Are you a Quiet Speculation member?
If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.
The newest Magic: the Gathering expansion, The Brothers' War (BRO) tells the story of Urza and Mishra and their war that forever altered the Multiverse. The lore surrounding this set is something of a big deal to Vorthos players.
While the setting and the characters generate interest, the best part of a new set is a new Limited format. This week we preview BRO, analyze the format, and make some bold predictions.
Not all mechanics are created equally. In our preview guide to Dominaria United, we recognized that Kicker and Domain would dominate the format. They did. While enlist and read ahead provided interesting gameplay, the format was defined by what kicker and domain did and how they were supported. This format has a similarly important mechanic.
Powerstones are artifact tokens. They enter the battlefield tapped and tap for a single colorless mana. However, that mana has a restriction on it.
This mana cannot be used to cast non-artifact spells.
So what are we incentivized to do with all this colorless mana? These tokens push four themes in the format.
- Prototype Creatures - When we ramp, we typically want to cast huge creatures to make it worth our effort. These creatures are game-ending threats in the late game, but reasonable midgame creatures as a fallback plan.
- Mana sinks - This format has plenty of creatures with activated abilities. Leveraging that advantage in the late game can create virtual, or literal, card advantage to take over the game.
- Resources for sacrifice outlets - Sacrificing artifacts and creatures is a recurring theme in this Limited format. These tokens can be used as sacrifice fodder once they're done generating a mana advantage.
- Enters The Battlefield (ETB) triggers - This is the least important aspect of this effect, but there are a few cards, primarily uncommons, that trigger off artifacts entering the battlefield (mostly concentrated in GW). These provide a trigger in those instances.
This is a powerful effect and it makes BRO a unique Limited environment.
Prototype is essentially kicker in reverse. Instead of paying more to get more, you have the option to pay less to get a smaller body on your creature. While the prototype cost is less than the actual spell, the discount demands colored mana. These colored-spell options offer a backup plan in case we can't cast our late drops at full value.
The discounted price allows us to sneak more expensive creatures into our deck. By having a more threat-dense deck in the late game, we put ourselves at an advantage. As previously mentioned, this keyword synergizes well with the powerstones. The two abilities have a similar relationship to how domain and kicker played off each other in DMU.
Unearth returns and plays an interesting role in the format.
This ability is pulled in a number of directions. Unearth is inherently offensive, which supports aggressive decks. Furthermore, it triggers the GW ETB strategy, as well as provides additional fodder for the Black-based Sacrifice decks. While not prominent enough to be a build-around ability, these cards are strong. They have places in a number of decks, and Unearth is a powerful keyword.
.... and then there's meld.
Meld really doesn't matter. Until it does.
If you have two halves of the same meld cards (each pair is one mythic and one rare) you can meld them together by reading the stipulations stated on each card. If that happens you will basically win the game, as they combine to make ludicrously powerful cards.
Each pack has one of the sixty-three retro artifacts in it. Most of them are out of place in this Limited environment. Some will perform really well. They are all colorless, so if you see a powerful option, it's nice to know that it can fit into any deck. These are similar to the Mystical Archive cards in Strixhaven. Friendly warning: Wurmcoil Engine is a card in this format.
The Two-Drop Report
The common two-drops are the most revealing aspect of any format. They tell us how we're supposed to develop our game plan and oftentimes represent the most important spot on our curve. Reviewing the common two-drops is the best way to predict the speed and supported game plans in a given format.
- Phalanx Vanguard - Many of the aggressive two-drops in this format look like they're built to trade off. This is one of them. The vigilance means that your opponent can't really race it, so they'll likely have to block. Unfortunately, the fact that the toughness does not get buffed by the trigger means that it won't survive many combats.
- Powerstone Engineer - This is what I want from a two-drop. It's designed to trade off and leave value behind. This is the two-drop most decks will want.
- Ambush Paratrooper - This is the two-drop your Go-Wide decks want. It has low power, which means it doesn't do much damage, its evasion sets a clock. Combat becomes more threatening in the late game, as your opponent must factor in its activated ability.
