Hey everyone! We’ve finally had a few days to jam some The Brothers’ War drafts and I’m here to drop all that knowledge on you. Now you too can crush some dreams. Are you ready BRO? Then let’s do this.
I would like to apologize for that, I had to get at least one BRO out of my system and I am ashamed of myself for doing it. Not as bad as when they explained to me that the set code for Champions of Kamigawa was actually CHK, but ashamed none the less.
Key Ideas of The Brothers’ War Draft
To start off, they hit the nail on the head with the theme of going back in time with how this set plays out from a limited perspective. While they didn’t quite go all the way back to Antiquities, it feels and plays like a set out of the early 2000’s. (For the love of all that is holy, do not try to play limited with any of the sets before Mirage) That means things like evasion and removal have managed to find their way back into the VIP room after spending the last few years doing nostalgia shows in a local nightclub.
I know I’ve been harping on this since the beginning of preview season, but make sure you are drafting to your decks plan. Even within each archetype there is a lot of malleability so take the cards that go with what you are actually building, not the idealized version of an archetype you have in your head. There can easily be an early game and a late game plan within the same color pairs. The large number of colorless cards helps to provide this flexibility so draft accordingly.
All of that flexibility means that you need to be prepared to flip between playing quick games and long grindy games. Identifying your role early is key so you know whether you want to trade off creatures or use removal early to counter tempo versus playing a more value-oriented game.
While you do see some crazy end game decks, they really need to have some form of early game or they will just get hard punished by the aggro decks. As the kids these days say “Funk around and find out” (Editor’s note: Josh we have talked about that word…I replaced that with something more appropriate…let’s get funky). My experience so far has been that it is a very aggressive format and you need a really good reason to be going in another direction.
Land count is another big consideration in this set. If you have multiple cheap cantrips or are playing only one color you can pretty easily go down to sixteen lands. If you meet both of these qualifications then go ahead and drop to fifteen. The hand smoother might let you get away with fourteen, but that’s a bit too greedy for my tastes.
Even some of the ramp decks can get away with sixteen lands as long as you have multiple mana sources like Pristine Talisman floating around. There is some tension because you need to hit land drops, but you also don’t want to end up staring at a pile of mana with nothing to cast with it. Your high end should be between 3-5 cards. Even then, it’s a questionable path because of how bad it feels when you spend ten mana on a card and get wrecked by Disenchant.
While we are on the subject of land counts, Bushwhack is a very interesting card to consider. It looks excellent on the surface, but the early stats have been pretty lackluster. I do look at data differently on any card that involves modality and decisions because it can’t account for bad plays. However, the big thing on this is that you should be replacing a land with it instead of a real card. Prey Upon isn’t a great card, but it’s pretty amazing when it’s a pseudo-MDFC.
That brings us to the archetypes. I’m sure you want to know which archetypes have been decimating everything in their path.
My personal favorite has been mono red. If it’s wide open, it’s probably the best archetype in the format and feels like you’re dunking all over some elementary school kids on a nerf hoop. I doubt that it will continue to work out as often as it has when the format adapts, but if you see that lane open you should swerve into it. It’s the classic pile of undercosted red weenies rushing the face backed up by burn like Excavation Explosion. One thing to look out for is that the three-drop slot can get clogged up so if it’s a similar power level lean towards a two drop over a three.
Mono-Black is another way to have a great time. You haven’t lived if you haven’t used Corrupt for ten to the face. While you can also pull that trick off with Elsewhere Flask in multicolor decks, it’s just nasty when you don’t have to get tricky to nail them that hard. Disfigure is one of the key cards because it is so tempo positive by being a one mana removal spell.
The gist is that you can technically pull off every color as a monocolored deck, I just wouldn’t recommend trying it with blue though as it feels a bit lacking in the commons department.
Moving on to two-color decks, Rakdos sacrifice has been an absolute monster coming out of the gate with a pile of Goblin Blast-Runners that can be triggered off of something as simple as an Evolving Wilds. As long as the draft is willing to give you a pile of blast runners, you can really abuse it, but it will most likely change into less of an all-in aggro deck as that possibility dries up. Of course, it always has good ol Steal/Sac to fall back on.
Penregon Strongbull has been a brick house and has been one of the key cards in Rakdos, but is good in any deck with red. The threat of activation makes it very hard to block profitably or kill with damage-based removal. It also puts pressure on them by providing the inevitability of being able to sacrifice out for lethal.
I would like to officially apologize to Levitating Statue for my comments comparing it to Stuffed Bear. It has immensely exceeded my expectations as long as it’s in the right deck. For me, that deck has been your standard Izzet spells deck. BeersSC told me he’s had some success with it in decks with Union of the Third Path, I haven’t tried that yet so give full credit/shame to him depending on how that works out for you.
