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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Dec 01 2022 11:12am
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THE BROTHERS' WAR

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 With The Brothers' War both the festivities for Magic's 30th anniversary and the New Phyrexian Invasion storyline kick into high gear. It's a set that looks to the past both ways: we revisit the game's most famous story, the devastating conflict between artificer brothers Urza and Mishra on Dominaria that was already the setting of Magic's second expansion, Antiquities; at the same time we follow Teferi, Saheeli and the other good guys from the current storyline who are trying to stop Elesh Norn's devious plans of multiversal dominance by sending Teferi's conscience to the distant past so he can find a solution to their present predicament from those (namely Urza) who defeated the Phyrexian scourge in ancient times.

 The set only have one supported tribal element in Soldier (notably, the type replaces Warrior entirely; it's a very organized and mass-produced war, not a skirmish!), but Artificer is also a major presence, due to mechanized warfare being the main thematic throughline of the set – hence Construct being another one of the largest tribes, while we see additions for not commonly seen artifact types like Assembly-Worker, Dreadnought, and Thopter, as well as robotic versions of most every non-humanoid tribe. Phyrexian also gets a big boost, given that the biomechanical monstrosities interloped between Urza and Mishra's antagonism, eventually claiming the latter to their ranks.

 The Brothers' War is accompanied both by two Commander decks (one per each brother) and by 10 Jumpstart boosters including 5 exclusive cards, all creatures, that are considered part of the main set and share the same expansion symbol. The Retro Artifacts found in the boosters and reprinting a plethora of cards throughout Magic's entire history are instead only legal in Limited, much in the same way as Strixhaven's Mystical Archive. They have a different expansion symbol.

 

 Let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the main focus is on all the Constructed applications, though Limited is occasionally touched upon; the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 NOTE: Alchemy cards, Acorn cards, and other non-tournament legal cards aren't counted toward the tribal totals.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 277 (+15 duplicated basic lands, +3 oversized meld faces, but including 5 Jumpstart exclusives)
  • New cards: 253
  • New creatures: 149 (+2 oversized meld faces)
  • Reprinted cards: 24
  • Reprinted creatures: 3 (Fauna Shaman, Monastery Swiftspear, Obstinate Baloth)
  • New Legendary creatures: 22 (+2 oversized meld faces)
  • New Snow creatures: 0
  • New artifact creatures: 55
  • New enchantment creatures: 0
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 9
  • Creature types affected: 50
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Human (+64), Soldier (+32), Artificer (+24), Construct (+17), Phyrexian (+11), Wizard (+7)

Advisor: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 77, online: 68

 Related Tribes: Artificer, Human, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: More often than it should, the Advisor type in Magic is used to represent a politician or a magistrate of sort, someone who hold a position of power but not in virtue of their bloodline or military prowess, like a minister or a mayor (somewhat counter-intuitively, since those are the ones who should have advisors). Instead, The Brothers' War gives us two Advisors that are literally "academic advisors", as Drafta and his wife Hurkyl were at the head of the College of Lat-Nam, one of the three schools that joined forces in trying to oppose both Urza and Mishra's side of the conflict in what was going to be called the Third Path. In particular, they were responsible for the return of magic in Terisiare (the Dominarian continent that's the setting of Antiquities, The Dark and Ice Age). Hurkyl's name is mostly known to Magic players for Hurkyl's Recall, and that was in fact the first great showing of the arcane arts at the time of the Brothers' War. Hurkyl and Drafna are also one of three couples of lovers that surround the story of the warring Brothers; they're the sad couple (since Hurkyl died during the war), while Loran and Feldon make up the tragic one (Loran also died and Feldon foolishly tried to bring her back), and Ashnod and Tawnos are the star-crossed one (as they were on opposite sides of the war).

 All that's swell, but what do the cards for these two lovebirds do? Well, Drafna is a two-drop with a bit of a board presence (gotta love a dean that can swing for two), but for the most part he's meant to abuse artifacts in an artifact-rich deck, and precisely one where we run several that have worthy ETB triggers (even just something like Prophetic Prism or Ichor Wellspring) as well as one where we have enough mana resources at our disposal so that spending an extra three to copy an artifact spell on the stack will be a viable proposition in the mid to late game. If it sound a bit too restrictive, it's because it is. Drafna is a strict build-around card, and not even one that will immediately deliver even in the right deck. He might find some fortune in Commander formats, though.

 On her part, Hurkyl has an even more rewarding body/cost ratio, and a ton of rule text. But in short, what all that wording says is that Hurkyl just waits until we cast any kind of noncreature spell, the sees if she can replace it for us by looking for the same type among the top five cards of our library. She does it every turn and separately for each noncreature type, so we could technically cast five spells of different types and then draw five cards at end of turn, but the odds of that happening are obviously abysmal. The safer route is build a deck with one dominant type, so we're most likely to cast a spell of that type every turn and Hurkyl's most likely to find another instance of it in the top five. This way, we're basically guaranteed a self-replacing card per turn, which isn't bad. But again, it seems more suitable for Commander. And if we go for the artifact-heavy route (which is, I suspect, what the designers had in mind to begin with), she'll even synergize well with her hubby.


Angel: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 220, online: 217

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is something that we'll witness happening throughout the entire set: for both flavor and mechanical reasons, the designers of The Brothers' War adopted a hard rule of "when in doubt, make it an artifact creature". So here's our mechanical Angel, a combination that has actually some history behind it, with examples from Mirrodin, Alara, and recently even New Capenna. It's also our first glance at prototype (guess even Angels were mass-produced at that time), which is yet another variant on kicker – only, this time the basic state of the card is the one with the highest cost, which is a nice incentive to flicker them. The cheaper cost also changes the mana value and color of the card, and that's not a result we see often with this type of modal cards. In this case, we can either deploy our Steel Seraph as a white 3/3 for three or as a colorless 5/4 for 6. Both will be flyers that temporarily grant either flying, vigilance or lifelink to a creature, including itself. It's a strong ability on both forms of the card, and it fits what the Angel tribe is usually about. Although it's probably not properly at home in Angel tribal itself – the expensive option is subpar for six mana; the cheaper one faces a ton of competition; flying is wasted on Angels, and even vigilance and lifelink are not needed much, even if the latter could help enable some lifegain synergies.


Ape: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 30, online: 27

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: I don't know if there's a story motivation behind the choice of subtype here, but otherwise I can't tell why this thing is an Ape. The artwork doesn't look like an Ape. I mean, it doesn't not look like an Ape either, but that mechanical body could be meant as the mimicry of any kind of bipedal creature (it also appears to be fighting with blades, which doesn't sound like a very simian strategy). Even the mechanics of the card aren't especially Ape-like – the tribe doesn't really traffic in +1/+1 counters; the only other Ape that used them is Grunn, the Lonely King, and that's only if we kick it for nine mana. Regardless, a 4/3 or a 2/1 that permanently boosts something else makes for a good three-drop in Limited. And later you can milk two extra +1/+1 counters from it via unearth, so it might see Constructed applications, perhaps in Monogreen Stompy lists, due to the double green cost. It's certainly a valuable addition to Ape decks, which, if you can believe it, never had a rare with mana value lower than six. And for what's worth, never had a robotic Ape, either.


Artificer: +24

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 171, online: 167

 Related Tribes: Advisor, Human, Phyrexian, Scout

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Given that The Brothers' War is, for all intents and purposes, a contemporary reimagining of Antiquities, the majority of the legendary characters in the story are going to belong to the Artificer class. Starting, of course, with our two titular protagonists on the verge of mutual assured annihilation.

