Aesthetic Consultation: The Reprints of The Brothers' War
Reprints of Darkness
Now that we've all had the chance to argue at prereleases about why Skitterbeam Battalion is the most annoying Limited card ever printed (or maybe that's just me), it's time to take a deep dive into the reprints of The Brothers' War. There weren't a lot of them, but the cards that did see a new version were unexpected.
So join me, Nick Wolf, chronicler of 90s/early 2000s pop culture and artist interviewer/pesterer, on a journey though reprints of The Brothers' War.
This is just the fourth appearance of the best black catch-all outside of Demonic Tutor, and the first in a "regular" set (whatever that means anymore) since its original printing in Planeshift. That original version depicted Crovax as the Ascendant Evincar hanging out on a chair in what we can assume to be the Stronghold. This time, we've got Dan Scott giving us a rendering of Gix doing his best Ultron-made-of-24-pin-power-supply-cables impression.
Did we need it? Definitely. Now that it's been reprinted, the BRO version of Diabolic Intent will run you around $8 USD, and maybe a dollar more if you want the borderless version. Compare that to the around $40 for the Planeshift printing, or the Battlebond version still demanding around $20. And if you're fancy, there's still that Amonkhet Invocations printing that will be the best $120 bucks you've ever spent on a card with a name you can't really read.
Did we want it? Well, according to the esteemed EDHREC, Diabolic Intent appears in a shade more than 64,000 decks that feature black, so I'd say it's safe to assume there are many among us who are excited for the chance to secure a more reasonably-priced version -- especially those like me who are definitely going to be building a Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor deck with lore and flavor as its central aim. And as far as tutors in Commander go, that's a topic for your playgroup, but what's the worst that could happen?
And speaking of black cards that annoy people and were until recently somewhat expensive, The Brothers' War has gifted us a reprint of Painful Quandary. The original printing, of course, was illustrated by Whit Brachna, who provided the game with the art for nine cards from the Scars block in 2011, including Geth, Lord of the Vault.
Did we need it? This one's only been printed once in Magic's history, way back in Scars of Mirrodin. That original printing hit heights of around $30, which is a lot to pay for a five-mana black enchantment (not named Revel in Riches, at least), but I suppose if your aim is alienating your friends, then you ought not spare any expense. Now, instead of $30, you get to present your painful quandaries to opponents for a mere buck-fifty.
Did we want it? Appearing in approximately 14,000 decks as per EDHREC, Painful Quandary is certainly a favorite among fans of a particular playstyle. And to be fair, it pops up in plenty of decks, from discard-themed Cao Cao, Lord of Wei, to discard-themed Tinybones, Trinket Thief. And who could forget the old chestnut of a discard-themed Nath of the Gilt-Leaf. And if that gets boring, there's always a deck to make use of the "pay five life" aspect, a la Mogis, God of Slaughter and other group-slug decks.
A reprint of Fauna Shaman in a set like The Brothers' War can be filed snugly into the "unexpected" folder. Outside of its debut in Magic 2011, the Survival of the Fittest-with-pointy-ears was only reprinted once, in Ultimate Masters. This version from BRO is the first with new art, replacing the classic Steve Prescott elf with a new one by newcomer Nicholas Elias, who made his debut with Sporeback Wolf in Innistrad: Crimson Vow and has done eight cards since, including Fauna Shaman.
Did we need it? As far as shamans (shamen?) go, this reprint was long overdue, despite its inclusion in BRO being somewhat of a head-scratcher. The first two printings, in M11 and UMA, are both in the ballpark of $10-11, so while not exorbitantly expensive, its still more dollars than many might have been willing to spend. Still, in the context of Survival of the Fittest, anything cheaper than that Reserved List monster is welcome, and now with BRO it's never been more affordable.
Did we want it? It's likely that I don't need to tell you Fauna Shaman is a good card for Commander. It does it all -- it fills the graveyard and fetches creatures from your library, which for my money is all there is to do. It's also an elf, which definitely matters to people. The card appears in almost 26,000 decks on EDHREC, and only the top-two decks in terms of Fauna Shaman inclusions are elf decks.
