Pattern Recognition #263 - Mishra's War

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


17 November 2022


Good day everyone! My name is berryjon, and I welcome you all to Pattern Recognition, TappedOut's longest running article series. I am something of an Old Fogey and a definite Smart Ass, and I have been around the block quite a few times. My experience is quite broad and deep, and so I use this series to try and bring some of that to you. Be it deck design, card construction, mechanics or in-universe characters and the history of the game. Or whatever happens to catch my attention each week. Which happens far more often than I care to admit. Please, feel free to talk about my subject matter in the comments at the bottom of the page, add suggestions or just plain correct me.

Mishra and his people left the site of the failed peace conference as a running retreat, falling back in good order while being pursued by vengeful Kroogians... Kroogani? You know, I don't know how to say that. Yotian is a known work, but Kroog doesn't have the same easy conjugation in English. Anyway, the Quadir knew that killing the Warlord was going to have consequences, and as they retreated, he gave the necessary orders. Kroog would have to counter attack, if only to ensure that the killing of the Warlord dint' go unpunished, so included in the orders were to prepare for the inevitable attack.

I can find no source that lays out the exact chain of events here, but we do know the end state. Perhaps it was the Quadir himself, perhaps it was Mishra, out to hit his hated Brother, maybe it was one of the Quadir's other advisors who suggested the plan, but the plan was simple. While the bulk of Kroog's forces were on the march, slip a force around them, and attack Kroog itself. Show that even at their strongest, they are still weak.

The Quadir was convinced by the arguments and the plan, and in a decision that would set Dominaria's future to ruin a dozen times over, ordered Mishra to lead the attack, and to take some of his artifice with him as a force multiplier. Which suited Mishra just fine. True to the Quadir's plans and predictions, Kroog and Yotia marched out into the Sword Marshes to force the issue, and it was led by the new Warlord, Queen Kayla bin-Kroog, and her Prince-Consort, Urza, Prince of Kroog.

While the Quadir engaged them in battle, Mishra and his small forces attacked the depleted city and its few defenders.

But Mishra didn't just bring along a few automatons to augment his forces. He knew that this place was important to his despised Brother, and that while he could not punish Urza directly for past transgressions, real and imagined, he could hurt his brother indirectly as a good start. So, when the attack began, he attacked for real.

You see, Mishra lied to the Quadir. Or rather, didn't tell him the whole truth, even as he followed his instructions perfectly. He brought artifice to the fight alright, and he even marched with most of them in the raiding party. But Mishra... had one more option. Mishra brought a Dragon Engine in secret, but not just any Dragon Engine. He brought one that was larger, and far more powerful than most, one that he took extreme pains to keep hidden as much from his people as he did his enemies.

Traxos, Scourge of Kroog attacked the unprepared city.

Now, numbers alone do not convey what happened. Saying that a 7/7 with Trample attacked is such a colossal underselling of what happened that you have to understand that the cards are abstractions, not definitive measures of what you have in front of you. Traxos attacked, and the city of Kroog was destroyed. Utterly and without mercy. The Fall of Kroog tries to convey this, but 'Destroy a Land' only underscores how Kroog was effectively removed from the map by a single Dragon Engine.

Mishra and his raiding party returned to the Fallaji, and dutifully reported their success.

The Quadir and his advisers were seriously divided into two factions over what happened. On one hand, Mishra had succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations. Kroog was gone, a demonstration of the might of the Fallaji that they could fight armies in the field, and burn cities to the ground at the same time. That there was nothing and no one who could stop them from taking what they wanted. Sure, they might fight a little more fairly, but with the threats of the Dragon Engines at their command, they would win in the end.

The other faction saw the use of the same artificial war machines as something that was the deepest betrayal of everything that they had lived by for centuries. They argued that Mishra had failed and worse yet, had given up on being Suwwardi by his actions. They argued for culture and history, that while his victory was impressive, it was... nothing. It had been like taking credit for a Hurricane or a Volcano that destroyed the city instead.

The decision was made for the Quadir, not by his people, his councilors, or Mishra. No, it was made by Yotia and their alliance. Argive and Korlis responded to the destruction of Kroog with a complete affirmation of their mutual alliance. This three-party agreement was soon called the Iron Alliance. The Alliance's goal was quite simple. Destroy the Suwwardi and the Fallaji as an organized nation, and the rebuilding of Kroog.

Now, you have to understand, this didn't happen over night. It took weeks, if not months for Yotia's allies to find out what happened, and to decide on a response. This was time also spent by the Suuwardi in preparing for all this. TO that end, when word of the Alliance came into being and their unified response, the Quadir knew his hands were tied with regards to Mishra. He needed him.

So with that in mind, the Quadir gave his orders to Mishra, knowing that he wasn't going to please anyone with these orders, but they had to be given. Mishra was ordered to focus his efforts on research and archeology. The Quadir knew that the Iron Alliance had an advantage in artifact creatures, and wanted, if not a counter, but at least a response. In addition, every piece of metal that they dug up out of the desert was a piece that could not be used by the Iron Alliance.

