For the first fifteen or so years of Magic's existence, there were exactly three rarities - common, uncommon, and rare - and no one expected this to ever change. Time Spiral came along in 2006 and added a mini-set of reprints with the pre-Eighth Edition card frame and a special distribution method, but those purple-symboled "timeshifted" cards were a one-off deal. But then, with Shards of Alara, we got our first taste of mythic rares, and nothing was ever the same. Love them or hate them, the rarer-than-rare cards that show up only once every eight boosters or so are here to stay. Every last one of them is some combination of awe-inspringly strong, mind-bogglingly complex, impressive in the sheer massiveness of its effects, and/or an iconic figure from the storyline. Today, in the first column in a series, I'm going to set two of them against one another in a battle for the ages, in which only mythic can reign supreme. To start off, I'll compare the white mythics from each of the two "mirrored" sets in Return to Ravnica block: The eponymous Return to Ravnica, and Gatecrash. The first is an Angel that cleanses the world with your apocalyptic judgments of who deserves to exist, and the second is a noble, combative planeswalker who's been through quite a lot on his travels.
Return to Ravnica: Angel of Serenity
This card is #1 in Return to Ravnica by collector number, and in terms of how powerful she is she's definitely up there as well. It costs 4WWW, a prohibitively expensive mana cost by any measure, and hard to accelerate into (white isn't exactly well-known for having good mana ramp). However, its enters-the-battlefield trigger is unbelievably strong - it can answer up to three threats at once and/or pack away up to that many of your own creature cards in your graveyard for retrieval once it's no longer around. It's my opinion that this'd be a better design if the exiled creatures returned to the battlefield when the Angel left it - for one thing, it'd make the exile-from-graveyard option more tempting, and the removal one less frustrating - but that's just me. In other words, this is the most versatile piece of removal in Standard. Everyone who's played with this card knows either firsthand or through stories of "Angel Wars," in which two players packing copies of Angel of Serenity repeatedly cast them at each other until the battlefield is totally cleared of creatures and both of their hands are full of 'em. Glorious, and a testament to how powerful this card is perceived to be, and demonstrably is.
Gatecrash: Gideon, Champion of Justice
Everyone has the same gripe about Gideon's second card version. "His +1 does nothing! And unless you can grant him haste while he's in creature form he's useless the turn he enters the battlefield!" These are fair criticisms, but if you can protect him long enough to get a few good attacks out of him it swiftly becomes clear that a linear pattern of use does not translate to being generally ineffective. He grows fast, and there's no real upper limit to how big his creature form can get - definitely big enough to kill any opponent with a sizable enough army after a few +1-loyalty-ability activations. His ultimate speaks for itself: it's not quite as game-winning as other planeswalkers', but it definitely will prevent your opponents from getting out any kind of finishers or threats. Get him to a decently high loyalty number beyond the required -15 for his ultimate, and he'll truly be a Highlander, doing his there-can-be-only-one thing swinging on an empty board and chopping your opponents' heads off unimpeded.
Now to the points of comparison:
Flavor: Angel of Serenity has kind of a generically righteous thing going on. Meanwhile, Gideon is still leaping into the fray as the one planeswalker willing to say enough is enough with staying on the sidelines and enter combat himself. The clear flavor advantage goes to Gideon.
Abilities: The Angel is a versatile holy-exile-ray machine that is an evasive beater besides. Gideon only has really one or two things he can do - most of the time he'll just be a groundpounder that happens to be especially hard to kill with either spell-based removal or combat, but who can also be attacked directly. As much as I personally like playing with Gideon, the Angel wins out.
Overall Appeal: Ask any fan of white, and they'd say they'd be overjoyed to open up an Angel of Serenity in their Return to Ravnica booster pack. Gideon's fans, meanwhile, are a much smaller niche. The Angel beats him in this category too.
Final Victor: Angel of Serenity
Want to dispute the outcome or suggest the next pairing? Let me know in the comments!