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Magic: The Gathering

Alpha

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Set Specifications
Exp sym Alpha

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English

Set Information

Limited Edition Alpha (or just Alpha for short) was the first Magic: The Gathering print run. It premiered in a limited release at Origins International Game Expo in 1993, with a general release that August. Its print run of 2.6 million cards sold out very quickly and was replaced by Limited Edition's Beta print run. The Alpha and Beta runs are officially both part of Limited Edition. Limited Edition cards have no expansion symbol, no copyright date, no trademark symbols, but do list the art credit.


Set history
Alpha, as with Beta and Unlimited, is known for having extremely "broken" (overpowered) cards. Because the game designers did not expect the game to be as popular or to sell as well as it did, they did not spend much time balancing cards against each other. Copies of rare and powerful cards were expected to be few and controlled by house-rules. Instead, players started collecting powerful cards and putting as many of them as possible in their decks.

In addition, Alpha contained numerous misprints and lacked a standardized wording for card text, which would not appear until 4th Edition. As a result, Alpha card texts have been confusing to new players.

The following cards had printing errors, all of which were fixed in the Beta release.


Unlike succeeding sets, cards from Alpha have steeply rounded corners. This was reportedly caused by the dullness of the dies being used to cut the cards. The dies were sharpened after the Alpha cards were produced and this resulted in the less rounded corners found on the Beta cards and all subsequent sets. Official tournaments require Alpha cards to be sleeved to prevent unfair gameplay, unless the deck contains nothing but Alpha cards. However, due to the market value of cards in the Alpha set, this rule is rarely invoked.

The Alpha rulebook contains a fantasy tale called "Worzel's Story" by Richard Garfield which was removed for the Beta release. Alpha deck boxes also lack a UPC on the bottom.


Mechanics
Being the first print run, Alpha has all of the original mechanics intrinsic to Magic, such as "tapping" cards to use their abilities. It also has a number of mechanics rarely seen in official sets since. The most notable is the Chaos Orb's "drop" mechanic, in which the card is dropped on the play area to see what cards are destroyed.

Of the many mechanics introduced in Alpha, most still appear in new sets. An exception is banding, which was eliminated in Tempest (set) and has not appeared since.

Many Alpha cards had abilities that have since become keyword abilities. The ability "may only be blocked by black or artifact creatures" was keyworded to Fear in 8th edition. The rule preventing Walls from attacking was removed in 9th edition and all walls were given the keyword "Defender," which prevents them from attacking. Serra Angel's famous ability 'doesn't tap to attack' was keyworded to Vigilance in the Champions of the Kamigawa set. "May attack the turn it comes into play" has changed twice; it was first changed to "unaffected by summoning sickness" in the set, Mirage and then was keyworded to Haste in the Urza's Destiny set.


Notable cards


Card Sets

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