  

 Urza is easily the most celebrated Magic: The Gathering character ever, despite the fact that his long and troubled life was never chronicled in a modern set (until now, that is), and not so many players who are active today even remember the existence of those old novels from the Nineties. In spite of not having been part of the storyline for more than two decades, the greatest artificer remains to date one of the game's most enduring legends. The Brothers' War tried to fix this discrepancy by giving Urza "the Chandra treatment" – a vertical cycle of three cards depicting him at various stages of his life. It starts with the uncommon Urza, Powerstone Prodigy, portraying Urza as a young and ambitious student of the esteemed archaeologist Tocasia. Back then, scholarly research in Terisiare was all about digging up ancient Thran technology, and soon Urza learned to crave the prodigious powerstones, which is what the Thran used to fuel their wondrous machines. Monoblue Urza is a looter that's allowed to swing for one before doing his thing (though that's hardly relevant at any point in the game). His activation cost is reduced to nothing after the first Powerstone token is created, but in order to do so we need to find artifacts that are worth discarding in lieu of excess lands, which is what a looter usually aims for (we're seeing this design space being mined recently, as New Capenna's connive was also discouraging us from just pitching lands). Truth be told, there doesn't seem to be much case for it, short of a specialized artifact build that incorporates some repetable recursion like Emry, Lurker of the Loch, or culminates in some kind of mass reanimation like Open the Vaults or Dance of the Manse. So at the end of the day, this Urza is little more than a fancy-looking looter.
 Of course an artifact-based deck is also going to be the most interested in creating Powerstones in the first place, and it's not surprising for an Urza card to be linked to that theme, even if his previous incarnation from Modern Horizons, Urza, Lord High Artificer, managed to be self-sufficient in that regard. That's not the case for the rare Urza, Prince of Kroog, portraying Urza after his marriage of convenience with Kayla bin-Kroog (back when she was a Yotian princess and not yet Queen of Argive – by then, her union with Urza had already dissolved, so he never got to use the title of king). The first Azorius Urza is a veritable artifact lord, highly increasing the threat factor for our robotic team, as well as building up its ranks. It's the best of the three Urzas, as the mythic one, Urza, Lord Protector, is merely a decently-costed discounter whose main function is waiting for The Mightstone and Weakstone to appear, so he can transform into the oversized super-planeswalker that's hidden on the back face of both cards. Let's just get this out of the way: meld is a novelty mechanic that's never going to be worth considering in any serious competitive environment, at least not the way it's been implemented so far. It's a Timmy/Tammy fun ride that makes for a popular Commander decks (Lord Protector has indeed immediately become a chase rare in paper Commander) and nothing else. The best part of this meld pair is actually the fact that the Mightstone and the Weakstone, which are extremely powerful artifacts in the story, now finally got a decent avatar, after the preposterously terrible versions we had in Antiquities. Thirty years of game design evolution and all that.

  

 And speaking of Mishra, of course the same treatment Urza received was given to his own bro as well, even if his historical importance is exclusively limited to the time of the Brother's War. The monocolored version, Mishra, Excavation Prodigy is beat by beat the mirrored version of Urza's: he's a rummager rather than a looter, hasty rather than vigilant, his body is offensive rather than defensive, and his mana production is big but aleatory rather than slow but permanent. Red Mishra has actually a better play patter where we can deploy him on turn four and immediately activate, getting two mana back right away. It's nothing to be overly excited about, but it's something. The epithet of Mishra, Tamer of Mak Fawa refers to when our guy was staying with a Fallaji tribe and rose to prominence within it when he successfully subjugated a Dragon Engine, one of the mechanized Phyrexian monsters that the Fallaji call "Mak Fawa". This episode results in a solid Rakdos-colored five-drop that passively forces our opponents to sacrifice a permanent before targeting our stuff, which is insanely annoying, though not necessarily game-winning. The universal unearth for artifacts is kind of sweet in the right build, but it's worth noting at this point how none of the cards representing these legendarily skilled Artificers is actually able to create an artifact on its own. Which is odd, and it's confirmed by the last entry in these two brotherly triplets, Mishra, Claimed by Gix. By now, Mishra has been turned to the Phyrexian ways by the renegade, machine-worshipping priests of the Brotherhood of Gix, and is about to be reborn as a construct of flesh and Phyrexian metal. In-game, that's done via meld once again, so we get a four-drop 3/5 that drains the opponent for each creature we use to attack, which isn't even that bad of a deal, and if we manage to simultaneously attack with him and a copy of Phyrexian Dragon Engine – and that's of course not at all simple to achieve – boom, Mega Mishra has arrived.

 So our two main men are somewhat lacking, card-wise. What about all the many other legendary Artificers in the set? For some reason, most of them are paired up romantically with each other. We've seen how Drafna married Hurkyl; another couple is made up of Loran and Feldon, a name that most players will recognize because of his ornate walking stick. Loran, who was a childhood acquaintance of Urza and Mishra as well as Tocasia's favorite student, never had a card to her name before, so she gets two. In Loran, Disciple of History she does an updated impression of Argivian Archaelogist (because, you know, that's what she is!). After joining the "coalition of intellectuals against the war", she became Loran of the Third Path, which is an interesting white and rare take on Reclamation Sage. She has vigilance as a plus, but more importantly she gets a second function as a group-hug card-drawing engine – which admittedly might work better in multiplayer, but it's still something white decks should get more mileage from compared to their average opponent. Her sweetheart Feldon, who already had a Feldon of the Third Path incarnation from Commander 2014, is given a baffling aggro card here, a two-drop 2/2 with haste that can't block but essentially impulsive-draw us a card when he dies. There's some tension with the opponent being unable, or at least unwilling, to block him with something that doesn't outright kill him, like a 1/3. And the card replacement he gets us is selected from at the very least two, unless Feldon meets a non-damage-based demise. At the end of the day, this is a simple curve-filling beater, though. Hard to understand what this has to do with Feldon (who lived a long life and didn't particularly read as reckless) or even with being an Artificer at all.

 The final Artificer romance is the one between Ashnod and Tawnos. They were Mishra's apprentice and Urza's apprentice, respectively, so their love was as forbidden as if they were from opposing Veronese families. Ashnod was also a real piece of work who once tortured Tawnos himself (the Mishra's side of the conflict is typically portrayed as "the bad guys", even if the Urza's side will end up committing its fair share of atrocities). Ashnod, Flesh Mechanist is her first card incarnation, a one-drop deathtoucher that turns creatures into Powerstones by attacking. Afterwards she can also turn creature remains into 3/3 Zombies. Those are indeed big Zombies (Liliana would be envious!), but they cost 5 mana apiece. And the idea that Ashnod will be able to keep attacking with impunity because of deathtouch seems short-lived, as any random 1/1 token will put a stop to that. Besides, this all happens within a build that's filled with sacrifice fodder, and chances are in that build, our sacrifice outlet of choice needs to be more reliable than Ashnod. On the other hand, Tawnos is given a strange, quirky incarnation this time. We knew him as Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice in Commander 2018, but to be honest, these two cards seem to depict entirely different characters. The Toymaker is a big-butted Simic-colored five-drop that makes artifact copies of all the Beasts and Birds we cast. That's a powerful if oddly specific ability (did Tawnos not care for Horse or Bear toys? Is that a pun on "the birds and the bees"?). He clearly lends himself to leading an extravagant, double-tribal Commander or Brawl list like this one. But he has basically nothing to offer to his own tribes, sadly. Fun fact about Ashnod and Tawnos: as apprentices to the two big guys, they both had several cards named after them in Antiquities; some of them are still well-known to this very day.

