The Product

The second installment of Getting Started brings us to Portal Second Age, Wizard's second take on a simplified Magic starter set. It follows a story on Dominaria and includes some improvements over the orignial Portal. For instance, it actually includes types on the creatures and uses consistent language with the rest of Magic. Let's take a deeper look and see how Portal Second Age stacks up against the first.

The Cards

Second Age is the smallest of the three Portal sets by 15 cards and is a whole 57 cards smaller than the first set. The set sizes are mostly consistent with Second Age, well within that +/- 15, through Starter 1999 after which it drops sharply. The dip after Portal is likely due to their being too many cards in Portal to maintain the desired simplicity.

Just short of 33% of the cards in Portal Second Age are reprints at 54 while the other two-thirds were brand new. About 57% of the reprints in original Portal were from Alpha but Second Age makes good use of its predecessor. Alpha reprints come in at just 39% of Second Age's reprints while reprints from Portal make up 43%. Second Age also draws less on former expansions than Portal did with just 5 cards from Visions and no more than one each of the few others.

The Colors

In terms of color Second Age takes the perfectly balanced approach. There are exactly 30 cards of each color and three of each basic land. Original Portal varied 39-42 cards per color, just slightly less consistent. The increased color symmetry is likely due to the backstory in Second Age, which centered around conflicts between five color specific groups. In keeping with simplicity there are no artifacts so the 15 colorless cards are solely basic lands.

As with the colors, the color identities are perfectly equal. Three each of the basics move over to their respective identities and there is no other change. Like with Portal the complexities of multicolor were foregone in Second Age in favor of simplicity, despite having been around since Legends four years earlier. The restriction of types also limits the possibility of colorless or multicolor identity like before.

The Types

The obvious note here is that Second Age, like Portal, has no artifacts or enchantments. Similarly, the "instants" listed here were printed as special sorceries and later received errata to become instants. While the types for Portal Second Age follow the same general trend as the first, Second Age is heavier on the creatures and lighter on the spells than Portal. 52% of Second Age is creatures and only 36% is sorceries compared to Portal's 46% creatures and 41% sorceries. Instants are consistent with the original Portal while lands come in five fewer.

The races and classes in Second Age reveal quite a bit about the set, and are considerably more structured than those we saw in Portal. As I mentioned before, the story of Second Age involves conflicts between groups in each color and that's clearly represented. In WUBRG order the tribal races were: human, human, nightstalker, goblin, elf. Besides the nightstalkers these are pretty typical color tribes. While each color had other creatures in it, like bears and ogres, the most common by far were the color tribes. Humans in particular make up 27% of all creatures and the color tribes together make up 52%.

The classes follow the same pattern, being dominated by the primary classes for each civilization. Pirates and wizards were very common in the blue tribe, red and green had warriors and soldiers while white had soldiers and knights. The black tribe featured no classes but even so the major tribe classes appear on 31% of Second Age's creatures. On the whole the creature types are pretty sparse; there are 26 total races but 12 of them only show up on one card and only 10 races with 7 of them showing up on three or less cards.

The Rarities

The rarities in Portal Second Age are consistent with modern rarities (despite no mythics) unlike Portal which had the uneven commons and uncommons. This set exhibits a wider disparity between uncommons and rares, a difference of 10 cards up from the 2 card difference in Portal. The percentage of commons and uncommons is within about two percent of that in Portal unlike rares which made up about 25% of Portal and only about 21% of Second Age.

Rarity By Card Type

The card types cluster at the same rarities in Second Age as in Portal, though not in quite the same concentrations. Creatures still take up 60% of the common slots, but sorceries drop to 37% from 40% and we actually see a couple instants at common. Sorceries at uncommon drop by about 4% as well and at rare they drop by about 6%, indicating that most of the sets lost volume was in sorceries.

The Costs

The mana costs curve is considerably smoother in Second Age than in Portal up to CMC 6; there is a difference of no more than 9 cards between adjacent costs up to 5 mana here while Portal had a spike of 26 at CMC 3. Coincidentally 3-drops made up 29% of Portal but make up just 22% of Second age. Much of the drop in the set size came from cutting out 3-drops as evidenced by the roughly consistent concentration of other CMCs.

CMC Stats By Card Type

The CMC stats are similar in Second Age; in fact, sorceries work out almost exactly the same besides a change of .1 in average cost. Creatures are a little more distinct, they top out at 8 instead of 9 and are most common at 4 mana, but the average of 3.6 CMC is the same as in Portal. Instants are mostly found at CMC 2 in Second Age, rather than the mode of 5 seen in Portal.

The Keywords

The keywords in Second Age are nearly identical to those in Portal, with the only new addition being mountainwalk. As per usual flying dominates the distribution by far with 18 cards covering 21% of the set's creatures, six times more than the next most common keyword haste. The same analysis applies here as in Portal; the keywords are a good mix of very basic defensive keywords like reach and defender and basic offensive keywords like vigilance and landwalk. The near parity with Portal leaves little else to be said about keywords.

The Artists

There is one fewer artist used in Portal Second Age than in Portal but there are many familiar names. Rebecca Guay and DiTerlizzi both remain in the most common and in total there are 16 artists carried over from Portal. There are fewer artists in higher concentrations and the chart here shows only those with more than six credits; most had four or less. It also shows an increased utilization of popular, or at least already used, artists as some artists like Rebecca Guay and Jeffrey Busch created many more cards than in the previous starter set.

The End

Portal Second Age bears many similarities to its predecessor but provides an overall cleaner beginner experience. The addition of creature types and making the language consistent was very much a benefit. It's interesting to see the growth of popular artists and subtle changes that shed light on development's thoughts about simplicity and beginner needs. Thanks for reading and join us next time when we get started with Portal Three Kingdoms.