The Great Brothers’ War Deck Suite Update For Commander

The Brothers’ War is full of goodies, so full that Sheldon Menery is putting over 50 cards in his Commander MTG decks. He shares the list and explores the highlights.

Queen Kayla bin-Kroog
Queen Kayla bin-Kroog, illustrated by Cristi Balanescu

Now 75-strong, my Commander deck collection is humming right along.  What’s different about many of the new ones is my departure from building all of them at the battlecruiser level where I’ll play most often.  I’ve added some that can play at the highest power (Isshin Habanero level), decks that have infinite combo finishers (Hofri’s Spirit Forge), ten-card upgraded pre-cons (Sefris Dungeons), $50 Budget (Ardenn and Ludovic), and a couple of Constructed sub-formats (Phelddagrif PreDH and Tovolar Innistrad Plane Constructed). 

Of course, I’ve also put together a few new ones that will play well in my “local” group, which is some jumbled collection of the other five Commander Rules Committee (RC) members.  Now, when I go to a show, like the upcoming Magic Cons in Philadelphia and Minneapolis, I can take a number of decks spread across various power levels (a term I don’t really like, but I understand that it’s convenient shorthand).  I’ll probably still borrow decks from people there, just to see what folks are building and to test their tolerance for playing against their own decks. 

The Challenge of Finding Room

We’re here, however, to talk about updating that deck suite with cards from The Brothers’ War. The set has quite a few saucy cards that will slot in existing decks, as well as commanders and cards which inspire new builds.  This exercise, now in its seventh or eighth year, has become a through-line that’s tethered me to the zip line of Magic history. 

It gets more difficult, because even with so many decks, it’s hard to find room for new cards.  Decks that have been around a while are really tight (within the band they’re operating).  Without a tremendous upheaval to their underlying structure, they have little room for cards that aren’t a strict upgrade, like what Gigantoplasm or Stunt Double did to Clone

Gigantoplasm Stunt Double Clone

Still, there are cool new cards to play.  Sometimes, like with various Animar, Soul of Elements builds, there’s plenty of potential room.  In the Animar example, all a card has to be is a cool creature with a low pip count, in order to take advantage of the commander’s ability. 

I generally decide what comes out of the deck when I finally have the cards physically in hand.  That’s why in the last few years I’ve gone to not mentioning what comes out because while I’m writing this piece:  I have yet to make the decision.  The main reason is that poring through the deck to figure what comes out can be the most time-consuming and laborious part of the process; I’ve stopped in order to make sure I’m able to hit my deadlines. 

I consider the new cards that come in the Commander preconstructed decks tied to the main release as eligible for this update.  The Commander singles that are only in the Set Boosters apply as well.  Back when I started this whole deal, I promised that I’d only put one copy of a new card into the whole collection, which can get really tricky when there’s a sweet new card (like Wandering Archaic from Strixhaven).  When I build new decks, however, I free myself to pick from the entire list of cards.  I couldn’t build a White/Black/X deck without Inkshield, now, could I?

There are so many cards coming into the suite that there’s not enough room in this piece to talk about each and every one of them.   I’ll provide you with the whole list, broken down by color, and then point out the highlights along the way.  If what a card is doing in a deck is relatively obvious, like being part of a creature type them or, for example, Myrel, Shield of Argive in Isshin Triggers Me, I’ll give it a skip. 


Calamity's Wake

Into:  Breena Will Do It to You

I’m not sure if this card is graveyard hate with a side order shutting down interaction for the turn or the other way around.  Any way you look at it, Calamity’s Wake racks up a great deal of value for just two measly mana.  I had to pick a deck that doesn’t make a great deal of use of the graveyard; Breena is one of my few black decks that doesn’t do a great deal with its own graveyard, so it was the right choice. 

Disciple of Caelus Nin

Into:  Haktos with Gavin Verhey

The deck operates on a pretty tight curve, so keeping just five permanents (six, counting Disciple of Caelus Nin) makes sense. If there’s not some removal for somewhere nearby, we’re off to the races. 

In the Trenches

Into:  Heliod, God of Enchantments

Loran of the Third Path

Into:  Lavinia Blinks

Lavinia is going to try to play some politics here, although “I blew up your thing, so I’ll give you a card” is just the surface version.  I suspect that oftentimes, the activation of this ability will be shared with someone who is either struggling to catch up or might have the right card that gets the rest of the table out of a tricky spot. 

Myrel, Shield of Argive

Into:  Isshin Triggers Me

Rescue Retriever

Into:  Rith’s Soldiers

Siege Veteran

Into:  Karador Do-Over

Tocasia's Welcome

Into:  Heliod, God of Enchantments

Without being gated to triggering only once per turn, Tocasia’s Welcome could get out of hand.  The way to take advantage of it is to put the card into a deck that can conceivably have a creature enter the battlefield on everyone else’s turns, too.  Heliod being able to create tokens with a mana value of zero is just perfect. 



