Alpha Magic The Gathering Cards
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.
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.
- Circle of Protection: Black was accidentally omitted from the set.
- Cyclopean Tomb had no casting cost, instead of a casting cost of 4.
- Elvish Archers had its power/toughness listed as 1/2 rather than 2/1.
- Force of Nature was printed with the letter G in its text box rather than the green mana symbol, and the artist's name was spelled incorrectly.
- Orcish Artillery had a casting cost of 1R rather than 1RR.
- Orcish Oriflamme had a casting cost of 1R rather than 3R.
- Phantasmal Forces was printed with the letter U in its text box rather than the blue mana symbol.
- Red Elemental Blast was printed as an instant rather than an interrupt, making half of its ability unplayable under the rules of the time.
- Sedge Troll gave credit to an incorrect artist.
- Volcanic Island was accidentally omitted from the set.
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.