathering card and is a characteristic of that card. If a card is copied, the copy will keep its original expansion symbol.
Expansion symbols were black-and-white through the Stronghold expansion. Since the Exodus expansion, expansion symbols have incorporated colors to identify the rarity of each card: common cards have black symbols, uncommon cards have silver or black-to-white fade symbols, and rare cards have gold symbols. A fourth expansion symbol color, purple, was introduced in Time Spiral to represent the 121 bonus timeshifted cards in the set. Mythic rare was added with Shards of Alara, its symbol is red-orange.
The Chronicles expansion consists entirely of white-bordered reprints. It is unusual because it does not have its own expansion symbol and instead uses the expansion symbols of the cards' home expansions.
- Expansion Symbol
- A card’s expansion symbol is a small icon normally printed below the right edge of the illustration that has no effect on game play. See rule 206, “Expansion Symbol.”
- 206. Expansion Symbol
- 206.1. The expansion symbol indicates which Magic set a card is from. It’s a small icon normally printed below the right edge of the illustration. It has no effect on game play.
- 206.2. The color of the expansion symbol indicates the rarity of the card within its set. A red-orange symbol indicates the card is mythic rare. A gold symbol indicates the card is rare. A silver symbol indicates the card is uncommon. A black or white symbol indicates the card is common or is a basic land. A purple symbol signifies a special rarity; to date, only the Time Spiral® “timeshifted” cards, which were rarer than that set’s rare cards, have had purple expansion symbols. (Prior to the Exodus™ set, all expansion symbols were black, regardless of rarity. Also, prior to the Sixth Edition core set, with the exception of the Simplified Chinese Fifth Edition core set, Magic core sets didn’t have expansion symbols at all.)
- 206.3. Previously, a spell or ability that affected cards from a particular set checked for that set’s expansion symbol. These cards have received errata in the Oracle card reference to say they affect cards “with a name originally printed” in a particular set.
- 206.3a One card (City in a Bottle) refers to permanents and cards with a name originally printed in the Arabian Nights™ expansion. Those names are Abu Ja’far, Aladdin, Aladdin’s Lamp, Aladdin’s Ring, Ali Baba, Ali from Cairo, Army of Allah, Bazaar of Baghdad, Bird Maiden, Bottle of Suleiman, Brass Man, Camel, City in a Bottle, City of Brass, Cuombajj Witches, Cyclone, Dancing Scimitar, Dandân, Desert, Desert Nomads, Desert Twister, Diamond Valley, Drop of Honey, Ebony Horse, Elephant Graveyard, El-Hajjâj, Erg Raiders, Erhnam Djinn, Eye for an Eye, Fishliver Oil, Flying Carpet, Flying Men, Ghazbán Ogre, Giant Tortoise, Guardian Beast, Hasran Ogress, Hurr Jackal, Ifh-Biff Efreet, Island Fish Jasconius, Island of Wak-Wak, Jandor’s Ring, Jandor’s Saddlebags, Jeweled Bird, Jihad, Junún Efreet, Juzám Djinn, Khabál Ghoul, King Suleiman, Kird Ape, Library of Alexandria, Magnetic Mountain, Merchant Ship, Metamorphosis, Mijae Djinn, Moorish Cavalry, Nafs Asp, Oasis, Old Man of the Sea, Oubliette, Piety, Pyramids, Repentant Blacksmith, Ring of Ma’rûf, Rukh Egg, Sandals of Abdallah, Sandstorm, Serendib Djinn, Serendib Efreet, Shahrazad, Sindbad, Singing Tree, Sorceress Queen, Stone-Throwing Devils, Unstable Mutation, War Elephant, Wyluli Wolf, and Ydwen Efreet.
- 206.3b One card (Golgothian Sylex) refers to permanents with a name originally printed in the Antiquities™ expansion. Those names are Amulet of Kroog, Argivian Archaeologist, Argivian Blacksmith, Argothian Pixies, Argothian Treefolk, Armageddon Clock, Artifact Blast, Artifact Possession, Artifact Ward, Ashnod’s Altar, Ashnod’s Battle Gear, Ashnod’s Transmogrant, Atog, Battering Ram, Bronze Tablet, Candelabra of Tawnos, Circle of Protection: Artifacts, Citanul Druid, Clay Statue, Clockwork Avian, Colossus of Sardia, Coral Helm, Crumble, Cursed Rack, Damping Field, Detonate, Drafna’s Restoration, Dragon Engine, Dwarven Weaponsmith, Energy Flux, Feldon’s Cane, Gaea’s Avenger, Gate to Phyrexia, Goblin Artisans, Golgothian Sylex, Grapeshot Catapult, Haunting Wind, Hurkyl’s Recall, Ivory Tower, Jalum Tome, Martyrs of Korlis, Mightstone, Millstone, Mishra’s Factory, Mishra’s War Machine, Mishra’s Workshop, Obelisk of Undoing, Onulet, Orcish Mechanics, Ornithopter, Phyrexian Gremlins, Power Artifact, Powerleech, Priest of Yawgmoth, Primal Clay, The Rack, Rakalite, Reconstruction, Reverse Polarity, Rocket Launcher, Sage of Lat-Nam, Shapeshifter, Shatterstorm, Staff of Zegon, Strip Mine, Su-Chi, Tablet of Epityr, Tawnos’s Coffin, Tawnos’s Wand, Tawnos’s Weaponry, Tetravus, Titania’s Song, Transmute Artifact, Triskelion, Urza’s Avenger, Urza’s Chalice, Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Miter, Urza’s Power Plant, Urza’s Tower, Wall of Spears, Weakstone, Xenic Poltergeist, Yawgmoth Demon, and Yotian Soldier.
