Last updated on September 9, 2022
Memory Lapse | Illustration by Mark Tedin
Homelands was a set released in 1995, and one of the first Magic expansions ever. It’s also arguably the worst set ever made.
Designers did whatever they wanted without continuity at the time. Truth be told, no one knew how to make a card game or an expansion for one because there weren’t any on the market besides MTG.
Is Homelands truly all bad, and if so, why? Are any cards from Homelands still useful today? Let’s jump right in and find out!
Didgeridoo (Homelands) | Illustration by Melissa A. Benson
|Number of Cards||115|
|Rarities||25 commons, 47 uncommons, 43 rares|
|Mechanics||Creature Tribal, Cantrips|
|Set Release||October 14, 1995|
About the Set: The Story
Jinx (Homelands) | Illustration by Mike Kimble
The story of Homelands is related to two iconic cards from Alpha: Serra Angel and Sengir Vampire. It’s set on the Ulgrotha plane, also known as “Homelands.” The plane is home to Baron Sengir, the leader of the Sengir Vampires, and Serra, the planeswalker and creator of the Serra Angels.
According to WotC, the plane of Ulgrotha was sealed off the rest of the multiverse (then known as Dominia) and wasn’t be affected by the Urza and Mishra’s war or its consequences. A planeswalker called Feroz met Serra and they were married.
The two worked to repair the plane and prepare it to defend against a magical cataclysm via a powerful spell called Feroz’s Ban. The magic of this shield spell had unintended consequences, one of which led to Feroz’s death.
Homelands is considered bad because it’s so disconnected from other sets in terms of lore and mechanics. Besides, the power level of the cards is so incredibly low. To quote Mark Rosewater, MTG’s lead designer:
And I’ll be blunt with you, as someone who’s dedicated the last eight years designing Magic cards, Homelands was a poorly designed set. It wasn’t very innovative. It didn’t introduce any strong mechanics. It didn’t have good synergy. It wasn’t particularly elegant. It didn’t have many of the qualities that we now judge a set’s design by.Mark Rosewater
The designers that made Homelands didn’t communicate much with other designers, and MTG designer Richard Garfield didn’t take part at all. Homelands also doesn’t have a core creative conceit, or anything that makes the plane unique.
The gameplay is bad, with few cards becoming tournament staples. The set wasn’t designed for Limited play either, unlike most sets from its time. Don’t try to Draft it or play Sealed deck. The set is only praised for the lore, the art, and the flavor.
Homelands is part of a group of early sets like Fallen Empires that aren’t a part of blocks. Block design in MTG started with Ice Age forward.
Homelands was designed around the time of the Ice Age block but by a different team, so there’s no continuity or mechanic connection between the sets. Alliances would be released later connected with the Ice Age set.
Homelands is set in the Ulgrotha plane, in opposition with Ice Age which is in the plane of Dominaria, the most common plane at the time.
Homelands is famous for being one of the few sets without keyworded mechanics, but there are a few themes and card patterns that could be considered mechanics.
Memory Lapse is an excellent tempo card. It was misunderstood at first and considered bad, but had tournament success nevertheless.
A card that lets you cheat minotaurs into play, Aether Vial-like, Didgeridoo is on the Reserved List. There are finally tons of worthy minotaurs to play to save this from its 20-year limbo in a post-Theros and –Ixalan meta.
Even with downside, a 3/3 for two mana is a good card in an aggro deck, especially for a time when 3/3s usually cost four mana (Hill Giant).
Serrated Arrows is still playable in Pauper to shrink creatures, kill some tokens, and deal with problematic creatures like Guardian of the Guildpact. It saw play at the time as a good answer to aggro and weenie decks.
Primal Order deals damage to a player based on the number of nonbasic lands they have in play. Imagine playing this card in a mono-green or Commander deck? You’d hit your opponents for at least three to four per turn, in green no less.
Players tend to take a 6-mana 4/4 with shroud for granted nowadays, but at the time Autumn Willow was a hell of a card. It was also the first card to have the shroud text (can’t be the target of spells or abilities). And you can pay to target your creature, so it’s also effectively hexproof.
Ihsan’s Shade is useless by today’s standards, but a big black creature (5/5 for six mana) with protection from white allowed it to dodge two popular removal spells from the time, Terror and Swords to Plowshares. It was also big enough to dodge Lightning Bolt.
Each Homelands booster has eight cards, compared to a modern set booster with 15 cards. Of these eight cards two are considered uncommons and six commons. The booster collation techniques were very different back then, so some of those uncommons are considered rares because they were printed in different uncommon sheets.
Some cards from Homelands are on the Reserved List and sell individually for a ton of money, which is why a Homelands booster box is also worth lots of cash.
Koskun Falls (Homelands) | Illustration by Rob Alexander
Thank you for returning to Homelands with me for a trip down memory lane. I remember buying boosters from old sets like Homelands, Ice Age, and Alliances just to collect the cards. They were flavorful and beautiful, but some old sets like The Dark, Homelands, and such haven’t aged well.
Do you have cards from Homelands? Do you play any of them in your EDH decks? Let me know in the comments below or on the Draftsim Twitter.
Stay safe folks, and until the next one!
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