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MTG Arena: State of the Game – The Brothers’ War

Here is this month’s MTG Arena State of the Game – The Brothers’ War edition. The new expansion will be released on November 15, 2022 around 8 AM PST – so make sure to finish up your Mastery, Daily Quests, Daily Wins, and your Weekly Wins before they reset!

A fresh new metagame and hopefully a tonne of fun decks are on the horizon with big robots! There are Golden Packs, new Wildcard Bundles, Explorer Anthology 2 in December 2022, Shadows over Innistrad Remastered in early 2023, but no news on Jumpstart 2022 as of yet. For the usual upcoming events, which you can read ahead in the MTG Arena Announcements that has been posted parallel to this article.

As always, check out the full breakdown below and make sure to catch up with our set guide if you have not already:


The Brothers’ War

Reinvent the past. Retake the future. The Brothers’ War is here. This new set brings artifacts from across Magic history to wield alongside colossal war machines and forge your own future. You’ve seen the latest cards and read The Brothers’ War story, now join us as we venture back in time to one of the most iconic periods in Magic‘s history. This might be Dominaria, but it is nothing like the one we left.

Mechanics

Looking back to the past, Matt Tabak unearthed both old and new mechanics arriving with The Brothers’ War. For those of you who enjoy melding your experience in MTG Arena, here’s a look at how those mechanics will play out in a digital world.

Prototype

Prototype is a new mechanic coming to Magic. Prototype cards include two sets of characteristics that allow players to choose from a default first set of characteristics (the default mana cost, power, and toughness) or a second set (an alternate mana cost, power, and toughness) of characteristics.

Prototype example for Steel Seraph

In MTG Arena, the card in hand looks the same as a physical card would. However, we represent the choice of characteristics like the above, and the card holds this appearance if it is on the battlefield to represent that it keeps those characteristics until it leaves the battlefield (yes, including if it were to be copied). If the card is in your library, hand, or exile, it retains its non-prototype characteristics and original look.

Meld

The next set mechanic is a returning Magic mechanic: meld. Meld allows specific pairs of cards (meld pairs) to combine into a single permanent. In each of these meld pairs, there is a card that explains how to meld the two cards. Melded permanents are considered single permanents, but if a melded permanent leaves the battlefield, both cards go to where the permanent was headed. As a reminder, you can only meld cards if you both own and control them, and only if they’re the actual named cards (no copies or tokens).

Example of meld in MTG Arena

Even though meld is a returning Magic mechanic, it is new to MTG Arena! The only major callout here is that a melded permanent is the same size as every other card (sorry, no double-sized monstrosities).

Unearth

Unearth is a returning mechanic that can only be activated while the unearth card is in the graveyard, and only as a sorcery. The unearthed card gains haste and is exiled at the beginning of the next end step (or if it would leave the battlefield before then).

Example of unearth in MTG Arena

Unearth is returning to MTG Arena, but above is a refresher for how the mechanic will appear in the client—like any other cards that can be played from graveyards!

Powerstones

Powerstones are a new token type (similar to Treasure, Food, and Clue). A Powerstone is a colorless artifact that can be tapped for one colorless mana. The mana produced by a Powerstone can’t be spent to cast a nonartifact spell, but it can be spent on anything else. This includes artifact spells, activated abilities—even ones of nonartifacts—costs for triggered abilities, any costs to attack or block you may have to pay, and so on.

Retro Artifacts

Retro artifacts are 63 artifacts from Magic‘s past that have been brought together and given the classic retro frame for The Brothers’ War.

These can replace a common rarity card in MTG Arena Store packs—which means it is possible to get more than one rare or mythic rare in a pack. Keep in mind, when you are opening ten packs at a time, the six cards displayed may not display all the rare and mythic rare cards you might have received!

Balancing for Retro Artifacts

We are looking forward to seeing what new dynamics The Brothers’ War and its retro artifacts will bring to the Historic format, with one exception: Mishra's Bauble.

Mishra's Bauble costs no mana and replaces itself as a card, making it a “free” way to cycle through a deck and increase its consistency. This blanket reduction in variance makes for less variety in gameplay. Similarly, the ability for every deck to start with four Mishra’s Baubles at no meaningful cost makes for less variety in decklists. In both cases, we would lose variety that helps make for a compelling format. Beyond this, strategies that make even more efficient or recurring use of Mishra's Bauble would be strictly advantaged, further collapsing the metagame.

