Ah yes, the reprint. Often, some of the smartest, and yet oddly contentious, things that happen from one set to the next. What should be reprinted? What should be left in the great box of never-agains? It's a fun concept to delve into. And today, I want to inquire as to the top surprising reprints we've seen in the past!
Magic: the Gathering has a ton of great cards from its past. What I love is when you have a new set with a specific flavor, and then they reprint a card from the past that perfectly captures that flavor. Even better, I love it when they reprint a card that surprises you with just how good it fits after you take a look, and then really pushes the old and new cards together in a happy chorus.
For today's article, I spent around 2 hours reviewing all of the old reprints in Magic to ensure that my own memories matches what really happened.
Honorable Mention - Mountain, Arabian Nights
Sometimes a reprint just makes you scratch your head. Really? Really? Sigh . . . Oh, and by the way, this print of Mountain makes it the answer for the "Most commonly printed card" as this basic land has had one more printing than the other basics.
What I'd like to do for the rest of this list is to show you the first printing, and then the reprinting, of the card that was so great. Here we go!
#10 Blossoming Sands Uber-Cycle, Fate Reforged
And to a lesser degree, the entire art slate that contrasted the world that is with the world that was, and the world yet to be. The addition of this little art change to the reprints created a cool feel, and if you were at the prerelease, they pushed that even further with re-arted cards that demonstrated the time travel idea, often in suitably real ways. I was not expecting them to reprint this awesome cycle the next set with gentle changes in the art, but they did, and it works beautifully.
9. Opt, Ixalan
Opt was an interesting choice because the oracle had given it an errata that the card did not have. In so doing, and giving Opt scry, you took this cool cantrip and increased its usefulness alongside scry enablers. Cards like Flamespeaker Adept have increased the play value considerably. Opt away my friends, Opt away!
8. Swords to Plowshares, Giant Growth, Disenchant, Wild Growth, Sleight of Mind, Death Ward, Circles of Protection, Power Sink, Counterspell, Dark Ritual, Fear, Howl from Beyond, Shatter, Stone Rain, Hurricane, Lure, Regeneration, Icy Manipulator
One of the most important things that Ice Age did was to set a standard for future sets that continues through today: The reprint as a valuable tool! If you have something that works, like Disenchant or Counterspell, then you should be fine moving forward. Until this set, you didn't really have any major reprints elsewhere, other than cards that were virtually reprinted but named something else, such as Grey Ogre into Raging Bull or Grizzly Bears into Barbary Apes. And while this virtual reprint was a tool that Ice Age also used (such as Fyndhorn Elves), it was the literal reprinting of cards that was big.
However, if I had to just select one card from the above list to signify the key reprints, then I would choose Icy Manipulator. We all thought that the Manipulator was pulled for power reasons from Unlimited. But here it is in another expansion set just the next year, as an uncommon. We thought that the game must have really advanced for Icy Manipulator to come back, and it was a clear flavor hit for the set as well, and thus worked well. For that reason, I really like what Ice Age did and how it set the tone for countless sets to come!
It's hard to overemphasize how important reprints were after Ice Age in keeping the game rumbling until modern design kicked in around Invasion. As one example, consider Stone Rain. This card was printed in every single starter set (like Portal) , core set or major expansion like Ice Age or Mercadian Masques. There was a time when Stone Rain was the single most printed card other than a basic land! And that was okay, the sets played well, and the card was important as a cheap LD tool you could set and stick. This reprinting got us to today's awesome set designing!
7. Erhnam Djinn, Judgment
Erhnam Djinn was an iconic part of Magic's rich, deep history. It was one of the best cards from the early days of the game, and was reprinted in Chronicles and then used to sell the Beatdown duel box with an alternate art foil promo. And then we entered the era of the reprint selling a set, and Erhnam Djinn was one of the most iconic parts of the era. It was used in posters, magazine ads. The core concept of Judgment was a strong Green/White set. So, bringing back one of the best Green creatures of all time for Standard fit that perfectly. It was the perfect marriage of an iconic reprint as well as the right home for it. "Green is back!"
Even to this day, the one-line synopsis of the set on WOTC's site is, "This 143-card, black-bordered set includes the powerful new Wish mechanic, intriguing new creatures, and an old friend: Erhnam Djinn."1
6. Steamflogger Boss, Unstable
After playing with Contraptions, I think they did a pretty good job with the concept, but I wish it had been outside of a silver-bordered set with a Contraption expansion or such that adds the cards. It's odd that Steamflogger Boss is black bordered but Wrench-Rigger is grey/silver-. Of course, by leaving the Contraptions borderless, the cards can be used in a number of ways to increase the opportunities for play outside of silver-bordered sets, but the support cards aren't there.
But the Boss? It's the Boss! And getting around the border issue by putting it into a land slot was a work of genius! Boss away, my friends, boss away.
