Whether you are a Magic the Gathering player or collector, you will probably know that it can be sometimes difficult to identify which set a MTG card comes from, here’s a helpful guide to help you identify what set your MTG cards come from.
How to Identify Your Cards
There are three different types of identification necessary to be able identify all MTG cards:
1. Cards with Set Markers
All Magic the Gathering Expansion Sets, and Core Sets from 6th Edition onwards fall into this category, which is the majority of MTG cards in circulation today.
If you look at the bar between the card art and the text box, on the right hand side, you will see a small set icon. Each set has its own unique shaped icon. There is a handy set reference on my website detailed in the reference box below; it details all the set icons and how you can recognise them.
The set icons can also come in varying colours; these colours represent the rarity of the card. A plain black icon represents a common card, a silver icon represents and uncommon card, a gold icon represents a rare card, and a purple is a mythic rare (or Timeshifted card for Timespiral cards only). This colour does not change the set the card originates from, simply its rarity within that MTG set.
2. Cards without Set Markers
Not all cards have a set marker on them. This is only applicable to cards from the following MTG sets:
– Limited Edition Alpha – Limited Edition Beta – Unlimited – Revised Edition – Fourth Edition – Fifth Edition
4th and 5th Edition cards are easy to identify. These two sets have a date in the bottom left corner of the card. 4th Edition will have a date of 1995, 5th Edition will have a date of 1997.
The border colour of the remaining sets is the next way to tell which set these older cards come from; Unlimited and Revised cards are white bordered cards and Alpha and Beta cards have a black border; this is the next differentiator.
You next need to tell the difference between Alpha and Beta Edition cards. This can be done by the shape of the card. Alpha cards have very rounded edges compared to all over MTG cards. Simply compare it to a newer card and you will see the difference; if it is very different then its a card from Alpha, else its a Beta card.
The final comparison to be made is between Unlimited and Revised MTG cards. This is a little more subtle and is in the print of the cards. Unlimited cards have a slightly blurry look due to the print run used. Another comparator is that Revised cards tend to look more “washed out” and pale due to the printing process used.
3. Promotional Textless Cards and Reward Cards
The final card types that we need to identify are that of DCI reward cards and textless cards.
Promotional textless cards are cards given as rewards by Wizards of the Coast to tournament players. These cards have an expanded art block which takes up nearly all of the card space apart from an outer border. Hence these cards have no set marker, and belong to no set. In play terms for deck construction, this card can be taken to be from any set that already has a copy of this card in its card list.
Reward cards such as DCI promotional cards (e.g. Arena cards) and FNM foils have a DCI icon as its set marker. As per the textless cards, this means they belong to no particular set.
So now you know what set your MTG cards come from. This is essential for realising the true potential in your Magic the Gathering card collection, and especially so if you want to make some cash from any spare Magic the Gathering cards you may have.
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