Generational Magic: Brothers’ War Roundtable

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If you've been around Magic in any capacity, you've almost assuredly heard of Urza and Mishra, two brothers whose conflicted relationship changed their world and universe for eons. Through the game, these in-universe characters have carried over into many facets of our lives. One example is my friend, Benji, who was able to join his love for both huskies and Magic by naming his first pup Urza!

Urza the Huskie

Urza has since shuffled off this mortal coil, but as Benji's family increased, so did his pups'. Below, we have Urza's brother, Mishra, and more recently Avacyn and Kaya. Fortunately, this furry crew gets along much better than the brothers from the story.

Mishra, Avacyn, and Kaya

In honor of Benji's Magic-al and furry friends, I'd like to formally welcome you to:

I was able to meet with a few Magic veterans at HQ last week and share the scars of war. Specifically, Brothers' War. We discussed expectations from the set and how we each believe it will affect Magic in general. What do our battle-hardened players say this set will bring?

The troops after a hard-fought night of Magic

Introduce Yourselves!

Max: I've been playing for about fifteen years, and my all-time favorite card is Dragonlord Silumgar.

Justin: I've been playing for about ten years and my favorite card is Raging River. (I had actually touched base with Justin during my round four in the Dominaria United prerelease).

Matt: I've been playing for fourteen years, am an LGS employee, and my favorite and first card is Chub Toad.

What has stood out to you the most about Brothers' War so far?

Max: I've actually been surprised by the graveyard synergies. The flavor fits in well with the theme of apocalyptic war. Very World War I, where everyone's dying left and right with little regard. Troops and materials are being reprocessed and re-used to win the war.

Justin: I like how dynamic the creatures are. They seem more flexible and interactive with one another compared to other recent sets.

Max: I agree; it doesn't feel like either strategy overpowers the other. Going wide with the little guys or focusing on the big beaters are both viable options.

Matt: I've noticed many people seeing this set as a new Throne of Eldraine. My biggest issue with Throne of Eldraine was all the bans. Cards banned in every single format; the balance and design was all over the place.

With Brothers' War being an artifact heavy set I was worried, since artifacts have a greater potential for abuse. However, looking at the power level, I'm very pleased with the designs and don't foresee any bans coming down. The playability and gameplay also looks to be very enjoyable.

Is the Brothers' War winning or failing on the flavor scale?

Max: I feel it's winning. I started right after the Brothers' War storyline ended, so I wasn't that involved with it. Still, as I've played the game, and specifically this set, I started getting into it more. In essence, you have two hyper-geniuses that level a planet over a macguffin. The three meld cards are flavor home-runs. God-like iconic characters.

Justin: I don't think I can say it better. I'm not a huge flavor person and I don't delve too far into the storylines, but from everything I've seen, they did a good job honoring the original story.

Matt: I also don't get too into the storylines, but this being the most iconic storyline in Magic, I definitely was more involved with it. Working at the store I've seen people be more excited about the set, since I hear more people talking about it. It brings more people into the game because they remember playing with these characters 20-plus years ago.

How familiar are you with the original stories that we know from the Antiquities set, novels, and comics?

Max: I'm very into Magic lore, but this story is probably the one I know the least. Neither brother is what you'd call a "good guy," but one is less evil than the other. I think that sort of gray area piques my interest to learn more.

Justin: Again, I'm really not into Magic lore. The closest I got to reading up on Magic stories was during the Gatewatch era.

Matt: I'm generally familiar with the storyline, but just on a surface level. It does help to have a working knowledge when interacting with customers, though. For me it was the Weatherlight saga that captured most of my interest, so when a set like Brothers' War harkens back to that, I'll pay more attention.

Prediction: which cards will prove the most format-defining?

Max: I believe No One Left Behind could be a contender, possibly in Pioneer and Modern as well. Being able to grab a cheap combo piece for a reduced cost could be something.

Justin: If I had to guess, I'd pick Cityscape Leveler and Portal to Phyrexia. A lot of big mana decks will like those; Mono-Green Devotion in Pioneer, for example.

