Reprints with a Purpose

Posted in Arcana on November 29, 2006

By Wizards of the Coast

When “the past returns,” it isn’t always for a Core Set or for past-matters sets like Time Spiral. Reprinted cards may appear to repeat similar themes, but in fact they often serve as a way to highlight how Magic themes change over time.

Shatter, for example, was a rather clunky utility spell in Ice Age or Tempest. But in the environment of Mirrodin, it was a brutal, all-purpose dream-crusher. In contrast, Terror was very powerful creature kill except on that artifact-heavy plane. Those strategic reprints served to highlight the shift in importance of artifacts.

Consider Dark Heart of the Wood or Savage Twister in Ravnica Block—powerful gold spells of old brought to a new multicolored home. Elves of Deep Shadow (welcome to the Golgari!) and Goblin Spelunkers (now with Sacred Foundry-walk!) also gain new talents in Ravnica, showing off the new value of their color-specific focus.

Cards like Lay Waste, Disciple of Grace, and Swat rode the “cycling renaissance” from Urza’s Saga to Onslaught, and Frozen Solid boarded a rather drafty flavor train from its origins in Scourge to the icy wastes of Coldsnap.

Frozen Solid
Frozen Solid

Back in Odyssey, the “gravedigger cycle” of Scrivener, Archivist and Cartographer joined the newly-minted Auramancer to highlight the graveyard-matters theme of that block. Reprints like Patchwork Gnomes and cheap cantrips like Guided Strike also drove home that graveyard theme. It’s all a matter of context.

So the next time you see a reprinted card, think about the context of the set it’s in; it may be an old card, but it’s sure to have new significance.

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