Last updated on January 9, 2023

Thopter Mechanic - Illustration by Joshua Raphael

Thopter Mechanic | Illustration by Joshua Raphael

Greetings planeswalkers! With The Brothers’ War Arena Open this past weekend, now seems like a good time for another Ultimate Guide. This guide will cover the new Draft format in detail and expand on concepts that I mentioned in my prerelease/Sealed guide.

I’ll be covering each of the 2-color archetypes, mono-color decks, build arounds, bomb rares, splashing, and more, all in this one handy guide. Let’s get into it!

Format Big Picture

Mishra, Eminent One - Illustration by Randy Vargas

Mishra, Eminent One | Illustration by Randy Vargas

When approaching any new format your first question should be: “So, what is this format actually about?” The Brothers’ War advertises itself as an iconic old-fashioned artifacts set, but in practice a lot of its trappings are more akin to a modern Magic set than you might expect.

It’s faster than I expected, and also full of synergies that can hugely impact your deck’s quality. The best Brothers’ War decks for me have seemed to be either piles of removal and bombs or highly-synergistic aggro decks.

There’s also quite a bit more color tension than previous sets. You can splash bombs/removal if you want, but the opportunity cost of doing so is substantially higher than it was in Dominaria United. So you’ll have to pick carefully and be more willing to abandon certain cards lest you get trapped in a closed off archetype.

This increases the risk of picking cards like Arbalest Engineers early since splashing should be reserved for only the best cards, not above average ones like Arbalest Engineers.

Speed

This list isn’t perfect since your decks may vary in terms of pace and gameplan. Golgari and Izzet for example could go in either medium or slow, and Azorius could arguably be medium too.

This is a rough approximation of how fast you should expect each archetype to come out of the gates. Pacing is a key factor in sideboarding that I’ll cover later. That said, I’d describe the average pace of each 10 2-color pairs as follows:

Fast (Aggro)

  • Boros () Aggro
  • Rakdos () Sacrifice
  • Orzhov () Weenies
  • Azorius () Soldiers

Medium (Midrange/Tempo)

  • Selesnya () Artifacts
  • Golgari () Graveyard
  • Gruul () Midrange
  • Izzet () Spells

Slow (Control/Ramp)

  • Simic () Robots
  • Dimir () Draw Two

Prince or Pauper?

One concept developed by the Limited MTG community to evaluate formats is to describe it as a “prince” or a “pauper” format.

If you’re not familiar with the terminology, a prince format is dominated by higher rarity cards with a flat power level at common and uncommon and a lot of unbeatable bomb rares. Cards like Glorybringer, Dream Trawler, Ethereal Absolution, etc. By contrast, a pauper format is dominated by commons thanks to synergy, aggression, or common and efficient answers to large threats.

So how does The Brothers’ War measure on this scale? I’d say it’s somewhere in between the two. There are quite a few obnoxious rares that are hard to answer, but there’s also a lot you can do in the set with just commons and uncommons.

The rare slot also isn’t consistently great, with lots of mediocre and junk cards this time around. By comparison, Crimson Vow (which was one of the most prince sets we’ve seen in years) not only had more broken rares, but also just more P1P1able rares in general.

Broken Rares

Every single card here is a P1P1 winner and better than every single uncommon in the set. Take these!

Titania’s Command

99% of the time choose Titania’s Command’s +2/+2 counters/two bears.

Gix's Command

Gix’s Command is a broken Swiss army knife rare, sweeper/removal/card advantage/life swing all-in-one!

Steel Seraph

Steel Seraph dies or your opponent does. It’s impossible to race.

Tyrant of Kher Ridges

Tyrant of Kher Ridges is an absurd value creature and bomb rare.

Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim

Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim is one of two planeswalkers in the set. It kills your opponent absurdly fast with Spirit tokens and card draw spells.

Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor

Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor is a gross card when you curve out. It also has a strong late game ability for if your opponent stabilizes the board.

Skystrike Officer

Skystrike Officer is great on its own, yet completely unreasonable with other soldiers.

Myrel, Shield of Argive

Myrel, Shield of Argive is also good on its own and busted with other soldiers.

Precursor Golem

Precursor Golem is bad against Excavation Explosion, but otherwise its a 9/9 of stats for 5 spread across three bodies that can go in every deck.

Saheeli, Filigree Master

+1 is Saheeli, Filigree Master’s ideal mode if you can protect it, but -2 is very good if you want to attack or require chump blockers. Its emblem is powerful but it’s probably best to keep her around rather than immediately -4’ing.

Gixian Puppeteer

If Gixian Puppeteer sticks you drain them out, if it dies you get value. You can’t lose with this one.

Siege Veteran

Luminarch Aspirant was a tad better than Siege Veteran, but anyone who has played it knows how strong this effect is.

Simian Simulacrum

Simian Simulacrum is efficient even without green, but if you can unearth this it’s unrealistically good.

Transmogrant's Crown

Transmogrant’s Crown is a fixed Skullclamp that still plays a bit like a Skullclamp. It’s awesome in any black deck with small creatures and sac effects.

Cityscape Leveler

Cityscape Leveler is an 8-mana broken effect. Get those Powerstones out and make your opponent miserable.

There are of course other good rares in the set (Bladecoil Serpent, Urza, Prince of Kroog, Urza’s Command, etc.) but you could make the case for top commons and uncommons over them.

Trash Rares

Conversely, it’s worth noting some cards you should not be playing.Some of these may have fringeuses, but most of them are purely traps that I’ve seen too many times already.

