Blood Moon (The Dark) - Illustration by Tom Wanerstrand

Blood Moon (The Dark) | Illustration by Tom Wanerstrand

The recent return to the age of the Brothers’ War and its long-lasting consequences has sparked some interest for the stories of Magic’s past. What better reason to revisit older sets and compare them to modern design and art standards.

More and more players want a look at the more unexplored worlds and ages of Magic, and as a history student that’s a sentiment that I both share and love seeing in others. I’m hopeful that all the positive reactions to The Brothers’ War will inspire Wizards to take us to other interesting times in the history of the Multiverse. It doesn’t even have to be through Standard sets, either.

Sadly there aren’t any plans (that we know of) to go back in time again. While we wait for a proper return to older sets and ancient events, let’s take a retrospective look at one of Magic’s oldest sets and Dominaria’s most obscure age: The Dark.

The Dark Basic Information

Psychic Allergy - Illustration by Mark Tedin

Psychic Allergy | Illustration by Mark Tedin

The Dark is Magic’s fourth expansion set. This set introduced the first multicolored noncreature card and first enemy-pair multicolored card (Dark Heart of the Wood), and the first common multicolored cards (Dark Heart of the Wood, Scarwood Goblins, and Marsh Goblins).

It’s widely remembered as an overall not-very-good set. The cards were far from the most powerful, and the set even features what MaRo considers the single worst Magic card in terms of power level.

Set Details

Set Symbol
Set CodeDRK
Number of Cards119
Rarities40 commons, 44 uncommons, 35 rares
MechanicsTribal, graveyard, exile, poison counters

Important Dates

Release dateAugust 8, 1994

About the Set: The Story

Mana Vortex - Illustration by Douglas Shuler

Mana Vortex | Illustration by Douglas Shuler

So… there are a couple of reasons why The Dark is called that. The main one is that it’s set during Dominaria’s Dark Ages. We tend to call a period of time a “dark age” for one simple reason: we just don’t know much about it. Dominaria’s Dark Age isn’t unlike that.

The Dark is the name given to the age between the end of the Brothers’ War and the proper start of the Ice Age (64-450 AR). The detonation of the Golgothian Sylex shifted and changed the entire plane of Dominaria; the weather grew colder by the day, the skies darkened, and violence and paranoia were rampant in the aftermath of the War. It was the end of times.

While the story in The Dark is mostly focused on Terisiare, the Fallen Empires’ story follows the fall of Sarpadia’s (you guessed it) empires. This was indirectly caused by the effects of the Brothers’ War and the Sylex’s detonation, and it takes place during The Dark Age.

The Aftermath of the War

The scarcity of resources and the changing climate lead most of the peoples in Dominaria to be ruled by despots and zealots.

The Church of Tal is one of the most prominent of these zealot factions. The Church has outlawed the recently rediscovered magic, as well as artifice. They blame them for the death and suffering of the War.

The Church travels throughout Terisiare on a purifying crusade that seeks to eradicate any remnants of magic and artifice on the continent.

They slowly but steadily impose their religious beliefs on the scattered city-states that remain. Their progress is made much easier thanks to the enduring desperation and fear that lead people to seek refuge and meaning in religion.

This persecution sends the few remaining mages into hiding. They find refuge in the Conclave of Mages and the City of Shadows. These two locations serve as secretive places where magic users can hide and train their powers.

History and Demise of The Conclave of Mages

The Conclave of Mages was founded not too long after the end of the War and was co-directed by the couple known as Duck and Nod, once been known as Tawnos and Ashnod respectively. The two had served as opposing right-hands of Urza and Mishra. Ashnod had betrayed Mishra during the Battle of Argoth. They found and fell in love with each other sometime afterwards, founding the Conclave to train and help other artificers and mages.

The Conclave was eventually taken over by Lord Ith, who surrounded it with his maze and claimed to be the original founder. Ith’s rule was cut short by the wizard Mairsil. Mairsil imprisoned Ith within a magic cage that dangled above a bottomless pit and siphoned the wizard’s magic away. With Ith gone from power, Mairsil claimed himself as the new head of the Conclave.

Lord Ith’s sanity slowly started to weaken. He managed to summon a messenger before he was too far gone. This messenger eventually led the young mage Jodah (yes, the same Jodah, he’s been alive for more than 4000 years) to Ith. Jodah helped to free the mage, but he was unable to heal Ith before he started rampaging through the Conclave. At the same time as Ith was freed, the Church of Tal started an assault on the fortress. The two attacks combined led to the utter destruction of the Conclave of Mages. The survivors, Jodah included, fled to the City of Shadows.

