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Shards of Alara

Shards of Alara
ALA logo
Set Information
Set symbol
Symbol description 5 shards of a plane
Design Bill Rose (design lead),
Devin Low (development lead),
Aaron Forsythe,
Mark Globus,
Mark Gottlieb,
Graeme Hopkins,
Alexis Janson,
Erik Lauer,
Michael Mikaelian,
Kenneth Nagle,
Matt Place,
Mark Rosewater,
Brian Tinsman,
Mike Turian,
Noah Weil
Development same as Design Team
Art direction Jeremy Jarvis
Release date October 3, 2008
Plane Alara
Themes and mechanics Three-color play, colored artifacts, large creatures
Keywords/​ability words Cycling, Devour, Exalted, Unearth
Set size 249 + 1
Expansion code ALA[1]
Development codename Rock
Alara block
Shards of Alara Conflux Alara Reborn
Magic: The Gathering Chronology
Masters Edition II Shards of Alara Duel Decks: Jace vs. Chandra

Shards of Alara is the forty-seventh Magic expansion and was released October 2008 as the first set in the Alara block. The prerelease events for this set were held on September 27–28, 2008. Release events were held on October 3, 2008, the same day the set went on sale.[2]

Set details[ | ]

Shards of Alara was the first set to follow a new packaging policy, which amongst other things introduced a new rarity level called mythic rare, as well as the replacement of one of the commons in a booster pack with a basic land (the first time this was done outside of a core set). After evaluating the set sizes, Wizards of the Coast decided that card sets would be smaller than they had traditionally been. Initial sets of a block were now 249 cards (101 commons, 60 uncommons, 53 rares, 15 mythic rares, 20 basic lands) instead of the approximately 300 cards of previous expansions.[3] Shards of Alara heralded the return of planeswalker cards, and introduced the first multicolored planeswalkers.

Shards of Alara design was anything but typical. Design lead Bill Rose assembled no fewer than fifteen people on five teams, one for each of the five three-color shards. Each of the five shards has its gameplay themes and its stable of artists.[4] The expansion symbol of the set is a representation of the five shards.[5]

In light of the flavor of the shards, Shards of Alara launch parties (October 3–6, 2008) were Wizards Play Network events that featured a new format: the Theme Tournament. Designed to highlight the fun and flavorful aspects of the set, the Theme Tournaments had the same structure as the prerelease tournaments (Sealed Deck format in which each player receives one tournament pack and three boosters), with a few additional rules. As players build their decks, they had to choose one of the five shards (Bant, Esper, Grixis, Jund, or Naya). The mana cost of each card in a player's deck could contain only mana symbols that matched the chosen shard's three colors (mana symbols in a card's text box were ignored). Colorless cards could be played in any deck. In addition, a deck could not generate mana outside its shard's colors. Any card that would generate a mana of a color that doesn't match the chosen shard generates colorless mana instead.[6]

Collector numbers[ | ]

Shards of Alara contains many colored artifacts. These cards were sorted alphabetically into their color when determining collector numbers. For example, the colored artifact Executioner's Capsule (which requires {B} to cast) is placed alphabetically between the black cards Dregscape Zombie and Fleshbag Marauder. Colored artifacts that require multiple colors are alphabetized among the multicolored cards. As usual, the artifacts that have a generic mana cost are alphabetized together and appear numerically between the multicolored cards and the nonbasic lands.

Fourteen years after the release of the set, The List for Streets of New Capenna added a new collector number (#250) to the set with a special non-foil Rafiq of the Many featuring new art and the Streets of New Capenna Golden Age treatment.[7] This card notably lacks the usual List planeswalker symbol in the lower left corner.

