Generational Magic: The Brothers’ War Prerelease

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Back in 1998, a set of books called The Artifact Cycle were released. The first book was, you guessed it, The Brothers' War. When this set was being previewed, my son Jarod asked me about the story behind the set. I had shared bits and pieces of it with him over the years, but he requested more detail this time around.

So as I'm running through the highlights of the story for him, I'm getting somewhat nostalgic. It took me back to a younger time, and I wondered how Wizards planned on sharing the story with a whole new generation. Would they push the envelope and retcon various plotlines, or rely on the the story for what it is? Fortunately, it looks like they didn't change much of the original story, and just elaborated on the finer, more ambiguous details.

Of course, once my Dominarian history lesson was over, we started talking about the cards and looking forward to the prerelease. Unfortunately for Jarod, his work schedule changed, and when the time came he wouldn't be able to join in Friday's event. Fortunately, he was able to go Sunday night, so all was saved.

A Dream Come True

I arrived at the store, but before I start crawling into the Caves of Koilos and digging into the sad lesson of Sibling Rivalry at its most extreme, I want to share a very cool thing that happened at the event.

Matt and Urza, best of friends

Yep, Matt pulled both halves of Urza, Planeswalker! I was sitting a couple seats down from him when he was cracking his packs. He declared that no matter what else was in the cards, his goal was to meld!

I found out afterwards that Matt had actually melded twice during the evening. A timely Dreams of Steel and Oil stopped him from doing it a third time, but he easily won both games once melded.

My Mavericks Prerelease Deck

My white and red cards were just bad: creatures that you really don't want to play, like Survivor of Korlis, and almost non-existent removal. Green was a little better, with larger creatures, but nothing stood out.

I worked into a UB deck that highlighted Gixian Puppeteer and similar cards, but I really didn't have much in the way of extra draws other than Mazemind Tome and The Mightstone and Weakstone.

My removal was decent, yet I was hoping that Ramos, Dragon Engine and the rest of the flight crew would get me there. I knew I had my work cut out for me. For clarity, I didn't play the three rares and four retro artifacts shown at the bottom of the image.

Round 1: Ted, UB Draw Power

Introduce yourself!
I've been playing since 1996 and a couple friends at school got me into it. We played mostly with Revised and Legends cards.

Generally, which formats do you enjoy?
The limited formats. I enjoy Draft the most. It has a better playstyle and Sealed has higher variance. I have played most constructed formats, but don't have much time to pursue them.

What are you looking forward to in this prerelease?
Just to get out and sling cards with others is great. I'm a father of seven, so as you can imagine I don't get out to play very often. I do play MTG: Arena, but sporadically. I'll go hard with it for a while and then have a long drought.

My friend, Kory, was also also able to come up from South Carolina for a couple days. It's been great, since we both love playing Magic!

Which Brothers' War card are you most excited for?
I haven't looked at the set that much, and I'm hoping that the draft experience is similar to Dominaria United, which was very fun. I did enjoy Hurkyl, Master Wizard in our second game. If you balance your deck with her in consideration, you can really go off.

Aaron Forsythe, Vice President of Magic Design, recently asked, "Why has sanctioned Standard play declined relative to other formats in your store?" What would you say?
I believe it's been a multitude of things. All of the Standard bans throughout the last three to five years, the natural rotation of sets depreciating card values, Arena taking the format over, and of course, the pandemic. I believe we were heading to a decline in Standard before it, but when COVID hit, the other issues hit the regular Standard player hard.

As far as coming back from it, Wizards needs to support the LGSs better than they are currently to lift up the format. Maybe a better casual entry, less cost, I'm not really sure, but it needs to be a more grassroots effort.

Match Details (0-2)

The interesting thing about this match was that our decks were very similar. We both had a blue legendary creature, and many of the same commons and uncommons. That was on top of both of us having Ramos, Dragon Engine and Gixian Puppeteer.

Our first game went back and forth between attacks and removal. We both ended at two life and all I needed was a way to draw a second card on my turn before I played my Gixian Puppeteer. Unfortunately for me, I didn't; Ted had the removal for my Puppeteer, and I ended up dying to his Gixian Puppeteer trigger.

The second game was less of a battle, and Ted kept the advantage throughout. One funny moment happened when he cast his Ramos, Dragon Engine. At the end of his turn, I scryed with my Mazemind Tome, destroyed his legendary dragon, and smiled. He wondered what the smirk was for, so on my turn I played my copy of Ramos, Dragon Engine. We both had a good laugh. He destroyed it a couple of turns later and was able to finish me off.

Round 2: Michael, RB Artifact Sacrifice

Introduce yourself!
I started playing in the mid-90s. I fell away from the game and picked it back up about two years ago. I distinctly remember playing in grade school on the playground blacktop, scratching up all of our cards in the process.

I started up again after seeing it on YouTube. I caught a couple videos of Tolarian Community College and Alpha Investments talking about Magic cards, so I checked them out. I honestly had no idea the game was still going strong, so my interest was reinvigorated.

Generally, which formats do you enjoy?
My favorite is Pauper. For me, it has the same feel as when I first played. It sends me back in time. Less emphasis on planeswalkers and other broken cards.

Nice! What Pauper decks are you playing currently?
I like the elves deck and UR Skred. Any sort of value deck. I love me some Thraben Inspector.

What are you looking forward to in this prerelease?
I really love the retro border cards; they take me back to my early days. I got a Sculpting Steel and Bone Saw. They look awesome!

