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MTG will favour physical releases over Arena for Brothers’ War and two following card sets

While not a permanent strategy, the change shows Wizards of the Coast is eager to return to in-person play.

Art for MTG card Electrostatic Infantry from Dominaria United. A bearded warrior rushes into battle wielding an axe with gears at its core and lightning coursing off it.
Image credit: Kamila Szutenberg/Wizards of the Coast

Magic: The Gathering maker Wizards of the Coast has detailed a slightly different plan for the launch of the next core set for 2022. After Unfinity’s spacebound shenanigans, players will travel to Dominaria’s past for The Brothers’ War, which will arrive in physical stores before online games this time around.

Wizards announced the altered plans in a blog post to the official MTG site, alongside a similar post to the WPN Network meant for local game stores within the benefits program. A list of dates shows that The Brothers’ War will hold its paper prerelease event on November 11th and then be available on Magic Arena and MTG Online starting November 15th.

Wizards of the Coast previously swapped the dates for physical and digital releases for Streets of New Capenna earlier this year. Either players or the trading card game’s makers liked the setup, as a similar plan will be used for The Brothers’ War and the next two sets - Phyrexia: All Will Be One and March of the Machine. Both of those are currently planned for early 2023.

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Both articles position this as another test, meaning the company currently doesn’t have any plans for this to be the new modus operandi. Still, a lot of physical players will likely rejoice at the change as digital releasing first gave Arena players several days to hone their skills in limited format before cracking packs in an LGS.

This change also follows an increasing number of resources being shifted from Arena and other digital avenues back to in-person events. Prior to 2022 (and certainly during the COVID-19 pandemic), Wizards seemed resolute in making Arena and digital play a fixture of its business model and key way to interact with each set. We’ve now seen the new model for the returned MTG Pro Tour push Arena out of the spotlight in favour of live tournaments beginning next year.

Arena continues to be a huge revenue machine for Wizards and parent company Hasbro, but the digital platform still lacks many of the tools that would make it a realiable and interesting avenue for e-sports. Additionally, it can only host one-vs-one matches - the super popular Commander format remains a distant dream. Arena never managed to fully replace the experience of paper MTG, and it seems even Wizards is letting the dream go.

Art for MTG card Mossbeard Ancient from Dominaria United. A living tree strolls through the forest while tiny blue fungus humanoids crawl along its arm.
Image credit: Alexandre Honoré/Wizards of the Coast

The Brothers’ War prerelease weekend will also herald another new change affecting both players and stores. Retail locations such as LGS and independent retailers who are part of the WPN will be able to sell booster packs, collectors packs, bundles and Commander decks will be available to purchase on the first day of the prerelease.

Exciting as that is for those ready to travel into MTG and Dominaria’s past, the WPN network remains a rather selective promotion that not all stores can afford to maintain. A longtime criticism is that WPN stores tend to exist only in densely populated urban and suburban locations, leaving local game stores with a dedicated but small community without these benefits.

If you want to read more about Dominaria United, the current expansion set during the plane’s tumultuous and uncertain present, Dicebreaker has plenty of coverage. Be sure to also read about the mechanics and oddities of Unfinity, the circus berzerkus set launching October 7th.

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