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Ramos, Dragon Engine Art by Joseph Meehan

The Brothers’ War Limited Set Review: Retro Artifacts

Our complete review of all the The Brothers' War cards, for limited (sealed and draft).

Hey everyone! We’re back for day seven of our limited review of The Brothers War. Today we’re going to be going over the Retro Artifacts. They come one per pack similar to the Mystical Archive in Strixhaven. There are 63 in total, replacing a common rarity card in the packs.

We’ll be using the normal grading scale described below. The biggest difference from previous sets is that I am going to be lumping artifacts with a color identity in with their color. This is a combination of Wizards numbering system and not wanting to have one article be longer than War and Peace. All grades on them are assuming that you can easily pay the colored cost.

I’m really proud of myself for getting through that introduction without making a BRO joke. With that said, let’s get on to what’s going on literally back in the day.

Here’s the usual grading scale:

Adaptive Automaton

Rating: 3.0/5

This lord can adapt to help any creature type bring the beats a little bit better. This is probably going to name soldier the vast majority of the time it gets played, but it does pack the versatility for when you just want to give something else a bump.

Aetherflux Reservoir

Rating: 1.0/5

I know that people comboed out with this in Kaladesh on occasion, but that’s not likely to happen here.

Altar of Dementia

Rating: 1.5/5

There are times this will just end the game by milling their whole deck. In most cases it’s just a sacrifice outlet that might fuel some graveyard shenanigans. So, if you are all in on that, maybe you can use this to dump a bunch of stuff into your yard for value, unearth them back, and sac them to mill opponent out. I’m trying here, but I don’t think it will get there.

Ashnod’s Altar

Rating: 1.0/5

Playing this is going to take extremely niche scenarios like making a bunch of tokens and powering out something huge. There are way better ways to ramp in this format.

Astral Cornucopia

Rating: 1.5/5

Whether it’s a three mana Manalith or a six mana double, it’s a little bit too expensive. What it really comes down to is that I would much rather be getting a Powerstone thrown in on another card than play this.

Blackblade Reforged

Rating: 2.0/5

There aren’t infinite legendary creatures running around to make this easier to equip. It can offer some inevitability although it really needs trample to shine. Really slow and clunky, but potentially powerful in the right scenarios.

Bone Saw

Rating: 1.5/5

I can’t read the name of this card without immediately picturing Randy Savage in Spider-Man. As far as the card goes, you get what you pay for. Not much.

Burnished Hart

Rating: 2.0/5

Double ramp is still double ramp even if it is expensive. Being able to pay for it in installments or just have a creature instead makes this fine in most decks.

Caged Sun

Rating: 1.5/5

I sit here once again asking you if you are close to mono colored? If you are this could be pretty good as a slightly more expensive Mirari's Wake. If you are playing two colors, then pass this one down the line.

Chromatic Lantern

Rating: 2.0/5

A Manalith that makes all your lands rainbow lands makes you think you can go splash crazy, but it’s one card in your deck that you have to draw to have that effect. That means it enables a splash or slight fixing for your main colors, but don’t go nuts and leave yourself with a bunch of stuff you can’t cast.

This does let you pull off Door to Nothingness if you really like making either memes or bad decisions.

Chromatic Star

Rating: 2.0/5

The value on all of these cheap cantrip artifacts really depends on your deck. If you have cards that trigger off of an artifact coming into play, some draw two cards triggers, or sacrifice triggers then you actively want this card. I would even bump up to a 2.5 in that case.

If you have nothing that benefits from it and don’t have a splash it could fix for, then you should bump it down to a 1.5.

Cloud Key

Rating: 1.0/5

Unless you are double spelling the specific type you name, this is pretty close to just being a restrictive mana rock. We already have those in this format, they’re called Powerstones and they don’t cost a whole card.

Defense Grid

Rating: 0.5/5

If you’ve ever wanted to spend two mana to mulligan, then I have just the card for you. This doesn’t even shut them off from playing spells on your turn, it just makes them more expensive. It does literal nothing if they decide to just play spells on their turn. I wouldn’t even board this in against a triple counterspell deck.

Door to Nothingness

Rating: 0.5/5

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. This is Icarus flying too close to the sun.

