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For other uses, see Onslaught (disambiguation).

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Set Information
Set symbol
Symbol description A four-legged (in-game face-down) morphed creature
Design Mike Elliott (lead),
Mike Donais
Development Randy Buehler (lead),
Elaine Chase,
Mike Donais,
Brian Schneider,
Henry Stern,
Worth Wollpert
Art direction Jeremy Cranford & Dana Knutson
Release date October 7, 2002
Plane Dominaria (Otaria)
Themes and mechanics "Cost matters", "Creature type matters", Cycling triggers, Gustcloak, Mistform
Keywords/​ability words Cycling, Fear, Morph
Set size 350 cards
(110 commons, 110 uncommons, 110 rares, 20 basic lands)
Expansion code ONS[1]
Development codename Manny[2]
Onslaught block
Onslaught Legions Scourge
Magic: The Gathering Chronology
Judgment Onslaught Legions

Onslaught is the first set (and the only large expansion) in the Onslaught block. It is the 27th Magic: The Gathering expansion and was released on October 7, 2002. The prerelease was September 28–29, 2002.

Set details[ | ]

Onslaught, like its following expansions in the Onslaught block, Legions and Scourge, featured a theme that focused heavily on "tribal" cards, or cards that are concerned with creature types.[3][4] In the initial design for the set, the Typal theme was only a very small subset of cards. However, as time went on, the team ramped up the theme until it became the main selling point of the set.[5]

The set contains 350 black-bordered cards (110 rare, 110 uncommon, 110 common, and 20 basic lands). Onslaught's expansion symbol is a stylized morphed creature.[6]

Marketing[ | ]

Onslaught was sold in 75-card tournament decks, 15-card boosters, four preconstructed theme decks and a fat pack.[7] The packs featured artwork from Jareth, Leonine Titan, Arcanis the Omnipotent, Grinning Demon, Blistering Firecat and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. The prerelease card was a foil Silent Specter. The set was accompanied by the novel of the same name.

Flavor and storyline[ | ]

Main article: Onslaught (novel)

A continuation of the storyline developed in the Odyssey Cycle, Onslaught and the Onslaught Cycle are set on the continent of Otaria on the devastated plane of Dominaria, approximately a century after the events of Apocalypse of the Invasion block.[8][9] Kamahl has relocated to the Krosan Forest with the Mirari and becomes a druid of Krosa. The power of the Mirari begins to work on the forest, mutating its residents and growing some of them to gigantic proportions. Meanwhile, Kamahl's sister Jeska is transformed by foul Cabal healing magic, into Phage, a pit fighter whose touch brings death. The illusionist Ixidor discovers his new powers of reality sculpting. Ixidor uses his new power to create the angel Akroma.

Tokens[ | ]

Several tokens for Onslaught cards were offered as Magic Player Rewards.

Because Magic Online needs to represent all the tokens in the game, art needs to be created for even the most insignificant tokens. For those, Magic Online is the only place it appears.[13][14]

Themes and mechanics[ | ]

Onslaught advertisement

Advertisement teasing the morph mechanic

Themes[ | ]

Tribal and creature types were a prominent theme in the Onslaught block.[3][15] Some creature types bled into colors other than their normal colors (e.g., Festering Goblin, a black, non-red Goblin), for more design space and variety.[16]

Creature subtype Tribe name Primary colors Secondary colors
Beast {R}{G} {U}{B}
Birds Aven (in white and blue only)
{W}{U} {B}{R}
Clerics {W}{B}
Dragons {R} {U}
Elves {G}
Goblins {R} {B}
Illusions Mistform (or Mimics)[note 1][17] {U}
Soldiers {W} {U}{G}
Wizards {U} {W}{B}{R}{G}
Zombies {B}

