MTG Wiki
Mercadian Masques

Mercadian Masques
MMQ logo
Set Information
Set symbol
Symbol description Mask
Design Mike Elliott (lead)
Bill Rose
Mark Rosewater
Development Henry Stern (lead)
Mike Elliott
Robert Gutschera
William Jockusch
Mark Rosewater
with contributions from
Charlie Tin Canno
and Beth Moursund
Art direction Dana Knutson & Ron Spears
Release date October 4, 1999
Plane Mercadia
Themes and mechanics Mercenaries, Rebels, Spellshapers, Alternate Casting Costs, Recruiters, depletion lands, storage lands
Keywords/​ability words None
Set size 350 cards
(110 commons, 110 uncommons, 110 rares, 20 basic lands)
Expansion code MMQ (formerly MM)[1]
Development codename Archimedes
Masques block
Mercadian Masques Nemesis Prophecy
Magic: The Gathering Chronology
Starter 1999 Mercadian Masques Battle Royale
For the novel, see Mercadian Masques (novel).

Mercadian Masques is the eighteenth Magic expansion and was released in October 1999 as the first set in the Masques block. It is notable for being the first set not protected by Wizards of the Coast's "Reprint Policy".

Set details[ | ]

MMQ booster

Mercadian Masques booster

Mercadian Masques featured 350 cards (110 commons, 110 uncommons, 110 rares, and 20 basic lands). Mercadian Masques's expansion symbol is a stylized mask to evoke the intrigues, deceptions, and double dealings involved with the Mercadia storyline.[2] This was the first large expansion to use the new 6th Edition rules.

Marketing[ | ]

Mercadian Masques was sold in 75-card tournament decks, 15-card boosters and four preconstructed theme decks. For the first time ever, basic lands were among the randomly inserted foil-finished premium cards in the booster packs, enabling an all-premium deck. The packs featured artwork from Squee, Goblin Nabob, Cateran Slaver and Saprazzan Legate. This was the first set to have an accompanying fat pack, consisting of three boosters, a tournament pack, two premium cards, the Top Deck Magazine Mercadian Masques pullout section and the Mercadian Masques novel. For the first time since a long time, there was no Official Guide. The prerelease card was a foil Overtaker.

While the set was in design (at the time codenamed "Archimedes"), the book department named the book Mercadian Masques. Mark Rosewater mentioned at the time that it wasn’t particularly a good name, but as the name was for the book and not the expansion he felt it wasn’t really an issue. But then a number of months later, the Magic brand team decided that the expansion and the book should have the same name.[3]

Storyline[ | ]

The Weatherlight's troubles continue as it crash-lands on a strange new plane. The ship is attacked by the Cho-Arrim, who steal the ship. Finally, soldiers from Mercadia City arrive to arrest the crew. Meanwhile, Orim, who was captured with the ship, learns more about her captors. The Cho-Arrim are spiritual people who suffer greatly under the greedy Mercadians. Their leader Cho-Manno explains that he took the Weatherlight's arrival as a sign prophesying the return of the sky god Ramos and the end of Mercadian rule. Orim slowly becomes sympathetic to the Cho-Arrim's situation and attracted to their leader.

Mercadians are an evasive, aloof people: the nobles are hedonistic, apathetic, and lazy, while the commoners are selfish, grasping, and paranoid. Mercadian goblins are much larger and smarter than any the crew has encountered before, and they actually seem to be running the city despite their servile attitudes. Furthermore, a guild of professional assassins, thieves and horrors called Caterans roams the back alleys of the marketplace, ready to terrorize or murder anyone for the right price. The Mercadian magistrate unexpectedly offers Gerrard an unusual deal. A platoon of soldiers and Cateran mercenaries will be placed under his command to recover the Weatherlight. If the mission is successful, Gerrard may petition for both the return of his ship and safe passage out of Mercadia for himself and his crew. In the ensuing battle, the violent Caterans slaughter the Cho-Arrim indiscriminately.

Back in Mercadia City, Takara brokers a new deal with the magistrate: the crew will repair the damaged Weatherlight and restore its flying mechanisms for him in exchange for their freedom. Sisay, Hanna and Orim will travel to Saprazzo, a rival trade city inhabited by enlightened merfolk with the ability to switch between fish tails and human legs at will. There they will secure an artifact required to fix the ship, while Takara and the male members of the crew remain in captivity.

