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Limited Edition Alpha
Release date 5 August 1993
Keywords Banding, First Strike, Flying, Landwalk, Trample
Size 295 cards[1]
79 common
95 uncommon
116 rare
Expansion code LEA (LA)

Magic: The Gathering
Alpha Beta

Limited Edition Alpha, or Alpha for short, was the first Magic: The Gathering card set. It premiered in a limited release at Origins Game Fair in 1993, with a general release that August. Its print run of 2.6 million cards sold out very quickly and was replaced by Limited Edition's Beta print run. The Alpha and Beta runs are officially both part of Limited Edition. Limited Edition cards have no expansion symbol, no copyright date, no trademark symbols, although they do list the art credits at the bottom of the card.

Set history

Alpha, as with Beta and Unlimited, is known for having extremely overpowered cards. The game designers did not expect the game to be as popular or to sell as well as it did, and therefore did not spend adequate time balancing cards against each other. Copies of rare and powerful cards were expected to be few and controlled by house-rules. Instead, players started collecting powerful cards and putting as many of them as possible in their decks.

In addition, Alpha contained numerous misprints and lacked a standardized wording for card text, which would not appear until 4th Edition. As a result, Alpha card texts have been known to be confusing to new players.

The following cards had printing errors, all of which were fixed in the Beta release.

Unlike succeeding sets, cards from Alpha have steeply rounded corners. This was reportedly caused by the dullness of the dies being used to cut the cards. The dies were sharpened after the Alpha cards were produced and this resulted in the less rounded corners found on the Beta cards and all subsequent sets. This is however, inaccurate. If it were true, variation in corners would be seen between sets, which is not the case. Official tournaments require Alpha cards to be sleeved to prevent unfair gameplay, unless the deck contains nothing but Alpha cards. However, due to the market value of cards in the Alpha set, this rule is rarely invoked.

The Alpha rulebook contains a fantasy tale called "Worzel's Story" by Richard Garfield which was removed for the Beta release. Alpha deck boxes also lack a UPC on the bottom.


Being the first print run, Alpha has all of the original mechanics intrinsic to Magic, such as "tapping" cards to use their abilities. It also has a number of mechanics rarely seen in official sets since. The most notable is the Chaos Orb's "drop" mechanic, in which the card is dropped on the play area to determine which cards are destroyed.

Of the many mechanics introduced in Alpha, most still appear in new sets. An exception is banding, which was eliminated in Tempest, because the mechanic confused new players and required too much text to explain. When old mechanics were revisited in the Time Spiral block, banding was left out for this same reason.

Many Alpha cards had abilities that have since become keyword abilities. The ability "may only be blocked by black or artifact creatures" was keyworded to Fear in 8th Edition. The rule preventing Walls from attacking was removed in 9th Edition and all walls were given the keyword "Defender," which prevents them from attacking. Serra Angel's ability "doesn't tap to attack" was keyworded to Vigilance in Champions of Kamigawa. "May attack the turn it comes into play" has changed twice; it was first changed to "unaffected by summoning sickness" in Mirage and then was keyworded to Haste in Urza's Destiny.

Notable cards

  • The "Power Nine": Black Lotus,[9] Mox Pearl, Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet, Mox Ruby, Mox Emerald, Ancestral Recall, Time Walk, and Timetwister. These are widely considered the most powerful cards in Alpha, and are among the most powerful in all of Magic.[10] All of these cards are now restricted in tournament play; players may only include one copy of each in a deck.[11] The color distribution of the Power Nine is heavily skewed; six of the cards are Artifacts, while the other three are Blue cards. An honorable mention often goes to Arabian Nights card Library of Alexandria, which some claim is Magic's most powerful land.[10] See also Power Nine.
  • The "Boons": Healing Salve, Ancestral Recall, Dark Ritual, Lightning Bolt, and Giant Growth. This was the first and most famous cycle in Magic.[12] The cards defined the core ability of each color, but they proved to be extremely disparate in power. Of the five, the blue, red and black boons were too powerful, while the white boon was too weak. The green boon, Giant Growth, is most balanced and has appeared in every single core set.[13][12] Many modern, balanced variations on the other cards have been printed, including Mending Hands, Concentrate, Cabal Ritual, and Shock.
  • Chaos Orb: The first Magic card that required manual dexterity to play effectively. The only other such card not in Unglued or Unhinged was Falling Star, from Legends. These two cards are currently banned in most sanctioned tournament formats.[11]


  1. Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited Editions. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  2. Alpha "Oops..." V. Magic Arcana. Wizards of the Coast (2002-07-12). Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  3. Alpha "Oops..." IV. Magic Arcana. Wizards of the Coast (2002-05-15). Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  4. Alpha "Oops..." VII. Magic Arcana. Wizards of the Coast (2002-10-04). Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Alpha "Oops...". Magic Arcana. Wizards of the Coast (2002-02-01). Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Alpha "Oops..." II. Magic Arcana. Wizards of the Coast (2002-02-25). Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  7. Alpha "Oops..." VI. Magic Arcana. Wizards of the Coast (2002-10-12). Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  8. Alpha "Oops..." III. Magic Arcana. Wizards of the Coast (2002-04-10). Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  9. Newmark, Leigh; InQuest Gamer (2006-12-15). History of the World. InQuest Gamer. Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  10. 10.0 10.1 The Power Nine. Magic Arcana. Wizards of the Coast (2003-10-15). Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  11. 11.0 11.1 DCI (2007-06-01). Legacy Format Deck Construction. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Rosewater, Mark (2002-07-08). Zen and the Art of Cycle Maintenance. Making Magic. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  13. Bleiweiss, Ben (2002-02-27). Tap One Mountain. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2007-07-20.

External links

Magic: The Gathering sets
Advanced Level Core sets: Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised, 4th Edition, 5th Edition, 6th Edition, 7th Edition, 8th Edition, 9th Edition, 10th Edition
Expert Level Early Sets
Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, The Dark, Fallen Empires, Homelands
Expert Level Block Expansion Sets

Ice Age Block: Ice Age, Alliances, Coldsnap
Mirage Block: Mirage, Visions, Weatherlight
Rath Cycle: Tempest, Stronghold, Exodus
Urza Block: Urza's Saga, Urza's Legacy, Urza's Destiny
Masques Block: Mercadian Masques, Nemesis, Prophecy

Invasion Block: Invasion, Planeshift, Apocalypse
Odyssey Block: Odyssey, Torment, Judgment
Onslaught Block: Onslaught, Legions, Scourge
Mirrodin Block: Mirrodin, Darksteel, Fifth Dawn
Kamigawa Block: Champions of Kamigawa, Betrayers of Kamigawa, Saviors of Kamigawa

Ravnica Block: Ravnica: City of Guilds, Guildpact, Dissension
Time Spiral Block: Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, Future Sight
Lorwyn Mini-Block: Lorwyn, Morningtide
Shadowmoor Mini-Block: Shadowmoor, Eventide
Alara Block: Shards of Alara, Conflux, Alara Reborn

Un-Sets Starter Level Sets Compilations/reprint/gift box sets
Unglued, Unhinged

Portal, Portal Second Age, Portal Three Kingdoms, Starter, Starter 2000

Chronicles, Renaissance, Anthologies, Battle Royale, Beatdown, Deckmasters, Masters Edition