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Mirage starter deck contains 60 random cards per deck and a Mirage rule book. Distribution is 3 rare, 9 uncommon, 26 common, and 22 lands. Released in October, 1996, Mirage is the first set in the Mirage block and was the 9th expert level set. This expansion began the first official block set with one large expansion being followed by two smaller expansions all tied together through card mechanics and setting. This expansion also introduced 5th Edition rules (5th Edition was released in March 1997). Mirage's expansion symbol is a palm tree. On 5 December 2005 Mirage was released on Magic: The Gathering Online. It was the first set that was retroactively released on Magic Online. The set contains 350 black-bordered cards (110 rare, 110 uncommon, 110 common, and 20 lands).
The story concerns three of the most powerful nations of Jamuraa (a tropical continent modeled after Africa) — the militaristic kingdom of the Zhalfirins, the religious state of Femeref, and the trading province of the Suq'Ata empire. Zhalfir was the warrior nation, based mainly on red. Femeref was mainly white, and featured clerics and healers, while the seafaring traders of Suq'Ata were mostly blue. Mirage concerned these three nations and their struggle against the evil wizard Kaervek. Kaervek has imprisoned the powerful wizard and diplomat Mangara in an amber prison and the bulk of the story details the Jamuraans attempting to free Mangara. In addition to these events the planeswalker Teferi has caused his island to disappear from existence for almost 200 years. It is the phasing of the entire island that led Kaervek and Mangara to Jamuraa in the first place.
Like Ice Age, Mirage began as a set of modifications to Alpha by a group of Richard Garfield's playtesters in winter 1992. Bill Rose, Charlie Catino, Joel Mick, Howard Kahlenberg, Don Felice and Elliott Segal created gameplay modifications and new cards that developed into "Menagerie", which developed over the course of three years. In October 1995, Mirage was sent to Wizards of the Coast for development. Rose lead the development team of Mike Elliott, William Jockusch and Mark Rosewater, while Art Director Sue-Ann Harkey provided Mirage's African influenced look.
While its origins in playtesting linked it to earlier sets, Mirage was not designed to stand alone. Mirage was created as an introduction to Jamuraa, with two more planned expansions to create a cohesive set. This model became the standard for Magic: The Gathering expansions and began the concept of "block rotation".
Mirage's public debut was at Pro Tour Atlanta 1996, where professional Magic players had the challenge of playing sealed deck with cards they had never seen before. Mirage was also the first set to have pre-releases at more than one city.
Wizards of the Coast's design and development team considers Mirage to be the first set of the "Silver Age" or "modern" era of Magic. It was the first set to be designed with Limited and Constructed play in mind. Previous designs had been imbalanced for formats like draft and sealed-deck, and cards were designed for casual players rather than with thought of their impact on the tournament scene.
Mirage introduced the first cycle of "charms". A charm is a spell that allow a player to choose among three different effects when the charm is played. Since then, similar cycles of charms have appeared in Visions, Planeshift, Onslaught, Planar Chaos and Shards of Alara.
The Nightstalkers were a set of three small creatures: Breathstealer, Feral Shadow and Urborg Panther. A player could sacrifice these three creatures from play to summon the legendary Spirit of the Night.
The "Insta-enchantments" were a cycle of auras that could be played as an instant. Thus, they could be used as a surprising maneuver, but if you did so they would last only one turn.
This set introduced two new keywords: flanking and phasing.
Flanking represents a fighting advantage. Any creature without flanking that blocks a creature with flanking gets -1/-1 until end of turn. This allows a creature with flanking to destroy creatures larger than itself, and even destroy creatures with a toughness of 1 before damage is assigned.
Phasing represents the removal from existence caused by Teferi's experiments. A permanent with phasing enters and leaves play without any involvement by the player. At the beginning of a player's turn, before the untap phase, any permanents with phasing in play "phase out" (are removed from play into a special zone), and any "phased out" permanents return to play. At the time of the set's release, phasing triggered "leaves play" events but not "enters play" events. Following a rules modification in October 2005, phasing no longer triggers "leaves play" events.