This article originally appeared in Pyramid #13

Welcome to the Ice Age

A Look at the New Face of Magic: The Gathering™

by John Tynes

Dominia Continuity Coordinator, © 1995 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Pentagram of the Ages Winter may be over for most of us here on Earth, but on the world of Dominia it's here to stay. Several hundred years after the end of the Brothers' War, a severe ice age has descended over the land, reducing mighty civilizations to scattered tribes and changing the very face of the landscape. The slow creep of glaciers, the mighty gales of blizzards, and the numbing cold of lengthy winters have all combined to make Dominia a tough place to live.

Things are especially tough in Kjeldor. Founded several hundred years ago by the great hero Kjeld, this kingdom began with a handful of tribes clustered around a group of hot springs. Thanks to the heat of the springs and the resourcefulness of its people, Kjeldor has grown even in the thick of the ice and snow. Spring and summer bring only short relief before fall becomes winter and the snows come again. Even in mighty Kjeldor, you must be strong, clever, and resourceful to survive.

As if the ice age weren't bad enough, recent events have brought more gloom to the inhabitants of the kingdom. A mighty necromancer, Lim-Dûl, has risen beyond the mountains. With the aid of the demon lords Leshrac and Tevash Szat, Lim-Dûl has created an army of undead followers who are destroying village after village. The knightly orders of Kjeldor have fought hard, but against undead foes even their vaunted prowess may not be sufficient.

Onyx Talisman Kjeldor isn't alone in this fight, however. To the north, the scattered barbarian tribes of Balduvia have aid to lend. To the south, the elves and druids of Fyndhorn forest can bring the will of the goddess Freyalise to bear against the necromantic hordes. To the west, machinists and archeologists excavate the ruined city of Soldev, uncovering mysterious and dangerous relics of the long-ago Brothers' War. And somewhere, a secret school of illusionists holds strange powers of its own.

This is the milieu of Ice Age™, a major new expansion for Wizards of the Coast's collectible trading card game, Magic: The Gathering™. Scheduled for release early this summer, Ice Age will be sold in both 60-card starter decks and 15-card booster packs. Ice Age is a 300+ card set with a full complement of basic lands, spells, and creatures so that you can play Magic exclusively with Ice Age cards. Ice Age boosters will have no basic land cards; they'll only be in the starter decks. You won't have gobs and gobs of lands if you buy gobs and gobs of booster packs.

Ice Age cards are fully compatible with regular Magic cards. They have same card backs and fronts (except for the art and text, of course) just like the other Magic expansions, and likewise have their own expansion symbol. You can add them to your existing decks with no problem. Ice Age cards will be black-bordered.


Ice Age was designed in the summer of 1993, before WotC had even released Magic: The Gathering. Skaff Elias, Jim Lin, Chris Page, and Dave Pettey designed Ice Age as the next edition of Magic, as at the time WotC planned to do a new version of Magic each year. Ice Age was created and playtested, but the sudden success of Magic made WotC's original plan unfeasible and the project was shelved.

Ice Age came off the shelf in the fall of 1994, and the design team re-evaluated the entire card set in light of their experiences designing the Antiquities and Fallen Empires expansions. Ice Age went through another round of development and playtesting, and will shortly be in stores around the world.

Scaled Wurm

Why Ice Age?

Ice Age has several purposes. First, it's a new way to try Magic. You can pick up a starter deck of Ice Age and start playing right away, just as you do with regular Magic. Second, it will help counter the "Mr. Suitcase" effect: ultra-powerful decks constructed by players with larger bankrolls than many small countries. Since players can choose to play Magic with nothing but Ice Age cards, they don't have to be at the mercy of killer decks. By building Ice Age-only decks, you and your friends can play Magic games that will be determined more by skill than by purchasing power, and league and tournament play will be easy to govern. Finally, Ice Age works like a regular expansion, with all-new artwork and lots of new cards you can add to your collection and to your decks.

Ice Age isn't just Magic 4th Edition with new art. Ice Age has many new cards and card concepts, and has been designed to introduce new styles of play. If you took a big chunk of Magic 4th Edition starters and built decks, and then took a big chunk of Ice Age starters and built decks, you'd have very different decks and would use very different deck building and card playing strategies. It's a whole new world.

Design Notes

Because Ice Age is a stand-alone expansion, the designers created it to be as carefully balanced as possible. It includes basic lands, a range of creature sizes and types, and a wider and more balanced variety of spells and effects than are seen in typical expansions. Ice Age doesn't have as many complex and unusual cards as expansions do, but it does contain cards that are somewhat more complex than those found in 4th Edition.