Speaking of Izzet decks, there have been some disgusting ones floating about with Dafore forcing it in most of his early drafts. The difficulty in splashing a two drop has made it easier than it should be to end up with multiple Third Path Iconoclast (there are only 0.9 per draft, but I’ve seen them obnoxiously late). That makes normally relegated to the corner cards like Bone Saw actually playable. Just don’t mistake a clear synergy card like that as being decent in other situations.
Bo3 and Bo1 are entirely different animals in this set. There are so many ways you can craft your deck out of the board to be better against your opponent’s plan. Proper sideboarding is definitely going to be rewarded here.
Do not underestimate the Cantrifacts (cantrip artifacts) from the retro artifacts slot. They help enable many strategies that aren’t necessarily supported within the main set like the draw two cards a turn abilities. They also provide great cheap sacrifice fodder that replaces itself.
If you have enough mana and some possible unearth hits in your deck, consider playing the mill three creatures before combat to possibly get some more hasty damage to throw at their face.
Another consideration of the mill three creatures is milling yourself out. I’m definitely not a self-mill is bad truther and it is actually a beneficial ability in a format like this with graveyard value and recursion. I’m just saying that if you have five or more of these, it’s going to add up fast. They are good cards, but they don’t have as much velocity towards winning as Organ Hoarder so you can’t just jam as many of them as you want in your deck.
I guess I need to address the elephant in the room. There are a lot of bombs in this format. Even more than I have listed below because we don’t want to be here all day. Luckily, they tend to either be really expensive (Portal to Phyrexia) or answerable by removal. Even old school baddie Wurmcoil Engine is a simple one for one with Overwhelming Remorse. It feels like when people complained about the bombs in Crimson Vow and ended up missing out on a great format by focusing on that. Sometimes you’ll end up losing to a rarevalanche, but most of the time drafting, deckbuilding, and gameplay decisions will prevail.
Brotherhood's End is the damage-based sweeper in the set. So far it hasn’t lined up well against the format, but it is still something to keep in mind if your opponent isn’t making any plays early. It does also have the backup mode of blowing up a bunch of powerstones or even Mask of the Jadecrafter tokens.
Gruesome Realization is the sweeper effect that you are most likely to run into since it’s an uncommon and the modality gives it a decent fall back. Since it is only -1-1, it usually won’t be too devastating unless you walk right into it. Since it’s only opponent’s creatures there really isn’t a good signal that they are trying to set it up.
Perilous Vault and Urza's Sylex are the two big kabooms of the set. Considering they are both mythic, really expensive, and quite frankly not very good, you should only be playing around them if you have a lot of room to maneuver or know they have them.
Loran's Escape and Gaea's Gift have both been playing really well so far. They are both just cheap ways to protect your creatures or win a combat unexpectedly. Be careful if you see them leaving the mana up for these as you don’t want to spend four mana on a removal spell to get it blown out.
Giant Growth and Whirling Strike are the other two combat tricks you really need to watch out for when lining up blocks. Whirling Strike can be especially devastating in combination with one of the death touchers floating around so keep that in mind.
Deadly Riposte is an odd card as it is amazing against all of the aggressive decks, but does almost nothing against some of the ramp decks. In Bo3 I don’t mind having a few of them to board in when I know I’m not the beatdown. Your opponent gaining priority when a creature becomes tapped is a good tell to look out for this. If you see that, don’t use your trick trying to go for lethal, pass priority and make them use theirs first.
Urza's Rebuff is the Cancel of the set with the random backup of “Oops, I guess I have lethal by tapping your two dudes”. Cancel is a fine card in a format where people are trying to drop nine drops. Its value will fluctuate match up to match up, but them holding up three mana with obvious plays is a pretty sure sign that they are sitting on this.
Scatter Ray is in that weird spot of being a situational Essence Scatter that can be paid for with powerstones. Four is a ton of mana and its not likely that you can just wait to always have four open to play a creature or artifact so you’re going to have to bait them early with something you don’t care about.
Defabricate should be in the sideboard. If you suspect they have it and have the choice, lead with the non-artifact creature to strand their mana. Of course, it’s more likely to be Scatter Ray so consider if your cards are about equal power before making the decision of which to play.
These are the Pack One Pick One (p1p1) no doubt, windmill slam, just take them rares of the set. These are not in rank order, just take these over any non-mythic uncommon or common.
- Cityscape Leveler
- Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor
- Gix's Command
- In the Trenches
- Phyrexian Fleshgorger
- Platoon Dispenser
- Portal to Phyrexia
- Precursor Golem
- Siege Veteran
- Skitterbeam Battalion
- Skystrike Officer
- Steel Seraph
- Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim
- Titania's Command
- Tyrant of Kher Ridges
- Wurmcoil Engine
These might be uncommons, but they sure don’t play like they are.
Do Not Draft List
These are the ones that some people talk themselves into, but you should always pass.
I’ve been having a great time hard core going at some BRO drafts. It’s an interesting format that rewards innovation as well as understanding your seat at the table. I can’t wait to see what it evolves into as we go along. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back soon with more limited analysis for you.
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