Welcome back to "Who Is..." on Magic Untapped.
It's finally time we take a look at the two key players in Magic: The Gathering's "The Brothers' War" storyline: Urza and his younger brother, Mishra. In this first of a two-part finale of our look at "Brothers' War" characters, we take a look at the brothers from childhood up to the penultimate days of the land-altering war.
Enjoy the show.
Welcome back to Who Is on Magic Untapped as we explore the origins and backstories of various characters in the Magic: The Gathering multiverse.
Over the past handful of months, we’ve been highlighting characters from Magic’s The Brothers’ War storyline, but we’ve more-or-less left out the war’s two namesake characters up to this point: Urza and Mishra.
At least, until now.
In this two part finale of our Brothers’ War character coverage, we finally tell the story of the feuding artificer brothers.
On the first day of what historians would later call the year 0 AR (for Argivian Reckoning), a boy named Urza was born to a noble family of Argive – one of the three kingdoms that, at the time, were found on the Dominarian continent of Terisaire. On the final day of that same year, Urza’s younger brother, Mishra, was born.
A few years into their life, their mother died. Their father soon remarried, but their new mother treated them with indifference, if anything at all.
Then, when Urza was ten and Mishra nine, their father fell ill. He arranged to have the two boys sent out to the excavation camps of an archeologist named Tocasia, whom owed the boy’s father a favor, for her to watch over the pair as they serve as her apprentices.
Under Tocasia’s steady hand, Urza and Mishra learned a great deal about artifice thanks to the ancient Thran artifacts being dug up at and around the camps. The brothers, however, had very different approaches.
Urza was a bit standoffish and preferred the academic study of artifice and archeology. Mishra, however, preferred a more hands-on, group-oriented approach and, eventually, came to oversee the digs being done at Tocasia’s sites.
Over the course of these digs, the more academic Urza noticed that these Thran artifacts they were excavating all seemed to center around a central point. Using an ornithopter, one of the still-functional Thran artifacts excavated by Tocasia and her crews, the elderly archeologist and the two brothers flew to this central point to see if there was anything there.
Upon arrival, the trio discover the ruins of what appears to have once been a glorious city. Tocasia names the ruins “Koilos” (the Old Argivian word for “secret). In exploring the site, the group discovers a network of caves littered with ancient machinery. One such machine still seemed to be functioning, powered by a Thran powerstone.
Each brother attempts to grab hold of the stone before the other can. Then, a sudden explosion rocks the area, knocking both brothers to the ground.
In the aftermath, the brothers discover that they are each holding one half of the Thran powerstone.
In the time that followed, the brothers discovered that their two powerstone halves had different effects on things. Urza’s half seemed to make things around it stronger, causing him to name it the Mightstone. Mishra’s half, however, seemed to have the opposite effect as it sapped strength and energy from those things that surround it. Urza called it the Weakstone.
A short while longer, after Tocasia and the brothers had returned from Koilos, Mishra began suffering from dark dreams, as if some unknown force was trying to call him to somewhere.
One night, Mishra resolved to confront Urza and take his half of the stone for himself. The argument could be heard all over the camp. Tocasia attempted to intervene, but the elderly archeologist was caught in a blast as the brothers’ two powerstone halves caused a power surge that not only damaged the camp, but killed Tocasia as well.
Mishra, ashamed at the trouble he had caused and the death of the brothers’ mentor, fled into the desert. And, with excavation camps breaking down in the days following Tocasia’s death, Urza decides to rejoin society and moves to the city of Yotia, intent on putting his skills of machinery and artifice to work as a clockmaker’s apprentice.
Mishra wanders through the desert, lured towards Koilos for reasons he does not understand. Before he could reach his destination, however, he’s captured by the Suwwardi – a militant faction of the Fallaji nomads.
The Suwwardi subjugate the gifted artificer, forcing to do various tasks fit for a slave. During one of these tasks, he happens upon Hajar, a young Suwwardi whom had previously been at Tocasia’s camps. Hajar convinces the Suwwardi leader, the Qadir, to appoint Mishra as the rakiq, or personal teacher, for his son.
This greatly improves Mishra’s station. But, over the next few years, the Qadir begins to ponder having Mishra killed as his son seems to rely too much on the rakiq. It’s a thought that would never come to be.
One night, Mishra has a disturbing dream of a world of perverted mechanical nature. Screaming, he awakens, but finds he has no time to ponder the dreams meaning.
