Magic: The Gathering’s latest set, The Brothers’ War, puts one of the most important MTG storylines of all time into focus. Players will finally witness the evolution of two iconic characters into their most powerful and game-defining forms with the set’s release this November.
Among the new and returning game mechanics featured in The Brothers’ War, one stands out in particular because the sheer size of the game’s cards is impossible to overlook. For the first time since 2016, players will get to “meld” cards into huge, game-ending powerhouses. The meld mechanic, only seen once before in 2016’s Eldritch Moon, allows you to combine two cards into one. Yes, the melded cards are twice as big and just as awesome as they sound.
To make meld possible, cards featuring the mechanic don’t have the typical branded card back most other Magic cards feature. Instead, they are double-faced cards that flip over and combine into one when two corresponding cards are simultaneously on the battlefield and a specific condition is met. Payers won’t need special sleeves for these cards — they rest nicely next to one another to form the melded card.
In the lineup of meld cards in the upcoming set are the two central figures from The Brothers’ War storyline, Urza and Mishra, two powerful inventors whose hunger for knowledge and power drove them to a cataclysmic feud. Bits and pieces of this universe-altering confrontation have been the backbone to Magic’s lore for most of its 30-year history, but after Magic’s official storyline took a journey back in time, players will finally see the scale of this conflict firsthand as a sibling rivalry gone wrong leads to the rise and evolution of these powerful artificers.
Magic’s artificers are a class of wizards who specialize in making machines and trinkets that often produce synergies or rewards for players who incorporate artifact cards in their decks. Mishra and Urza are no different, as both require powerful artifacts to be in play alongside the brothers’ corresponding creature cards in order for them to meld into a singular, more powerful card altogether.
According to Gavin Verhey, one of Magic’s principal designers at Wizards of the Coast, melding cards is meant to be a challenge.
“You want to get the balance at kind of the sweet spot where it happens sometimes and it’s really awesome when it happens, but you don’t want it to be so strong that it happens super easily,” Verhey said during an exclusive press-only briefing.
Not only does meld require players to draw and play two specific cards for the mechanic to work, but the commitment requires a significant amount of mana to play both sides of a given combo. In the case of Urza, having him along with The Mightstone and Weakstone in play costs 8 mana total, not to mention the additional 7 mana to activate Urza’s melding ability. Thankfully, the outcome is a brand-new planeswalker card unlike any the game has ever seen.
Urza’s new planeswalker card is the first of its kind to allow multiple ability activations in one turn, and the first planeswalker to feature five different abilities. And since getting Urza, Planeswalker in play requires a huge resource commitment, his abilities do not hold back. Urza is a singular win condition for the decks that can play him, capable of stabilizing a player’s life total, drawing additional cards, removing opposing cards under opponents’ control, creating creatures, and even generating virtual mana by making additional artifacts cheaper to play.
The outcome of The Brothers’ War has been known to players since the storyline of 1994’s Antiquities expansion, when we learned of Urza’s victory by way of a massive explosion that nearly destroys the entire realm of Dominaria, where most of Magic’s stories take place. So it may seem like the Urza card is meant to be stronger than his brother’s meld form. But that doesn’t look to be the case.
Unlike the slow and methodical decks where Urza will likely fit best, Mishra and his melding counterpart, Phyrexian Dragon Engine, are designed to support aggressive strategies that aim to beat opponents down to a pulp. Eventually, when both Mishra and the Dragon Engine attack together, they meld into Mishra, Lost to Phyrexia, an equally aggressive finisher that will frequently end games on the spot.
By itself, Mishra, Claimed by Gix attacks for 5 damage, in addition to the extra life-drain ability that triggers whenever he attacks alongside other creatures. Once Mishra melds into his Lost to Phyrexia form, players choose three additional powerful abilities that opponents will quickly find difficult to recover from.
The meld can deal 3 damage on sight, directly at an opponent or to get a creature out of the way; it can destroy another creature or planeswalker; it can give all attacking creatures some extra beatdown power with trample and menace; it can completely dry up an opponent’s resources by making them discard two cards; it can shrink an entire opponent’s board by giving defending creatures -1/-1; or, in a worst case scenario, it set up future turns by making a couple mana generators in the form of powerstone tokens.
During the briefing, Wizards of the Coast revealed one more meld card that will appear in the set, another depiction of an iconic character on a brand-new card that rewards an entirely different style of gameplay and deck strategy than the brothers. Enter Titania, Voice of Gaea along with Argoth, Sanctum of Nature, which together meld into Titania, Gaea Incarnate.
Titania (detailed above) features an unusual design that sidesteps the traditional ramp archetype that green decks support, since she primarily cares both about a deck’s lands finding their way into the graveyard. Argoth, on the other hand, is just a land that taps for green mana or can be activated to create additional creatures.
Unlike the brothers and their meld requirements, Titania’s conditions are the cheapest and can potentially happen fastest. By herself, Titania costs 3 mana, while Argoth enters play for free. Since Titania only melds during the upkeep step, one of the first phases in a player’s turn, this means she can’t meld until the turn after she comes into play at the earliest. But while Mishra and Urza require tons of mana and likely aren’t melding until turns five or six, if not later, Titania, Gaea Incarnate could hit the battlefield by turn four in a deck designed to funnel lands cards quickly into graveyard on the first one or two turns before the 3-mana creature is cast.
Like the other meld cards, Gaea Incarnate is a massive threat that can win games on her own, potentially on the turn she enters play. She continues to scale as more lands enter the battlefield, and left unchecked, will frequently win games in a turn or two.
The Brothers’ War cards come out for pre-release weekend on Nov. 11, followed by the set’s digital release on Magic: The Gathering Arena and Magic: The Gathering Online on Nov. 15, before the set’s official tabletop release on Nov. 18.