Serra.

"Believe in the ideal, not the idol." ~Serra

In 1993 when Magic first hit the shelves, you might think that opening a pack and getting a Black Lotus or Mox Anything was the dream. It wasn't. No, cracking open a pack and seeing Serra Angel for the first time - that was the golden ticket. Today, we are going to look back at one of Magic's most popular cards. Still in print after 23 years, we look at Serra Angel.

Still looking good after twenty-three years.

Still looking good after twenty-three years.

Serra's story.

Most people just call the card "Serra", but Serra Angel isn't a legend, she isn't even a particular being - she is a type of angel. Radiant, Reya Dawnbringer and Selenia are all Serra angels.

Serra angels have an interesting history. The earliest of the Serra originate with the Goddess Serra. These were brave warriors who after falling in combat were remade in her image as angels from pure white mana. Serra's angels never truly die; as even in defeat they rise again. [1

I'm thinking Serra and Elspeth may be related. They at least have the same taste in clothes.

I'm thinking Serra and Elspeth may be related. They at least have the same taste in clothes.

Later a planeswalker, Serra, who was named after the Goddess, would construct an artificial plane called "Serra's Realm" and populate it with Serra angels of her own. Urza retreated to this plane fleeing the Phyrexians. After he left the realm, it was attacked and tainted with the Phyrexian menace. Urza later returned with the Weatherlight, rescued the Serra refugees and collapsed the entire plane into the Skyship Weatherlight's powerstone core. [2] Today, the Serra angel survivors can still be found throughout Dominaria.

The icon.

To early players, Serra Angel was Magic: The Gathering. The art by Douglas Schuler was amazing. It caught the eye and fired the imagination. The card's flavor text told a simple story that player's could embrace. When you played a Serra, you could imagine yourself directing the armies of light. Serra's popularity on the battlefield, spilled out into the real world. She became one of the earliest "faces of the game" and could be found frequently in advertising, on t-shirts and as a full size "travelling statue" that debuted at The Lourve in Paris for Worlds 2006. Mark Rosewater even interviewed Serra (the card) as part of "Angels Week". She seemed to have a bit of a "diva complex".

Epic.

Epic.

Serra at work.

Mechanically Serra was a house. At 4/4 she was out of Lightning Bolt range, had flying and didn't tap to attack (this was waaaay before vigilance was a thing). At five mana, she was one of the highest value creatures in the set, and many a player built a white deck for the sole reason of playing her after a lucky pull.

A lot of the early card designs changed dramatically as Richard Garfield was creating Magic, but Serra did not. Its first printing in Limited Edition Alpha is identical to Richard Garfield's original design in everything but name. Note that in the early development of Magic, this casting cost (below) is the same as Serra's final casting cost of 3WW. In that early period the casting cost was read as "five mana, two of which must be white".

Disney buys Hasbro. Cats and dogs living together... Mass Hysteria.

Disney buys Hasbro. Cats and dogs living together... Mass Hysteria.

Over the early years of Magic, Serra was seen as an over-powered design. She was the finishing move for Brian Weissman's "The Deck", combo-ing with Moat for an untouchable control win. After years of owning the top of white's curve, Serra was actually pulled from the game for Fifth Edition in 1997 for power balance issues.

In 1999 the card was slated to "return" in the canceled Unglued 2: The Obligatory Sequel as Que Serra, Serra, but the set was canceled after it was announced. The card would have been amazing, as it was designed to be a full art card with Doug Schuler reprising his art from Alpha. This is an unofficial mock-up that has made the rounds on the internet for some time. Rules text is from the Rosewater interview that I mentioned above.

I want this to see print - so bad.

I want this to see print - so bad.

Serra Angel wouldn't see print again until Seventh edition in 2001. In total, she has been printed twenty-three different times. Serra is still legal for play in Standard today; printed this year as part of Wizard's 2016 Welcome Set which is given out for free to new players.

Serra will always be a great part of Magic's history. While she may be overlooked today as "boring" she was the powerhouse of her day and the simple and elegant design is still impactful to new players. Next time you are building a white deck, try and find a little room in there to put a Serra angel - to celebrate the game, to teach the games history to a younger player or just to make a new story or two. 

Until next week, remember... don't tap when you attack.

[1] Serra Angels at Gamepedia

[2] Serra's Realm at Gamepedia

The Deck

Que Serra Serra