  • The Stasis Coffin is a horrible Fog knockoff. Not only is this a mulligan but it’s also a completely face up Fog too, and too clunky to protect you from Gix’s Caress.
  • 99.9% of decks can’t generate enough card advantage to afford 2-for-1’ing themselves like with Semblance Anvil.
  • Quicksilver Amulet is similar to Arms Race since both cards reward similar things and are usually going to ruin your deck or do nothing.
  • Unwinding Clock is a mulligan 99% of the time. Don’t bother unless you have some combo-riffic reason to play it.
  • The expensive cards in this set are mostly artifacts, so Inspiring Statuary is poorly positioned.
  • Quietus Spike is too expensive and the damage is unreliable. There are no pingers to use with deathtouch.
  • It doesn’t matter if Goblin Charbelcher can work, mathematically it’s so unlikely to do anything that you shouldn’t bother playing it. My first opponent to play this had the following damage results: 12, 1, 3, 0. I just might play this in mono-red because hitting a Mountain is vital.
  • I like Cloud Key much better than Semblance Anvil but still think most decks should avoid it because you need lots of card draw and lots of similar types for this to earn its keep.
  • Over the Top is a gimmicky card that wants you to flip tokens and Powerstones into fatties, but in practice it’s a mulligan 99% of the time. It’s cute that it can potentially deck your opponent in a long game since both players should end up binning a substantial number of cards from their library.
  • Hurkyl’s Final Meditation is useless at seven mana but potentially strong at 10 mana, but also that’s 10 mana! You might be able to justify boarding this as a haymaker for a slow matchup, but don’t maindeck it.

Powerstones

Powerstones are a key currency in this set. They’re used to varying degrees by each archetype but have generally overperformed my expectations a bit. Most decks will have one or more of the following uses for these:

How much you prioritize Powerstones will vary based on your archetype, specific cards, and how many uses for their mana you have. Certain cards, like Excavation Explosion and Static Net, are played 100% of the time anyways, but others might not make the deck if you don’t get much out of Powerstones.

What Does Each Color Do?

The point of this section is to give a rough assessment of each color’s base role in the format, and how that role rolls into the 10 archetypes and anything else you put together. Each color in this set is fairly diverse with cards that do well for both attacking and answering various threats.

White

White is a dualistic color in The Brothers’ War primarily composed of aggressive soldiers and quality interaction. Base white decks tend to lean more into the former while decks playing white as a support color are usually just playing it for interaction.

The rest of white’s cards are either junk playables (Yotian Medic, Survivor of Korlis, Veteran’s Powerblade) or support cards like Loran’s Escape and Recommission). It’s important to note that white has more fliers at common (three) than any other color.

Blue

Blue’s commons in this set tend to be either controlling or tempo oriented. It also has a handful of soldiers to support the Azorius Soldier archetype.

There’s not much hard removal here (just Weakstone’s Subjugation), so as you’d expect controlling blue decks will often need a different support color for kill spells. Blue doesn’t have the kind of junk playables white does since its worst card (Retrieval Agent) is still at least a passable blocker.

Black

As you might expect, black gets the best removal in the set and some other cards that touch on larger supported themes. All three of its common removal spells are high picks, but its creature quality is below average besides Trench Stalker.

Black works fine as either a support or base color, with its removal shining in either setup. Its worst card is probably Ashnod’s Intervention, which is a nerfed Supernatural Stamina.

Red

Red also lives up to average set expectations by primarily being an attacking color. Highly offensive cards like Goblin Blast-Runner, Mishra’s Domination, Mishra’s Onslaught, Penregon Strongbull, and Whirling Strike should make this quite clear!

If you’re playing red in a controlling deck then this is most likely because of Excavation Explosion, Raze to the Ground, or higher rarity red bombs.

Green

Green has a bit of an odd time in The Brothers’ War since it’s traditionally the least artifact-oriented color in Magic. Most of its commons are either aggro cards or cards that set up a larger graveyard theme, which will usually be in Golgari.

Green has three common pump spells (two of which are great) and quality beaters like Argothian Sprite and Perimeter Patrol. Burrowing Razormaw, Blanchwood Prowler, and Wasteful Harvest can enable cards like Gnarlroot Pallbearer. It doesn’t have much removal but the two spells it has (Epic Confrontation and Shoot Down) are both pretty good, lessening green’s usual reliance on other colors for kill spells.

Splashing

I’m generally pleased with my previous assessment of splashing and have drawn the following conclusions on splashing:

  • Energy Refractor is my favorite common for splashing in the set because there are a bunch of other incentives to play a cantripping artifact to begin with. But you’re overpaying by one so don’t splash anything you wouldn’t mind overpaying for.
  • Chromatic Star is worse as a colored source than Energy Refractor because you have to cash in the fixing to get the card back. But I still love playing it since it only requires two payments of one and plays well with sac effects.
  • Evolving Wilds is also recommended thanks to a low opportunity cost, every 2-olorc or more deck wants one to three of these.
  • Bushwhack is similarly great thanks to being a fixer plus Prey Upon, though you might not want to count it as a full color source if you’re light on removal.
  • Citanul Stalwart hasn’t impressed me at all, but I’d probably still play it in a deck with lots of 2- and 4-drops.
  • Most of the other fixers are clunky retro artifacts that don’t belong in your average 2-color deck.

Top Commons

White

Prison Sentence

Arrest and scry 2 at common looked like an incredible deal, and I’m pleased to report that Prison Sentence has played out nicely. You’ll have occasional hiccups against Disenchant and Machine Over Matter, so just be aware of these things and you should be good.

Scrapwork Cohort

Scrapwork Cohort is a great value creature that powers artifacts-matters cards, adds two soldiers to the board, and has sac/discard synergy with unearth. It’s strong in both aggro and control decks since it blocks better than it attacks.

Aeronaut Cavalry

White’s only 5-drop is quite good since there are of course lots of soldiers for you to put a counter on with Aeronaut Cavalry.

Airlift Chaplain

Airlift Chaplain is a solid value creature that should almost always make the cut. It’s also a decent fail case if you brick.

