A Magictation by Mikeal Basile
“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.
I have to confess that I’m beyond excited about Magic’s upcoming Brothers’ War set. The excitement isn’t solely because I have a soft spot for Urza lands, Urza’s Guilt, or even a penchant for using quirky artifacts like Rakalite (which, for the record, I have made people concede to). I’m incredibly excited for this set because I have finally read,The Brothers War (Artifacts Cycle Book 1) by Jeff Grubb. This book along with the pictures that’ve been spoiled concerning the set’s wrapping, marketing, and boxing has given me some serious insights into what we should expect this set to hold. I plan to outline for you some of the things we should most definitely expect to see from the upcoming set. As a result, I’m going to warn you that I’ll be spoiling a bit of the book, and perhaps even spoiling a bit of spoiler season for you. As I’m writing this I have heard there are leaks, and I’ve seen one, but that was something I think anyone with knowledge of the Brothers’ War would’ve guessed would show up. I believe the design teams for Magic have done a darn near perfect job with flavor lately. I expect that this nostalgia fueled set will not deviate from that approach. So, let’s dig into these Thran and Phyrexian inspired musings, shall we?
The legendary creatures and planeswalkers we can expect to see in this set are fairly numerous. The interesting part is that the motivations of these characters will hopefully be represented in their cards. We’re almost guaranteed to see both Urza and Mishra, but it would pretty cool to see Urza as a planeswalker—his spark ignites at the end of the book, and it is pretty cool to see his eyes be replaced by the halves of the powerstone that he and his brother fought over to begin the cataclysmic rivalry. The aforementioned stone was originally “The Heart of the Thran”, and splits when Urza tries to stop Mishra from activating a device connected to it. Tocasia witnesses it, but as it splits both Urza and Mishra receive visions and cling to their respective halves for the rest of the book. Now, we’ve seen Urza a few ways, and Mishra has even been printed before, but I anticipate new versions for both. I’m hoping the Urza card captures his desire to build, protect, and hopefully some of his regrets concerning how it all turned out. He didn’t want to destroy the land, not really. He really just wanted to build and tinker, and not strip mine and destroy. Meanwhile, Mishra is rougher and tougher, so I anticipate him to be more of a Jund or Grixis styled character.
I wrote that paragraph before seeing the spoilers that released about both the Urza and Mishra meld cards, and I’m only writing this paragraph to attest that those versions are absolute homeruns! Wow, those are exciting cards to include as they both fit the book and the lore so perfectly, that I’m excited to see the rest of my predictions come true. Seriously, I’m betting that most of what I say next will come to pass during spoiler season. I’ll be writing about the cards as they release (but, I’m waiting until next week to start). Now, back to what I have predicted without any of the spoiler knowledge. I have to say, that I’m still pretty darn good at avoiding spoilers for sets, and there is still a part of me that will try to go spoiler free for an upcoming set at some point this year.
Ashnod and Tawnos could really use representation in this set. If the brothers are slam dunk obvious, then these two should layups. Ashnod hasn’t been given a card yet, and hers could truly be an exciting legendary creature. She’s known for being cruel, and we’ve seen that in cards that bear her name: Ashnod’s Transmogrant, Ashnod’s Armor, and Ashnod’s Altar. She’s ruthless in her experiments and comes to a deeper understanding of the world only too late. In the end, she is actually responsible for “saving” the world by passing the Golgothian Sylex to Tawnos, who passes it to Urza to wipe out all the machines and drive Gix back through the Phyrexian portal. Leading up to that, she is cruelly beautiful, has fiery red hair, uses a staff with a dolphin’s skull mounted on it, and is a force to be reckoned with. I anticipate she’ll be a card that can weaken others and sacrifice others for profit. Maybe she can even combine creatures and artifacts to create new artifact creature tokens. That would be perfect. There’s a quote from the book that fits her perfectly. She says to Tawnos, “You can’t be afraid of living things, or dead things for that matter. Living tissue is one more set of tools we can use. If we can only get past our backward concept that it’s somehow inviolate, we can truly make progress.” Almost Phyrexian in its brutal utility and focus on progress. Ashnod also constructs her own Sylex as a decoy for the Golgothian Sylex, and perhaps it could be a neat little cycle of cards—the Sylex Cycle anyone?
Meanwhile, Tawnos has a card already, but it would be better to have a version that captures his innocence. His commitment to doing what is right, and his ability to make truly fun gadgets. Tawnos is so good at innovating and creating new concepts that Urza then adapts into his own designs that it really seems he should be making either clay tokens that are a riff on Clay Golems or even Primal Clay. His toy-making roots would be an interesting item to play off, but during the war itself he is much more focused on keeping up with the machines of destruction, rather than simple joyous gadgetry. Tawnos is definitely a card I would expect us to find in this set, and it will likely have some innovative abilities. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the return of the improvise mechanic linked with Tawnos or any other legendary from this set.
