Jeff Zandi is a four time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events.

Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.

 


 

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Fun With Magic
Magic’s Most-Reprinted Cards
by Jeff Zandi
December 10, 2004

Magic: the Gathering may be the most imaginative game ever printed, but that hasn’t stopped the creative folks at Wizards of the Coast from recycling one of their previous ideas from time to time. Hundreds and hundreds of Magic cards have been reprinted in sets subsequent to their first appearance.

Technically, Magic began reprinting cards almost as soon as the first cards were sold. The original edition, later known as the Alpha edition, was the original print run of Magic cards produced back when Wizards of the Coast’s corporate headquarters was still located in Peter Adkison’s basement. The Alpha edition sold out quickly, much to the immediate amazement and eventual dismay of Wizards of the Coast. The Beta edition, essentially a second printing of almost the same cards as Alpha, followed the first printing by just a few months. The Beta edition contained some card corrections as well as the less rounded card corners that became the standard for the game. When Beta sold out almost as fast as Alpha, Wizards produced the Unlimited edition. The Unlimited edition contained the same cards as the Beta edition, but this time the cards were white bordered and many times more of the cards were printed. The tradition started by the Beta and Unlimited sets has been continued for the eleven years that Magic has been in print: the basic set, we’re now up to Eighth Edition, is always made up of cards that have already been printed in some previous set.

Not counting the basic sets Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised, Fourth Edition, Fifth Edition, Sixth Edition (or Classic Edition), Seventh Edition and Eighth Edition, the first Magic expansion set to reprint cards was Ice Age.

Ice Age reprinted such notable cards as Icy Manipulator, Disenchant, Stone Rain, Healing Salve, Giant Growth, all five colored Circle of Protection cards, Dark Ritual, Fear, Lure, Power Sink, Regeneration, Shatter and Swords to Plowshares.

To date, Wizards of the Coast has produced more than eleven thousand cards, of which many are reprints. Some cards have been reprinted more times than others. In today’s column, we are going to explore the most reprinted cards in the history of Magic. This is a fun game that everyone can play. All you need is a list of every card ever printed in the game. Putting together one of these lists used to be a lot easier than it is today. While there are any number of websites that have card search engines, looking at the whole collection containing every Magic card in every printing all at one time is becoming a bit daunting. For my simple needs, I have used an Excel spreadsheet with one line (or row) for every printing of every card in Magic. My list, not necessarily the most perfectly maintained, contains 10,936 lines or rows. This list contains every set printed for Magic that has ever been tournament legal, as well as all three editions of Portal as well as Unglued, the cards reprinted in jumbo format, the Vanguard cards, the special cards associated with the early Magic novels from Magic, and so on. However, I think you will find that the cards that I have included in my lists today come from sets that were tournament legal at one time or another. (I haven’t gotten around to adding Unhinged to my Excel spreadsheet, but since Unhinged did not include any cards printed in a previous set, although it ALMOST does…, Unhinged does not impact today’s topic).

The most reprinted card of all time is Stone Rain. Stone Rain has been printed 19 different times, including Alpha Edition, Beta Edition, Unlimited Edition, Ice Age, Revised Edition, Mirage, Fourth Edition, Fifth Edition, Sixth Edition, Seventh Edition, Eighth Edition, Tempest, Mercadian Masques, Portal, Portal Second Age, Portal Three Kingdoms, Starter (a special edition for beginning players), Champions of Kamigawa, and on an oversized card.

I decided to limit my attention to Magic cards appearing in at least five different printings. I found 228 different Magic cards that have appeared in at least five different sets. When you look at the various cards that Wizards has chosen to reprint over and over, certain patterns emerge. Most of the cards reprinted five or more times are all-purpose basic cards that are useful in the Standard (Type II) constructed format year after year.


