The Brothers' War Set Review - White
White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Gold I | Gold II | Artifacts | Lands | cEDH
That's right, everyone! It's time for another set review, because it's always time for another set review. My name's Michael Celani, who you might know as the guy that made that Licids deck, and I'll be your
whiter writer for the day. After murdering a sufficient amount of people to prove my loyalty, I'm finally back in my element, as I'm reviewing all the white cards in the set.
We have a real treat for you today, longtime fans, because you've spoken, and Wizards of the Coast has listened. Now you can finally add war crimes to your very own Commander decks! Yes, The Brothers' War is the second most horrifying domestic dispute in the Multiverse, right after my parents' divorce, so let's get to the front lines!
In the Trenches
I know we're not supposed to talk about reprints here, but In the Trenches is just Glorious Anthem. I'd call it "Glorious Anthem stapled to Banishing Light," but you are not going to spend your whole turn paying the . If you were worried about a literally-twice-as-expensive Oblivion Ring being too oppressive, never fear: you can only activate that ability at sorcery speed once. For reference, six mana buys you Cleansing Nova, Farewell, or Austere Command, all extremely flexible board wipes, and it's one mana off of Fated Retribution, which is an instant.
That leaves us with Glorious Anthem, which isn't much of a consolation prize. If you're going wide the way white likes to -- with tons of tokens -- it's been thoroughly outclassed by this point by Intangible Virtue and Inspiring Leader, both of which straight-up provide more value. It's rough for us, because setting the price of an anthem at three makes it really hard to justify the card being strong enough to impact Commander without it being broken in lower life formats. I'd argue you're better off looking at four-mana options for board-wide buffs: Gideon, Ally of Zendikar gives you a version that isn't incidentally wiped away by random Aura Shards triggers, while Commander's Insignia and Paladin Class both scale as the game goes on. Starlight Spectacular is the absolute best version of this effect, because it's stronger the more creatures you control, which is what you're going to be reaching for anyway. Pick one of those and leave In the Trenches in the
Myrel, Shield of Argive
Myrel, Shield of Argive is very Krenko, Mob Boss, in that she can rapidly snowball into an insurmountable advantage, but unlike Krenko, she's got the defensive potential of white to keep her alive for longer than not at all. You might assume that needing to attack to double your Soldiers is a downside, and it is. However, effects like Whispersilk Cloak, Timely Ward, and Spirit Mantle mitigate that well thanks to Myrel's static ability, which all but guarantees they won't be blown out by instant-speed removal in response.
Obviously, this set of attributes renders her a great leader for a Soldier tribal Commander deck, to the point where she might even give Darien, King of Kjeldor a run for his money. Quickly comparing the two, Myrel seems much more proactive than Darien, can protect combos, and has artifact synergies on top of everything else, meaning she'll have deeper lines of play than her Coldsnap counterpart. On the other hand, Darien decks tend to, ironically, render their players more resilient thanks to their tendency to run Soul Warden effects which negate incoming damage. You need a wrecking ball to bash down that wall of triggers, which usually means spending removal to regicide Darien over and over. Their playstyles are almost the complete opposite of each other's; they're only linked through their common tribe. Which one you'll prefer is a personal choice, but Myrel is a decent option for the more aggressive player.
Outside of Soldier tribal, Myrel, Shield of Argive feels like Grand Abolisher with extra cupholders. Unless you have a compelling reason, like "my commander is named Sisay," don't pay that extra two mana for an attack trigger you'll never use. Go with a Silence or Conqueror's Flail instead.
For straight draw, you're almost always better off running something like Welcoming Vampire or Idol of Oblivion. For token-creation, paying for a 1/1 feels like the future liberals want. Thanks to the context of the set, Platoon Dispenser is going to trick a lot of people into thinking it's a middling inclusion for go-wide decks, but don't be fooled: this is a blink card.
Thanks to the way Unearth is worded, blinking an Unearthed creature makes it return to the battlefield as a new object, effectively sidestepping its exile trigger. What this means is if you're running a deck like Aminatou, the Fateshifter, Brago, King Eternal, or Emiel the Blessed, you've got a creature that, like the darkness in the hearts of men, never truly dies. We all know that it's only legal to exile Joey Schutlz's graveyard, meaning you'll always have access to extra card draw, decent damage, and chump blockers in a pinch. Make no mistake, this isn't a
groundbreaking top tier card, but does everything in your deck have to be Elesh Norn?
This feels like a pricier Hour of Revelation in most scenarios. It does Balance lands, but I'm not convinced that's worth four extra mana and telegraphing like you're aboard the sinking Titanic, especially since land-ramp decks love running ways to play lands from their graveyard. Urza's Sylex also exiles itself, so unlike
Nevyinerral Nevenyrrel Nevyinyral Magus of the Disk, you can't loop it.
The tutor doesn't matter. I suppose you could Teleportation Circle it over and over to tutor planeswalkers to your hand, giving it some utility in your Djeru, With Eyes Open or Cadric, Soul Kindler decks, though I'd have to question at that point why you wouldn't just blink something like Thalia's Lancers or Djeru himself. Swing, and a miss.
