The Set

Having explored the first stretch of expansions in Magic's history we arrive at Fourth Edition, the first core set after the original card pool. To this day 4th Edition remains the third largest core set ever printed totaling in at 378 cards, lagging behind only 5th and 10th editions. It sets in motion much of what we'll see in other early core sets and provides some appreciated cleanup from earlier printings. This edition has the novelty of being white bordered in the United States and black bordered anywhere that first got Magic with the 4th Edition release. It also gives us such highlights as the separate basic land sheet, the return of the beveled border, and the modern white mana symbol.

The Cards

The full size of 4th edition is 378 cards. Each basic land received three printings in the set however, so there are only 368 functionally unique cards in the set. By this point they had largely forgone doing multiple printings for non-basic non-land cards as it caused some amount of confusion among players and poorly utilized the alotted cards for a set.

Magic's 4th edition reprints previous expansion cards for the very first time, and is the first core set to not use the entire original card pool. The set features 122 reprints from expansion sets, including every expansion but Fallen Empires and drops 50 of the cards from the original card pool. That exclusion is likely because 4th Edition was in the works when Fallen Empires came out. About 60% of 4th Edition was originally printed in Alpha, with the most expansion reprints coming from Legends at about 15% of the set's total.

The Colors

The color distribution for 4th Edition is nice and even. Each color sports 58 cards while the colorless lands and artifacts of the set sit at a whopping 88 cards. This set features many cycles such as the Laces and mirrored pairs such as the Elemental Blasts so the color parity is to be expected. The high colorless count is not necessarily as extreme as it seems as many of the colorless cards are lands and many of the artifacts care about colors like the Mana Batteries and the Lucky Charms.

Switching over to color identities we see a much flatter graph; the colorless cards dip by twenty down to 68 and each color grows by 4 up to 62. The change is accounted for wholly by three of each basic land and one mana battery for each color shifting to their respective columns. The remaining 68 colorless cards are non-basic lands and artifacts, of which there are many in 4th Edition. The continued parity in color identities is a common feature in core sets as we'll see going forward.

The Types

4th Edition Magic follows a fairly standard type distribution for an early Magic set. Creatures dominate as always, followed by enchantments and artifacts. Instants and sorceries are more prevelant than they sometimes are in early sets but still fall far short of the leading types; we won't see the wealth of instants and sorceries we see in modern sets for some time yet. Lands fall at the bottom as they often do with three of each basic and just three non-basic lands: Mishra's Factory, Oasis, and Strip Mine

The Rarities

The rarities are something of a novelty in 4th Edition. There are a perfectly equal number of commons, uncommons, and rares each having 121 cards. This is different from most every other set, usually curving down steadily or following a bell curve. This is partly due to the need to reprint cards that players found interesting and get them into new markets and preserving original rarities to avoid confusion. The only basic cards are of course the three copies of each basic land.

The Costs

The converted mana cost breakdown for 4th Edition is very similar to that of the original core sets. The 0-cost cards are nearly all lands with the exception of everyones' favorite flying artifact Ornithopter. The set centers heavily at CMC 1 which includes the Wards and Laces, a variety of X spells, and the original 1-cost color defining spells. The rest of the spells step down fairly evenly from 2 to 3 to 4 and then very little above 4 like in previous sets.

The Artists

With the ever growing number of artists used by Wizards for Magic it is no surprise that 4th Edition includes work from 42 different people. The average cards per artist for 4th Edition works out to just nine cards however the most utilized artists in the set did far more. Shown here are just the top 10 artists from the set and you can see that Anson Maddocks and Dan Frazier did 33 cards (8.7% of the set) each with even the 10th most utlized artist doing as many as 16 cards. This top 10 also makes for an interesting glance forward as we see a number of fan favorites who will come up time and again in future sets like Mark Poole, Amy Weber, and Jesper Myfors doing a lot of 4th Edition cards or having their art re-featured.

The End

4th Edition, basically the second core set, is quite an interesting place in Magic history. It sets the pace for a lot of the early core sets and sets the wheels in motion for the evolution of Wizards' reprint strategies. It also showcases a lot of little changes like the update of the white mana symbol and the tap symbol which are nice cleanups to see so early in a game's lifetime. The evolution of core sets will lead us a long way from 4th Edition so I hope you'll join me next time as I dive into 5th Edition Magic.