The Cityscape Leveler would be good to clean up any permanents that are causing problems. I do hope that these wouldn't become just more Karn, the Great Creator targets though. Some of the cards are solid, like Misery's Shadow. It's a really nice two-drop.

Matt: I'm not a Standard player myself, but I can see Misery's Shadow being good for the current Mono-Black deck that runs Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. I'd love to see Urza, Planeswalker become something in the format.

I actually see A-Haywire Mite being playable against Urza's Saga in Modern. Its also an easy answer for various artifacts and enchantments in Legacy.

My personal hope is to see Kayla's Reconstruction for Mono-White Devotion in Pioneer. In an aggressive Solider deck, even if you only get three to four hits, that's pretty good value. I'd like to start seeing Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx played in the other colors and see Kayla's Reconstruction as a possibility to shake things up.

The set's best and worst mechanics?

Max: I've talked with a few others, and we all agree the best is prototype. Either option is almost never bad. For example, Combat Thresher. It always replaces itself and is beneficial in both small and large modes.

The worst for me is probably unearth. It's not a bad mechanic, but it's never resonated with me.

Justin: I agree with Max on Prototype. You can play it early if you need to, and yeah, doing so may not offer the best result, but it's still relevant. Casting a Blitz Automaton for its prototype cost is still worthwhile.

I actually don't like that meld was brought back. Not so much meld itself, but the fact that there are only three mythics that provide you a chance to use it.

Matt: Yea, in limited formats it's a real bummer when you open up half a meld card and won't be able to enjoy the fusion. Back in Eldritch Moon, you had multiple rarities that provided the opportunity, like Chittering Host. You can't get the same satisfaction here.

If you're ever able to Meld two cards together, and slam them onto the table as one huge card, it's the best feeling. You know you're having a good time when you're working just to fit it onto your playmat!

Justin: I do like meld, but I wish its execution would've been better. Giving people a chance to "do the thing."

Max: I agree on meld where now, we want to see more of it. Stop sprinkling it in and dedicate some space to it as a mechanic.

Matt: Think back to Unstable, with the host/augment mechanic. Currently meld is two specific cards. Maybe develop it to where you could mix and match with other cards to meld them together. Maybe where the top half could be the augment card, and the lower half would be the host card. Not sure exactly how it would work, but it would give players more options.

Matt: Making it unanimous, I'll agree; prototype is the best from the set. It's a fairly tame mechanic, but nothing in the set is too flashy. It does pair up well with one of my favorite things to do in Magic, Flickering. I've always enjoyed flickering morph cards and prototype cards fit right into that strategy.

What's your opinion of the Retro Artifacts in the set?

Max: Conceptually, I enjoy them. Very cool, and I appreciate the schematic artwork, like Mishra's Bauble. My only concern is that a couple of them are insanely strong in the limited format, Wurmcoil Engine being the largest offender. If your opponent plays that, they become heavily favored, and you get some feel bads.

If we look back to Strixhaven, the Mystical Archive cards all were good, but not overpowered. I would hope they lean more toward that in the future.

Justin: I've enjoyed them. Yes, there are a few offenders, but the majority of them are great. Mox Amber is a well-deserved reprint. It's not abusive and can be used if you have a lot of legends. There are, what, 50 or so Retros?

Max: There are 62, and I only know that because I'm trying to collect them (laughs from everyone).

Justin: Yea, there are 40 or so quality reprints, a few bombs, and a couple not-so-great ones.

Like, Mishra's Bauble for limited play?

Justin: Mishra's Bauble is actually an interesting limited card since there's a "draw two" theme in the set. I wasn't expecting it to be good, but there's potential for its inclusion depending on your deck.

Max: I was slightly surprised that Urza's Bauble wasn't in the set. I would've been cool to have both of them, since the set is about both brothers, right?

Matt: Yea, Mishra's Bauble has been reprinted, like five times, and only once for Urza's Bauble. It would've been a flavor win.

Matt: I do enjoy the Retro Artifacts, but my biggest criticism is that opening cards has lost its luster. I remember opening up a Garruk, Primal Hunter from Magic 2012, and even though it wasn't and isn't worth a lot, I was excited about it. Now, with Wizards printing so many sets with all of the special editions and treatments, they don't feel as cool. Borderless, Showcase, Gilded, Shattered, and the rest actually take away from the excitement of opening a pack. So much special, it's not special anymore.

