Expansion Hoser Cards: A look at when an entire set's cards can be removed from play all at once


Magic Untapped looks at cards that care about Magic expansions.

Hoser cards are not that uncommon an occurrence in Magic: The Gathering. Just look at the like of Deathmark, Burning Hands, and the cycle of Circle of Protection cards.

In short, such cards can pretty much just act like a one shot kill of certain colors or decks.

But there was a time in one time they went a bit farther. Early on in Magic there were still some questions on how expansions would work in the greater scheme of things as far as gameplay and deck construction went. Would it just be continual, and allow all in over time? Would they be invalidated after a year or two? Something else?

This was long before a number of play types came into effect. To some, it just be easier to have a card that could essentially just wipe out all those cards from that expansion. To that end, a hoser card designed for an entire Magic expansion was designed and printed.

Arabian Nights first did this with the card City in a Bottle, which causes all players with Arabian Nights cards in play sacrifice them and also disallows further such cards from being played (the oracle text is "Whenever one or more other nontoken permanents with a name originally printed in the Arabian Nights expansion are on the battlefield, their controllers sacrifice them. Players can't cast spells or play lands with a name originally printed in the Arabian Nights expansion"). At the time, the card made sense. After all, it was the first and only true Magic expansion at that point.

In Magic's next expansion, AntiquitiesGolgothian Sylex saw print and provided nearly the same service to the cards of its own expansion (save for the whole "Players can't cast spells or play lands" bit tacked on).  Furthermore, the Cylex was sacrificed upon use whereas the Bottle exempted itself.

For the sets that followed -- LegendsThe DarkFallen Empires, and the first two sets of the Ice Age block -- it seemed as if Wizards of the Coast had abandoned the idea.  That is, until Homelands came about.

In Homelands, the card Apocalypse Chime saw print.  And, once again, the ability evolved a tad from the original variant in Arabian Nights. This time around, the cards aren't sacrificed. Rather, they're destroyed without the option of regeneration.

Homelands's Apocalypse Chime, however, would be the last of Magic's expansion hosers.

By then, there were too many expansions already in the game to make any such cards relevant. Plus, different play formats with their own banned and restricted lists have come into being. In short, expansion hoser cards were suddenly obsolete and largely irrelevant.

Still though, all three are still legal in Legacy, Vintage, and Commander, with City in a Bottle even seeing a reprint in 2014 in Vintage Masters for Magic Online.

Besides, they aren't quite dead, and can still wreck havoc in the right settings. 

After all, Wizards of the Coast did print what could be the end-all-be-all expansion hoser in the card World-Bottling Kit (albeit in the silver bordered Unhinged set).

Of course, that still doesn't mean that such cards wouldn't come back at some point in the future. It would break the expansion no doubt --  especially in limited play -- but a new expansion-wide hoser is still a technically and literally possibility.

And like a dormant volcano or living on an earthquake fault line, it's not a worry of "if", but rather "when."

Evan Symon

Evan Symon is a graduate of The University of Akron and has been a working journalist ever since with works published by Cracked, GeekNifty, the Pasadena Independent, California Globe, and, of course, Magic Untapped.