Gix would be a great phyrexian demon to bring back for this set. Gix is the lurking big bad throughout most of the book. Gix would be a powerful phyrexian demon, and I suspect would have the ability to sacrifice creatures to make people discard cards, think Cabal Therapy. Likewise, Gix could potentially leave the door open to include his priests which we’ve already seen in the card Priest of Gix. That would be a fun call-back and reprint that people could really enjoy.
Later on in the novel we get to see Drafna, Hurkyl, and Feldon. Drafna’s Restoration and Hurkyl’s Recall are both truly old-school awesome cards. I’d love to see either reprinted in this set, but the real dream here is to see joint legendary card with the couple on it. Drafna and Hurkyl are the married duo that founded the library at Lat-Nam. Lat-Nam’s Legacy is a call back to the knowledge that Drafna and Hurkyl gathered. Hurkyl actually sacrifices herself to make Mishra’s dragon engines just disappear. Her death sends Drafna into near madness, but her death is also linked with the most powerful discovery of all—that mana and magic actually exist in this world so dominated by mechanical devices. It would be fantastic to see them allow you to channel mana to return artifacts to people’s hands or to disintegrate them entirely as some sort of partnered ability. Speaking of partners, this could be a great pair of legendary creatures that actually have the partner with mechanic as well.
In the novel, Feldon is a great character or really a great cameo character. He’s one of the those, along with Drafna and Hurkyl, that are trying to found a third path—an option that’s not Mishra or Urza. Feldon is shown with his cane and its intriguing markings. Furthermore, he is off to glacier to do more studying. He has already been depicted before, so to see another iteration of Feldon would be fine, but we could potentially just get another reprint. It would be interesting to see him with an ability that mimics his cane’s ability as well. Perhaps even something that allows him to create a cane token.
Toward the end of the novel we get introduced to Titania, Gaea, and Harbin. Harbin is Urza’s son, and would be a really interesting call out to some story lore. Including Harbin as either an ornithopter pilot or as a scout or spy of some sort would be a “deep cut” that quite a few fans could really appreciate. Giving Harbin the ability to search out lands from your deck would mirror his discovery of the Argothian forest. His scouting, discovery, and return leads to the site of the final battle between the brothers. The cataclysmic ending wouldn’t have occurred with the same punch if he had not been directly responsible for leading his father and Mishra to resource rich lands of Titania and Gaea.
Gaea could see a legendary form in this set, but I feel it’s unlikely. She doesn’t feature prominently enough, but her Avenger does have a huge throw-down with Urza’s Colossus of Sardia, but more on that later. I do feel that Titania could easily see a printing here as either a reprint or a reimagined version. Titania, Protector of Argoth would be a really great reprint and would surely be a cool card for standard players to experiment with. Ultimately, I suspect that perhaps we’ll see another version of her, but that would be welcome as well. I would expect her to be able to reincarnate herself by returning forests or playing forests, and then also allow her to seed forests. I would expect that she would allow you to search for lands when she enters, and that she could return to hand or play with landfall triggers or something along those lines.
An outside or oddball shot chance that we see Tocasia printed as a legendary creature as well. She would be a deep cut, but I think there’s plenty of uber Vorthos players out there that would love to see her in print.
The Non-Legendary Creatures
Dragon Engines will have to feature in this set or I might just call a revolt. The Dragon Engine, well engines, that Mishra takes from Phyrexia with the power of his Weakstone are heavily featured throughout the book. They are Mishra’s main source of military might and inspiration. He uses them and newer versions of them (albeit inferior designs) to wage war against his brother and all those opposed to his rule. These should be trampling creatures that are unable to be blocked by walls. Additionally, they should have firebreathing as well, and hopefully are overall an improved version from the original Dragon Engine. Now, as an older player with a soft spot for the original Dragon Engine, I do hope that we see a special reprint of the original in some sort of Artifacts Arcane printing (something like the Time Spiral purple symbol cards). Heck, Mishra even attaches himself to a Dragon Engine in the final battle (he’s mostly machine at this point anyway). So, in short, there had better be some sweet dragon engines running around, both Phyrexian and Mishra built!
