I love legends. There's just something extra appealing to me about Magic cards that represent specific characters. For today's preview card, I'm going to introduce you to a card with a long and illustrious pedigree, whose story I am happy to say I was involved with for most of my career at Wizards of the Coast.
Our story begins with another story. Well, that isn't exactly right. Our preview article begins with another preview article. It's a preview article in the form of a story. "Preview Article: Mikaeus, the Unhallowed" by Jenna Helland. This tale introduced us to the squabbling Cecani siblings, Gisa and Geralf, necromancers who have very different approaches to making zombies. Storyline fans immediately latched onto the characters and were shocked when they didn't appear as legendary creatures in the original Innistrad block (Innistrad, Dark Ascension, and Avacyn Restored). This was simply a matter of Jenna inventing some appealing characters while writing her preview article, but by that time, Avacyn Restored was finished.
Soon after that, I led the Vision Design team for Commander (2014 Edition). One of the new features I wanted to introduce was legendary creature cards representing throwback characters from earlier stories or flavor text. For the full story, see my article "A Love Letter to Vorthos." We wanted to include characters from various time periods, and Gisa and Geralf came up as characters to make who would appeal to more recent Magic fans. We made a Gisa who would be happy to chop a zombie in half to make two zombies, and a Geralf who preferred to sew several zombies together to make a bigger zombie.
The throwback characters turned out to be popular with players, so much so that we used the concept in several later Commander products, as well as sets like Modern Horizons.
A few years later, when we returned to Innistrad in Shadows over Innistrad block, we thought it would be fun to bring Gisa and Geralf back in a Standard-legal set. We put them in Eldritch Moon, the second set of the block, because Zombies were a thematic element that we wanted to play up there. Liliana Vess was going to raise an army of zombies to fight the hordes of Eldrazi that had invaded the plane. It made sense that Gisa and Geralf would want to join in the fun. For this version, we put both characters on the same card, as they had managed to briefly put aside their differences to team up against the Eldrazi. Mechanically, this card is a fun build-around for a Zombie-themed deck.
Right around the time that I handed Innistrad: Midnight Hunt off to the Set Design team (I led the Vision Design team), we decided to shuffle our release schedule around a bit, and added another Innistrad set, right after the first. Ian Duke (who co-led the Set Design team) and I thought that it would be fun to put a new Gisa card in one set and a new Geralf card in the other. The symmetry was appealing, and as the two leads of Commander (2014 Edition), we both had soft spots in our hearts for the two characters.
As you can see, the new Gisa raises your opponent's creatures from the dead. As ever, Gisa doesn't care about the quality of her work; these undead creatures have the decayed keyword, meaning they won't last long. Of course, an enterprising necromancer will find ways to make sure that nothing goes to waste
As for Gisa's brother, you'll have to wait and see what he's been up to!
I hope you enjoy our latest outing in the spooky land of Innistrad! Have fun!