Eventually, Takara engineers the crew's escape. Gerrard's band discovers the ruins of an ancient Thran site, encounters a race of powerful dryads, and battles a huge, mechanical war engine.

Tournament impact[ | ]

Mercadian Masques is not considered to be as high caliber as compared to the powerful sets of the Urza's block. Reportedly, the designers were extremely gun-shy following the runaway power of the previous block and dialed back the power a tad too much; the same phenomenon would take place between the latter-day Mirrodin and Kamigawa blocks. However, the set did produce some tournament-quality cards. Gush; Rishadan Port; Squee, Goblin Nabob; Waterfront Bouncer; Hunted Wumpus; and Food Chain have all seen various degrees of tournament play.

Keywords and mechanics[ | ]

Unusually, Masques introduced no new keyword abilities to the game, although it did have several themes that were continued throughout its block.[4] These included:

  • Rebels and Mercenaries: creatures able to search through their controller's library and "recruit" creatures of a specific type into play.
  • Spellshapers: creatures that had repeatable activated abilities that mimicked various classic spells, potentially turning otherwise useless cards into powerful effects. All of Masques's spellshapers required paying mana, tapping the creature and discarding a card to use their ability.
  • Masques also reintroduced instants and sorceries with alternative casting costs, such as Invigorate. This mechanic had not been used since Visions.
  • Creatures with abilities usable by any player, such as Squallmonger and Flailing Manticore.[5]
“  Designers were puzzled and frustrated by the question "Why didn't Masques have any new mechanics?" They pointed to the Rebel/Mercenary "recruitment" mechanic of Ramosian Lieutenant and friends as one of several new mechanics in the set, but without a keyword, it was dismissed by many players. If it were printed for the first time today, "Recruit" would likely be an ability word, and it—along with "Gating" creatures such as Marsh Crocodile and "Spiritcraft" creatures such as Teller of Tales—became one of the strong arguments in favor of ability words.  ”

Cycles[ | ]

Mercadian Masques has fifteen cycles and 4 vertical cycles:

