Introduction to Fallen Empires
The Fallen Empires set was unique. It was the first set to really introduce the concept of “Tribal” cards, although back in 1994 they were just called what they were; Dwarves, Elves, Goblins, Homarids, Merfolk, Orcs, Thallids, Thrulls, or Townsfolk. That’s not to say that you needed to build a Tribal deck. A lot of the cards within the set are valuable in combination with other cards and some just on their own.
Released in November 1994, Fallen Empires was the third in a run of three expansion sets put out that year. The previous two were Legends in June and The Dark in August. It is comprised of 187 total cards Although it only contained 102 unique cards, because 35 cards in the set had multiple version of artwork. 15 cards had four versions of artwork and 20 had three versions. The set was 11 Artifacts, 33 Black cards, 33 Blue cards, 33 Green cards, 11 Lands, 33 Red cards and 33 White cards. The rarity breakdown was 121 Commons and 66 Uncommons; with 36 U1, 5 U2 and 25 U3 (the U3’s serving as the set’s rares).
The Land of Fallen Empires: Sac and Storage Lands
The Lands of Fallen Empires were mainly known as “sac” (sacrifice) or storage Lands plus Rainbow Vale. There were five sac Lands, one for each color; Dwarven Ruins for Red, Ebon Stronghold for Black, Havenwood Battleground for Green, Ruins of Trokair for White and Svyelunite Temple for Blue. Sac Lands came into play tapped and you could tap them for one Mana of the corresponding color or sacrifice it for two of those Mana.
The storage Lands also numbered five, one for each color; Bottomless Vault for Black, Dwarven Hold for Red, Hollow Trees for Green, Icatian Store for White and Sand Silos for Blue.
Storage Lands also came into play tapped, using Bottomless Vault as an example, “You may choose not to untap Bottomless Vault during your untap phase and instead put a storage counter on it.” The beauty of it was this next part, “TAP: Remove any number of storage counters from Bottomless Vault. For each storage counter removed add one Black Mana to your mana pool.” For Black, it was a great way to save up for a Drain Life; for Red, Disintegrate or Fireball; for Green, Stream of Life; for Blue, Power Sink; you get the picture.
There remaining Land left that is neither a sac nor storage Land; Rainbow Vale. “TAP: Add 1 Mana of any color to your mana pool. Control of Rainbow Vale passes to opponent at end of turn.” While the Vale could speed up your multicolored deck, you weren’t getting that land back until your opponent used it and if you chose to use it, your opponent would be up one Mana on you, so it was a gamble.
The Color Black in Fallen Empires: Thrulls, hymns and the Ebon Hand
The color Black may have been the greatest legacy for Fallen Empires. The introduction of Thrulls and the Breeding Pit, hymn to Tourach and the Ebon Hand; both Initiates of and Order of. All of these cards represent a far greater space in the “Old School” Magic spectrum than just their place in Fallen Empires.
The introduction of Thrulls was great because they were fairly cheap, averaging about 3 Mana to cast, and there was so much you could do with them. You could use them with Ebon Praetor, Soul Exchange or use them on their own. Basal Thrull was a standout, because for two Black Mana, you had a 1/2 that you could sacrifice for two Black Mana. There was also Thrull Champion to give all Thrulls +1/+1 and Tourach’s gate to boost your army’s attack, but you’ll need more than the four Thrulls to make an army massive enough to break through. Enter Breeding Pit.
Breeding Pit is an enchantment for three Colorless and One Black Mana; “During your upkeep, pay two Black Mana or bury Breeding Pit. At the end of your turn, put a Thrull token into play. Treat this token as a 0/1 black creature.” If you have the Mana, you could be pumping out two or three Thrulls a turn, but it doesn’t just have to be for your Thrull army. You can use it, as was common back in the day, for your Lord of the Pit or any other big thing you wanted to feed that had an upkeep of “sacrifice a creature.”
The Ebon Hand had two great and lasting cards; Order of the Ebon Hand and Initiates of the Ebon Hand. Order of the Ebon Hand was a great add to any Black deck, pairing a set of four in any deck with a set of four Black Knights, meant you had just doubled your odds of getting a “Protection from White” creature that could do some damage. In fact, Order of the Ebon Hand was also pumpable and could be given first strike (arguably a better value than Black Knight).