Flavor and storyline[ | ]

Main articles: Alara and Alara Unbroken
“  Five worlds share one fate.  ”

Alara was a single plane once, a massive world rich with mana. However, those same resources led to its downfall, for an unknown planeswalker tore the plane asunder millennia ago, harvesting of its mana.[8] This disaster broke Alara along color lines into incomplete planes called shards, as light is diffracted by a prism. The shards recovered their mana in time, but only in part. Each shard is vastly different, as the combinations of triple-colored mana have shaped natural and cultural forces on each world in distinctive ways.[9][10][11][12][13][14]

Story Comics[ | ]

Main article: Magic Story

Flight of the White Cat is a webcomic about Ajani's origins on Alara. It was published in three parts in October 2008.

Title Author Release Date Setting (plane) Featuring
Flight of the White Cat, Part 1 Brady Dommermuth 2008-10-08 Naya Ajani, Jazal Goldmane, Tenoch, Qala
Flight of the White Cat, Part 2 Brady Dommermuth 2008-10-15 Naya, Jund Ajani, Jazal Goldmane, Zaliki
Flight of the White Cat, Part 3 Brady Dommermuth 2008-10-22 Jund Ajani, Karrthus, Sarkhan

Savor the Flavor[ | ]

Main article: Savor the Flavor
Title Author Release Date Setting (plane) Featuring
Encounter at the Necropolis Doug Beyer October 22, 2008 Grixis Eliza, Malfegor, Sedris

Planes Explorer[ | ]

Planes Explorer is a Flash object that allows one to explore the flavor of the five shards of Alara.

Marketing[ | ]

Shards of Alara was sold in 75-card tournament decks, 16-card boosters, five intro packs, and a fat pack.[15] It was the last set to feature tournament decks; in these, any number of the usual rares could have been replaced with mythic rares. The intro packs replaced the traditional preconstructed theme decks and the 2-Player Starter Set. The fat pack's content was changed replacing the novel with a brief introduction of the expansion's respective novel or Planeswalker's Guide. The Pro Tour Player Cards were discontinued. The Alara block was accompanied by only one novel: Alara Unbroken, written by Doug Beyer and the Planeswalker's Guide to Alara, written by Doug Beyer and Jenna Helland.

The promotional card given to participants at both the prerelease and release events was Ajani Vengeant, one of the mythic rare planeswalkers, with alternate artwork.[16]

Starting with the Shards of Alara set, each booster pack contained the following: one basic land,[17] ten commons, three uncommons, one rare or mythic rare, and 1 non-game marketing card. If the pack happened to contain a foil premium card, it would do so in place of one of the commons, regardless of that premium card's rarity. (Every game card in the set can appear as a regular card or as a premium card).[18] The boosters featured artwork from Steward of Valeron (with white background), Sphinx Sovereign (with blue background), Sedris, the Traitor King (with black background), Hellkite Overlord (with red background) and Godsire (with green background).[19] An all-foil booster pack containing cards from Shards of Alara and the other two sets of the block was released on January 8, 2010.[20]

The sixteenth card in the boosters is either a “flavor/shard card”, instead of the usual “rules card”, or a creature token. One face has one of five shard flavor cards or is one of ten different creature tokens. The other face has one of six advertisements for organized play programs, Conflux, Duel Decks: Jace vs. Chandra, fat packs,, Magic Online, A Planeswalker's Guide to Alara, and Ultra Pro products for Magic.

Tips & Tricks[ | ]

The tips & tricks cards are:

Tokens[ | ]

The Shards of Alara tokens are:[21][22]

  1. {W} 1/1 Soldier creature produced by Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Knight-Captain of Eos.
  2. {U} 0/1 Homunculus artifact creature produced by Puppet Conjurer.
  3. {U} 1/1 Thopter artifact creature with flying produced by Sharding Sphinx.
  4. {B} 1/1 Skeleton creature with “{B}: Regenerate this creature.” produced by Skeletonize.
  5. {B} 2/2 Zombie creature produced by Archdemon of Unx.
  6. {R} 4/4 Dragon creature with flying produced by Broodmate Dragon and Sarkhan Vol.
  7. {R} 1/1 Goblin creature produced by Dragon Fodder.
  8. {G} */* Ooze creature produced by Ooze Garden.
  9. {G} 1/1 Saproling creature produced by Jund Battlemage, Mycoloth, Necrogenesis, and Sprouting Thrinax.
  10. {R}{G}{W} 8/8 Beast creature produced by Godsire.

