|Skaff Elias (lead)|
|Charlie Catripino (lead)|
Themes and mechanics
|Alternate and additional cost, cantrips and Snow|
Keywords and/or ability words
(55 commons, 43 uncommons, 46 rares)
Development code name
|Ice Age block sets|
|Magic: The Gathering chronology|
|Homelands||Alliances||Rivals Quick Start Set|
Alliances is black-bordered. It was printed on sheets of 110 cards. The set's rarity breakdown is: 55 commons (40@C2, 10@C3, 5@U6), 43 uncommons (40@U2, 3@R6), 46 rares (46@R2). Each common card and the 5 uncommons cards @U6 have 2 pieces of art, making collectors view this as a 199 card set. Since the ratio of uncommons to rare is 3:1 in a booster pack, the 3 rares @R6 are considered as uncommon even if they could be found in the rare slot of an Alliances booster pack. A similar statement can be made about the 5 commons @U6.
Alliances was released eight months after the less-than-spectacular Homelands, which is the longest gap between expansion sets in the history of the game. Prior to the Coldsnap release it was the third and final set in the Ice Age block with Homelands being the second set. It was sold in booster packs of twelve cards which included eight commons, three uncommons and one rare. A booster box contained 45 booster packs. This was the last time that boosters contained twelve cards. Alle boosters feature the same artwork from Benthic Explorers.
This was the last expansion to feature regular multiple artworks on cards. This was discontinued to ease identification of cards by their artwork, which was important to the global community as Magic was beginning to see print in languages other than English.
Alliances is also the last standard Magic expansion that was underprinted, as supply did not meet demand in many areas. Alliances was highly anticipated after the long wait from the release Homelands.
After the planeswalker Freyalise cast her World Spell, thereby ending the Ice Age, a population long adapted to the cold had to re-adjust to warm weather. With the new climate came devastating floods and plagues, and the necromancer Lim-Dûl has built an army of undead bent on world domination. An alliance is formed between races to defeat Lim-Dûl and his army.
Mechanics and themes
Alliances didn't introduce any new keywords, but it did introduce the popular alternate cost mechanic, popularly referred to as "pitch cards", that allowed a player to discard cards of specific colors (and in the case of two cards, with an additional life payment) to play a spell instead of paying its printed mana cost. In Magic: The Gathering history, this mechanic, or a derivative or variant thereof, appears on rare cycles in the Masques block, the Betrayers of Kamigawa expansion, and the Coldsnap expansion.
Alliances builds on many of the themes of the Ice Age block. Cumulative upkeep and cantrips return, as does the allied color theme and a few new legendary creatures. The Snow mechanic, considered a failure by the design team of Alliances, was largely abandoned but appeared on a few cards.
===Design & Development===Álliances was the second expansion by the quartet known as the "East Coast Playtesters". When designing Alliances the design team looked at the mechanics and themes of the Ice Age expansion, which they had designed as well. Design considered the Snow mechanic to be a failure and was completely ignored, although Development added in a few Snow-matters cards before the release of the set as the mechanic has great flavor in the block.
At some point, Continuity (the department responsible for the storyline) decided that Alliances would have a race of sentient gorillas. The design team thought this was a silly idea and protested by renaming all the cards in the set to have "Gorilla" in their names.
The following creature types are introduced in this expansion: Aesthir (later changed to Bird), Bird, Gorilla (later changed to Ape), Harlequin (later changed to Human), Heretic (later changed to Human Cleric), Mosquito (later changed to Insect), Pigeon (later changed to Bird), Spy (later changed to Human Rogue), Starfish, Swarm, Tactician (later changed to Human Advisor), War-Rider (later changed to Human Warrior).
The following creature types are used in this expansion but also appear in previous sets: Barbarian, Cleric, Druid, Elemental, Elf, Gargoyle, Goblin, Guardian, Homarid, Horror (later changed to Horror Spirit), Insect, Keeper (later changed to Avatar), Knight, Mercenary, Merfolk, Paladin (later changed to Human Knight), Phantasm (later changed to Illusion), Rat, Skeleton, Soldier, Spirit, Wall, Wizard and Zombie.
- Balduvian Horde was initially heralded as the "new Juzam Djinn," then considered the best creature in Magic, as a 5/5 for . It later proved to be only mediocre and has seen print in 6th Edition.
- Diminishing Returns is the first attempt at creating a "fixed" version of Timetwister. Despite its decrease in power compared to Timetwister, Diminishing Returns sometimes still sees play in Vintage alongside Timetwister.
- Force of Will continues to be an important and potent card in every format it is legal in because it can counter any spell without the use of mana.
- Ivory Gargoyle was powerful because it was difficult to get rid of it permanently and was used in some control decks as a win condition.
- Thawing Glaciers was used in many different decks, especially after the Sixth Edition Rules came into effect, allowing players to use cards like this one with delayed triggered abilities twice thanks to the reconstruction of the new End of turn step.
- Elvish Spirit Guide had a new unique feature: remove from the game from your hand to get mana. Elvish Spirit Guide sees play in the popular Legacy Belcher deck.
Alliances has five cycles:
- Double hosers: Each of these rare spells has a negative effect on both of its enemy colors — Royal Decree, Tidal Control, Dystopia, Omen of Fire, and Nature's Wrath. This cycle was the first to attempt to hose both enemy colors at once and inspired the creation of similar cycles in the Mercadian Masques and Coldsnap expansions.
- Pitch cards: Each of these uncommon instants has an alternate casting cost that includes removing a card of its color from the game — Scars of the Veteran, Force of Will, Contagion, Pyrokinesis, and Bounty of the Hunt.
- Replacement lands: Each of these rare lands is sacrificed when it comes into play unless you sacrifice a basic land of a given type and has a mana ability that produces mana of that land's type and another activated ability — Kjeldoran Outpost, Soldevi Excavations, Lake of the Dead, Balduvian Trading Post, and Heart of Yavimaya.
- Tricolor spells: Each of these rare multicolored spells has a mana cost that includes CDE, where C and E are two colors of mana that are allied with D, a third color of mana — Phelddagrif, Wandering Mage, Lord of Tresserhorn, Misfortune, and Winter's Night.
- Uncommon gold spells: Each of these uncommon multicolored spells requires two mana of allied colors to cast: — Energy Arc, Lim-Dûl's Vault, Lim-Dûl's Paladin, Surge of Strength, and Nature's Blessing.
- Only Alliances and the Chronicles set were sold in packs of 12 cards.
- Alliances was the first and only set to feature different tiers within its rare cards. A few rares appeared six times on each rare sheet while most appeared twice, making a few rares three times as common as others.
- Official Alliances Information Product Page — Magic: The Gathering (old)
- Alliances product information page — Wizards of the Coast (new)