Some cards are repeated exactly (except for new artwork) from Magic 4th Edition, such as the Circles of Protection. Other cards are repeated with new titles: Grizzly Bears, for instance, appears in Ice Age as Balduvian Bears. (As a rule of thumb, creature cards that are repeated exactly will have new or altered names, but non-creature cards that are repeated exactly have the same name.) Still others serve as tweaked replacements for existing cards: the Scarabs, for instance, replace Wards but have slightly different effects; Incinerate, Lava Burst, and Meteor Shower serve as altered replacements for Fireball, Disintegrate, and Lightning Bolt. But the vast majority of the cards are brand-new. In fact, Ice Age includes more than 300 cards that are completely new or substantially different from existing cards.

Ice Age doesn't have as many overly powerful cards as Magic 4th Edition does, and so the restricted & banned list for tournaments should be substantially shorter. The designers have tried to create the set so that power levels are clustered more in the middle than at the extremes. They have playtested Ice Age cards in conjunction with many existing cards, and have also designed a number of good combinations into the main set for players to discover.

One new rule has been introduced: cumulative upkeep. Instead of paying the same upkeep cost every round, some cards now have an upkeep that increases from round to round. Essentially, such cards have a built-in self-destruct mechanism: after a few rounds, you won't be able to pay the upkeep cost and they'll leave play. The result is a card type somewhere between a permanent and an instant, one that is of limited but user-defined duration. The effects on gameplay should be interesting.

Infernal Order In addition, there's a new twist on basic lands: Snow-Covered Lands. In Ice Age there are Snow-Covered Island, Snow-Covered Plains, Snow-Covered Forest, Snow-Covered Swamp and Snow-Covered Mountain cards. These generate mana in the same way as the usual Island, Plains, Forest, Swamp and Mountain cards, but there are other cards in Ice Age that specifically affect Snow-Covered lands and not their basic land counterparts.

Tournament Notes

At present, there are three types of tournaments sanctioned by Duelists' Convocation, WotC's official tournament organization: Type I, the "constructed deck" tournament familiar to most players; Type II, which allows cards only from the current Magic unlimited edition and the two most recent expansions; and Sealed Deck, where players build their decks at the tournament from the starter deck (and sometimes boosters) provided and no trading is allowed.

All three types of tournaments will be affected by the release of Ice Age. Type I tournament decks will be able to contain Ice Age cards, subject to rulings on restricted or banned cards. Type II tournaments will allow cards only from Fallen Empires and Ice Age (as the two most recent expansions) in addition to Revised. Sealed Deck tournaments can use either Magic Fourth Edition or Ice Age as their card source, but Fourth Edition decks and Ice Age decks will probably not go head-to-head.


The stand-alone expansion format of Ice Age is a first for Magic, and offers a lot of benefits as well as a lot of uncertainty. WotC is confident that players will enjoy Ice Age, and if the format is proven solid you can expect additional stand-alone expansions in the future. In addition, characters and concepts from Ice Age will turn up in other projects down the road. In other words, we haven't heard the last from Lim-Dûl . . .

Future Magic™ Products

By the time you read this, Magic: The Gathering Fourth Edition should be in stores. Ice Age will be scant weeks away. But what's after that? Here's a quick run-down of what to expect for the rest of 1995.

Chronicles, a 100+ card expansion set for Magic: The Gathering, features cards from the Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark limited expansion sets. No cards from Fallen Empires or Ice Age will be included. Chronicles will be a white-bordered card set, but will not be counted as an expansion for Type II tournament play. Chronicles is coming this summer.

The new edition of the Pocket Player's Guide will also be released this summer, heavily revised from the popular first edition. It will include the latest rules and clarifications, as well as more info on deck-building, league play, and other topics.

The fourth Magic novel, Final Sacrifice, will be out around the time you read this. It concludes the trilogy of novels featuring Greensleeves & Gull, and brings their story to a rousing conclusion.

Tapestries, a Magic anthology of short stories, is coming this summer. Featuring an introduction by Richard Garfield, Tapestries contains stories by a host of excellent writers. WotC is very, very pleased with this fiction anthology and believes that Magic fans will find a lot to like in its pages.

The Magic computer game is on tap for this summer from Microprose, creators of the best-selling Civilization and Pirates! computer games. Available initially on MS-DOS CD-ROM with other formats to follow, this game includes a stand-alone RPG-style adventure, as well as deck-building and dueling against the computer or against a friend via modem, LAN, and through a major online service.

Acclaim Comics' Magic series Shadowmage is already underway, as is Ice Age. Upcoming titles include a two-issue Fallen Empires miniseries, a Hurloon Minotaur one-shot, and a major mini-series covering the whole history of the Brothers' War from Antiquities.

A new Magic expansion is coming this fall, as well. What is it? Shush — we're not ready to show all of our cards just yet . . .

Article publication date: June 1, 1995

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