Welcome back, friends. Last time here on the Cardsphere channel we started our review of The Brothers’ War by looking at the hottest new legendary creatures for the set. Today we’re back in review mode, and going over the rest of the set. So if you’re looking for all the coolest new tech to throw in the 99 of your Commander decks, as well as my final thoughts on the set, then read on.
Just because they’re not legendary, doesn’t mean they’re not great. We’ve got some powerful new creatures in this set, and since it’s an artifact-themed set (my heart!), several of these are going to be artifacts as well. First up, and showcasing the new Prototype mechanic, is
Rootwire Amalgam. Prototype allows you to pay a smaller cost for the creature to get a smaller version of it, but with the same ability text. In this case, the Amalgam lets you pay 5 mana to sacrifice it to get a golem token with 3 times the power/toughness of Amalgam. So you’re either getting a 6/9 or a 15/15, depending on what you originally paid. Also with Prototype is
Phyrexian Fleshgorger, a big beater with some excellent keyword abilities.
If you like your artifacts to rise from the dead, then be thankful, because The Brothers’ War has brought back the Unearth mechanic and added it to several great artifact creatures.
Platoon Dispenser makes tokens and gives you some sweet card draw.
Cityscape Leveler and
Terror Ballista are monsters with a destructive attack trigger.
Artificer’s Dragon gives your mechanized army Firebreathing. And
Perennial Behemoth lets you play lands from your graveyard, which is always a welcome ability for self-mill and lands-matter decks.
We’re not done with the artifact creatures yet!
Spectrum Sentinel got left out of preview season, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it in the final set list. Obviously a slam dunk for
Heliod, Sun-Crowned decks, it should actually be finding a slot in almost any lifegain deck. This is Commander we’re talking about; we don’t play a lot of basics in this format. Which means this card could gain you 3 life per round. That adds up! And protection from multicolored means it’ll be able to block a large percentage of enemy commanders.
Su-Chi Cave Guard costs a lot, but you get so much out of it. An 8/8 with vigilance and ward 4 is powerful enough, but throwing in the mana ability makes it a combo engine. It’s especially potent with the new
Urza, Prince of Kroog.
Haywire Mite may end up being one of the most played cards in the set. Similar to
Caustic Caterpillar, but cheaper to activate, and it’s great for decks that love you to sacrifice your artifacts. The only drawback is the noncreature clause, but I still think this card is top tier.
Hexavus is going to feel right at home in ability counter decks like
Perrie, the Pulverizer or
Denry Klin, Editor in Chief. But honestly, giving flying to any creature that was never meant to have it can spell doom for your opponents in so many scenarios. Like
Fynn, the Fangbearer, for example.
And last for the artifacts is one that’s not actually a creature. Yet. It’s
Levitating Statue. Why I love this is that it gets around board wipes and continually grows and grows through the game. I’m looking to play this in combo decks that fire off a ton of spells, then wake it up and swing it at someone for lethal.
Okay, we’re finally done with artifact creatures. But there’s still more creatures to talk about! First up is probably the card that made my jaw drop the most when it was previewed, and that’s
Sarinth Greatwurm. If you find yourself wondering why I think this is so great, then you probably need to read it again. It triggers off of any land entering the battlefield, not just yours. The only thing holding this wurm back from greatness is its cost. If you were able to drop this on turn 3 or 4, you’d be unstoppable with the amount of mana you’d have. Even so, this card is incredible.
Not nearly as great, but certainly a great card to combo with the wurm, is
Sarinth Steelseeker. Even though green is the least artifacts-y color, there are still a lot of decks that can make use of this guy, particularly
Old Gnawbone and
Glissa, the Traitor. Also great if you’re running
Scholar of New Horizons is going to find a home in a lot of counters decks, in particular non-green decks that might otherwise struggle with getting extra lands to the table. And speaking of lands, have you seen
Rootpath Purifier? This one is definitely in contention for most exciting card of the set, as it does something incredible that we’ve never seen before on a card. There’s so much this card can do with fetching lands out of your library. Consider this example: with Purifier out, your
Cultivate can fetch up
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and
Cabal Coffers at the same time. Yeah, it’s that good.
