The next major Magic the Gathering release, The Brothers’ War kicks off the celebration of Magic’s 30th anniversary year by looking back to one of the most iconic moments in the game and bringing powerful cards along for the ride. With the release close, Wizards of the Coast has now previewed the full set of cards. Now that all the cards are revealed, players should keep their eyes out for upgrades to their precious Commander decks – or inspiration for new ones. Below are our top ten picks for exactly that across the main set and supplemental products.
Starscream, Power Hungry / Starscream, Seeker Leader
In addition to looking back to Magic’s past of warring robot factions, the definitive robot warfare series Transformers will be making some cameos in The Brothers’ War. Of these, Starscream’s card is definitely the most promising. Starscream brings with him one of a Commander player’s favorite mechanics: Monarch. A player who is the Monarch gets to draw an extra card at the end of each of their turns, but others can take the crown by dealing combat damage to the current ruler. This mechanic keeps games moving with card advantage and prevents stalemates; but is also perfect for representing the scheming Starscream. While Starscream’s card isn’t winning games entirely on his own, he’s perfectly equipped to leverage Black’s reliable draw spells such as Phyrexian Arena or Sign in Blood to siphon extra life away from opponents while his vehicle mode has a great suite of keywords to steal back Monarch at a moment’s notice. He’ll either be a great ally for other Monarch based commanders like Queen Marchesa or as a special kind of aggressive mono-Black commander on his own, like he’s always dreamed of.
While Demolition Field is going to appear in the main Brothers’ War set, WOTC designer Carmen Handy has confirmed the design of the card kept Commander players in mind, and it definitely shows. Demolition Field feels like a healthy medium between other popular Land spot removal cards Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin. Whereas Ghost Quarter doesn’t replace itself for its player and Field of Ruin gives all players lands, Demolition Field keeps things just between you and your target. Land destruction is a contentious topic in Commander pods, but with potent lands like Gaea’s Cradle, Urborg, Yavimaya, and Cabal Coffers being able to pump out massive amounts of mana and leverage effects looking for land types, it’s always worth keeping a couple of targeted removals on hand. Since Demolition Field seems focused on keeping land counts equal with players, it’ll be hard for your opponents to claim you’re being unfair, even if it means you’ve cost them their utility land.
At first blush Brotherhood’s End doesn’t feel too spectacular as a red sweeper compared to other options in Commander, that second mode in particular deserves a second look. An aggressively low cost way to burn away your opponent’s turn one Sol Ring, various Signets, or pile of collected Treasure tokens should definitely have a consideration in Red decks that can pay its reasonable cost. Brotherhood’s End doesn’t just need to exist as an artifact hoser for your opponents though. This card fits right alongside the Red/Black artifact archetype seen across one of the titular Brothers’ War cards – the Mishra cards. Mishra, Claimed by Gix decks are going to want to make sure they’ve got their Phyrexian Dragon Engine creature hanging out in the Graveyard to Unearth when the time is right, not just to get the card’s hand refill ability but to then meld with their Commander to unlock its full potential and Brotherhood’s End helps set that up without your opponents seeing it coming. Don’t forget too that this card can also hit Planeswalker cards, and while 3 damage won’t take out all Planeswalkers on its own, it can prevent late game ultimate activations without putting you at risk for punishment.
Third Path Iconoclast
Even without its very clever flavor text, Third Path Iconoclast will likely find its way into decks already fielding copies of its inspirations like Kykar, Wind’s Fury and the iconic Young Pyromancer. Decks that can leverage multiple non-creature spells, especially Instants and Sorceries into more and more value will appreciate more creatures to either attack with en masse or (more likely) sacrifice immediate for even more mana using cards like Phyrexian Altar and Ashnod’s Altar – the later of which will also see a reprint in The Brothers’ War. Iconoclast may suggest this character going against the grain but it’ll be right at home in decks led by the aforementioned Kykar or the potent Niv-Mizzet, Parun. On its worst day, both Iconoclast itself and the tokens it generates are also wonderful targets for the ever powerful Skullclamp, netting even more cards to cast to get more troops.
The poster child for The Brothers’ War newest mechanic Prototype, Phyrexian Fleshgorger is a tank in the most literal sense. Its Prototype cost, which will get it into play as a 3/3 with Menace and Lifelink while having protection via Ward is an excellent rate on its own, but the bigger 7/5 version of itself doesn’t even require colored mana to cast. While that doesn’t mean you can run this card in non-Black decks, Artifacts are some of the easiest types of cards to reduce cost on in any color with cards like Foundry Inspector and any Artifact deck with Black is going to eat this right up. Breya decks will easily be able to run this Wurm out and any deck with Silas Renn, Seeker Adept as a Partner Commander will be able to cast this creature over and over again right out of the Graveyard. If you picked up the recently released mono-Black Warhammer 40,000 crossover Commander decks, this creature would make a fantastic upgrade to that deck if you’re looking to make changes as well. Is that much hype worth it on a card that is effectively a big stick? Think about your opponents hitting you with a 3/3 you can’t block on turn four or even sooner and then add 4 to that. Yeah, it’s worth the hype.
