To give some context to the first few entries though, I thought I'd first show you an official, WotC-made timeline. We've already discussed the earliest one, from the Fourth Edition Players' Guide, but there is a far more detailed timeline out there. For years Wizards of the Coast kept stock of when their stories happened on their website, but around Onslaught block they lost interest in the specifics of the story, and from Mirrodin onwards the timeline was forgotten. Eventually they overhauled their website, and in the process the timeline was lost. Except it wasn't! Thanks to the miracle of the Internet Wayback Machine we can actually still find this timeline! Let's have a look at it. All dates are given in AR (Argivian Reckoning). 0 AR is the year Urza and Mishra were born.
This gives you a pretty good idea about when each set takes place. It is an increadibly important source for us storyline fanatics, since for many sets this is the only thing giving us a definitive date, or even just a general place on the timeline. Unfortunately it is not entirely without mistakes. I'll quickly go through those here.
- First there is the placement of "Urza's Saga (Argoth)" in 65. The green cards in Urza's Saga actually tell the ending of Antiquities in further detail, so them happening a year after Antiquities is just silly.
- Alliances happens in ~2900, while the Ice Age ends in 2934. I guess that's technically correct, if you interpret the "~" as "Give of take 100 years", but it's still a bit silly. Alliances is the sequel to Ice Age, so place it at ~2940 or something.
- The Mirage and Homelands entries give us an approximate span of years for those sets to take place, but in both cases the span doesn't really match up with the timelines we have of those sets. This probably has something to do with the fact that this timeline doesn't make clear what exactly it counts as "Mirage" or "Homelands" and what it counts as "The Backstory of Mirage" or "The History of Homelands". I'll go into more detail on those issues when I review the relevant stories.
For now I'll copy all dates from this timeline onto my own, except for the "Urza's Saga (Argoth)" and "Alliances" dates. As my project continues I'll refine unclear dates, like the ones of Mirage and Homelands. Also, since my project covers stories rather than sets, I'll eventually replace the sets with the accompanying story. So "Alliances" will eventually be replaced by "The Shattered Alliance", and "Tempest", "Stronghold" and "Exodus" by "Rath and Storm".