 Last of the "famous Artificers of the time" is Tocasia, i.e. Urza, Mishra and Loran's mentor (and no, we don't know if she was married or with whom). She's also an Argivian archaelogist – to be fair, most of the characters in this story are, at least at the beginning – and her card avatar is the only three-colored spell in the set. Tocasia's static ability turns our entire team into archaeologists of sort, since surveil seems to be intended as representing the act of digging (vigilance is probably a mechanical necessity to still allow attacks). Her activated ability is a big final excavation that costs a lot of resources and only bear fruits if we dug properly. I can't say she's even good in Commander, because she has to be in the graveyard to activate, and we can't discard her while she in the command zone, so the whole process becomes very complicated for a payoff that's not even that great, since we pay eight mana to reanimate ten mana worth of a specific card type.

 Last rare Artificer, Geology Enthusiast is the Jumpstart exclusive. And what do you know, this is actually an Artificer that makes artifacts! Specifically Powerstones, and even for free. Make some and suddenly the six mana to start to draw cards and make the Enthusiast bigger become more affordable. It's not like she's going to be legit Constructed material, but why do I feel like she's one of the best Artificers of this bunch, at least for Artificer decks?

 Brief shout-out to the uncommon Artificers that comprise the signposts for four of the ten dual-color archetypes in Limited. Arbalest Engineers is a very versatile three-drop with a trio of useful modes; Battery Bearer is both ramp enabler and payoff; Junkyard Genius is a solid sacrifice outlet for aggressive decks; and Yotian Dissident repackages Selesnya's usual +1/+1 counter strategy around the artifact theme, for as little as an initial two-mana investment and nothing more. And yes, these four are all more playable – and I dare say better designed – than the average rare Artificer.

   

 Other Artificers in the set enhance the Limited experience by doing some "bread and butter" work in the various archetypes. Worth of a mention is Sarinth Steelseeker, which reiterates how subtly but hugely advantageous is the "looking for lands" ability. We had seen it before in different forms with cards like Dryad Greenseeker, Nessian Wanderer, and Quandrix Apprentice. It doesn't look like much because we're not drawing gas with it, but we're still drawing cards, for no cost.

   


Assassin: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 72, online: 69

 Related Tribes: Human, Phyrexian

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This is just a payoff for the set's black-green Limited archetype, which cares about the number of creatures in the graveyard. It's a strange concept for an Assassin: she perks up by finding corpses, even if she's not the one who actually killed them?


Assembly-Worker: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 11

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: One of the reasons, possibly the main reason why the name of Urza is still so popular and so frequently evoked among Magic players has got to be because of the Urzatron deck in Modern. It's one of the oldest and most consistently successful archetypes in the format, and it's based around the very old "Urza's" lands, first printed right there in Antiquities and then carried into Modern in virtue of their Eighth Edition reprint. The Brothers' War couldn't avoid paying homage to such an iconic triplet, but ended up doing it in a much more harmless fashion through three little robots that work at each Urza's location. A miner, an electrician and a window cleaner, these three don't seem to be top-down designs. In fact, it looks like the designers thought of three basic effects to assign them – lifegaining, mana production and firebreathing – and then they distributed them kind of randomly between the trio. Sure we can come up with lore explanations for why they do what they do; but one can also easily decide that, say, Mine Worker generates mana off the ore it excavates, Power Plant Worker gives life by making the electric grid perfectly functional, and Tower Worker is allowed to boost itself to defend its crucial place of work. Regardless, they of course improve their effectiveness when they're all together (not sure how that would work since they normally exist in separate locations, while the original lands had a sort of Monopoly's "Utilities" deal). They're fine for Limited, especially the Tower Worker as a mana dork that doubles as a reach blocker; probably just a curiosity elsewhere.

 And yeah, I'm burying the lede here, they're Assembly-Workers (even if they don't actually assemble anything), a subtype that gets severely extended by The Brothers' War from 7 to 11 members. The fourth new addition is even sort of a lord for the tribe, Autonomous Assembler, confirming the tribe's white color identity already seen with Arcbound Prototype in Modern Horizons 2. The Assembler is also a prototype, and in its more curve-friendly form is a solid two-drop 2/2 that can add a +1/+1 counter to any Assembly-Worker at instant speed. Not too shabby for a tiny tribe that might just have one of the highest averages of card quality in the entire game.


Barbarian: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 42, online: 38

 Related Tribes: Minotaur

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is kind of a weird way to reference the homeland of Antiquities' most iconic big guy, Colossus of Sardia. I guess there were Barbarians on those mountains (later known as Karplusan Mountains), and they happened to be Minotaurs – possibly the precursors to Karplusan Minotaur. What's most odd is that a mechanic that counts the number of Mountains we control could have shown up in any set. It's obviously meant for Monored Aggro, but it could be a tad slow for its more competitive variety, since the Cliffstomper does not contribute offensively until at least turn four.


Beast: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 448, online: 438

 Related Tribes: Dinosaur, Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: None of these variously colored Beasts is without some shreds of merit, but they're mostly filler even in Limited, except perhaps for Giant Cindermaw in aggressive decks. Perennial Behemoth is even kind of a bad rare: unearthing a 2/7 to recur a land doesn't sound like a key late-game play. Trench Stalker is okay within the blue-black "draw two" archetype, barely playable elsewhere.

 All in all, the reprint of Obstinate Baloth does the tribe the most luster in the format. But this Beast clique as a whole still doesn't improve much Tawnos, the Toymaker's chances of being an accomplished Limited centerpiece.


Bird: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 318, online: 304

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A perfectly fine ambusher/mid-sized finisher for blue-green ramp lists in Limited. Ramping towards expensive artifacts is something that happens in the format, so getting a Powerstone at five is not a waste. Maybe drafting a couple of Obstinate Baloths and a couple of Rocs could justify running that Tawnos we adventurously first-picked in pack 1.


Centaur: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 67, online: 66

 Related Tribes: Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is a playable beater in Limited, decent body for its cost and the promise to replace itself, maybe even more than once. Some stars have to align for Gaea's Courser to fulfill its maximum potential, though. We need to be in some sort of self-milling build, already have reached the threshold of three creatures, and have a combat trick in hand, or else there shouldn't be anything on the other side of the battlefield that can make the Courser's attack bad. It's not as smooth a sailing as reading the card would make us think. Centaur has several members with the actual threshold mechanic, though, so Constructed tribal might explore that avenue somewhat. They could also rely on the graveyard-based Karador, Ghost Chieftain as a commander, for that matter.


Cleric: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 526, online: 495

 Related Tribes: Human, Phyrexian, Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The only Cleric of some valor here is the Phyrexian Evangel of Synthesis, the signpost for the blue-black "draw two" archetype in Limited. The Evangel is both enabler and payoff for the mechanic, but awkwardly can't profit of its own ETB, since it'll be summoning sick in that moment. It's still a robust beater as a 3/3 menacer that can start swinging on turn three if we're able to keep drawing an extra card, which is both somethign we'd want to do anyway and not a very difficult feat in Dimir. The Evangel also provides some card selection at the very minimum.

 The only thing to note about Airlift Chaplain is its templating for "milling & retrieving" that only looks at the milled cards. It appears elsewhere in the set as well; in fact, there's a whole cycle of self-millers, plus the instant Wasteful Harvest. It could be the new standard for this effect, which would make it much less effective than previous iterations like Grapple with the Past, Eccentric Farmer, and Dig Up the Body. It's possible it was done this way only to allow for a full five-color cycle, though, since it's not something usually found outside of Golgari.


Construct: +17

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 171, online: 170

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Construct is the epitome of mechanized warfare in The Brothers' War. As a consequence, the subtype has more new mythics to its name than any other tribe, some of which make for the best and most in-demand creatures of the set.

