Queen Kayla bin-Kroog - Illustration by Cristi Balanescu

Queen Kayla bin-Kroog | Illustration by Cristi Balanescu

Magic’s greatest recurring threat has been making a stronger push lately. Kaldheim saw the return of the Phyrexians after a decade, and it was the first time the New Phyrexians appeared outside of their own hellish world. Not long after they reemerged in both Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and Streets of New Capenna, but Dominaria United left no doubt. The Phyrexians are back and attempting to spread their glory to the rest of the multiverse.

The Brothers’ War is the second step in the massive event that follows the fight between planeswalkers and New Phyrexians. This huge arc is related to Magic’s 30th anniversary, and this particular set shows that very clearly by throwing players back in time to one of the game’s most important events. The original Brothers’ War is possibly one of the most important and consequential events in the Multiverse’s history.

So, what is The Brothers’ War story, from start to finish? Let’s find out!

What Is The Brothers’ War About?

Urza's Sylex - Illustration by Joseph Meehan

Urza’s Sylex | Illustration by Joseph Meehan

At the end of Dominaria United, Karn understood how the Golgothian Sylex worked. Unfortunately the artifact had been destroyed and Karn was taken by the New Phyrexians. But there was another way to see how it worked: learn, first-hand, how it was activated for the first time by Urza.

The Brothers’ War‘s story follows several different threads. On the one hand there are accounts of conflict between the artificer brothers Urza and Mishra, told through the The Brothers’ War novel. Another thread follows Teferi and his allies’ efforts to journey into the past and find an answer for how to use the Sylex. Then there are the stories of the people affected by the war itself.

While I personally really liked that this set’s stories showed how the war hurt the common soldiers and civilians, I’m focusing on the more world-changing events: those related to the most important stages of the war and the planeswalkers we’ve been following.

Setting

There are two main settings for this set. Some of the events happen in the in-universe present while others take place in the past during the Brothers’ War.

The Present: The Second Invasion of Dominaria

Fallaji Vanguard - Illustration by Joshua Cairos

Fallaji Vanguard | Illustration by Joshua Cairos

Dominaria is once again under invasion by Phyrexian forces. 300 years have passed since Yawgmoth’s forces first stormed the plane. Now under the guidance of New Phyrexia’s praetors, the mechanical monsters are storming the plane seeking to bring it to its knees.

An ensemble of planeswalkers gather at Urza’s Tower while war rages on throughout the plane. The Gatewatch and their allies aim at setting up a way to resist the invasion of Dominaria and turn the tide by storming New Phyrexia itself and destroying the praetors.

This side of the story takes place in and around Urza’s Tower as time runs out before invading forces come crashing in.

The Past: The Brothers’ War

Battlefield Forge - Illustration by Thomas Stoop

Battlefield Forge | Illustration by Thomas Stoop

4,000 years earlier, the continent of Terisiare on the east of Dominaria experiences one of the most consequential and history-changing events in the plane’s history. Artificer brothers Urza and Mishra, driven apart when they find Thran powerstones, are locked in a hateful conflict that steadily escalates into one of the worst wars in Dominarian history.

They fight their war with machines designed for nothing but destruction and death. The war takes a massive toll on the non-mechanical people and beings that are trapped in the struggle. It ends with the detonation of the Golgothian Sylex, a blast that decimates the land and sets in motion a series of events that forever change Dominaria.

Teferi jumps through time and witnesses the horrors of this war to find the exact moment of the blast and understand it.

This side of the story takes place on the continent of Terisiare, between several major cities like Kroog and Tomakul. The blast itself decimates the island of Argoth, a haven of greenery and life torn to pieces by the war.

Main Characters

Contemporary Characters

Teferi

Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim - Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

Arguably one of the most important characters in this storyline, Teferi uses his time powers to jump through time to find the moment Urza detonated the Sylex. He jumps through different stages of the war, bearing witness to the tragedy and horror that the soldiers went through.

