Ice Age was the eleventh Magic: The Gathering set and the sixth expert level set, released in June 1995. Set in the years from 450 to 2934 AR, the set describes a world set in perpetual winter due to the events in Antiquities.
As Ice Age was the first "stand-alone" expansion set, the designers believed that some "staple" cards from the basic set and expansions should be in the set. Thus, the set was also the first expansion set (aside from the Mountain misprint) to reprint cards. Staple cards like Swords to Plowshares, Giant Growth, Counterspell, and Dark Ritual, as well as popular older cards like Icy Manipulator were reprinted in Ice Age. Also, many cards were functional reprints of already-printed cards; that is, aside from the name (and possibly the creature type), these cards were identical to cards in other sets. Examples include Fyndhorn Elves, a functional reprint of Llanowar Elves; Zuran Spellcaster, a functional reprint of Prodigal Sorcerer; and Order of the White Shield and Knight of Stromgald, functional reprints of the "pump knights" from Fallen Empires.
Another new mechanic introduced in Ice Age was Cumulative Upkeep. This was a way to get better effects for a cheaper price; however, a player had to keep paying more and more each turn to keep that card in play. Although cumulative upkeep did not have a large impact on the game, similar mechanics (such as Urza's Saga's Echo and Nemesis's Fading) that were born of cumulative upkeep were successful. An interesting note is that cumulative upkeep uses counters to keep track of the "upkeep". This meant that the cumulative upkeep mechanic potentially becomes a source of counters which could be used to feed cards like "Chisei, Heart of Oceans".
Cantrips were also introduced in Ice Age. This mechanic is based on effects that had so little effect on gameplay, that they weren't worth a card. By adding the "draw a card" clause on these cards, players replaced the card and the effect became more interesting. These mechanics were later reused in many ways.
Ice Age was also the first set to have legendary permanents of a single color. In Legends, the first, and until Ice Age, the only set with Legendary permanents, they were either lands, or were at least two colors. For the sake of argument Enchant Worlds are not considered to be legendary in this case even though rules forbid more than one in play at a time. This was due to the designers of Legends wanting these legendary permanents to be more exotic than regular permanents. By the time Ice Age was developed, this stance was softened, and the single-color legends Marton Stromgald and General Jarkeld were printed.
Zuran Orb — This card also allowed a tradeoff; in this case, a player traded lands for life. This, combined with a casting cost of 0, made this card a staple in many decks, including the Necro deck (where a player could trade the lands for life, and then the life for more cards), and the Ernhamgeddon deck (where a player could trade the lands for life instead of having them be destroyed by Armageddon). Another way to abuse the Zuran Orb was to sacrifice lands to it in response to playing "Balance". Most competitive tournament decks played at least one Zuran Orb, including Tom Chanpheng's deck that won the 1996 World Championship. The Zuran Orb's power was such that it eventually had to be restricted; though that restriction has since been lifted in the wake of more powerful modern cards.
Illusions of Grandeur — This card was thought of as generally pointless when Ice Age came out, but became the kill condition for the Trix deck when Urza block rolled into town. Donated to an opponent and fueling the Bargain, this card made a combo deck possible that could both win on turn three (when not interrupted) and substantially disrupt opponents' strategies.
Incinerate — Not quite a functional reprint of Lightning Bolt, this red damage card added to red's already substantial arsenal of "burn": Instant and sorcery spells that dealt direct damage either to players or creatures. In fact, it would replace Lightning Bolt in 5th Edition when that spell was deemed too powerful. Ironically, Incinerate itself would be replaced by Stronghold's Shock in 6th Edition when Incinerate was also deemed too powerful. However, it has been reprinted in 2007's 10th Edition.
Jester's Cap — This artifact is used once to remove three cards in the opponent's library from the game. Though by itself, this does nothing to directly hurt the opponent, if their deck contains three or fewer actual win conditions, the deck strategy is rendered useless. This is most often effective in Type 1, where combo decks such as Tendrils and Oath of Druids, have only very few cards that actually win the game, and the rest of the deck is nothing but an engine to get these key win cards into play.
Brainstorm — This is one of the most versatile and widely used draw spells in every format where it has been legal. Even though it does not actually profit any cards, it expands the player's options by three, and lets them return the worst two out of their whole hand. Combined with effects that shuffle away the unwanted cards (such as Onslaught fetch-lands), Brainstorm is very valuable way to improve one's hand. As of June 20th, 2008 Brainstorm is restricted in Vintage, however, it remains legal in Legacy.
Demonic Consultation - A ´tutor´ effect card that wasn't used much at first (only in some Necro decks). It lead to one of the most infamous plays in Magic history, where Mark Justice lost the deciding game of the Magic: the Gathering championships. In response to an Armageddon, he played 2 consecutive Consultations for ´Dark Ritual´ in order to play out the Ihsan's Shade he had in hand. It backfired, leaving him with an almost empty library. The card became quite unpopular, only to resurface in Hatreddecks. Later, it became a staple searchcard for many combodecks, like PandeNought, Trix and CocoaPebbles. To keep combodecks in check, it was banned by the DCI in most formats.