Welcome back, Lore Seekers! Today we're going to be talking about the flavor of The Brothers' War. This is obviously a set chock full of outstanding flavor, so picking just a handful of cards to talk about was difficult. Even more difficult: not just picking all the cards I wrote. Let's get started!
Flavor Gems of The Brothers' War
Loran of the Third Path by Steven Belledin
Loran of the Third Path is a direct reference to Feldon of the Third Path, as she is the "she" in Feldon's flavor text. Loran tragically dies after the war from injuries sustained being tortured by Ashnod. You can read about Feldon's subsequent pursuit of magic to bring back his wife in Loran's Smile.
Urza's Sylex is a fun card, as it is distinct from Karn's Sylex. There are some lines in the modern story about the history of the Golgothian Sylex being murky - there are no less than five possible distinct sylexes in Magic's history, from the one Urza uses, to a fake created by Ashnod, to ones used by Ravidel and Freyalise, all leading up to the one used by Karn. My personal headcanon is that Karn's Sylex is the same one used by Freyalise to cast The World Spell, if only because it was the only one used in Yavimaya.
Koilos Roc isn't a story spotlight, although it probably should be. After the Brothers finished their Ornithopter, they were attacked on their way to Koilos by a massive roc, which forced them to land and take refuge in the Caves of Koilos, where they find The Mightstone and Weakstone in the Hall of Tagsin.
Machine Over Matter is such a great card name that every time I see it I get angry that I didn't think of it first. It is, of course, a reference (in name only) to Mind Over Matter from Exodus. This particular story moment I'll talk about more in a bit.
Scrapwork Rager and Scrapwork Cohort both reference existing cards, namely Phyrexian Rager and Yotian Soldier, respectively. For the Rager, it's a leftover from the Thran Civil War that has been reconstructed. For the Yotian Soldier, if it weren't for the head you might not even realize how piecemeal a reconstruction this is. These are both examples of how much was being recycled and reused by the end of the war.
Over the Top by Cristi Balanescu
Over The Top is an expression that has meant a lot of things, but in the case it's a literal statement of going over the top of a trench. This set takes a lot of inspiration from World War I, and trench warfare is a bit part of Act III as both sides just become an absolute meatgrinder. This particular card is flavored as troops pouring out of the trenches to fight in no man's land.
Penregon Strongbull is a reference to a young Mishra's obsession with minotaur. He mentions he saw one once as a child in Penregon at a carnival of some sort, hence this card! He also believes as a youth that the Thran must have all been minotaur, because they're so strong.
A Thran Spider is an artifact we've heard about a bunch in early Magic novels, but never actually saw on cards. This particular Thran Spider seems to be one of the machines activated when the Brothers stumble across Koilos, you can even see their thopter trying to make an escape!
The Story Spotlights
The Brothers' War has a LOT of Story Spotlights, I'm going to try to list them all here, in order! For word count reasons, I may not be able to give all the context to every one, and it's possible I'm misplacing one or two. Let's do it!
Stern Lesson by Lie Setiawan
Tocasia's Welcome - Tocasia takes in the sons of an old friend whose new wife disinherits them upon his death.
Meticulous Excavation - The Brothers learn artifice from Tocasia.
Stern Lesson - Tocasia becomes a surrogate parent to the brothers, but sees the cracks in their relationship that she tries to mend.
Take Flight - The brothers painstakingly restore a Thran Thopter. Urza wins the right to fly it first, to Mishra's chagrin.
Visions of Phyrexia - After the Brothers' touch The Mightstone and Weakstone in the Hall of Tagsin, there's an explosion. They both have visions of Phyrexia, but what they see is very different and affects their worldview going forward.
Sibling Rivalry - Urza and Mishra both covet the other's powerstone.
Brotherhood's End - The Brothers have a final, fatal clash over the stones, resulting in the death of their mentor Tocasia when she tries to stop them.
Overwhelming Remorse - Mishra flees into the desert after being responsible for Tocasia's death.
Mishra's Domination - After being captured by the Suwwardi, and having a Dream of Steel and Oil, Mishra awakes to the Fallaji Dragon Engine erupting from the desert sands. He uses the Weakstone to tame it.
Bitter Reunion - The leaders of Yotia and the Suwwardi tribe meet in a peace summit, which is the first time the Brothers are reunited after the death of Tocasia. It doesn't go well, and any hope of reconciliations dies when unbeknownst to each brother, their leaders were planning on a betrayal.
