Hello and welcome, players, collectors, and other fans of Magic: The Gathering, Wizards of the Coast's premier trading card game! For a few weeks now, we have covered many series of the game's Vanguard supplemental releases in paper. In that time we have divided these various series into two parts apiece, and today, we are going to look at the first part of Series 4, the final installment in the overall release. We have been hinting that Series 4 is the most costly of the four releases to get a complete set of, and for good reason. However, that point won't be 100% apparent until Series 4, Part 2. That being said, let's just get right into Part 1!
According to the fan-driven MTG Wiki website, Ashnod was Mishra's student and apprentice around the time of the Brothers' War, and served as a foil to Tawnos, Urza's apprentice. It was Ashnod who gave Urza the Golgothian Sylex during the Battle of Argoth.
Ashnod as a Vanguard character seems to function with a similar sadism to the character as depicted in the novel The Brothers' War by established Magic: The Gathering author Jeff Grubb. With an effect that hearkens back to the old enchantment No Mercy, Ashnod is a very powerful rattlesnake of a character, especially because players will generally only have one chance to damage her with a creature before it gets destroyed. Combine this with an extra card in hand and it will hardly matter that you started the game with 8 less life. At $25 market as of the time of writing, Ashnod will be worth it if you're looking to collect the whole release, but as an obscure character (until The Brothers' War comes out later this year as a fully-fledged Magic set), we would say she's not a huge deal… yet. If she gets a card for the upcoming set, this card might actually rise in price, but that of course remains to be seen.
Like Ashnod, Gix is a character who has not received an equivalent Magic: The Gathering card proper. This of course is subject to potentially change for The Brothers' War later this year, but for now, we only have snippets from literary lore, and this Vanguard card, to go by.
Gix was a Praetor of Phyrexia before the Praetors of New Phyrexia were any bit a concept. He had some stake in the Caves of Koilos, a location now known to hold one of the gates between Dominaria and Phyrexia, during the war between Urza and Mishra, and in some ways manipulated the latter to become "compleated" by Yawgmoth.
In the context of Vanguard, Gix as a character is obscure enough to be somewhat overlooked financially (as, on Card Kingdom, our only source for this card's price specifically, he is about $28 in Excellent condition), although that is apt not to last. The card gives 18 extra life (which is absolutely nothing to sneeze at), and although Gix lowers your starting and max hand size by two cards, the Raise Dead activated ability he grants means you could simply discard creatures without much of an issue, grave hate notwithstanding. Expect this character to raise in price when it becomes relevant for that to happen.
Urza's petulant younger brother and a defector to Phyrexian tyranny, Mishra is the antagonist of the arc of The Brothers' War alongside Yawgmoth to a degree (on that note, we never actually got a Yawgmoth Vanguard, which feels like a missed opportunity for Wizards of the Coast to have overlooked). He warred with his brother, the two mutually proliferating the use of stronger and stronger war machines until Urza detonated the Golgothian Sylex in Argoth, decimating a large span of the plane of Dominaria in the process. Truly, Mishra is a big deal in Magic: The Gathering lore.
In the scope of Vanguard, Mishra is a card that double damage output from your creatures at little expense to you. A one-sided copy of Furnace of Rath that no player can interact with, Mishra is a house especially at a minimal cost to you of only 3 life at the start of the game. Mishra right now goes for about $20 USD at the time of writing, a cost that is more worth it than some other Vanguards that we'll discuss in the next part of this series of articles.
A white-aligned Planeswalker who has created her own plane and meddled with countless others as a proclaimed goddess, Serra is a prolific part of the formative aspects of Magic: The Gathering. She created the Serra Angels, and that alone should tell you everything you'd need to know, but it's not quite enough. You see, Serra's Realm was destroyed by Urza in his bid to eradicate the Multiverse of the ever-present, ever-growing, ever-spreading threat of the Phyrexians. Serra herself died rather unceremoniously in Ulgrotha, the plane of existence where the much-maligned Magic set Homelands was set.
Frankly, with the lackluster stats and ability on Serra's Vanguard character, we wouldn't be surprised if Gix's life augmentation and Serra's were actually switched by mistake in design. This card is the only one we would deem "not quite worth it" as far as Series 4 Vanguard characters go. She's rather nice in decks led by Doran, the Siege Tower or Arcades, the Strategist, but not much else. Still, she looks cool!
Join us next week when we conclude this series on Vanguard characters in Magic: The Gathering. The most expensive card in the release is in that part, and we can't wait to tell you more about it! In the meantime, what do you think about these cards? Are they something you'd like to see reprinted? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!