Disenchant

Disenchant and Warlord’s Elite got chopped since Disenchant has diminishing returns (recommend one or two copies) and Warlord’s Elite has been mostly fine rather than spectacular.

Blue

Desynchronize

Desynchronize surprised me, but scry 2 is very relevant and there are lots of expensive cards to tag with this. It does cost five mana, but the first copy or two will always be appealing to me.

Mightstone's Animation

Mightstone’s Animation is awesome, if you have the right support for it. This means cheap Powerstone generators, Energy Refractor, Elsewhere Flask, and the like. If you can curve out with this on turn 4 then you’re getting quite the deal as a cantripping 4/4 is an excellent rate.

Combat Courier

Combat Courier is a great value spell and chump blocker that provides artifact synergy, sac synergy, and triggers “draw two” creatures. It also goes well with Curate and loot effects, so I’m always happy to start my Couriers.

Stern Lesson

Stern Lesson is a little bit slow, but Powerstones are broadly useful and there are plenty of ways to get extra value with looting as well. The fact that you can consider Powerstones card advantage really sells this one for me, and I always look to start one or two copies when I can.

Scatter Ray, Fallaji Archaeologist, and Wing Commando all got chopped. Scatter Ray is solid but tapping out is common in this set. The other two creatures are only good in one archetype (spells/soldiers) and underperform otherwise. Fallaji Archaeologist in particular really needs a lopsided noncreature ratio (15+) to hit consistently, which is too much for most decks.

Black

Overwhelming Remorse

I don’t want to pay five for Overwhelming Remorse if I don’t have to, but even doing so isn’t that bad. This just gets better and better as the game goes on, and it even exiles. Actively desiring multiples is usually a function of having self-mill because excess copies can be too clunky otherwise.

Disfigure

Disfigure is an awesome removal spell against aggro that remains relevant even against bigger creatures thanks to its usage as a combat trick.

Gix's Caress

I called Gix’s Caress in the preview. It picks apart synergies while putting you up a piece of virtual cardboard with the free Powerstone. This should be great against all but the fastest decks, but I suppose I’d cut it if I had no use for Powerstones.

Trench Stalker

Trench Stalker is a sleeper hit common for me. the sizing is respectable, triggering it isn’t hard, and it’s difficult to block effectively or race once you do. I expected it to be playable and actively good in Dimir, but it’s a bit better on both fronts.

Thraxodemon got chopped because it’s not a bad card but is too clunky to prioritize. You’ll probably get one and play it, but there are other things to do with your mana too.

Red

Excavation Explosion

Excavation Explosion being the best red common was a no brainer. Nothing even comes close to this in power level or flexibility!

Scrapwork Mutt

Scrapwork Mutt is a great value creature that attacks early, trades with other 2-drops for value, and has valuable flood/screw protection built in. It’s good with sac/looting too and solid in multiples.

Unleash Shell

Unleash Shell is expensive, but like Desynchronize five mana has felt do-able. A great curve topper for your average red deck, a couple copies of this in an otherwise lean deck should do nicely.

Penregon Strongbull

Penregon Strongbull isn’t good in every red deck thanks to deckbuilding requirements. But this minotaur becomes difficult to block and potentially deadly if you set up artifacts for it.

Conscripted Infantry, Mishra’s Onslaught, and Whirling Strike all got chopped. Conscripted Infantry attacks too poorly to be anything other than filler, and the others have also underperformed. This isn’t an especially Trumpet Blast-friendly set since it’s difficult to go much wider than most opponents.

Green

Boulderbranch Golem

Boulderbranch Golem is one of the best cards for stabilizing in the format since Hill Giant and gain three life plus the 7-mana mode are appealing.

Gaea's Gift

I missed how good Gaea’s Gift was. It wins most combats and also works as a Ranger’s Guile against everything. It’s an important trick to play around when you can because not doing so will cost you games.

Argothian Opportunist

Argothian Opportunist is an awesome value creature in any deck that cares about Powerstones, which should be most decks in this format.

Blanchwood Prowler

Blanchwood Prowler is another great value creature, best of course when it’s a 1/1 plus a land. I really like that this grabs lands rather than creatures because you can build up your Gnarlroot Pallbearers while getting value.

Epic Confrontation and Gnarlroot Pallbearer got chopped, but both have still been good and should only be slightly lower on your pick order. You may wish to pick Epic Confrontation above these cards if you really need removal as well, but the top four commons are the bread and butter of good green decks.

Top 10 Uncommons

Rather than going by color like I did with commons, I just wanted to give a top 10 as premium uncommons tend to guide Drafts more than commons do. Knowing which uncommons are top notch can give you a head start on reading the signals at your Draft table.

Skyfisher Spider

Skyfisher Spider is the strongest uncommon in the set and one of the few non-rares worth splashing. There are so many disposable tokens, unearth creatures, etc. that this often resembles a Ravenous Chupacabra with reach and lifegain on death!

Static Net

Static Net is premium removal for any deck and also a likely splash for those lucky enough to have good fixing. The extra added value of two life and a Powerstone is key to why this Oblivion Ring spinoff is so great.

Thopter Mechanic

Thopter Mechanic isn’t the splashiest card, but it’s hard to imagine a more efficient 2-drop. Somehow this is a card that can snowball or put you ahead early when you trade it with another 2-drop.

Self-Assembler

Self-Assembler is a strong value card thanks to the three common assembly-workers in this set (Tower Worker, Mine Worker, and Power Plant Worker). Assembling that trio is rewarding and fairly realistic, and none of the pieces are atrocious on their own either. They also increase the number of artifacts in your deck which can often be valuable.

Zephyr Sentinel

Zephyr Sentinel is another efficient 2-drop that punishes Prison Sentence and any removal that you can respond to. You don’t have to be soldiers for this to be good, but it shines brightest when you have a couple for it to target.