Elsewhere Flask

Rating: 2.0/5

The same things that I said about Chromatic Star apply here. It’s a 2.5 if you have things that benefit off of it and a 1.5 if you don’t.

The advantage this has over Energy Refractor is that you can do this and Corrupt someone for approximately a billion.

Foundry Inspector

Rating: 2.5/5

Now this is a much better version of the Cloud Key effect because you get a three-power body to go with it.

Gilded Lotus

Rating: 2.0/5

In a format where ramping to the top is big game, doing the reverse Dolly (5 to 9) without any restrictions can certainly get you there. If you’re not playing eight or nine drops, drop this from a 2.5 to a raging dumpster fire.

Goblin Charbelcher

Rating: 1.5/5

This is far too random to actively want this unless you are playing mono mountains. Even then you are usually just pointing it at the face and hoping because how are you going to guess which creatures to aim at. It certainly can get there, but it adds way too much variance for my tastes.

I also think this is going to be massively overdrafted from people who are familiar with the combo deck.

Helm of the Host

Rating: 2.5/5

This is a really powerful, but really expensive ability that leaves itself open to getting blown out pretty hard. It also moves at the speed of molasses.

This isn’t going to be like Dominaria where people are just sitting on their thumbs, there are tons of haymakers being thrown. If this lets you make extra haymakers then it can win you the game, but you’re probably losing if you’re nine mana deep into them just bouncing your creature.

Howling Mine

Rating: 1.5/5

This is a symmetrical effect where they get the first card while you’re the one who used a card for it. It’s a disaster if you play this into them drawing an extra card and killing it. One way to break the symmetry is to have cards like Citanul Stalwart to tap it to shut off their card draw.

Ichor Wellspring

Rating: 2.5/5

Similar to the other minor effect two mana cantrip artifacts, but this one adds the upside of drawing you an additional card while providing sacrifice fodder for Powerstone Fracture or Thraxodemon.

Inspiring Statuary

Rating: 1.0/5

A mana rock for your non-artifact spells that makes your other artifacts mana rocks for them as well. Got all that? The problem is that most of the giant spells you want to play are artifacts. Hard pass.

Ivory Tower

Rating: 1.0/5

1994 called and they want their restricted card back. Seriously this was considered too powerful for constructed back then. Wild times.

Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. Are you going to use a card and sit on a ton of cards to gain a pretty inconsequential amount of life each turn? Only if your game plan is to eventually lose.

Jalum Tome

Rating: 1.5/5

Looters that you pay for are pretty questionable these days. How about one that’s not even a creature? The stock on those are dropping even harder.

Journeyer’s Kite

Rating: 1.5/5

This was a surprising overperformer way back in Champions of Kamigawa. It is possible that we may have had just a tiny hint of power creep since then so I’ve tampered my expectations down a smidge to “slightly better than an 18th land”.

Keening Stone

Rating: 2.5/5

Now this can actually mill someone out with a swiftness. By the time you drop this, you are usually just a couple of activations away from dropping their entire deck in the dumpster. Being able to end step it, untap, and do it again means that they won’t even have an opportunity to get any value out of it.

Key to the City

Rating: 2.0/5

This lets you trade a card for a card to be named later. Unless of course your opponent blows this up or you decide you don’t want to spend two mana. Similar to Howling Mine, this is much better with ways to tap it without giving up a card. The unblockable ability does actually matter with so many huge creatures floating around.

Liquimetal Coating

Rating: 1.0/5

Only really useable in niche situations like turning your opponents stuff into an artifact before Disenchanting it.

Lodestone Golem

Rating: 2.5/5

This has always been much better in constructed when you can drop them early with Mishra's Workshop. The body is unimpressive because the three toughness makes it hard to attack without trading down. This ability also matters a lot less in the artifact set where everyone has them.

Mazemind Tome

Rating: 2.5/5

The four life actually matters a lot on this because it helps keep you alive after you tied up your mana drawing cards. This is pretty expensive overall, but the relatively cheap installments make it a lot more manageable.

Mesmeric Orb

Rating: 1.0/5

This card can be pretty annoying to play against, but it’s symmetrical so everyone is in the same exasperating boat. It requires a lot of math of can I play this and still get enough attacks in for lethal before I run out of cards.