Saheeli and Kaya

Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, Kaya's Guile - Illustrations by Wesley Burt, Jason Rainville

Saheeli, Sublime Artificer and Kaya’s Guile | Illustrations by Wesley Burt, Jason Rainville

Teferi’s powers aren’t enough to transport him through time. Enter planeswalkers Saheeli and Kaya.

Saheeli is the engineering mastermind behind the machine Teferi uses to jump through time while maintaining an anchor in the present. Kaya uses her powers to allow Teferi to travel as a disembodied spirit rather than a tangible being.

Elspeth Tirel

Elspeth Resplendent - Illustration by Anna Steinbauer

Elspeth Resplendent | Illustration by Anna Steinbauer

Elspeth has a long and dark history with the Phyrexians. Her longstanding hatred for them is only increased when the Phyrexians take of her best friend, Ajani.

Fueled by rage and hatred, she joins the group at Urza’s Tower as the leader of their defense. She knows military tactics and the Phyrexians well since she fought against them during Mirrodin’s fall.

The Gatewatch and Their Allies

Kayla's Reconstruction - Illustration by Nicholas Elias

Kayla’s Reconstruction | Illustration by Nicholas Elias

Wrenn and Seven, Chandra, Nissa, and Jodah all are present at Urza’s Tower to aid in its defense or help with the time-traveling experiments. Nissa and Wrenn and Seven are instrumental in holding the invading forces on one flank back while Elspeth and Jodah take care of the main force.

Between the end of the battle at the Tower and the beginning of the assault on New Phyrexia they’re joined by several of their allies. The Wanderer, Kaito, Vraska, Tyvar, and Lukka all show up to aid in the war efforts. They’re also joined by Nahiri, who’s decided to put her conflicts with Nissa aside for the sake of stopping the machines. Other agents are still acting on other planes, like Vivien Reid.

The Mirran Resistance

They’re only mentioned in passing for now, but the survivors of the resistance in New Phyrexia are crucial to the Gatewatch’s plans. There’s also some certainty that Koth of the Hammer is still alive, fighting with them.

Tezzeret

Tezzeret's Gambit - Illustration Karl Kopinski

Tezzeret’s Gambit | Illustration by Karl Kopinski

The master of metal was a key part of Elesh Norn’s plans to start her assault on the planes of the Multiverse. As Elesh keeps ordering Tezzeret around and denying him the reward she promised, the former agent of Bolas begins to grow hostile towards his mechanical masters.

His schemes and intentions aren’t clear, but he’s given insider information of the Phyrexians’ actions to the Gatewatch before.

Elesh Norn and the Praetors

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite - Illustration by Igor Kieryluk

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite | Illustration by Igor Kieryluk

Elesh Norn, mother of machines, is the scheming power behind the push to bringing Phyrexian perfection to the rest of the Multiverse. She rules over New Phyrexia and commands their armies.

What she doesn’t seem to know is that Urabrask has been scheming with Tezzeret and planning a rebellion from the inside.

Ashiok

Ashiok's Erasure - Illustration by Zezhou Chen

Ashiok’s Erasure | Illustration by Zezhou Chen

Not too long ago we learned that Ashiok, after prodding at Elspeth’s nightmares, travelled to New Phyrexia to induce Elesh Norn to have nightmares. Those nightmares showed Elspeth and her resistance to Phyrexian corruption.

It’s unsure what Ashiok’s motivations or end goal are, but they seem to make a brief yet cryptic appearance in Elspeth’s dreams. There they tell the knight planeswalker that Elesh Norn’s nightmares feature her and seem to have a somewhat collaborative attitude about it.

The Brothers’ War

Urza

Urza, Lord Protector - Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Urza, Lord Protector | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Urza is possibly one of Magic’s most important characters. One of the most powerful planeswalkers to ever live, he was a man of massive intellect and dubious morals. His millennia-sprawling story begins right here during the war.

