Urza’s Iron Alliance Upgrade Guide: Five Ideas

Magic’s next set is a return to one of the classic tales of the game’s past: The Brothers’ War. We get to watch as brothers Urza and Mishra ravage the land of Dominaria to settle their epic dispute.

As per usual, Wizards is releasing two new pre-constructed Commander decks to go along with this set. The two decks are led by the brothers themselves. In this article, we are going to talk about how to upgrade the Urza’s Iron Alliance precon. Did you buy the deck and want to improve the synergies that are already there? Or perhaps, you want to build a completely new deck based around one of the commanders? Whichever the case, this Urza’s Iron Alliance Upgrade Guide contains great recommendations for you.

A Brief Note on Budget

I want this article to serve as a sort of brainstorm session for anyone looking to upgrade the deck. As a result, I am not imposing any kind of budget for these recommendations. Most of the cards won’t be too expensive, but I will try to recommend cheaper alternatives if they exist.

If you don’t already own the Urza’s Iron Alliance precon, you can buy it on Amazon.

Urza's Iron Alliance Brothers War Commander Deck

Urza’s Iron Alliance Decklist

Commander (1)
Urza, Chief Artificer

Creatures (30)
Alela, Artful Provocateur
Angel of the Ruins
Armix, Filigree Thrasher
Baleful Strix
Bronze Guardian
Chief of the Foundry
Chrome Courier
Darksteel Juggernaut
Digsite Engineer
Etched Champion
Etherium Sculptor
Ethersworn Adjudicator
Filigree Attendant
Indomitable Archangel
Losheel, Clockwork Scholar
Marionette Master
Master of Etherium
Myr Battlesphere
Noxious Gearhulk
Sai, Master Thopterist
Sharding Sphinx
Sharuum the Hegemon
Shimmer Dragon
Solemn Simulacrum
Steel Hellkite
Steel Overseer
Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle
Thought Monitor
Vedalken Humiliator
Whirler Rogue

Sorceries (6)
Austere Command
One with the Machine
Phyrexian Rebirth
Urza’s Ruinous Blast

Instants (4)
Sphinx’s Revelation
Swords to Plowshares
Unbreakable Formation

Enchantments (2)
Tempered Steel
Thopter Spy Network

Artifacts (12)
Arcane Signet
Azorius Signet
Bident of Thassa
Cranial Plating
Dimir Signet
Liquimetal Torque
Orzhov Signet
Relic of Progenitus
Sol Ring
Swiftfoot Boots
Thought Vessel
Lands (36)
Ancient Den
Arcane Sanctum
Ash Barrens
Azorius Chancery
Bojuka Bog
Command Tower
Darksteel Citadel
Dimir Aqueduct
Evolving Wilds
Exotic Orchard
Goldmire Bridge
Mistvault Bridge
Orzhov Basilica
Path of Ancestry
Prairie Stream
Razortide Bridge
River of Tears
Seat of the Synod
Skycloud Expanse
Spire of Industry
Sunken Hollow
Temple of Deceit
Temple of Enlightenment
Temple of Silence
Vault of Whispers

New Cards* (9)
Kayla’s Music Box
March of Progress
Sanwell, Avenger Ace
Scholar of New Horizons
Tawnos, Solemn Survivor
Thopter Shop
Wire Surgeons
Wreck Hunter

*These are the cards that were printed for the first time in this product.

Urza’s Iron Alliance – General Upgrades

Urza, Chief Artificer Brothers' War Commander Decklists

In this section, we’ll take a look at the generic Urza’s Iron Alliance upgrades. No matter which direction you decide to take this deck in, these upgrades will help you improve it.

The Mana Base

The lands in this deck are very much workable. Fortunately for those who like to tune their decks, though, there are also many improvements that you could make. In general, the deck includes artifact lands, bounce lands, temples, tango lands, and a few other dual/utility lands. While these cards do the trick, the simplest way to make the deck function better is to replace these with lands that enter the battlefield untapped, and tap for multiple colors of mana.

The one exception I would make to this is that you should probably keep the artifact lands. These have the potential to synergize in a powerful way with the rest of the deck. This synergy counteracts the downside of coming into play tapped. Plus, if you have enough other untapped sources of mana, you shouldn’t have a problem casting your spells on curve. If you want to include other lands that contribute to an artifact deck, also consider Academy Ruins, Inventors’ Fair, Urza’s Saga, and Treasure Vault.

Also, the total land count in this deck is thirty-six. While I’m sure this is enough to function properly, you might consider adding another two or three lands to it. Pay attention as you play the deck a couple of times. If you find that you consistently don’t have the lands you need, you should add more.