Both a 2/2 for two and 4/5 for five is unplayable in Commander, regardless of whether or not it has vigilance, so my judgment of Autonomous Assembler rests entirely on the standard criteria: whether or not its activated ability is outclassed in every conceivable way by Steel Overseer. Oh, would you look at that: Autonomous Assembler's activated ability is outclassed in every conceivable way by Steel Overseer. Maybe the Assembly-Workers shouldn't seize the means of production.
I don't know about you, but spending three mana to do nothing isn't where I want to be. The only even slightly passable mode on Kayla's Command is the double strike one, and you can't use even it as a combat trick since the card's a sorcery. I suppose it Basic Plainscycles itself too, but you could have this card Basic Plainscycle for by replacing it entirely with a basic Plains. If Kayla's Command is what I could count on to be waiting for me at home, I'd probably spend as much time as possible at war, too.
I'm lucky Kayla's Reconstruction is alright, because I don't think I have the heart to roast her twice in a row. It's comparable to an Elspeth Resplendent activation, with the caveat that it can't hit lands, which was a major failsafe. It's understandable, though, because otherwise this would unequivocally be the best white ramp spell, which doesn't seem to be the intent of the card. You can still get close if your deck runs a significant number of artifact lands, though.
The sweet spot here is probably five total mana, or = 2; with that, you can get two cheap creatures or artifacts from the top seven cards of your library, which is pretty good in a deck that thrives on that sort of thing. I'd hesitate to go above that because the threat of whiffing becomes a little too present to ignore; at the very least, don't go above three. We've come a long way since Board the Weatherlight.
Loran of the Third Path
I always thought Reclamation Sage needed a buff, because having only 150,000 decks is how my mom said I'd end up if I didn't go to college. Thankfully, the set designers realized that they hadn't pushed anything for white Commander players yet, so they delivered. Loran of the Third Path makes up for Reclamation Sage's shortcomings by giving it a supertype that makes it absurdly easy to tutor for, and it tacks on a save-me-from-mana-screw card draw ability for good measure. If your deck is white, you're buying this for days; if your deck likes blinking Thalia's Lancers, you've been buying this for days.
Chip 'n Dale's Rescue Retriever is a five-mana combat trick that ruins blockers by preventing all damage your attacking Soldiers would receive and buffing them up. This would be great, except it's going to look extremely suspicious when you declare obviously bad attacks with five mana open and devastating when this gets countered. Instead of spending my resources trying to trick my opponent, I'd rather spend five mana on Cathars' Crusade and render all my attacks actually good from the start. He is a very good boy, though.
Siege Veteran suffers from Plague Rats Syndrome, which is a condition where it's only good if you've got mutiple of them on the field. It'll probably be terrifying in Standard, but this is just too low-impact for Commander. For counters, Luminarch Aspirant does it cheaper, and Orzhov Advokist does it better. In a Soldier deck, you should rather pack enough protection to stop your lords and engines from becoming dead corpses in the first place. If only we as a society treated our veterans better.
Soul Partition feels like Release to the Wind with hindsight, but like, 20/40 hindsight.
For those of you who don't know, Release to the Wind is supposed to function like a Flicker that gives its owner some control over when its target comes back; you'd generally want to use it on your own permanents for value, but you can also target some attacking beef to put it back in the fridge for a bit. It was a little clunky and slightly too expensive, but it got the job done.
Of course, we all know that Release to the Wind is actually played to exile manifested Time Stretches to cheat them out for free, and Soul Partition aims to fix that by making its owner pay full price for the spell again, with an additional as tax for opponents. This totally kills its applications as a Flicker by accidentally turning it into the best single-target-other-than-Rift bounce spell ever printed, which is hilarious.
Not to be confused with the recently printed Zamriel, Seraph of Steel, Steel Seraph will slot in nicely to those keyword soup decks, like Akroma, Vision of Ixidor and Odric, Lunarch Marshal. It's also an Angel, which is a pretty popular combat-focused tribe, and vigilance and lifelink are both pretty effective keywords to add to big, flying beaters. In those decks, it's alright on offense. In every other deck, this is basically draft chaff.
Do yourself a favor and exclusively play this as a 3/3, because +2/+1 is not worth three mana.
Tocasia's Welcome to the Commander format, because this card is an insane draw engine. Actual creature cards with mana value 3 or less aside (there's 1,500 of them available to white alone, including all-time staples like Esper Sentinel, Mother of Runes, and Loran of the Third Path), practically every creature token has mana value 0, so this represents four cards per turn cycle if you control something like a Tendershoot Dryad. Even in less-than-optimal scenarios, Tocasia's Welcome will draw you at least three cards over time for just three mana, which is above rate.
I go back and forth between whether this or Loran of the Third Path are the best white rare in the set, so let's just call this a draw.
Uncommons & Commons
Calamity's Wake is like an anti-Grand Abolisher. You won't be casting this to protect your own combos, because it's far too symmetrical for that. Instead, you can use this in another player's upkeep to stop them from looping artifacts or playing around in the graveyard. I don't hate Calamity's Wake, but it's one of those sideboard cards that will be too narrow to fit into most deck lists.