With two printings thanks to its inclusion in BRO, Blast Zone has found its niche as the premiere way for the lore team to depict the destruction of a subset of mana values without clogging up an artifict slot with a reprint of Ratchet Bomb. Blast Zone first appeared in War of the Spark as a card featuring a lot of words to say "destroy all the neighborhood Sol Rings" and in the intervening years (only three, to be exact, if you can believe it) has only seen one other reprint, as a throw-in in the Secret Lair Ultimate Edition. Now, instead of the Chris Ostrowski art of the original and its dastardly dome destruction, we get total tower torpedoing thanks to Portuguese artist Jorge Jacinto. It's only the third art Jacinto's provided to the paper version of the game, the other two being BRO's Hoarding Recluse and an old-bordered Plains featured in Brothers' War Commander.
Did we need it? Not really, as the War of the Spark printing of the card is only 250 pennies, and even the Secret Lair version will only run you twice that. While not cheap enough to find itself used in ultra-budget lists, it's likely that most players who wanted one have already managed to get a copy. However, with the reprint in BRO, you can get one for less than half of that price, so that's cool.
Did we want it? Despite being a colorless utility land and thus available to every Commander deck to find its way into sleeves, Blast Zone is only appears in 24,000 decks (out of about 1.7 million), notably in many more colorless decks like Karn, Silver Golem, Traxos, Scourge of Kroog or Kozilek, the Great Distortion than not. Even so, it's also cleverly used in Chisei, Heart of Oceans decks as a way to keep the puddle-headed-Rube-Goldberg-carafe-pouring-machine Chisei alive.
(Some of) the Painlands
The six other painlands of the cycle saw their turn on the reprint tilt-a-whirl in the last set, Dominaria United, so here in The Brothers' War we're mopping up the remainder. Which, for nothing else, should satisfy completionists out there. Fortunately these four in BRO also come with fancy borderless arts like their DMU counterparts, except this time all four are by the same artist, Rob Alexander. And the main-set art isn't too shabby either, featuring new name Thomas Stoop alongside Magic veterans Lucas Graciano and Volkan Baga.
The painlands have been around forever, and have seen a number of reprints since the clock on "forever" first started. Depending on if the color pair of the lands is "enemy" (like Llanowar Wastes) or "ally" (like Underground River), the first appearance changes -- allied-color painlands first saw the printing press in Ice Age in 1995, while enemy-color pairs debuted in 2001 with Apocalypse. Coincidentally, Rob Alexander was the original artist for Shivan Reef and Llanowar Wastes (along with about 119 other land cards starting with dual lands like Savannah in Alpha -- in other words, the guy knows his landscapes).
Did we need it? As mentioned, the painlands have seen their fair share of reprints over the years. Using Underground River as an example, since NeNe Thomas's version in Ice Age the card has been printed in white borders five times, gold borders four times, black borders four times and with no borders once. Even still, the original Ice Age version is around $15, and even white-bordered versions from Sixth and Seventh Editions are north of $10. Thanks to the reprint in BRO, it's never been cheaper to get your hands on one.
Did we want it? Well, they're lands that make more than one color and come into play untapped, so it's safe to assume people use them. Brushland is used in 26,000 decks while our go-to example Underground River appears in 54,000 decks, and they're on the low side. Battlefield Forge sees play in 83,000 decks, while Llanowar Wastes is in the 99 of 93,000 lists. It's always good for players to have access to lands that help cast the spells they want to cast without making them choose between color fixing and a tank of gas.
Going on 25 years now, the only option for art green players had when it came to Blanchwood Armor was the Parente version, or perhaps the Parente version. The aura, also known as "build-your-own Molimo," is a budget-friendly favorite for making big green monsters bigger and greener.