The other Ebon Hand, Initiates of the Ebon Hand was far more useful. It allowed you to pump Colorless Mana into it and create Black Mana. Although the drawback is that if you spend more than three Colorless during any one turn, it is buried at end of turn. No matter, I’ve used it for one specific combo, for which it appears, it was specifically designed for.
Channel, “Until end of turn, you may add colorless mana to your mana pool for 1 life each. These are played with the speed of an interrupt. Life spent this was is not considered damage.” + Initiates of the Ebon Hand + Drain Life, “Drain Life does 1 damage to a single target for each Black Mana spent in addition to the casting cost. Caster gains 1 life for each damage inflicted. If you drain life from a creature, you cannot gain more life than the creature’s current toughness.”
Never mind creatures and their toughness’, Channel your life into the Initiates of the Ebon Hand and Drain Life your opponent. Add in a Dark Ritual and you can counteract the Lightning Bolt they hit you with earlier.
But Initiates of the Ebon hand for combos, Breeding Pit and Thrulls, pale in comparison to the stand out Black card in Fallen Empires; hymn to Tourach.
The hymn to Tourach was just deadly. Two Black Mana for a Sorcery which says “Target player discards two cards at random from his or her hand. If target player does not have enough cards, his or her entire hand is discarded.” Now, on the surface that’s not a big deal, it’s just two cards, but it wasn’t. It was used in conjunction with hypnotic Specter so much, that I vividly remember the following:
First turn: Swamp, Dark Ritual, hypnotic Specter.
Second turn: Swamp, attack with the hypnotic Specter. You take 2 damage and discard a card at random. Tap both Swamps, hymn to Tourach, discard two more.
Assuming the other person put out a land and cast a 1/1 weenie. This means the other person has just three cards left in his or her hand and without a flyer to block the Specter, they are going to lose more of their hand. As such, an early onslaught to one’s hand could derail your opponent entirely. The only thing that saves you in that scenario is a Lightning Bolt to kill the Specter.
The other great thing about hymn to Tourach was it had four versions of artwork, so your playset could be one of each piece of artwork.
The Color Blue in Fallen Empires: Homarids, Merfolk and the Tides
The tribes of Blue in Fallen Empires were Homarids and Merfolk. The Homarids, similar to Thrulls were given a breeding ground, homarid Spawning Bed, where for one Colorless and two Blue Mana you could “Sacrifice a blue creature to put X camarid tokens into play, where X is the casting cost of the sacrificed creature. Treat these tokens as 1/1 blue creatures.” It’s a great out for Deep Spawn, a five Colorless and three Blue Mana 6/6 Homarid that has Trample and takes the top two cards of your library and puts them into your graveyard or it becomes destroyed. That’s eight 1/1 creatures for your army.
The homarids were only viable as a tribe on certain turns. Your base homarids could either be 1/1, 2/2, or 3/3 depending on the tide counter count.
The Merfolk in Fallen Empires were much more usable than their predecessors, Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, a plain old 1/1 weenie. The River Merfolk, was a two Blue Mana casting cost 2/1 that you could give Mountainwalk to. The other Merfolk have abilities to counter a spell with Vodalian Mage, protect your creatures from spells with Svyelunite Priest or even give itself Flying as was the case with Vodalian Knights, but there was one Merfolk that stood above the rest; Seasinger.
For one Colorless and two Blue Mana you could cast the 0/1 Seasinger. “Bury Seasinger if you control no islands. TAP: Gain control of a target creature if its controller controls at least one island. You lose control of target creature if Seasinger leaves play, if you lose control of Seasinger, or if Seasinger becomes untapped. You may choose not to untap Seasinger as normal during your untap phase.”
Seasinger when combined with Safe haven from The Dark is an amazing combo play.
Safe haven is a Land which states, “two Colorless Mana, TAP: Remove target creature you control from the game. This ability is played as an interrupt. During your upkeep, sacrifice Safe Haven to return all creatures it has removed from the game directly into play. Treat this as if they were just summoned.”
