The Brothers’ War
This article is part of our community-sourced Set Prospective series. We survey Cube designers before the set’s official release to document their first impressions of new cards.
War… war never changes. That is, unless a multinational toy company themes the latest expansion of their 13-and-up trading card game around a world war — that’s how we end up with The Brothers’ War, a new breed of well-designed and conscientious conflict for the 21st century. (Eat your heart out, Ulysses S. Grant.)
But we don’t have time to discuss the troubling commoditization of violence in American entertainment. We’re here to appropriate the problematic widgets of capitalism into compelling Cube gameplay experiences!
That’s right, baby. It’s a community cube set review, and I’m writing it on a bad night’s sleep.
289 cube curators from around the Internet have responded to the survey for the new set. Our median respondent is testing 9 cards from BRO, and has given 2 cards a high rating above 7.75 out of 10. This puts The Brothers’ War on similar ground as Dominaria United before it. The most cards tested by a single respondent is 71.
|Third Path Iconoclast||54.7%||8.0|
|Loran of the Third Path||29.8%||6.8|
|Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor||17.0%||6.0|
|Feldon, Ronom Excavator||16.3%||5.1|
|Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim||14.5%||5.7|
|Phyrexian Dragon Engine||12.5%||5.2|
|Dreams of Steel and Oil||12.5%||5.8|
|Lay Down Arms||12.1%||5.3|
|Mishra's Research Desk||10.7%||5.1|
|Liberator, Urza's Battlethopter||9.7%||4.4|
|Awaken the Woods||9.7%||5.7|
|No One Left Behind||9.0%||5.2|
|Hero of the Dunes||7.3%||6.4|
|Saheeli, Filigree Master||6.9%||6.3|
|Drafna, Founder of Lat-Nam||6.6%||4.9|
|Ashnod, Flesh Mechanist||6.6%||5.9|
|Portal to Phyrexia||5.9%||5.0|
|Queen Kayla bin-Kroog||5.5%||5.0|
|Legions to Ashes||5.5%||5.6|
|Tocasia's Dig Site||5.5%||5.4|
|Myrel, Shield of Argive||5.2%||4.7|
|Urza, Prince of Kroog||4.8%||6.7|
|In the Trenches||4.8%||5.1|
|Hurkyl, Master Wizard||4.8%||5.2|
|The Mightstone and Weakstone||4.2%||4.8|
|Mishra, Tamer of Mak Fawa||3.8%||4.4|
|Argoth, Sanctum of Nature||3.8%||4.8|
|Evangel of Synthesis||3.8%||5.3|
|Mishra, Excavation Prodigy||3.8%||5.7|
|Mishra, Claimed by Gix||3.5%||5.0|
|Titania, Voice of Gaea||3.5%||6.0|
|Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea||3.1%||6.9|
|Urza, Lord Protector||3.1%||5.7|
|Thran Power Suit||3.1%||5.7|
Single Card Discussion
This pair of militants are seeing play by more than half of our respondents.
Third Path Iconoclast, the latest in a long line of Young Pyromancer effects, is the most-tested card from BRO. It trades the castability of “Young PZ” for a more flexible triggered ability. There are some combos in Eternal formats which abuse the Iconoclast's artifact tokens, too. All said, Third Path Iconoclast is the archetypal Cube Prospective success story — an obviously powerful iteration on a beloved and highly accessible Cube mainstay.
“Wizards made some cards in this set that will help cubes 'find the fun'!”
Recruitment Officer is similarly anticipated as an iteration on Savannah Lions. The activated ability gives Recruitment Officer late-game relevance, while its creature types are often relevant in cube. The eligibility of Recruitment Officer in Peasant cubes doesn’t hurt, either.
New Recruits, Same War
The cards which have captured the interest of 25-50% of our respondents are also tweaks to common cube effects. Arcane Proxy establishes the beachhead for the new Prototype mechanic, offering a twist on Snapcaster Mage. Like other notable Prototypes Phyrexian Fleshgorger, Steel Seraph, and Combat Thresher, the Proxy offers a surprisingly deep nexus of synergy, from flicker effects and artifact synergies to its innate modality. Prototype cards are well-represented on our survey, suggesting that Cube curators generally are receptive to the new mechanic.
Meanwhile, Loran of the Third Path is a color-shifted promotion for Reclamation Sage, in a color better-suited to flicker synergies. Loran’s abilities also enable some unique play patterns long after Reclamation Sage has ceased being useful. Compared to White’s other options, Loran offers less flexible interaction, less aggressive stats, and less card advantage, but the combination of all these currencies on a single card has swayed nearly a third of our respondents.
Finally, Recommission is the non-commissioned officer of BRO, the set’s most-tested Pauper-eligible card. Compared to its older sibling Unearth, it loses the modality of Cycling and loses a mana of efficiency, but gains the ability to recur artifacts and buff creatures. The +1/+1 rider text provides a lot of opportunity for synergy and partly recoups the extra paid for Recommission.
What are we, animals?
Of The Brothers’ War marquee mechanics, Unearth is the most popular after Prototype, boasting Simian Simulacrum and Scrapwork Mutt among the top survey performers. The Simulacrum is a resilient, efficiently costed threat (and I can speak from experience that it’s a heck of a combo with Recommission). Meanwhile, the Mutt enables a wide set of synergies at a favorable rate, and is Pauper- and Peasant-legal.
“There's a lot I like about Powerstones, but the double negation in their wording can be hard to parse.”
Horned Stoneseeker, with a paltry 6% test-rate, is the most-tested Powerstone card among our respondents. This marquee mechanic seems to have been tuned for Retail Limited gameplay, and most cards which produce the tokens have modest rates in the context of Magic’s entire card pool. Some curators are nonetheless interested in Powerstones, but the appeal seems quite niche.
The Brothers’ War is full of returning mechanics, nostalgic call-backs, and modal new abilities. Cube curators are choosing their battles for BRO without giving the set a full-throated endorsement, but there’s nonetheless something in The Brothers’ War for every designer.
“I like that new sets feel more like a presentation of options than a list of must-haves.”
My own thoughts:
We’re in a Watchwolf renaissance. Watchwolf heralded a new era of creature stats at its first printing, but in the intervening decades since Ravnica, the 3/3 for statline was largely restricted to Green-aligned color pairs. Blue’s Watchwolf variants have often been highly conditional with a low floor; BRO’s Evangel of Synthesis and Harbin, Vanguard Aviator are anything but. Between these and Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard, I’ll be keeping my powder dry for future cards with CD mana costs.
Green, the pro-artifact color? From Urza's Saga to Scars of Mirrodin, Green has historically taken on the role of Chief Party Pooper in artifact sets. The other four colors all have ways to synergize positively with artifacts, but Green’s synergies were either actively anti-artifact or simply below-rate relative to its other synergies. Not any longer. With BRO, we have a suite of effects at low rarities that encourage the kind of all-in artifact synergy that was previously the exclusive purview of other colors. Cube curators interested in artifact synergy may find new inspiration in BRO’s Green section.
BRO gives deckbuilders a new way to be marginally multicolor. A few months ago I rhapsodized about Dominaria United’s use of Domain and off-color Kicker to generate the opportunity for low-risk splashes. The colorless/monocolor Prototype and Unearth costs of BRO push this incentive structure into new territory. I’ve already built BRO draft decks that include Llanowar Wastes solely for Ashnod's Harvester and Energy Refractor for Platoon Dispenser, and I fully expect those kinds of focused and intentional splashes to characterize the BRO draft format. These designs offer new options for Cube curators to reward shrewd drafting and disciplined deckbuilding.
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