Magic History: Alara Reborn

Magic Untapped takes a look back at the set Alara Reborn.

Wizards of the Coast's popular and long-standing collectible card game, Magic: The Gathering, has been out since 1993.  That stated, it's nice to look back at older sets to reminisce and see just how much the game has changed over the years.

In this video, we look back at Alara Reborn, the final set in Magic: The Gathering's Shards of Alara block. 

Check it out:

Video Transcript:

Alara Reborn is the third set in the Alara block and is the forty-ninth Magic: The Gathering expansion overall.  It was released on April 30, 2009.

The set’s story shows the cataclysmic aftermath of Nicol Bolas’ violent and selfish plans that were centered around the merging of the five shards of the plane of Alara – an event known as the “Conflux.”  What happens now that the splintered plane has been reformed into one?  Well, to find out exactly what and how, you should check out the novel “Alara Unbroken” by Doug Beyer.

It’s the only novel for the entire three set block. We have a story summary of it in our Shards of Alara video, which can be found in the Retrospectives playlist here on Magic Untapped.

As for Alara Reborn, the set contains 145 cards and was sold in traditional boosters, preconstructed intro pack decks, a fat pack bundle and, like with the previous set, Conflux, six card booster as well.  Additionally, Wizards of the Coast also released premium all-foil booster packs that contained not just cards from Alara Reborn, but cards from Shards of Alara and Conflux included as well.

The set is the first and (so far) only set in the history of the collectible card game that consists entirely of multicolored cards.

That’s right.

There are absolutely zero mono-colored or colorless cards in the set.

<Maro DTW, 2009 9:06-10:16 “When Bill first…to the challenge.”>

It’s also the last standard-legal expansion in Magic to not have at least one planeswalker card in it.

The block’s previous mechanics (Landcycling, exalted, devour, and unearth) all return in Alara Reborn.

Hybrid mana also makes its return in the set, but with a small twist as it’s the first set in which hybrid mana appears alongside convention mana symbols.  In the past, hybrid was always either on its own, or paired with a generic mana cost.

The set also introduces a new mechanic called Cascade, a mechanic that was well received but, as Magic: The Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater says on his Blogatog tumbler account, is “developmentally dangerous.”  Magic senior designer Gavin Verhey explains in his “Good Morning Magic” vlog:

<Video clip: GMM Cascade 0:37-1:10, ) “All the way…memorable moments.”>

When a spell with Cascade is cast, its controller reveals cards from the top of their library until they finds a nonland card that costs less than the card with Cascade.  They may then play it without paying its mana cost.  If that card also has cascade, this process repeats itself.

This mechanic has been regarded as highly powerful.  It’s still rather popular and is seen across a variety of formats.

Cycling, a returning mechanic, is also in Alara Reborn, though with a twist.  While appearing on a handful of cards in its typical form, it’s also on a cycle of creatures known as Sojourners, each of which have an ability when put into the graveyard from play or when cycled, such as Naya Sojourners placing a +1/+1 counter on a target creature when it dies or is cycled.

Speaking of cycles, Alara Reborn boasts a whopping 14 of them.

Some of the more notable ones include:
•    Borderposts, allied-colored artifacts that each have an alternate casting cost that discounts the card to one colorless mana if you also return a relevant basic land back to your hand.  These artifacts all come into play tapped and can be tapped to add one of each’s two relevant mana colors to your mana pool;
•    Cascading allied-colored cycles of rarities common and uncommon.  Each of these cards have their own characteristics, but have the cascade ability in common.
•    Shard-colored mythic legendary creatures, each of which cost (at minimum) one mana of each of their respective shard’s colors.  Of these, the card Sen Triplets is probably the most notable due to its popularity as a commander for EDH.

As for individual cards of note found within Alara Reborn, the set has a handful worth making mention of, including:
•    Bloodbraid elf, an uncommon card with cascade that’s an extremely popular inclusion in a number of competitive Modern and Legacy decks, including R/G Elves, Cascade Swans, Naya, Zoo, and Domain;
•    Mayael’s Aria, a card that lets you win the game if you control a creature with power 20 or greater and can even help you get there;
•    Meddling Mage, a control card that was debuted in Planeshift back in 2001.  It’s a popular inclusion in Human tribal decks;
•    Oasali Pridemage, a popular situational card in Legacy and Modern;
•    Sphinx of the Steel Wind, which was once a popular target for Reanimator decks, though its popularity has waned in the years since its debut thanks largely to better, more efficient targets being printed;
•    Terminate, a rather good removal spell.  Like the card Meddling Mage, it’s also a reprint from Planeshift;
•    Thopter Foundry.  The card gained popularity due to its amazing synergy with the Future Sight card Sword of the Meek, the combo resulting in the player creating as many 1/1 flyers and gaining as much life as they can afford (mana-wise), and;
•    Violent Outburst, a common cascade card that sees competitive play in Modern and Legacy Crashing Footfalls and Living End decks.

As for Alara Reborn’s prerelease and release promo cards, the former is an alternate art foil Dragon Broodmother, which makes red-and-green dragon tokens, and the latter was the card Knight of New Alara, which makes other multicolored creatures you control bigger.

So, is Alara Reborn a favorite Magic: The Gathering set of yours?  Whether it is or isn’t, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

And thank you for watching.

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Thanks again.

Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.