Into:  Animar Do-Over

Flow of Knowledge

Into:  Thassa, Sea Goddess

One with the Multiverse

Into:  Merieke’s Esper Dragons

This Merieke deck, which I’ve now had for sixteen years, has some weighty creatures to cast.  I figure that letting One with the Multiverse do some of the heavy lifting for me leaves up mana for interaction on other players’ turns.  The card almost went into my biggest, splashiest deck, Dreaming of Intet, but there are only so many cards that I’m willing to get rid of from that one.  It wants other cards from The Brothers’ War instead.

Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim

Into:  Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers

“How fast can we get to 12 loyalty?” will be the eternal question for this version of Teferi in the Maro Sorcerer deck.  One Consecrated Sphinx might be all we need.  We can also double-dip by creating a token with the -2 ability before going full ham on card draw afterwards. 


Fateful Handoff

Into:  Glissa, Glissa

Cost- and risk-benefit analysis went into the decision to put Fateful Handoff into the Glissa, the Traitor deck.  First, it blows up creatures extremely well, so anything that we donate isn’t likely to last long.  Additionally, it runs Homeward Path—which was my first search criterion when narrowing down my choices. 

Gixian Puppeteer

Into:  Adun’s Toolbox

Gix's Command

Into:  Karador Do-Over

Hostile Negotiations

Into:  Oldest Stickfingers

Loving the game-within-the-game here. Playing Hostile Negotiations in a graveyard deck is all upside.  Not only are we going to get three cards for three life, we also will set up the graveyard for either some tomfoolery, or, in this particular deck, just making the commander into a larger beatstick. 

Misery's Shadow

Into:  Kresh Into the Red Zone

It might not be immediately apparent, but this Kresh, the Bloodbraided deck thrives on either a big Fling or an asymmetrical Living Death.  The latter is much easier to achieve when opponents’ creatures never hit the graveyard. 

Overwhelming Remorse

Into:  Karador Version 3


Brotherhood's End

Into:  Angry, Angry Dinos

Sometimes, you need to blow up a bunch of mana rocks.  Other times, you need to make your Dinosaurs angry.  Having both options at our fingertips is the way to go. 

Mechanized Warfare

Into:  Isshin Triggers Me

The first search line was on Goblin Bombardment.  From there, it was just trying to make something already aggressive a little more so.  Recency bias is definitely a thing and the Isshin deck is a relatively new and unplayed one at this point.  It’ll get even more reps when I remember that there are saucy new cards in it. 

Pyrrhic Blast

Into:  The Threat of Yasova

I’m just a fan of the development here, adding two mana to a Fling to draw a card.  It might be slightly spendy, though, as in the Yasova Dragonclaw deck we also have to lay out some mana in order to borrow creatures.  I suspect it’ll be fine, and I look forward to playing it enough to find out.

Sardian Avenger

Into:  Isshin Triggers Me

I would be happy to play this card at this cost if it had only one of either of its two abilities.  That it has both makes it one of the most exciting cards to come down the pike for some time.  I look forward to seeing even more Treasure hate in upcoming sets.

Sibling Rivalry

Into:  The Threat of Yasova

The Brothers' War

Into:  Karazikar Goad is Goat

I’ve already talked about how enamored I am with the raw design of this card.  Now, I want to take it to the next level by getting the thing stuck on Chapter II in perpetuity.  Spending two life to have Thrull Parasite (which we’ll also have to add to the deck) is a low price to pay, considering we’ll be able to regain that life via the Parasite’s extort ability. 



Into:  Kresh Into the Red Zone

Awaken the Woods

Into:  Prossh (Was Karrthus Do-Over)

I list this deck as Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, leading the cards that were once the Karrthus Do-Over deck.  What it now is in truth is a deck that I randomly choose from any Jund commander to play. There are now 30 choices.  The deck is a little mana-hungry, so creating a bunch of lands isn’t the worst thing.  If we’re actually playing the Prossh version, we’ve also just created more sacrifice fodder as well. 

Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea

Into:  Swarmlord of Hydras

Rootpath Purifier

Into:  Halloween with Karador

I wanted one of the marquee cards from the set to got into one of my marquee decks.  Karador is the one that I do some land searching, like with Karametra, God of Harvests, so being able to ring up a Bojuka Bog or Westvale Abbey at the right time makes a great deal of sense.  It also makes me wonder if I should reconfigure the land base to include some of the more busted things we can find courtesy of Rootpath Purifier, like Gaea’s Cradle, Cabal Coffers, or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.  Maybe folks who have never played under the shadow of a legal Primeval Titan will get a better understanding of why it is still on the Banned List. 

Titania, Nature's Force

Into:  Muldrotha, Gravely Speaking

Titania's Command

Into:  Jenara Proliferate

Titania, Voice of Gaea

Into:  Muldrotha, Gravely Speaking


Legions to Ashes

Into:  Aminatou’s Demons

Whether they’re Plant tokens from Avenger of Zendikar or a pile of built-up Treasures that someone is waiting to go off with, having a little extra interaction on our side will keep us alive longer.  Legions to Ashes clearly won’t solve the problem of a player going off with a bunch of newly created Treasures, but there are a number of other questions that it’ll provide nice answers to.