At least they made it Mythic so you don’t see it as often. That was a good decision for everyone’s sanity.


Rating: 1.0/5

Limited isn’t nearly slow enough for this to be a good win condition unless you are playing hard control. Even then you can usually find something better to win the game with.

Oh yeah, plus that whole thing where it’s probably not a good idea to slow mill someone in a format with unearth and cards that get bonuses off creatures being in a graveyard.

Mind’s Eye

Rating: 2.0/5

This was good back in Mirrodin, it’s really a question of how good slow card draw can be these days.  

Mishra’s Bauble

Rating: 2.5/5

They already banned this in Historic. Something about playing a 56-card deck being unfair. You’re playing a 39-card deck with this one which doesn’t matter nearly as much.

Still, it does give you a tiny bit of information and it is free. Plus that whole spiel about triggers that I gave on Chromatic Star.

Mox Amber

Rating: 0.0/5

Don’t fall for the name brand with this mox. There are not enough legends in this set to be anywhere close to having this turned on the majority of the time. It’s just a straight up mull to six if this is in your hand.

Mystic Forge

Rating: 1.5/5

This can actually draw a lot of cards over time if you have a critical mass of artifacts in your deck. It even lets you pay one life to move a land or colored spell out of the way once per turn. Still not something I want unless it’s the right deck.


Rating: 0.5/5

There aren’t any ridiculous synergies or equipment to slam on this to make it worth playing a nothingburger in your deck.

Perilous Vault

Rating: 2.5/5

Really expensive sweeper that they can see coming. At least you can pop this at instant speed giving you first crack at rebuilding your board.

Phyrexian Processor

Rating: 3.5/5

The magic number used to be seven for this, but limited Magic has changed quite a lot since then. There also isn’t the print run bug where you often ended up with this and Angelic Chorus. You’re just going to have to wing it on how much life to pay.

On top of that, this is a format where people are going to be packing artifact removal so you have to wait until you can get an activation out of this before Fireballing your own face.

To summarize, this card is either going to win or lose you the game.

Phyrexian Revoker

Rating: 1.5/5

There might be times you need to shut something down with this. Though unless you know their deck it becomes a two drop you need to hold to take advantage of that. Sometimes it is a strictly worse Mine Worker.

Platinum Angel

Rating: 3.0/5

This is my least favorite text that exists on Magic cards. It leads to games where people are just sitting there hoping the other person doesn’t ever draw removal. At least a 4/4 flyer presents a clock, but it still just ends up in unfun games and bad beat stories. I can assure you that you’re going to hear Floridamun complain about this at least once on the podcast.

Precursor Golem

Rating: 4.0/5

I understand that they can wipe this out with one removal spell, but 9/9 worth of stats for five mana is huge. Not only that, but let’s say you cast a pump spell and it hits all three. Lots of crazy stuff going on here.

Only the main golem has the target ability so if it dies via sacrifice or combat, you don’t have to worry about the ability anymore leaving you with two 3/3s.

Pristine Talisman

Rating: 2.0/5

As long as you want to ramp into colorless kaijus this is fine as it will probably help you stay alive by gaining you a bit of life along the way.

Psychosis Crawler

Rating: 2.5/5

I don’t really expect this to be much bigger than a 4/4 by the time you can play it and even that’s pushing it. You really need some card draw to back this up to both keep it a relevant size and ping the crap out of your opponent.

Quicksilver Amulet

Rating: 2.0/5

There are a lot of huge things to drop with this and you can even do it at instant speed. Pretty expensive and you’re going down a card to use it, but sneaking in ten drops ahead of schedule is pretty good.

Quietus Spike

Rating: 1.5/5

This is really expensive for an equipment that doesn’t actually do that much. Most of the time they can just tradeoff with your creature and you have to pay three more to put it on another creature.

Ramos, Dragon Engine

Rating: 4.0/5

It’s not hard to keep this growing by just playing spells. Pretty sure you were going to be doing that anyway.

