From the Vault: Relics In Review

Since I managed to get a hold of a copy of the new limited edition set – From the Vault: Relics – today, I thought I’d review and share my thoughts on it. I plan to discuss the art, as ten of the fifteen cards have received new art in this release, as well as other aspects of the set. This is the third release in the From the Vault series, and the theme of the set was classic artifacts throughout Magic’s history.
The very first thing I did with the cards after opening my set – well, the first thing after I gazed at all the shiny goodness – was to press them between some of my heaviest books. I personally used Donald Knuth’s The Art of Computer Programming series, Bjarne Stroustrup’s The C++ Programming Language and the classic gang of four book, Design Patterns. I turned my tools of the trade into glorified paper weights, literally.

The Die

This die is my favorite, in terms of color, out of all the released From the Vault sets so far. The numbers are slightly more visible than they were with the From the Vault: Exiled die. However, the best die of the three for number visibility is the From the Vault: Dragons die.

The Theme

Mox DiamondRelics being an artifact themed set really plays well into the upcoming revisitation of Mirrodin, beginning with Scars of Mirrodin in October. I really like how this feels intentionally tied into that theme. It’s like listening to the best-of of a band you really like just before diving into an album of new content. From the Vault: Relics brings back some of the iconic artifacts from Magic’s history and makes them glisten and shine. Some of the nostalgia is lost in the new art, but a lot was gained too, as the rules text was brought up to modern times, and some of the new art is amazing.

The Cards

Aether Vial

The new art better highlights the Vial itself and seems to do it better justice overall. The character portrayed in the new image also seems to better represent a denizen of Mirrodin to me. I really think this card is a home run.

Black Vise

The new art is good, though I find it morbid that the doll is missing its body now. I think the original art better captures the concept of a vise as this new “vise” seems more to me like a cage inspired by Hellraiser. I don’t currently run Black Vise in my cube, so this one may sit in my collection for a bit, but I’ve considered running this in the cube as a foil to control and card advantage strategies.

Isochron Scepter

Unfortunately, I feel that the new art for Isochron Scepter is a let down. I usually adore art from Chippy, but this feels like “Eh, it’s a scepter, yeah, but what makes it special?” My personal favorite of the three distinct pieces representing the Scepter has to be the FNM promo. That piece is striking, focused, and makes the Scepter feel absolutely unique. I’m going to stick with the FNM promo art in my cube.

Ivory Tower

Ivory TowerThe old art for this classic card was simple yet appropriate, in my opinion. That being said, I find the updated art by Jason Chan much more enticing as it is more whimsical and the tower has a strong sense of movement. Definitely an improvement, and this will be replacing the old Revised edition card in my cube. I also came to a realization when I read the updated wording on this card and on Black Vise that they are the foil to the other. This makes a lot of sense now, and I find it funny that I didn’t realize that for so long.

Jester’s Cap

The Jester’s Cap is a solid card, and the original art is awesome so I’m glad they didn’t update it. I don’t run this card in my cube, but it seems like it would be stellar in cube draft. I’m pretty sure that I can find a slot for this and will in a future update of my list.

Karn, Silver Golem

Tezzeret’s predecessor is back. The art is the same, and it isn’t his first time in foil pants as he was an Arena promo in the past. I’ll be finding room for him in my cube now that I have a copy as he’s such a solid card, allowing you to clog up the ground efficiently while turning all your harmless artifacts into clawing and biting creatures.

Masticore

The new art brings the classic Masticore in line with the feel of the more modern Razormane Masticore. The art is solid, but I feel sad that they didn’t use the original Paolo Parente piece. I personally liked the comic book feel of the original art, and was hoping it’d be chosen for this set.  A foil copy of the original card is fairly pricey, likely due in part to availability so I’m happily upgrading to the From the Vault: Relics version, for purposes of pimping my cube out more.

Memory Jar

Memory JarThis is another card I did not have a copy of before, so it’s a welcome addition to my collection. The original art captures the feel of the card well and I’m happy that they kept the original art here.