Queen Kayla bin-Kroog

Into:  Hofri’s Spirit Forge

The Hofri deck might not even be the best one I have for Queen Kayla bin-Kroog to make an appearance in, but it’s my favorite new deck at the moment, so it makes sense to jam a cool new card that can do some tricks into it.  I look forward to exploring the play patterns that will determine whether she’ll stay for the long haul.


Cityscape Leveler

Into:  Animar’s Swarm

An Animar, Soul of Elements deck is a wonderful choice for a creature that costs no colored mana to cast, since there will be times we’re casting it for free.  Getting to blow up stuff both on casting and attacking makes things even sweeter.  Giving away a Powerstone token is the least you can do when you nuke someone’s best card and then smash them for eight. 

Haywire Mite

Into:  Glissa, Glissa

This one is relatively straightforward, but I really want to focus on the fact that it exiles instead of destroying, which is huge in Commander.  The more turns there are in a game, the more important it becomes.  I like this one so much that I’m tempted to swap it into my Karador, Ghost Chieftain deck in place of Silverchase Fox.  The only downside is that it can’t hit enchantment creatures.  It’s definitely one I want to spend some thought on.

Hulking Metamorph

Into:  Animar Do-Over

Liberator, Urza's Battlethopter

Into:  Karn Evil No. 9

Liberator might be transformational enough to warrant serious consideration to take over as the commander of the Karn deck.  The simple fact of giving the entire deck flash is not to be dismissed out of hand.  The triggered ability is fine and all, but it really is all about the timing.

The Mightstone and Weakstone

Into:  Karn Evil No. 9

Since I have yet to build a deck into which Urza, Lord Protector really fits, there’s some freedom to use The Mightstone and Weakstone as some card draw and mana acceleration.  Urza, Planeswalker also doesn’t really excite me all that much, expanding said freedom that much more.

Phyrexian Fleshgorger

Into:  Glissa, Glissa

Platoon Dispenser

Into:  Rith’s Soldiers

We get this altered into some kind of Pez dispenser, right? 

Portal to Phyrexia

Into:  Karn Evil No. 9

Razorlash Transmogrant

Into:  Zombies of Tresserhorn

Rootwire Amalgam

Into:  Karador Version 3

I’m absolutely grooving on the prototype mechanic.  I think I want to look for decks that play Conjurer’s Closet, then cast the prototype version in the early-game.  Rootwire Amalgam blinked out and back in and (later, as a sorcery) sacrificed is going to create a rather large Golem.  Even if they don’t have evasion, 15/15s are nothing to sneeze at.

Rust Goliath

Into:  Rith Do-Over

The Rith Do-Over deck is about blinking, so we’ll always see Rust Goliath cast early.  This one will eventually get in there for some trample damage.  I also appreciate the fact that it’s a common.  Wonder how many Pauper Commander decks will like it.

Slagstone Refinery

Into:  Glissa, Glissa

Spectrum Sentinel

Into:  Haktos with Gavin Verhey

Staff of Titania

Into:  Swarmlord of Hydras

While not quite an upgrade from Sword of the Animist, it can certainly fit into a deck right beside it.  I like it for creating creature enters-the-battlefield triggers, like with Aura Shards—a nice, repeatable way (at zero cost, once it’s equipped) to pick off those artifacts and enchantments that might be shutting us down. 

Steel Seraph

Into:  Trostani’s Angels

The Stasis Coffin

Into:  Hofri’s Spirit Forge

The Stasis Coffin has already been around to save my bacon, having gotten drawn in the first game I played with it in the Hofri deck.  People are calling it a colorless Teferi’s Protection—I won’t go that far, but it’s still pretty nice.  Now we just need more cards that return stuff from exile.

Transmogrant Altar

Into:  Zombies of Tresserhorn


Argoth, Sanctum of Nature

Into:  Muldrotha, Gravely Speaking

Demolition Field

Into:  Ever-Changing Dane

What The Ever-Changing ‘Dane wants to avoid is getting shut down by a Maze of Ith.  The deck wants commander damage kills, so Demolition Field will work alongside perennial favorite Tsabo’s Web as the kinder, gentler kind of nonbasic land destruction.  Demolition Field will challenge Ghost Quarter in my long-term plans for nonbasic land removal, although I’ll have to measure whether the fact that Ghost Quarter can target one of my own lands (and basics to boot) is a significant factor or not. 

Summing Up

This update is gigantic, with a personal record-shattering 52 cards from the set coming into more than 30 different decks.  Coming on the heels of other large updates, from Dominaria United and Warhammer 40,000 Commander, there’s quite a bit to do.  The work of doing all those updates will be quite a time-consuming undertaking, considering that there’s more than just swapping in cards.  There are also the thoroughly unexciting tasks of updating the Archidekt lists and filing away the cards that were taken out. 

Always remember we have a channel on the Commander RC Discord server dedicated to discussing my articles.  I’d love to hear about features that you’d like to see, material you want more coverage on, or even things that you think just aren’t working.  I’m all ears.  Join nearly 8,000 friends for discussion of not just this piece, but on a wide variety of topics—both Commander-related and not.  Hope to see you there!

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