Tag Archives: collectible card game

Never Ask “What’s That M:TG Set Symbol?” Again!

Over the last few years, Magic: the Gathering has released many official sets–but those are not their only products. In fact, there have also been quite a few special collections, such as the Duel Decks, the From The Vault collections, and the Premium Deck series. Plus, there have been new formats introduced, such as Commander and Archenemy.

All of these mentioned products have their own set symbols, and that leads to quite a bit of confusion for both M:TG newbies and veterans. I’ve heard quite a few M:TG players trying to figure out these rarer symbols, and I’ve been a little bewildered by it all as well. Finally I decided to compile a reference article about it, to help us all learn these special symbols. (I’ve covered only the last three years in Magic, to cover as many “new cards” and “new sets” as possible in a short article.)

Special Collections for New Formats

Set Symbol Set Name Release Date
archenemy Archenemy June 2010
commander Commander June 2011
commandersarsenal Commander’s Arsenal November 2012

Duel Decks

Set Symbol Set Name Release Date
phyrexiavscoalition Phyrexia vs. The Coalition March 2010
elspethvstezzeret Elspeth vs. Tezzeret September 2010
knightsvsdragons Knights vs. Dragons April 2011
ajanivsnicolbolas Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas September 2011
venservskoth Venser vs. Koth March 2012
izzetvsgolgari Izzet vs. Golgari September 2012
sorinvstibalt Sorin vs. Tibalt March 2013
heroesvsmonsters Heroes vs. Monsters September 2013

Premium Deck Series

Set Symbol Set Name Release Date
fireandlightning Fire & Lightning November 2010
premiumdeck_graveborn Graveborn November 2011

From the Vault Collections

Set Symbol Set Name Release Date
ftv_relics From the Vault: Relics August 2010
ftv_legends From the Vault: Legends August 2011
ftv_realms From the Vault: Realms August 2012
ftv_twenty From the Vault: Twenty August 2013

Expansion Sets

Set Symbol Set Name Release Date
scarsofmirrodin Scars of Mirrodin October 2010
mirrodinbesieged Mirrodin Besieged February 2011
newphyrexia New Phyrexia May 2011
innistrad Innistrad September 2011
darkascension Dark Ascension February 2012
avacynrestored Avacyn Restored May 2012
returntoravnica Return to Ravnica October 2012
gatecrash Gatecrash February 2013
dragonsmaze Dragon’s Maze May 2013

(All the preceding symbols were retrieved from the MTG Salvation Wiki, an excellent resource for set symbols and tons more M:TG information.)

New M:TG Abilities, part 1: Return to Ravnica

returntoravnica Return to Ravnica, one of the more recent Magic: the Gathering sets, includes five new keyword abilities printed on the cards, one for each of the five dual-color guilds featured in the set. Let’s take a moment and look at each of these abilities–you might find one you want to incorporate into a deck build of your own!

Ability Keyword

Associated Guild

Rules Text

More Info

Detain azorius_senate
701.26a Certain spells and abilities can detain a permanent. Until the next turn of the controller of that spell or ability, that permanent can’t attack or block and its activated abilities can’t be activated. Detain @ MTGSalvation Wiki
Scavenge golgariswarm
702.95a Scavenge is an activated ability that functions only while the card with scavenge is in a graveyard. “Scavenge [cost]” means “[Cost], Exile this card from your graveyard: Put a number of +1/+1 counter equal to the power of the card you exiled on target creature. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.” Scavenge @ MTGSalvation Wiki
Overload izzetleague
702.94a Overload is a keyword that represents two static abilities: one that functions from any zone in which the spell with overload can be cast and another that functions while the card is on the stack. Overload [cost] means “You may choose to pay [cost] rather than pay this spell’s mana cost” and “If you chose to pay this spell’s overload cost, change its text by replacing all instances of the word ‘target’ with the word ‘each.'” Using the overload ability follows the rules for paying alternative costs in rules 601.2b and 601.2e–g.

702.94b If a player chooses to pay the overload cost of a spell, that spell won’t require any targets. It may affect objects that couldn’t be chosen as legal targets if the spell were cast without its overload cost being paid.

702.94c Overload’s second ability creates a text-changing effect. See rule 612, “Text-Changing Effects.”

Overload @ MTGSalvation Wiki
Unleash cult_of_rakdos
Cult of
702.96a Unleash is a keyword that represents two static abilities. “Unleash” means “You may have this permanent enter the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on it” and “This permanent can’t block as long as it has a +1/+1 counter on it.” Unleash @ MTGSalvation Wiki
Populate selesnyaconclave

701.27a To populate means to choose a creature token you control and put a token onto the battlefield that’s a copy of that creature token.

701.27b If you control no creature tokens when instructed to populate, you won’t put a token onto the battlefield.

Populate @ MTGSalvation Wiki

Which Keywords Are Right for You?

  • If you like to play control, Detain was tailor-made for you. Period. 😀
  • If you like to swing with big creatures, both Unleash and Scavenge are great mechanics for pumping up creatures’ power and toughness, albeit through very different means.
  • If you like to amass lots of little creatures very quickly, Populate will serve you well–just make sure you have one token to start off, and then let the Populating mechanic go wild!
  • If you like to play combos, or if you like big splashy game effects, Overload in all its various forms will give you great options for both early-game and late-game.