Let’s move over to the aggro side, with
Blast-Furnace Hellkite. This dragon is just begging to gobble up your
Solemn Simulacrums. And giving all the creatures attacking your opponents double strike is so juicy. Then there’s
Sardian Avenger, who is sure to be a terror in the most treasure-infested metas. It’s an absolute powerhouse that will be nigh-unkillable during combat. For only 2 mana!
Third Path Iconoclast is a strict upgrade on
Young Pyromancer if you’re in blue.
Deathbloom Ritualist is a mana-making machine for self-mill decks. And
Disciple of Caelus Nin, aside from being the worst thing you can do to someone after a
Teferi’s Protection, is a great way to level the playing field.
Onto the noncreature artifacts! We’ll start with the big and bold 9-mana
Portal to Phyrexia. It clears out potential threats on entry, then gives you one of those threats on your upkeep. An excellent blink target, and it’s nonlegendary so you can also copy it. Or, for just a couple mana less, you can play
Wondrous Crucible for a bit of protection for your board and some random quasi-card advantage.
The Temporal Anchor is an amazing way to sculpt your draws. The price is high, but the card advantage is incredible. An automatic must-have for
Vega, the Watcher decks. Or if you’re looking for card advantage in a go-wide deck,
Symmetry Matrix is going to be perfect when you’re churning out those 1/1s.
The Stasis Coffin occupies that space similar to
Teferi’s Protection, in that it can really go in any deck and be good. While the Coffin isn’t as good as TP, it does have the benefit of going in non-white decks. And it synergizes more with decks focused on legends or artifacts.
Machine God’s Effigy goes in your clone/copy decks, and will certainly find a home in my Wilson/Charlatan deck. And
Thran Power Suit is another powerful weapon in the voltron armory.
Planeswalkers, Enchantments, and Lands
Not much in the rest of the permanents categories, so we’ll lump them all in here before moving onto the non-permanents. Let’s start with the walkers. Aside from the Urza meld - cleverly named Urza, Planeswalker - there are two walkers in this set. One is meh, and hardly worth mentioning (
Saheeli, Filigree Master), and the other is
Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim, whose ultimate is not only staggeringly easy to obtain, but also incredibly overpowered. Teferi has the distinction of always being the hero of the story and the villain of the cardboard, and that trend certainly continues in this set. Card draw/wheel decks, and their numbers are many, will be all over this one.
Over to the enchantments. If
Future Sight had a baby, it would be
One with the Multiverse. Like Omniscience, most people will only play this if they can abuse it somehow, and also if they can consistently make massive amounts of mana.
Visions of Phyrexia moves us another step closer to complete obsolescence of former staple
Outpost Siege. With the amount of impulse draw we’ve been seeing in red, this doesn’t so much stand out as it adds to the pile of highly playable red card draw. The Powerstones are a bonus.
And last for enchantments is
Mechanized Warfare. Like Visions of Phyrexia, Warfare is nothing new, but it adds redundancy to your damage enhancing arsenal.
The hottest new land from the set is
Demolition Field. Quality-wise, it fits right in between
Ghost Quarter and
Field of Ruin. Another great addition for land-hate lands. Then there’s
Tocasia’s Dig Site, which can be great in any deck that isn’t hurting for the colored mana. I’ll be picking up several.
And last is
Argoth, Sanctum of Nature. This is one half of the meld for Titania, Gaea Incarnate, but if that doesn’t interest you, the land still has its uses. It’s no
Boseiju, Who Endures, but can still give your green deck some free utility (and is way cheaper to buy).
Instants and Sorceries
Let’s start off our review of non-permanent spells with some of my favorite kind of spells: the modal ones! First up is
Titania’s Command. This is one of five in a cycle, with each color getting one, but it’s really the only one worth mentioning. The cost is a bit high, but the value you get for the 6 mana is great. Not a high-power card, but still very playable for its flexibility.