White, Blue, and Black Lands

Raffine's Tower Urza's Iron Alliance Upgrade Guide

What to Take Out

Five Ways to Upgrade

I split the rest of this article into five sections. Each section outlines one idea to focus on as you upgrade your Urza’s Iron Alliance precon. Feel free to put your own twist on any of these ideas, or even combine multiple ideas together. Either way, these are the ideas that we will be brainstorming:

  1. Karn-structs
  2. Affinity
  3. Artifact Creatures
  4. Artifact Tokens
  5. Tribal

If you come up with something that I didn’t think of, please let me know what it is in the comments below.

Power Level

At the beginning of each of the next sections, I included a range of numbers. That range is what I expect this deck to be able to perform at on a 1-10 power scale. (Based on the power scale established by the Command Zone Podcast). For more information on the Commander power scale, you can take a look at the table below.

Power LevelNameDescription
1-2Jank Very little synergy among cards. No Commander staples. Under powered on purpose.
3-4Casual Some synergies, but lacking the strong ones. The deck still lacks focus. Mana curves mostly neglected. A deck that a new player would build.
4-6Focused Synergy exists, the deck has a focused gameplan, although it doesn't always win in the exact same way, usually after turn 13. Includes staples and a small amount of tutors. On the same power level as most Commander precons.
7-8Optimized Powerful and varied synergies between the cards. A decent number of good tutors. Good mana curve. Has an efficient and consistent way to win on turns 10-12 (level 7) or 7-9 (level 8). Some social rules — like no mass land destruction, no consistent combo wins — still exist.
9-10Competitive The most powerful decks, on competitive EDH level. Quick and explosive, can win on turns 4-6 (level 9) or 1-3 (level 10). No social rules, no jank cards. Only the most powerful commanders and strategies can reach this level.

Actual power levels may vary, but let those numbers be a guide when considering upgrading this deck in those ways.

1. Karn-structs (5-8)

Recommended Commander: Urza, Chief Artificer

One of the coolest things about the Brothers’ War story is two massive armies of robots going at each other in a fight to the death. Urza, Chief Artificer helps facilitate the creation of such an army more efficiently than almost any other commander. This section of the article is going to focus on cards that make the same kind of token that Urza makes (nicknamed Karn-structs) as well as cards that can multiply these tokens.

The tokens that we are referring to are pretty specific. They are 0/0 colorless construct artifact creatures with the ability, “This creature gets +1/+1 for each artifact you control.” Since they themselves are artifacts, they are 1/1’s in a vacuum. However, each one increases the power and toughness of each other one, growing your board state exponentially.

Karn-struct Generators

Urza's Saga Iron Alliance Upgrade Guide

Urza generates these tokens by himself, but there are some other cards that do as well. Some of them appear in the precon, like Digsite Engineer, but you will probably have to buy the other ones.

Urza’s Saga is one such card. It has become infamous in Modern for being able to win games by itself for the low low price of a land slot in your deck. Hopefully this deck could take advantage of it similarly. Especially if you use Crucible of Worlds or Ruin Ghost to reset the number of counters on it. You will want to be sure your deck has a few great targets for its third ability, though.

Urza, Lord High Artificer is another card that makes Karn-structs. His ability triggers when he enters the battlefield, so cards like Conjurer’s Closet, Teleportation Circle, and Thassa, Deep-Dwelling can net you another Karn-struct each turn. You probably want more enter-the-battlefield abilities than just Urza’s, though, because they won’t do much if you don’t already have him on the battlefield.

Other Karn-struct generators are Karn, Scion of Urza (the first card to make this kind of token and also its namesake) and Dollhouse of Horrors.

Karn-struct Copiers

Anointed Procession Urza's Iron Alliance Upgrade Guide

The other way to make a big army of Karn-structs is to copy a smaller army that you already have. There are dozens of effects in Magic that make token copies of things, but for the sake of brevity, I only included cards that could make multiple copies of one or more Karn-structs at a time.

New Cards From The Brothers’ War

Other than the cards that come with the deck, Urza’s Command is the only new card from The Brothers’ War that makes this specific kind of token. Not only is it a very flexible card, but it also is thematically appropriate, considering Urza is the commander for this version of the deck.

What to Take Out

In order to fit these cards into the deck, you will have to take out a couple cards that are already there. I pointed out a small handful of generally weaker or a-synergistic cards earlier, but for this specific upgrade path, we could potentially trim a few more. For example, if you really want to focus in on making Karn-structs and that’s all, you don’t need very many utility cards like:

I recognize that this list includes a lot of cards with important functions like removal or card advantage. If these cards are the only cards you have that can perform those functions, or if you just really love the card in your deck, feel free to leave them. However, I am a firm believer that a deck is stronger if all of its utility cards also contribute to the deck’s primary function, in this case building an army of Karn-structs.

