Tarnished Citadel | Illustration by David Martin
Odyssey was released in October 2001, launching a new wave of MTG design. The story focus changed, but so did the style of the design itself, which focuses mechanically on the graveyard. The Odyssey block is the graveyard block. Other MTG blocks would later follow suit, with Onslaught being the tribal block, Mirrodin being the artifact block, so on and so forth.
Odyssey is the set that made us care about the graveyard, count the number of cards there, cast some spells from the graveyard thanks to the flashback mechanic, and much more. Today I’m covering the story of those 350 cards, why you should care about them, and the best money cards and constructed cards.
Let’s dive in!
Odyssey Basic Information
Dedicated Martyr | Illustration by Dave Dorman
|Number of Cards||350|
|Rarities||110 commons, 110 uncommons, 110 rares, 20 basic lands|
|Prerelease Week||September, 22 to 23, 2001|
|Paper Release Date||October 1, 2001|
|Pro Tour||November, 2 to 4, 2001|
About the Set: The Story
Cognivore | Illustration by Adam Rex
Odyssey starts a new storyline after the conclusion of the events in Apocalypse and the Weatherlight Saga. The focus of Odyssey‘s storyline is the powerful artifact called the Mirari, which is capable of realizing the wishes of those who control it, and a nefarious organization called the Cabal. This story arc spans the Odyssey block and the Onslaught block, and those mark the end of the old-frame MTG era or the Pre-Modern era.
This story still takes place in Dominaria but in a faraway place called Otaria, which survived the Phyrexian Invasion without much conflict.
Kamahl, Pit Fighter is the main protagonist. He becomes obsessed with the Mirari and its mysteries, and he’s determined to do whatever it takes to obtain the artifact. Kamahl then enters the pit fights run by the Cabal to win the Mirari, but he’s not alone in this quest. There are others who want the mysterious artifact for themselves, notably Lieutenant Kirtar of the Aven race and Ambassador Laquatus of the Cephalid race.
Odyssey block debuted flashback, a much-beloved mechanic. Flashback appears on instants and sorceries and allows you to cast the spell again while it’s in the graveyard by paying the flashback cost.
Flashback costs can be cheaper than the original spell, have the same cost, or even be more expensive. Iconic flashback cards from Odyssey include Roar of the Wurm, Firebolt, and Call of the Herd.
This mechanic is such a simple and elegant mechanic that’s very easy to bring back. It’s spread across Odyssey block in the sets Torment and Judgement, and it’s been reprinted in the Time Spiral block, the original Innistrad block, Midnight Hunt, and much more.
Threshold is a mechanic that makes cards much better if you have seven or more cards in your graveyard. Unlike modern MTG sets, threshold isn’t restricted to a color pair but is represented in all colors.
Threshold bonuses usually enhance a creature by giving a stat buff and another relevant ability like flying or protection. Unlike its popular brother flashback, threshold has only reappeared in a few scattered card designs from sets like Modern Horizons and Modern Horizons 2.
Nimble Mongoose, Werebear, and Mystic Enforcer are good examples of the mechanic in action.
Karmic Justice is a way to protect your noncreature permanents in EDH, so the value of this card rises in decks playing lots of artifacts, enchantments, or planeswalkers. If someone messes with you, you get to strike them back.
Extract is a way to get rid of combos by taking off a key card, and it’s never been reprinted.
Buried Alive is a triple Entomb on a card. Although uncommon with lots of reprints, this card alone drives so many cEDH combos involving reanimate loops, keeping the card’s price high.
Mindslicer is a way to nuke everyone’s hands and punish those greedy blue/green Reliquary Tower players.
Tainted Pact has weird and confusing text, but its practical effect is to tutor for the card you want at instant speed. The only restriction is that you can’t have two cards with the same name, which is given in an EDH deck with only one basic of each type.
Price of Glory shuts off instant speed interactions and tricks for everyone unless they’re willing to throw their lands away.
Seize the Day lets you get another attack phase, and it’s even got flashback so you can do that again. EDH decks like Godo, Bandit Warlord or Isshin, Two Heavens as One are very interested in those effects.
Bearscape allows you to make tokens from cards in your graveyards, and there’s a certain Ayula, Queen Among Bears that’s very interested in this effect.
Krosan Beast can be an 8/8 for four mana in dedicated graveyard and mill decks.
Cephalid Coliseum is very nice in dredge or madness decks. You can activate your discard shenanigans or force someone to draw three cards when there’s an incentive to do it.
Desert Temple allows you to untap a land, and this works wonders with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Cabal Coffers, or lands that have powerful abilities when tapped. It’s never been reprinted.
Tarnished Citadel is a more painful City of Brass if you want to generate 5-color mana. Another card that has its price driven up by EDH necessity, since paying three life in EDH is a lot easier than in Legacy/Vintage.
Tireless Tribe sees play in the Pauper format, where there’s a combo with Inside Out and you can win the game on the spot.
Battle of Wits is one of MTG’s most exquisite alternate win conditions. You can see that people brought a “Wits” deck from a distance since they’ll have 300+ cards in their library.
Careful Study is basically the non-flashback part of Faithless Looting.
Predict is a key spell in some Legacy decks, combined with “top of the library” manipulation like Brainstorm or Sensei's Divining Top.
Syncopate has seen lots of reprints as a flexible counterspell that can exile the countered card. It’s common to see cards like Syncopate or Dissipate in formats that have a lot of graveyard interaction.
Standstill has a Legacy deck in its homage. The purpose is to cast it and wait because if your opponent makes a move, you’ll draw three cards. Keep in mind that if you channel or cycle cards, you’re not casting them, giving you ways to get around Standstill’s restrictions.