A giant dragon-like mechanical beast is attacking the Suwwardi camp, seeming from out of nowhere. The Qadir already killed in the incident, Mishra retrieves his meakstone, hoping to weaken the rampaging machination.
To the surprise of everyone (Mishra included), the stone does not weaken the beast at all. Rather, Mishra finds he can directly control it and immediately stops the carnage.
The late Qadir’s son assumes leadership of the Suwwardi. He appoints Mishra as raki, or wizard, and Mishra names a cruel, fiery redhead machinist named Ashnod as his apprentice. The new Qadir sets about having Mishra use his new “dragon engine” to unify the Fallaji tribes under Suwwardi rule, intent on eventually reclaiming their ancestral land which had been “civilized” many years earlier by the ruler of the kingdom of Yotia.
As Urza works as an apprentice to a clockmaker in the kingdom of Yotia, a public contest was announced by the land’s ruler. Any man who is able to move a giant jade statue across the royal courtyard would be deemed worthy for marrying his daughter. While Urza wasn’t very interested in her, he was interested in an item included in her dowry: an ancient Thran tome. As such, he began work on entering the competition.
Many of the strongest men from across Yotia took turn attempting to move the extremely heavy statue and, one by one, they each failed. Then, it was Urza’s turn. And what he lacked in physical strength, he made up for with his brilliant mind. He had put his mechanical skills to use and built an automation to do the work on his behalf.
Effortlessly, Urza’s creation lifts and moves the giant jade statue across the courtyard. And, on a technicality, Urza is named the contest’s champion.
He weds the ruler’s daughter, Kayla bin-Koog, and is named the kingdom’s chief artificer, but his priorities lay not with his new wife. Indeed, even on their wedding night, Urza left their bridal bed to study the Thran book that now resides in his possession.
In time, Urza had designed and constructed new ornithopters and automatonic Yotian soldiers to better defend the kingdom. And, through his work, was constantly ignoring his wife.
Soon enough, Urza has multiple factories and craftsman working under him, including a man named Tawnos whom would become the high artificer’s lead apprentice and close friend.
<THE BROTHERS’ WAR>
Years have passed since the Fallaji, now united under Suwwardi rule, have begun attacking Yotian territory as they try to regain possession of their ancestral lands. As fighting continues and deaths mount on both sides, a peace summit is called, attended by not just contingents from Yotia and the Fallaji, but also two other neighboring kingdoms: Argive and Korlis. It’s the first time since the death of Tocasia so many years prior that the two brothers had seen one another.
The summit, however, goes quite poorly.
As the conference nears its conclusion, the Yotian warlord launches a surprise attack on the Fallaji. Apparently, the summit was little more than a ruse to lure the Fallaji in and catch them off guard.
Ornithopters fly over the summit grounds and drop bombs on the nomads. Ironically, while the Qadir and Mishra survive, the Yotian warlord perishes in the chaos.
Urza tries to convince his brother that he knew nothing of his now late father’s plans. Mishra, however, doesn’t believe a word his older brother is telling him.
Years pass and even more intense battles take place before peace is once again attempted. A second summit is called.
The Fallaji arrived in Kroog promising peace. Mishra attended the talks, along with his master artificer and trusted associate, Ashnod, as did Urza and Kayla. The peace talks went well with Mishra offering to stop the violence so long as Urza forfeited the mightstone – Urza’s half of the broken powerstone the brothers found in the Cave of Koilos when they were young and the main cause of the strife between them.
Urza, not wanting to relinquish ownership of the mightstone, turned Mishra down and he and Kayla retired to their quarters.
Tawnos awoke Urza, and inquired about his wife’s whereabouts. Puzzled, Urza quickly noticed his mightstone missing and rushed to Mishra’s cabin whereupon he found his disheveled wife offering up the mightstone to his brother. Enraged, Urza snatched the stone from his wife’s hands and used its power against Mishra. In the fray, Tawnos managed to capture Ashnod, but Mishra and the rest of the Fallaji were able to flee.
Urza gathered a contingent of his forces and went off in pursuit of his brother, only to return having failed to do so whereupon he found Kroog almost in ruins – Mishra having lured his brother out of the city only to attack it while he was away.
