Chronicles: The Long Road To The Magic's First Compilation Set

In 1995, Wizards of the Coast came out with a compilation expansion featuring cards from previously-released Magic: The Gathering expansions.  It didn't go over well.

In 1993 and 1994, Magic had a problem, albeit a good one. They had produced far fewer cards than what was demanded. By the time 1995 rolled around when it was truly an international hit and WotC realized that many new players never had the opportunity to get cards from the 1993/94 expansions.

To compensate, they printed Revised Edition, which included some reprints from the game's first couple of expansions along with Fourth Edition a little while later with even more reprints.  While for new players who had issues finding some of the older cards, it was a godsend -- even if most of the top-tier cards weren't included on the reprint lists.

To help new players with older cards even further, Wizards of the Coast had the idea to print a set that featured cards exclusively from Magic's first three expansions: Arabian NightsAntiquities, and Legends.  The set would come to be known as Chronicles.

Chronicles would prove to be a bit of a problem.

In fact, Chronicles had two major problems that had nothing to do with card selection or anything close to that.

Arguments were all cosmetic. First there was the problem with naming the expansion. This actually kept designers in a huge loop of arguments for awhile, as no one could decide on a name. The temporary name, "Best of 1994", was obviously not Magic at all. They tried several encompassing names like Mosaic, Tapestry, and Archives. They even went for the unusual, like "Urza's Private Reserve." Finally, they settled on Chronicles, although some suggested names would later be used for expansions.

Then there was the battle between using a black border and white border. In general, black borders meant original cards, while white borders meant reprints. Believe it or not, this was a huge point of contention between the developers. Some argued that Chronicles was a new expansion, with all cards keeping the black borders. The expansion symbol would mark them as Chronicles anyway. Others said, as all were used before, they should all be white. Magic had never faced this problem before, so this was big. This was precedent. White eventually won out, as white-bordered supports said that they would make them as different from the originals.

In all, Chronicles did it's job. For the next few decades, Magic never had to make another similar set because the number of people playing grew saturated and that the definition of legal cards changed enough. It wasn't until Modern Masters in 2013 that an all used-before card expansion came out to serve the same purpose as Chronicles, although some cards changed rarity or artwork to keep things at least somewhat fresh.

Chronicles, however, was the first...and whose biggest issue were minor cosmetic things.

Oh, and there's the whole creation of Magic's Reserved List thingy, but we'll get to that another day.

Evan Symon

Evan Symon is a graduate of The University of Akron and has been a working journalist ever since with works published by Cracked, GeekNifty, the Pasadena Independent, California Globe, and, of course, Magic Untapped.