Product and MarketingSee also: List of Magic: The Gathering sets
Magic: The Gathering cards are produced in much the same way as normal playing cards. Each Magic card, approximately 63 x 88 mm in size (2 15⁄32 by 3 7⁄16 inches), has a face which displays the card's name and rules text as well as an illustration appropriate to the card's concept. 12,246 unique cards have been produced for the game as of October 2011, many of them with variant editions, artwork, or layouts, and 600–1000 new ones are added each year. The first Magic cards were printed exclusively in English, but current sets are also printed in Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
The overwhelming majority of Magic cards are issued and marketed in the form of sets, of which there are currently two types, the Core Set and the themed expansion sets. Under Wizards of the Coast's current production and marketing scheme, a new set is released quarterly. Various products are released with each set to appeal to different segments of the Magic playing community. The majority of cards are sold in booster packs, which contain fifteen cards normally divided into four rarities, which can be differentiated by the color of the expansion symbol. A fifteen-card Booster Pack will typically contain one Rare (gold), three Uncommons (silver), ten Commons (black), and one Basic Land (colored black, as Commons). Sets prior to Shards of Alara contained eleven commons instead of a basic land.
Shards of Alara also debuted Mythic Rares, which replace one in eight Rare cards on average. There are also premium versions of every card with holographic foil, randomly inserted into some boosters, which replace about every seventieth card. Four to five Intro Packs are released with each set; an Intro Pack is a pre-constructed deck aimed at newcomers that highlights one of the set's mechanical themes. It comes with a booster pack from that set, a rulebook, and a fixed selection of cards, including one foil rare. Each set starting from Mirrodin Besieged has also featured two Event Decks, which are preconstructed decks designed as an introduction to tournament play. Previously cards were also sold in Tournament Packs typically containing three Rares, ten Uncommons, thirty-two Commons, and thirty Basic Lands. Tournament Packs were discontinued after Shards of Alara.
The Core Set started to be released annually (previously biennially) in July 2009 coinciding with the name format change from 10th Edition to Magic 2010. This shift also introduced new, never before printed cards into the core set, something that previously had never been done. As of the previous set, Magic 2011, 140 of the 249 cards in the Core Sets are reprints of previously introduced cards and 109 are newly created. The current Core Set, Magic 2013, was released on July 13, 2012.
The expansion sets are released in a three-set block starting in October, typically with a large initial set (that gives its name to the block) and then two smaller follow-ups at three-month intervals. These sets consist almost exclusively of newly-designed cards. Contrasted with the wide-ranging Core Set, each expansion is focused around a subset of mechanics and ties into a set storyline. Expansions also dedicate several cards to a handful of particular, often newly introduced, game mechanics which do not appear in other sets. Expansion sets are released in a yearly three-set "block", starting with a large, roughly 250 card set in October which is followed by two small, roughly 150 card sets the following winter and spring. The follow-up sets typically continue the storyline established in the block's opening set and have related gameplay mechanics.
In addition to the quarterly set releases, Magic cards are released in other products as well, such as the recent Planechase and Archenemy spin-off games. These combine reprinted Magic cards with new, oversize cards with new functionality. Magic cards are also printed specifically for collectors, such as the From the Vault and Premium Deck Series sets, which contain exclusively premium foil cards.
In 2003, starting with the Eighth Edition Core Set, the game went through its biggest visual change since its creation—a new card frame layout was developed to allow more rules text and larger art on the cards, while reducing the thick, colored border to a minimum. The new frame design aimed to improve contrast and readability using black type instead of the previous white, a new font, and partitioned areas for the name, card type, and power and toughness.
For the first few years of its production, Magic: The Gathering featured a small number of cards with names or artwork with demonic or occultist themes, in 1995 the company elected to remove such references from the game. In 2002, believing that the depiction of demons was becoming less controversial and that the game had established itself sufficiently, Wizards of the Coast reversed this policy and resumed printing cards with "demon" in their names.
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