Numerous cards with creature classes, as opposed to species or race ones, such as the Cleric, Soldier, and Wizards creature types, were retroactively given additional (species or race) creature types during the Grand Creature Type Update to be more consistent with the "race-class model".[18] In most of these cases, the additional creature type was Human. This, by and large, did not cause significant changes to this expansion or block.[19] In 2002, a poll conducted on showed that a majority of respondents were opposed to the idea of Human as a creature type.[20]

Dragons have a small presence in Onslaught, with the only Dragon creature cards being Quicksilver Dragon and Rorix Bladewing (and an additional one enchantment dragon-creature-token-creating card in Dragon Roost). Dragons would go on to form a theme in Scourge, the third Onslaught block expansion.[21]

In addition to the tribal theme, Onslaught features a number of cards, such as Erratic Explosion, that foreshadow the "cost matters" theme that is more fully explored in Scourge.

Mechanics[ | ]

Onslaught reintroduced the static keyword ability cycling and featured a number of mechanics, some of which were novel, including:[22]

  • Fear: a keyword static ability of an established ability, fear, named after Fear, the Limited Edition aura card, and first card, that conferred or featured this ability, means "This creature can't be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or black creatures.".
  • Gustcloak: a non-keyword triggered ability that allows the controller of a blocked creature with the ability to remove the creature from combat, thereby preventing all combat damage that would be dealt to and by it, similar to the effect of Maze of Ith.
  • Lords: any card with an activated ability whose cost includes the tapping of a creature that shares a creature type with the lord (i.e., Ancestor's Prophet, Aphetto Grifter, Birchlore Rangers, Catapult Master, Catapult Squad, Crookclaw Elder, Gravespawn Sovereign, Shieldmage Elder, Skirk Fire Marshal, Spurred Wolverine, Supreme Inquisitor, Voice of the Woods, and Legions' Keeper of the Nine Gales). Cards somewhat similar to lords are Cryptic Gateway and Gangrenous Goliath, which, although they forward the tribal theme, do not tap creatures that share a creature subtype with the card itself.
  • Morph: a static ability that allows the controller of a card with the morph ability to cast the card face-down as a 2/2 creature with no text, no name, no subtypes, no expansion symbol, and no mana cost. The ability was pitched by the rules team and inspired by a rules fix they had made to a pair of cards from Alpha: Illusionary Mask and Camouflage.[5][23][24][25]
  • Saboteurs: any creature card with a "Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player" triggered ability.
  • Self-recruiters: any card with an enters-the-battlefield triggered ability that allows its controller to search for a similarly named card, reveal it, and put it into their hand.
  • Cycling: originally conceived during Tempest design as "sliding" and first featured in Urza's Saga,[26] was brought back from abeyance for reasons including "nostalgia", "exposing new[er] players [to older mechanics]", "[exploring] new twists [to the old mechanic]", "interaction with other mechanics", and "conservation of design space".[27] To expand on cycling, a number of cards with cycling triggers, such as Astral Slide and Lightning Rift, and a number of cards with cycling and abilities that trigger when they are cycled, such as Death Pulse and Krosan Tusker, were featured in Onslaught.

Creature types[ | ]

The creature types Pangolin (retroactively) and Mutant were introduced in Onslaught. The creature type Lord was used in this expansion at the time of printing but was later removed.

Cycles[ | ]

Onslaught features 13 cycles.