Mechanics[ | ]

Though the set as a whole has multicolored cards as an overarching theme, due to the setting being split into five “shards” with no contact with each other, each shard was given its distinct mechanical theme.

  • Bant (primary {W}, secondary {G}{U}): The shard of Bant was given the exalted ability, which reads, “Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, that creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.”[23]
  • Esper (primary {U}, secondary {W}{B}): The shard of Esper was given an emphasis on artifacts, including the first widespread use of artifacts with colored casting costs (Sarcomite Myr[24] and Reaper King were earlier forays into this design space).
  • Grixis (primary {B}, secondary {U}{R}): The shard of Grixis was given the unearth ability, which reads, “[Cost]: Return this card from your graveyard to the battlefield. It gains haste. Exile it at the beginning of the next end step or if it would leave the battlefield. Unearth only as a sorcery.”[25]
  • Jund (primary {R}, secondary {B}{G}): The shard of Jund was given the devour N ability, which reads, “As this enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice any number of creatures. This creature enters the battlefield with N times that many +1/+1 counters on it.”[26][27]
  • Naya (primary {G}, secondary {R}{W}): The shard of Naya was emphasized creatures with power of 5 or greater, “5-power matters”.

Shards of Alara also featured the return of cycling for the third time (or fourth, including Future Sight) since the Urza block.

Cycles[ | ]

Shards of Alara has 19 cycles:

