From the Vault: Angels

Posted in Feature on August 10, 2015

By Trick Jarrett

Patrick "Trick" Jarrett oversees web content and social media for Magic, and acts as the publisher of and Magic content on the web. He's an ardent Commander player and lover of the game he's played since Ice Age.

We've had a number of From the Vaults over the years. Dragons, relics, legends, and more. This year, we add one for one of the most popular creature types in Magic: Angels.

Over the years, Serra Angel has been printed with four different arts. However, only three of those arts have ever been tournament playable. Alpha's Serra Angel featured the art of Douglas Shuler and was one of the most iconic pieces of art in Magic's early days. We used that art up until Fourth Edition, when Serra Angel dropped out of the core sets until Seventh Edition, where it returned with new art—that time by Mark Zug. Then, four years later, we introduced new art by Greg Staples in Ninth Edition, which is the art that's been used ever since.

The fourth piece of art, though, was done back in 1996, very early in Magic's history. It was a piece of art done by Rebecca Guay, and has only ever been used in an oversized card that was included with a comic book we produced about Serra Angel. This art has never been printed in a playable size. Never, that is, until From the Vault: Angels.

We gave this card to a member of our community, Heather Lafferty (@RevisedAngel on Twitter), to preview. Heather is a positive force in the community and, as you might have guessed, an avid Angel fan.

While Serra Angel is perhaps the most iconic Angel in Magic, but there are many recognizable, popular, and beloved Angels—many of which are in From the Vault: Angels.

In Magic's Multiverse, angels are created beings. They don't exist naturally and they don't reproduce. Serra Angel was created by Serra on Dominaria, and Avacyn was created on Innistrad by Sorin. The latter was created to try and keep Innistrad's unusual ecosystem in balance, so that Sorin's vampire family would not find themselves suddenly without their next meal.

Another card you may have already seen is Tariel, Reckoner of Souls. This Mardu-colored Angel was created by Magic's Senior Brand Manager, Mark Purvis. He was responsible for creating the Commander deck in which Tariel first appeared.

When we first visited Zendikar, Magic players were introduced to Iona, Shield of Emeria. Emeria is one of the goddesses worshiped on Zendikar, and as we learned, her name is actually derived from the name of a terrifying Eldrazi titan: Emrakul. Although Iona protects the residents of Zendikar from many evils, the card's abilities do not allow it to actually defend against Emrakul's colorless wrath. And this new version of the card features never-before-seen art by Jason Chan.

I first joined Wizards of the Coast during the Innistrad block, and the first Pro Tour I attended as a Wizards employee was Pro Tour Avacyn Restored in Barcelona, Spain. It was a fantastic event and it featured some of the most exciting matches the Pro Tour has ever seen, thanks to the dramatic Miracles deck piloted by Alexander Hayne. One of the key miracle cards in his Pro Tour-winning deck was Entreat the Angels.

Baneslayer Angel was first printed in Magic 2010, and it was quite powerful. For the same casting cost of Serra Angel, you get a 5/5 with a host of abilities that make it a truly powerful card. And Baneslayer is strong enough in Commander that it is one of the staple creatures I almost always play when building a new white Commander deck.

It was on Mirrodin that we were introduced to our next Angel. Platinum Angel is a longtime favorite, featuring a unique game-breaking mechanic that says you can't lose the game (and for completeness, it also says your opponent's can't win the game). So even if you empty your library and are sitting at -2000 life, your game isn't over. At least, not until your opponents draw a removal spell for the Platinum Angel.

Drawn by the awesome rk post, Lightning Angel is in From the Vault: Angels. Lightning Angel is one of six angels rk post has drawn for Magic, and it's the only multicolored one. It originally appeared in Apocalypse, the final set of the Invasion block. And it was the first card ever printed that was red, white, and blue.

When we returned to Ravnica a few years ago, we were met with a lot of new faces. Time had passed and the game of power had kept being played, with names rising and falling in the ranking. When we left Ravnica, it was Razia, Boros Archangel who led the legion to maintain order and defend Ravnica. When we returned, it was Aurelia, the Warleader who had taken the top post. It was she who Gideon helped during his visit to the plane, as captured in "The Greater Good" by Adam Lee. Here's an excerpt:

Gideon looked at the neat, clean, empty model buildings, but he imagined the real plight of the people attempting to peacefully exist within a war zone. "So, it's contested turf. The innocent people living there must be paying a high price."

"Exactly," Aurelia said with heaviness in her tone. She looked at Gideon. "The innocent always pay the highest price. I would love to go in there with some Cinder Elementals and burn out every last Rakdos, Gruul, and Dimir, but unguilded Ravnicans have been living there for centuries in relative peace. Back then, it used to all be Azorius turf. But when the old Guildpact was broken. . ." Aurelia trailed off. "I won't bore you with a history lesson, Jura, but in the aftermath, the Azorius had to abandon the Ninth so they could rebuild New Prahv. Naturally, the Rakdos and Gruul pushed their way in and began brawling like oafs. Much of the Ninth was lost."

"And where was the Boros in all this?"

"I wasn't guildmaster, then." Aurelia's reply had a touch of cold steel to it. Gideon had hit a nerve. "We were led by a disgrace to the Legion. I watched as swaths of the Ninth slipped away. Its loss and other unforgivable blunders all but forced . . . a change . . . in guild leadership. Forgive me, Jura. I can still taste the bitterness of those times. Let me show you something."

Exalted Angel was originally printed in Onslaught. It's been reprinted since and is seen as one of the better Angels ever printed. It's perhaps most well-known for the promo that featured art by Rob Alexander, which we made to thank our judges. Now, From the Vault: Angels features new art by Tyler Jacobson.

One of my favorite things about Magic is learning new real-world words through the game. For example, asura is a Sanskrit word that refers to a group of mythological beings. So when you see the card "Jenara, Asura of War," you now know that Jenara is her name and "Asura of War" means that in Bant's mythology she is a being focused on . . . well, you can figure it out.

Another notable pair of angels, created by Ixidor, are the Akromas we revealed at San Diego Comic Con. Ixidor was an illusionist who lost everything after the murder of his wife, Nivea. In response, he created Akroma, Angel of Wrath in the likeness of his wife, with the mission of avenging his wife. Akroma, Angel of Fury came about in the alternate reality set of Planar Chaos, fueled by anger and tinged with red mana. As such, the newer Angel bears a fitting name and different abilities.

Archangel of Strife was introduced in Commander, and it features beautiful art by Greg Staples. I love the art, as it's so emblematic of the mechanics—a sword and a shield matching the choice you make as a player in choosing War or Peace.

The final card in From the Vault: Angels also features all-new art: Iridescent Angel. Ryan Alexander Lee delivers gorgeous art of an angel flying over a battlefield. Here's the art description for this new piece of art:

Show an angel in the middle of a dazzling sunburst of light. She is wearing plate armor and carries a shining axe. At the edges of the sunburst, we see a kaleidoscope of colors. On the ground below, we can see silhouettes of enemies who dared attack her recoiling in fear as they are engulfed in the rays of light.

Iridescent Angel | Art by Ryan Alexander Lee

From the Vault: Angels releases next week on August 21. Ask your local retailer if you can pre-order your copy today!

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