 Cityspace Leveler is one of the mega-bombs in Limited. Unlike the prototypes, there's only the big cost to pay to have it on the battlefield, eight mana for a 8/8, much like the old Platinum Emperion. Except the Lever, as the name implies, is all but defensive; it annihilates opposing permanents using a "Titan" kind of trigger (i.e. as an ETB and then again upon attacking), leaving only Powerstones as debris. And then it tramples over the smoking ruins. Sure it dies to removal, but it'll bring something with it, which makes it a healthy investment for ramp decks in search of a finisher. Monogreen Devotion in Pioneer is among the first archetypes of that genre to have inducted the entirely colorless Construct into its arsenal – one more trick up Karn, the Great Creator's sleeve.

 Clay Champion is part of a mirrored pair with Bladecoil Serpent. They both have the option to be paid for more than their required value to exploit their abilities, which are linked to the number of increments of two mana of a single color used to pay for them. This sounds more complicated than it is, but it's still kind of an outlandish design. Basically, Clay Champion is a Selesnya card; if paid for with colored mana that aren't green or white, it's a completely unremarkable 2/2 for four mana. The same goes if it's paid for, say, 2GW. We have to pay its cost in couples of green and/or couples of white, and we can go as high as we want while doing so. For as many GGs or WWs we use while casting it, one of its abilities will change the way it enters the battlefield (it's the same for the Serpent, but that one's Grixis-colored instead). Green couples make the Champion bigger, white couples make up to two other creatures bigger. So a GGWW cost gives us a 5/5 Champion and puts a +1/+1 counter on up to two allies. For a GGGGGG cost, the Champion will be a 11/11. Using green is more profitable, as we'll get three counters per couple, but we're also putting all our eggs in a single basket. It's probably stranger than it needed to be, but its open-ended nature makes it a decent ramp payoff – although it's hard to imagine having both colors available in large quantities at the same time.

 The sheer variety of these mythic Constructs is astonishing. Instead of making a cycle of color-coded prototypes with slight variations on a basic blueprint, like the Gearhulks from Kaladesh, they went for a wider range of applications. White mana is used to make Soldiers and unearth Platoon Dispenser, which is otherwise a big body for five mana that automatically draws its controller a card per turn whenever it finds itself towering over a relatively wide board. The "blue" Surge Engine is a "leveler" in a completely different sense than Cityscape Leveler, in that it's sort of a robotic Figure of Destiny, starting as a humble yet functional 3/2 defender for 2, and working its way up to an unblockable five-powered threat that replaced itself three times. Red gets the prototype Skitterbeam Battalion, which could amount to a trio of hasty tramplers if we go for the full nine yards; but six power's worth of bodies for five mana is still a beating waiting to happen.

 This sort of unofficial cycle of Constructs with specific color identities is completed by two rares that are only found in Jumpstart packs, Terror Ballista for black and Woodcaller Automaton for green. Ther former is a big menacer with unearth and the ability to cast Bone Splinters at every attack. The Woodcaller is a prototype that makes a copy of itself when hardcast, using a land as basis of operations; so it's either a couple of 3/3s for four, or a couple of 8/8s for ten. The flexibility of prototype really cannot be overstated. Essentially all of the prototype Constructs that appear at common and uncommon are high picks in Limited. Those includes the hasty Blitz Automaton, the double-striking Combat Thresher, the deathtouching Goring Warplow, and the hulky Rust Goliath. They truly encapsulate the saying "good early, good late", meaning cards that have a key function regardless of the point in the game when we draw them. For instance, the Warplow is either a two-drop that deters attacks or a six-drop finisher. Similarly, the Goliath on turn five is a valuable Mammoth Spider, but dropped later it gives us the option of being a 10/10 trampler instead, which is just about the biggest threat in the set, fully capable of one-shotting the opponent.

   

 A second large category of Constructs are those with unearth, which give us a second go at their ETB or attack triggers. They're all widely played in Limited.

   

 It's hard not to notice how almost none of these Constructs is actually colorless, at least identity-wise. It's been the recipe to design artifact sets without revisiting upon the game the woes of original Mirrodin and, to some extent, Kaladesh. Nowadays, artifacts are allowed to matter, but aren't permitted to cost generic mana, otherwise their power level is bound to get out of hand fast. Still, a few truly colorless robots are still made. Construct-wise, we've seen the mythic doomsday machine Cityscape Leveler, but there are also the simple Powerstone-maker Stone Retrieval Unit at common, and the homage to old Su-Chi at uncommon, i.e. Su-Chi Cave Guard. The latter is actually twice the cost and body of its predecessor; in fact, it's as big and expensive as the Leveler, it has vigilance and even ward of a magnitude high enough to feel close to hexproof. Returning its own cost upon death is what constitutes the tribute to its namesake (of course back in Antiquities mana burn was still a thing, so that trigger was meant more as a downside). It's a nicely designed big boy, only overshadowed in Limited by the versatility of the prototypes.

 


Demon: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 146, online: 140

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This little Demon only functions as a sacrifice outlet. It's not a bad one at that, since it replaces the sacced permanent, but three mana and tapping is too much of a cost for Constructed, and the body doesn't have many tactical uses. One just needs to compare it to Skullport Merchant to know poor Thraxodemon is not going to make it. It mostly only exists as a callback to the flavor text of obscure Antiquities spell Artifact Possession. A very deep cut.


Dinosaur: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 121, online: 120

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Giant Cindermaw does everything it can to appease Monored Aggro (or maybe Gruul, which is where most Dinosaurs reside). High power for a relatively early drop? Check. Trample to avoid chump-blocking? Check. Random bonus ability that hinders lifegaining? Check. The numbers to find a home are all there.


Dog: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 104, online: 99

 Related Tribes: Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: A robo-Dog and an army Dog. Scrapwork Mutt is a one-shot rummager with reasonable body/cost ratio. At the very least it enables the "draw two" strategy, even if that's in blue-black in Limited, yet the Mutt wants red mana to be unearthed.

 Rescue Retriever is a Jumpstart exclusive. It's for Soldier decks, not for Dog decks. It has several functions (flash ambusher, team-booster, combat trick), but five mana are probably too many for the type of deck it wants to be a part of.


Dragon: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 312, online: 307

 Related Tribes: Phyrexian

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: To nobody's surprise, even the Dragons in The Brothers' War are for the most part mechanical. Two of them are callbacks to Antiquities' Dragon Engine, which is a type of war machinery linked to both Phyrexians and Mishra specifically. Fallaji Dragon Engine is a straightforward firebreathing prototype. Phyrexian Dragon Engine is the card that Mishra, Claimed by Gix melds with. It's not bad on its own, three mana for a 2/2 double striker is already okay, and it can be unearthed later to replenish our hand, a la Ox of Agonas.

 Tyrant of Kher Ridges is the only flesh and blood Dragon in the set, therefore earning the long-standing moniker of Obligatory Dragon. At first, it appears a bit underpowered for six mana, even with one-mana firebreathing. But the ETB Lightning Blast is what redeems it. It's still one mana too many to compete with the hasty five-droppers like Glorybringer, but it's a respectable Dragon and a minor Limited bomb.

 Finally, Artificer's Dragon is one of the five cards only found in Jumpstart packs. It extends its firebreathing to all artifact creatures in our team. Which is too situational to justify its below-the-curve body. And unearth for five is likely not leaving much to spend on that pumping action, even if it still means one last evasive haste attack.


Drake: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 94, online: 93

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: At first glance, this looks like another one of the robotic Dragons. But its ability is bad and it's terribly overcosted. So, yup, Drake it is.