Next up is
Defabricate, which is without a doubt, absolutely playable. Countering activated or triggered abilities is always useful, and not a common effect. We’ve also got
Gruesome Realization, which adds some versatility to
Night’s Whisper. Token decks are rampant, so it’s a nice effect to have. And then there’s
Brotherhood’s End, a mini-board wipe that can be really effective in low mana and treasure-heavy metas.
Awaken the Woods may look innocuous at first glance. After all, it’s just another X spell that makes 1/1 tokens, right? Wrong. Where this card stands out is that those 1/1s aren’t just creatures, they’re also lands. That’s right, it makes
Dryad Arbors, which means it’s going to be a magical time for all of your Landfall triggers. This card in an
Omnath, Locus of Rage deck? Terrifying.
Also in green, we have a neat little board wipe in
Fade from History. It's cheaper than
Bane of Progress, and less detrimental than
Rampage of the Clans. Other removal spells worth mentioning are
Soul Partition and
Overwhelming Remorse. Both powerful effects.
Calamity’s Wake is a stunner, and sure to be strong in the competitive metas. While it might not replace
Silence, I think its ability to hose
Underworld Breach decks certainly makes the extra mana still worth it.
All right, we’ve talked about the individual cards. How is The Brothers’ War as a complete set? Does it make up for what Dominaria United lacked? Does it give me joy to be back in a world of artifacts? Is this set worth your time and money?
The Brothers’ War certainly has its strengths and weaknesses. Let’s start with the latter. My biggest complaint about this set is there are no new mechanics. “But Andy, what about Prototype?” Sorry friends, but Prototype is just another form of Kicker. While it’s done in a cool way, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. You may recall in my review of Dominaria United, I said the biggest problem with the set was that it played it too safe. And I think that may also be true for The Brothers’ War, but there's an important difference giving this set an advantage. And that’s the nostalgia factor.
The whole point of this set, even moreso, I believe, than Dominaria United, is nostalgia, and from that point of view, the set is a huge success. The retro border on the artifact reprints, as well as all the precon cards, is a smash hit. Both young and old players alike are clamoring for those artifact reprints, especially the schematic versions. It reminds us why we love artifacts, and this game, so much.
And it’s not just the artifacts. Traveling back in time with this set allowed Wizards to go back and give proper attention to characters in the old stories. I’m not just talking about Urza and Mishra, but also Gix, Ashnod, Loran, and others. Characters who’ve only been mentioned previously in card names or flavor text now get to lead their own decks, which is a huge win for all the story nerds out there.
That’s all great for the flavor, but does the set have enough quality new cards that Commander players will want to add to their decks for years to come? Frankly, this question is getting harder and harder to answer. With the increase in product that we’ve been seeing over the last couple of years, fewer and fewer cards are breaking through into that “staple” category, and more and more cards are sitting in bulk bins. This as a shame, because a lot of the bulk cards, especially the niche rare stuff we’ve been seeing so much of in all the precons, make for incredible game experiences (e.g.,
Life of the Party). With that said, do I feel The Brothers’ War has enough good cards to make it a success for Commander players? Absolutely, yes.
While the set is far from broken or overpowered, there are many cards that will find homes and see play in our format. From powerhouses like
Sarinth Greatwurm and
Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim, to low-cost utility cards like
Haywire Mite and
Third Path Iconoclast, to niche funhouses like
Rootpath Purifier and
Portal to Phyrexia, the set gives us enough amazing new cards that I would consider it a resounding success for Commander.
I’m really excited for this new set, not just because I’m an artifact fiend, but also because it just looks like a blast to play with. What it lacks in new mechanics and ingenuity, it makes up for in powerful and fun new cards that I can’t wait to put in my decks. Give me all the shiny new toys!
That’s it for my review of The Brothers’ War. What do you think? Is this set for you? Are there cards that you can’t wait to play? Or is this one a hard pass? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what you think. Or come find me making budget content with the Scrap Trawlers over on YouTube and Twitch.
Check back in a couple of weeks for more Commander fun. It’s almost the end of the year, so I’ll certainly have a year-end review coming for ya, as well as a deck tech or two with some of these new Brothers’ War commanders. Until then, take care. And play lots of games!