Therefore, Mishra’s Bauble is banned in Historic. Uncommon retro artifact slots in Store packs will deprioritize Mishra's Bauble until all other uncommon retro artifacts are collected.

Additionally, Phyrexian Revoker is banned in Historic Brawl. Like other effects that disable named cards directly, Revoker’s ability to “turn off” an opposing commander goes against the intent of this format.

Although other retro artifacts are also powerful cards, they bring new possibilities to Historic that we are open to seeing play out. These other cards may require subsequent action, as did the Strixhaven: School of Mages Mystical Archive, but we will reserve that until those cards have proven themselves in play.

Surveil and Landfall Oracle Changes

Many cards have printed text instructions that allow them to function the same as existing keyword actions and abilities, but they do not use those keywords. Two examples of these are landfall and surveil.

In cases where text instructions replicate the function of either of these keywords, we’ll opt to use surveil or landfall in place of that text. For example, for cards like Search for Azcanta and Consider the text “Look at the top card of your library. You may put that card into your graveyard” will be replaced with “surveil 1.”

Other Notes

Auto-Tap Flexibility

To provide more flexibility when using auto-tap with cards like Clay Champion and Bladecoil Serpentthat care about the type of mana spent to cast them, auto-tap will always pause the casting to display the mana choices it plans to use.

Example of flexible auto-tap functionality in MTG Arena

Auto-tap in these situations isn’t making strategic decisions for you, so be sure to check that the mana being spent—and thus the bonuses you will receive once they’re spent—are the ones you want to use.

Putting Cards on the Top or Bottom of Your Library

We’ve updated the way we represent effects that allow you to place cards on the top or bottom of your library. The interface for these effects will now look very similar to the scry effect for improved clarity.

Example of how placing cards on the top or bottom of your library

Change to Release Timing

MTG Arena will begin releasing sets after the tabletop Prerelease, starting with The Brothers’ War. As part of this change, nearly all releases will move from Thursdays to Tuesdays, and new sets specifically will be available on Tuesdays.

Here’s how this schedule works with The Brothers’ War:

This is the timing we expect to follow for the foreseeable future.

Evolving MTG Arena

One of our primary missions on MTG Arena is to continually evaluate the game, make changes based on feedback and data, and drive the game’s evolution in ways that better meet the needs of our diverse players and their playstyles. Players approach MTG Arena with different motivations and goals, so we’re always working to adjust and deliver the features and products they want.

With the release of The Brothers’ WarMTG Arena will offer a new way to collect cards (Golden Packs) and an update to a product from earlier in the year that will make it appeal to a broader range of players (Wildcard Bundles). These adjustments will give players more flexibility in how they approach their collections and build their decks.

We also have product news for players of our non-rotating formats and our Alchemy players.

Golden Packs

Meet Betty the Brewer:

Betty wants a large collection so she can build and play a variety of decks. She loves exploring all the new deck possibilities when a set is released. To experiment, however, she needs to add cards to her collection. She knows drafting is an efficient way to add cards, so she postpones her deck building for a couple weeks until she’s drafted the cards she wants to build out her collection.

After a new set is released, we know some players want to dive right into deck building but feel obligated to play Draft or Sealed matches first because it’s an effective—and fun—way to build a collection. Rather than driving players into game modes that may not be their first choice, we want to close the gap in collection building progress between drafting and pack purchasing.

For this release, each The Brothers’ War Store pack you purchase, including Mythic Packs, will advance the Golden Pack Progress meter (see the image below) one step. Ten packs will fill the meter, and you’ll receive a Golden Pack. The meter will reset and begin counting down your next ten packs. Pack bundles will move the meter the number of steps equal to the number of packs in the bundle.

Golden Pack meter

Golden Packs you receive will appear in the Packs scene and can be opened from there. A Golden Pack will contain six cards, all of which are duplicate protected, Standard-legal rares or mythic rares.

Read more on Golden Pack collation.

Golden Pack on the Packs scene about to be opened

This change brings the rate at which you earn cards from pack purchases more in line with the rate you can earn cards from drafting. While we’re only applying this change to The Brothers’ War packs at this time, we’ll evaluate the results and consider expanding this to pack purchases from other sets in the future.