Mirari

More original art. The foiling method used for the From the Vault series makes this piece feel slightly flat as there isn’t an awful lot of color variation in the art. This isn’t a knock against the art. I feel the artifact has an appropriate sense of immense power due to its prominent position in a such a large hall in the piece. It’s more a knock against the foiling process used for the From the Vault series in general. I honestly prefer the standard foiling method they’ve been using lately as the art pops a lot more and it causes the cards to warp far less than the From the Vault foiling method. I feel that if you are looking for a foil Mirari you would be better off with a foil of the Time Spiral timeshifted version.

Mox Diamond

The new art for this Mox is part of the series of new Mox art that Wizard’s commisioned Volkan Baga to do. I personally love the new art for the Moxen (you can check them out under the Paintings section of his website) and the new art on this piece makes it feel like one of the Moxen. I still like the original art by Dan Frazier, but the new art is pretty special.

Nevinyrral’s Disk

The tentacles are gone. They’ve been replaced by a piece that makes the disk appear much more powerful. Almost looks as if a black hole is contained at the center of the disk. Though I’m a sucker for nostalgia and history, I highly enjoy the new art for this card.

Sol Ring

The original art is very iconic and lends the sense of hot, sun-like energy. The new art is very metalic feeling and gives off instead a strong sense of immense, yet contained, power. The art is well done and captures a feeling very befitting a card of its strength. I am torn, though, between the old art and the new. The only way to get a foil Sol Ring outside of From the Vault: Relics, is to drop a lot of cash on a Judge promo, and those are scarce as Sol Ring is highly prized in Cube, EDH, and Vintage.

Sundering Titan

I think this piece is the best example of the problems with the From the Vault foiling process, and the worst card in the set visually due to this. The art already lacked a lot of constrast and this foil almost looks like a blank image. I feel that this card would have been much better served by giving it updated art that had more contrast and color variation. It’ll be replacing the copy I have in my cube due to being foil, but the image looks really washed out, and I’m tempted to acquire a foil copy from Darksteel in the long run, as the image will be much better.

Sword of Body and Mind

Sword of Body and MindThis is the equipment from Scars of Mirrodin. It’s not quite as strong of a card as Sword of Fire and Ice, and I’d even put it slightly below the power level of Sword of Light and Shadow. But, all of the “Sword of” equipment is strong enough for to be deserving of a place in the cube. I’m going to happily make room for this in mine, and hopefully we find another strong sword when Scars of Mirrodin is released.

Zuran Orb

The tree in the original art felt like the focal piece, rather than the orb. It’s nice to see that the new art focuses on the subject better. The piece is interesting, and in its simplicity gives a good idea of what the artifact does. It’s far and away better than the original art but it’s not my favorite of the new art revealed in this set.

Conclusions

Best New Art: Nevinyrral’s Disk

Nevinyrral's Disk

Honorable Mentions: Aether Vial, Sol Ring

Aether Vial Sol Ring

Worst Art: Isochron Scepter

Isochron Scepter

Many apologies to Chippy about this, as I’m usually a big fan. I mean, we’re talking the artist behind Doom Blade, Abyssal Persecutor, Gomazoa, and freaking Grim Monolith here. There are so many pieces that are intensely more interesting than the new Isochron Scepter art. Maybe the let down is made more painful to me personally as I love Isochron Scepter.

Honorable Mention: Sundering Titan

Sundering Titan

The art itself is not why this card gets honorable mention. This card should have been one to receive new art treatment, as the From the Vault foiling process really kills any appeal that the art for this card had.

I would urge Wizards of the Coast to rethink their From the Vault foiling process, as I easily prefer the regular foiling process over these thicker, glossy foils. The regular foiling process makes the art pop a lot more and the cards don’t feel abnormally thick. Regular foils also warp far less, which to some people is very important, especially if they want to play the card in a tournament it is legal in. That’s just my two cents on the subject. I’m throwing it out here because I’ve heard others voice similar complaints with the From the Vault foiling method.

Overall I think this set really was well put together and contained cards appropriate to a From the Vault set. Granted, I or others may have chosen the set differently, but I feel that the set was well thought out and wasn’t a let down. Aside from the few issues I have with the foiling process, I really like the From the Vault limited releases. If you are into EDH or Cube Draft, picking one of these up will give you a lot of foil fodder.

Father, husband, programmer, gamer. Magic: The Gathering enthusiast who enjoys playing and discussing the game with anyone who is willing.

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