The Dark (Magic: The Gathering)
|Print run||63,000,000 or 75,000,000|
|Mechanics||Sacrifice, Tribal, Poison|
|Development code||The Dark|
|Expansion code||DRK (DK)|
The Dark was the eighth Magic: The Gathering set and the fourth expansion to the game, released in August 1994. The set continued the story begun in Antiquities and recounted the aftermath of the events of that set. The 119-card set had a dark, sacrificial theme, though unlike its predecessor Legends it did not introduce any new keywords. Mechanically the set has no clear focus, experimenting in minor quantities with sacrifice and a tribal subtheme. The expansion symbol for the The Dark is an eclipsed moon.
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This set, as well as the next sets, Fallen Empires and Homelands, are widely considered by players to be the weakest Magic sets. Unlike all the previous sets, The Dark was created with an overall decrease in the power level and the speed of the game. Initial problems with the Power Nine in Alpha/Beta/Unlimited, the Library of Alexandria and Ali from Cairo in Arabian Nights, as well as Mana Drain and The Abyss in Legends had led Magic designers to more closely consider all the possibilities when creating an individual card. This led to an underpowered set.
The Dark is also the oldest set released to not have a card retail over $100 USD on the secondary market. The most sought after cards is Maze of Ith, which retails for $25 USD, and Blood Moon, which retails for $30. Only a few other cards sell for more than $5, and all of the rest can be bought for less than $1.
The Dark was the first Magic expansion that was released in a foreign language. It was published in English and in Italian under the name "L'Oscurità". Despite being the first set that was translated to Italian it is not the oldest set that was translated. After the release of the Italian The Dark, Legends was also published in Italian.
The storyline of The Dark was initially only told through the flavor texts of the cards. However, in 1999 the first novel in the Ice Age cycle, The Gathering Dark by Jeff Grubb, was released. The book tells the story of Jodah, one of the protagonists of the The Dark storyline.
In the aftermath of the Brothers' War, a series of conflicts ends up causing most of the inhabitants of the continent of Terisiare to revert to a more primitive state. During this time, several leaders and notable heroes rise up, such as Vervamon the Elder (who was later burned at the stake), Maeveen O'Donahough, Barl the Artificer, Mairsil the Pretender, and Lord Ith (who was held captive by Mairsil).
After the destruction of large amounts of the continent Terisiare during the Brothers' War, most nations turn heavily to religion and magic to help them cope with the coming ice age caused by the detonation of the Golgothian Sylex, creating a climate change similar to that of a nuclear winter. Mairsil the Pretender, the advisor to an unnamed king, imprisons Lord Ith in the device called "Barl's Cage" (a mage-prison built by his chief artificer, Barl) and wages war in the "Dark Lands", areas of Terisiare overcome with black mana influence. Lord Ith summons a rag man to find someone to free him. Mairsil is obsessed with finding a gateway to Phyrexia, and when a young mage named Jodah arrives, he tries to manipulate the boy to take him there.
During these times, he employs Maveen O'Donahough and her troop of mercenaries, who go out to scout, search and destroy, and undertake other various missions. They are accompanied by Vervamon the Elder, an elderly sage who records parts of their travel and takes down bits of important lore. However, when he returns, he is branded a heretic and burned at the stake as a martyr. Eventually, Jodah frees Lord Ith as Mairsil begins to lose his power (caused by the weakening of the land by the coming ice age). After this, there is no continuation of the storyline until Ice Age.
The Dark introduced no new mechanics. However, it did utilize several themes that would be used later on in Magic sets.
- "Sacrifice", where a player has to sacrifice something to gain the upper hand against an opponent, usually life or creatures. A good example of this is Blood of the Martyr.
- "Tribal", a theme which would later be more prominent in Magic, established its roots here. Specifically, Goblins received boosts such as Goblin Caves and Goblin Shrine.
- "Cooperation of enemy colors", where cards interacted favorable with enemy colors. A good example of this is Elves of Deep Shadow.
- Ball Lightning — One of the most iconic red creatures in Magic, this card was reprinted in 4th Edition, 5th Edition, and Magic 2010. It spawned multiple imitator cards in later sets, such as Blistering Firecat and Groundbreaker.
- Blood Moon — This was the first card that penalized players for using non-basic lands.
- Maze of Ith — Although The Dark generally has a rather low power level, Maze of Ith quickly made it to the lists of restricted cards. Unlike today even Standard had a restricted list back then, but Maze of Ith was on the Vintage restricted list for some time as well.
- Tormod's Crypt — This zero cost card can completely remove a graveyard. Usually it sees play as part of a player's sideboard, so that they can deal with graveyard strategies.
- Sorrow's Path — This card is widely regarded as being one of the worst land cards ever printed, along with the Legends "banding lands" (Adventurers' Guildhouse, Cathedral of Serra, Mountain Stronghold, Seafarer's Quay, and Unholy Citadel)
The Dark cards come in two rarities, common and uncommon. Of the uncommon cards 43 are U2, meaning that they appear twice on the uncommon print sheet. 35 cards are U1, these are usually dubbed the rares of the set. Of the 41 commons in The Dark 40 are C3. Maze of Ith is the only exception at C1 and is usually denoted as an uncommon although it is 50% more common than the U2 cards of the set. Also the common card Gaea's Touch comes in two versions, one has the mana symbols in the upper right corner of the card shifted more to the right than usual. For collector's purposes this means that one Gaea's Touch is a C1 (shifted mana symbols) and the other one C2 (normal).
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