Players are continually discovering Magic, and they typically begin with whatever basic set is currently in print; Eighth Edition fills that role currently. Basic utility cards like Regeneration and Fear are the kinds of spells that players have consistently used to explore the game of the Magic. These types of cards are not reprinted because they are particularly relevant to competitive play.

The greatest number of the cards in the FIVE TIMES PLUS PRINTINGS CLUB have been printed either five or six times. The sets that most of the five-timer cards are from include Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised and Fourth Edition. Most of the six-timers also appear in Fifth Edition. This broad sweep of reprinted cards includes Animate Dead, Aspect of Wolf, Bad Moon, Balance, Benalish Hero, Black Vise, all five Wards (Black Ward, White Ward, etc.), Blue Elemental Blast, Bottle of Suleiman, Channel, Clockwork Beast, Cockatrice, Cursed Land, Dancing Scimitar, Deathlace (as well as the other four rare Lace cards), Deathgrip, Dragon Engine, Disintegrate, Dragon Whelp, Drain Power, Dwarven Warriors, Conversion, Evil Presence, Gaea’s Liege, Instill Energy, Jandor’s Saddlebags, Library of Leng, Living Artifact, Mana Flare, Mana Vault, Jump, Hypnotic Specter, Island Sanctuary, Keldon Warlord, Ley Druid, Lord of the Pit, Mind Twist, Paralyze, Pearled Unicorn, Phantom Monster, Phantasmal Forces, Plague Rats, Pirate Ship, Power Leak, Primal Clay, Power Surge, Red Elemental Blast, Scryb Sprites, Sea Serpent, Simulacrum, Smoke, Stasis, Stone Giant, Tunnel, Uthden Troll, Vesuvan Doppleganger, Wall of Water, Wall of Wood, Wanderlust, Warp Artifact, Water Elemental, Weakness, Web and Will O’ the Wisp.

Twenty-Nine cards have been reprinted ten or more times.

Cards printed ten times include all five colored Circle of Protection cards, Giant Growth, Fireball, Fear, Armageddon, Giant Spider, Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, Wall of Swords, Wrath of God, Scathe Zombies and Sleight of Mind.

Cards printed eleven times include Dark Ritual, Healing Salve, Air Elemental, Bog Wraith, Grizzly Bears, Power Sink, Regeneration and Tranquility.

Cards printed twelve times include Lure, Hurricane, Raise Dead and Shatter.

Disenchant is the former reprint champion with fifteen printings, giving up its spot in the record book to Stone Rain only a few years ago when Wizards decided that the white spell Disenchant was the wrong color for artifact and enchantment destruction. Stone Rain should sit atop the record book for some time as the most reprinted card, at least until the Color Wheel guys in Research and Development decide that red is the wrong color for land destruction…

TOP FIFTEEN MOST POWERFUL MAGIC REPRINTS

15. City of Brass – This all-purpose mana fixer has survived a long time since its debut in Arabian Nights. The powers that be have apparently found the City of Brass to be balanced enough to remain in the Standard arena almost continually since its first appearance. Printed seven times.

14. Lightning Bolt – One of the original three-of-something-for-one-mana cards from the original Alpha set, Lightning Bolt is a basic tool that red mages have had to do without for a long time. Even though its been many years since this card was last reprinted, players still say “bolt you” when they finish off their opponent’s with any similar burn spell. Printed five times.

13. Fireball – Frankly, it was surprising to see Fireball return last year in Darksteel. Fireball is the best of all X damage spells in the history of Magic. Fireball’s new wording seems to make this classic a realistic part of Magic’s future. Printed ten times.

12. Armageddon – This card was a part of one of the most important deck archetypes in the history of the game, the green/white creature/control deck known as ErnhamGeddon. Land control has always meant game control, and no spell controls land the way that Armageddon does. Printed ten times.

11. Wheel of Fortune – This card plays a lot like Timetwister, and yet Wheel of Fortune has rarely been considered in the same breath as the so-called Power Nine. Still, Wizards knows a powerful card when they see one, and Wheel of Fortune hasn’t been reprinted in a full-sized set since the Revised Edition. Printed five times.