Which Brothers' War card are you most excited for?
I would love to get a retro Mystic Forge, but I'm mostly drawn to the set because of the story. I remember reading about Urza, Mishra, and the Board the Weatherlight and her crew dealing with the Phyrexians. I'm enjoying that immensely.

Aaron Forsythe, Vice President of Magic Design, recently asked, "Why has sanctioned Standard play declined relative to other formats in your store?" What would you say?
When I got back into the game, I didn't even consider playing Standard. I was dumbfounded by the cost of the cards and the fact that they rotate out and lose value. That's what initially drew me to Pauper. Outside of Arena I haven't touched it, and it doesn't surprise me that it's struggling.

To have a chance at bringing Standard back, I believe Wizards needs to bring more focus to in-store play. They've put a lot of effort into Arena, and that's good. It's fun and enjoyable, but you lose the "gathering" that the game truly relies on.

Match Details (2-1)

Michael was able to take game 1 through constant bombardment. If I remember correctly, he played a creature almost every turn after the first, up to when his Heavyweight Demolisher hit the board. I was able to remove a few of them and play my Su-Chi Cave Guard to stem the tide, but his Sibling Rivalry and ward payment sealed the deal.

Games 2 and 3 were better for me. Michael didn't have the continuous barrage like the first game. I was able to take small chunks out of him with flyers, like Carrion Locust and Wing Commando, and destroyed anything that would have caused me problems.

Round 3: Paul, Naya Goodstuff

Introduce yourself!
I played for about a year back in 2013 with some friends in high school, but never really got into the game. My friend and co-worker Dewey invited me, and that's why I'm here today.

Generally, which formats do you enjoy?
I'm not able to comment much, but I have enjoyed the sealed format. I play Eternal quite a bit, so I have some experience with the genre in general.

What are you looking forward to in this prerelease?
Just having a good time and checking out the cards. A lot has changed about the game, but the overall gameplay is still the same.

Which Brothers' War card are you most excited for?
From what I've seen so far, I've liked the artifacts and recursion cards, like Repair and Recharge and Emergency Weld.

As for specific cards, Pyrrhic Blast is fun. Teething Wurmlet has been interesting. Even though it's better to play out early, it's not a dead card in the late game. I like that it can build into something.

Match Details (2-0)

Even though Paul hadn't played Magic in almost ten years, he still performed well. In the first game, we were both low on life, and he was almost able to get there. I believe if he had one more turn, he could've pulled it out. I had one to many flyers in the way and after removing his Boulderbranch Golem I got in for exact damage.

The second game was more interesting. I started off pretty quick, but Paul slowed me way down with two Static Nets. We started trading back and forth, but I was gaining board advantage. That is, until he played Draconic Destiny on his Argothian Sprite. I took a hit for eight and knew the end was in sight if I couldn't finish him in a couple turns.

Paul played a Scrapwork Mutt a few turns earlier and it was now sitting in his graveyard. I was able to exile it with my Carrion Locust, and give myself some breathing room. After those couple of turns I was able to swing in the air for just enough. After the game, Paul reviewed the board and if I hadn't exiled the robot dog he would've won the turn before I did. Nice and close games!

Round 4: Kory, RG Powerstone Midrange

Introduce yourself!
I've been playing since 2013 during Return to Ravnica. My brother-in-law introduced me. I tinkered with the cards when I was six or seven, but being that young, I only enjoyed the novelty of it.

Generally, which formats do you enjoy?
I mostly played Modern and draft before the pandemic and moving to South Carolina. I enjoyed Rock-type decks and UR Arclight Phoenix decks.

What are you looking forward to in this prerelease?
I used to play quite a bit, but times have changed and I'm mostly on Arena now. It is nice to get back out amongst the living and play in person though. Arena did a lot of good things for me, where I don't worry about card values so much, but you can't beat playing Magic with friends.

Which Brothers' War card are you most excited for?
I hadn't looked at any of the cards before I arrived today, but in my deck, Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea has been a bomb.

Aaron Forsythe, Vice President of Magic Design, recently asked, "Why has sanctioned Standard play declined relative to other formats in your store?" What would you say?
I saw that tweet. I noticed a lot people who commented on his post, many being Magic pros, weighing in as well. I believe Standard has had problems for a while. Not getting enough value out of your cards is a big issue. The pandemic made it worse, but I believe the format was heading that way, and I imagine Wizards saw it coming.

How to bring it back is more difficult. My initial thought is they could put Arena booster codes in the physical packs. People getting value out of their packs for both tabletop and digital might help bridge that gap. I've seen other digital card games do that and I'm not sure why Wizards hasn't picked that up.

Match Details (Draw)

At this point in the evening, Kory and I were fine with a draw and splitting the pot. We both received three packs for our trouble and he was able to head out to grab a bite with his friend Ted (yep, my first round opponent). I am about the split though. Looking at Kory's playable rares, I wasn't filled with confidence on my chances.

War's End

I was able to join in another event with Jarod on Sunday, but my card pool wasn't great. The only saving grace was winning one match by equipping Helm of the Host onto a Su-Chi Cave Guard.

Even so, there was another dream that came true that night for Keith and Zak. They were finishing up the finals of the Two-Headed Giant event and won on the back of a melded Mishra, Lost to Phyrexia. Pretty cool!

Keith, Zak, and Mishra basking in the win!

Prereleases are always fun. Win or lose, you get to open packs, build a deck, and hang out with the local Magic community. Thanks again to my fellow players for the matches and insights.

How was your prerelease? Did you pull some great cards, or have an awesome or bad beats story to share? Were you able to make new Magic friends? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below or on Twitter.

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