5. Clone, Onslaught
I just don't think most people realize how weird and awesome Clone was as a reprint in Onslaught. As a perfectly suitable Blue copy effect, it's tenure as this amazing and iconic dork was well known. Now, for those of you following along in the back, Clone was once on the Reserve List. It was pulled off in 2002 along with other fellow cards from the first set like Sinkhole and Juggernaut. Clone's popular reprinting initiated a number of "Welcome Back" campaigns that used older cards to sell newer sets, as we saw above with Erhnam Djinn. We also loved Juggernaut returning next block with Darksteel, and it was all over. Ever since, many sets have included a reprint or three and used those cards to sell the set (or, in the case of Planar Chaos, used a side-print of Wrath of God as Damnation to sell the set). It has led to From the Vault sets and Masterpiece Series and much more. And by the by, many cool cards that were once reserved and removed from the list at the same time as Clone were never reprinted, like Ice Storm. Clone's reprinting was hugely influential on the game, and a cool card to see again as well!
4. Blazing Torch, Innistrad
When Blazing Torch was printed for Zendikar block, it was a clear and obvious homage. In adventuring stories, your heroes have torches. Keeping their light source lit is a key part of both the genre and gaming generally. There are books or games out there that track the usage of torches, and when you run out, you die (like the gamebooks set in Zork). So Blazing Torch made a ton of sense in Zendikar, and they added the ability to throw it for Shock damage as well as make you unblockable by a flammable monster, a very common trope out there! Smart people use fire to kill the bad guy. How often have you read or watched a scene where an explorer was exploring, and some dark baddie comes after them, only to torch it? Happens all the time, right?
Which makes the reprint of Blazing Torch in Innistrad one of the coolest. It was a flavor hit for the world of Zendikar; it was a flavor home run for the world of Innistrad! My favorite story told by WOTC during design of Innistrad was how flavor folks in the company read Blazing Torch, and because of how perfect a fit for the horror genre it was, they assumed it was made for Innistrad, and were not sure they wanted to introduce the traditional fire-weakness to Vampires in the MTG universe. Well too late, this card was already printed!!!!
That's how perfect a card Blazing Torch was to reprint!
3. Renewed Faith, Amonkhet
There have been tons of great mechanical reprints for sets that took the card and recast it as a local card, like Magma Jet on the scry-world of Theros or Silvergill Adept in Rivals of Ixalan. They fit mechanically and can be art'ed into a card that suits the plane perfectly. And Renewed Faith did that fine for Amonkhet. But that set was not content to merely recast Renewed Faith as a card for Nicol Bolas' desert plane. It was one of the core story cards of the entire set, representing Gideon Jura's key redemption arc with Oketra the True. When the card name was chosen for its first iteration in Onslaught it was likely chosen as an afterthought that merely sufficed in hitting the color's notes. But here? It showed the growth of a character in the core story for an entire set that was extremely strong. That makes Renewed Faith one of the most surprising, and best, reprints ever.
But it wasn't #2.
2. Peace of Mind, Eldritch Moon
This is my highest ranked reprint that's not a part of a set of cards. It's worthy of hitting this high (and for a while, was #1 on my list before I promoted the next group of cards up after consideration). Peace of Mind was a playable uncommon from Exodus that I (and others) ran in Vintage decks as well as casual and other formats. I've probably put it in at least 20 decklists for you over the years. But it's not a card on a lot of lists as this deep or impactful card. It's great for madness enabling, plays well with graveyard oriented themes (like reanimation) and plays well with cards that seek to be discarded. So, adding in Peace of Mind into a new printing of madness made smart, mechanical sense. But the flavor? Art? Flavor text? Mechanics? Everything was perfect. I know that there were players that saw this card, and never even realized it was a reprint because of just how much of a 10 this card is at hitting the beats of the set and mini-block. Perfect. It's even a card to target in drafts for the right decks and archetypes. Perfect.
1. Time Shifted cards in Time Spiral
While I'd say the most iconic card on the sheet was Akroma, Angel of Wrath, I'd think the best card in sheet was Psionic Blast, a cool reprint that dominated Standard and is still a Cube stalwart2. At no point in the history of the game have reprints been such a key part of an expansion set's identity. At no point in the history of the game has that big of a secret been kept from audiences until they participated in a prerelease. I still recall going to a Time Spiral prerelease with a few friends out in Garden City, MI. I can still remember cracking sealed product, and I saw foil Sol'Kanar the Swamp King starting back at me. What . . . the . . . That was my moment. What is going on? It's a foil of a card that never had a foil! There was no preexisting "purple" expansion symbol set up, it was done perfectly. All of the cards had their old borders with what amounted to another sheet of rares in every booster pack! There has never been a better, or more surprising, use of reprints than the timeshifted card sheet in Time Spiral!
Oh, and a quick shout out to Feroz's Ban, which got printed in a Core Set despite being on the Reserved List at the time. Whoops!
And there you go! What reprints have you founder awesome? Surprising? Incredible flavor or amazing mechanical matches? What did you think of my list? Thanks for reading, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.
2 Oh, Wizards, I don't know if you are reading this, or care if you do, but the full-art promo card printings for cards like Damnation, Psionic Blast, and other cards like Disenchant aren't on Gatherer.