The already-strained relationship with his brother took a turn for the worse when they found the two halves of an extremely powerful powerstone. As the husband to the princess of Kroog and eventual ruler of the eastern half of Terisiare, Urza had the resources and forces to build massive armies of humans and machines to fight his brother.

The escalating conflict came to a sudden end when he detonated the Golgothian Sylex, causing the ice age and isolating Dominaria from the rest of the Multiverse. It turned him into a planeswalker, though.

Mishra

Mishra, Claimed by Gix - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Mishra, Claimed by Gix | Illustration by Chris Rahn

Mishra was lost in the desert, guided by dark visions and dreams, when a tribe of Fallaji warriors found him. A Dragon Engine attacked the tribe one night, but Mishra managed to control it with his Weakstone.

He quickly became Qadir (their leader) and came to control the entire western half of Terisiare. But his dark dreams were omens of something darker and more terrible: Mishra’s forces were infiltrated by the Brotherhood of Gix.

Mishra was no longer fully human, if he was even the real Mishra at all, by the end of the war. At some unknown point he was taken to Gix and turned into a Phyrexian. Urza’s discovery of what had been done to his brother was the start of his millennia-long effort to destroy the demonic machines.

Gix, the First Praetor

Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor - Illustration by Anna Podedworna

Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor | Illustration by Anna Podedworna

Gix was a powerful and terrible Phyrexian praetor sent to infiltrate Dominaria by Yawgmoth. He spent a long time building a following of priests who would later infiltrate Mishra’s forces.

His plans to spread Phyrexian corruption were thwarted by the detonation of the Sylex.

Tawnos and Ashnod

Tawnos, the Toymaker, Ashnod, Flesh Mechanist - Illustrations by Livia Prima, Howard Lyon

Tawnos, the Toymaker and Ashnod, Flesh Mechanist | Illustrations by Livia Prima, Howard Lyon

While on opposing forces, these two figures occupied a somewhat similar role. Tawnos and Ashnod served as Urza and Mishra’s respective right hands and were both brilliant artificers and creators.

Tawnos was Urza’s apprentice and an incredible artificer and engineer. He was present when the Sylex was activated but managed to encase himself in The Stasis Coffin where he would stay in stasis for five years until released by Urza. He went on to help Kayla bin-Kroog, Urza’s wife, attempt to rebuild the city of Penregon where she rules.

Ashnod was Mishra’s apprentice and rumored lover. She was sadistic and created the transmogrants, a mix of machine and corpse that were relentless on the battlefield. She eventually grew apart from Mishra as he fell to Phyrexian influence. During the last battle on Argoth she gave Urza the Sylex so he could put an end to the war.

Tawnos and Ashnod eventually fell in love with each other and founded a school of mages together where they were known as Duck (a pet name Ashnod used for Tawnos) and Nod.

The Plot

Present Day Events

The Ghost in the Machine

The Temporal Anchor - Illustration by Kekai Kotaki

The Temporal Anchor | Illustration by Kekai Kotaki

Attempts to properly work the time travel machine have failed. Saheeli and Kaya eventually realize that there’s a ghost bound to one of the artifacts that make up the machine; Urza’s main general during the Brothers’ War, carrying out sieges and killings in the name of his lord while hoping that history would prove them right.

Today he’s an undead and foreboding testament to the brutality and cruelty of the war the planeswalkers were attempting to return to.

Teferi’s Jumps Through Time

Soul Partition - Illustration by Kekai Kotaki

Soul Partition | Illustration by Kekai Kotaki

The time travel mechanism designed by Saheeli, Teferi, and Kaya proves relatively imperfect. Teferi has to take several trips to find the exact moment necessary. He visits several moments during the war, witnessing the madness and horror brought on by the pitiful fight between the two brothers.

The cost of human lives on both sides is massive and cruel, and the scars the conflict leaves on Dominarians take more than decades to truly heal.