The Brothers War still, really hadn't started yet. Yes, they were on opposite sides, but this was still the war between the Fallaji and the Alliance at this point. And Mishra took to this new assignment with some glee, as it was always his passion, the metal and the sand. He begun to dig, coordinating strikes and defenses against similar actions by the Alliance, and his Brother. To that end, he began construction on a dedicated fortress in the mountains to the north-east of the great desert, though it would not be done for many years.

This phase of the war was slow, though the next major action came from the Alliance. Urza had developed his first artifical soldier, and gifted them to the survivors of Yotia, the Yotian Soldier (ATQ. As was written in the first flavor text for this creature, before the Mirrorden version, this was Urza's attempt to create a defensive army for the cities, allowing the real soldiers to go on the offensive.

The Quadir recognized this for the threat it was. One of the real advantages of his people over their enemies was in their strategic and tactical mobility. This, they had proven with Mishra's ... excessive raid, but had held true for the decades before, and he hoped would still hold true in the future. However, if the Alliance could create defensive soldiers to aid them, well, he knew full well how a hammer and an anvil worked.

And this led into another problem. The Fallaji were one people, who had large amouhnts of land, yes, but they weren't all that well developed. Their foes had many lands, all more populous and capable of growth. The Quadir saw the second problem that would arise - that even if they reached parity with technology, there would simply be more of the Alliance than the Fallaji, and because of the relative richness of the Alliance's lands, they could absorb and recover population losses in war far better. This is another point where I wanted you all to read that linked series of essays from last update and the one before. And the Quadir knew all this.

So he, as the situation developed, added new orders to Mishra. Mishra was to begin production of new Artifice, in the form of known designs, or new versions entirely, and to do so with an eye towards mass production to overcome the incoming population disparity.

Here is where I want to step back and show how this was reflected in the game and cards itself. We begin with the first, the one that represented him at around this point in time, when he embraced his role as Artificer for the Suwwardi. Mishra, Artificer Prodigy made this a core part of his mechanics in the game. To whit, while Mishra is in play, whenever you cast an Artifact, you could search your graveyard, library and hand for a card with the same name, and put it into play.

He wasn't much of a card in Standard at the time, but he did find some use for his artifact doubling, especially when it came to getting a card in the graveyard back into play. In larger, non-singleton formats, his ability to do so made for some interesting recursion gimmicks. Of course, with Commander being very popular, you have to jump through some serious hoops to make him useful. But, if you could start casting spells with Possibility Storm, where you cast an artifact, Storm out something new, then Mishra's ability resolves, letting you get the artifact straight from your Library into play, or Nether Void where you can counter your own artifacts, then just get them from the Graveyard. Fear the day that Wizards prints a card that turns all the cards in your library or graveyard into artifacts, like a super-powered Mycosynth Lattice, as then Mishra is in the colours of Relentless Rats and Persistent Petitioners and all 5 cards in the game that you can have as many in a deck that you want.

But more than that, look also at Mishra's Factory and Mishra's Foundry. Both of these lands turn into Assembly-Workers, but more importantly, they can tap to give another Assembly-Worker +1/+1 or +2/+2 until the end of the turn. This isn't some random boost, this is the game abstracting adding more Assembly Workers to the fight, and bringing so many to battle that it becomes harder and harder to defeat them.

And while, last time, I complained that sometimes the actions of a card don't properly represent what the event or action on the card portrays, sometimes, they do. They get it right. You see, back to the convergence of Mechanics and Flavor, Mishra knew that he was facing the same bottleneck in terms of people that the Quadir was facing, so he devised a very simple, very complicated and very ingenious solution. He started experimenting with what would become the Self-Assembler. This card represented, in the basic, Mishra's choice to build machines that could build machines. The Self-Assembler could build another like itself but in the flavor, it had the problem of needing the right parts. So Mishra eventually decided that he would standardize production of his Assembly-Workers so that they could rebuild themselves from common parts on hand. In addition, this line of thought lead to Mishra's Self-Replicator. Unlike the earlier versions, this machine was much more capable of resource extraction, repairs and modifications. As long as there were resources to use, one could become two could become four, could become 8 and so on and so forth.

To put this into RTS terms, Mishra is the player who goes wide, and spams simple, but effective units from the get-go and just aims to overwhelm the enemy with sheer numbers.

Later on in his life, which we will cover later, Mishra, Eminent One, from the Commander Precon, had refined hsi ability to make more artifact creatures, this time in re-purposing and rebuilding non-creature machines into weapons of war, mechanically creating a token copy for that combat. Why yes, I just attacked you with a 4/4 Mishra's Bauble, why do you ask?

That is how Mishra contributed to the Brothers War, mechanically. He provided numbers for the Fallaji when that was what they needed, and he stayed loyal to them, and they to him, because of it.

Join me next time, when we skip ahead a bit. The whole of the War takes place over 50 years, and all these events have taken place in the first five years, and no more. So, join me next time, when we look at Mishra, and Phyrexia.

Until then please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #262 - The Rise of Mishra The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #264 - Mishra and Phyrexia

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