Love blinking Inspiring Overseer? Well, here's another one.
I might as well bring up here that a potentially overlooked benefit of these Prototype cards is that they have naturally high mana values, so if you run a lot of cards that care about that sort of thing, such as Combustible Gearhulk, they might be worth an include. Be careful that the mana value on the stack is equal to the way you cast it, so sorry, Passionate Archaeologists, you can't deal seven damage by only paying .
Great Desert Prospector
Make no mistake, Great Desert Prospector isn't quite Dockside Extortionist, but it's got utility in its own right. The tapped Powerstone tokens aren't nearly as helpful as Treasures, but they'll basically make any artifact and activated ability costs a joke for the rest of the game. This is also pretty clearly an excellent inclusion in any white-based artifact deck, since you'll be making at least three free artifacts when this comes out. Don't forget to pack your Cascading Cataracts.
Lay Down Arms
Discount Swords to Plowshares.
Loran, Disciple of History
Loran, Disciple of History turns all of your legendary creatures into Treasure Hunter, which is pretty valuable in the right deck. It's a shame that they go back to your hand instead of working like Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle, because that would bump her up a few more points in my book.
Right now, she's probably fine in the ninety-nine, but I struggle to think of a niche she fills in the command zone that isn't better suited by one of the other mono-white artifact commanders. The best I can come up with is legendary artifact creatures, but there's only seven of them available in white: one of them's the absurdly pricey Karn, Silver Golem, and the other two are literally Transformers, so really it's about four. There's probably some convoluted garbage here involving Ashnod's Altar, Hope of Ghirapur, and Mirrorworks. I'd keep an eye on Loran, though, because she's only going to get better the more legendaries get printed.
I have no qualms with Loran's Escape. It's not particularly interesting, but it's decent enough protection for the price. I'm just bringing this card up because I don't understand why it isn't actually just a Blacksmith's Skill reprint, given that it's perfect for both the mechanics and lore of the set. Is stapling +2/+2 onto artifact creatures only really too strong in Limited?
Come to think of it, why isn't Pull from Eternity printed here, either? Pull from Eternity has targets for days thanks to Unearth. Pull from Eternity was originally released in a set called Time Spiral, and Pull from Eternity will never have a more flavorful opportunity to be reprinted than in The Brothers' War, which is literally a set about pulling ancient knowledge from an eternity ago. This is such an easy target that even a Stormtrooper could hit it.
Meticulous Excavation returns any permanent you control to your hand, but only on your turn, robbing it of any just-try-and-Swords-my-commander-Dad energy and by proxy most of its appeal. The fact that this can't protect your permanents most of the time just leaves combos, and combos with Meticulous Excavation seem clunky. If you're looking to bounce your creatures back to your hand for value, you're almost certainly in blue as well as white, and blue has way better options. If you're looking to make infinite mana, you'll have to find a permanent that can instantly refund its casting cost plus , and I can only realistically see that happening with Dockside Extortionist.
On the plus side, Meticulous Excavation only costs one and is pretty good at bouncing noncreatures. It can return lands for extra Landfall triggers, return planeswalkers for extra activations, and return itself for enchantress triggers. I'll also give 'em credit for ridiculous hoops they had to jump through to get this to work properly with Unearth; that Brokers-level text hack reminds me a lot of The Grand Tour.
White is getting closer and closer to its very own Unearth with Recommission, a version that adds artifacts to the mix at the expense of Cycling and an additional mana. I've never been a huge fan of these one-shot low-mana-value Resurrection effects, but I can forgive it here because it's costed really efficiently and can cheat out things like the Suspend trio or even just get back a crucial combo piece, like Basalt Monolith.
Repair and Recharge
Is Repair and Recharge really the first unconditional targeted enchantment reanimator spell we've gotten? Sure, the activated abilities on Ghen, Arcanum Weaver and Go-Shintai of Life's Origin have been around for a while, Invoke Justice is any permanent, and spells like Dance of the Manse will do it if you pump enough mana into them, but this is the first sorcery that simply... reanimates specifically enchantments with no fuss. Same for planeswalkers, too, actually, and if that's not enough, it's also another Refurbish with a bonus Powerstone tacked on. My Shorikai, Genesis Engine noncreature reanimator deck is salivating.
Mark my words, we'll get a "Return target nonland permanent from your graveyard to the battlefield" sorcery by the end of 2023.
Comparable to Faith's Fetters, but I'm just putting this here to highlight how ridiculous it is that I find this a better use of your mana than In the Trenches.
Union of the Third Path
I really wish Union of the Third Path cost one more and was a Gerrard's Wisdom that Cycled itself instead of a slightly pricier Revitalize. The difference between one life and two life per card is massive, and honestly not enough people play effects like this. As it is, this isn't worth the slot.
A quick tip: if you find yourself dying to incidental damage over the course of the game, slot a Blighted Steppe or Congregate into your deck. It will save you.
That's all there is for white cards in The Brothers' War. What card ratings do you agree with or disagree with? Do you have any plans for your decks with this new crop? Let me know in the comments below and stay tuned for more set reviews!