The Brothers’ War is upon us! Prereleases have just passed, and the set drops this weekend. With it, we get the two themed Commander decks from the set, each helmed by one of the fabled brothers, Urza and Mishra. These decks feature old borders on every card, evoking the historic (in multiple senses of the word) nature of these decks. While powerful as designed, we’ll be showing you how to upgrade the Mishra’s Burnished Banner preconstructed deck.
He may have canonically been overtaken by Phyrexia and lost the war, but that doesn’t mean he can’t win a few games of Commander.
Commanding this deck, of course, is Mishra himself in Mishra, Eminent One.
As if there was any doubt, Mishra immediately tells us we are an artifact deck. Getting a copy of any noncreature artifact means we want as many high-impact artifacts as possible.
While we might occasionally swing with the animated copy, we’re more looking for activated abilities to exploit or static effects that stack well. The potential for huge plays and game-breaking turns is there. We just have to figure out how we want to go about reaching that point.
If you like the idea of an artifact deck but want to be a little less all-in on pure artifacts, we have Ashnod, the Uncaring as a backup/alternate Commander.
Ashnod still likes artifacts with activated abilities, but a greater focus is placed on finding those activated abilities that require a sacrifice. The fact that she also looks for creatures with sacrificing abilities means she doesn’t even need a dedicated artifact theme or subtheme at all. She can be an odd Grixis Aristocrats Commander.
That’s an interesting idea, as Grixis isn’t usually the go-to color combo for that kind of deck. But for now, we’ll build with Mishra in mind as our leader.
The Brawler is a keyword-soup 4/4 for six mana, which is neat — but not the most exciting thing in the world. However, the ability to put all those keywords on a different creature and give it four +1/+1 counters after the Brawler dies means your opponents will have to be careful about what else you have on board when they go to kill it.
This card also works quite nicely with our Hellkite friend’s Artifact Offering ability, giving it a massive discount. The Hellkite itself costs so much in the first place because it’s just really mean, hitting for ten in the air by itself and making all combat math just miserable for defending players who aren’t you.
We also have some very nice new non-creature artifacts. Take a look at these two:
Wondrous Crucible is expensive at seven mana, but giving everything Ward 2 is already a powerful effect that can really tax your opponents’ mana. But even without that clause, its ability to give you a copy of a random non-land card from your graveyard has bonkers potential.
If you are truly getting cards at random, it’s still great value. But if you have a way to control what’s in your graveyard at all, you can make it wildly overpowered.
Smelting Vat is a great way to still get value out of all these expensive artifacts even when your opponents start pointing removal at them. There are 42 artifacts in the deck out of the box, including six lands, so your odds of hitting something you can put on the battlefield out of the top eight cards of your library is pretty good, even at lower mana thresholds.
Another card we have that likes all those high-mana value artifacts is Glint Raker. Coming down as an early threat, its power scales with whatever non-creature artifacts you can get out. And it then rewards you by finding more artifacts whenever it hits, which is the real powerhouse ability of the card.
Farid, Enterprising Salvager is another fan of Smelting Vat, creating the seemingly useless scrap tokens whenever your artifacts die. Farid can then use those tokens (or any other artifact you may have spare) to make themselves bigger, wreak havoc on opposing combat steps, or rummage through your deck.
And then we have a more oddball artifact with Machine God’s Effigy, which acts like Cursed Mirror’s big, blue sibling. Cursed Mirror is also in the deck, but the Effigy doesn’t have an “until the end of the turn” clause on its copying ability, meaning you get a permanent clone along with your mana rock. It’s an odd design, but one that’s sure to find uses for both of its main functions.
In the grand tradition of cards like Black Sun’s Zenith and Toxic Deluge, Terisiare’s Devastation is a scaling board wipe…kind of. It does scale, giving you more Powerstones the more mana you pour into it. But if you have a developed board full of artifacts, you can cast this for four mana, with X equal to zero, and still wipe the board while preserving your life total.
