Most helpful critical review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Worthwhile mostly for completists
on December 15, 2001
Volume 2 covers Mirage, Visions, 5th Edition, Weatherlight, Portal, and Arena League (only 1 page for this last). As always, this volume covers ONLY those expansions released between the publication of the 1st and 3rd volumes of the encyclopedia, and ends with a "Deckbuilder's Indexes" section. This last is the only reference to other expansions of Magic, so it actually isn't useful anymore; the deckbuilder information for the most current volume should be used instead. Frankly, this volume should not have been released until a few more expansions were out; it's skimpy, but if you want complete coverage of all Magic expansions, you're pretty much trapped; the 2 stars are for the material not available in other volumes.
The introductory material (i.e., the section before the expansions are presented) is a bare minimum in this volume: "How to Use this Guide" and "A Visual Guide to Magic Cards". The book isn't intended to teach a newcomer to play the game, or to explain much of Magic strategy; seek elsewhere for that sort of thing. On the other hand, each expansion covered in Volume 2, as usual, is provided with its own introduction, describing any new twists added for that set (including new types of decks that came about as a result), any noteworthy cards in that set, and a very brief description of the storylines affected by the expansion). Consequently, the entertainment value of the introductions is in inverse proportion to the number of broken cards in the expansion and the severity of the flaws, so the introductions in this volume are much more bland than those of Volume 1.
For example, Mirage's introduction, the longest in the book, covers the introduction of "instant enchantment" and "Charm" cards, and two special abilities introduced with this expansion, "flanking" and "phasing". The descriptions of these characteristics compare them with pre-existing (i.e., volume 1) spells and game mechanics, so you need to be familiar with Magic to get anything out of this. Similarly, new cards introduced as toned-down versions of old spoiler cards don't come with a detailed description of the old card (e.g. Final Fortune vs. old Time Walk). The story line description is given in 4 paragraphs, padded with lots of white space, followed by two equally padded pages of details of famous Mirage cards: Grinning Totem, Celestial Dawn, Hammer of Bogardan, Maro, Tombstone Stairwell, and Political Trickery.
After each expansion's introduction, all its individual cards are listed in alphabetical order, shown at about 3/4 actual size. The versions of Magic that included those cards (at the time of printing) are specified, as well as any errata. The artwork came out fairly well, but the flavor text for red cards is hard to read. My copy suffers from other printing problems as well (the non-flavor text came out blurred for some Mirage cards). Each card's name is printed separately below the card, but it's annoying to pay money for this.