CGC Trading Cards Shines a Light on Magic: The Gathering's Most Iconic Dragon

Posted on 7/24/2020

The enduringly popular Shivan Dragon has won many battles and inspired countless collections.

Since Magic: The Gathering’s inception in the early 1990s, dragons have been a key species throughout the game. The most iconic, and arguably most valuable, of the hundreds of different dragon cards created over the years is the Shivan Dragon. This 5/5 flyer was immediately favored by players and collectors when it debuted in the first packs of the 1993 Limited Edition Set, and it continues to be highly prized today.

At the time of its release, the Shivan Dragon was simply a force to be reckoned with, for if left unchecked, the card would end a game in short order. Indeed, the Shivan Dragon proved so popular that the card has been reprinted over 20 times in subsequent sets.

While perhaps unfair in the early days of Magic, the Shivan Dragon is now quite balanced with creatures from current sets. The preferred home for this beast today is within old-school, casual play and also in sealed formats, where it is nearly always a windmill slam pick in a booster draft when on color.

A Shivan Dragon 1993 Limited Edition Alpha card and Limited Edition Beta card.
Click images to enlarge.

Values for the different Shivan Dragon editions can vary wildly with the Limited Edition Alpha card being worth over $15,000 in Gem Mint. The subsequent Beta card brings upwards of $5,000 in the same condition. Many Magic collectors have gone the route of a dragon theme, and the Shivan Dragon is almost always the card that inspires them to do so.

More than 200 different dragon cards have been produced by the research and development team at Wizards of the Coast, and often they find their way into tier one competitive decks in tournament play. Although so many iterations have been presented, the Shivan Dragon remains the most-recognized and sought-after face of them all.

A Shivan Dragon 1993 Unlimited Edition and 1994 Revised Edition.
Click images to enlarge.

The original Shivan Dragon artwork by Melissa Benson carried the card through the end of the 20th century and is by far the most coveted. In 2001, it was replaced by a Donato Giancola illustration in the Seventh Edition release. Donato's rendition is found on all subsequent sets, with just a single outlier: a collector-themed release titled "From the Vault: Dragons.” The “From the Vault” card was treated to new artwork, like most other cards from the collector-oriented sets, and illustrated by Justin Sweet.

The most recent printing of the Shivan Dragon was in the Core Set 2020. It was then omitted from the recently released Core Set 2021. We look forward to the next iteration of the Shivan Dragon with newer sets featuring stunning alternate art and borderless variants, which would certainly be welcomed on such an iconic card.


CGC Trading Cards provides expert and impartial authentication, grading and encapsulation services for virtually all Pokémon TCG and Magic: The Gathering cards. Its graders use a highly accurate, industry-standard 10-point grading scale and evaluate cards using advanced equipment, including devices that perform ultra-microscopic inspections and precisely calculate centering. After cards have been authenticated and graded, they are encapsulated in the CGC Trading Cards holder, which combines crystal-clear optics and advanced archival materials for the best in display and protection. Learn more at

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