Out of the Box
Before we go about tweaking the deck, we should look at what we’re working with. How is the deck straight out of the box?
From a pure value standpoint, you’re getting $103.57 in card value (at the time of publication) out of the deck, with some nice reprints like Lithoform Engine and Strionic Resonator. There’s no one, super high cost card in the deck, which means that value is more uniformly spread around.
The deck also looks like it’ll play well as designed. There’s a lot of welcome artifact-centric cards in here, from other artifact focused commanders (Padeem, Silas Renn, Muzzio and Emry), old favorite EDH staples of days past (Mirrorworks, Trading Post and Oblivion stone), newer additions to the artifact canon (Oni-Cult Anvil, the previously mentioned Cursed Mirror) and everything in between. The thought of looping copies of Spine of Ish Sah with Mishra fills my degenerate heart with glee.
There are a lot of mana rocks here, but having a glut of them isn’t a problem in this deck, as having excess artifacts around can fuel many different engines. There’s very little chaff, too, as any cards we have that aren’t artifact focused in one way or another tend to be good interaction (Feed the Swarm, Blasphemous Act, Chaos Warp) or good card draw or filtering (Expressive Iteration, Faithless Looting).
This is a pretty well-oiled machine out of the box. But that doesn’t mean we can’t give a bit of a tune up.
Being an artifact deck, we could go all out here, throwing in various Mycosynth Lattice lockouts, going full Stax-prison, or any number of other ultra-powerful strategies. Instead, I’m going to keep it simple by suggesting just nine cards to swap in that cost less than $50 (at the time of publication, of course).
Why hit one artifact when you can hit all the artifacts except your own? Abrade does have the added benefit of taking out smaller creatures in a pinch, but we’ll take the bigger upside here.
OUT: Fact or Fiction
Fact or Fiction is a good, fun card to play with that always feels just a touch underwhelming to me in Commander. I think it shines a little more in non-singleton formats where you can have a little more inherent redundancy, and you do give a lot of information to all your opponents with it. Whir will only ever get you one card, but it will be the card you need for the given situation.
OUT: Fellwar Stone
IN: Mirage Mirror
We’re a three-color deck, so the odds that Fellwar Stone won’t be able to tap for at least one of our colors is pretty slim. That said, we have plenty of other mana rocks, and this one feels the least impactful. Mirage Mirror is a card I feel is criminally underplayed, and if there was ever a deck for it, this is the one.
OUT: Mnemonic Sphere
IN: Scrap Welder
Not exactly a one-for-one trade off here, but we have plenty of ways to get card advantage without the Sphere. Scrap Welder lets us buy back artifacts out of the yard. If you have a little more budget to play around with, this could easily upgrade again into Goblin Welder, but the Scrap version is just fine for our purposes here.
Fain feels the least in tune with what the deck is going for out of all the creatures in this list, and Traxos (while definitely on theme and lore relevant) functions pretty much as just a big beater. It might get some damage in, and then eat a removal spell. While not the worst, we can do better. Say, for instance, by bringing in two artifact-themed Planeswalkers that fill a variety of functions and can swing the game wildly.
This is a pretty simple swap. We’re taking out some of our worst lands and putting in better ones. Academy ruins is the clear MVP here, allowing us endless recursion possibilities. You can go much further with upgrading the land base, but these are the first three substitutions I’d make.
With all those changes, here’s what we end up with:
Not earth-shatteringly different, but it is a little more focused, a little more powerful and not all that much more expensive.
Mishra’s Burnished Banner continues the recent streak of well-constructed, valuable precon Commander decks. Whether you choose to upgrade or not, if you want an artifact themed deck for your collection, you have a solid option here. Swing on by Cardkingdom.com to pick up yours, along with any cards you might want to try out for yourself.
Chris is the Associate Media Producer at Card Kingdom. He would like to apologize to his son for not holding onto more cards from when he first started playing, as that likely would have paid for college. He enjoys pretty much all formats of Magic, but usually ends up playing decks that make other people dislike playing those formats with him.