Portal to Phyrexia - Mishra claims more Dragon Engines through a portal in Koilos to Phyrexia.
Diabolic Intent - Gix follows Mishra through the portal to Dominaria and subjugates a monastery to become his disciples.
The Fall of Kroog - With his dragon engines, Mishra sues for peace once more, but it turns out to be a trick to steal Urza's Mightstone. With Urza out of the city, Mishra sacks the city.
Hurkyl's Final Meditation by Nephelomancer
Union of the Third Path - Terisia City welcomes scholars and mystics from across the continent in order to find a way through the war that doesn't involve taking sides with the Brothers.
Corrupt - The Disciples of Gix worm their way into Mishra's inner circle (as well as Urza's and the Third Path's).
Ashnod's Intervention - After Tawnos is captured by Mishra, Ashnod sets him free, betraying Mishra in the process. She does this because she believes the Disciples of Gix pose a greater threat than either of the Brothers realizes. As a result, Urza expels the Disciples, while Mishra only relies on them more.
Raze to the Ground - The Fallaji lay siege to Terisia City, as the final stronghold in the west not under his sway.
Hurkyl's Final Meditation - Hurkyl uses magic to erase the Fallaji's Dragon Engine from existence, but it's not enough and Terisia City is still overrun and sacked.
Loran's Escape - Loran escapes Terisia City with the Sylex in hand. She'll be captured and tortured by Ashnod, now a raider in the west after being exiled by Mishra.
Shoot Down - An elf scout named Gwenna fails to do her duty and kill Harbin, Vanguard Aviator after he crash lands on the rich, verdant isle of Argoth. Her mercy allows him to return to the mainland and tell his father about the island.
Awaken the Woods - After Harbin alerts his father to the existence of Argoth, the verdant island is forced to defend itself from invasion.
Wasteful Harvest - The brothers' forces ransack the island for resources.
The Stasis Coffin - Tawnos designs a box to hold Mishra prisoner indefinitely rather than kill him.
Fateful Handoff - Ashnod decides she can't trust Mishra with the Sylex, and crafts a fake to give to the Disciples of Gix. She meets Tawnos in secret and gives him the real one to bring to Urza.
Epic Confrontation - Urza and Mishra face-off directly for the last time.
Gruesome Realization - Urza realizes that his brother is gone, and only a horrific monster remains.
One with the Multiverse - Urza has become a planeswalker.
Kayla's Reconstruction by Nicholas Elias
I've invented Act V for everything post-Sylex Blast, since we add some in this story.
Calamity's Wake - We see Urza as a planeswalker five years after Urza's Ruinous Blast. He has returned to Dominaria to free Tawnos who had escaped the blast in The Stasis Coffin, as the first early snowfalls of the impending Ice Age loom.
Kayla's Reconstruction - Kayla tries to keep her people together in the aftermath of the war.
The Temporal Anchor - Teferi and Saheeli build a time machine to send Teferi back to figure out how to work the Sylex. They only have one shot at activating it, and can leave nothing to chance.
Soul Partition - Unable to travel backward in time normally, Teferi needs Kaya's help to become a spirit form to observe the past.
While this isn't an all-encompassing list, there are many designs in The Brothers' War that are obvious riffs off older designs, but here are a few direct ones!
- Golgothian Sylex - Urza's Sylex
- Yotian Soldier - Yotian Frontliner
- Hurkyl's Recall - Hurkyl's Final Meditation
- Dragon Engine - Fallaji Dragon Engine
- Mishra's War Machine - Mishra's Juggernaut
- Urza's Avenger - Argivian Avenger
- Ornithopter - Reconstructed Thopter
- Mightstone and Weakstone - The Mightstone and Weakstone
- Gate to Phyrexia - Portal to Phyrexia
- Tawnos's Coffin - The Stasis Coffin
- Su-Chi - Su-Chi Cave Guard
- Tetravus - Hexavus
- Ashnod's Altar - Transmogrant Altar
- Martyrs of Korlis - Survivor of Korlis
- Mishra's Factory - Mishra's Foundry
- Onulet - Tocasia's Onulent
While I'm finished covering The Brothers' War itself, next time I'll be back with a Flavor Build for Urza - the character with the most card appearances of all!