After the sacking and razing of Kroog, Mishra recalls the Caves beneath Koilos. Thinking that whatever is down there will give him the ultimate edge to finally take down the Yotian kingdom, best his brother, and finally lay claim to the mightstone, he decides to venture back to the curious cavern.
There, he activates the ancient portal and enters into Phyrexia, a plane of metal, oil, and the kind of horrors that would keep even the most stable person awake at night. Using the power of his weakstone, he recruits more dragon engines to his cause.
Unbeknownst to Mishra, however, is that a denizen of Phyrexia spots him in the act. And he wants his creatures back.
More years of warfare pass. The kingdoms of Argive and Korlis have banded together with Yotia to stand against the Suwwardi with Urza being named Lord High Artificer and placed in charge of the entire contingent.
From here, the war becomes a tug-of-war between its two main players, with neither side ever gaining too much ground against the other, before losing it, and so forth. Over time, both sides commit egregious sins, including enslaving other nations to their causes and draining the land of its beauty and resources, leaving a blasted landscape in their collective wake.
During this time, peoples who disagreed with both sides, such as a glaciologist and archeologist named Feldon, Hurkyl, one of the founders of the College of Lat-Nam, and others banded together and formed what they called the “Third Path.” Concurrently, the Phyrexian demon who had witnessed Mishra take control of his dragon engines and bring them back to Dominaria followed the foolhardy and prideful raki back to the plane.
A member of Yawgmoth’s inner circle, the demon, one known as Gix, acted as a scout of sorts for his master, whom had been pondering an invasion of the plane as penance for events centuries earlier. When Gix arrives, he finds a devastating war going on.
Seeking to escalate the war by way of manipulating both sides of the conflict in order to make an eventual invasion that much easier for the Phyrexians, Gix sends his minions – those known as the Brotherhood of Gix – to infiltrate both sides of the war.
The Third Path took up a position in the enlightened city of Terisia City as they hoped to find a way to defeat (or, at least, withstand long-term) the brothers’ strife. It’s here that Feldon met and fell in love with a scholar within the group named Loran.
Terisia City was found to be a very welcoming place as people of all cultures flocked there to escape the chaos elsewhere or, in the case of a hand-selected few, infiltrate. Thanks to the archmandrite of Terisia City’s Ivory Tower now recognizing their affiliation, the Brotherhood of Gix was invited to join the city’s Council of Mages – a mistake that would prove disastrous for not just the city, but for the Third Path as well.
Mishra’s forces, led by Ashnod, laid siege to the city. Waves of war machines attacked its walls. To the surprise of everybody there, Hurkyl cast a spell – the first public act of magic on Dominaria since who knows when – that dematerialized a few of the attacking dragon engines. Afterwards, however, the academic-turned-mage collapsed, the spell having drained her now lifeless body.
Under the cover of a sandstorm, many of the Third Path were able to flee the destruction, including Feldon and Loran, whom was holding an ancient artifact known as the Golgothian Sylex in an attempts to keep it not just out of the hands of the warring brothers, but also of their Third Path co-founder, Drafna, who had grown depressed due to the death of his wife, Hurkyl, out of fear that he may use its destructive powers out of grief against their assailants.
Loran, however, was captured by Ashnod during her escape. The sylex was confiscated and its secrets made known to the sadistic redhead.
Ashnod, though, had fallen out of favor with Mishra; thanks in no part to influence by Gix’s followers.
More years of war and resource overexploitation found most of the the continent of Terisiare a wasteland.
As Harbin, Urza’s son, was scouting for new resources for their side of the war, the ornithopter he was piloting became caught in a crosswind. He was blown off course and, subsequently, found Argoth – a land that was, at the time, unknown to both Urza and his feuding brother, Mishra. Harbin brought news of this new land, ripe with resources, back to his father and, quite soon thereafter, Urza moved operations to the island to exploit its resources to tip the war against his brother in his favor.
But the secret got out.
Gix, through his followers, informed Mishra of this discovery. Almost immediately thereafter, Mishra and his forces were doing the same.
Thus, the scene is set for what would ultimately become the final battle in this plane- (and multiverse-) altering war between the brothers Urza and Mishra.
Join us next month for the final episode of Magic Untapped’s series on the lore and characters from Magic: The Gathering’s The Brothers’ War storyline.
I’m Barry White. If you’d like to support Magic Untapped and content like this, please toss a buck in our Patreon tip jar and remember to subscribe to Magic Untapped here on YouTube.
Thank you for watching.