A block is a group of two to three Magic: The Gathering expansion sets that are connected in terms of mechanics and flavor. Sets within a block share a common setting (a plane in Magic's Multiverse), and typically feature a story arc tying them together. A large expansion leads off each block to establish its world and mechanical themes, which are explored further in the block's remaining set(s).
Blocks provide structure to Magic's release schedule. Standard, the game's leading gameplay format, rotates yearly in autumn with the start of a new block. Historically, the game has had one three-set block annually, with a debut expansion in autumn and two follow-up sets early next calendar year. Wizards of the Coast recently changed this formula, now printing four expansion sets each year, divided into two blocks with two sets apiece.
History[edit | edit source]
During the game's first two years, Magic expansions were one-shot installments, each with an independent setting and mechanical focus. Alliances was its first direct sequel, borrowing its environment and gameplay themes from Ice Age. Due to the proximity of their release dates, Ice Age and Alliances were retroactively grouped with Homelands, despite the latter being thematically unrelated to the others. In 2006, in order to play up its "lost set" conceit, Coldsnap replaced Homelands in Ice Age block.
Mirage block was the first developed for the three-set block formula, with a large set coming out in autumn followed by two small sets the next winter and spring. This structure became the default for Magic sets until Khans of Tarkir block, with some exceptions (e.g., with the Lorwyn and Shadowmoor mini-blocks, which comprised two expansions each; Return to Ravnica block, which comprises two large expansions and one small expansion).
One of the most important parts to designing and developing sets today is to create cross-block synergies so the sets within Standard play well with each other, but also so that there is enough of a change when Standard rotates to create a healthy metagame.
Two-Block Paradigm[edit | edit source]
A redesign of the block structure was announced by Mark Rosewater on August 25, 2014. Blocks no longer feature a third set, allowing the release of two blocks per year (known as the "Two Block-Paradigm"). By default (subject to change as needed), each block will have one large set introducing its world then one small set that builds upon it. A large fall expansion and a small winter expansion will be set in World #1, then a large spring expansion and a small summer expansion will be set in World #2. The new block formula took effect October 2, 2015 with the release of Battle for Zendikar.
List of blocks[edit | edit source]
The following list details all of the blocks in Magic: The Gathering in chronological order. The year given in parentheses is when the first set in a block was released. For the three-set blocks, the Magic year begins with the "large fall expansion," typically in October, with that block's subsequent sets releasing during February and April of the following year.
With Lorwyn and Shadowmoor, as well as expansions following the introduction of the two-block paradigm, Wizards of the Coast has instead printed two blocks per Magic year. For these, the first block's sets come out in autumn then winter next calendar year, while the second block's sets release that spring and summer. All seasons noted here are those of the Northern Hemisphere.
| Ice Age block (1995)
Mirage block (1996)
Tempest block (1997)
Urza's block (1998)
Masques block (1999)
Invasion block (2000)
Odyssey block (2001)
Onslaught block (2002)
| Mirrodin block (2003)
Kamigawa block (2004)
Ravnica block (2005)
Time Spiral block (2006)
Lorwyn block (Autumn 2007)
Shadowmoor block (Spring 2008)
Alara block (2008)
Zendikar block (2009)
Scars of Mirrodin block (2010)
| Innistrad block (2011)
Return to Ravnica block (2012)
Theros block (2013)
Khans of Tarkir block (2014)
Battle for Zendikar block (Autumn 2015)
Shadows over Innistrad block (Spring 2016)
Kaladesh block (Autumn 2016)
Amonkhet block (Spring 2017)
References[edit | edit source]
- Aaron Forsythe. (2016 October 19.) “Revisiting Standard Rotation”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (2014 August 25.) “Metamorphosis”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (2009 December 07.) “Playing With Blocks”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Blake Rasmussen. (2014 August 25.) “Building Blocks”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Bill Rose. (2003 April 18.) “A Three-Year Mirage”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (2006 February 06.) “Back Issues”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (2013 April 29.) “Third Time's the Charm”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Sam Stoddard. (2013 October 11.) “Cross-Block Synergies in Theros”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater. (2015 September 02.) "What are reasons behind changing the Draft format?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
- Mark Rosewater. (2015 September 07.) "Is 184 the new default size of small sets?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
- Mark Rosewater. (2015 September 07.) "Are you now going to be putting out more, or less cards every year?", Blogatog, Tumblr.
- Sam Stoddard. (2016 February 26.) “Learning from the Two-Block World”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.