The holidays are coming early this year, as preview season demonstrates that The Brothers’ War is just a mono-cool-cards set. Let’s not waste time hyping it up and jump right into five cards that will make an impact in Pioneer.
The Stone Brain
This line of text was probably added so that in Standard and Modern you couldn’t loop the card with something like Academy Ruins. However, here in Pioneer, we have a card that loves that line of text
Karn, the Great Creator can specifically grab cards from exile. So with this, you now have a way to actually win the game. Even though the card has a four card limit per activation, it’s very easy in Pioneer to assemble infinite activations of your Karn. Once you achieve that, you can simply deck your opponent.
This could potentially be a huge game changer, since now you can save space in your sideboard by running fewer combo pieces. Even if you decide to keep all the cards needed for the Pestilent Cauldron kill, this still serves a really valuable role early in the game. Often, during mirror matches, if you remove all their Karns, your opponent can no longer combo you out.
This shutdown potential holds true for a few other matchups as well. Against Blue/White Control, you can take all their Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and make it incredibly unlikely to win. The same goes for any combo deck in the format. Lotus Field players are crying their eyes out as we speak.
While I am skeptical of this card in non-Karn decks as an answer to other combos, its ability to come down early and be activated later could lead Stone Brain to being the best version of this effect. The fact that it’s a colorless card has a lot to do with it, too. Black was the only color in Pioneer with this effect, until now. Maybe this effect could be a tool that a deck needed without realizing.
Anger of the Gods has fluctuated in and out of sideboards in Pioneer for a while now. It also does have the exile clause, which is fairly important in some games.
However, Anger also doesn’t have the artifact clause of Brotherhood’s End. The ability to answer problematic artifacts is great for decks like Phoenix, which already want to play Anger but worry about hitting their own creatures.
Phoenix is the most obvious home, but maybe not even the best for this card. Lotus Field has huge problems answering both aggressive decks and all the format’s artifacts that check its combo. Playing this in high numbers could be the solution to this problem. This card could be the secret best pick up for a deck in all of The Brothers’ War.
Currently the deck isn’t built with the ability to cast a double red spell without a Lotus Field in play, so I think players who want to explore this card will need to rebuild the whole mana base. That might not be possible, but it’s definitely worth trying since Lotus Field is such a powerful late game when you reach it.
Even if this doesn’t solve all of Lotus Field’s problems, every red midrange deck will definitely consider this card for all time — and that alone has this card in the upper echelons for me.
This card is really weird looking. You will often play it for its Prototype cost in most traditional decks. A 3/3 with evasion and a fairly strong ward ability is a card that would definitely catch the eyes of many players.
However, if you think of Prototype as Reverse-Kicker, it might make this card way more appealing for competitive players (even if it’s a bit reductive). Anytime the game goes long you have access to this huge, 7/5 threat for no additional cost.
Now, if that was all there was to this card, we probably wouldn’t be talking about it. But this card has one last, very important line of text: artifact. This type helps turn Fleshgorger into a way more impactful card. Artifacts have so many random synergies that it is hard to oversell how powerful this card’s body can be if you cheat it into play.
For example, let’s say you were playing a God Pharaoh’s Gift deck — a fringe deck in Modern right now. Many players have turned to Refurbish in those lists as a way to help get the marquee card in play, but now you also just have this card as a backup target to refurbish if things are going poorly. And that barely scrapes the surface of the things you can do with artifacts.
Regardless, whether you’re abusing this card or just playing it straight up in a mono black shell, it’s a powerful card that is both hard to remove and good at any point of the game. That is a recipe for success in Magic.
Remember — cards that reward you for just playing the game without having to jump through extra hoops should always be given a closer look.
Lay Down Arms
Hard to believe that a set all about war has some great removal. Lay Down Arms is a removal spell for heavy based White decks that sort of always answers things on curve. However, it always only cost one mana, unlike Prismatic Ending, which is sort of the reverse of this card. While Ending is way stronger, we don’t have that card.
So is Lay Down Arms strong? I think the answer is yes. We have seen Big White be a reasonable player in the format, posting a few big finishes.
This card easily slots into this deck and serves as another great way to answer early creatures. Cards like Portable Hole are good for answering multiple problems and giving devotion, but in some matchups they’re just a dead card. Meanwhile, Lay Down Arms always get to answer most threats in pioneer, as five mana is really the highest most decks can go in terms of threats (and on average it’s much closer to three mana).
We might even see more heavy white control decks pop up thanks to this card. A Blue/White deck using this to make sure they keep the board in check without relying on clunky counterspells is something we have seen attempted in the past. It could a thing going forward.
Go for the Throat
I know it’s not as cool as something like Phryexian Fleshgroger, but this card’s impact on Pioneer is going to be huge and instantaneous. So far, the format hasn’t had a good, instant speed, two mana removal spell. Infernal reckoning was the go to, paying two life is brutal against the aggro decks.
Gabriel Nassif has been playing a blue/black control deck that would love a card like this. That’s only the first of many places this card can go as it opens up more doors for players to deploy a reliable answer.
Often, one of the biggest barriers to playability in a format is the removal. So, seeing so many powerful removal spells get added this set might lead to some huge changes to the format — not only in terms of what clears the bar of the removal but what’s good against the removal.
If Go for the Throat becomes a huge part of the metagame, we might see an uptick in artifact creatures, spawning new decks or new variations on old classics. Those micro choices are some of what makes Magic so fun and exciting.
The Brothers’ War is way more impactful than I think anyone would have expected, but there are even more cards yet to be previewed. Even more can change.
If you’re playing at Dreamhack Atlanta, you should be on top of testing. And if you’re a viewer, you are going to have a wild ride ahead.
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.