Cycle name {W} {U} {B} {R} {G}
Common Spellshapers Charm Peddler
(Honorable Passage or Samite Blessing)
Waterfront Bouncer
(Raise Dead)
Kris Mage
(Scorching Spear)
Deepwood Drummer
(Giant Growth-like)
A cycle of common 1/1 spellshapers with a classic effect associated with its color attached.
Common Alpha Spellshapers Devout Witness
Balloon Peddler
Bog Witch
(Dark Ritual)
Blaster Mage
Rushwood Herbalist
A cycle of common spellshapers costing {2}M with a classic spell from Alpha attached.
Uncommon Spellshapers Tonic Peddler
(Healing Salve)
Diplomatic Escort
Cackling Witch
(Howl from Beyond)
Hammer Mage
Silverglade Pathfinder
(Rampant Growth)
A cycle of five uncommon spellshapers with a classic spell associated with its color attached.
Rare Spellshapers Cho-Arrim Alchemist
(Reverse Damage)
(Ray of Command)
Notorious Assassin
(Dark Banishing)
Seismic Mage
(Stone Rain)
A cycle of five rare spellshapers with a classic spell associated with its color attached. Two additional rare spellshapers exist (Instigator and Deepwood Elder) but they are not part of any cycle and have unusual effects.
Ability Walls Alabaster Wall Stinging Barrier Wall of Distortion Battle Rampart Vine Trellis
Each of these common Wall creatures has defender and a {T} ability. The green one, Vine Trellis, saw the most amount of constructed play.
Legates Cho-Arrim Legate Saprazzan Legate Deepwood Legate Kyren Legate Rushwood Legate
Each of these uncommon creatures could be played for free if an opponent controlled a land opposite to the creature's own color alignment.
Mongers Wishmonger Sailmonger Scandalmonger Warmonger Squallmonger
Each of these uncommon 3/3 creatures has a cost of {3} and one colored mana, depicted as strange-looking supernatural beings, have activated abilities costing {2} that any player (not just the controller) can play.
Unwilling creatures Charmed Griffin Indentured Djinn Enslaved Horror Hired Giant Hunted Wumpus
Each of these uncommon creatures is undercosted for its color and power/toughness, but grants a boon to your opponent when it comes into play.
Instantments Cho-Manno's Blessing Buoyancy Maggot Therapy Flaming Sword Tiger Claws
Each of these common Aura enchantments with "enchant creature" has flash (flash hadn't yet been keyworded).
Creature Combat Enchantments Noble Purpose Coastal Piracy Larceny Close Quarters Briar Patch
Each of these uncommon global enchantments has a triggered ability that affect creature combat (3 trigger of combat damage, 1 triggers of creatures becoming blocked, and the last triggers of creatures attacking).
Color Hate Spells Righteous Indignation High Seas Putrefaction Magistrate's Veto Snake Pit
These spells provide effects that punish their two enemy colors.
Alternate Casting Cost Spells Orim's Cure
Ramosian Rally
(tapping an untapped creature)
Tidal Bore
(bouncing islands back to your hand)
Snuff Out
(paying life)
(sacrificing black creatures)
(sacrificing mountains)
(having an opponent gain life)
Land Grant
(revealing your hand)
These spells can be cast with a non-mana cost if you control a basic land of the corresponding type. The alternate costs vary between color, and sometime inside a color too.
Rare Pitch Spells Reverent Mantra Misdirection Unmask Cave-In Vine Dryad
Each of these rare spells may be cast without paying its mana cost but at the cost of exiling, or "pitching", a card of the pitch spell's color from its owner's hand.[6]
Ramos Artifacts Tooth of Ramos Eye of Ramos Skull of Ramos Heart of Ramos Horn of Ramos
A cycle of five rare artifacts which each cost {3}, tap for a mana of a specified color, and can be sacrificed for another mana of that color.
Depletion lands Remote Farm Saprazzan Skerry Peat Bog Sandstone Needle Hickory Woodlot
These common lands came into play tapped with two depletion counters. Whenever each land is tapped for mana, a depletion counter is removed and the controller adds two mana of the appropriate color; when there are no depletion counters left, the land is sacrificed.
Storage lands Fountain of Cho Saprazzan Cove Subterranean Hangar Mercadian Bazaar Rushwood Grove
Each of these uncommon lands come into play tapped and can be tapped either to add one storage counter to it, or to remove any number of storage counters to add that amount of colored mana. These lands are similar to another cycle of "storage lands" in the Fallen Empires expansion.

Vertical cycles[ | ]

Cycle name
Cateran recruiters Cateran Persuader
Cateran Brute
Cateran Kidnappers
Cateran Enforcer
Cateran Slaver
Cateran Overlord
These increasingly bigger mercenaries have the ability to recruit smaller mercenaries from the library. A tutoring spell, Cateran Summons, is thematically tied to this cycle.
Flailing creatures Flailing Soldier Flailing Ogre Flailing Manticore
Each of these red creatures can be made either more or less powerful, by any player willing to pay the mana.
Ramosian recruiters Ramosian Sergeant
Ramosian Lieutenant
Ramosian Captain
Ramosian Commander
Ramosian Sky Marshal
These rebels have the ability to recruit increasingly bigger rebels from the library. Notably, each recruiter is able to recruit the next one in the cycle.
Rishadan pirates Rishadan Cutpurse Rishadan Footpad Rishadan Brigand
When each of these blue Pirate creatures comes into play, each of the controller's opponents is required to pay a certain amount of mana or sacrifice a permanent.

Reprinted cards[ | ]

The following 21 cards have been reprinted from previous sets and included in Mercadian Masques:

Functional reprints[ | ]

Mercadian Masques has 18 functional reprints:

Card comparisons[ | ]

Notable Cards[ | ]