- 206.3c One card (Apocalypse Chime) refers to permanents with a name originally printed in the Homelands™ expansion. Those names are Abbey Gargoyles; Abbey Matron; Aether Storm; Aliban’s Tower; Ambush; Ambush Party; Anaba Ancestor; Anaba Bodyguard; Anaba Shaman; Anaba Spirit Crafter; An-Havva Constable; An-Havva Inn; An-Havva Township; An-Zerrin Ruins; Apocalypse Chime; Autumn Willow; Aysen Abbey; Aysen Bureaucrats; Aysen Crusader; Aysen Highway; Baki’s Curse; Baron Sengir; Beast Walkers; Black Carriage; Broken Visage; Carapace; Castle Sengir; Cemetery Gate; Chain Stasis; Chandler; Clockwork Gnomes; Clockwork Steed; Clockwork Swarm; Coral Reef; Dark Maze; Daughter of Autumn; Death Speakers; Didgeridoo; Drudge Spell; Dry Spell; Dwarven Pony; Dwarven Sea Clan; Dwarven Trader; Ebony Rhino; Eron the Relentless; Evaporate; Faerie Noble; Feast of the Unicorn; Feroz’s Ban; Folk of An-Havva; Forget; Funeral March; Ghost Hounds; Giant Albatross; Giant Oyster; Grandmother Sengir; Greater Werewolf; Hazduhr the Abbot; Headstone; Heart Wolf; Hungry Mist; Ihsan’s Shade; Irini Sengir; Ironclaw Curse; Jinx; Joven; Joven’s Ferrets; Joven’s Tools; Koskun Falls; Koskun Keep; Labyrinth Minotaur; Leaping Lizard; Leeches; Mammoth Harness; Marjhan; Memory Lapse; Merchant Scroll; Mesa Falcon; Mystic Decree; Narwhal; Orcish Mine; Primal Order; Prophecy; Rashka the Slayer; Reef Pirates; Renewal; Retribution; Reveka, Wizard Savant; Root Spider; Roots; Roterothopter; Rysorian Badger; Samite Alchemist; Sea Sprite; Sea Troll; Sengir Autocrat; Sengir Bats; Serra Aviary; Serra Bestiary; Serra Inquisitors; Serra Paladin; Serrated Arrows; Shrink; Soraya the Falconer; Spectral Bears; Timmerian Fiends; Torture; Trade Caravan; Truce; Veldrane of Sengir; Wall of Kelp; Willow Faerie; Willow Priestess; Winter Sky; and Wizards’ School.
- 206.4. Players may include cards from any printing in their constructed decks if those cards appear in sets allowed in that format (or those cards are specifically allowed by the Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules). See the Magic: The Gathering Tournament Rules for the current definitions of the constructed formats (WPN.Wizards.com/en/resources/rules-documents).
- 206.5. The full list of expansions and expansion symbols can be found in the Card Set Archive section of the Magic website (Magic.Wizards.com/en/game-info/products/card-set-archive).
A designer must infuse recognizable fantasy flavor into an expansion symbol while also fulfilling these tough requirements:
- Hold up at about 4 millimeters high and 8 millimeters wide.
- Can't look too much like any other expansion or game symbol.
- Has to work in solid black, as well as in silver, gold, and orange-red.
- Has to be a scalable, vector-based design (because sometimes it will also be seen really big).
Expansion symbols matter
- Apocalypse Chime hoses cards from Homelands.
- City in a Bottle hoses cards from Arabian Nights
- Golgothian Sylex hoses cards from Antiquities
There are three cards from Unhinged that mention expansion symbols:
- Greater Morphling, for this card's expansion symbol becomes the symbol of your choice until end of turn.
- Symbol Status puts a 1/1 colorless Expansion-Symbol creature token into play for each different expansion symbol among permanents you control.
- World-Bottling Kit lets you choose a Magic set for . Remove from the game all permanents with that set's expansion symbol except for basic lands.
- Monty Ashley (December 01, 2010). "The Status of the Symbol". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (January 08, 2016). "For purposes of Symbol Status, does Mirrodin Pure count as a separate expansion from New Phyrexia?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
- Matt Cavotta (December 12, 2011). "Before, During, and After". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
Brady Dommermuth (October 2, 2006). "Have you ever listed anywhere what all the different expansion symbols represent/mean?". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.