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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Jul 21 2015 11:00am
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It's been a while since my last article—I know I promised my Modern Masters 3 design before my hiatus, but my editor has decided that it would be best if my reprint set design articles show up only when the sets have officially been announced (or are obviously coming, such as with GP TBA being announced late last year). Rest assured, my development of all my main reprint sets (currently just MMA3 and Masques Remastered) continues slowly in the background, and presumably my articles will return to a regular pace once we enter reprint set season again.
 
However, that's in the far future. Instead, let's focus on something coming in about a month (at least in paper Magic): From the Vault: Angels. The From the Vault sets are a collection of a small number of cards (usually 15) based around a theme. This theme can be simple to understand (dragons, legendary creatures) or very abstract (FTV: Exiled's theme was cards that had been previously banned). Thankfully for anyone trying to predict the set, FTV: Angels falls on the concrete side of the scale. As such, aided by the two recent reveals at San Diego Comic-Con, I now have a basis to predict what will be in the collection.
 
Before I start to predict the contents of the box, let's take a look at two previous From the Vault sets to get a basis of the kinds of cards that are in these collections. The first set to look at is the one with the closest theme to the upcoming set: FTV: Dragons.
 
Bladewing the Risen Bogardan Hellkite Draco Dragon Whelp Dragonstorm Ebon Dragon Form of the Dragon Hellkite Overlord Kokusho, the Evening Star Nicol Bolas Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind Rith, the Awakener Shivan Dragon Thunder Dragon Two-Headed Dragon
 
Even as a first attempt, we can see most of the hallmarks that would come to define the From the Vault sets. We can see a lot of classic cards like Shivan Dragon, even if those cards aren't the most desirable. All the colors are covered with cards like Nicol Bolas, Rith, the Awakener, and Draco, even though most dragons are red. Portal-era cards are represented with Ebon Dragon and Thunder Dragon, allowing those rare cards to enter circulation. And finally, not everything is literally a dragon, as both Dragonstorm and Form of the Dragon fit flavorfully in a collection of Dragons. While not everything was a hit (notably Dragon Whelp and Two-Headed Dragon), we can see the foundation of things to come.
 
Next, we have the most recent set: From the Vault: Annilhation:
 
Armageddon Burning of Xinye Cataclysm Child of Alara Decree of Annihilation Firespout Fracturing Gust Living Death Martial Coup Rolling Earthquake Smokestack Terminus Upheaval  Wrath of God
 
As the From the Vault sets have evolved, they have become mostly tailored to a specific demographic: cube players. Even so, a balance must be reached with the cards in the set. In the case of destruction spells, there are a lot of different choices—color, card type, and permanent destroyed are all different on each of the spells. In addition, Wizards continues to reprint Portal-era cards; Rolling Earthquake, Burning of Xinye, and Virtue's Ruin are all cards only from the Portal sets, and Virtue's Ruin is even new to MTGO! Another trend that's a bit more subtle is that most of the cards had only been printed in their original set prior to their FTV printing (at least in paper). When we see this with older cards (such as Cataclysm and Smokestack), it leads to another desirable aspect for FTV printings: a first printing in foil.
 
Now that we have our bearings on how From the Vault sets are constructed, we can start to build the set. Before we start putting it together, let's recap what we know about the set, mostly from the announcement arcana:
 
  1. The set has fifteen cards total, five of which have new art.
  2. One of the new pieces of art is this picture.
  3. Both Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Akroma, Angel of Fury were revealed at Comic-Con, and both have new art.
Compared to some of the themes, there are relatively few cards that can be in the set. According to Gatherer (and including some overlap)
  • 115 cards have the creature type "Angel"
  • 72 cards have "angel" in their rules text (98, but 28 have "Changeling"
  • 120 cards have "Angel" in their name (this has a lot of overlap)
This isn't a completely comprehensive list (for instance, Akroma's Memorial isn't included), but it's a good starting point. Let's start the list!
 
Akroma, Angel of Wrath Akroma, Angel of Fury Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Both of these were confirmed above, but I'm including them here for completeness. White Akroma was always a lock, and Red Akroma makes sense when considering color balance.
 
Another obvious selection, the only question with Avacyn is whether it gets new art or not. My thought is that it will not, since there was recently a new Avacyn art on Avacyn, Guardian Angel (even if it isn't the same card).
 
Linvala, Keeper of Silence Serra Angel Twilight Shepherd
This is our Modern pick—my Modern Masters 3 design had to decide between Archangel of Thune and Linvala, Keeper of Silence, and since Linvala wasn't in MM2015, I am assuming it is here.
 
