The final set of Commander decks for 2022 has arrived, and it’s an all-out brawl between the 2 brothers of Dominaria – Urza and Mishra! In The Brothers’ War, Urza builds and commands an inventive fleet of Artifacts, while Mishra turns to Gix and the Phyrexians to give him unholy power. The 2 Commander decks – Urza’s Iron Alliance and Mishra’s Burnished Banner – follow these themes closely and promise an epic and nostalgic battle for whoever picks them up.
For the first time ever, the entire Commander decks are also done up in Magic’s original card frame (now known as retro frames). These were how the first Magic cards looked like, and frankly was how we and many others from that generation got hooked onto the game.
So they definitely look good, but does that mean you should buy them? We put both to the test in our regular roundup!
Before we get started, here is the full deck lists, and a quick recap on our rating system:
Power Level: How likely can the deck hold its own and win against the other recent precon decks?
Value: How good is the deck in terms of financial value of reprints, as well as future potential gain?
Upgradability: How easily can this deck be upgraded and optimised with a small budget? A high potential for upgrades will lead to better scores.
Beginner Friendliness: How easily can a beginner pick up and learn the mechanics of the deck?
As always, do drop us an email if you have any suggestions or feedback on the deck ratings.
Urza’s Iron Alliance Deck Review
Iron Alliance makes full use of Urza’s title as master tinkerer, as the Commander Urza, Chief Artificer costs 1 Mana less for each of your Artifact Creatures. Since Urza, Chief Artificer gives all your Artifact Creatures Menace, and is even able to generate Constructs at the end of your turn, Urza’s Iron Alliance is truly a metallic beatdown unlike other tribal decks.
Urza’s Iron Alliance packs many familiar cards that boost Artifact Creatures, such as Foundry Inspector, Sai, Master Thopterist, Etched Champion, and Bronze Guardian, and that can mean only good things for the deck’s power level. Unfortunately the Mana curve isn’t as low as we would have hoped, since you’d want to make use of Urza, Chief Artificer‘s Affinity ability to get him out as quickly as possible. We’ll talk more about cheap Artifact Creatures in the Upgradability section.
Much of the deck’s high end cards don’t have much synergy between themselves apart from being either Artifact Creatures, or making use of them. Thought Monitor and Shimmer Dragon both help to refill your hand, and there are some big attackers like Steel Hellkite and Noxious Gearhulk. However, there are 11 cards that cost 6 Mana or more, and such a high curve tends to slow down decks a lot and make them weaker.
The gameplay can thus be quite linear – cast a bunch of Artifacts, then make even more Artifact Creatures after your Commander Urza comes onto the Battlefield. Both this and Mishra’s deck are clearly watered down in terms of power, especially when compared to the recent Warhammer 40k Commander decks. We’re doubtful it can even match the Capenna Commander decks, with all their new and specialised mechanics.
One could say that these 2 Brothers War Commander decks were made for players and collectors looking for value. Each of the 100 cards in both these decks come in retro frame.
If you’re hoping that retro frame cards will fetch a special premium, prepare to be let down. A retro-frame Chalice of the Void from Time Spiral Remastered is priced similarly to earlier prints, though a foil retro-frame Chalice can be sold at over 2 times the price since it was really hard to pull one from a pack. The same can’t be said for these preconstructed decks since they are readily available, and there aren’t any special foil editions that one can get.
There aren’t any high value reprints in Urza’s Iron Alliance, which is disappointing. Even in the Lands section, we are only given Temples (Temple of Deceit) and Bounce Lands (Dimir Aqueduct), instead of more valuable cards such as Check Lands (Drowned Catacombs) or Filter Lands.
Wizards have also opted to exclude any of the Talismans despite Urza’s Iron Alliance being a 3-colour deck. The less valuable Signets are found instead, ultimately giving the value department a weak showing.
Urza’s Iron Alliance has lots of room for upgrades, simply because the original list isn’t very finely tuned as other preconstructed decks. If you want focus strongly on the Artifact archetype, then putting Mana dorks in the form of Leaden Myr and Gold Myr will not only ramp you up quickly to cast bigger spells, they also play well with Urza, Chief Artificer since they will also inherit the Menace benefit, and contribute to the Construct’s Power and Toughness.
Now with the deck mostly made of Artifacts, it’s best to slot in spells that don’t affect them. Organic Extinction, Phyrexian Scriptures, and The Flesh is Weak are all optimal additions have a mass effect on all non-Artifacts. Having these available in the later part of the game can turn the tables easily when you wipe out all of their Creatures while leaving yours intact or even stronger.
Since Urza is leading the deck, why not let some friends join forces to make the deck stronger? There’s the new Urza, Lord Protector that can make Artifacts cheaper, Urza, Prince of Kroog that has an in-built Tempered Steel, and also Karn, Scion of Urza that creates similar Constructs to the ones made by Urza, Chief Artificer.