But what if your opponent doesn’t have any Islands? No problem, since the beginning of the game, Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised and beyond, Blue has had Phantasmal Terrain, “Target land changes to any basic land type of caster’s choice. Land type is set when cast and my not be further altered by this card.”
So, with your Seasinger and your opponent having control of an Island (thanks to Phantasmal Terrain), you can start stealing their creatures and hiding them in the Safe haven, over and over again.
Save a Counterspell in your hand to protect that Safe haven from Stone Rain or Boomerang.
But that’s not all the Merfolk of Fallen Empires could do. How about a pumpable, attacking wall? That’s covered with Vodalian War Machine. But all of this costs mana, and Blue is usually slow in getting it’s mana pool up, there is no Dark Ritual, no Llanowar Elves, so it’s just Islands and Artifacts for mana production, but wait, Fallen Empires provides a way to double your mana pool for one Blue Mana.
Introducing High Tide. For one Blue Mana you had an Instant which states, “Until end of turn, all islands produce an additional Blue Mana when tapped for mana.” If you choose to cast two High Tides, that’s three Mana for each Island tapped. You’re big creatures can be cast, your Power Sink is more powerful, you get the picture.
The Color Green in Fallen Empires: Thallids, Elves and the Followers of Thelon
The standout tribe of Fallen Empires belongs to Green; the Thallids. The base Thallid was cheap, a one Green Mana 1/1 fungus creatures which spawned Saproling tokens every three turns.
They also did damage as is the case with the Thorn Thallid. With a Thallid Devourer, you could use the Saprolings to boost power and toughness.
Fungal Bloom allowed you to make Saprolings even faster as a two Green Mana casting cost Enchantment that allowed you to “put a spore counter on target Fungus.”
Did your Thallids die? No worries there, just use Night Soil to remove any “two creatures in your graveyard from the game and put another Saproling into play.”
Not sure, you’re army can withstand your opponents’ army’s onslaught? How about a Spore Flower, which is an Enchantment that produces a Fog every three turns. But it’s not all about small creatures. Feral Thallid is a three Colorless and three Green Mana 6/3 that can gain regeneration.
There were Elves too. Elvish Farmer also produced Saprolings, but it allowed you to “Sacrifice a Saproling to gain 2 life.” Elvish hunter allowed you to prevent a creature from untapping and Elvish Scout allowed you to untap an attacking creature.
The followers of Thelon had great powers within Fallen Empires. Thelon’s Chant was an anti-Black Enchantment and Thelon’s Curse was anti-Blue. Thelonite Monk allowed you to “sacrifice a green creature to turn target land into a basic forest.” This is a permanent change and with all those Saprolings you won’t be at a loss to find a creature to sacrifice.
Thelonite Druid was a great game ender. This cleric allowed you, for one Colorless and one Green Mana, to “Sacrifice a creature to turn all your forests into 2/3 creatures until end of turn. The forests still count as lands but may not be tapped for mana if they were brought into play this turn.”
As you can tell, Green isn’t just Thallids in the set as is commonly thought. Seriously, turning your ten Forests into ten 2/3 creatures for the final attack is an epic move. Not to mention that if you needed to, you can use a Giant Growth to boost an unblocked attacker or use your Thorn Thallid to finish off the remaining few life of your opponent after the attack.
The Color Red in Fallen Empires: Dwarves, Orcs, Goblins and an Orgg
The color Red in Fallen Empires contains not one, or two, but three different tribes; Dwarves, Goblins and Orcs.
The Dwarven Armorer is an amazing card for any Red weenie deck. For one Red Mana, TAP this Dwarf, “Discard a card from your hand to put either a +0/+1 or a +1/+0 counter on target creature.” It’s that simple. If you have land in hand that you don’t need, discard for a permanent power or toughness boost. If you have a card in your hand that your opponent has rendered useless, boost a creature. Or if you’re playing Black and Red, discard that big creature on the second turn to boost first turn Armorer himself and then Animate Dead that creature on turn three and start going to town.