2. Affinity (5-7)

Recommended Commander: Urza, Chief Artificer

The first keyword ability that shows up on Urza is Affinity. This ability has a reputation for being powerful in constructed formats. While I don’t think it will be quite as broken in this deck, it still provides an interesting theme to focus on.

Urza doesn’t give Affinity to any other permanents. Rather, he reduces his own casting cost (including command tax), and asks that you build your deck to accommodate that. Fortunately, lots of creatures with Affinity are also artifacts. This helps reduce Urza’s cost, as well as works with the rest of the deck’s plan.

Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge  Urza's Iron Alliance Upgrade Guide

As for cards that give other cards Affinity, we have Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge and Mycosynth Golem. Both of these cards are probably vital to making this deck run smoothly.

Other than those, here are the cards in these colors that have Affinity:

Make Other Permanents Artifacts

Mycosynth Lattice Urzas Iron Alliance Upgrade Guide

There are a few ways you could go about increasing your artifact count for Affinity. Obviously, you could just run more artifacts in your deck. This opens you up to a ton of potential options, since there are so many kinds of artifacts in Magic. I talk about a few of these options later in the article. At a minimum, you should probably include as many artifact lands as you can find. Two that I found that aren’t already included in the deck are Power Depot and Treasure Vault.

If you don’t want to play more artifacts, you could simply turn your other permanents into artifacts. There are a surprising number of cards that can do this for you:

If you decide to try to make more artifacts this way, beware of artifact destruction. A well-timed Vandalblast could ruin your whole game plan. You might consider also playing Darksteel Forge or Teferi’s Protection for such an occasion.

New Cards From The Brothers’ War

There aren’t any cards in The Brothers’ War that have Affinity, nor are there any cards that turn other cards into artifacts. The closest thing I can come up with is that Mishra’s Foundry turns itself into an artifact creature if you invest two mana into it. It might defeat the purpose, though, since you could just invest that two mana into paying the cost for your Affinity cards.

What to Take Out

Thought Monitor and Etherium Sculptor are the only two cards that have Affinity or some sort of other cost reduction ability. In any case, I would recommend keeping those cards. Other than that, you could probably cut any cards from the deck. You only need to make a handful of cuts to make room for these cards, nothing is sacred. Almost anything can come out to make room for the Affinity cards.

3. Artifact Creatures (5-7)

Recommended Commander: Urza, Chief Artificer

As I mentioned before, there are tons of artifact creatures in Magic. Feel free to play whichever your favorite ones are. For this version of the deck, though, I want to talk about turning the artifacts that you are likely already playing into creatures.

March of the Machines Urzas Iron Alliance Upgrade Guide

There have been a lot of effects in the last few years that turn artifacts into creatures. If you use these cards to turn non-creature artifacts into artifact creatures, you can reduce Urza’s cost without playing any artifact creatures. This might come in handy if you play a bunch of creatures like Emry, Lurker in the Loch or Sai, Master Thopterist. These cards are very strong and powerful in artifact strategies, but they don’t reduce Urza’s cost by themselves. The following kind of cards will help you make sure you always have access to Urza:

This strategy makes sure you always have a win condition as well as defenses to protect yourself. It also lets you play whatever artifact-related strategy you want and still have creatures to fight with.

New Cards From The Brothers’ War

The only card from the new set that makes an artifact into a creature is Levitating Statue. It’s not that powerful, and I wouldn’t recommend playing it in this specific deck unless you really love it or opened it in a pack and want to play it.

What to Take Out

Of the strategies we’ve discussed so far, this one is easily the most flexible. You need to make about a dozen or so cards that animate your artifacts, but you can more or less play any other artifact strategy that you want. Urza’s Iron Alliance comes with thirty-three artifacts, and you could keep those, add to them, replace them, or whatever you want. The non-artifacts are not as important to the deck, so you can take them out of the deck if you want.

4. Artifact Tokens (5-8)

Recommended Commander: Tawnos, Solemn Survivor

Academy Manufactor Urza's Iron Alliance Upgrade Guide

Artifact tokens, like artifact creatures, appear abundantly in Magic. Lately, though, it feels like the most popular artifact tokens are Treasures, Clues, and Foods. While Urza himself makes a kind of artifact token, I think Tawnos would be a better commander for this specific strategy in this deck. Specifically, Tawnos’ second ability utilizes extra tokens taking up space on your playmat to create artifact token versions of cards in your graveyard. This lets you pay {1}{W}{U}{B} rather than the cost of expensive creatures in your graveyard.