Max: They could've printed them in a simliar fashion to the Transformers cards, where you get one in every ten boosters or something like that.

Matt: One thing I do want to applaud them on are the schematic numbered cards.

These feel special when you open one. Similar to the Masterpieces from Kaladesh. You get that awesome feeling in pulling something truly rare, and you will remember it. Getting something less often isn't always a bad thing.

How does Brothers' War stack up against other artifact-themed sets, like Mirrodin and Kaladesh?

Max: Mirrodin was the first set I ever drafted, so everything afterwards has a hard bar to reach for me. I do believe Brothers' War stacks up well overall. I didn't enjoy the Kaladesh block in general, because I felt there wasn't a lot of cohesiveness with the artifacts.

With Brothers' War, you have an artifact-based set, but the non-artifacts weren't pushed out. They were still important and you're not being drowned in the artifact theme.

Justin: There are more colorless cards in the set, but they stretch into the set better. I didn't get to play much with the other sets, a little with Aether Revolt, and it did seem heavily slanted to artifacts. You also don't have as much artifact removal, so Brothers' War feels much more balanced.

Matt: I would agree with that. I do feel that in comparison, this set is much more balanced. To go back to this topic, each of the other artifact sets, you have various banned and ultra-powerful cards. Blightsteel Colossus for example.

I'm kind of biased on Brothers' War and the other recent sets. With the previous artifact sets like Mirrodin and Kaladesh, I was more involved and excited for them. For the Brothers' War prerelease, I wasn't ready for it. I was still enjoying the previous set, and with sets coming out so quickly, it's very hard to get amped up for it. I still played and had fun, but it was less exciting.

Prereleases have always been a special event for me and this prerelease was the first one where it wasn't. The past couple of years with COVID-19, Arena being popular, and other things have been factors, no doubt. Still, even with today being Brothers' War release day and the first chance to draft in-store, we only fired three drafts. Back during Kaladesh, we had seventeen on release night! I feel we've lost some of that magic that makes Magic awesome and need to get it back.

Which card are you most excited to play with?

Max: Mishra, Lost to Phyrexia. In my Two-Headed Giant event, we opened both halves. We were almost able to meld him, but our opponents stopped us. They even apologized for not giving us the chance to meld, but we understood since it would have brought about their demise.

Justin: Titania, Voice of Gaea. The meld part is awesome, and of course you have to go for that, but the card itself is very good. Her stats are great and I really enjoy playing a lands-focused deck.

Now Matt, if you say "Urza..."

Matt: Haha... no, no. My favorite card that I want to play in Brothers' War limited is Goblin Charbelcher. It's hilarious and so much fun, whether I'm pinging creatures or going to the face. I absolutely love it!

(Matt's co-worker Luke is beside me, giving a thumbs down sign.)

Luke: I was playing it in a limited event, activated it, and whiffed five times in a row. I was done!

Justin: Yea, I played it in a Two-Headed Giant match and we whiffed four times ourselves!

Matt: As you can tell, Luke's not a true believer in the Belcher. Outside of limited, I'd say the Young Pyromancer 2.0: Third Path Iconoclast. Pair them both together and you're going to town, especially with something like Mishra's Bauble.

Last question: Team Urza or Team Mishra?

Max: Team Urza! Only way to not be devoured by Phyrexia.

Justin: Absolutely, Team Urza.

Matt: Oooh, good question. I'm feeling Team Mishra!

Luke: I'd have to say Urza.


I want to thank the guys for providing us with their plans, directives, and excitement with Brothers' War. I hope you can join in on the glorious battle as well. Do you have any thoughts on what the battle between brothers may bring? Feel free to let us know either in the comments below or on Twitter.

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Anthony Willier

Tony started playing Magic in 1994 and bought way too many Revised starter decks with his younger brother. He has a keen fondness for drafting but likes the game in any format. He enjoys interacting with his fellow players and is always on the lookout for a good game, a good trade, and awesome Magic stories.

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