The art with hooded sideburns guy has been historically the predominant one, first appearing on the original Urza's Saga printing as well as some supplementary sets, Tenth Edition and Magic 2019. The angry swords-akimbo guy was featured as the art for the versions in Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Editions. The new art here in BRO, by Manuel Castañón, is the first non-Parente rendering in a quarter-century. Castañón, you may recall, debuted only four years ago with Dauntless Bodyguard in the 2018 Dominaria release, and has since done 49 other cards.
Did we need it? In this context, "need" is a strong word. There are no versions of Blanchwood Armor that cost more than two quarters. In fact, most versions available in foil are also relatively cheap, save for the Seventh Edition foil which is around $20. That's more due to the fact that all foils from Seventh Edition are expensive. Anyone who has thought about upgrading their Ed Beard Birds of Paradise to foil already laments that fact.
Did we want it? I have no qualms about admitting I'm a staunch Blanchwood Armor apologist. I love these mono-colored decks, basic lands, and I love Urza's Saga, so naturally I'm here for Blanchwood Armor. Sign me up for this, Armored Ascension, Defile, Vedalken Shackles and anything else that rewards you for a pile of basics. That said, the world likely did not need a new Blanchwood Armor, as it only sees play in 6,600 decks as per EDHREC, of the around 810,000 that can play it. Sure, it's probably not used outside of mono-green, but nothing's stopping you from slapping it onto Uril, the Miststalker if you're so inclined.
Just like Blanchwood Armor, I'm also a huge fan of Corrupt, for stated reasons. I've been playing this card since Urza's Saga, and I nearly exclusively use the Philip Straub textless version, because (not to brag) I have it memorized.
Of course, if you need words on your cards, there are plenty of other options for that as well outside this newest BRO version by Julie Dillion of Street Urchin fame. Since its debut in Urza's Saga with art depicting Urza Dutch-ovening his power armor, we've seen Corrupt show up nearly a dozen times before BRO. The most common art is the oily grabby hand by Dave Allsop, but for all you Sifa Grent fans out there, you're in luck.
Did we need it? Only that Sifa Grent IDW Comics 2013 version of Corrupt is more than a few dimes, and even it is around $3. So no, we didn't need a new Corrupt. But it's certainly cool to see, and the new art in the promo pack frame is almost fancy enough to convince me to use words.
Did we want it? Like its neighbor Blanchwood Armor, Corrupt doesn't really see a ton of play. It's effectively limited to mono-black decks, and a six-mana sorcery that is often worse than just using Drain Life doesn't crack the 99 for many players (outside myself). As a result, EDHREC logs the card in only 2,600 decks of the nearly a million that can play it. But you know who loves playing Corrupt? The best of the Blackblade wagglers, that's who.
The Rest of the Reprints
- Go for the Throat (eighth printing, last seen in this year's Necron Warhammer 40k Commander deck)
- Monastery Swiftspear (seventh printing, last seen in Double Masters 2022, unsurprisingly also this year)
- Obstinate Baloth (third printing, last seen terrorizing discard decks in Iconic Masters at rare in 2017)
- Curate (second printing, last seen in Strixhaven way back in 2021)
- Disenchant (upwards of 50 printings, last seen in Commander Legends two years ago)
- Disfigure (seventh printing, last seen in Double Masters 2022 and the first with new art)
- Epic Confrontation (third printing, last seen in Masters 25 in 2018)
- Evolving Wilds (48th printing, close your eyes and you'll see Evolving Wilds reprints in your sleep)
- Giant Growth (45th printing, last seen in the future with the 30th Anniversary Edition like Disenchant)
Once More with Feeling
Another set, another slate of reprints, but this time we got new versions of some cards we didn't even know we needed. So do any of these BRO versions edge out whatever version you're already playing? Or will this latest reprint finally push the price of something down low enough for you to snag a copy for one of your Commander decks? Don't forget to let me know all about it on Twitter, while that site is still functional. See you all for Jumpstart in a few weeks!