Time Stretch is a card that allows you to take two extra turns instead of one. It costs 10 mana though, so you might consider cheating it into play. It’s good with commanders that care about the cost of the revealed card, like Yuriko, Tiger’s Shadow.
Traumatize is one of the best ways to mill yourself or other players. In EDH, you’re self-milling at least 40 cards this way.
Upheaval is, well… It resets the game and every single card on the table returns to their owner’s hand. It used to see lots of play and can be very much abused, especially if you don’t have a limit to hand size and generate lots of mana to replay your permanents after you cast Upheaval.
Braids, Cabal Minion is a beloved commander for stax and sacrifice decks. Everyone must sacrifice something, but you’ll have more sacrifice fodder like tokens or cards that you actively want to sacrifice.
Entomb is an essential card in reanimator because it tutors for what you want to reanimate and puts it right in your graveyard for further use. It’s been reprinted a few times to maintain the price at a nice level.
Firebolt is a 2-damage burn spell with upside, and one of the easier ways to show why flashback is nice.
Nimble Mongoose was a staple in Legacy tempo decks until recently. The combination of shroud and being a 3/3 body most of the time made it for a premium 1-drop in aggressive delver decks.
Moment's Peace is two fog effects in one. It’s at its best in Pauper since you can defend yourself from aggro decks while developing your engines. It can also save your bacon in Commander, especially in superfriends decks that want to protect planeswalkers from attacks.
Call of the Herd is basically two 3/3 tokens in the same spell.
Wild Mongrel is an aggressive 2-drop that’s also a discard outlet.
Roar of the Wurm is a way to cheat a 6/6 trample into play by discarding the card and paying the flashback cost on turn four.
Psychatog is a very powerful 3-drop in reactive control decks. It’s a very efficient blocker, you can use your counterspells to protect it, and it’s a win condition in longer games.
Shadowmage Infiltrator is Jon Finkel’s invitational tournament card, and it’s a 1/3 with fear that draws you cards whenever it connects. Fear is very close to unblockable in certain matchups, but unfortunately, it doesn’t look strong by today’s MTG standards.
Decimate is a four for one. You’ll pay basically to get rid of four permanents across the table in EDH. In 1v1 formats the card gets much worse.
Barbarian Ring is a red land like Ramunap Ruins, in which you can sacrifice to deal damage to other players.
The filter lands are a cycle of allied color lands that are nice and cheap ways to fix your mana. They’re the rare land cycle for the set. These get reprinted a lot in Commander supplemental products.
Threshold Sac Lands
The cycle of threshold sacrifice lands are mono-colored lands that have a sacrifice effect provided you have threshold.
The cycle of two-colored “atogs” are atog creatures that have two abilities based on their colors. The blue ability is to discard a card to give the creature +1/+1, while the white ability is to sacrifice an enchantment and give the creature the same bonus.
From these, Psychatog saw real Constructed play and it’s an okay card even by today’s standards.
The cycle of Bursts are common instants and sorceries whose spell effect scales based on the number of equal named spells in the graveyard akin to Kindle from Tempest.
Each one of those rites scales based on the number of cards you discard. A nice tool to have if you have a full hand or if you want an extra discard outlet.
Odyssey Booster Packs
Booster packs are your standard Odyssey product that comes with 15 cards, one of them rare. You can also get an Odyssey booster box which comes with 36 packs. There are some MTG collectors holding onto Odyssey boxes to trade, but unfortunately you won’t find ultra-rare fetch lands there or cards from the Reserved List.
Odyssey Tournament Deck PackNo products found.
No products found. contains 75 Odyssey cards, with 30 being basic lands and the other 45 being random cards. Today we play Sealed by cracking six booster packs, but this was how people played Sealed events back then, with a Tournament deck pack and some boosters.
No products found.
Odyssey Theme Decks
Liftoff is an Azorius () threshold control deck. You’re aiming to slow the game down while looting and defending with Kirtar's Desire and tappers like Cephalid Retainer and Nomad Decoy.
In the long run after threshold is obtained, creatures like Mystic Crusader and Mystic Zealot are your win conditions.
- The Liftoff deck is for players who like to be in control.
One-Two Punch is a Gruul () ramp deck aimed at generating lots of mana to fuel flashback spells. Use your flashback spells twice to overpower your opponents.
Elephant Ambush, Roar of the Wurm, and Beast Attack can make two tokens each. You can even defend yourself twice by playing cards with flashback like Moment's Peace, Firebolt, and Engulfing Flames.
Pressure Cooker is a Rakdos () sacrifice deck with a threshold theme.
Repentant Vampire and Childhood Horror get lots better once threshold is attained. Ghastly Demise is a removal spell that gets stronger as the graveyard is filled, and you have the interaction between Flame Burst and Pardic Firecat too. Flame Burst can be used early to control the board and to kill your opponents in the late game.
Trounce-O-Matic is, in many ways, a predecessor to Standard’s all-star Simic () madness deck. It’s a Simic threshold tempo deck that wants to play creatures like Nimble Mongoose and Werebear early and get to threshold as fast as possible.
Discarding Roar of the Wurm to Wild Mongrel helps you to cast the 6/6 wurm from the graveyard much earlier.
Ember Beast | Illustration by Wayne England
And that concludes the trip down memory lane! Odyssey introduced a new way to play MTG, and that’s caring about your graveyard, how many cards are there, and when it’s worth discarding a card to get a bonus. That’s still very divisive to this day because players like to hold and cast their cards. Still, there are lots of archetypes and different gameplay that Odyssey block inspired, like reanimator, looting, madness, and dredge.
Now I want to hear from you. What are your favorite cards from Odyssey? What weird card from the block do you play in EDH? Do you remember cracking an Odyssey pack in 2001? Let me know in the comments below, or join the discussion over in the Draftsim Discord.
Thanks for reading, and stay safe out there!
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