Cycle name {W} {U} {B} {R} {G}
Common one-drops Akrasan Squire Cathartic Adept Deathgreeter Goblin Mountaineer Wild Nacatl
Each of these common 1/1 creatures costs one mana.
Battlemages Bant Battlemage Esper Battlemage Grixis Battlemage Jund Battlemage Naya Battlemage
Each of these uncommon 2/2 human creatures costs {2}M and has two activated abilities corresponding to each of its allied colors.
Heralds Angel's Herald Sphinx's Herald Demon's Herald Dragon's Herald Behemoth's Herald
Each of these uncommon 1/1 creatures has a cost of M and has an activated ability with the cost “{2}M, {T}, Sacrifice a creature of this creature's color plus one of each of its allied colors” that allows you to search your library for its corresponding noble creature (see below) and put it onto the battlefield.
Allied-ability creatures Knight of the Skyward Eye ({G})
Sighted-Caste Sorcerer ({U})
Cloudheath Drake ({W})
Vectis Silencers ({B})
Shore Snapper ({U})
Undead Leotau ({R})
Viashino Skeleton ({B})
Thorn-Thrash Viashino ({G})
Cavern Thoctar ({R})
Godtoucher ({W})
Two cycles at common, with creatures having an activated ability with an allied-color cost. One goes clockwise around the color wheel, while the other goes counter-clockwise.
Cycle name {W}{U} {U}{B} {B}{R} {R}{G} {G}{W}
Allied-colored two-drops Deft Duelist Tidehollow Strix Goblin Deathraiders Rip-Clan Crasher Steward of Valeron
Each of these common creatures requires one mana each of two allied colors to cast.
Common allied-colored spells Hindering Light Agony Warp Blightning Branching Bolt Sigil Blessing
Each of these common allied-colored spells has two effects.
Uncommon allied-colored spells Kiss of the Amesha Thoughtcutter Agent Blood Cultist Sangrite Surge Qasali Ambusher
Each of these uncommon spells has a mana cost that includes two allied-colored mana.
Cycle name {W}{B} {U}{R} {B}{G} {R}{W} {G}{U}
Uncommon enemy-colored spells Tidehollow Sculler Swerve Necrogenesis Bull Cerodon Jhessian Infiltrator
Each of these uncommon spells has a mana cost that includes two enemy-colored mana.
Cycle name {G}{W}{U} {W}{U}{B} {U}{B}{R} {B}{R}{G} {R}{G}{W}
Common tricolored creatures Waveskimmer Aven Windwright Mage Kederekt Creeper Carrion Thrash Rakeclaw Gargantuan
Each of these common creatures has a mana cost that includes MNO.
Uncommon tricolored creatures Rhox War Monk Tower Gargoyle Fire-Field Ogre Sprouting Thrinax Woolly Thoctar
Each of these uncommon creatures has a mana cost that includes MNO.
Mythic legends Rafiq of the Many Sharuum the Hegemon Sedris, the Traitor King[28] Kresh the Bloodbraided Mayael the Anima
Each of these mythic rare legendary creatures has a mana cost that includes MNO.
Noble creatures Empyrial Archangel Sphinx Sovereign[29] Prince of Thralls Hellkite Overlord Godsire
Each of these mythic rare creatures has a mana cost of {4}MNNO.
Panoramas Bant Panorama Esper Panorama Grixis Panorama Jund Panorama Naya Panorama
Each of these common triple lands can be tapped for {C} or sacrificed to search your library for a basic land of one of three types.[30]
Shardlands (or Trilands) Seaside Citadel Arcane Sanctum[31] Crumbling Necropolis Savage Lands Jungle Shrine
Each of these uncommon triple lands comes into play tapped and can be tapped for one of three colors of mana. These are strictly better than the old taplands.
Obelisks Obelisk of Bant Obelisk of Esper Obelisk of Grixis Obelisk of Jund Obelisk of Naya
Each of these common artifacts can be tapped to add one of three mana.
Resounding spells Resounding Silence Resounding Wave Resounding Scream Resounding Thunder[32] Resounding Roar
Each of these common instant or sorcery spells has a base effect and can be cycled for {5}MNO, where MNO are the card's shard colors, for twice the base effect.
Charms Bant Charm[33] Esper Charm Grixis Charm Jund Charm Naya Charm
Each of these uncommon instants costs MNO and has three modes.
Ultimatums Clarion Ultimatum Brilliant Ultimatum Cruel Ultimatum Violent Ultimatum Titanic Ultimatum
Each of these rare sorceries costs MMNNNOO and has a powerful effect.[34][35]
Rare tricolored spells Stoic Angel Punish Ignorance Sedraxis Specter Broodmate Dragon Realm Razer
Each of these rare spells has a mana cost that includes MNO.
Kresh the Bloodbraided

Mini-cycles[ | ]

Shards of Alara has 5 cycles of three cards, each missing the two colors not associated with its shard:

Cycle name {W} {U} {B}
Esper capsules Dispeller's Capsule Courier's Capsule Executioner's Capsule
Each of these common artifacts can be sacrificed for an effect common to its color.
Cycle name {B} {R} {G}
Jund scavengers Scavenger Drake Rockslide Elemental Algae Gharial
Each of these uncommon 1/1 creatures has “Whenever another creature dies, you may put a +1/+1 counter on this creature”
Cycle name {W} {R} {G}
Naya cycling creatures Yoked Plowbeast Ridge Rannet Jungle Weaver
Each of these common creatures costs {5}MM, has cycling {2} and a power of 5 or more.
Naya druids Sunseed Nurturer Exuberant Firestoker Drumhunter
Each of these uncommon human druid creatures has a triggered ability that activates at the end of your turn as long as you control a creature with power 5 or greater and “{T}: Add {C}
Naya “soul spells” Soul's Grace Soul's Fire Soul's Might
Each of these common instants or sorceries has an effect based on the power of the creature it targets. In addition, each of these cards has flavor text starting with “An avatar he sculpts of...”