There is very little chance that you end up removing the counters to add double WUBRG. There is even less of a chance that you do it to bust Door to Nothingness. But if you do, it’ll be a tale passed down through the generations. (Disclaimer: Josh is trying to bait you into doing things for his entertainment.)

Runechanter’s Pike

Rating: 2.0/5

Not very good early as it’s usually just adding first strike. Later in the game, this can make something very difficult to block. Though typically, the decks playing a lot of instants and sorceries aren’t the ones that have a bunch of creatures they want to equip this to.

Scrap Trawler

Rating: 3.0/5

This is assuming you have things to bring back. Even if you just get back a cheap artifact cantrip when this dies, it’s still a really good card.

Sculpting Steel

Rating: 3.0/5

This is almost a Phyrexian Metamorph that you don’t need to pay the blue or two life for. Even if you don’t have many great targets, your opponent will and you will almost always be going up on mana with this.


Rating: 2.0/5

This can actually grab the tron pieces or Autonomous Assembler since they are assembly workers. While the tron ones aren’t great, I’d still play this if I had a second one of these or an Autonomous Assembler.

Semblance Anvil

Rating: 1.0/5

After pitching a card to this, how many cards do you have left to discount? They can also just blow it up for the instant two for one. If you want a semblance of a chance, you should play one of the many other forms of ramp instead.

Sigil of Valor

Rating: 2.0/5

If the board gets stuffed up this can give you a must block attacker to slowly force your way through. Of course, you could always put it on a flyer for the old one shot kill out of nowhere.

That all sounds great, so you’re probably wondering why is this so low. Outside of the usual equipment problems, you have to have multiple creatures out for this to do anything. It also does nothing on defense so it’s basically a dead card if you are behind.

Soul-Guide Lantern

Rating: 2.5/5

It’s going to be rare that you want to pop this to remove their entire graveyard, but there will certainly be situations that warrant it.

Most of the time you are just going to use it to remove a random unearth card and then pop it to draw a card. That also fits under all the same criteria as Chromatic Star for cheaply enabling a lot of different things.

Springleaf Drum

Rating: 1.5/5

This is a mana rock that requires you to tap a creature. The upsides are that it only costs one and can tap for any color. The downside is it does literal nothing if you don’t have a creature you want to tap.

Staff of Domination

Rating: 2.5/5

Inflation is out of control with this staff. I’ve seen cheaper prices at Disney World where I’m paying $10 for a freaking churro.

If you have a ton of mana in the late game, this will probably win you the game. It’s just not going to do much until then.

Sundering Titan

Rating: 3.0/5

I want to reanimate this so freaking bad. Just Repair and Recharge this on turn five and take out a couple of their lands. I don’t know about you, but that really does it for me.

Swiftfoot Boots

Rating: 2.5/5

Don’t underestimate how good giving your creatures haste and hexproof is. It puts in work whether you need to beatdown or just protect your best threat. Of course, you could always put this on Platinum Angel and be “that person”.

Sword of the Meek

Rating: 2.0/5

There are ways to sacrifice this and enough 1/1 tokens floating around to bring it back that this could be worth it. Without that it’s just a slightly overpriced equipment.

Thorn of Amethyst

Rating: 0.5/5

It’s not even a real thorn in anyone’s side. Don’t waste your pick or everyone’s time…just don’t.

Unwinding Clock

Rating: 0.5/5

Speaking of cards that should never be in anyone’s deck…A broken clock might be right twice a day, but this isn’t even managing to pull that off.

Well of Lost Dreams

Rating: 1.5/5

If you have enough repetitive life gain then you might be able to pull this off. I don’t want to try it, but I’m not going to stop you from making bad decisions.

Wurmcoil Engine

Rating: 4.5/5

This is obviously insane. They basically have to exile it or use enchantment removal on it. Otherwise, it’s game over.

Wrap Up

The retro artifacts are an interesting addition, but a lot of them are just limited filler designed for constructed. From crazy highs like Wurmcoil Engine or Precursor Golem, it drops down to ridiculous lows like Mox Amber and Mesmeric Orb. I understand why they are designed like this, but adding an additional lottery ticket every pack is a net negative for a limited format.

I’ll be back this weekend with some more articles to help you prepare for The Brothers' War. Until then, stay classy Magic people.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.

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Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

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