It turns out, Magic: The Gathering creator Wizards of the Coast has had its next set, The Brothers’ War, in the works for a long time. It was all thought up years ago, and though it looked rather different in its first form – it wasn’t even a proper set at first – many of the elements that made it into the final product were dreamt up super early on.
“Wizards has had this under its hat for a long time,” senior designer Gavin Verhey tells Wargamer. He says the idea was born during something called ‘Project Lightbulb’, roughly five years ago, which was intended to come up with supplemental MTG sets like Battlebond and Conspiracy.
The Brothers’ War was initially planned to be one of those, however, “everyone got so excited about it that it got promoted to be a full set, and we knew that at some point coming down the pipeline we would do a full The Brothers’ War set”.
Mark Rosewater goes into more detail in his latest Making Magic blogpost. He attributes the initial idea to designer Ethan Fleischer, who envisioned a supplemental artifact set that would appeal to enfranchised MTG players.
Wizards needed a proof of concept to show how The Brothers’ War would work as a full Magic set, since heavy artifact themes “had proven challenging in premier sets” in the past. So, Rosewater explains: “I had something like a month to make a playable demo that could show off the potential of what the set could be”.
The test version, which Rosewater created with Ari Nieh, seems to have had many of the fundamental mechanics nailed down. There was the prototype of Prototype: “[artifacts] needed generic mana costs but could involve colors in their rules text”. There was Meld (though at common, and only on artifacts). There was even Unearth. Wizards did end up scrapping a mechanic called Scrap, however.
Wizards ended up sitting on its The Brothers’ War idea for a while. “For a number of reasons, related to the story, and the Phyrexians coming back, and all this stuff, now was the perfect time to do it,” Verhey says. Not to mention – he adds – it makes a great lead-in to Magic’s 30th Anniversary.