For each set, I like to do one or more mailbag columns. That means it's time to answer your questions about The Brothers' War.
Here's the tweet I posted:
As always, I'll try to answer as many questions as I can, but here's why I might not answer your question:
- I have an allotted word count, which means that there are only so many questions I can get to.
- Someone else might have asked the same question. I will usually answer the first person who asks.
- Some questions I either don't know the answer to or don't feel qualified enough in the area to answer properly.
- Some topics I'm not allowed to answer for all sorts of reasons, including previews for future sets.
That said, let's get to the questions:
At mythic rare, we decided that each color would get an artifact with one of the two artifact keywords in the set. Blue, black, red, and green got a prototype card, while white got an unearth card. Note that white has two rare prototype cards, more than any other color at rare.
Most of the time, we use a 4/1 rule where we try not to have four cards act one way and the fifth act a different way, but we made an exception here because we just liked Platoon Dispenser at mythic rare.
I should also point out that white is one of only two colors (the other being blue) to get a second mythic rare artifact with its color of mana showing up exclusively in the rules text.
Well, MOM's coming out next year. : )
I heard nothing but people saying, "That's awesome."
I think you're making a deep-cut joke here, so let me explain. When the East Coast Playtesters Skaff Elias, Jim Lin, Dave Petty, and Chris Page, along with Guest Designer Joel Mick, designed Antiquities, they made a card called Onulets. They chose that name because it was similar to the card
From a design standpoint, there wasn't space for a whole cycle and there were issues with the color pie as not all five colors can directly gain life.
None. Charlie Catino has been at Wizards the longest, and he started in February of 1995. Bill Rose and I, second and third respectively, started in October of 1995. Antiquities came out in March of 1994, almost a year before Charlie began at Wizards and a year and half before Bill and I arrived. Both Charlie and Bill were Alpha playtesters, but neither worked on Antiquities. The Brothers' War novel came out in May of 1998, many years after all three of us started, but it was done out of house by author Jeff Grubb, so we still didn't have anything to do with it. That said, many of us here in Studio X are longtime Magic players, so we have an affinity for the story even though none of us had a hand in its creation.
I think it was discussed, but the scope of the story here is so much longer than War of the Spark. That story took place in a single day, so it was difficult when seeing a lone picture to understand what act it was from (other than the sky changed as the day progressed). The Brothers' War, in contrast, takes place over seven decades. In Act I, Urza and Mishra are boys, in Act II men, and in Act III old men, so the visuals do a much better job of conveying where it takes place in the story.
Q: Twice in your #MTGBRO design podcast, you refer to the demo decks that you and Ari designed as "prototypes." Is that the term you used to describe them during design? And if so, did that term leak into the name of the mechanic?
I think we called them "demo decks" when we made them. I'm just doing a lot of content on The Brothers' War, so I think the word "prototype" seeped into my brain.
Whenever we use another IP, we work closely with them to ensure that we're following their standards and using the characters as they would. Transformers don't "transform," they "convert," so we used the same terminology on our cards. To have the rules treat them the same, we made the terms "transform" and "convert" synonymous.
There was plenty of talk about it. We did explore several reprints, including
We discussed Vehicles when building our demo decks and again in vision design. We were trying to give the artifacts in the set a retro feel, and Vehicles just felt too modern. We had a similar discussion about Equipment. In this case, we felt Antiquities (the set we were using as inspiration) did have the equivalent of Equipment with cards like
In vision design, we did spend some time talking about whether we wanted to use colorless mana as a cost (as we did in Oath of the Gatewatch). We even went so far as to explore the idea of having fifteen draft archetypes with colorless mana filling the role of a sixth "color." In the end, it just didn't feel right, much like how Vehicles felt out of place.
Once we decided not to have colorless costs, there just wasn't much point in having Wastes. Cool flavor (as Antiquities had
There are numerous factors that go into choosing cards to put on a bonus sheet, but one of those factors is how the cards will play in Limited. It's okay to have some cards that players would be excited to open and own that don't play well in Limited, but we want most cards on a bonus sheet to be a positive addition to Limited play.
The Brothers' War—the story that is—wasn't designed as a story to maximize building a Magic set around it. Yes, it was an element of Antiquities, but more in a "these objects hint at a larger story" sense than in how we build sets nowadays. The story mostly came from the novel, which spent some time name-dropping Antiquities cards, but again, we weren't trying to design a story that maximized our ability to build a set out of it.