  • Arrest became a staple of many white Magic decks, either alongside Pacifism or in place of it, for its similar effect in disabling the creature it enchants from attacking or blocking, but going one step beyond Pacifism for an extra {1} in its casting cost by disabling the creature from being able to employ its activated abilities. Since its release, players have more frequently used Arrest in Legacy and Vintage formats than its somewhat functional predecessor Serra Bestiary, which while costing {W}{W} instead of Arrest's {2}{W} has the drawback of having to pay {W}{W} at the beginning of each upkeep or sacrificing it.
  • Bribery has been a popular choice in Legacy, Vintage, and Elder Dragon Highlander decks that emphasize taking control of opponents' creatures as a key deck component.
  • Cateran Overlord has the strongest "recruit" ability for mercenaries in the game, serving as one of the two pinnacle cards to emphasize the utility of the mechanic, which was principally used for rebels and mercenaries. It is currently able to search for every single other mercenary card in the game and put that card into play, since each other mercenary card has a converted mana cost of 6 or less. Cateran Overlord also has the highest combined power and toughness of any mercenary in the game, at 12. It partially serves as a mirrored pair to Ramosian Sky Marshal as each card searches for a creature of converted mana cost 6 or less of its "class" creature type, and as they are the only two cards in the game with this specific ability.
  • Cho-Manno, Revolutionary was the first creature card to have the static ability "Prevent all damage that would be dealt to (this creature)" [from any source]. Some previous creature cards, such as Uncle Istvan, have a similar static ability, "Prevent all damage that would be dealt to (this creature) by creatures," although Cho-Manno, Revolutionary's ability differs in that it also prevents damage to Cho-Manno from non-creature permanents, instants, and sorceries.
  • Collective Unconscious has been used in many aggro decks to augment card advantage.
  • Diplomatic Immunity is widely considered to be one of the most effective means in the game of granting a single creature shroud. It shares the distinction with Fountain Watch of being the first cards to give shroud to enchantments at all.
  • Fountain Watch was the first card to give all of a player's artifacts shroud without also doing so for opponents' artifacts, and it was the first card to give all of a player's enchantments shroud without also doing so for opponents' enchantments. It was also the first card to give shroud to multiple enchantments at once, and it shares the distinction with Diplomatic Immunity of being the first cards to give shroud to enchantments at all. While two precedent cards, Spectral Guardian and Hanna's Custody, were similar in that the former, (from the Mirage expansion), gave shroud to all noncreature artifacts and the latter, (from the Tempest expansion), gave shroud to all artifacts, both of these cards had the functional drawback of also granting shroud to opponents' artifacts. Fountain Watch remains the only card in the game with a static ability that specifically gives shroud to all artifacts and enchantments its controller controls.
  • Ivory Mask was the first card to give players the ability to grant themselves shroud. As the shroud ability was not keyworded until May 2007 with the release of Future Sight, and as Mercadian Masques was released almost eight years earlier in October 1999, the original printing of Ivory Mask says "You can't be the target of spells or abilities." Ivory Mask remained the only card that enabled players to grant themselves shroud for almost three years, until the printing of Solitary Confinement in the Judgment expansion in May 2002.
  • Magistrate's Scepter has been used in various combo decks since it utilizes the acquisition of charge counters to enable its controller to take an extra turn, and since numerous cards, especially from the two Mirrodin blocks, combo well with Magistrate's Scepter, even in some cases enabling the player to take infinite turns. Notable cards that combo well with Magistrate's Scepter are Energy Chamber and Coretapper from the first Mirrodin block, Doubling Season from the Ravnica: City of Guilds expansion, and cards with the proliferate ability from the Scars of Mirrodin block.
  • Misdirection has seen use in Legacy, Vintage, and Elder Dragon Highlander for its enabling its controller to cast the significant effect of changing the target of a target spell with a single target without having to pay Misdirection's mana cost. Misdirection's functional mechanics are quite similar to those of the very popular Force of Will, as they are both instants that have casting costs of {3}{U}{U}, both enable a blue card to be exiled from its controller's hand rather than playing the casting cost, and both serve to defeat the intentions of what an opponent had intended by casting a target spell.
  • Ramosian Sky Marshal has the strongest "recruit" ability for rebels in the game, serving as one of the two pinnacle cards to emphasize the utility of the mechanic, which was principally used for rebels and mercenaries. It is currently able to search for every single other rebel card in the game and put that card into play, since each other rebel card has a converted mana cost of 6 or less. It partially serves as a mirrored pair to Cateran Overlord as each card searches for a creature of converted mana cost 6 or less of its "class" creature type, and as they are the only two cards in the game with this specific ability.
  • Rishadan Port saw very frequent use in aggro deck, control deck, and/or combo deck configurations at the time of its release for its ability to prevent opponents from having access to certain key land cards. It continues to be a rather popular addition to these deck types in Legacy and Vintage. The card's prominence in the gameplay of its era was highlighted by the fact that three of the four decks included as part of the World Championship Decks 2000 set, which was based on decks used in the World Championship series that took place August 2000 in Brussels, Belgium, each contained four copies of Rishadan Port.
  • Security Detail continues to be regarded by many players as one of the least effective enchantments ever printed, due not only to the extremely limited circumstances in which its sole ability would be able to be activated, but also because of that ability's effect once the conditions to activate the ability have been achieved. After it has been cast for the casting cost of {3}{W}, Security Detail has no static or triggered abilities and has a single activated ability in which, for {W}{W}, and only if its controller controls no creatures, the card enables its controller to put a 1/1 white soldier creature token into play. If that creature token is somehow destroyed, sacrificed, phased out, or exiled in the turn in which it comes into play, and the player no longer has any creatures, Security Detail cannot generate another 1/1 soldier token that turn because it additionally has the restriction that the activated ability may be played only once each turn.
  • Soothsaying is the only card in the game that, by itself and without having to be casted again or its ability duplicated or made playable again by another card, enables a library to be shuffled multiple times in one turn without this being the result of another effect or necessitating another effect.
  • Squee, Goblin Nabob saw much use when the Masques block was part of Standard and Extended with decks that require creature sacrifices to function to the player's intent, as Squee's static ability enables his owner to return him from the graveyard to his owner's hand at the beginning of that player's upkeep.
  • Story Circle has been included in many decks by players who desire versatility in their ability to protect themselves from damage from colored sources.
  • Waterfront Bouncer was included in many Standard and Extended decks when the Masques block was applicable to these formats due to the card's potential for creature removal and, in some ways, augmenting card advantage. The Grand Creature Type Update in September 2007 that occurred in conjunction with the Lorwyn expansion's release in October 2007 has caused some minor controversy with regards to Waterfront Bouncer, as the card's printed creature type of spellshaper, which became regarded as its "class" type for the purpose of creature types, was then modified to also include the "race" creature type of merfolk, while the art for Waterfront Bouncer depicts a humanoid with legs, and not fins or a tail. As of the Oracle update in January 2008 that took place in anticipation of the release of the Morningtide expansion in February 2008, which was an update that revised 90 creatures' creature types following the Grand Creature Type Update's 1197 revisions, Waterfront Bouncer is still regarded as a merfolk as befit the Saprazzan merfolk, who were able to bisect their fins to function as legs.

