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I don't always have an internet connection to research the rarity of a MTG card. Is there an obvious indication of rarity on MTG cards themselves (other than foil)? Some sort of insignia? Or a class of creatures that is almost always rare?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Yes, cards have a rarity indicator (at least in recent years). Each Magic card has an icon below and to the right of the picture called the expansion symbol, which indicates the expansion set that the card is from. The icon's color indicates the rarity of the card, with the following key:

  • Black: Common
  • Silver: Uncommon
  • Gold: Rare
  • Red: Mythic Rare

To get an idea of the relative rarity of these cards, we can look at a booster pack. Recent booster packs each contain about 11 commons, 3 uncommons, and 1 rare, with about a 1 in 8 chance of the rare being replaced with a mythic rare.

A couple of things to remember: very old cards, like from Alpha and Beta, don't have expansion symbols at all. Other old (but not as old) cards have expansion symbols, but they're all black. And some cards have been printed in different sets, and have different rarities in those sets, so the icon on the card may not match the rarity in the most current set.

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Note that old cards (pre-Exodus, so earlier than June 1998) all have black rarity symbols. – Venge Jul 20 '14 at 1:49
On top of that, some cards have changed rarities across different printings, so it's possible that the symbol on the physical card doesn't accurately show the current oracle rarity of that card. – GendoIkari Jul 20 '14 at 2:40
Of course, if you're off line, you can't do much better than the printed rarity. – murgatroid99 Jul 20 '14 at 2:42
Alpha through Homelands didn't actually have a Rare sheet. While we call card from those sets "rare" if it was printed only once on the Uncommon sheet, they aren't rares in the same sense that we use the term today. Alliances was the first set with a Rare sheet, although some of the cards on the sheet were printed six times, and are effectively Uncommon, even though they appear in the pack's Rare slot. (There were also Uncommons that were effectively Common.) – Brian S Jul 21 '14 at 14:30
@GendoIkari There's really no such thing as an 'oracle rarity'. Rarity is a property of a printing of a card, not an innate property of the card itself. A couple of formats (e.g. Pauper) may care if a card has ever been printed at common, but AFAIK that's not an "Oracle property" of the card; it's in no way, shape or form part of card text. – Steven Stadnicki Aug 17 '14 at 4:52

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