This little unsuspecting Insect is gonna be your pod’s Artifact and Enchantment player’s new sleep paralysis demon. A two mana exile spell at instant speed is bonkers and it’s even more bonkers that this effect is actually on a body. Enchantments in particular are sticky in Commander games and can often be the keys to victory. Sick of your opponents making you pay for Rhystic Study or Smothering Tithe? Solve that problem for the low low cost of one Green mana! Are you about to be overwhelmed by a Doubling Season or a Bolas’s Citadel? Take care of it immediately with the same level of investment as a Sol Ring! Being a permanent, especially a creature, also opens up options to bring Haywire Mite back again and again as a constant check against many of the most powerful cards in the format. An Eternal Witness or Bala Ged Recovery will pop this little bug back into your hand for later of course, but other cards like Reanimate, Animate Dead, or even a well timed Brought Back will keep Haywire Mite buzzing in your opponent’s ears for turns to come.
Ashnod the Uncaring
Hailing from one of The Brothers’ War preconstructed Commander decks, this version of Ashnod is one of the most exciting Commanders to join the card pool in this set. Ashnod is looking to create value where you may have lost some via costs looking for sacrifices. The possible payoffs here are salivating. Double up on your Deadly Dispute, Chronomancer, Audacious Reshapers, and even the classic Atog buff effect. That’s just surface level too, Ashnod is basically begging to be an “Aristocrats” Commander, leveraging these sacrifices into scaling damage on your opponents while giving you more and more value for doing so. She’s going to be best friends with the Blood Artists and Zulaport Cutthroats of the world but will synergize with other sacrifice payoffs too. Eloise, Nephalia’s Sleuth won’t get copied by Ashnod, but the Clue tokens she makes will be, and she’ll let you Surveil to help craft your draws. If you want to lean even further into Ashnod’s more cruel side, you can even double up on Time Sieve triggers and just end the game that way; what a true innovator.
Speaking of effects that Ashnod can copy, Smelting Vat is a fascinating taking on a Birthing Pod type effect for Artifacts. While likely not nearly as potent as the infamous Pod, the ability to turn one big Artifacts into multiple smaller ones could be the basis for a whole new type of play with the card type. There’s no shortage of ways to manipulate the top of one’s deck such as with Scroll Rack and Sensei’s Divining Top – both of which are great targets themselves to be looking for with Smelting Vat’s effect. This might be a fun engine to build an entire deck helmed by Aminatou, the Fateshifter, where the right kinds of Artifact cards are set up on the top of the deck, and then blinked for massive value. Even in existing engines, the ability to pop one or two extra mana rocks like Arcane Signet or a combo piece for one mana is living the dream.
Myrel, Shield of Argive
One of the fundamental differences that sets Magic apart from its contemporaries is that players have the ability to respond to the actions of another player. Myrel is immediately noteworthy for being one of the few cards that changes that fundamental concept when they enter play. That on its own is going to almost certainly make this card a scourge of multiple formats, and Commander is likely no different. Myrel is basically begging to be the lead of a “stax” type deck – taking the opening their static effect gives to set up even more oppression and restrictions on the opponents. Taxing effects will synergize well, such as fellow soldier Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Imperial Mask. These types of decks are potent but not necessarily popular, so this is also an easy way to get immediately targeted pretty much every time. If being everyone’s enemy isn’t your goal, Myrel will also serve as a perfect lead or as a support card for a Soldiers matter type deck. Myrel will play extremely well with commanders like Jirina Kudro, Commissar Severina Raine, or Magic’s two King Dariens.
This one’s the big one, a design that feels almost too good to be allowed to play. In reality, Rootpath Purifier is probably not game breaking. It is pretty wild, nonetheless. Purifier turns even the most common of land ramping cards like Cultivate and Wayfarer’s Bauble into heavy hitting land tutors. Powerful dual lands like Breeding Pool and tri-lands like Zagoth Triome become as easy to access as any basic Forest in your decks and having this almost reduces the need to run more potent land searching like Farseek, Three Visits, or even a fetch land like Misty Rainforest. Provided this card can stay at a reasonable price, this may make ramping a more easier prospect for more players. There’s a case to be made that Rootpath Purifier is a little too hyped – it is a creature that can be picked off, even if a 3/4 statline isn’t that weak on rate, and it’s not like Green has been short of ways to dumpster lands onto the table as is. Even so, the ability for multicolor decks to more easily get all their colored lands into play and the ability to not get Blood Moon’d into oblivion for playing Green is going to make this a pretty solid inclusion for nearly any deck in the color.
The Brothers’ War will be released on November 18th, 2022, with pre-release events being held in local game stores November 11th-17th. The set will also be released in Magic the Gathering: Arena on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices on November 15th. Be sure to look for these and more exciting cards!
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