Dreadnought: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Not sure why Depth Charge Colossus is classified as a Dreadnought and yet Rust Goliath, which is larger, is not. Or what even is the supposed difference between a Dreadnought and a very big Construct. This one even gets the traditional clause "it's too cumbersome to untap itself!" (I guess Rust Goliath is equipped with really good and not too rusty servo mechanisms).

 This should feel like a historical moment: Phyrexian Dreadnought finally has gotten a companion! (Not counting the Warhammer 40k ones). This Colossus is just okay, though. It doesn't feel like it should be the second Dreadnought ever, nor it does a very good job to justify the return of a subtype that didn't even debut in Antiquities or in any other Urza-related set (Phyrexian Dreadnought is from Mirage). It's fine in Limited, but far from the most coveted prototype. Untapping it manually kind of gives it pseudo-vigilance, but it still requires an annoyingly continuous three-mana investment.


Druid: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 272, online: 268

 Related Tribes: Elf, Human, Scout, Soldier, Treefolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Gwenna finally gives us the chance to talk about a legendary character that's not an Artificer or affiliated with an Artificer. And she's not even that important in the story. She was friends with Harbin (Urza's son), then she sacrificed herself for Argoth. And that's about it. Her card is sweet enough, though, at least as far as three-drop ramp creatures go. Those that tap for two mana usually produces either green or colorless, while Gwenna is allowed to choose any combination of colors. With the clause of only casting creatures or activating abilities of creatures, but that's hardly a concern in green (it is a bit annoying, obviously, but not a major roadblock). On top of that, she gets to untap herself to add even more mana if we cast a creature with power 5 or greater, which could just cost as little as three mana (e.g. Lovestruck Beast, Steel-Leaf Champion) or even two (e.g. Grim Wanderer, Bayou Groff). She even grows herself larger in the process, although using Gwenn as a threat is probably not her primary function.

 The rest of these wartime Druids aren't particularly significant. Alloy Animist only contributes an expensive, situational ability. Citanul Stalwart (whose name is a callback to Citanul Druid) wants to be this set's Jaspera Sentinel, and it's even able to work with artifacts, maybe filtering Powerstone mana into colored mana without restrictions. The loss of reach and a point of toughness makes it less versatile, though, so I'm doubtful it'll enjoy the same Constructed success that the Sentinel had.

 Similarly, Gnarlroot Pallbearer surrenders "common green big boy" status, in a roundabout way, to Boulderbranch Golem. The Pallbearer is also mostly meant to go in black-green "graveyard matters" builds.


Dwarf: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 106, online: 98

 Related Tribes: Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: With the printing of Dwarven Forge-Chanter and the reprinting of Monastery Swiftspear Standard monored has now two very functional prowess beaters at its disposal. This Dwarf is a two-drop without haste, but in exchange it gets more toughness and a ward ability that causes loss of life to the opponent – which is perfectly on brand with what Monogreen Aggro is trying to do on a turn-by-turn basis.


Elemental: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 504, online: 496

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Aside for the miller Blanchwood Prowler, which is a fine way in Limited to get either an extra land or a 2/2 on turn two, the tribe's real highlight in The Brothers' War is the Elemental queen herself, Titania. Her name was already part of Alpha with Titania's Song, although it's quite possible at the time it was merely a reference to Titania and Oberon from A Midsummer Night's Dream. And while her own Priest has been a fixture of Elf decks for years, she didn't get a personal card until Titania, Protector of Argoth first appeared in Commander 2014. As that card name suggets, Titania is the elemental manifestation, also known as Maro-Sorcerer or Force of Nature, of the forest of Argoth, which was plundered for resources by both Urza and Mishra. In self-defense, Titania unleashed the immense natural forces at her command against the two Artificers, but ultimately perished when Urza went nuclear with the Golgothian Sylex at the end of the war.

 To celebrate her striking figure, a powerful symbol of a natural environment stripped out of greed, The Brothers' War assigned to Titania the third meld pair, the only one that's not about the titular bros. Unfortunately, she suffers the same fate of all the other meld cards, resulting in a build-around Commander at best. The creature component Titania, Voice of Gaea is an okay three-drop with a relevant body, reach, and some incidental lifegain, particularly in a format with access to high-profile fetch lands (Standard has the New Capenna "locales", but they're not ideals). In order to turn her into the more impressive form of the titanic Gaea Incarnate, we first need to find a copy of Argoth, Sanctum of Nature, which is an untapped green source only if Titania is already on the battlefield (another green legendary will do, but it's clearly meant to be a follow-up to Titania). The Bear-maker activation is decent, and the self-mill is designed to help with the second clause of the melding, which is even more demanding: four lands must be in our graveyard. Again, fetch lands make this much easier, and all of that point more and more towards a Commander build, where ultimately all our efforts are rewarded with a very threatening colossal trampler that revives all the lands we previously put in the graveyard, swings right away while still defending, and has a mana sink ability that creates more Elementals. It's all very flavorful and properly Timmy/Tammy-esque, and it could definitely fun to assemble in Commander. It still has nothing to offer to Limited and very little to Constructed – albeit at least in her case, unlike the Urza and Mishra melders, the inclusion of one half of the pair has a very low opportunity cost, since Argoth more or less seamlessly slots into the land base. And Titania herself is still a decent three-drop in green, even if it's close to vanilla. We're even seeing her occasionally pop up in some delirium lists in Modern, where Traverse the Ulvenwald is able to tutor for both Titania and Argoth in the late game.


Elf: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 512, online: 498

 Related Tribes: Druid, Scout, Soldier, Warlock

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Only three Elves show up in ancient Dominaria, and they're all mana dorks, although of increasing mana values. At the bottom of the curve we have Citanul Stalwart, which is a reworked yet not improved Jaspera Sentinel. At three there's Gwenna, who's the better of the trio, even if she needs a strong reason to be doing creature ramp in the mid-game, and there won't always be a case for it. That's even more true for the Golgari-colored Deathbloom Ritualist, which has the potential of generating a tonload of mana, at least within a self-milling build. She's a five-drop, though, a point in the curve where Constructed decks are rarely interested in further mana production via fragile mana dorks. To make up for it, they gave her a whopping eight points of body, but it's not like a 3/5 really doubles as a finisher.


Faerie: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 102, online: 99

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Antiquities released at a time when Faeries were still considered green woodland creatures (11 of the first 12 Faeries ever printed were green; they didn't consistently move to blue until Tempest). So it makes sense to get a green Faerie in The Brothers' War, particularly one that references Argothian Pixies's artifact resistance. These little guys are from Argoth, and they're fighting the good fight against the two evil robotic empires that invaded their homeland, as the hilarious flavor text underlines. Of course there's no place for Argothian Sprite in Constructed, as the first ability is completely situational and the second is too expensive. But in BRO Limited, where half the creatures in play are artifacts and all the green decks make plenty of Powerstones, this is one of the most effective two-drops in the format, fully capable of growing to colossal proportions and carrying a deck to ultimate victory.


Goblin: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 393, online: 377

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: It feels really strange to have an artifact set with just one lone Goblin in it, but such are the ways of the ancient Dominarian times, that depicted the kind of fantasy world where Humans are the masters of the land. This guy was designed as the one-drop of choice for the red-black sacrifices aggro archetype in Limited, and it does its job pretty well in that environment. It's in fact so efficient, being potentially able to attack unopposed for three as early as turn two, that it could see some play in Constructed versions of that deck.