Speaking of special reprint options, it would be awesome to see call backs to all of the following: Onulet, Su-Chi, Mightstone, Weakstone, Amulet of Kroog, Ornithopter, Ashnod’s Transmogrant, Triskelion, Tetravus, Pentavus, Urza’s Mitre, Golgothian Sylex, Urza’s Avenger, Tawnos’s Wand, Ankh of Mishra, Clay Statue, Clay Statue, Clockwork Avian, and Colossus of Sardia. Though as much as reprints are neat and all, seeing newer or updated versions of these would be awesome. Additionally, Gaea’s Avenger would be another card that would be great as a reimagined card for today’s world. Oh, and Martyrs of Korlis were also tossed into the story and could be an interesting non-artifact inclusion for the set as well.
Su-Chi were actually prominently featured at the start of the book. They are the inspiration for Urza’s Avenger that he creates to win the heart of Kayla Kroog, but I would just love to see them reprinted. They’re known for their “backward facing” legs and the ability to be adaptable to many different design purposes. However, they end up being a bit too primitive to really stand up to the advances that happen. They were Thran originals, and were both hold-overs and inspiration pieces for the brothers.
Ornithopters are big in the book, and if we don’t see at least one new type of ornithopter, then I’ll be seriously surprised. I suspect we could even see ones that are crewed, because they are actually crewed by people in the book—Urza’s son for one!
There are many interesting and key events that occur throughout the book. These pivotal moments could all make for great story-telling cards with interesting effects. These spells could all seriously be considered as possibilities for the upcoming set. I’ll briefly give the idea for the card and the event, or a card that is already backed by an event.
Oubliette: Tawnos is imprisoned in one by Ashnod, but is actually helped out of this prison by Ashnod as well. Tricky, right?
Ivory Tower: The Ivory Towers fall to Mishra, but only after the followers of the third path sacrifice nearly everything to try and stop him.
Clockwork Avian: They are designed by Urza, using inspiration from a toy by Tawnos, to tear apart the flying dragon engines in ruthless and systematic fashion.
Founding the Third Path: It’s basically the focal point of several chapters, and is actually an important moment in the story. We see Drafna, Hurkyl, Feldon, and Loran all come together to try and find a third option to the two sides of the Brothers’ War.
Urza’s Miter: Updated to show that it is actually a ton of powerstones all woven together, and not merely a bejeweled headdress for the lord protector. This is important, because all of these devices they build are powered by powerstones. Which leads me to expect that we will see lots of powerstone cards and powerstone tokens in the set. Think “fixed” treasures or limited treasures—they’ll only power up artifact and artifact spells.
Urza’s Tower: Perhaps a new legendary version that can replicate non-legendary copies of itself. In the story Urza sets them up so that Yotian soldiers auto build these defensive towers. Perhaps they could function like Kor-Havens or Mazes of Ith? Here’s a quote from Urza about the process of making his towers, “I can duplicate this tower in five days, given sufficient materials. I am working on a way to have Yotian soldiers themselves build it.” Which he just so happens to figure out. Let’s hope Wizards finds a way to make this into a card!
Additionally, we might just get to see Urza’s teaching area—his school in Kroog. However, we also might not get to see it, because Mishra razes the city and literally destroys every last stone that was Urza’s school. It’s brutal. Luckily, Tawnos manages to send a student with the Jalum Tomb and the rest of the knowledge away in an ornithopter. It’s also possible we see Jalum Tomb show up as well, though it’s not terribly powerful by today’s standards.
Mishra’s factory would be a nice reprint. However, I feel like they should make a card that’s a cross between the factory and the workshop. Perhaps a legendary version of Mishra’s Workshop, but that’s wishful thinking. It could potentially be printed in a Commander deck for the set, though.
Sylex Cycle: We have a Karn’s Sylex, and perhaps we could see Ashnod’s phony sylex and a new version of the Golgothian Sylex. Urza fills this Sylex with mana and wipes out the entire battlefield to destroy his brother and all the machines and combatants that are left.
A portal to Phyrexia could also be a serious spoiler as that is how Mishra winds up with the Dragon Engines, and how Gix winds up coming to Dominaria. Really, this is what starts the Phyrexian invasion chain, and I’m sure that is the reason why we’re going back to this time period. This is where Phyrexia started to notice Dominaria and by extension Urza and Mishra.
The Wrap Up
The end of the book is bittersweet. Urza loses his brother, but he was already lost to Phyrexia by then. The Argothian forest is destroyed along with everything else when Urza uses the Sylex, and Tawnos manages to save himself using his coffin. As a side note, I love Tawnos’ Coffin, it’s one of my favorite cards in my collection—such a cool effect when you combine it with Portcullis. Anyway, I suspect that this set is going to have tons of call backs and great flavor. The book was a blast to read through, and if my article didn’t spoil it for you, then read it yourself. I am so incredibly excited for this set, and I hope that you are too. There’s so much to look forward to, and so many interesting things that could happen. Returning to Dominaria has never been so fun, and I hope that all of you manage to keep the powerstones and the cards in your favor.