Will Powerstones in The Brothers’ War Break Pauper MTG?

No matter how often it happens, there’s always a bit of excitement before a new set gets released. Historically for Pauper, this excitement centers on scouring the spoilers for the powerful morsels that might make waves in the format. Lately, it’s been more like a snack, but with The Brothers’ War, I’m worried that this might resemble a scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. And it’s all because of Powerstones.

Powerstone Token

Powerstone tokens are a central mechanic to the next release. They are artifact tokens that tap for a colorless mana, and cannot be used to cast nonartifact spells. As of writing, all cards we have seen that generate Powerstones have them enter the battlefield tapped. Note this is only restricted to casting spells and the mana can still be used to activate abilities. While there have not been any commons revealed with this mechanic yet, it is safe to assume that some commons will make them if only for Limited considerations.



To Affinity and Beyond

Myr EnforcerThoughtcastDeadly Dispute

So why does this mechanic have me on edge? The biggest reason is Affinity. Affinity is already one of the best decks in the format thanks to cheap threats like Myr Enforcer, strong card draw in Thoughtcast and Deadly Dispute, and efficient removal in Galvanic Blast. While a Powerstone might not cast every spell in the current builds of Affinity, it still will generate extra mana for Myr Enforcer and turn on every metalcraft synergy. Blood Fountain and Deadly Dispute have both shown the value of generating extra artifact tokens and these don’t stick around once they do their business. Treasures can generate a single mana in the vein of Lotus Petal and don’t stick around. Powerstones might not be able to produce discrete colors of mana but they can tap for mana turn after turn, providing a persistent advantage that other token generators in Affinity cannot. 

And this only takes into account current takes on Affinity. If Powerstones are as powerful as they look, they could help open up other options. Frogmite might be the only other reasonable artifact creature with Affinity that’s legal, but creatures like Arcbound Tracker only need a little push to get over the line and see play.

Imperial OathMoan of the UnhallowedBattle Screech

Affinity is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these tokens, but for the next part I want to take a step back and talk about the wider issue of material in Pauper. In my Deep Dive on Golgari Ramp I talked about the material generated by cards like Imperial Oath and Moan of the Unhallowed and how they’ve gone up in value. Pauper these days is about playing to the board and if you can get more game pieces into play from a single card, you’re put in a position to come out ahead. Time and time again, we see this come up with cards like Blood Fountain, Deadly Dispute, Thraben Inspector, Voldaren Epicure and more. These cards have simple effects and bring more to the table than a single card but unlike Battle Screech and its ilk, these are artifacts which fuel important synergies in Pauper. If Powerstones are costed similarly to Treasures, they could easily flood the board, providing acceleration on top of supporting a deck’s themes. 

These themes are why artifact tokens are more valuable than things like the Birds from Battle Screech or Eldrazi Spawn from Nest Invader. Artifact-based decks are already eating up more and more of the competitive Pauper metagame with cards like Kuldotha Rebirth seeing an uptick in play. Deadly Dispute is one of the single most important cards in the past three years and giving the instant even more fodder is sure to send its meta share through the roof. And this is to say nothing of these tokens ability to scry with the Strixhaven Campuses or pop Clues for cards.

Makeshift Munitions

But now we get to the part that makes me the most nervous. Many decks that have extra artifacts or creatures laying around have taken to running Makeshift Munitions. Originally from Ixalan and shifted to common in Commander Legends, the enchantment comes across as a great way to turn extra Treasure tokens into damage. However, in Pauper, this cards has become something far scarier. It picks off entire armies and uses the abundance of material available to keep boards free of creatures or to fling every last artifact land at the opponent’s dome. One of the benefits to sacrificing the lands is that they can tap themselves to pay the cost in a way that most creatures, Treasures and Blood cannot. Powerstones can tap to feed themselves to Munitions, which means that instead of having to trade actual investments in cards and mana, the enchantment can now just eat tokens whole hog and not have to worry about feeding the cannon actual cards.

The number of so-called “fair” aggressive decks has been on the decline. Cards like Burning-Tree Emissary and Goblin Cohort already matched up poorly with the sweepers available to Pauper, but Munitions did work picking off the rest of the threats. If Munitions gets better, it will only be harder for creatures that do not also generate value to see play.

This is part of the issue with non-rotating formats, but it speaks to another persistent issue with Pauper. Right now, aggressive decks either need to lean heavily on synergy or be red. While it may be the case that traditional beatdown is a thing of the past, an increase in the presence and utility of Makeshift Munitions could have unintended consequences of hitting other creature-based strategies and leaving the format ripe for Myr Enforcer, Gurmag Angler and Tolarian Terror to rule the battlefield.

To be clear, all of this could be for naught. Powerstones could be perfectly balanced and not come in such abundance that they become an issue. I know that I’ll be watching this spoiler season with a bit more trepidation than usual, and a healthy hope that I’m worried about nothing.


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