Golem: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 136

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Somewhat arbitrarily, Golem took second seat to Construct in the set (despite a few of the Constructs, like Clay Champion and Rust Goliath, looking exactly like a Golem would). The humanoid mechas are left with only one mythic or rare, Rootwire Amalgam, but at least it's an impressive one. Once again, prototype is what makes all the difference here, as within a single card we're given the choice to deply a 2/3 for two that transforms into a 6/6 or a 5/5 for five that transforms into an over-the-top 15/15. The larger forms are tokens, which makes them vulnerable to bounce spells; and at the end of the day they're just big vanilla bodies, as threatening as the non-prototype version might feel. It's still a winning design due to the quantity of choices it leaves us with, as this is basically a creature with four different configurations. Plus the sacrifice means we can recur it from the graveyard.

 The rest of the Golem department is well-designed as well. Clay Revenant helps sacrifice decks, sort of taking the role that's typically prerogative of a Skeleton. Cradle Clearcutter is a ramp enabler that's also itself easy to cast with Powerstones. And Boulderbranch Golem is one of the best "green" commons, the heir to valuable curve-toppers like Honey Mammoth, Hill Giant Herdgorger, and Mossbeard Ancient. This kind of design for "big dude that further stabilizes the board by gaining life" is being improved set after set. The Boulderbranch variety also benefits from a midrange option thanks to prototype, so in a pinch can be deployed as a quasi-Obstinate Baloth.


Horror: +5

  

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 253, online: 252

 Related Tribes: Beast, Insect, Mole, Phyrexian

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: All of these black Horrors have more relevance as members of their second tribes, but none of them actually ranks as anything more than a playable Limited card – and in most cases even there they're filler, like Carrion Locust as a three-drop flyer. The Phyrexian Gurgling Anointer is the most efficient of the group, as long as we're running it within a deck that has no problems enabling the "draw two" trigger in a consistent fashion. That's not too difficult, as the strength of that mechanic is that its requirement concides with the general good practice of drawing more than one card per turn whenever possible. Once we do that, the Anointer will be an evasive beater that grows larger over time and then replaces itself directly on the battlefield when dealt with It's not the kind of a card that has a clear home, since what it does is generic enough to fit most decks but not unique enough or self-sufficient enough to stand out; but it's not a bad card either.


Human: +64

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 3012, online: 2806

 Related Tribes: Advisor, Artificer, Cleric, Druid, Monk, Noble, Scout, Soldier, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: Out of the 22 legendary creatures in the set, only four aren't Human: Titania, Gwenna, Gix, and the Thopter Liberator. Back in Urza's times, Dominaria (and Terisiare in particular) was a really anthropocentric place. It probably still is to some extent.


Insect: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 190, online: 186

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Carrion Locust is whatever, but Haywire Mite is interesting. It stands in a long tradition of colorless Insects, and especially the small ones like Brass Gnat, Hex Parasite, and Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp. This one is also one of those creatures that are actually spells we park on the battlefield to be used later. The spell the Mite casts is a conditional Naturalize that only hits noncreatures, but also gives us two life. In a deck where artifacts entering or leaving the battlefield generate value, it's not without merit.


Juggernaut: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 19, online: 17

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: When artifacts go to battle in a grandiose way, Juggernaut is a creature type that's fully expected to join the fun. In fact, there was room for more of them in the set. They only went with a homage to the tribe's original namesake in the form of Mishra's Juggernaut, which for one extra mana adds trample (weirdly enough, a keyword rarely associated with this subtype) and a red unearth option. And then an offbeat rare with Terisian Mindbreaker, which is... a mental Juggernaut, I guess? Whatever that means. Halving the opponent's library is rarely a winning strategy anyway, especially if it rounds up. And that unearth cost places it squarely in monoblue, and I can't imagine a dedicated mill list that would bother doing a whole routine of discarding and unearthing the Mindbreaker for such a dubious payoff.


Lizard: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 65, online: 63

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This is actually the fastest way to create a Powerstone in the set. It's aleatory, but by the time Horned Stoneseeker is dealt with, chances are we successfully accelerated into something worthwile. Plus a 2/2 menacer is a legitimate early threat in its own right. Now, I'm not sure Lizard decks are wired to fully exploit this little guy. In fact, the tribe only counts two artifact members, of which only Lizard Blades is playable. Many of them have activated abilities, though, so there's a chance the Stoneseeker might do some work for its peers.


Minotaur: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 96, online: 95

 Related Tribes: Barbarian

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: I can't really tell what Penregon Strongbull is supposed to be, lore-wise ("child-lifting act?" Is he a street performer? Those are human children!), but he certainly is a big reason behind the success of the red-black sacrifices archetype in The Brothers' War Limited. Those pings add up quickly. Sardian Cliffstomper can also be quite effective in monored. Their Constructed applications are more uncertain.


Mole: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 4

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Meet the fourth Mole to appear in the game, the third since 2020. Guess they really decided to keep pursuing this creature type going forward. It might have some use in depicting underground dwellers with a specific flavor. Ravenous Gigamole is the first in black, unexpectedly, and it follows the blueprint of Excavation Mole, being one of the set's millers. It's actually more versatile than its predecessor, as it can be either a 3/4 or a 2/3 that drew us a creature. It's not a choice we always get to make, though (it depends on what we find on top). Its defining trait is really just being a new Mole.


Monk: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 102, online: 99

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The Limited signpost for blue-red. Cards that passively make tokens when we spellsling are always quite powerful, especially when they're cheap. Third Path Iconoclast also has artifact synergy and Soldier synergy, both of which might be relevant. And Monks have a ton of prowess among their ranks, so this fits right in the tribe's wheelhouse.


Noble: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 61, online: 60

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Story time: Kayla was the Yotian princess that Urza schemed to marry for personal interests (he would later grew fond of her, but at first he was more interested in the Thran tome that was part of her dowry). She gave him a son, Harbin, who might or might not be the fruit of a brief affair with Mishra. Soapy details aside, she would later rule as sovereign of Argive in Penregon, and that's what Queen Kayla bin-Kroog depicts. Her ability is kind of unique and certainly fascinating. The play pattern we want to follow with her is having one two-drop and one three-drop in hand, perhaps alongside a bunch of other dead cards we'd like to replace with fresh draws. For the cost of four mana and a tap, we can essentially drop those two cards directly onto the battlefield and draw a new hand. We could even include a one-drop in this deal, but that probably enters wishful thinking territory. We already got mana advantage by spending four to deploy five mana's worth of cards, anyway. Plus the draw, which might also just be what we're using Kayla for. It's sill something that's more likely to impact Commander than anything else, particularly in Boros colors. But it's a strong ability and an intriguing take on the type of peculiar hijinks the Noble subtype could be used for.


Phyrexian: +11

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 260, online: 258

 Related Tribes: Artificer, Assassin, Cleric, Dragon, Horror, Human, Praetor, Warlock, Wurm

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: We're smack in the middle of a new Phyrexian invasion, and the era we're revisiting was at the beginning of the first, historical Phyrexian invasion, so it's only right we're starting to see more Phyrexian cards running around. The look at the past gives us the chance to see a Praetor from back in the time, when Yawgmoth was the one Phyrexian overlord, and Gix was his chief minion (he wasn't actually called a Praetor in the stories, but he's been given the title retroactively). Indeed, Gix's name is all over these old Phyrexians, despite having been used sparsely in the past. His card incarnation, Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor, is a tremendous mythic, a three-drop 3/3 with the card-drawing ability of Toski, Bearer of Secrets (or at least its black counterpart) plus a card-stealing mana sink that's probably going to matter a lot less than one'd think. It reads as formidable, but when we're actually doing is spending seven mana to exchange the cards in our hand with cards from the top of the opponent's library (so we're not actually disrupting their hand), and then cast those for free. Except not really, because we sank seven mana into this plan, and we're not guaranteed to hit seven mana's worth of cards, even if we discarded several of our own chaff. Considering the cards from our library are always going to be more useful to our strategy than the cards from the opponent's, this is probably not Gix's main strength. It can be fun in multiplayer Commander, though, where Gix also contributes an interesting bit of political machination, since his ability triggers even when our opponents are attacking each other.