Another obvious selection under the "Shivan Dragon" category; hopefully the art isn't a disappointment.
 
This is the art from the announcement, and honestly, this card wouldn't be that spectacular otherwise.
 
Angel of Finality Entreat the Angels Serra Avenger
This is a pick I haven't seen much of, but it works well on two axes. First of all, it's one of the cheaper angels at only 3W. Secondly, since it was only printed in Commander 2013, this would be the first foil printing for Angel of Finality.
 
The "mass angel token producer" slot is another obvious slot, but there are a lot of choices; Devout Invocation, Decree of Justice, and Luminarch Ascension are all contenders for this slot. In the end, Decree of Justice just got new art in Duel Decks: Elspeth vs Kiora, letting Entreat the Angels pull ahead (though Decree of Justice probably was losing the slot anyway—what are all these soldiers doing in FTV: Angels?)
 
The cheapest angel available (outside of Mothdust Changeling), it also has a small price—that's surprising considering it has only been printed twice and is Legacy-playable.
 
Maelstrom Archangel Gabriel Angelfire Iridescent Angel
In terms of color balance, this is one of the easier choices, and it hasn't been printed since Conflux. I'm not sure about this one at all, though—in fact, it's actually in my current MMA3 design, and it's a big question mark there as well (as it obviously doesn't need to be in both).
 
This is one of my more out-there picks, and it's actually one I'm most sure of—it's a classic legend, a first-time foil (and modern border to boot), and it helps fill out my color balance. Of course, this could be something like Sigarda, Host of Herons, but that's boring!
 
Here's the blue angel for the set, and it's a first-time modern border as well. Bruna, Light of Alabaster is certainly a better card overall for the slot, but I want a wide range of timeframes for my selections, and in particular I don't want to overload the set with cards from Avacyn Restored.
 
Tariel, Reckoner of Souls Angelic Destiny Platinum Angel
This ends up being the black angel of the set, even if it's red as well. It ends up being the best pick out of a surprisingly limited pool—there have only been nine black angels total, and unfortunately Selenia, Dark Angel, the obvious pick for the slot at first glance, is on the Reserved List. Still, this is a legend and first-time foil, so it isn't a bad choice.
 
Here is the enchantment representative, and the choices are surprisingly slim—after Sigil of the Empty Throne (an obvious choice for the slot) was reprinted in Magic Origins, the only practical choices are Angelic Destiny and Luminarch Ascension, and I feel the card that turns a creature into an angel is the better choice for the set.
 
The artifact representation for the set (unless you want something like Copper-Leaf Angel or Moonsilver Spear), this is another obvious choice—though what did surprise me was the price. Did you know this had climbed back above $8? I remember back when it had been printed in M11 and it had dropped all the way down to around $2 after being printed in three straight core sets.
 
Now that I've picked out fifteen reasonable choices, let's do a price check to make sure I didn't just hand out $500 bills to the lucky people who manage to order the set at MSRP:
Card Original Set Paper MTGO
Akroma, Angel of Wrath LGN/TSP/DDC $7.00 0.4
Akroma, Angel of Fury PLC/CMD $5.00 0.5
Avacyn, Angel of Hope AVR $35.00 7
Linvala, Keeper of Silence ROE $35.00 10
Serra Angel too many to list $0.50 0
Twilight Shepherd SHM/DDE/C14 $0.50 0
Angel of Finality C13 $1.00 2.7
Entreat the Angels AVR $9.00 13.6
Serra Avenger TSP/M13 $1.50 0
Maelstrom Archangel CON $11.00 2.1
Gabriel Angelfire LEG/CHR $0.50 0
Iridescent Angel ODY $1.50 0.2
Tariel, Reckoner of Souls CMD $8.50 2.2
Angelic Destiny M12 $7.00 2.4
Platinum Angel MRD/10E/M10/M11 $8.00 2
Total   $131.00 43.1
As you can see, Avacyn, Angel of Hope and Linvala, Keeper of Silence make the overall package very top-heavy, but that's generally how From the Vault sets end up. In addition, cards like Angel of Finality and Iridescent Angel allowed the set to have some interesting "duds", and the $130 paper value is a decent ending point compared to previous collections. If it's still contains too much value for Wizards's taste, the easiest change to make is to swap out Linvala, Keeper of Silence for Restoration Angel, which knocks almost $30 from the paper value. Similarly replacing Angel of Finality with Restoration Angel adds a bit more value if Wizards wants to avoid the relative disappointment of FTV: Annihilation.
 