Creature types[ | ]

The following creature types are introduced in this expansion: Monger, Rebel, Spellshaper.

The following creature types are used in this expansion but also appear in previous sets: Beast, Cat, Cleric, Djinn, Dragon, Drake, Druid, Dryad, Elemental, Faerie, Fish, Giant, Goblin, Griffin, Horror, Hound, Illusion, Insect, Lord (later changed to Human), Lizard, Manticore, Merfolk, Minion, Monster, Ogre, Pirate, Shade, Ship (later changed to Goblin and Merfolk), Snake, Soldier, Spirit, Townsfolk (later changed to Human), Troll, Wall, Wolf, Wolverine, Zombie.

Theme decks[ | ]

Each of the Mercadian Masques theme decks has at least one spellshaper, a theme of the set. The pre-constructed theme decks are:

deck name
Colors Included
{W} {U} {B} {R} {G}
Rebel's Call W
Tidal Mastery W U
Disruptor B R
Deepwood Menace R G

References[ | ]

  1. Wizards of the Coast (August 02, 2004). "Ask Wizards - August, 2004". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Brady Dommermuth (October 31, 2006). "Ask Wizards". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (October 28, 2002). "Take This Job and Love It". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Wizards of the Coast (October, 1999). "Mercadian Masques Game Features". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Card of the Day (December 24, 2007). "Ramosian Lieutenant". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Mark Rosewater (August 19, 2002). "Free Play. The design of APC cards". Wizards of the Coast.

External links[ | ]