2022 Magic Set Symbols In Review
2022 introduced 20 new set symbols, likely the greatest number of new symbols ever introduced in a Magic year (note to self: go back and check this). Between the continuation of set-specific Commander and Alchemy releases, Universes Beyond commander with in-universe symbols, and more and more ancillary products we have an absolute deluge of symbols to review, so let’s go!
As we look over the candidates, let’s remember the 3 criteria a set symbol has to fill:
1. Read cleanly at card size, ~1 sq cm.
2. Convey some sort of information or mood about the set it represents.
3. Differentiate itself well from all the other existing set symbols, especially from contemporaneous sets.
#20: 30th Anniversary Edition
I sorta wish there were 10 more products so I could rate this at #30. All of my others issues with the 30th Anniversary Edition aside (and oh boy there are a lot), the set symbol is the most basic level of text as symbol, which I always hate. And there is a perfectly good 30th Anniversary logo to use as a symbol! While it’s unlikely we would have gotten a return to Roman numerals for this product (Wizards doesn’t want to print “XXX” on all those cards) some sort of classy “30”, or a Black Lotus, or really any other idea would have worked really well. What a waste.
#19: Alchemy: Dominaria/Brother’s War
Hey, they took the “A22” logo from Alchemy Innistrad (and Alchemy Neon Dynasty/New Capenna earlier in this year) and turned it into “A23”. Good job. The always-confusing year-ahead car model numbering scheme doesn’t even matter when you’re not shipping this out to retailers! And they dumped “A22” on three separate Alchemy releases, just give Alchemy cards different symbols like you did for Baldur’s Gate and be done with it.
#18: Brothers’ War Commander
Time for my yearly complaining about the Commander set symbols: take a shield, put the original set symbol in it somehow, and you’re done. This one has a gear. Great.
#17: Commander Legends: Dungeons and Dragons: Battle for Baldur’s Gate
Imagine having to sum up a product with name as long as that into a symbol. As we usually call it now, Baldur’s Gate didn’t really do much to do so: a shield with a hexagon in it. I don’t know if the hexagon is supposed to represent a hex grid battlefield, but I also don’t quite care. It also looks a lot like the previous symbol which is a problem we’re running into more and more when we repeat all the same motifs over and over again.
#16 and #15: Dominaria United Commander and Dominaria United
Dominaria United harkens back to Invasion with a Phyrexian invasion of Dominaria being opposed by the Coalition. So why not just use the Invasion set symbol again?
This is where the “set symbols have to be visually distinct from each other” thing comes in. I don’t realistically think anyone is going to find an Invasion card, think it’s legal in Standard because of similar set symbols, play it in their deck and get a DQ. But that’s the sort of thing set symbols are supposed to indicate!
#14: New Capenna Commander
I don’t like set symbols where there’s a ton of white in them, but the “mash the standard symbol into a shield” plan generally works here.
#13: Neon Dynasty Commander
Neon Dynasty took a very different approach to the traditional Commander shield approach, as this shield is a different shape and plays on the origami theme that is also found in Neon Dynasty’s mech vehicles. This symbol would rank higher to me, but it doesn’t fit on the typeline quite right, feeling chunky and unbalanced.
#12: Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate
#11: Brothers’ War Retro Artifacts
#10: Game Night: Free-For-All
All three of these symbols fall in the “vaguely circular with spokes” shape variety and it’s hard to rate them differently. Brothers’ War Retro Artifacts is a better version of the Explorers of Ixalan symbol, while Game Night: Free-For-All is a better take on the basic pentagon symbol that other Game Night sets have used.
#9: Transformers (in Brothers’ War)
Universes Beyond has graduated to cards having their own set symbol (though pre-UB My Little Pony cards did as well) and that means we’re seeing designs outside of Magic as set symbols. These Transformers cards use a mashup of the two competing faction symbols, the Autobots and the Decepticons, and while either of the symbols would be great (they’re impeccably designed symbols), the mashup of the two is kinda weak.
#8: Warhammer 40,000 Commander
While I greatly dislike the aesthetic of Warhammer 40K, I have to say this overtly fascist symbol fits very well on the card.
#7: Jumpstart 2022
Like the other Jumpstart releases (Original and Historic Horizons), Jumpstart 2022’s symbol features the primary theme of the set, mashing together two 20-card packs. The issue with using this symbol with small variations so many times is it does become indistinct, like the various Planechase symbols.
#6 Commander Collection: Black
Commander Collection: Black follows Commander Collection: Green’s lead by putting some Commander (2011)-styled embellishments with the black mana symbol. The mana symbols are some of the best pieces of graphic design in this (or any) game, so it generally works as a symbol.
Unfinity’s symbol tries to emulate a space motif, a solar system with multiple rings. The rings also play into the pop 1950s/60s design sensibility in the set’s art. The symbol, like the set, is very ambitious but also like the set falls short when it comes to practicality. The symbol reads very busy at card size, especially when in comparison to its Un-set predecessors.
#4: Double Masters 2022
For the most maximalist set of the most maximalist year of Magic (so far), Double Masters 2022’s set symbol plants itself on the typeline with a big beefy expression of dominance. The symbol is a reworked version of 2020’s Double Masters, but slightly taller, and instead of a diamond in the middle there’s a worked knot/infinity symbol/cool S. The symbol, like the set itself, dominates the typeline and says “yeah I’m gonna charge you $200 for 4 packs.” This set knows what it’s about.
#3: Streets of New Capenna
It’s telling that the top 3 for this year are premier sets/Standard sets/whatever you want to call them. These sets are where the bulk of Wizards’ creative work goes each year and it really shows, even down to the set symbols. New Capenna’s symbol shows a set of brass knuckles with angel wings on the side: perfectly representing the gilded crime drama of the set.
#2: The Brothers’ War
I’m a sucker for set symbol callbacks when they work (ahem, Dominaria United). The broken gear of The Brothers’ War represents a clash between two artificers, but it also calls back to the gears of Urza’s Saga, which also featured events from the devastation of Argoth.
#1: Kamigawa Neon Dynasty
One of the first set symbols for 2022 that we saw back in 2021, Neon Dynasty’s symbol is a perfect encapsulation of the overall feel of the set: Japanese heritage combined with futuristic technology. The symbol evokes a Japanese art motif of the sun rising over mountains, combined with embellishments that either feel like woven reeds or circuitry. It’s a great-looking, unique take on a set symbol and really stands out amongst the crowd.
Thanks for reading! To get access to my mostly unfiltered thoughts, visit my Twitter. To see all of my digital alters, visit my Instagram. To support the work that I do, visit my Patreon. For everything else, visit my Linktree.