The Phyrexian Assault

In the Trenches - Illustration by Daarken

In the Trenches | Illustration by Daarken

While Kaya, Saheeli, and Teferi are busy with their time travel plans, the enemy approaches the gates of Urza’s Tower. Elspeth and Jodah design an ambush that proves useful in slowing down the main forces while an army of automatons created by Saheeli reap through the monstrous machines.

Victory seems close when Rona appears and severely hurts Jodah. She’s taken down by Elspeth, but Tezzeret shows up at the last second and takes Rona away. He warns Elspeth against trying to follow him, advising her to help Jodah and subtly making it apparent that he doesn’t intend to oppose them.

Nissa and Wrenn and Seven face a second force on the other side of the Tower. Nissa summons the power of Dominaria’s worldsoul to try to bring elementals to their aid. She meets with Gaea, the worldsoul, which shows her what the unchecked horrors of Phyrexia could devolve into.

The night ends with a great gathering of planeswalkers ready to begin an assault on New Phyrexia.

Meanwhile, In Phyrexia

Underground River - Illustration by Volkan Baga

Underground River | Illustration by Volkan Baga

Tezzeret is tasked with carrying Karn’s disassembled body to Elesh Norn down by the core of the plane. He interrupts his trip when he murders his guide and goes into the Panopticon to try to spy on Elesh Norn.

Karn speaks to Tezzeret, trying dissuade him of his actions. Tezzeret hears another voice within him: the voice of phyresis and compleation. His protective spell is losing power now that Nicol Bolas is gone.

Tezzeret eventually delivers Karn to the Mother of Machines, who charges him with more menial tasks. Karn has done his part, as has Tezzeret, but betrayal has sparked within Tezzeret.

Teferi and Urza

Urza, Prince of Kroog - Illustration by Joshua Raphael

Urza, Prince of Kroog | Illustration by Joshua Raphael

Teferi’s final attempt leads him right to the moment when Urza triggers the massive blast of the Sylex, but there’s no spell or special action that can properly trigger it. Teferi breaks his number one rule and makes himself pseudo-present just as the blast triggers. In the massive white void created by the blast, he speaks with Urza as he turns into a planeswalker.

Teferi warns Urza of the Phyrexians, of the future, of what Urza is becoming and what he will do. Teferi also asks Urza how to activate the Sylex. Urza’s answer is simple: he poured all of himself into the Sylex in the form of magic. What triggered the weapon was not a spell or a set of ingredients; it was a person willing to pour everything they were into it, willing to give their life.

Teferi awakes shortly after his talk with Urza is done. He isn’t inside the time machine but on a white sand beach, lost in time. The present-day planeswalkers notice that Teferi hasn’t come back. Kaya was able to understand some parts of his talk with Urza because she channeled him as a spirit, but it’s unclear if they know how to use the Sylex.

The Brothers’ War

The Splitting of the Powerstone

The Mightstone and Weakstone - Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

The Mightstone and Weakstone | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Mishra and Urza are brilliant artificers studying under the wise Tocasia, excavating at the Caves of Koilos. There they come across massive Thran ruins where the brothers find a powerstone. When they try to grab it, it splits in an explosion and each brother is left with one half: the Weakstone for Mishra and the Mightstone for Urza.

The desire to have each other’s stone deepens an already existing conflict between the brothers. Mishra accidentally murders Tocasia and flees into the desert where he becomes the personal wizard to the Qadir of the Fallaji tribes.

The Fall of Kroog

The Fall of Kroog - Illustration by David Auden Nash

The Fall of Kroog | Illustration by David Auden Nash

The capital city of the Yotian empire, of which Urza managed to gain control, is a place of wonder and beauty. It’s also the place where the war officially begins.

Hostilities by the brothers had been on the rise for some time, but there are no more doubts on the morning that Mishra’s dragon engines raze the city of Kroog to the ground. The city falls and Dominaria’s most destructive war ignites.