- Air Marshal - This card has obvious synergies for the UW Soldiers archetype, but its low stats and expensive activated ability create a dubious threat.
- Fallaji Archaeologist - The two mana 1/4 version is pretty mopey. However, getting a 0/3 that bricks an opponent's attack while getting you a card seems fine for slower decks.
- Coastal Bulwark - This defensive creature won't survive the onslaught of 3/1s on two, however, it bricks everything else. The surveil is a nice option for the late game in a control deck.
- Gixian Infiltrator - This card is exciting. A two-drop that can potentially grow every turn could end up being a high pick.
- Thraxodemon - A sacrifice enabler that pairs well with the Infiltrator. This one plays a slower value game. The two cards go in the same deck, but we will prioritize one over the other based on need and build.
- Roc Hunter - This creature is dying to trade-off.
- Dwarven Forge-Chanter - It has good stats and tussles well. People will not want to block this early in the game, and it will be premium in decks that can routinely trigger prowess, especially UR.
- Scrapwork Mutt - This seems like a solid two-drop. It trades with all but the most controlling twos and lets you loot for value. It provides value in the graveyard for however we want to use it.
- Blanchwood Prowler - A two mana 2/2 is not very good. A two-mana 1/1 that draws a land is something we should be interested in. Especially because that body trades with a few of the other twos. It is a significantly worse version of the Powerstone Engineer but green might wants the ability more.
- Tomakul Honor Guard - This is very similar to Roc Hunter. The abundance of one-toughness two-drops feels like a meaningful data point.
- Argothian Sprite - This is a premium common two-drop. The evasion is nice, as there are plenty of artifacts in the format. However, the activated ability is a great place to use your powerstones in the late game. The prototype creatures cannot block this and that means it will close out some games.
The two-drops fall into three categories. Some of them trade off aggressively, namely the 3/1s. This group hopes to pressure life totals and initiate action. They're generally unimpressive.
There's a group with activated abilities. The two with evasion make for interesting threats early, which can become late-game threats. Argothian Sprite and Ambush Paratrooper are both good.
Then there is Powerstone Engineer. It is a two-drop that trades and leaves behind value. This is exactly what we should want from our two-drops, especially when we don't want to be aggressive. The only other card that has a similar effect in this group is Scrapwork Mutt. The engineer is an early contender for the Gustwalker Trophy, but the Mutt might be sneaky-good as well.
Urzatron has been a presence in Modern forever. This format has an interesting callback to the Urza lands with three of its proud custodians.
When united on the battlefield, these three creatures provide powerful bonuses. The mana boost from Tower Worker helps us get to the value-rich end games of the prototype creatures and activated abilities (such as the one on Power Plant Worker). Theoretically, the Mine Worker helps buy us the time.
Unfortunately, setting this up doesn't appear to be a reliable plan. In Modern we can easily tutor up our lands, all of which are four-ofs. Assembling this trio of creatures in Limited will be much more difficult. The only way to tutor them up is via Self-Assembler, one of the retro artifacts in the set. Tutoring aside, we'll be relying on a double-Raise Dead effect to assemble the trio. The closest thing we have at common to this is Emergency Weld.
If these were good enough on their own, we could envision a scenario where we would want them, but the one life is very little, the 1/3 body seems like a liability, and while the 4/4 seems close to fine, the limitation on its pump makes us question how it matches up with the massive creatures in the format. In short, this synergy looks flimsy, though there may be decks that can accommodate it.
This is a Big-Mana End Game Format
The best thing to do at common in BRO is to make powerstones. We have access to this keyword in all five colors. This ability pushes most decks toward a big endgame. Activated abilities can take over, but the prototype battle cruisers provide the most pressure.
Aggro decks are still good. However, they also have access to powerstones, and all but the most aggressive decks will want them. A lot of mana will be available. Make sure your deck has a plan to use it.
