Welcome to another edition of “This Day in Magic History!” Today, I’ll take a look at the release of Fallen Empires, which debuted to the world 28 years ago.
Fallen Empires is much-maligned, largely because it only introduced a handful of cards that have had a significant impact on the game. However, today I’m going to tell you that Fallen Empires is actually quite important in the history of Magic! It was the first set designed around creature types.
The First Tribal Set
In Magic, “tribal” is used to refer to decks or sets that are all about specific creature types. Fallen Empires was not the first set to introduce cards that benefited from having a bunch of creatures of the same type. That was part of the game from the very beginning, with Goblin King, Lord of Atlantis and Zombie Master all appearing in Alpha.
Subsequent sets also introduced a few more tribal cards. However, Fallen Empires was the first time a set was entirely designed around creature types, with each color representing factions that prominently featured one or two creature types.
Some of these creature types continue to receive tons of tribal support, even today. Some of them are also quite obscure and have received little to no support since Fallen Empires.
White was all about Soldiers, which have, of course, remained one of the most plentiful creature types in White.
Blue was all about Merfolk, which have, of course, continued to receive regular support over the last three decades.
Black’s most prominent creature type was…Thrull. This is not a creature type that has stood the test of time like Merfolk and Soldiers.
Twenty eight years after Fallen Empires, there are only 24 Thrulls, and seven of those are from Fallen Empires. That is less than one Thrull a year! Instead, Vampires and Zombies have become the most prominent creature type for Black.
Red was less focused than the other colors, featuring three creature types: Dwarves, Goblins and Orcs. Goblins have received a ton of support over the last three decades. Dwarves have received a bit of support since Fallen Empires, and Orcs have received almost none!
Finally, green was about the Fungus creature type, and the Saprolings they were capable of producing in particular. While Elves have become the most prominent creature type in Green, Fungi and Saprolings have continued to receive intermittent support over the years.
The Legacy of Fallen Empires
Fallen Empires is the forefather of any set with tribal components. Today, most sets feature significant support for at least one creature type.
For example, The blue-white color pair in The Brothers’ War is all about soldiers, a creature type originally introduced and supported in Fallen Empires! In the years since Fallen Empires, there have also been several other sets and blocks with heavy tribal themes.
This includes 2002-2003’s Onslaught Block, 2007-2008’s Lorwyn-Shadowmoor Block, 2011-2012’s Innistrad Block, 2016’s Shadows Over Innistrad Block and 2017-2018’s Ixalan Block.
While Fallen Empires was certainly an underpowered set overall, the way it was designed has ensured we continue to get the tribal sets we have learned to love throughout the years.This never would have been possible without the tribal designs introduced in Fallen Empires!
That’s all for today. I’ll be back next week with a look at another important event in Magic history!
Jacob has been playing Magic for the better part of 24 years, and he especially loves playing Magic’s Limited formats. He also holds a PhD in history from the University of Oklahoma. In 2015, he started his YouTube channel, “Nizzahon Magic,” where he combines his interests with many videos covering Magic’s competitive history. When he’s not playing Magic or making Magic content, he can be found teaching college-level history courses or caring for a menagerie of pets with his wife.