Mega cycle[ | ]

Cycle name {G}{W}{U}
Planeswalkers Elspeth, Knight-Errant (Shards of Alara) Tezzeret the Seeker (Shards of Alara) Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker (Conflux)[36] Sarkhan Vol (Shards of Alara) Ajani Vengeant (Shards of Alara)
Each shard has a corresponding Planeswalker.

Pairs[ | ]

Shards of Alara has one mirrored pair.

Mirrored Pairs Description
Marble Chalice
Onyx Goblet
Common artifacts that cost {2}M, and have a tap ability. The former causes you to gain one life, whilst the latter causes a player to lose one life.

Reprinted cards[ | ]

The following cards have been reprinted from previous sets and included in Shards of Alara:

Functional reprints[ | ]

This is the first expansion set to have functional reprints since Lorwyn. Shards of Alara has three functional reprints:

Colorshifted[ | ]

Misprints[ | ]

Notable cards[ | ]

  • Ad Nauseam — main engine powering the Legacy ANT deck.[37]
  • Blightning — one of the key Jund cards in Standard, also splashed in Red decks.
  • Cruel Ultimatum — important card in Grixis and 5-color Control decks in Standard.
  • Ethersworn Canonist — popular hate card against various decks, especially combo decks which rely on casting multiple spells in one turn.
  • Hellkite Overlord — Was first released in From the Vault: Dragons, a special set predating Shards of Alara.
  • Knight of the White Orchid — A popular Tithe variant, especially in combination with the Borderposts cycle from Alara Reborn.
  • Ranger of EosAntoine Ruel's prize card for winning the 2006 Magic Invitational.
  • Wild Nacatl — key creature in aggro decks such as Naya or Zoo. Wild Nacatl was later banned in Modern in December 2011. It was then unbanned in Modern in February 2014.
  • Master of Etherium powered up artifact decks in Modern and still sees some play in Legacy
  • Fleshbag Marauder is the first of an eponymous archetype of creature that makes each player sacrifice a creature when it enters the battlefield and sees play in Pauper aggro decks
  • Fatestitcher's ability to untap any permanent lead to it seeing play in Modern Jeskai Ascendency combo decks as well as some versions of Dredge decks in multiple formats
  • Relic of Progenitus is one of the best graveyard hate artifacts of all time, seeing play in sideboards of every format it is legal in but especially Modern and pauper
  • Ajani Vengeant has seen sporadic play competitively and is notable for having a one sided Armageddon as a loyalty ability
  • Lich's Mirror has a unique effect that prevents its controller from losing the game in exchange for effectively resetting the game for them

Intro packs[ | ]

Previous to Shards of Alara, there were theme decks. Intro packs premiered in Shards of Alara. All of the intro packs are 3 colors based on their shard.[38][39]

Intro pack contents included:

  • a 41-card preconstructed deck, which included 1 premium foil rare and one non-premium rare
  • a booster pack of the current set
  • a set-specific insert explaining the new mechanics in the set and info on the preconstructed decks included in the intro packs
  • a learn-to-play insert for new players that includes game rules, deck building tips, and storyline information

The preconstructed intro packs are:[40][41]

Intro pack name Colors Included Foil rare
{W} {U} {B} {R} {G}
Bant Exalted W U G Battlegrace Angel
Esper Artifice W U B Master of Etherium
Grixis Undead U B R Vein Drinker
Primordial Jund B R G Flameblast Dragon
Naya Behemoths W R G Spearbreaker Behemoth

Shard cards[ | ]

Answering to an Ask Wizards, on October 16, 2008, Brady Dommermuth[42] gave a list of all the Shards of Alara cards belonging to each of the five shards. Here is the list.

