The Vorthos Guide to Magic: The Gathering
Today we continue our coverage of one of the most important events in Magic’s history. The Brothers' War is an event that ended with the devastation of a plane, the birth of the Ice Age and the ascension of Urza Planeswalker. This is the event that would define the rest of Urza's life and shape his personal war with Phyrexia for millenia to come. During Part I, we talked about the continent of Terisiare and the Brothers' lives as young men. Now we return to the brothers after they've both had major upheaval in their lives and have finally ascend to postions of power.
Urza has gotten everything he wanted: nearly unlimited funding and freedom to build artifacts as he wishes. He spends his days working on newer, better Ornithopter designs (and ignoring his wife), but it would be the arrival of his future apprentice Tawnos that changes his life for the better. Mishra, on the other hand, is still a slave to the Fallaji. Since that fateful night when he tried to steal his brother's stone, things have only gotten worse. He was sold into slavery, and his life was only saved by an old friend who convinced the Qadir to take him on as a tutor for his young son. Mishra's place is more secure now, after a feverish dream summoned forth a powerful dragon engine from the ground, killing the old Qadir and leaving him the wizard to the new one.
Tawnos' toys designs saved his life on more than one occasion.
Vanguard Tawnos Art by Donato Giancola
Apprentices & Betrayal
Urza isn’t what you would call a good husband. He spends all his time in his workshop, perfecting the design of the Ornithopter and mostly ignoring Kayla. He’s pretty alone in this, until the arrival of his latest apprentice: a young man named Tawnos. Tawnos was a toymaker who impresses Urza with his creativity and skill, the Master Artificer taking an immediate shine to the younger man. I should note here, Tawnos is pretty much the most likable character in the story. He’s genuine, he’s kind, he’s brave - and he’s a badass when he needs to be. Urza, for his part, becomes popular with the people as well, especially as he devises healing amulets for Kroog’s temples. When an invitation for a peace summit with the Qadir comes along, he thinks nothing of it… although the Warlord and Rusko conspire to use Urza’s inventions for war.
Mishra takes his own apprentice as the new Qadir’s forces begin to steamroll the other tribes into submission. Mishra has been gaining power and respect himself, as it becomes clear to the Fallaji who the real power is - only Mishra can control the dragon engine. When Mishra is sent, along with the dragon engine, to subdue some holdouts at Zegon, he encounters Ashnod - a ruthless young woman who, with no formal training, built herself a staff that weakens and inflicts pain. Ashnod works for the leaders of Zegon, but Mishra convinces her over to his side with the promise of knowledge and power. With Zegon taken, the Suwwardi are now in control of a Fallaji Empire, something that worries the Warlord. He allies with the other coastal nations, Argive and Korlis. The two united forces clash along their borders (especially along the Yotian border) with greater and greater frequency, until a peace summit is called.
The Warlord sees his chance to grab for more power with the summit, and secretly loads the Ornithopters with explosives. The Qadir, for his part, plans a cowardly assassination of the Warlord. When the two forces meet, Urza and Mishra meet again for the first time at the summit, but both planned betrayals go into effect before they can reconcile, destroying any chance of the brothers reuniting. The Warlord is killed and Urza realizes that he had planned a betrayal behind Urza’s back when the Ornithopter pilots were a little too ready to retaliate. This misunderstanding is the final catalyst in Mishra's bitterness towards his brother, and any familial bond between the two is shattered.
Mishra's attempt to replicated the Phyrexian dragon engines were... disappointing.
Vanguard Mishra Art by Anson Maddocks
The Brothers' War Begins
In the aftermath of the summit, Mishra realizes how outmatched his forces are by Urza’s artifacts. He needs more than a single dragon engine if he hopes to defeat his brother, and he knows the place to find them - the place from his visions and dreams - Phyrexia. He and Ashnod head to Koilos. Mishra places the weakstone back where it once resided, and it provides enough power to reactivate the device it was attached to: a functioning planar portal to Phyrexia. There, they find a trio of dragon engines, far more advanced than the one he already has. He tames them, but they’re chased out by terrifying Phyrexian Demon named Gix. Gix isn’t a true demon - he is simply a very highly placed Phyrexian, which are known as demons. Gix tries to follow them out, but the portal closes before he can flee. Outside, Mishra and Ashnod look over their prizes of the three new dragon engines.
The war continues onwards until Mishra, with his new dragon engines, calls for another peace summit. Urza, now the Lord Protector of Argive and Yotia, agrees. Mishra arrives in Kroog with Ashnod, a single dragon engine and a token force of soliders. There is a night of revelry during which Ashnod attempts to seduce Tawnos - as well as offer to allow him to inspect the dragon engine - but also warn him. The two apprentices are almost complete opposites, but they commiserate about serving under the brothers and end up developing a sort of flirty bond. Tawnos is no fool and suspects something is amiss, and when things head south he ensures Ashnod is captured. And when things do go south, he prevents her execution.
