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Magic History: Dragon's Maze

Magic Untapped takes a look back at the set Dragon's Maze.

After 30 years of Magic: The Gathering, 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 Dragon's Maze, the third and final set in Magic: The Gathering's Return to Ravnica block.

Check it out:

Video Transcript:

The third and final set in Magic: The Gathering’s Return to Ravnica block, Dragon’s Maze, released on May 3, 2013.  The 61st expansion in the collectible card game’s history, it brought with it 156 cards (including a handful of reprints).

Like the two previous sets in the block, Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash, along with the original Ravnica block from 2005, Dragon’s Maze yet again focused on the guild system that is so central to the plane of Ravnica.

Unlike all previous sets to take place on the plane, however, Dragon’s Maze didn’t focus on a handful of the setting’s ten guilds.  Rather, it featured every single one of them despite it being the smallest set in the block.

<MARO DTW 12:12-33 “The problem we ran…really tight.” 28:11-24 “It just was a lot…normal premier set.”>

But fitting ten guilds into a smaller-sized set wasn’t the only issue.  There was another, even more glaring one that simply gave the set bad optics.

<MARO DTW 18:08-24 “We had so much…dragons in it.”  19:43-20:16 “The creative team…called Dragon’s Maze.”>

The story of Dragon’s Maze is essentially the last bit of the Return to Ravnica storyline, which we summarized in our video for the set Return to Ravnica.  And, like Gatecrash before it, there are also a handful of short stories posted to the Wizards of the Coast website that help to flesh out the story and goings-on surrounding the Implicit Maze, guilds, and specific named characters.

As for the Dragon’s Maze set itself, it was sold in 16-card booster packs, six-card boosters, five intro packs, one event deck, and a fat pack.

Like Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash before it, Dragon’s Maze also featured guild-specific prerelease kits, though that’s roughly where the similarities end as, unlike the previous two blocks in the set, each Dragon’s Maze prerelease kit included not just four Dragon’s Maze booster packs, but also a “secret ally” booster pack that contained cards of a guild that shared one color of mana with the chosen guild.

For example, if you chose a W/R Boros prerelease kit, your secret ally booster would be from any other guild that has either white or red mana in its color combination, such as W/U Azorius, W/G Selesnya, W/B Orzhov, R/U Izzet, R/B Rakdos, or R/G Gruul.  U/G Simic, for example, couldn’t be a secret ally of Boros as its colors contain neither white nor red.

Dragon’s Maze’s prerelease kits also moved away from each guild having its own prerelease promo as it had done in the previous two sets.  Instead, each prerelease participant was given a foil, alternate art version of the card Maze’s End.

Other promotional cards associated with Dragon’s Maze include:

Each of the guild-specific mechanics and keyword abilities from the block’s previous sets all return: Detain for Azorius, Cipher for Dimir, Unleash for Rakdos, Bloodrush for Gruul, Populate for Selesnya, Extort for Orzhov, Overload for Izzet, Scavenge for Golgari, Battalion for Boros, and Evolve for Simic.

Beyond that, the set also brought back split cards along with a new mechanic called fuse that allows players to play both halves of the card rather than just one side or the other as with previous split cards.

<MARO DTW 14:09-28 “So what Fuse is…A and B” 14:57-15:15 “We liked having…introducing that.”.>

Split cards were spread out across two cycles:

  • A cycle of five split cards at rare with each half being specific to a different guild, such as with the card  Catch // Release having Izzet colors (blue-red) on one half and Boros colors (red-white) on the other.
  • A cycle of ten cards – one for each guild – at uncommon that had mono-colored halves, but (put together) formed one of the two-color identities of one of Ravnica’s guilds, such as the card Alive // Well having a green and a white half but, when fused, has Selesnya colors.

There are, of course, a number of other cycles in Dragon’s Maze.  Some of the more notable ones include:

  • A cycle of Gatekeeper cards at common that are all 2/4 creatures that cost four mana (three plus one of that card’s color) and have an enter the battlefield triggered ability that happens if its controller has at least two gates in play at the time;
  • Maze Elementals, a cycle of mono-colored creatures at common that cost six mana apiece and provide an extra ability to all multicolored creatures you control;
  • Maze Runners, which (storyline wise) represent each guild’s participant in the Implicit Maze and are each rare legendary creatures, and;
  • Cluestones, which are three-costed artifacts at common that can tap for either of its respective guild’s colors, or be sacrificed to draw a card.

And, of course, all ten of the guildgate cards that were introduced over the course of Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash return.

Beyond the cycles, there are some singles in Dragon’s Maze that are worth a mention, starting with:

  • All ten shocklands, which could show up here and there in Dragon’s Maze booster packs, though with their respective set’s set symbol on them rather than the Dragon’s Maze symbol;
  • Master of Cruelties, a creature that deals no combat damage when it hits a player, but instead reduces that player’s life total to one;
  • Maze’s End, an alternate-win card that cares about gates;
  • Putrefy, an anti-artifact and creature spot removal spell that was first printed in the original Ravnica block set, Ravnica: City of Guilds, and;
  • Voice of Resurgence, a card that was at one time considered to be a tournament-quality card in Standard and Modern as an aggressive answer to control decks and strategies.

As for the reception of Dragon's Maze, it received a mixed reception at best with some players and Magic: The Gathering writers completely panning the set.

<MARO DTW 8:50-56 “We really, kind of…we realized.” 25:13-33 “Looking back…I did this.” 29:22-30:15 “Although, I will…daunting challenge.” >

So, what are your thoughts on Dragon’s Maze.  Do you believe the set to be as underwhelming as many who play the game seem to think?   Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Also, please like this video and subscribe to Magic Untapped and toss a buck in our Patreon tip jar if you are feeling so generous.

Thank you for watching.

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.