Go for the Throat

Go for the Throat won’t kill large robots, but it’s so efficient that it doesn’t really matter. Even giant robot decks will have Battery Bearer for you to kill with this!

Mask of the Jadecrafter

Mask of the Jadecrafter has outperformed my expectations as you should have time to get value from it. The first activation can be used early on while the later one often just get used when you’re completely hellbent. Either way it’s two fat robots for the price of one card.

Gurgling Anointer

You’ll need to trigger Gurgling Anointer once for it to be good, but all that requires is a simple cantrip/loot/etc. which isn’t asking much. It particularly shines in Dimir but I’ve liked it in most black decks in general as long as I’m playing card draw spells.

Horned Stoneseeker

Horned Stoneseeker is an efficient value creature that’s also difficult to block early. You do lose the Powerstone if it leaves, but it’s only two mana so you’re never really punished for playing it. It’s possible to get a tiny bit of value by having this die without any Powerstones in play, perhaps because you’ve already sacrificed them to Thraxodemon?

Corrupt

Corrupt is the best of the mono-colored payoffs, both when you’re fully building around it and when you’re playing it in a 10 Swamp/7 Mountain mana base. It can be either a clunky removal spell with a lifegain rider or a Fireball effect of sorts. The combo with Elsewhere Flask is an absolute joy when you can pull it off!

Archetype Guide

Azorius Soldiers

Strategy

Azorius soldiers is a tribal aggro based around, well, soldiers. It’s an unusual archetype for Azorius to take in Limited and fits somewhere between the aggro and control lines.

A key thing that soldiers have going for them in this set is evasion, specifically flying from Air Marshal, Ambush Paratrooper, Wing Commando, and Zephyr Sentinel. This lets you keep the pressure up without having to care about 1/1 Soldier tokens, Coastal Bulwark, and other cards that come up the ground. Try to save your removal spells for cards like Rust Goliath, especially if you’re ahead early on.

Expect to play between 16 to 17 lands depending on your number of 4- and 5-drops.

Payoffs

Most of the best Azorius payoffs are higher rarity cards. Myrel, Shield of Argive, Harbin, Vanguard Aviator, Skystrike Officer, and Siege Veteran are all incredible here.

If you don’t have any of those, your best incentives to be Azorius are Yotian Tactician and Zephyr Sentinel. Without those you might find yourself in a different white-based aggro deck since there’s a lot of common overlap for white in The Brother’s War.

Core Commons

Aeronaut Cavalry is a really good 5-drop that’s premium in this deck. Wing Commando is probably the next best thing. Both 2-drops (Air Marshal and Phalanx Vanguard) are solid roleplayers.

Prison Sentence is good here for getting past fat blockers and mitigating mana flood and screw. Avoid Yotian Medic and Survivor of Korlis if you can since they’re weak cards despite their tribe.

Trophy Example

Playing Against

Reach creatures, cheap spot removal, and ways to kill rares and Yotian Tactician are a must. This is a matchup where your Disenchants often come out for cards like Deadly Riposte.

If you’re another aggro deck you may be able to go under Azorius since its raw clock isn’t the fastest.

Dimir Draw Two

Strategy

Dimir’s archetype in this set is a repeat of Throne of Eldraine’s Izzet draw two deck. This deck can be built either tempo, midrange, or controlling, but all variants tend to use the same payoff creatures and card draw spells. The pace of the deck comes down to specific card choices, like your threat, removal, and card draw ratio.

Expect to play 17 or 18 lands depending on your curve and number of looting effects.

Payoffs

Gixian Puppeteer, Evangel of Synthesis, Thopter Mechanic, Gurgling Anointer, Lat-Nam Adept, and Trench Stalker are all payoffs for what Dimir wants to do. The rare is of course the best one, while the others vary in quality a bit but are all at least fine.

Evangel of Synthesis is great since it’s both a payoff and an enabler rolled into one. You might not need to play every copy of these you open because having card draw and interaction is important. It’s better to draw a Curate, a Lat-Nam Adept, and a Disfigure than three Adepts after all!

Core Commons

Lat-Nam Adept and Trench Stalker are respectable curve filler, but I wouldn’t prioritize either one over quality card and removal. Some of the better commons of that category are Disfigure, Weakstone’s Subjugation, Overwhelming Remorse, and Stern Lesson.

Mightstone’s Animation can also excel in Dimir, but you’ll need lots of Powerstones, Energy Refractor, etc.

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Playing Against

This is a tricky one because Dimir has lots of card advantage and a fairly diverse gameplan. Removal is important since most of their payoffs are clunky and vulnerable to something like Prison Sentence.

White-based aggro goes under them while Simic ramp can go over the top and answer Dimir’s few giant threats with Weakstone’s Subjugation and Machine Over Matter. Take out Disenchant in most cases since Dimir is one of the least artifact-focused decks in the format.

Rakdos Sacrifice

Strategy

Rakdos is an aggro deck in this set with lots of neat synergies. It has a juiced signpost uncommon (Junkyard Genius) and several commons that work much better in Rakdos than anywhere else.

The early game is spent setting up artifacts and creatures and dealing some chip damage so that your opponent can be overwhelmed with menace-boosted attacks later. Rakdos also has access to the classic treason and sac play pattern with Sibling Rivalry and Powerstone Fracture or other sac outlets.

Expect to play 15 to 17 lands depending on your curve.

Payoffs

Rakdos depends less on rares than other archetypes. Junkyard Genius is amazing, but a surprising chunk of the deck’s power comes from synergistic commons and disposable artifacts.

Mishra’s Research Desk is a great 2-for-1 in general, but it’s especially good here due to sac synergy. Most of making Rakdos work comes down to having the right admixture of sacrifice effects and payoffs.