The Dwarves also have a Lieutenant that can give +1/+0 boosts to other Dwarves and a Soldier that gets a +0/+2 boost if it blocks or is blocked by an Orc. The Dwarven Soldier is the second example of Red on Red hate. The other is Goblins of the Flarg from The Dark, which originally states, “Goblins of the Flarg are buried if controller controls any Dwarves.” There aren’t many other cards where the drawback or boost comes from another tribe within it’s own color.
Let’s not forget that the Dwarven Catapult can be used with enough Mana, like a Earthquake/Hurricane hybrid that only effects your opponents creatures.
The Orcs don’t have much to write home about in Fallen Empires except for Raiding Party. First off, “Raiding Party may not be the target of white spells or effect.” So that Disenchant won’t get rid of it, unless you have a little Green and draw that Tranquility. Second, what this enchantment does. “0: Sacrifice an Orc to destroy all plains. A player may tap a white creature to prevent up to two plains from being destroyed. Any number of creatures may be tapped in this manner.” Well, if you’re going against a straight White deck, you can really control the game. Their creatures tapped to prevent their Plains from being destroyed, means they won’t be attacking and if you time it right, they’ll have to choose between blocking your army or losing their land.
The Goblins of Fallen Empires made the base set’s Goblin King rejoice! Goblin Flotilla has Islandwalk, Goblin Kites is an Enchantment that allows you to make your little 1/1 Goblins fly, with a coin flip to decide if they survive or fall to their death. Goblin War Drums, makes it so your opponent cannot block your creatures with fewer than two creatures each. This card would later be paired with Familiar Ground from Weatherlight, which states, “Each creature you control cannot be blocked by more than one creature” to make your entire army unblockable.
Goblin Warrens, like homarid Spawning Bed and Breeding Pit, allows for the mass creation of creatures. For two Colorless and one Red Mana, you have an Enchantment that for the same cost as it is to cast has “Sacrifice two Goblins to put three Goblin tokens into play. Treat these tokens as 1/1 red creatures.” So just keep sacrificing two Goblins at a time to put three out, over and over again. By the time you draw your second Goblin King, you’ll have a massive army of, not 1/1 Goblins but, 3/3 Goblins to pummel your opponent with.
But we still haven’t reached my favorite two Red cards in Fallen Empires. The first being Goblin Grenade. First off, if you don’t have this in your Goblin deck, then you’re doing it wrong and you’re not trying hard enough. Goblins are inherently cheap to cast and, with or without a Goblin Warrens, are very easy to mass into an army.
But without a Goblin King to boost them or any other kind of mass boost, your army is still just a bunch or 1/1 weenie Goblins. Enter Goblin Grenade. Whether you have a bigger army than your opponent or not, Goblin Grenade will allow you to smack them directly. For one Red Mana, Goblin Grenade is a Sorcery that says, “Sacrifice a Goblin to have Goblin Grenade deal 5 damage to one target.”
One Mana for 5 damage. Put four in your deck and it’s just a matter of time before you grenade them to death. Better yet, the grenade will also protect you from the pesky Shivan Dragons, Serra Angels and Sengir Vampires. Add in a Lightning Bolt and for two Red Mana and a sacrificed Goblin you can hit anything for 8 damage, your opponent or their Force of Nature.
The second of my two favorite Red cards in Fallen Empires is Orgg. For three Colorless and two Red Mana you get a 6/6 Trample. Sure, Orgg is dumb, “Orgg may not attack if opponent controls an untapped creature of power greater than 2. Orgg cannot be assigned to block any creature of power greater than 2,” but Orgg is cheap.
A combined mana cost of five is easy. With a Mana Vault, you can get Orgg out on turn two, turn three with a Sol Ring. A turn two or three Orgg is bound to annihilate your opponent and their army, think of the trample damage when it’s blocked by a mere 1/1!
Now the threat of an Orgg is great, especially when played early, because Red has Blood Lust from Legends and then came Stronghold’s Fling. I’ve only ever done it in game play twice, but a third turn Orgg with Blood Lust is a 10/2 Trample coming at you on turn four and if you can’t kill it that’s still pretty much the game when I sacrifice it to the Fling and hit you for 10 more damage.