Cycle name {W} {U} {B} {R} {G}
Avatars Doubtless One
Nameless One
Soulless One
Reckless One
Heedless One
Each of these */* uncommon Avatar creature cards has an power/toughness-defining ability, which is dependent on the number of creatures that share a type with the Avatar in play (and, in the case of Soulless One, the number of creature cards that share a type with it in all graveyards).[22]
Chain spells Chain of Silence Chain of Vapor Chain of Smog Chain of Plasma Chain of Acid
Each of these uncommon spells, inspired by Chain Lightning and Chain Stasis, may be copied by the player affected by the spell or the controller of the permanent affected by the spell.[22]
Charms Piety Charm
Trickery Charm Misery Charm
Fever Charm
Vitality Charm
Each of these common instant spells with mana cost M has three modes, at least one of which was related to one of the main tribes of the expansion.[28]
Crowns Crown of Awe Crown of Ascension Crown of Suspicion Crown of Fury Crown of Vigor
Each of these common auras costing 1M confers an ability and may be sacrificed to grant that ability to all creatures that share a type with the (formerly) enchanted creature until end of turn.
Couriers Pearlspear Courier
Ghosthelm Courier
Frightshroud Courier
Flamestick Courier
Everglove Courier
Each of these uncommon 2/1 creature cards costing 2M has a static ability allowing their controllers to not untap them during their controllers' untap step and an activated ability that may provide a creature that shares a creature type with the Courier with +2/+2 and an ability common to the Courier's color as long as the Courier remains tapped.
Cycling lands Secluded Steppe Lonely Sandbar Barren Moor Forgotten Cave Tranquil Thicket
Each of these common nonbasic lands enters the battlefield tapped and may be tapped for M or may be cycled for M.[29]
Cycling spells Sunfire Balm Complicate Death Pulse Slice and Dice Primal Boost
Each of these uncommon spells may be cycled for an effect that is similar to their original effect, albeit at a smaller size.
Cycling trigger permanents Astral Slide Fleeting Aven Withering Hex Lightning Rift Invigorating Boon
Each of these uncommon permanent cards has a triggered ability that triggers whenever a player cycles a card. Two of these, Astral Slide and Lightning Rift, were centerpieces of the Astral Slide deck.[30]
Legendary pit-fighter champions Jareth, Leonine Titan Arcanis the Omnipotent Visara the Dreadful Rorix Bladewing Silvos, Rogue Elemental
Each of these powerful rare legendary creature cards costs {3}MMM.[31]
Lords Ancestor's Prophet
Catapult Master
Supreme Inquisitor
Gravespawn Sovereign
Skirk Fire Marshal
Voice of the Woods
Each of these rare (formerly Lord) creature cards has an activated ability to tap five creatures (and/or, later, other permanents) of a given creature (or tribal) subtype for a potent effect.[22]
Tribal lands Daru Encampment
Riptide Laboratory
Unholy Grotto
Goblin Burrows
Wirewood Lodge
Each of these lands may be tapped for {C} or tapped and activated for an ability related to one of the main tribes of the expansion. Five require only one color of mana, whilst three, Contested Cliffs for Beasts, Seaside Haven for Birds, and Starlit Sanctum for Clerics, require two colors of mana to activate their non-mana-producing ability. Furthermore, Starlit Sanctum is notable for having two non-mana-producing activated abilities.[32]
Words Words of Worship Words of Wind Words of Waste Words of War Words of Wilding
Each of these rare enchantments may be activated for {1} to allow their controller to replace the next draw in exchange for an effect. The flavor texts reference a guiding philosophy for each color, and how the respective enemy colors oppose that philosophy.
Cycle name {W}{U} {U}{B} {B}{R} {R}{G} {G}{W}
Allied-colored fetch lands Flooded Strand Polluted Delta Bloodstained Mire Wooded Foothills Windswept Heath
Each of these rare lands has an activated ability costing 1 life and the tapping and sacrifice of the land to search for a land with either or both of two basic land types corresponding to the colors of an allied color pair.[33]

Vertical cycles[ | ]

Cycle name
Symbiotic creatures Symbiotic Elf Symbiotic Beast Symbiotic Wurm
Each of these green creatures has a triggered ability that triggers when the creature dies. The ability allows the creatures' controllers to put a number of green 1/1 Insect creature tokens into play equal to the printed power of the creature.
"Cost matters" cards Erratic Explosion Goblin Machinist Kaboom!
Each of these red spells has an ability that reveals cards from the top of its controller's library until a nonland card is revealed and has a scalable effect that is dependent on the converted mana cost of the nonland card revealed.

Pairs[ | ]

Onslaught has one mirrored pair.