It’s been years since Kayla and Urza were first married, and in the time since her father’s death she’s grown into a strong and confident leader - although her husband still doesn’t pay her the attention he should, their marriage has become more than just a means to an end for Urza. This is thanks to, in part, Tawnos - who is able to help redirect Urza when his obsessions begin to take over. So when Urza discovers that part of Mishra’s demands is a night with the princess (or Warlady, now), he shows true emotion for the first time in the memory of all who know him in Yotia. He shows his rage, which doubles when he learns the mightstone was also part of the deal. He and his brother clash again inside the princess’ bedchamber and Mishra flees with the dragon engine. Ashnod is captured, and she and Tawnos bond some more - not true friends, but they develop a mutual respect. He takes the opportunity to inspect her staff, which he eventually reproduces.
Urza gives chase, but learns too late that he was being led away so that a full assault on Kroog could happen without Kroog’s Ornithopters to defend it. The full might of the Fallaji and the dragon engines fall upon Kroog. Kayla - now pregnant - and Tawnos only escape with the aid of Ashnod, disappearing on a small boat down the river as the city is razed. It would be years before Urza set eyes on them again. In the mean time, he began mass production of a new artificial solider (which would withstand the test of time and be replicated elsewhere).
Hush now. No tears, only dreams.
Vanguard Gix Art by Pete Venters
The Cost of War
I need to make one thing clear here. Urza is only ever the hero of a story due to the relative awfulness of his adversaries. He’s just as ruthless as his opponents, just as indifferent to life as they are, the difference is only in that he has a reason to oppose them. In any other story, he would be the villain. He and Mishra strip the continent bare - and that’s not an exaggeration, as generations growing up after the war began have never laid eyes on a forest. Both brothers commit acts of genocide - Urza slaughters the dwarves of Sardia after the construction of his colossus because they also sold materials to Mishra.
The brothers are also so consumed with each other that they fail to notice a greater threat in their midst. Gix has re-opended to the portal from Phyrexia and claimed a small group of followers - the Brotherhood of Gix - that he has fused with artifice and sent out to play all side of the conflict against one another. Urza keeps them at arm’s length, but Mishra begins to rely on the Brotherhood more and more throughout the war. Slowly, they force out his friends Ashnod and Hajar and worm their way into his inner circle. When Mishra’s health begins to fail, the Brotherhood step into offer… radical methods of self-sustainment. Ashnod, for her part, is busy creating her own easily mass produced creations to combat Urza's growing mechanical force.
Urza recovers from the loss of Kroog by rebuilding in Argive. He’s reunited with Kayla and Tawnos, and Kayla’s son, Harbin - who he believes to be Mishra’s. He keeps Kayla at arms length for the rest of their time together, and while he dotes on Harbin he never truly believes the boy to be his own son. Urza and Tawnos, however, are as close as ever, and Urza promotes Tawnos to the rank of Master Artificer as well. Together, they push back against the Fallaji and retake Yotia.
As the war rages on, Tawnos is captured and taken to Mishra’s camp. Ashnod senses something is up with the Brotherhood of Gix - Tawnos realizes they’re also at Urza’s court - and so she frees him. Tawnos’ escape was a trap the Brotherhood set up for her, and she is exiled from Mishra’s court. With nothing else to do, she becomes a raider, her technology allowing her to quickly become a dominant force in the west. On Tawnos’ return, Urza removes the Brotherhood of Gix from his court. Tawnos begins work on his ‘coffin’, a human-sized box capable of putting people in suspended animation. His hope is that they can capture Mishra rather than having to kill him.
Like many 'great' men, it was Drafna's wife who was truly amazing.
Hurkyl's Recall by NeNe Thomas
The Third Path
Not everyone wants to join the Brothers' War, however. A small group meets at Terisia City - independent from the war and far to the west - calling themselves the Third Path. This group includes Loran, one of Tocasia’s other students and the childhood friend of Urza and Mishra. Scholars avoiding the conflict from all over the continent join them, including Hurkyl, Drafna, and Feldon. They want a way to stay out of the conflict or defend themselves from the brothers, without resorting to the same strip mining tactics. Hurkyl is a quiet woman who, as others begin to notice, odd things happen around. Her husband, Drafna, is much more boisterous and loud, and although he seems like an arrogant jerk he loves his wife deeply. They were co-founders of the College of Lat-Nam, located on an island off shore of the main continent. Slowly, they begin to reveal the secrets of magic, which the other scholars are resistant to, at first.
Feldon was a scholar who had lived near the Ronom Glacier and excavated many interesting items there, and he brought two artifacts with him to Terisia City - a cane he had uncovered, as well as the Golgothian Sylex. The Sylex had an inscription, that only became clear later, which essentially gave the instructions to pour into it the memories of the land to wipe the world clean. He and Loran arrived at Terisia City around the same time, and they immediately hit it off and over time came to fall in love.
