Disclaimer! I love The Brothers' War! It's by far the coolest set to come out in... virtually ever. Anything Dominaria-related hits at my fandom in an unfair way. So how could I give you an unbiased review of these Commander decks? I'll point out some obvious flaws, of course, and hopefully not oversell them.
But First, a Hurricane Named Nicole
Yes, my BRO cards arrived a bit late. Normally by the time I sit down to write this kind of article I have played several games with each deck both multiplayer and even 1-on-1 just to get a read on power level, consistency, overall feel, and inventiveness. I have gotten to try out both Urza's Iron Alliance and Mishra's Burnished Banner, but not to the level that I would like. Am I impressed? Mostly. Could Wizards have done better? Well, a little.
Warhammer 40k Quality?
Heavens no, and in a good way! Let me explain. The Warhammer 40k Commander decks were well done. The artwork, deck contents, 40k grim dark feel; it was all impressive. I look forward to future Universes Beyond releases that are done this well. However, the actual, physical card quality was terrible. Many, many decks came pre-damaged or otherwise not correct. Certainly, hardcore collectors want some of these types of "misprints," but overall the shoddy release points to production issues. Personally, I can feel the difference in card quality between the 40k Commander decks and other Magic cards, and it is not a good feel. Additionally, this represents my interaction with cards from different vendors across the country. It's not a limited issue.
Thankfully, the BRO Commander cards feel amazing! Not only that, but they look and smell like Magic cards. Yes, I know, weird thing to say right? But it is true! I'm very happy with the obvious high quality of these cards, and I may even keep a couple deck boxes sealed just for the nostalgia of opening them years later.
Additionally, I am in love with the retro style of these cards, but the borders sometimes annoy me. A blue artifact card has the exact same border as a blue card. At a glance, it can be difficult to tell what is and is not an artifact, and there are a lot of artifacts in these decks. A minor criticism.
Who Is the Better Artificer?
Let's go over some key points. Urza costs six while Mishra clocks in at five. But, you say, Urza has affinity, he will always cost less! Not so: it's affinity for artifact creatures, which is way worse. I give this round to Mishra for the first few turns of the game. Sure, eventually, you could have so many artifact creature tokens that Urza takes off, but that is a "win more" style of thinking.
Alright, what about abilities that work right away? Mishra goes off at the beginning of combat; Urza, at the end of turn. While Urza does give artifact creatures menace, that's a minor ability if you have a limited board state.
In straight up combat, Mishra kills in five attacks to commander damage. Unlikely, but possible. Urza needs six attacks. Another point to Mishra. What, then, is the point of the Urza deck? The fact is that in the very late game, Urza creates arbitrarily large constructs that have menace, and he keeps coming out for only three mana no matter how many times they have been removed. So there is some upside. But really, it's probably better to just use another commander altogether: Tawnos, Solemn Survivor.
Tawnos, the Much Better Choice
Lore-wise, Tawnos is Urza's apprentice. Nearly half the cards in Urza's Iron Alliance make tokens Tawnos can copy for just two mana. Also, he mills. Why would you want to mill? Because for four mana you can cheat out a powerful artifact or creature from your graveyard, making a token copy of it. You know, a token you can copy with Tawnos. Since Tawnos only costs two mana, you can always drop him on an off-turn with a mana rock. Did he die? Just play him again! The student is now the master!
If you make the switch, some of your less valuable cards can play a bigger role, like Armix, Filigree Thrasher and Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle. And you don't need to rely as much on turning creatures sideways to win, as various value engines can give you a massive incremental advantage.
Mishra, the Great Choice
Essentially, the deck is a one-card engine. Mishra plus anything is value, sometimes insane value. This is what sets the deck apart from many other Commander decks. Because Mishra is both a token generator and a sacrifice outlet, you need only have any artifact with your commander to start a value engine that will quickly accelerate you. From there it goes good or better.
Meanwhile, If you already have the engine going, Ashnod the Uncaring is the perfect boost, effectively doubling whatever it is you are doing. On top of that, you have Strionic Resonator and Lithoform Engine providing the same boost.
The unique part here is that the deck functions without these cards, as it has sufficient value just from Mishra to operate. So many other commander decks get into what I call the "one-third problem," where the deck needs the perfect ratio of mana, value, and payoff to work. Mishra effectively solves two of three most of the time. However, that is the Achilles' heel of Mishra's Burnished Banner. You guessed it, removal! With Mishra, the deck functions well. Without? It's a struggle.
A Handful of Boggles
Hellkite Igniter is in the Mishra deck, but feels out of place. Shimmer Dragon in the Urza deck is vastly better, and fits the theme much better. I'm not sure how that card got included, and a fire breathing that includes artifact count sounds thematic, but isn't really part of the Mishra plan.
The same goes for Sphinx's Revelation and Phyrexian Rebirth in the Urza deck. These are fine cards but, again, don't really have any synergy and could really be anything. Rebirth might be looking for an exemption based on lore, but no way!
Finally, it's obvious that Swords to Plowshares, Blasphemous Act, and Chaos Warp are staple Commander cards, and that is why they were included, but they feel sloppy, disconnected from theme, and thrown in as crowdpleasers.
Overall, I do like the mix of cards in each deck. There is very little overlap even though both decks share blue and black. There are a lot of little nuances, like Urza having Evolving Wilds but Mishra having Terramorphic Expanse, that can make it worthwhile for Commander newbies to pick up both decks. While it would be easy to make each deck absolute carbon copies of one another with some minor adjustments, I think their respective decklists demonstrate an amount of care that, for the most part, indicates these decks were thought out and not just algorithmically developed.
So, Are These Decks Good, or Better?
They are definitely good. The most interesting aspect I am looking forward to is mixing the two decks together and playing a 1-on-1 "all-play" variant where we have a single combined graveyard and library. Furthermore, they look very well balanced as sort of "Duel Decks" of the Commander variety, and I think they will function really well in a head-to-head situation. Outside of variants, I'm also very much looking forward to boosting up the Mishra deck. As I mentioned, I'm biased, and this is definitely my favorite Mishra in the set.
The few SpellTable games I got in pointed to each deck providing a casual-friendly out-of-the-box experience, but charting very low on the competitive power scale. Guess what each deck lacks? No, you don't get a guess. Removal. There's almost no removal! It's basically impossible to play even "casual-level" games without a Disenchant effect in hand every game of Commander.
So, in terms of overall value for your money, I have to give these decks an average of eight out of ten. I'd definitely recommend buying them and yeah, you may feel a little FOMO if you don't. I don't think they are going to come down in price very much unless you can get them as part of a holiday sale. That said, if you can find them for anything less than the full retail price, definitely snag them!
Which brother do you support? Does anyone care about Tawnos and Ashnod? Let me know in the comments below!