Sometimes it's nice to look back and see just how far things have come since the early days of Magic: The Gathering. To that end, we're bringing you a series of short videos that highlight Magic: The Gathering expansions throughout the years.
Previously, we looked at Visions. This time around we're checking out Weatherlight, the final set in the Mirage block and the first chapter in the greatest story arc in Magic: The Gathering history: The Weatherlight Saga.
You can check it all out in our retrospective video (below).
Released in June of 1997, the 167-card Weatherlight concluded the Mirage block and began The Weatherlight Saga story arc -- considered by many Magic players to be the best long-term story arc ever in the game's history.
Now, when I say that Weatherlight concluded the Mirage block, I use the word "conclude" rather loosely as it had very little to tie itself in with the block's previous two sets -- Mirage and Visions -- aside from being set in Jamuraa. Gone was the story of Jamuraa's three nations (along with some help from Teferi) battling with, and ultimately defeating, the evil Kaervek. Instead, we get what plays as more-or-less the forward to the Weatherlight story -- the game's first mega-plot -- based around the iconic skyship, the Weatherlight, and its captain, Sisay.
Really, Weatherlight marked a turning point in both design and marketing philosophy for Magic: The Gathering as both a card game and as a brand. Whereas prior sets had allusions to a bigger overall story -- some with comic book tie-ins -- Weatherlight was the first to actually tell an ordered narrative and focus on developed, tropish characters. This is also where Magic novels (previously written as their own independent stories based loosely on the card game) actually begin to tell the narratives of the sets themselves beginning with the novel Rath and Storm.
While the third set of the Mirage block, there isn't much about Weatherlight that is all that Mirage-y. In fact, the two big abilities from the first two sets (phasing and flanking) hardly make an appearance in the set with the former appearing on three and the latter only appearing on two. Also, Weatherlight is the first set that takes the cantrips that debuted in Ice Age and carried over into Mirage and Visions and replace them with the quicker cantrip style that players are accustomed to still today. It was also the last set ever printed to contain a card containing the banding keyword before the ability was abandoned altogether.
What the set did have (for one reason or another) is a rather noticeable graveyard focus.
To that end, there are a number of cards that make the player discard cards, sacrifice creatures, and even exile cards from their graveyards. There was also a five-colored land that was designed to wind up in the graveyard one the player was done with it. The set even debuted one of the overall best cards ever for putting creatures in your graveyard so that you can abuse them later in the appropriately named Buried Alive.
That said, most of Weatherlight's best and most powerful cards have absolutely nothing to do with the graveyard that Wizards was pushing (which is probably why so few people see it as being a "graveyard matters" set). Simply put, cards like Null Rod, Doomsday, Ophidian, and Empyrial Armor -- each completely disconnected from the set's actual theme -- turned put to be the most notable of the set.
Weatherlight marks not the end of an era in Magic: The Gathering, but rather the turning of one. Just as sets rotate out of Standard (then known as Type-II), Magic was rotating from its early dans and ways into one of cohesive storytelling, fleshed-out characters, and a new focus on creating sets that not only took place within the story, but actually had a hand in telling it.
It was the final set with Sue Ann Harkey as art director and the last before a screenwriter-turned-game developer would take his first of many leads on a set, but we'll save the Rath of Rosewater for another video.
Is Weatherligh one of your favorite Magic: The Gathering sets? If so, tell us about it in the comment section below.