Looking at things I wish I could have included in my version of From the Vault: Angels, the biggest disappointment is that I don't have any Portal-era cards in the set. The problem is that there are no good options—the only unique angels are Angel of Fury (not a good choice with Akroma, Angel of Fury in the set), Angel of Light (boring, and redundant with Serra Angel), and Starlit Angel (strictly worse than Serra Angel, and even being Rebecca Guay art on a new-to-MTGO card can't make up for that). Another new-to-MTGO card I thought about printing was Guardian Angel, but it felt a little too weird, and I would have needed one of my precious pieces of new art for it. As for Constructed-playable cards, other than Restoration Angel, the two biggest missing cards are Baneslayer Angel and Geist of Saint Traft, but the former is low enough it could fit in a Commander deck and the latter fits better in a Modern Masters set. If you're interested in more honorable mentions, I've posted my notes for this design here.
 
Designing a From the Vault set is a much different experience than designing a normal reprint set. On one hand, you don't really have to playtest a From the Vault (though I'm surprised I haven't seen an actual draft of FTV sets yet), and there are many fewer slots to fill. On the other hand, you have to cram so much into those slots, and have relatively few options to choose from, so the pressure is there to find the "right" answer. Overall, even though I don't know if there's much iteration to do on the set (like I would on a normal set), I feel it was worth an article on the design.
 
As I mentioned above, I don't know when I'll be back with my next article. As of now, assuming no new reprint sets are announced (like a Remastered set), I think my next article series might be something on the Commander decks—assuming the theme of the decks is revealed at the PAX Prime panel, my next article would show up sometime in late August or early September.
 
Vincent
@CheaterHater1 on Twitter

5 Comments

The spoiled art is Avian by Flippers_Giraffe at Tue, 07/21/2015 - 11:28
Flippers_Giraffe's picture

The spoiled art is Avian ChANGELing, yep spelled like that on the card apparently. But I don't think its real as it missing the Wizards copyright bottom right.

Akroma, Angel of Fury

Akroma, Angel of Wrath

Um, it's spelled like as a by longtimegone at Tue, 07/21/2015 - 15:43
longtimegone's picture

Um, it's spelled like as a joke, to capitalize Angel, given the whole from the vault angels speculation right now.

FTV: Angels Product Shot Update by Cheater Hater at Wed, 07/22/2015 - 11:30
Cheater Hater's picture

I knew I was on a bit of a time crunch to get the article out, but I didn't expect the product shot so soon. It reveals three cards: Akroma, Angel of Wrath (already known), Avacyn, Angel of Hope (correct, and without new art--perfect!), and Iona, Shield of Emeria (new art). That last one is the most surprising, and it makes it even more confusing why Linvala, Keeper of Silence wasn't in MM15--even with new art, Iona doesn't need a lot of printings (especially since it's one of the more casual-unfriendly cards). While Iona easily slots in for Linvala in the Modern slot, the art is a much bigger question. Both Serra Angel and Gabriel Angelfire really want new art, so that leaves me with two choices:
1. Keep Gabriel Angelfire with new art, and Serra Angel becomes the original art, in modern border for the first time.
2. Keep Serra Angel with new art, and replace Gabriel Angelfire with Sigarda, Host of Herons

I have a feeling they're going to go with the second option--it's probably the better option for the value of the set (as well as keeping their current vision of angels), but it means there isn't any unique card they can use to sell the set.

You know Serra actually has by Paul Leicht at Thu, 07/23/2015 - 15:09
Paul Leicht's picture

You know Serra actually has 3 different images from its many incarnations and Gabriel Angelfire I'd argue for having iconic art (from Legends) so I would not expect new art from either. Now replacing Gabriel with a playable (read modern) angel like Sigarda is certainly sensible but WOTC's choices in these vault sets tend to be inscrutable to say the least.

When I assumed Serra Angel by Cheater Hater at Sat, 07/25/2015 - 00:34
Cheater Hater's picture

When I assumed Serra Angel would have new art, the analog is Shivan Dragon in FTV: Dragons. Gabriel Angelfire needs new art because they probably would have to pay again for the old art regardless (since the payment structure was different way back then), and Wizards generally doesn't reprint such old art.

I'll admit Sigarda might be the "right" choice based on card availability/secondary value, but I feel that the cards need to span a wide range of time, and this set would be lacking in that, especially since there aren't any practical Portal cards to reprint.