Core Commons

The holy trinity of Rakdos sac is Goblin Blast-Runner, Penregon Strongbull, and Excavation Explosion. These are all premium commons that you’ll want multiple copies of. Goblin Blast-Runner would like further support from cards like Thraxodemon, Powerstone Fracture, Kill-Zone Acrobat, and Bitter Reunion.

Two other cards that I’d recommend in Rakdos are Gixian Infiltrator and Evolving Wilds, which conveniently triggers Goblin/Infiltrator. If you have enough sac outlets, try to play a Sibling Rivalry or two as well. The last card worth mentioning is Clay Revenant, which is sluggish but a useful value card with sac/discard that I often play a copy of.

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Playing Against

Gaea’s Gift and Loran’s Escape can stop the Sibling Rivalry combo if they have it. Otherwise cheap spot removal is best since Rakdos’ late game tends to be inferior to most other decks.

Disenchants may or may not be good here depending on your opponent’s specific build. Always be careful with leaving back extra blockers since Junkyard Genius and Goblin Blast-Runner introduce a lot of extra damage via menace.

Gruul Midrange

Strategy

Gruul is a diverse deck that could probably be built as any of aggro, midrange, or even ramp/control. Aggro variants want to play pump spells and 2-drops, midrange wants to play good cards up the curve, and ramp is all about Powerstones and big prototype fatties.

The last one is the loosest fit and would probably be some kind of 3-color pile if you ever tried it. Figuring out how big your deck wants to go is vital to success with Gruul.

Expect to play 16 to 17 lands depending on your curve. Bigger variants will obviously play more land but still shouldn’t exceed 17 due to Powerstones.

Payoffs

Arbalest Engineers hasn’t been quite as good as I expected (“looks like one of the best uncommons in the set,” I said), but it’s flexible and efficient. The 3/3 haste mode is probably the best one, but the set has enough X/1s and ramp payoffs that all three modes get selected sometimes.

Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard and Sarinth Greatwurm are great reasons to be this color pair, but neither really asks much of you beyond having Gruul mana.

Core Commons

For aggro variants, good 2-drops are essential because you won’t be leveraging pump spells otherwise. Argothian Sprite and Scrapwork Mutt are the best common 2-drops, but all of Gruul’s 2-drops (Blanchwood Prowler, Dwarven Forge-Chanter, Roc Hunter, and Tomakul Honor Guard) are playable.

You’ll want to supplement a lean curve with Giant Growth, Gaea’s Gift, and Epic Confrontation. Get on board early, punch face, and push through blockers with those cards.

Bigger variants must focus more on card advantage, trimming cards that expire early like Tomakul Honor Guard for fatties like Rust Goliath and Boulderbranch Golem. Argothian Opportunist is fantastic in this variant for reaching your robots quicker. I’d still recommend playing both Argothian Sprite and Scrapwork Mutt here because they scale better than other 2-drops.

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Playing Against

How best to play against Gruul will of course vary based on your opponent’s build. Midrange/ramp decks require you to have spot removal and counterspells for large threats. Aggro variants must be met with cheap blockers early as well as instant speed interaction like Deadly Riposte and Disfigure to retrick pump spells.

Selesnya Artifacts

Strategy

Selesnya is another deck somewhere between aggro and midrange like Gruul. Its signpost uncommon (Yotian Dissident) starts small but provides a substantial reward for continuously playing artifacts.

This distinguishes Selesnya in approach from something like Simic because the focus for artifacts is more on quantity over quality. Finding ways to generate card advantage is important in Selesnya since the deck has a huge flood risk otherwise.

Expect to play between 16 to 17 lands depending on your curve.

Payoffs

Yotian Dissident and Sarinth Steelseeker are probably as good as it gets. Thopter Architect has similar incentives but is an inconsistent board stall breaker, not a value generator.

Mass Production is a generally mediocre card but can go off hard in this deck with enough Dissident-style cards. Teething Wurmlet also deserves a shoutout for being a generally good rare that is perfectly fit for Selesnya.

You may find a blue splash desirable if you’re leaning hard into artifact synergies. This can give you access to powerful blue artifact payoffs like Urza, Prince of Kroog and Tocasia, Dig Site Mentor.

Core Commons

Scrapwork Cohort is a good card on rate that double triggers Yotian Dissident, potentially more than once thanks to unearth. Argothian Opportunist is an efficient value creature that comes with a much-appreciated Powerstone. Phalanx Vanguard, Perimeter Patrol, and Powerstone Engineer all do a fine job of filling up your curve while staying on theme.

As for removal spells, a mix of Disenchant, Prison Sentence, and Epic Confrontation should do nicely. I’m also not opposed to playing a Gaea’s Gift or two because protecting your best creatures is vital.

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Playing Against

Removing your opponent’s engines is the most important thing if you can manage it because synergistic Selesnya decks depend heavily on a couple of imminently killable creatures. You’ll need Disfigure– or Excavation Explosion-style removal since neither Prison Sentence or Deadly Riposte is ideal.

Disenchant variants may or may not be useful here depending on the quality of artifacts the Selesnya player has. Selesnya generally sits in an awkward middle spot pace wise since it gets outclassed later by slow archetypes and ran over by fast ones. Try to take advantage of this in games if you can!

Orzhov Weenies

Strategy

Orzhov weenies is an aggressive deck that wants to play lots of small creatures and take advantage of rewards for doing so. It usually only has a mild artifact identity at best.

Most Orzhov decks skew more midrange than Boros aggro but are still often attacking early. It also may play some of the same sacrifice synergies as Rakdos does, like Thraxodemon and Clay Revenant or Powerstone Fracture and Scrapwork Cohort.

Expect to play 16-17 lands,though I’d usually play 17 unless I was lacking Hero of the Dunes or any kind of mana sinks.

Payoffs

Hero of the Dunes is an obvious but very exciting payoff that’s both a value creature and a lord for your weenies.