A War of Attrition Fought by Tireless Machines

Phyrexian Dragon Engine - Illustration by  Chris Rahn

Phyrexian Dragon Engine | Illustration by Chris Rahn

The war between Urza and Mishra isn’t simply fought by their human armies. Both brothers have the means and will to build massive armies of killing machines. Mishra’s dragon engines and Urza’s avengers take the central stage of this conflict as they massacre their way through the opposing forces.

The war lasts for decades and brings only ruin and death to Terisiare and its people. Hatred for both brothers grows indistinctly on each side, and hatred for machines and magic grows even more.

The Brotherhood of Gix and Mishra’s Fall

Mishra, Lost to Phyrexia - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Mishra, Lost to Phyrexia | Illustration by Chris Rahn

A mysterious group of machine-worshiping priests introduce themselves to Mishra during the last years of the war. They call themselves the Brotherhood of Gix and quickly become his personal council. The Brotherhood eventually take Mishra to Gix. It’s unknown if Mishra is killed and has his skin occupied by a Phyrexian agent or if he willingly submits himself to compleation.

This all helps draw Ashnod away from Mishra as she distrusts the Phyrexians and disapproves of Mishra’s decision to collaborate with them. She eventually betrays him at the end of the war.

The Blast That Ended The World

Llanowar Wastes - Illustration by Lucas Graciano

Llanowar Wastes | Illustration by Lucas Graciano

The final battle of the war takes place on the lush island of Argoth as the brothers seek to control its natural resources. Their armies deplete the island and ravage the landscape with their constant combat and resource-pillaging. The island’s maro-sorcerer, Titania, leads a constant offensive against both sides in the conflict.

The war’s most violent battle is also its last. Gix himself along with his forces also make an appearance. Tawnos and Ashnod confront him before Ashnod runs away carrying the Sylex. She takes it to Urza, who recently discovered his brother’s transformation into a monstrous living machine. Urza takes the Sylex and magically pours all that he is into it. Just as Mishra’s monstrous dragon engine approaches Urza, the Golgothian Sylex is activated.

The blast obliterates Argoth. Mishra, Titania, and their armies are killed along with some of Gix’s forces before they can use a portal to escape to Phyrexia. The blast is so massive that it alters Dominaria’s orbit and climate.

It creates the first of the time rifts, forms the Shard of the Twelve Worlds, destroys the plane’s connection to Phyrexia, and soon ushers in an ice age. It also triggers Urza’s planeswalker spark and melds him with The Mightstone and Weakstone, which are fused into his eyes.

The blast ends the world for most of the people of Dominaria but also starts the story of Urza, one of the Multiverse’s most powerful planeswalkers.

Wrap Up

Argoth, Sanctum of Nature - Illustration by Cristi Balanescu

Argoth, Sanctum Nature | Illustration by Cristi Balanescu

The Brothers’ War was a momentous and consequential event with ripples that are felt in Dominaria to this day. It shaped Dominaria and the Multiverse as they are now and held the secrets to the defeat of New Phyrexia.

This ongoing story arc has two more sets before its conclusion so I doubt we’ll get any answers or solutions just yet. I highly recommend reading both the main and side stories for this set because I personally enjoyed them a lot.

The side stories follow current-day events, but they feature some really nice emotional moments between characters. The main stories follow different secondary and minor characters throughout the war. I didn’t include the story details for those here, but they’re a great exploration of how this war influenced the world and its inhabitants.

I think the scene at the very end of the story, when is Teferi lost in time and awakes on a shore of white sands, means that he somehow managed to return to Zhalfir, his home and greatest mistake. Did you enjoy the story for this set? What do you think will happen in coming sets? Where (when) do you think Teferi is? Are you a Vorthos who’s as excited as I am to get cards for some mythic characters like Mishra, Ashnod, or Gix? Leave your comments down below and join our amazing Discord where the community keeps growing.

Have a good one, and I’ll see you next time. All will be one under Phyrexia!

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