Bant Esper Grixis Jund Naya

References[ | ]

  1. Mike Gills (January 28, 2010). "Shards of Alara Block Magic Online Release Events". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Wizards of the Coast (March 18, 2008). "Announcing Shards of Alara". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (June 2, 2008). "The Year of Living Changerously". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Magic Arcana (November 25, 2008). "Ask Wizards: Shards, RSS, and Mysterious Symbols". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Staff (October 13, 2008). "Five Teams Share One Fate". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Mark Gottlieb. (September 23, 2008.) Shards of Alara Frequently Asked Questions
  7. Wizards of the Coast (April 14, 2022). "What's New on The List for Streets of New Capenna". Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Wizards of the Coast (September 2008). "Five Worlds". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Wizards of the Coast (September 2008). "Life Imitates Mana". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Doug Beyer (September 08, 2008). "Alara, a World Broken". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Richard Whitters (September 15, 2008). "Ripping a World Apart". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Rei Nakazawa (October 20, 2008). "A Shards Day's Night". Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Doug Beyer (October 01, 2008). "Faction + Fiction". Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Doug Beyer (October 15, 2008). "Shards of Alara in Italics". Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Magic Arcana (September 01, 2008). "Shards of Alara Fat Pack". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. Magic Arcana (August 21, 2008). "Shards of Alara Prerelease Card". Wizards of the Coast.
  17. Wizards of the Coast (June 2, 2008). "Changes as of Shards of Alara". Wizards of the Coast.
  18. Mark Rosewater (August 05, 2013). "Twenty Things That Were Going To Kill Magic". Wizards of the Coast.
  19. Magic Arcana (August 26, 2008). "Shards of Alara Boosters". Wizards of the Coast.
  20. Magic Arcana (September 29, 2009). "The All-Foil Booster". Wizards of the Coast.
  21. Wizards of the Coast (September 30, 2008). "Shards of Alara Tokens". Wizards of the Coast.
  22. Wizards of the Coast (October 1, 2008). "More Shards of Alara Tokens". Wizards of the Coast.
  23. Mark Rosewater (September 8, 2008). "Between a Rock and a Shard Place". Wizards of the Coast.
  24. Mark Rosewater (September 22, 2008). "Shard Tricks". Wizards of the Coast.
  25. Mike Turian (September 12, 2008). "The Specter of the Present". Wizards of the Coast.
  26. Mark Rosewater (September 15, 2008). "Shard Candy". Wizards of the Coast.
  27. Matt Place (December 05, 2008). "Predator and Prey". Wizards of the Coast.
  28. Doug Beyer (September 24, 2008). "Alive and Unwell". Wizards of the Coast.
  29. Kelly Digges (September 9, 2008). "The Riddle of the Sphinx". Wizards of the Coast.
  30. Magic Arcana (October 21, 2008). "Panoramic View". Wizards of the Coast.
  31. Jacob Van Lunen (September 11, 2008). "Show Your True Colors". Wizards of the Coast.
  32. Tim Willoughby (September 22, 2008). "Shards of Alara Prerelease Primer". Wizards of the Coast.
  33. Mike Turian (September 19, 2008). "The Charm Peddler". Wizards of the Coast.
  34. Magic Arcana (October 27, 2008). "Whose Ultimatum?". Wizards of the Coast.
  35. Kelly Digges (September 23, 2008). "Building a Better Overrun". Wizards of the Coast.
  36. Doug Beyer (Wednesday, April 08, 2009). "The One, The Only, Nicol Bolas". Wizards of the Coast.
  37. Mark Rosewater (September 29, 2008). "Cards of Alara". Wizards of the Coast.
  38. Magic Arcana (September 22, 2008). "Intro Packs of Alara". Wizards of the Coast.
  39. Magic Arcana (September 23, 2008). "More intro Packs of Alara". Wizards of the Coast.
  40. Brian David-Marshall (September 19, 2008). "Drink Up". Wizards of the Coast.
  41. Doug Beyer (September 17, 2008). "Time for Esper". Wizards of the Coast.
  42. Brady Dommermuth (October 16, 2008). "Do you have a list of what cards are supposed to go with each shard?". Wizards of the Coast.

External links[ | ]