The deck will probably want some useful discard outlets such as Skirge Familiar, Dream Trawler, or Chromium the Mutable as well as your choice of big scary artifacts/creatures. Other than these ideas, here is a fun list of cards that make a bunch of token fodder for you:

I’ve talked about discard outlets, expensive threats, and token generators. If these things aren’t enough for you, there’s also Time Sieve and Marneus Calgar that incidentally work excellently with this strategy.

Lastly, if you need another way to win with all these tokens, cards that we talked about before that turn artifacts into creatures will likely create a huge army for you. Cyberdrive Awakener and The Antiquities War function similarly to Craterhoof Behemoth in this style of deck. Also, Mechanized Production has an alternate win condition that should be pretty easy to achieve in this deck.

New Cards From The Brothers’ War

Drafna, Founder of Lat-Nam and Urza, Prince of Kroog could be interesting ways to make artifact tokens with this deck. Urza, Powerstone Prodigy makes artifact tokens and is also a discard outlet, which serves multiple purposes for this deck. And there’s no shortage of expensive artifacts or creatures you could cheat into play from this set, either. Here is a short list of high mana value cards you could play:

What to Take Out

With this version of the deck, you could argue that most of the cards that are already in the precon could fit in some way with this new strategy. If you feel that way and don’t want to make that many changes, I’m sure the deck would run fine. However, you could probably take out the majority of the cards that don’t make tokens and replace them with the cards we’ve discussed for a new spin on it.

5. Tribal

Recommended Commander: Urza, Chief Artificer and Tawnos, Solemn Survivor

The next and final upgrade strategy I want to talk about is tribal. I know that neither of these commanders reference any creature types in a tribally-relevant way. I do, however, love examining new commanders in light of how they fit into their respective tribes. Both Urza and Tawnos are Human Artificers. I have discussed the Human tribe at length in other articles, but let’s go over what Artificers do, so we can decide if Urza or Tawnos could be good commanders for a that tribe.

Artificers (3-6)

Inventors Goggles Urzas Iron Alliance Upgrade Guide

As a tribe, Artificers tend to care a lot about artifacts. While this is a nice through-line, its not exactly specific enough to support a tribal deck. Furthermore, there are few cards that reward you specifically for building around Artificers. The ones that come to mind are Era of Innovation and Inventor’s Goggles.

With all this in mind, a tribal Artificer deck would probably just be a generic artifacts deck where most all of your creatures happen to be the same type. However, I have a feeling that this might accidentally true for many other generic artifact decks.

One advantage to playing a tribal deck, is that you can utilize cards like Cavern of Souls and Unclaimed Territory to cast your creatures. Since a lot of your non-creatures will likely be artifacts, these lands are all upside.

While the Artificers aren’t powerful because of their tribal synergies, there happen to be a lot of them in the game. This list is pretty long, so please don’t run them all. Whichever dozen or so creatures that are most relevant to what flavor of Artificer/artifact deck you are playing are the ones you should include in the deck. You don’t want too many more than that for fear of gumming up your deck and hindering your deck’s main game plan.

New Cards From The Brothers’ War

There are lots of Artificers in the new set. Not all of them do what you want them to do, but they all work reasonably well with artifacts. If you pull any of them as you are drafting or just cracking packs, I’m sure they would appreciate a nice home in a deck like this. However, I wouldn’t say that any of them are vital to this deck:

What to Take Out

As I said before, Artificers are not a tribe that benefits from nor rewards you for having abundant tribe members. Fortunately, there are only nine of them in the precon. Feel free to keep those in there, since most of them have pretty good effects. Also keep any powerful artifacts that you have that might work well with other artificers. Other than that, everything else in the deck can go.


The fate of Dominaria now lies in your hands. I hope this upgrade guide gave you some valuable ideas on how to upgrade Urza’s Iron Alliance. I would love to hear about any other ideas you had or improvements you would make to the deck. If you think of something, let us know down below in the comments section. You can also find me on Instagram or Twitter.

If you like the new cards from The Brothers’ War set, and you’d like to try your luck and open some of them in packs, you can get a Brothers’ War Set booster box on Amazon.

Brothers' War Set Booster Box

These boosters also contain Retro Frame artifacts, which will fit nicely into your deck, thanks to their old borders, matching the cards in the deck.

Until next time, have fun, and win lots of games with your upgraded Urza’s Iron Alliance deck.

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