10. Channel – The less common half of Channel-Fireball, one of the most famous card combos in Magic history, Channel has recently been returned from the dead in Vintage (Type I) play. Banned for many years, Channel was recently moved to the Restricted list for that format. This elegant card has been printed five times.

9. Birds of Paradise – This card has been the turn one play of more great green decks than any other card in that color. Birds of Paradise, whose original artwork was first intended for an Island card, defines green as the color to play when you need access to four or five colors. Printed nine times.

8. Mind Twist – Arguably one of the most powerful cards ever printed, Mind Twist has “returned from the dead”, returning to the Vintage (Type I) Restricted list from the Banned list. There has never been an easier way to empty a player’s hand than Mind Twist, and what’s more, this extremely powerful card is completely splashable since it only needs one black mana to be played. Printed five times.

7. Wrath of God – This is Magic’s ultimate neutron bomb, destroying all creatures in play without any opportunity for parole or regeneration. Wrath of God is probably one of the most powerful rare cards in Magic to be reprinted so many times. Wrath of God has been printed ten times.

6. Winter Orb – One of the most ingenious artifacts in Magic, Winter Orb has had a chilling effect on many control decks. I predicted that Winter Orb would be reprinted in the Mirrodin block, but it was not to be. Winter Orb remains an underrated card in many ways, but Research and Development knows how powerful the Orb is, and they aren’t in any big hurry to return this card to us any time soon. Printed six times.

5. Balance – I remember one day, at one of the first big Type II (Standard) constructed tournaments in Dallas, when the announcement was made that Fork and Balance would now be restricted, allowing players only one copy of each in their decks. I remember thinking “why would anyone want more than one or two Balance cards in their deck anyway?” That was a very silly thing to think. Balance was a card whose power was not made plain to us until it was restricted. Balance was an incredible sort of “reset button” that could be pressed whenever the game fell too far out of … balance. Printed six times.

4. Counterspell – For most of the history of Magic, you had to think twice when you played an important card as long as your opponent had two untapped blue mana sources available and a card in their hand. This card, consistently powerful and useful throughout the life of the game of Magic, should be a part of every basic set ever printed. Sadly, this was the case until Wizards of the Coast decided to not include Counterspell in Eighth Edition. I hope Counterspell is back soon. Printed thirteen times.

3. Nevinyrral’s Disk – The greatest all-purpose board sweeper in the game, Nev’s Disk allowed decks of any color to reset the board. No deck ever made better use of this card than the mono black Necropotence decks. This card’s power was well-balanced by the fact that it came into play tapped. Even though it is very powerful, I have always hoped that this card would return to the game of Magic. Alternative artifacts with some level of board-sweeping effects have been created, but all have been poor replacements for Nevinyrral’s Disk. Printed six times.

2. Hypnotic Specter – Possibly the most powerful creature in Magic’s history, many first turn plays included Swamp, Dark Ritual, Hypnotic Specter. Hyppie’s evasion and ability to make his opponent discard a card from their hand at random gave this creature the ability to ruin opponent’s hand early in the game. It is a sort of tribute to Hypnotic Specter that its much-inferior replacement, Abyssal Specter has been printed five times itself. Hypnotic Specter was printed five times.

1. Swords to Plowshares – This elegant little instant spell is the single most powerful creature removal card ever created in the game. Wizards of the Coast removed Swords to Plowshares years ago, but not before this great spell had already removed countless Ernham Djinn, Hypnotic Specters and Serra Angels from the game.

Some of you like to think of Magic card names in weird ways and in unusual contexts. You know who you are! Email me some of your favorite lists and I will share them with my friends and the Pojo-literate-world.

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
jeffzandi@thoughtcastle.com
Zanman on Magic Online

 

 

 

 

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