November 8th, 2017

How To Identify What Set Any Magic The Gathering (Mtg) Card Comes From}

How to Identify what Set any Magic the Gathering (MTG) Card Comes from


Michael R Smith

The Problem

Whether you are a Magic the Gathering player or collector, you’ll probably know that it can be sometimes difficult to identify which set a MTG card comes from, here’s a helpful guide to help you figure out what set your MTG cards come from.


Identification of any particular Magic the Gathering card can be broadly grouped in to three separate classifications:

a) Cards with Set Markers

This group is applicable for the majority of Magic the Gathering cards in circulation today, it includes every Expansion Set, and Core Sets from 6th Edition onwards.

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To identify these cards, look in the bar between the card art and text box. On the right hand side of this bar, you’ll see a set icon. The shape of that icon defines which set it comes from. There is a handy reference on my website detailed in the resource box below which details all the MTG set icons and how you can recognise them.

It should be noted that the colour of that icon represents its rarity, generally, the plain black icon is common, silver represents uncommon, gold represents rare and purple represents mythic rare. This does not change what set the card comes from, simply its rarity within that set.

b) Cards without Set Markers

Not all cards have a set marker on them. This is only applicable to cards from the following Magic the Gathering sets:

Limited Edition Alpha

Limited Edition Beta


Revised Edition

Fourth Edition

Fifth Edition

4th and 5th Edition cards are easily identified. These two sets have a date in the bottom left corner of the card. 4th Edition has the date of 1995, 5th Edition has the date of 1997.

The next way to differentiate the remaining sets is the colour of the border. Alpha and Beta Edition cards have a black border, Unlimited and Revised have a white border.

To differentiate between Alpha and Beta cards, Alpha cards have very rounded edges compared to all other kinds of MTG cards. Just pick up a card from another later set and overlay them on top of each other. If it is very different from the newer card then you have Alpha, other than that you have Beta.

Differentiating between Unlimited and Revised is a little more tricky. Unlimited cards usually have a blurry look to them due to the way the cards were printed. Revised cards also tend to look much more “washed out” and pale due to the printing process used.

c) Promotional Textless Cards and Reward Cards

There are also two other notable types of card which fall outside of those two categories: textless cards and DCI reward cards.

Promotional textless cards are cards given as rewards by Wizards of the Coast to tournament players. These cards have a larger art block which takes up nearly all of the card space except for an outer border. Hence these cards have no set icon, and belong to no set. In play terms for deck construction, this card can be taken to be from any set that already has a copy of this card in its card list.

Reward cards such as DCI promotional cards (e.g. Arena cards) and FNM foils have a DCI icon as its set marker. As with the textless cards, this means they belong to no particular set.


Hopefully this guide should help you to figure out which set your Magic the Gathering cards come from. This can be especially helpful in the process of selling your Magic the Gathering cards – this information is vital in making sure you get the true value of your cards.

This article is one of a number of articles and useful resources detailing how you can sell your Magic the Gathering cards, all this information is available at


For a full set list with a description of all the set icons, plus details on how to identify each Magic the Gathering (MTG) set icon go to


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How to Identify what Set any Magic the Gathering (MTG) Card Comes from


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