There are a couple other cards specifically aimed at Orzhov’s “mana value 3 or less” theme like Kayla’s Reconstruction and Tocasia’s Welcome. Neither is essential but both seem worth playing in the average Orzhov deck.

Core Commons

Airlift Chaplain and Warlord’s Elite are two efficient cards that work well with Orzhov’s “3 or less” theme. Orzhov should otherwise stick to normal top commons like Aeronaut Cavalry, Scrapwork Cohort, and removal spells.

Building a good curve is important, so it’s nice for Orzhov that most 2-drops are fine. I’d also recommend Emergency Weld here as a value card since the 1/1 token is boosted by Hero of the Dunes and is useful for going wide and sacrifice synergies.

Trophy Example

Playing Against

Keeping the pace against Orzhov is important because you don’t want to be overwhelmed by a developed board state. Good blockers and kill spells can help slow them down. You may wish to trim down on artifact removal since not all Orzhov decks have good targets.

It’s important to note that killing Hero of the Dunes isn’t always that important since a big part of the card’s strength is in its return trigger.

Izzet Spells

Strategy

Izzet’s “spells matter” approach to The Brothers’ War feels as ancient as the conflict between Urza and Mishra themselves. Nevertheless this is an effective deck that can be built as either a control deck or somewhere in between that and tempo/midrange. It also gets to play a lot of cards that don’t excel anywhere else, like Fallaji Archaeologist.

Expect to play between 15 to 17 lands depending on your curve and number of cantrips. Izzet cares a lot about spell quantity so trimming lands and using Bitter Reunion and Curate to find land #3 is acceptable.

Payoffs

Third Path Iconoclast and Levitating Statue are top notch uncommons for this archetype. Third Path is a value card that can occasionally win on its own while the Statue is more of a pure win condition that won’t do much early on.

Without either of those two cards I won’t usually find myself in Izzet since there’s not much redundancy in the set for it.

Core Commons

Izzet is often a base blue deck since most of red’s commons are a poor fit for a controlling deck. Excavation Explosion is of course an exception to this rule and even better than usual in Izzet.

From blue you’ll want Fallaji Archaeologist and lots of removal and card draw spells (Stern Lesson, Weakstone’s Subjugation, Machine Over Matter).

Trophy Example

Playing Against

Kill Third Path Iconoclast if you can since doing so makes all the difference between a hopelessly stalled board and a sad Izzet player. You might have to play around lots of counterspells from Izzet, which can be a problem for clunky decks.

Gix’s Caress is A+ against reactive Izzet decks if you have it, and you’ll need to pressure them early to stop them from freely holding up mana. If your opponent is relying on Levitating Statue then Raze to the Ground, Shoot Down, and Disenchant are great answers to it.

Golgari Graveyard

Strategy

Golgari can be synergistic to varying degrees since some decks care more about their graveyard than others. Most Golgari decks are pretty firmly in the midrange category, with a balanced curve of beaters, some removal spells, and hopefully some card advantage as well.

Expect to play 17 landswith few exceptions.

Payoffs

Gaea’s Courser and Skyfisher Spider are as good as it gets with both being premium uncommons for Golgari. Gaea’s Courser cares more about self-mill than the Spider does, but it can never be terrible thanks to its solid base stats.

Battlefield Butcher and Deathbloom Ritualist also care about similar things, but neither is particularly amazing. Gixian Skullflayer is usually a filler card that can actually shine here thanks to self-mill synergy.

Core Commons

If you’re trying to boost up Overwhelming Remorse, Gnarlroot Pallbearer, and Gaea’s Courser, Blanchwood Prowler and Burrowing Razormaw are the best curve filler you can ask for. Ravenous Gigamole and Wasteful Harvest are second rate alternatives if you need more of that effect.

I wouldn’t play Burrowing Razormaw if your deck doesn’t have much in the way of graveyard synergy. Instead just focus on generic top commons.

Trophy Example

Playing Against

There’s some graveyard hate in this set like Ashnod’s Harvester, Carrion Locust, Dreams of Steel and Oil, and Hoarding Recluse, so you can put it to use here. I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend something like Calamity’s Wake since Golgari isn’t that graveyard dependent.

Answering Gaea’s Courser is a must if they have it because it won’t take too many extra draws from it for you to fall very behind.

Boros Aggro

Strategy

Just as the sun always rises and sets, Boros always puts small creatures in its deck and uses them to try to kill other players. The wrinkles here are that it can touch on other white-based themes like soldiers and “mana value 3 or less” matters.

Boros also has a minor ETB theme with Fallaji Vanguard and Queen Kayla bin-Kroog. It’s mostly contained to just the Vanguard, but repeat +2/+0 triggers can be deadly.

Expect to play between 15 to 17 lands depending on how many expensive cards you have. 16 is my personal go-to aggro number.

Payoffs

Fallaji Vanguard is a juiced signpost uncommon and a great reason to be Boros. Don’t forget that it triggers the turn you play it, so main phase it and push for extra damage and trade ups. Queen Kayla bin-Kroog has also been excellent and asks very little of you other than having a low curve (something you’ll do anyways).

Boros otherwise doesn’t depend on higher rarity cards very much and is more concerned with having a great curve.

Core Commons

Red and white’s normal top commons work just fine here, though Powerstones aren’t usually especially useful in Boros so keep that in mind.

You’ll want a strong mana curve with a Whirling Strike or two, some removal spells, and a high creature count (at least 15+). Mishra’s Onslaught hasn’t performed great for me but this is probably the best archetype to fit in a copy if you can.

Trophy Example

Playing Against

This is the most aggressive deck in the format, so this is where your speedbumps like Deadly Riposte, Coastal Bulwark, and Fallaji Archaeologist come in. You can take out Gix’s Caress, extra card draw, and unneeded fatties.

Kill spells (even five mana ones) have to stay for Fallaji Vanguard which can otherwise make profitably blocking impossible.

