Since it’s inception, Magic has been a game of collectible cards. Throughout the years Wizards has made sure to cater to this small but important section of their consumer-base. Some decisions, like the reserved list, have been short-sighted, while others, like premium cards and promos, have been generally a good idea. One idea, however, began as a great boxed set, but has since grown into a bit of a perennial joke. Today we look at From the Vault.

Collecting Magic Cards

Collecting cards has always been a key component of Magic the Gathering. From the earliest days of the game, players traded for the rarest cards such as Black Lotus and for powerful cards like Dual Lands. As the game grew, collecting evolved. The earliest collectibles were promotional cards that you could only get at conventions or by mailing in coupons from books. Arena and Mana Crypt were both highly sought after book promos.


The foiling process really changed the promotional and collectible world. Now collectors could find special premium versions of normal cards. Additionally, premium promotional cards were released as prizes for Friday Night Magic, Arena League, and the Magic Player Rewards program. A few more programs were added including the Judge promos and GURU. Some of these programs changed, and some disappeared, but collecting has remained an integral part of Magic.

From the Vault

All of this brings us to From the Vault. In the late 2000’s Wizards started creating a few different boxed sets which were aimed at the collector community directly. The first of these was the Duel Decks series in 2007. There have been two Duel Decks released since 2009 and the product has been wildly successful at targeting the casual collectors. An anthology reprinting the first four sets will be released later this year.

The second experiment was From the Vault in 2008 and the third was the Premium Deck Series which began in 2009 and ended in 2011. Both of these featured a completely foiled product. The latter was a full 60-card deck foiled out. That didn’t go over very well, but did provide some very nice foils of cards that previously could not be found in foil version. The decks weren’t competitive and didn’t appeal to any specific group. The foils were not of any particularly high-demand or hard-to-find cards. So the product sold poorly and was discontinued.

From the Vault: Dragons premiered at GenCon in 2008 and came on the scene along the same time as both the Cube and Commander formats became more popular. The fifteen dragons in the box set included five legends and several iconics such as Shivan Dragon and Form of the Dragon. The appeal was widespread as this was a unique offering.

The strength of a set like From the Vault is in the reprinting of cards that are in high demand. The second set, From the Vault: Exiled, featured many stellar cards from Magic’s past including Berserk, Lotus Petal, Mystical Tutor, Strip Mine, and Tinker. None of those cards had previously been offered in foil form.

The trend of reprinting powerful format staples in Cube, Commander, and eternal formats continued for many years. In year three we received Aether Vial, Memory Jar, Mox Diamond, and Sol Ring. Year four had Kiki-Jiki, Progenitus, and Ulamog (a bit of a down year). Year five provided Maze of Ith, Ancient Tomb, Forbidden Orchard, and Grove of the Burnwillows. Year six was a blockbuster with 20 total cards including Dark Ritual, Hymn to Tourach, Swords to Plowshares, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

So, when this year’s Annihilation set was announced, expectations were high. Unfortunately, the execution fell short.


Let’s cut to the chase. Everyone and their mother was expecting Damnation to be in this box. Instead, we got Virtue’s Ruin, which I didn’t even know was a real card until I saw this list. Another highly anticipated card was Living End, which has risen to solid Tier 1.5 status in Modern. Instead, we got it’s completely unplaid ancestor, Living Death.

The only tournament playable cards in the box are Firespout, Smokestack, and Terminus. None of these are particularly highly sought-after. Terminus was printed very recently and didn’t get new art. Firespout is only played in some sideboards. Anyone playing Smokestack spent a billion dollars on the rest of their deck, so okay, they’ll finally get foil Smokestacks.

Instead, we got new versions of Armageddon and Wrath of God. On paper, these two cards had already been printed an incredible 27 times (12 for Armageddon and 15 for Wrath). These cards are incredibly easy to acquire. In fact, foil promo versions of these cards are easy to acquire. So their inclusion in From the Vault in no way serves any members of the community.

Finally, there are some portal reprints. Namely Burning of Xinye and Rolling Earthquake. These are okay cards but they’re not exactly in high demand. Even in Cube and Commander where they see some play, people haven’t been clamoring to acquire them. The portal versions are likely going to remain the highly sought-after collectible version of these cards.

So what was the point of this box? It seems like a huge step backwards in what has otherwise been a wildly successful product. Gavin Verhey was in charge of putting this set together and we get the impression that he tried to bring it in 15 different directions. But mostly, the purpose of the product has shifted from reprinting cards that are in high demand, to just reprinting cards for the sake of reprinting them. Many of the cards in Annihilation had never been reprinted before, but perhaps there’s a reason for that.

Let’s hope next year is a return to the high quality we’ve come to expect from this annual collectible offering. Otherwise it will soon go the way of the Premium Deck Series.

Pro Tour Update

Top 25 Update

The team tournament in Portland last week had a fairly minimal impact on the top rankings. The big changes were (7) Yuuya Watanabe moving up four spaces and (15) Eric Froehlich moving up a whopping eight spaces. Also, previously unranked (21) Ben Friedman moved onto the list. Paying the price were Martin Juza, Raphael Levy, and Shahar Shenhar who all dropped out of the rankings.

The Quick Hits

  • Casual magic aficionado Abe Sargent takes a casual look at the reserved list, a.k.a. in hindsight the worst decision Wizards ever made [Gathering Magic]
  • Glenn Jones presents an in-depth look at the new PTQ system which will debut in December [StarCityGames]
  • Ignoring the slightly out-dated name of this column, Yo MTG Taps shares a very personal story about their own struggles with depression, in light of the passing of Robin Williams [Legit MTG]
  • Carrie Oliver helps out with those of you who may be worried about earning an unwanted disqualification at your next tournament [Carrie On]
  • Corbin Hosler provides some quick tips on how to deal with a shady store owner [Quiet Speculation]
  • Jason Alt looks at a handful of Magic-inspired tattoos though he does not feel up to getting one himself [Quiet Speculation]
  • Wizards was kind enough to spoil a few cards from Khans and Commander 2014 at this year’s Gamescom convention [Quiet Speculation]
  • Apparently the Community Cup is still a real thing and the formats were announced this week [DailyMTG]

Wallpaper of the Week

Finally a sweet piece of artwork for our desktops. Courtesy of From the Vault: Annihilation comes this newly envisioned Firespout. The savage twister of flames really captures the spirit of unbridled destruction that Firespout represents. A few more creatures getting scorched would have been sweet, but all-in-all this is a nice change and a great piece of art.

Grade: B+

The Week Ahead

With last week’s WMCQ tournaments behind us and the second round in the distance, we’ll have two Grand Prix tournaments next week. The first will come to us from Kobe, Japan where the format will be Modern constructed. Meanwhile, Magic 2015 limited will be the format in nearby Sydney, Australia. The two tournaments, separated by 7,800 kilometers will be the last Grand Prix events that feed Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir. Don’t miss any of the live coverage of GP Kobe and the text coverage of GP Sydney.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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