 Even more appealing than Gix hisemf is the mecha-Wurm Phyrexian Fleshgorger, one of the most accomplished among the prototype cards. In its pocket form is another three-drop 3/3, this time with elite combat abilities: menace, lifelink and a ward that pretty much guarantees one hit. All of this becomes really threatening when we deploy Fleshgorger's deadlier configuration as a 7/5 for seven that the opponent might not even be able to afford killing with spot removal. This is a flexible finisher that has already taken its place in Monoblack Midrange decks in Standard. It even shows up in Pioneer, as part of ramp lists that don't even run black, since they don't really care to cast it for its reduced cost.

 The other "Gixian" cards include Gixian Puppeteer, which is almost a miniature Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, provided we keep drawing extra card per turn. It shares the same kind of automatic recursion ability that Gurgling Anointer has. Somewhat remarkable is also Disciples of Gix, which is a Buried Alive on legs. The meld pair of Mishra, Claimed by Gix and his Phyrexian Dragon Engine is fine, and Evangel of Synthesis is a solid aggressive card for the "draw two" archetype, or simply for Dimir decks that do a lot of drawing or looting.

 Others followers of Gix require specific setups to become a threat – Gixian Infiltrator is a sacrifice payoff; Gixian Skullflayer is pretty much the same but for "graveyard matters".

 


Praetor: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 12

 Related Tribes: Phyrexian

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Will this be a one-of thing, or is Praetor going to include members that don't belong to the quintet from New Phyrexia? So far, we had only two cases of Praetors that weren't Elesh Norn, Jin-Gitaxias, Sheoldred, Urabrask and Vorinclex. They were both monoblack like Gix, so black is now the only color that can field five different Praetor cards. One is the old Ebon Praetor from Fallen Empires, and it was the avatar of the god Tourach. The other is Sanguine Praetor from Guildpact, the manifestation of one of Ravnica's old gods. Notably, both got their type reconned into Praetor merely in virtue of their names. We don't know if going forward, the subtype will remain linked to the Phyrexians or will be used to define the overlords of other factions. The term was adopted just for the sound of it, I assume. The actual praetors of Ancient Rome were just magistrates (some countries, like Italy, have used the title in that sense until very recently).


Rat: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 63, online: 56

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Rats are everywhere, so why not in ancient Dominaria too. Gnawing Vermin does two things that aren't particularly synergistic with each other. But any one-drop that can trade with a two-toughness creature (or with two one-toughness creatures) has always some value in Limited.


Scout: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 166, online: 158

 Related Tribes: Artificer, Druid, Elf, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Scouts get the best green common with the straightforward Powerstone producer Argothian Opportunist; the best green uncommon with the repeatable card-advantage engine Sarinth Steelseeker; and the second best green rare (the first being Titania's Command) with multifaceted mana ramper Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea.

 On the other hand, Fallaji Archaeologist is a not very exciting miller, but it's playable enough. In what way is an archaeologist a Scout, though? They're almost always categorized as Artificers, including in this very set. In the past, there's been the precedent of Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist from Commander Legends, and it already felt wrong. (There's also Mystic Archaeologist, which is a Wizard. But maybe it's because it's a mystic and an archaeologist?)


Serpent: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 45, online: 44

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: This one forms a mirrored pair with Clay Champion. It feels strange that they gave them two distinct subtypes, especially considering the Champion is a Construct, which is the most populated artifact types in the set, while this Bladecoil is a lone Serpent, intended as a follow-up to Stonecoil Serpent. In fact, both are scalable, but Bladecoil has a lot more going for it than just reach and a protection. Depending on how we decide to spend our mana to pay for it, it can draw cards, force discards, or be able to attack right away as a more threatening trampler. What's interesting in this design is that it doesn't really aim to be in a Grixis deck and do all these things at once. On the contrary, its best use is in a build where any of the three colors is the dominant. So we can, for example, pay six blue for a 5/4 that draws three cards, or six black for a massive hand disruption. Or maybe just two red and four generic to swing right away for six trampling damage. It's whatever we need most in our list.

 Stonecoil Serpent is still a better card, though. And maybe even Clay Champion is.


Shade: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 33, online: 31

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: We must make peace with the fact that Shades will mostly only do one thing: pump themselves. So they might as well do that in the most efficient way, and that's exactly what the excellent Misery's Shadow sets up to do. One mana for each +1/+1 is a ratio that we hadn't seen on a two-drop since the celebrated Nantuko Shade. And that old glory has now been completely obsoleted, since Misery's Shadow also uses generic mana, which is unprecedented, and costs only one black to cast. On top of that, we also get an exile clause for all the opposing creatures, which is often extremely relevant. Misery? More like Joy's Shadow!


Shapeshifter: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 117, online: 114

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Hulking Metamorph is the fairly inevitable prototype version of classic Clone, one of the expected applications of the mechanic. The twist here is that the Metamorph's body has two fixed states, based on the cost we chose to pay for it. So the four-mana version is often worse than a regular Clone, because the resulting creature won't be larger than a 3/3. The more expensive non-prototype Metamorph is instead a 7/7 with all the abilities of the cloned creature, but it also demands nine full mana, which are way too many for this effect, even with the option of not copying anything and just be a tremendously overcosted vanilla beater. Also, if we're being honest, any modern Clone will always be worse than the older Clone spells, because nowadays we only get to copy creatures we control, which decreases the tactical value of the entire operation quite a bit.

 We also get a colorless Shapeshifter in the guise of Argivian Avenger, which is yet another homage to Antiquities, specifically a reworking of Urza's Avenger. It's marginally more playable than the original because for six mana we get a bigger base body, and stupid banding is no more part of its accessories. On the other hand, the abilities now require an activation cost.


Soldier: +32

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 802, online: 741

 Related Tribes: Centaur, Cleric, Dog, Elf, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: As we've seen happen several times in the past, a set that depicts a world at war translates into a higher concentration of Soldiers. Even operating under that premise, though, a boost of this proportion is almost unprecedented for the tribe, which presents itself as the only supported tribal component of the set, and displaces Warrior entirely.

 The Soldier tribal setup is also located in the Azorius colors, which is a much less frequent occurrence than Boros. Yotian Tactician is the basic lord, dropping as a curve-topper instead of the more common case of a two-drop (cf. Legion Lieutenant, Inspiring Veteran, Pack Leader), but still slotting nicely within an aggro curve. Blue being part of the equation means the Soldiers in The Brothers' War often get flying capability, as seen in the common Air Marshal and the uncommon Zephyr Sentinel, which works in a quantity of different roles: tempo play, trade-ambusher, rescuer, abuser of ETB, as well as minor Soldier tribal payoff.

 The most desired cards for the archetype have higher rarity. Harbin, Vanguard Aviator (Urza and Kayla's son) has a neat body/cost ratio for a two-drop flyer and is able to engineer a deadly alpha strike in Soldier decks. Skystrike Officer widens the team at every attack and then uses the new recruits to draw into more gas, a la Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca. Siege Veteran combines Luminarch Aspirant with an Anax-like removal-insurance ability designed strictly for Soldiers. Last but not least, Myrel, Shield of Argive (Kayla's general and a welcome nonbinary character) is capable of multiplying our Soldier presence exponentially, even if attacking with a 3/4 might not be something we get to do more than once or twice. The Grand Abolisher ability denying the opponents any chance at interaction during our turn might help Myrel to keep triggering their second abillity – and it's generally disruptive of the opposing battleplan.