Simic Robots

Strategy

Simic robots is the premier ramp strategy of the format, and one of the only decks that primarily wants to execute the core gameplay loop I mentioned in the first article (Powerstones plus fat robots).

Other decks often have a couple prototype creatures but won’t be building their deck around it. Simic wants just about everything with prototype, possibly including cards that it’ll never cast for colored costs like Combat Thresher.

Expect to play 17 landsalmost in Simic every time. More lands can be excessive with Powerstones while less lands increases your odds of bricking on land 3 or 4 for essential plays like Stern Lesson and Battery Bearer.

Payoffs

Battery Bearer is pure wholesome goodness and a key reason to be Simic specifically. It’s a good enough blocker for it not to feel like you’re taking a full turn off just to set up some card draw later, which helps. Otherwise you’ll find that Simic is better equipped than any other deck to play large artifact creatures of any rarity.

Some of the best uncommon ones are Su-Chi Cave Guard, Argivian Avenger, and Spotter Thopter.

Core Commons

Boulderbranch Golem is the #1 Simic common since this is the slowest deck in the format and really appreciates the lifegain. I’d be happy to play 4+ copies if I could and trim other fatties for it. Rust Goliath and Depth Charge Colossus are also acceptable but not quite as good.

Powerstone generation is essential, so you’ll want efficient ways of doing that like Argothian Opportunist and Stern Lesson. You can play Stone Retrieval Unit if you need more of that effect which is a card I never play in other archetypes.

And for removal spells I prefer Weakstone’s Subjugation to other options since you can two spell with it and Epic Confrontation is harder to set up in a high curve deck. You should still supplement it with cards like Shoot Down and counterspells though because Weakstone’s Subjugation falls short against cards like Platoon Dispenser.

Trophy Example

Playing Against

Simic is a clunky and somewhat one dimensional ramp deck so you should have a good idea what most Simic decks are up to. Aggro decks want to curve out then answer blockers and give Simic little time to breath.

Slower decks will want Gix’s Caress and counterspells to pick apart Simic on a 1:1 basis, leaving them with a whole bunch of Powerstones and nothing to show for it. If you’re pursuing this gameplan you must kill Battery Bearer or you’ll never be able to 1:1 the Simic player.

Unofficial Archetypes

Monocolor Decks

There are six uncommon payoffs for being monocolor in this set (one for each color and Steel Exemplar), plus a lot of colorless cards in general. It’s thus fully possible to build functional decks without touching more than one color, or at least decks that are largely one color and only splashing the second one (with say, a 14/3 mana base).

These decks tend to be a bit simpler to play and build than the 2-color archetypes, and mostly take on these attributes.

Mono White

IMG My mono-white decks have been midrange artifact based decks that never found a second color. Mono-white soldiers isn’t going to be a thing since you’ll inevitably touch into another color for payoffs and extra soldiers.

Lay Down Arms is an awesome removal spell here but still probably one of the weaker monocolor incentives.

Mono Blue

IMG Heavily blue decks are usually highly controlling and artifact focused, with lots of colorless cards and Flow of Knowledge to refill later in the game. I find that Simic ramp can often be heavily base blue to the point where it may as well be mono-blue plus Shoot Down and Battery Bearer (14/3 mana base split).

Mono Black

IMG I’m definitely a Corrupt fan, and also think black is a decently deep color in general. Your average mono-black deck will probably be very grindy and fill out its curve with lots of artifact creatures like Scrapwork Rager and the Urza’s trio.

Mono Red

Mono-red aggro, of course! That’s the name of the game here if you end up not playing any other colors because red is too one dimensional on its own. Sardian Cliffstomper is a strong incentive for giving this a try, as is Mechanized Warfare if you can get that.

Mono Green

Mono-green gets the short end of the stick (tree?) because green has mediocre interaction and the worst monocolor payoff (Blanchwood Armor). It’s quite the powerful aura, but “powerful aura” is the issue given how it plays out against Prison Sentence and Overwhelming Remorse.

I’d be remiss not to mention the combo of Blanchwood Armor and Awaken the Woods, which is super cute.

Azorius Artifacts

Not all Azorius decks have to be soldier tribal since it’s fully possible to pair good artifacts with blue draw and white removal. It’s not the most exciting deck idea ever, but it was one I had a lot of success with at the start of the format.

This deck tends to play enough artifacts that you might just end up playing Lay Down Arms or Flow of Knowledge instead, at which point you’re just monocolored or base plus a splash.

Miscellaneous Uncommons

Not all of these are winners, but the theory craft behind making a couple of these work is at least interesting.

Great Desert Prospector

Great Desert Prospector

Great Desert Prospector is an awkward card that wants an aggro-sized board to do control-sized things with Powerstones. It’s probably at its best in a Yotian Dissident deck which checks both boxes, but even then it hasn’t been consistently great anywhere.

Loran, Disciple of History

Loran, Disciple of History

The legendary stacking aspect of Loran, Disciple of History is neat and has led to a couple of greedy choices on stream where I ended up Bant with this, Tocasia, Dig Site Mentor, Urza, Powerstone Prodigy, and Drafna, Founder of Lat-Nam.

It’s also a good incentive to play cards like Elsewhere Flask and Chromatic Star that bin themselves.

Meticulous Excavation

Meticulous Excavation

Meticulous Excavation is a fun value card that seems to be in the wrong set for it to do much. There just frankly aren’t enough cheap ETB creatures for self-unsummoning to be all that good, though I’d of course like this much better if you could use it outside of your own turn.

Your best bet for pulling this off is pairing it with eggs like Energy Refractor and Elsewhere Flask rather than focusing on creatures. Even then it’s still glacially slow, but perhaps you get enough value to make it worth playing.