But Mishra was not content to allow the Third Path neutrality. While the war stalled in the east, he attacked Terisia City in the west with three dragon engines. The Third Path had been betrayed by the Brotherhood of Gix to Mishra. During the assault, Hurkyl reveals her true power and removes the dragon engines attacking the city from existence, buying a little time, but the overwhelming Fallaji force still takes the city. Still, Loran and the other manage to escape, but Feldon (who needs a cane to walk) can’t keep up and gives her the Sylex for safekeeping.
Loran gets separated and ends up with a group that is attacked by raiders - Ashnod’s raiders. Ashnod eventually tortures the secret of the Sylex (and magic) from her and lets her go free. Ashnod returns to Mishra from exile, but he dismisses magic as superstition (although he allows her to stay). Both Ashnod and Hajar have been completely pushed out of Mishra’s inner circle at this point, thanks to the Brotherhood. Mishra looks younger and more fit than ever, and is planning an assault on a previously unknown island: Argoth.
The brothers had more or less already destroyed the continent before the Sylex blast.
Retaliation by Tom Fleming
The Battle for Argoth
The war has been raging for decades, and Harbin has become a young man, desperate to become an Ornithopter pilot. Urza allows him to do so (he loves him… like an uncle), but puts him on scouting missing rather than direct combat. Harbin gets trapped inside a massive storm, and crash lands on an uncharted island off the coast. Until now, the direction was believed to be impassable due to that massive storm, but we learn that the storm exists to block outsiders. The elemental Titania is the defender and de factor ruler of the island, and has decreed that ousiders should be killed if they harm the forest. One of her beach scouts takes pity on Harbin, however, and shows him a piece of deadwood to use for repairs rather than cutting a fresh branch. Harbin makes the necessary repairs and is allowed to leave, although when she finds out, Titania makes it clear the rule was just for show - she really wants all outsiders dead because she knows whats coming next.
When Harbin returns home with news of a lush land just off shore, Urza quickly moves to claim it. His forces battle Titania’s for every inch of the island, and Urza’s pleas about the danger his brother poses don’t dissuade her. Unable to keep the secret forever, Mishra arrives on the island as well, with Ashnod in tow (who still has the Sylex). Titania’s woodland and fey creatures are no match for the brothers' combined might, and are quickly squeezed out of the fight. The night before Urza and Mishra’s forces are to meet, Tawnos and Ashnod meet in secret. Ashnod gives Tawnos the Sylex and the key to magic (memories of the land), hoping that it will help end the war - or at least to keep it out of Mishra’s hands.
At last, the confrontation comes down to the two brothers once more, and Urza is horrified to learn in the ensuing fight that Mishra is just skin stretched over artifice, explaining why his brother still looks so young. During the battle, Gix reveals himself and seizes control of both side’s artifacts. Ashnod attempts to distract Gix so that Tawnos can get away, but she is killed. Urza orders Tawnos to escape, and as Gix and his brother close in, Urza puts an end to the conflict once and for all: he activates the Sylex.
The resulting blast annihilates both armies, levels the Argoth and sets in motion an environmental catastrophy. That would eventually become the Ice Age. Gix escapes to Koilos just in time, but loses a hand as the portal closes behind him. Tawnos escapes by putting himself in his coffin. As the blast rips through Urza, however, something happens. The mightstone and his brother’s weakstone’s power infuse him, and Urza’s latent spark ignites. Urza has become a planeswalker.
Dawn of the Ice Age
Five years later, Urza returns to what is left of Argoth and releases Tawnos from the coffin. The two have brief talk, and Tawnos realizes Urza might be slightly mad. Urza’s eyes are now the powerstones he and his brother discovered all those years ago, and he says a final farewell to his friend, Tawnos. Presumably, Tawnos reunites with Kayla and Harbin - although it’s not clear if Urza ever sees them again. Kayla writes the definitive history of the war as the Ice Age begins, which thousands of years later is still in print. Urza’s name becomes a common Dominarian curse, while Tawnos is remembered with the respect he deserves. But Urza’s personal journey has only just begun. He returns to Koilos and with his new powers, learns the name of his foe: Phyrexia.
After the war, Feldon and Loran are reunited, but Ashnod’s torture and the changing climate mean she dies shortly afterward. Distraught, Feldon goes on a journey trying everything at his disposal to bring his loved one back to life, but he finally finds closure after many failed attempts - including through artifice and necromancy - by saying goodbye to a resurrected copy of his love. Content, Feldon shares what he has learned about all the colors of magic with scholars and mages who visit him.
Thanks for reading! This was our first foray into pre-mending lore, so we hope you enjoyed it! You won't have to wait long to find out what happens next, as next month we're bringing back a classic series of articles from MTGS' past: Remember the Weatherlight! In the mean time, enjoy our return to Zendikar!
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments or on the forum, and we’ll address it in future updates. Have a suggestion for something you’d like to see? Let us know, and we could address it in a future column.