The City of Shadows was another academy and refuge for mages during the Dark Ages. It stood where the College of Lat-Nam had once been and survived through The Dark, eventually turning into the School of the Unseen.

The Coming of the Ice Age

By the ending years of The Dark, the Church of Tal imposes itself as the main political power on the continent, informing the decisions of rulers all over the city-states. Magic becomes practically non-existent outside of The City of Shadows, and with mages and artificers gone, people start finding new enemies. The city-states begin occasionally warring against each other for power and resources.

Not everyone is happy with this infighting between the city-states. Tivadar of Thorn opposes these types of conflicts, claiming that humanity should focus its strength on eradicating goblins, who have taken to stalking the roads between city-states.

Tivadar eventually creates the Knights of Thorn and leads a massive crusade against the goblins. He’s joined by the oneiromancer Rasputin Dreamweaver. The crusade is successful in placating the goblin threat, and it’s considered the last major event of The Dark.

Dominaria is at the doors of the Ice Age. Most of Terisiare’s city-states fall to the constant infighting and warring, slowly fading away as the world freezes over.

Set Mechanics


The Dark’s most enduring legacy is arguably the expansion of the tribal archetype. The idea was introduced in Legends with the kobold creature type and its support, but The Dark introduced several goblin cards including Goblin Wizard, which directly interacted with other goblins. There are also two enchantments that benefited all goblins in play, and a sorcery that destroys all goblins specifically.


The set also features seven cards that interact with the graveyard either using it as a resource or exiling an opponent’s graveyard altogether (Tormod's Crypt).


Exiling is a pretty prevalent mechanic in the set, with 13 cards that have effects that exile one or more cards.

The Dark Card Gallery

White Cards

Blue Cards

Black Cards

Red Cards

Green Cards

Multicolored Cards

Colorless Cards


Notable Cards

Money Cards

While The Dark’s most pricey cards can’t even hope to hold a candle to other money cards of its day (this set was released right after Legends, which has The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale at around $2500), it still has a few cards worth a few bucks.

Blood Moon is the set’s priciest card at around $86, followed by City of Shadows ($78), Goblin Wizard ($66), and Preacher ($50).

There are another 19 cards that cost more than $10, mostly thanks to their value as collection pieces.

Staples and Powerful Cards

The power level on this set is notably low. While there are a few cards that see play to this day, especially in formats like Commander, they tend to be circumstantial cards at best.

Some of The Dark’s more notable cards include: Fellwar Stone, Elves of Deep Shadow, Maze of Ith, Tormod's Crypt, and Gaea's Touch.

This was also the set where Mana Clash was printed. This is one of the only cards in the entire game that can finish a match on turn one without needing any other cards (aside from a single red mana).

Notably Bad Card

Sorrow's Path was printed in The Dark. Aside from having some pretty terrible art, it was also named as the worst Magic card ever printed by MaRo. It’s easy to see why, too. This land essentially allows you tap it to swap blockers during combat.

Why is that so terrible? Because such a powerful effect obviously needs a big downside: every time you tap Sorrow's Path it deals two damage to you and every creature you control. That’s right, tap to activate a board wipe on yourself just to switch blockers. Great card.

Available Products

Booster Packs

The Dark was sold through eight-card booster packs. These included six commons and two uncommons.


Considering The Dark came out 29 years ago, I’d say you’ll have to do a really deep dive to find any products from this set. Local Game Stores may have some boxes stored away and you can always go into online forums and groups to see if anyone is selling some old packs. Otherwise, it’s pretty hard to come across anything from this set that isn’t singles.

Wrap Up

Scarwood Hag - Illustration by Anson Maddocks

Scarwood Hag | Illustration by Anson Maddocks

The Dark is remembered for its low power level and less-than-great cards. Even the few genuinely decent cards in the set aren’t enough to vindicate it. Aside from the power level of the set, the art itself has proven divisive. Holy Light’s expressionist art style leads some players to call it some of the worst art of all time, while others defend it as a more original and interesting style than the more unified standard Magic has turned to. This set is also the home of Niall Silvain, a face that will forever haunt me.

I’d personally love to have a set explore this period. I absolutely love the atmosphere and feeling I get from the art on these cards. Everything feels cursed, paranoid, and increasingly doom-y as the world comes to an end. Besides, Jodah is still alive, so exploring his backstory could be enough of an excuse to revisit a pretty big part of Dominaria’s past.

What’s your opinion on The Dark? Do you have any memories with this set? Would you like to see a return to this point in time? Which other stages of Magic’s past would you like to revisit? Let me know down below! And while you’re here, why not pay the official Draftsim Discord a visit? There you’ll be able to join a wonderful community of MTG fans.

That’s all from me for now. Have a good one, and I’ll see you next time!

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