Mirrored Pairs Description
Disciple of Grace
Disciple of Malice
Common Clerics with a mana cost of {1}M, power/toughness of 1/2, cycling and protection from the other's color.

Reprinted cards[ | ]

Functional reprints[ | ]

Color shifted[ | ]

Strictly better[ | ]

Notable cards[ | ]

Preconstructed decks[ | ]

Main article: Onslaught/Theme decks

Onslaught has four bicolored theme decks.

deck name
Colors Included
{W} {U} {B} {R} {G}
Celestial Assault W U
Bait & Switch U B
Devastation R G
Ivory Doom W B

Notes[ | ]

  1. Mistform creatures all have the ability to change their creature type.

References[ | ]

  1. Wizards of the Coast (August 02, 2004). "Ask Wizards - August, 2004". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater (August 12, 2002). "Codename of the Game". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. a b Mark Rosewater (September 23, 2002). "Tribal's in Your Court". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater (August 20, 2007). "Onslaught Machine". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. a b Mark Rosewater (August 5, 2019). "Need I Say Morph". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Brady Dommermuth (October 31, 2006). "Ask Wizards". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Magic Arcana (September 09, 2002). "Onslaught product images". Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Vance Moore. (2001.) Odyssey Cycle, Book I: Odyssey, Wizards of the Coast. ISBN-13 978-0786919000.
  9. Rei Nakazawa (September 23, 2002). "Preparing for the Onslaught". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Magic Arcana (May 27, 2003). "Soldier Tokens". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Magic Arcana (January 30, 2003). "New token cards". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Magic Arcana (June 11, 2003). "New Player Rewards tokens". Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Magic Arcana (November 06, 2002). "Onslaught green tokens". Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Magic Arcana (November 13, 2002). "More Onslaught tokens". Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Matt Cavotta (August 23, 2007). "The Ballpark at Otaria". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. Randy Buehler (December 13, 2002). "Old Uncle Fester". Wizards of the Coast.
  17. Mark Rosewater (October 14, 2002). "Creature Feature". Wizards of the Coast.
  18. Randy Buehler (November 22, 2002). "Debating Humanity". Wizards of the Coast.
  19. Mark Gottlieb (September 26, 2007). "The Grand Creature Type Update". Wizards of the Coast.
  20. Randy Buehler (November 29, 2002). "Human Nature". Wizards of the Coast.
  21. Mark Rosewater (April 28, 2003). "Dragon Racing". Wizards of the Coast.
  22. a b c d Wizards of the Coast *september, 2002)"New Features in Onslaught", Wizards of the Coast.
  23. Wizards of the Coast. "Onslaught Frequently Asked Questions". Wizards of the Coast.
  24. Paul Barclay (September 6, 2002). "Morph: Onslaughts New Ability". Wizards of the Coast.
  25. Mark Rosewater (September 09, 2002). "Wait, There's Morph". Wizards of the Coast.
  26. Mark Rosewater (March 22, 2004). "A Cycling Built for Two". Wizards of the Coast.
  27. Mark Rosewater (September 16, 2002). "Cycling Cycling". Wizards of the Coast.
  28. Mark Rosewater (September 17, 2012). "Return on Investment, Part 3". Wizards of the Coast.
  29. Magic Arcana (March 25, 2004). "Sketches: Onslaught cycling lands". Wizards of the Coast.
  30. Gabe Walls (March 22, 2004). "Astral Slide in the New Standard". Wizards of the Coast.
  31. Josh Bennett (September 13, 2002). "Introducing the Pit Fighter Legends". Wizards of the Coast.
  32. Magic Arcana (October 02, 2002). "Tribal lands". Wizards of the Coast.
  33. Randy Buehler (April 4, 2003). "The Lands That Almost Weren't". Wizards of the Coast.
  34. Ben Bleiweiss (October 2, 2002). "That Old Familiar Spell". Wizards of the Coast.
  35. Randy Buehler (October 18, 2002). "Birth of a Prodigy". Wizards of the Coast.

External links[ | ]