For example, the story is light on things that are in the green slice of the color pie, so we had to play up the end of the story to get enough green cards. We joked that, in many ways, making The Brothers' War was like designing a Universes Beyond set, as the story and characters were locked into place for the entirety of the design. Normally, if a set needs something, we can adjust the world accordingly. For instance, we needed Werewolves to be in red and green in original Innistrad, so the Creative team reshaped the world to make it true.
On the plus side, there was a lot of low-hanging fruit for us to pick. For instance, players have been asking for Ashnod and Gix cards for years, so it was great to finally deliver on them.
Interestingly, there were not. When Aaron and I first talked about seeing if we could make a premier set out of the Brothers' War, Aaron suggested we make a meld Urza and Mishra. The demo decks Ari and I created as proof of concept had them. The response to them was quite positive, and while they went through redesign, we never looked for a different option than meld.
As with any mechanical theme, seeing how it's used in play shapes how we balance other mechanical elements that interact in a similar space.
Q: Meld was an interesting mechanic in Eldritch Moon because you actually had a pair of commons that had the ability and could be triggered very easily. What was the thought process for bringing this mechanic back but exclusively in pairs requiring a rare and a mythic rare for each?
As I explained in my first preview article, we did experiment with common meld cards in vision design. In fact, we handed off a cycle of common cards where an artifact creature and a spell in each color melded together. There were many factors that kept them from making it to print.
Firstly, common meld cards require a lot of structure to support. You need a way to ensure players can get them in the same deck at a high enough rate in Limited. Then you need to make sure the set has enough tools to increase your ability to draw both. You also need to make sure certain elements that are commonly found in Magic sets don't disrupt them.
Secondly, the set was, at its core, about giant artifact armies fighting one another, and other elements of the set just played better into that theme than the common meld cards.
Lastly, there was just too much complexity in the set, and the meld commons were on the complex side. I do think one day we'll make a set with common meld cards, but it will be because it plays into the focus of what the set is doing.
It has only one artifact with colored mana in its mana cost (the machine from the present that allows Teferi to go back in time), but it's filled to the gills with artifacts that require colored mana to maximize their power. The problem with previous artifact blocks is that color played no role. Any deck could play any powerful artifact. Most artifacts in The Brothers' War can't just go into any deck because of the color restrictions, so it addresses that issue.
We did make a punch-out counter for it. You'll find them in Draft and Set Boosters. It's in the same slot as the tokens and the DFC helper card.
Q: How come artifacts that have a mana color in their text box or reference a basic land type have a set number that places them with those colored cards instead of after lands with the rest of the artifacts like they always have been?
Magic has defaults, but we're willing to move away from them if the set has a need for it. In this case, we made a significant number of artifacts that essentially connect to a certain color, meaning in both Limited and Constructed, you're significantly less likely to play them if you don't have access to the relevant color. Playtesters were treating them like that color for purposes of organization (such as how you make piles when building for Limited), so we changed the default to match player intuition.
The set is a top-down design built around the story. If ever a set is supposed to have a lot of story spotlights, it's a set like The Brothers' War.
The planeswalker cards in this set are the ones key to the story. Teferi is the time mage that goes back to the Brothers' War to gather information, Saheeli is the artificer needed to copy the Sylex (to stop the Phyrexians), and Urza is the protagonist. All three being blue was more happenstance than a planned thing. We did color balance the larger Standard environment, which is why Dominaria United didn't have any blue planeswalker cards.
Q: What was your one thing with this set? And I mean what was the one thing you needed and made sure got pushed and into the set? Be it a single card, mechanic, or even something that was just to fit the flavor of doing something that has already happened in the lore.
I cared most about not having colored mana in the mana costs of artifacts (save the one item from the present) and having as many top-down references to The Brothers' War and Antiquities as possible. I feel we were successful in both goals.
That's all the time I have for questions today. I want to thank everyone who took the time to send me a question. I'm sorry I couldn't get to them all. As always, I'm eager for any feedback on today's column, on any of the questions, or on The Brothers' War itself. You can email me or contact me through my social media accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and TikTok).
Join me next week for another one of my Storm Scale articles.
Until then, may you and your siblings get along slightly better than Urza and Mishra.