The Color White in Fallen Empires: Townsfolk, Priests, Clerics and the Hand of Justice
Let’s go on a vacation, to a little Ication Town. The Icatian Town is a Sorcery that puts “4 Citizen tokens into play.” The Icatian Scout, Javelineers, Infantry and Priest are all fairly cheap and can help you amass that white weenie army you’ve always wanted. The Icatian Moneychanger will hurt you up front, with three damage when it comes into play, but it’s a way to gain life, as you will get those three life back plus interest. All of these White weenies are fast to cast, you can pretty much cast them when you draw them, which builds your army up for that Crusade you’re waiting to draw. But the Icatian Town and it’s folk are only part of the story.
The Farrelite Priest is a White copy of Initiates of the Ebon Hand and Order of Leitbur is a copy of Order of the Ebon Hand. As usual, anything Black can do, White can do. But it’s not all tit for tat with Black and weenie creatures.
The hand of Justice breaks the mold for White in Fallen Empires. It’s the White Royal Assassin, which costs a bit more at five Colorless and one White Mana, but it’s also stronger, as Royal Assassin is a mere 1/1, hand of Justice is a 2/6.
The Royal Assassin does the killing on his own, whereas with the hand of Justice, it’s “TAP: Tap three target white creatures you control to destroy target creature.” The bonus there being that the creature you want to destroy doesn’t have to be tapped, so just pick and choose among your opponents army.
One by one, they will fall. And the toughness of six, means that you’re safe from lightning bolts, unless they hit him with two. Drain Life, Disintegrate and Fireball will all be expensive, but if they have the Mana to kill hand of Justice, be happy they aren’t targeting you for six.
The Artifacts of Fallen Empires: The Power of Two
Of the 11 Artifacts in Fallen Empires, there are seven that relate to the power of two. Of those, five actually cost two Colorless Mana and the remaining two cost three Colorless Mana. The five that cost two all do something related to two when sacrificed. Aeolipile, deals 2 damage; Balm of Restoration, prevents 2 damage or lets you gain 2 life; Conch Horn, draw two cards and then put any one back on top of your library; Elven Lyre, +2/+2 until end of turn and Implements of Sacrifice, add two Mana of any one color to your mana pool. The two that cost three are Spirit Shield, tap to give a creature +0/+2 and Zeylon Sword, tap to give a creature +2/+0. Everything has to do with two. But that’s only seven of the 11 Artifacts.
The other four are interesting enough.
Delif’s Cone costs nothing, sacrifice it for “If target creature you control attacks and is not blocked, you may choose to gain its power in life. If you do so, it deals no damage to opponent this turn.” Delif’s Cube on the other hand costs one Colorless Mana and if you’re creature is unblocked you can have it deal no damage to put a counter on the cube. Pay two Colorless Mana and remove a counter from the cube to regenerate target creature.
Draconian Cylix costs three Colorless Mana and for a cost will let you discard a random card to regenerate a creature. Depending on the creature, you may want to hold onto your card and let the creature die. The Ring of Renewal has a high cost, it’s five Colorless Mana to cast and the same cost to use. For those five Mana you get to discard a random card to draw two cards. Really, if you’re going to use it, it’s going to be as a last resort and for that cost, I can’t see you putting it in your deck to begin with.
The artifacts of Fallen Empires, really aren’t of much consequence. That’s just the way I see it. Honestly, I can’t remember anyone using any of them except for Delif’s Cone, Implements of Sacrifice and Zelyon Sword, and then only on rare occasions.
What We Learned from Fallen Empires
In conclusion, Fallen Empires has a focus on creature creation; Breeding Pit, homarid Spawning Bed, Thallids, Goblin Warrens and Icatian Town. But there are plenty of big creatures to base your deck around and plenty of cards to create decks with unique combos.
The tribes within Fallen Empires have grown since. Goblins and Elves have huge stables of creatures built from other sets and Dwarves, Fungi, Orcs and Thrulls have all built up their own stable of creatures, as well. Tribal decks are a staple of deck building these days, but the concept of the tribes and tribal decks started way back, in November of 1994, with Fallen Empires.
The other legacies of Fallen Empires are Breeding Pit, hymn to Tourach, the storage lands and the sac lands. Plenty of cards have come since, based off of these, but there is nothing like the originals from the Fallen Empires set.