Wildcard Bundles

Meet Max the Metagamer:

Max finds decks online that have done well and wants to play them. Often, they’re missing just a handful of cards to complete a deck. Max is less focused on building their overall collection and doesn’t want to spend time opening packs to get the wildcards they need—they just want their cards quickly so they can start playing their deck.

The wildcard bundle experiment from earlier in the year met the needs of some players like Max, but locking the bundle to twelve rare wildcards and four mythic rare wildcards was too restrictive for others.

Starting with The Brothers’ War release, we’ll be splitting that bundle into smaller components, and the Store will offer a bundle of four rare wildcards for $9.99, or €9.99, and a bundle of four mythic rare wildcards for $19.99, or €19.99. Each bundle can be purchased up to ten times each between the release of The Brothers’ War and January 31, 2023.

This is not designed to be a substitute for building a collection, nor is it designed for building a deck from scratch, but rather as a way for players to quickly grab the last few cards they need for a specific deck. These two new wildcard bundles are also an experiment to help us determine the best way to support players like Max.

Non-Rotating Formats

Meet Victor the Veteran:

Victor is a longtime Magic player who is nostalgic for older Magic cards. He values MTG Arena play that matches tabletop, and he frequently plays Explorer. He wants more older cards to come to MTG Arena so the game can get closer to having the Pioneer format.

Victor will be excited about two new products coming to MTG Arena that include more older cards:

Explorer Anthology 2

Explorer Anthology 2 will be coming to MTG Arena in December! Like Explorer Anthology 1, all included cards will be legal in both Explorer and Historic formats. Players will be able to buy four copies of each card in a bundle in the MTG Arena Store or use wildcards to craft them. Stay tuned as we get closer to December for more details on which cards Explorer Anthology 2 includes!

Shadows over Innistrad Remastered

Shadows over Innistrad Remastered logo

Shadows over Innistrad Remastered contains cards from Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon. Like Kaladesh Remastered and Amonkhet Remastered before it, both Store packs and Limited events will be available for Shadows over Innistrad Remastered.

Shadows over Innistrad Remastered release is planned for the first half of 2023, and cards will be legal in Explorer and Historic.

Alchemy

Meet Nancy the Novelty Seeker:

Nancy plays a lot of MTG Arena, but things can feel stale for her quickly. She wants a lot of changes to keep the game feeling fresh and exciting. She plays Alchemy and some Historic, and she enjoys how digital-only cards and rebalances open up new Magic design space.

With many Standard sets having rotated out of Alchemy as part of the Dominaria United release, the Alchemy metagame has been diverse and exciting with a variety of viable decks. Check out the Traditional Alchemy decklists from Arena Championship 1 if you are looking for some ideas.

We expect even more decks to enter the fray with the release of The Brothers’ War on November 15 and its accompanying Alchemy drop December 13. We’ll continue to explore ways to deliver Alchemy cards through Store packs and events, including Draft, so players can engage in this format and the new experiences it provides in ways that suit them best.

Changes to the Arena Open

Back in July, we split Day 2 of Limited format Arena Opens into two drafts instead of one. Players thought it would be more fun, and we agreed! At the time, we could only make this work with single-elimination drafts, which is a more punishing tournament structure, but we felt it was a worthwhile trade-off. Your feedback matched our expectations: you liked the two drafts but wished you could play more Magic.

Starting with The Brothers’ War Arena Open on November 26, you can have both! Here’s how Day 2 will work:

  • Day 2, Draft One: Play four guaranteed matches (similar to Traditional Draft).
    • Records of 3–1 and 4–0 will earn you a spot in Draft Two, but with a key difference: undefeated players will now “carry forward” an unused loss pip to the Draft Two, making it a double elimination!
  • Day 2, Draft Two: Play until you earn four wins or reach your second loss of the day. If you were undefeated in Draft One, you will have an additional loss pip, making your Draft Two a double elimination instead, and undefeated Draft One players will have an additional loss pip. Two notes:
    • All Draft Two players will draft and matchmake together.
    • The top prize is changing from $2,500 to $2,000, but rest assured we’re paying out the same amount of cash; we’re just dividing it among more players. You can see the full event details and the prize breakdown in The Brothers’ War Mixed Limited Arena Open article.

In short, you can play all of Draft One no matter what, and if you’re undefeated you carry an unused loss forward into Draft Two!

Good luck, have fun, and stay tuned for another exciting Arena Open announcement in the coming weeks!

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