There are a lot of ways to utilise Artifacts, but this beat-down, combat approach can do well with some simple and affordable upgrades.
One of the best things about Urza’s Iron Alliance is that it keeps both flavour and playability at high levels for newer players to pick up. The retro frames are a joy to hold and shuffle, kept distant from all the new extended-art variants or Secret Lair versions that have been flooding the Magic market.
The deck also doesn’t force any complicated mechanics onto the players, and beginners will appreciate that. As long as they have the Artifact theme in mind, all they need to do is just keep casting spells, get Urza, Chief Artificer in, and start swinging with an army of Artifacts and Constructs.
The price is the only stumbling block for beginners. While it’s a rather low-powered deck with no high-value cards, it is still priced like a regular preconstructed deck instead of earlier starter decks like Elven Empire (unfortunately it’s now gone up in price because of its rarity).
Mishra’s Burnished Banner
In stark defiance to his brother, Mishra’s Burnished Banner doesn’t care much for building an Artifact army, but rather wants to cheat out behemoths and also copy abilities and effects. Mishra, Eminent One creates a 4/4 temporary token of any existing Artifact you control. It doesn’t sound great on its own, but the deck also relies on digging for big threats from the Library or Graveyard, and has a decent control package to keep Urza’s threats at bay.
Getting free triggers or cards is always going to up a deck’s power level, and Mishra’s Burnished Banner does that to some degree. Mishra, Eminent One‘s free 4/4 token can do more than just attack if the copied Artifact has an Enter the Battlefield or die trigger – Ichor Wellspring is a perfect example.
The secondary Commanders Ashnod the Uncaring and Muzzio, Visionary Architect both follow Mishra’s lead is creating value out of nothing, and when all 3 are on the board, things will certainly get out of hand as your abilities stack and your board balloons quickly.
The support and removal package that comes in Mishra’s Burnished Banner is also more impressive and effective than Urza’s preconstructed deck. Fact or Fiction, Expressive Iteration and Faithless Looting are all fine Commander cards that help you dig. Removal spells such as Bedevil, Chaos Warp, and Blasphemous Act are likewise very playable in many decks.
Late-game cards are rather expensive to cast and don’t deliver much. Workshop Elders and Hellkite Igniter might be too little, too late by the time you cast them. The real power comes when you keep bringing them back from the Graveyard through cards like Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Wondrous Cauldron.
The same problems that plagued Urza are also here in Mishra’s Burnished Banner. The Land base and Mana rock (i.e. Artifacts) support is just as lacklustre, but Mishra does have a couple of decent reprinted cards that put him just above his brother’s shoulders.
Lithoform Engine, Strionic Resonator and Cursed Mirror all have various forms of copying abilities, and carry some value. Lithoform Engine in particular was previously a Mythic Rare and thus more difficult to find.
And don’t look down on other playable cards like Master Transmuter and Expressive Iteration, both of which hover in the $5 range and should hold their value well. New cards, like Blast-Furnace Hellkite look fairly strong in the right decks, but time will tell if it can hold onto a respectable price.
Mishra surpasses his brother in the value department, even if it’s pretty average among the rest of the preconstructed decks released in the past year.
Mishra’s Burnished Banner does well by having many lines of play, propped up by a healthy number of Artifacts in the deck. However, it could do better on the high end, replacing non-Artifact Creatures like Hellkite Igniter with an Artifact Creature like Combustible Gearhulk or Ancient Stone Idol.
To make further use of the deck’s Commander, it’s best to swap in more non-Creature Artifacts that have an “Enter the Battlefield” trigger, or an ability that doesn’t require it to tap. Witching Well is a perfect example, costing a mere 1 blue Mana and can do as much as Scry 2 and draw 2 cards when you create a token copy of it and have the Mana to Sacrifice it before it dies.
Putting in Obeka, Brute Chronologist will also pair up nicely with Mishra, Eminent One as the former can end the turn right when you’re supposed to Exile the 4/4 token. With such a deadly duo, you can easily grow an army of 4/4 Creatures.
There is a lot of setting up needed for Mishra’s Burnished Banner, and that can overly complicate things for the beginner. For example, would a new player know how best to sync Mishra, Eminent One and Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer? It’s not apparent without guidance from a seasoned Magic player, and the deck is filled with many such interactions.
The reliance on copy effects can also confuse a new player, with him or her struggling to keep track which token is copying which Creature. Rather than being a wizard sending Artifacts to attack, they’d be playing logistics manager figuring out what activated abilities they can use, or what abilities trigger at each phase.
Between this and Urza’s Iron Alliance, Urza’s deck is more straightforward and easier to grasp despite both being heavily reliant on Artifacts. For beginners, we’d recommend using more of Mishra, Eminent One‘s combat-focused ability, since there are over 30 non-Creature Artifacts in the deck that can be turned in 4/4 attackers. Leave the copy effects and tutoring to the end when it’s time to close out the game.