 Less impressive is Mishra's personal Fallaji bodyguard Hajar, who's indeed not in Soldier's main colors. He's a chunky 3/3 for only two mana, on par with Constructed stars like Werewolf Pack Leader, but his "legendary matters" ability, as flavorful as it is, seems more fitting of Commander.

 The Soldiers include two more signposts for Limited archertypes aside from Yotian Tactician. In Boros, Fallaji Vanguard is a sound four-drop for generic aggro decks. In Orzhov, Hero of the Dunes rewards having a relatively low curve through one-shot recursion and a power boost.

 

 Of course there's a mechanized side to the Soldiers as well. Scrapwork Cohort is the more efficient for Limited, creating two Soldiers at once, and then another post-mortem. Spectrum Sentinel distinguishes itself for having two very out-of-place abilities, expecting a high number of multicolored spells and nonbasic lands that simply aren't there. Technically it would have better luck in Constructed, but its two parts don't synergize with each other and none of them is valuable enough to make us want to run a 1/2, even from the sideboard.

  

 Among the other Limited-focused Soldiers, the pumper Ambush Paratrooper is the one that most deserves a mention.

   

 The set also features noncreature Soldier-related cards. The rare tribal land Fortified Beachhead might easily cross over into Constructed.

  


Spider: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 70, online: 68

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Here's a trio of worthy Spiders from The Brothers' War. Not so much Hoarding Recluse maybe, which still is playable in Limited. But Skyfisher Spider is the tribe's brand new Ravenous Chupacabra for Golgari decks. Granted, its ETB is a Bone Spinters and not a straight-up Murder, but the leftover body is much more relevant on the battlefield, and it even gains us a potentially non-neglibible amount of life upon dying. Plus, and what's perhaps even more important, it hits any nonland permanent, not just creatures.

 The mechanical Thran Spider is also excellent, a three-drop with no color requirements that gives us both a Powerstone and the mana sink activation to spend that specific mana on. An it still protects us from flyers pretty efficiently. Of couse the Impulse-like ability only matters if we're running a sizeable number of artifacts in our library, therefore our robo-Spider will be functional in dedicated builds exclusively. But those are also the decks where we'll be more likely to put the Powerstone to good use than one of our opponents do – since, yeah, Thran Spider is gifting them one as well, which might have some political nuances in multiplayer.


Thopter: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 17

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Mechanized aerial warfare in Magic means Thopters, so it's not surprising to find a few of them in The Brothers' War. The two uncommonones are applications of unearth and prototype, respectively, with Spotter Thopter in particular earning the distinction of the second largest body ever printed within the tribe, after Thopter Assembly. The scry on ETB is also nice and contributes to make the Spotter a relatively high pick in drafts.

 Liberator, Urza's Battlethopter is not the first legendary Thopter – that honor already went to Hope of Ghirapur from Aether Revolt. It is easily the most weird-looking, though. It's also the first time the tribe gets an instance of flash. In fact, Liberator is so flashy that it extends its flashiness to every other artifacts we run, as well as all our colorless spells (which mostly means to Eldrazi, weirdly enough). And it grows larger over time, as long as we keep casting spells of increasing cost, from two onward. So probably not too much larger, to be fair. It's not exactly a must-play three-drop, even in artifact-heavy builds, but overall it's pretty okay.


Treefolk: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 88, online: 86

 Related Tribes: Druid

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Not much to say about Gnarlroot Pallbearer. The Treefolk of Argoth had a role to play in the war, but this one is just a decent top-end card for Limited, with an ETB effect that works better if we're in black-green, but at the end of the day it's not even too important.


Wall: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 145, online: 124

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: It'll never feel not weird that pieces of fortification are considered living creatures in Magic. It's entirely caused by how the rules for creatures and combat work. One would think I had made my peace with it after almost 30 years, but it never ceases to irk me (especially when writing down sentences like "all Walls are living creatures in the game" reminds me that something specifically called Living Wall exists, which drives me even madder). Coastal Bulwark is a playable card in Limited if we're running blue. It defends early on and it can sculpt our hand, so it has both tactical and strategical value. Could be worse.


Warlock: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 66, online: 65

 Related Tribes: Elf, Phyrexian

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: My knowledge of Antiquities' lore falls short of understanding why mana producer Deathbloom Ritualist is a Warlock (it's not like we never had a black Druid; albeit this might be a more recent creative decision to phase them out in favor of the new spellcasting subtype). Gixian Puppeteer is definitely owing its power to a dark entity, though. Anyway, they're both rares, but I bet only the Puppeteer has a good chance of playing an important role in Warlock decks. It can recur key members like Sedgemoor Witch or Callous Bloodmage or any Katilda, it synergyzes with Baba Lysaga, Night Witch, and it even creates an intriguing loop with Priest of Fell Rites.


Wizard: +7

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 926, online: 902

 Related Tribes: Advisor, Dwarf, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Aside from idiosyncratic card digger Hurkyl, Limited Powerstone mana sink Third Path Savant, and prowess beater Dwarven Forge-Chanter, the most attractive new Wizards are synthetic simulacra – somehow in the tradition of Mirrodin cards like Wizard Replica, Memnarch, and Etched Oracle.

 Arcane Proxy in particular ranks with the best creatures in the set. As a prototype the Proxy has two forms; the lesser is a three-mana sorcery-speed cross between Snapcaster Mage and Torrential Gearhulk, in that the target spell is restricted to a one-drop or two-drop, but the casting cost is entirely discounted. It gets closer to a Gearhulk in its alternative form of a seven-mana 4/3. It still can't recur Sublime Epiphany (well, it can if there's something on the battlefield that boosts its power, like Urza, Prince of Kroog), but Cryptic Command is now within its reach, although the counterspell mode will be moot. Admittedly, it's not going to matter too much in Constructed outside of Standard, but control decks will still appreciate its prototypical versatility.


Wurm: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 100, online: 95

 Related Tribes: Phyrexian

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The Wurms triumphally host what's arguably the best creature in the set, majestic finisher Phyrexian Fleshgorger, with its protoype-based adaptability. The other mythic, the Gruul-colored Sarinth Greatwurm, is still a solid six-drop, but pales in comparison. It's also at the end of the day mostly just a glorified, harder to cast Colossal Dreadmaw. The Powerstone creation is neat, and it's a fascinating instance of landfall that feeds on lands entering the battlefield under any player's control, not just the controller. But it requires a very specific ramp deck to be relevant.

 More welcome is the tribe's first one-drop (technically the second, but we don't talk about Water Wurm). Unfortunately, the very cute Teething Wurmlet only functions if surrounded by artifacts, something that seems hard to engineer in a Wurm deck. But the little fella might still a valuable addition to affinity builds and the likes, in sort of an Experiment One/Generous Visitor role.

 The other mecha-Wurm is Iron-Craw Crusher. It gets completely overshadowed by the similarly-costed Fleshgorger, but it still profits from prototype's "two in one" nature, though the way the pumping ability works, it really wants us to cast the seven-mana version whenever possible.


Zombie: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 529, online: 520

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: I don't know what being a non-Phyrexian mechanical Zombie even means (was it even organically alive at any point to now count as undead?), but Razorlash Transmogrant is an aggressive two-drop that can recur itself later. It's more efficient in Constructed formats where the "four nonbasics" clause has a chance of being fulfilled, but I suspect those formats can count on more reliable options that still don't require two black mana to be returned – like, say, Bloodghast.


SUMMARY

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS