The Brothers’ War Missed Triggers Guide

Battle lines are being drawn, relics are being excavated, but for all that The Brothers’ War brings there are thankfully few complications. That means we’ll be digging into each trigger a bit more in-depth than usual to discuss the specifics of policy and remedies. Alongside regular set cards, players will find “Retro Artifacts” in boosters. Those artifacts will be legal in Draft and Sealed so they have been added to the guide, but these printings don’t introduce them to Standard, so you won’t find them in our cheat sheet for Standard sets. Now lets take a look at the haul!


Three cards (and one keyword) have a trigger that upgrades when missed:


  1. Arms Race

“[Put an artifact onto the battlefield.] Sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step.”

If they’re built fast, don’t expect them to last. Because this effect changes a card’s zone and sets a trigger to change it again later, that trigger is “undoing a zone change”. It never expires and Artifacts that sneak onto the battlefield this way will self-destruct no matter how long ago it was missed. As soon as it’s noticed, issue the controller a Warning, and the opponent chooses whether to resolve it immediately or before anyone gets priority next phase.

  1. Horned Stoneseeker

“When Horned Stoneseeker leaves the battlefield, sacrifice a Powerstone.”

The Stoneseeker’s two triggered abilities look related to one another, but they’re actually not! A player can sacrifice any of their Powerstones, not just the one created by the ETB trigger. It’s not a particularly picky Lizard. So if a player is completely out of Powerstones when this trigger should happen then it resolves and does nothing, but if they’ve got at least one – even if it came from a different source – then treat this as a regular missed trigger.

  1. Heavyweight Demolisher

“At the beginning of your upkeep, tap Heavyweight Demolisher unless you pay {3}.”

This heavyweight comes with a heavy cost, forcing its controller to invest more mana into it on their turn. Tapping a creature this big so that it can’t attack is definitely a drawback. And since nothing extra comes from paying {3}, this card would be stronger without the trigger happening. That makes it clearly detrimental.

  1. Keyword: Unearth

“Return this card from your graveyard to the battlefield” and “Exile it at the beginning of the next end step.”

Because Unearth both returns a card to the battlefield and then “self-destructs” that card later, this falls squarely into the “undoing a zone change” remedy. No matter how long it’s been since that exile trigger was forgotten we’ll resolve it, either immediately or before anyone gets priority next phase. One card (Mishra, Tamer of Mak Fawa) gives Unearth to every artifact card in a graveyard. And twenty cards have Unearth printed on them:
Platoon Dispenser; Scrapwork Cohort; Tocasia’s Onulet; Yotian Frontliner; Combat Courier; Terisian Mindbreaker; Ashnod’s Harvester; Scrapwork Rager; Heavyweight Demolisher; Mishra’s Juggernaut; Mishra’s Research Desk; Phyrexian Dragon Engine; Scrapwork Mutt; Mask of the Jadecrafter; Perennial Behemoth; Simian Simulacrum; Cityscape Leveler; Reconstructed Thopter; Terror Ballista; Artificer’s Dragon.

Additionally, three of the Retro Artifacts have a trigger that upgrades when missed:


  1. Howling Mine

“At the beginning of each player’s draw step, if Howling Mine is untapped, that player draws an additional card.”

This ability is symmetrical: each time it triggers it does the same thing, but which player is affected by it can change. No matter whose turn it is this is still the controller’s trigger to remember. Since it’s typically a good thing for a player to draw extra cards and a bad thing if their opponent does, that’s exactly how we handle it when this trigger is missed; there’s no upgrade if the controller forgets to draw, but it upgrades to a Warning if they don’t remind their opponent of it.

  1. Mazemind Tome

“When there are four or more page counters on Mazemind Tome, exile it. If you do, you gain 4 life.”

This is an example of a state trigger! It goes on the stack as soon as the condition is true, and any time that it resolves or leaves the stack, it’ll trigger again if it’s still true. Gaining 4 life is helpful but not as much as drawing cards or scrying, so this one’s generally detrimental. This trigger will get a remedy even if the 4th counter was placed more than a turn ago – state triggers constantly put themselves on the stack, so the window for when it was missed refreshes each time priority is passed!

  1. Mesmeric Orb

“Whenever a permanent becomes untapped, that permanent’s controller mills a card.”

Just like with Howling Mine, this is a symmetrical trigger! But because this one mills the affected player, the remedy is reversed; it’s a Warning if the controller forgets to mill themselves, but there’s no upgrade if they don’t remind their opponent to mill. Opponents aren’t obligated to point this trigger out but they also can’t try to race through the start of their turn to skip over it. And remember, when analyzing triggers, we don’t account for the archetype of a deck or the state of the game. Even if a player wants to mill themselves with this card, it’s the same remedy.

And one card has a notable trigger that does NOT upgrade when missed:


  1. Precursor Golem

“Whenever a player casts an instant or sorcery spell that targets only a single Golem, [copy that spell for each other Golem.]”

Surprisingly, this trigger is not symmetrical! Or at least, its symmetry doesn’t factor into the remedy. That’s because the way missed triggers handles symmetrical triggers is that they “… may be considered usually detrimental or not depending on who is being affected.” But here, it doesn’t matter which player’s spell is copied; what matters is if the spell helps or harms the golems. And that’s not as straightforward.

At the time Precursor Golem was printed, three 3/3 bodies for only 5 mana was a lot of value. These days, it’s less impressive; plenty of rares and mythics are above curve and still have upsides. Plus, a single larger creature can attack more effectively than three smaller ones. And while this ability weakens your team to removal, it also strengthens it to combat tricks or defensive spells, so it’s not obviously a drawback. Because a clear line cannot be drawn we cannot label this generally detrimental, so we don’t assign any penalty if it’s missed.

That settles everything that The Brothers’ War has to offer, so we’ll leave history behind us and look to what comes next. Join us in a few months for… “Phyrexia: All will be One”? Foreboding. Lets find out what New Phyrexia has in store for us!