Repair and Recharge + No One Left Behind

Repair and RechargeNo One Left Behind

Repair and Recharge and No One Left Behind share a mention for convenience, though No One Left Behind is a better card in general. These are similar reanimator effects that play well with looting and prototype creatures.

Revived prototype creatures return to the battlefield in their most expensive form, which means there’s some fun to be had here. Azorius or Dimir is probably your best bet for a color pair to pull this off since Stern Lesson is a premium enabler for this kind of thing.

Forging the Anchor

Forging the Anchor

You need a lot of artifacts for Forging the Anchor to be any good. I pulled it off in the mono-blue image above with 16 artifacts, which gives this a roughly 70% of being Divination or better.

If you can’t swing at least 15 artifacts, don’t bother playing this. It tends to eat a lot of space that would otherwise be removal and support cards so it’s difficult to draft around despite the power level.

Splitting the Powerstone

Splitting the Powerstone

Splitting the Powerstone is really bad! There isn’t a single legendary artifact worth splitting so the best thing you can do with it is Ichor Wellspring and Chromatic Star.

I’d only play this if I had 4+ copies of that style card because the risk of drawing this without it would be too great.

Take Flight

Take Flight

Take Flight is a clunky cheese card that you could try to live the dream with by pairing it with cheap creatures plus Loran’s Escape. If something with this sticks and keeps connecting you will win the game, but all it normally takes is one removal spell for that dream to end.

It’s also not that good for racing either so I wouldn’t usually play it.

Disciples of Gix

Disciples of Gix

Disciples of Gix is a generally strong uncommon that asks you to seek out unearth creatures and Clay Revenant before playing it. If you have 5+ targets it’s a great curve topper and gets even better if you have something broken like Cityscape Leveler to tutor.

Thran Vigil

Thran Vigil

Thran Vigil is a neat build-around uncommon that wants to play with unearth, Emergency Weld, and as many Airlift Chaplain-style cards as you can manage. Some Orzhov, Rakdos, or Golgari decks might find themselves able to play this, but it doesn’t perfectly align with their normal goals.

Whether or not building around this is actually worth it is a question I still haven’t answered, but I can at least figure out how it should be done.

Arms Race

Arms Race

Arms Race was mentioned earlier as a trap card that’ll gimp your deck and get you killed. Nothing has changed even though I’m mentioning it again now.

If you must play Arms Race, well, try to play as many giant prototypes as you can plus card draw to find this/them and removal to stay alive.

Pyrrhic Blast

Pyrrhic Blast

Pyrrhic Blast has been mediocre on its own and is too expensive for the average Sibling Rivalry steal and sac combo because eight mana (none of which can be Powerstones) is rough.

Unearth is a better fit as you can use Powerstones to pay unearth costs and then sac the creature to this after it’s done attacking. I’d also consider sideboarding this in against Prison Sentence and Weakstone’s Subjugation since it’s quite the blowout against both.

The Fall of Kroog

The Fall of Kroog

The Fall of Kroog is expensive X/1 hate that should just be sideboarded in occasionally. It has little else going for it since Lava Spike and Demolish is embarrassing for six mana in Limited.

Alloy Animist

Alloy Animist

Alloy Animist is a great card in a green-based artifacts deck with lots of Powerstones, but it’s useless on its own since it’s just a 1/1 for one. You can also supplement said Powerstones with eggs like Elsewhere Flask, Energy Refractor, and Ichor Wellspring.

With 8+ common targets this tends to go crazy later in the game and demand an answer.

Fallaji Excavation

Fallaji Excavation

Fallaji Excavation is a highly-dedicated ramp spell of sorts that I can’t even fit in most Simic decks. The cost is somewhat rough (most of my Simic decks are base blue) and having a 5-mana card that’s almost purely mana is a tough sell.

Transmogrant Altar

Transmogrant Altar

Transmogrant Altar is an interesting value/sac engine that wants to play with unearth, fodder creatures, and Sibling Rivalry. Not every Rakdos deck wants to durdle around with this one necessarily, but it’s fun to build around and at least worthy of consideration.

Slagstone Refinery

Slagstone Refinery

Definitely not recommended, but you could try to build an eggs/sac deck of sorts with Slagstone Refinery and lots of Powerstone Fracture, Thraxodemon, Penregon Strongbull, etc. The problem is that this does nothing on its own and costs four mana, and the payoff itself is uncertain and tons of work to realize.

Spectrum Sentinel

Spectrum Sentinel

lol

Symmetry Matrix

Symmetry Matrix

Symmetry Matrix is a much better 4-cost build around than Slagstone Refinery. You can approach this either through token generators or just having lots of X/X creatures in your deck. Powerstone generation is also good as you can use those to pay the extra every time it comes up.

Thran Power Suit

Thran Power Suit

Haven’t played with Thran Power Suit yet but it’s a strange Voltron-style build around that wants you to play other equipment and auras. But most of the equipment is quite bad in this set.

If I were to play this I’d likely have several copies of Transmogrant’s Crown, Military Discipline (mediocre trick that pumps Thran Power Suit), Audacity, and maybe an Aeronaut’s Wings too.

Is this strategy any good? Probably not, but it’s at least novel given that nothing else in the set cares about this sort of thing.

Wrap Up

Urza, Powerstone Prodigy - Illustration by Donato Giancola

Urza, Powerstone Prodigy | Illustration by Donato Giancola

And with that we conclude yet another Ultimate Guide. The Brothers’ War may use source material from over a decade before I started Magic but I’ve really enjoyed it in terms of both flavor and gameplay. It has pretty dynamic gameplay, with lots of different synergies available and aggro, midrange and control all represented. The artifact aspect of the set is also a big hit and introduces a lot of interesting deckbuilding and sideboarding tension.

What has your experience been with this Draft format? Let me know in the comments below or join the discussion in the Draftsim Discord.

Until next time, may your P1P1s always be the best in your pod!

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