Magic: The Gathering’s next set, The Brothers’ War, pauses the current march towards a grand clash between the forces of good and evil to revisit one of the most pivotal and beloved storylines in the trading card game’s history.
Publisher Wizards of the Coast recently dropped a ton of information regarding the upcoming card set’s mechanics, which include early versions, powerstones, the ability to slam two cards into something new and retro machines (not the Transformers cards - different retro machines).
Players will travel to Dominaria’s past and see the conflict between artificer brothers Urza and Mishra when The Brothers’ War officially releases on November 18th. This event set, designed around some major incident instead of a whole plane as setting, is appropriately focused on artefacts but manages to tinker with the colourless cards in some new and interesting ways.
Let’s start simple: that’s what the new Prototype mechanic is all about. Certain artefact creatures will have an alternate - and cheaper - casting cost printed below the art box, where rules text normally goes. Players can pay this smaller price in exchange for a construct, such as Phyrexian Fleshgorger, that isn’t quite as powerful as it might have been at full value. The card retains all abilities regardless of how it entered, making prototype creatures valuable draws at any stage of the game.
Powerstones are mana-producing engines that play a pivotal and recurring role in the brothers’ story, so it makes sense plenty of cards in The Borthers’ War creates these little artefacts. Players can tap a powerstone token for one colourless mana with the restriction that it can’t be spent on non-artifact spells. Everything else - activated abilities on creatures, extra costs, and of course more artefacts.
Unearth isn’t a new mechanic by any stretch - the keyword has popped up in numerous sets since its introduction as the signature Grixis mechanic in 2008’s Shards of Alara, but it makes perfect sense here. Both Urza and Mishra are pulling knowledge and artefacts - such as Ashnod's Harvester - out of the sands of the past, but the latter brother also ends falling prey to a dark power that allows him to reanimate the dead. That’s what Unearth does best - gives creatures in your graveyard one more turn and the haste to immediately attack before they’re exiled for the rest of the game.
Meld is likely one returning mechanic that many players and fans didn’t see coming. It’s one of those abilities that feels more akin to Yu-Gi-Oh! than Magic: The Gathering, but the results are bombastic all the same. Specific pairs of cards, such as the legendary creature Urza, Lord Protector and legendary artefact The Mightstone and Weakstone, can be flipped and combined sideways to create a new permanent. In Urza’s case, the brother becomes Urza, Planeswalker. His brother, Mishra, has a grimmer fate in store and combines with Phyrexian Dragon Engine to become Mishra, Lost to Phyrexia.
Like other recent sets, The Brothers’ War’s 287 cards will come with special art treatments and unique printings. Artefacts retain the spotlight with retro and schematic artefact printings. Retro refers to 63 artefacts pulled from MTG's considerable history, such as Wurmcoil Engine, Howling Mine or Phyrexian Revoker, and reprinted in the retro brown frames. Schematic cards adds another twist by pairing the retro frame with sketched artwork reminiscent of an artificer’s journal and work-in-progress versions of classic cards.
Each set and draft booster will contain a retro or schematic artefact card, though they will of course appear more frequently in the expensive collectors booster packs. Set and collectors booster may also contain one of the 15 Transformers cards. These will all be legendary creatures with the humanoid form on one side and the incognito machine on the reverse.
Those more interested in MTG’s brand of high fantasy will likely enjoy the mech Basic Lands, a separate series of Basic Land cards whose full-length art features one of Urza’s or Mishra’s colossal creations as they roam the various landscapes of Dominaria.
Prerelease for The Brothers’ War begins on November 11th and runs through the 17th. The set will land on Magic Arena and MTG Online on November 15th, followed shortly by the full physical release on November 18th. This will be the last full set of cards from MTG for 2022.