The Return of the One-Drop
Kamigawa Neon Dynasty was the last set with strong one-drops. It had several high picks at both common and uncommon. Goblin Blast-Runner and Citanul Stalwart both have the potential to be role-players. The proliferation of one-toughness two-drops also makes these a little more interesting.
At uncommon, Alloy Animist and Monastery Swiftspear both seem strong. The last few sets offered little at one mana, but starting your game ahead of schedule yields serious benefits, and can sometimes snowball into a big advantage.
- Argothian Opportunist - This is the best deal-at-common that puts a powerstone into play.
- Overwhelming Remorse - A point-and-click removal spell in a format that wants point-and-click removal spells. In the late game, we'll have the discount even if we're not working for it. If we are working for it, double-spelling in the early game is a big deal.
- Scrapwork Rager - Phyrexian Rager gets unearth. The early game in this format looks to be based on attrition, and this card is good at that. The undersized body is a concern.
- Excavation Explosion - Sorcery-speed hurts, but this is the second best deal-at-common that puts a powerstone into play.
- Powerstone Engineer - Third best.
- Scrapwork Cohort - This puts a lot of material into play.
- Gix's Caress - Fourth best.
- Rust Goliath -This is the best-looking common prototype creature, but that might not matter. They seem pretty interchangeable.
- Penregon Strongbull - In a world of mopey creatures, this three-drop is pushed.
- Clay Revenant - I got my eye on this one. It doesn't take a lot of work to make this an engine piece. It is very easy to gain card advantage out of it. It laughs at all those one-power two-drops.
Decks at Common
Powerstone into Prototype - This looks to be the dominant strategy in the format. Prioritize the good powerstone makers and find something to do with the mana.
Sacrifice - This deck seems very supported at common. All of the one and two drops mentioned should perform well in this shell. Additionally Killzone Acrobot plays very well with the powerstones, Emergency Weld, and especially Sibling Rivalry. The sleeper card for this archetype might be Bitter Reunion.
Red-Green Stompy - This deck looks good. The commons in both colors are powerful and proactive. Green has big creatures and red has good cards.
Soldiers - A lot of creatures in this format are randomly soldiers. Aeronaut Cavalry looks pretty powerful, but the pay-offs are mostly uncommon.
Graveyard Synergies -Gixian Skullflayer and Gnarlroot Pallbearer look pretty powerful, but like Soliders, the payoffs for this archetype are mostly uncommon.
3-Power or less Synergies; Artifacts ETB synergies; Draw Two; Prowess; etc. - They have good cards but the payoffs are mostly uncommon.
Most of the archetypes in this set find their identity at uncommon. If these decks are open we need to find them. To do this, we need to make sure that we have a good understanding of what our colors are doing if we don't see uncommons or rares to guide our draft.
Because the archetypes are mostly defined at uncommon, color identity becomes more important. The strongest color looks to be Black. It has the most removal, pairs well with every color, makes powerstones, and has outs to be the sacrifice deck, which is very supported at common.
Red is next. Red has a really deep arsenal of good commons and uncommons. Many of its cards are cheap and powerful, which can help round out a curve.
Green has a few real cards and creatures with good stats. It is a color that wants to be proactive, but with good cards to support a late game. Green might be better than blue, but it seems a little shallow.
Koilos Roc is the most exciting blue common. Stern Lesson feels like a fast way to fall behind. In general, blue doesn't play to the board well. Mightstone's Animation and Weakstone's Subjugation might be better than they look. Overall, the color feels too slow.
White has a number of creatures, but most of them seem mediocre. It looks aggressive, but how does it punch through? We should avoid white unless we have a good reason to be in the color.
Excavated artifacts, squadrons of soldiers, unearthed creatures, and lumbering, world-ending robots: there is nothing more exciting than a new format. This one looks very different from DMU. The multi-colored, domain mana bases have become significantly more brown. The environment looks exciting. Time will tell if it has the gameplay to match. Hopefully, this guide helps you get off to a great start in BRO Limited. Good luck at the prerelease, and good luck exploring this brand-new format!