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The novels have existed basically since the beginning, though tying them to a set may not have been there at the start. But if not, it was still very, very near the beginning, with the Weatherlight saga.

I both played and read Invasion through Fifth Dawn, and while the quotes never appeared verbatim, some of them could be pinned down to specific events. One of my favorite easter eggs was learning that the Blind Seer from Invasion [0] was actually Urza in disguise... which fits that flavor text perfectly.

[0] https://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/details.aspx?name=Bl...

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