Limited Edition Alpha Collation

Limited Edition Alpha is the first printing of the original Limited Edition set. For historical reasons and because there are more than the usual differences between printings, Alpha and Beta are often regarded as different sets. Alpha is a core set with 74 commons, 95 uncommons, 116 rares, and two variations of each standard basic land. The printing was done in Belgium.

Beta was sold in 15 card booster packs and 60 card starter decks. Booster boxes had 36 packs and deck boxes had 10 decks.[1]

Pack Anatomy

Alpha uses striped collation with 11 × 11 sheets. The rarity ordering and orientation of packs and starters for old products can be inconsistent. Observed booster packs are back-facing with common-uncommon-rare ordering. The cards may be upside down. Basic lands appear on all the print sheets, so they can take the place of a common, uncommon, or rare card.

11 Commons3 Uncommons1 Rare

Observed starter decks have rare-uncommon-common ordering. They have 60 cards with 2 rares, 13 uncommons, and 45 commons. They may be front-facing or back-facing, and the cards may be upside down. Decks will have both an outer seal and an inner seal. Starter decks also include a rulebook which is inserted between the uncommons and commons.

2 Rares13 UncommonsRulebook45 Commons

The uncommon and rare sheets for Alpha are not known exactly, but the evidence from pack openings is consistent with the popular theory that they are basically the same as the Beta sheets. The most notable difference is the absence of Circle of Protection: Black and Volcanic Island that were added for Beta. Beta also added a third art variation for each basic land, but it appears that positions were not changed — only some of the existing lands were changed to the new art. There is, however, an exception to this on the common sheet where analysis of pack openings has revealed that the land to the left of Circle of Protection: Black is also different.

The common sheet has 9 Plains, 10 Islands, 9 Swamps, 9 Mountains, and 10 Forests. The uncommon sheet (if it matches the Beta sheet) has 6 Plains, 2 Islands, 6 Swamps, 6 Mountains, and 6 Forests. The rare sheet, anecdotally, just has 5 Islands (which would match the Beta sheet except for the Volcanic Island). If we take Plains, Swamps, and Mountains as the standard, then Islands are Forests are overprinted. The exact amount of overprinting depends on the rarity ratios which are different between boosters and starter decks. Either way, Islands are just barely overprinted and Forests are slightly more significant.

Common Sheet

There is a single sheet that prints each common card once. The remaining spaces are filled by basic lands. As noted, the sheet layout is almost the same as the Beta sheet. It has been reconstructed by observing pack openings (and cross-referencing with the known Beta sheet).

SwampHowl from BeyondMountainLightning BoltForestGiant SpiderPlainsDeath WardUnsummonIslandSea Serpent
SinkholeSwampFrozen ShadeSwampMountainShatterHill GiantWar MammothWall of WoodForestGiant Growth
PlainsForestBenalish HeroPlainsIslandTwiddlePower SinkFearSwampPlague RatsDark Ritual
False OrdersMountainRed Elemental BlastIronclaw OrcsLlanowar ElvesScryb SpritesForestPlainsGuardian AngelCircle of Protection: BluePlains
Power LeakProdigal SorcererIslandJumpUnholy StrengthDrudge SkeletonsSwampMountainMons's Goblin RaidersFireballMountain
TranquilityIronroot TreefolkForestWild GrowthPlainsHealing SalveCircle of Protection: RedInvisibilityIslandIslandCreature Bond
ParalyzeTerrorSwampScathe ZombiesFirebreathingDwarven WarriorsMountainForestStream of LifeGrizzly BearsForest
Holy ArmorPlainsMesa PegasusCircle of Protection: WhiteSpell BlastIslandMerfolk of the Pearl TridentSwampPestilenceSwampRaise Dead
MountainHurloon MinotaurDisintegrateMountainRegenerationForestShanodin DryadsPearled UnicornPlainsDisenchantHoly Strength
IslandPhantasmal TerrainBlue Elemental BlastIslandDrain LifeSwampWeaknessEarthbindMountainGray OgreStone Rain
FogForestCraw WurmForestSamite HealerPlainsCircle of Protection: GreenIslandPsychic VenomFlightIsland

[1] These box sizes are reported by Crystal Keep. I haven't seen boxes of Alpha product, but these numbers match up with later products.