When Brawl was first rolled out in 2018 I was a big fan, and wrote about how nice the format seemed to be as a relatively easy on-ramp for new players that could lead them eventually to either Standard or Commander. Brawl caught on pretty quickly with my local Commander players and we battled in the new format for weeks. We even had the pleasure of having the first ever Brawl Championship held right here in my hometown of Richmond, playing multiple rounds of Brawl pods where I had the pleasure of playing against – and getting beaten by – Senior Magic Designer Gavin Verhey, who was instrumental in bringing the Brawl format to the masses.
After the Brawl Championship, hype for the format died down a bit, and most of my local gaming crew went back to playing Commander as our multiplayer format of choice. For me personally, in my limited free time I wanted to focus on Commander and Standard, so I set aside the format. But I'm still a big fan of Brawl and love that pockets of fans are still out there.
Recently in July, Gavin announced a new era of Brawl, and the big news was that Wizards would be making Brawl preconstructed decks tied to the release of Throne of Eldraine. He teased us with two preview cards – Arcane Signet and Chulane, Teller of Tales – and then left us to ponder the contents of those decks until we got closer to the release date.
And that day is finally here!
Last week, Gavin dropped us more details on the Brawl decks including each of the commanders and the entire contents of the preconstructed decks.
These four legends were designed with Brawl in mind, and seemed very well balanced considering the Throne of Eldraine Standard card pool. But what about the larger card pool of Commander? I thought it might be fun to take a look at each of the Brawl decks and take a look at some of the cards that could make the transition into Commander.
First of all, each of the decks includes a shockland like Hallowed Fountain, a temple like Temple of Mystery, and a reprint of Command Tower with sweet new artwork. All of these lands are more than welcome in our Commander mana base card pool. And each deck also includes an Arcane Signet, which is just fantastic for Commander ( as I wrote about here).
Okay, let's dig into specific cards for each deck, and kick things off with the Bant deck, Wild Bounty led by commander Chulane, Teller of Tales!
Melissa DeTora, lead designer of the Brawl decks, described the goal of the deck thusly:
Chulane strikes me as an absurdly powerful card for the Commander format. The fact that you get to draw a card and potentially put another land onto the battlefield each time you play a creature would be quite potent already, but then you add the ability of returning one of your creatures to its owner's hand means that you'll almost never not be generating value from your creatures and just pushes it over the top. But that's not all! Chulane even has vigilance, and while that 2 points of power isn't a lot, it can get chip damage in when the coast is clear and occasionally wear some sort of buff equipment to turn it into a threat. Blackblade, Reforged anyone?
The one limiting factor to how abusable Chulane might be is the activation cost of three isn't insignificant, but the mana ramp inherent in the card's abilities is going to offset that, not to mention cards like Training Grounds. Heck, Biomancer's Familiar is in the Brawl deck!
Faerie Formation seems like a solid card to make the transition to Commander. It's significantly large for its casting cost, and has flying and very useful activated ability to sink extra mana into.
Steelbane Hydra seems like a great card for Brawl but I'm skeptical what sort of impact it will have in Commander outside of Hydra tribal decks (now a thing thanks to Gargos, Vicious Watcher). That activated ability is pretty expensive but the utility might be worth it in the right decks.
I was initially quick to dismiss Thorn Mammoth, but in any sort of deck dedicated to ramping – like Chulane – seven mana for a repeatable fight effect seems fine. This seems like a slam dunk for any removal-hungry green deck, and I'm definitely going to find room for this in my Grothama, All-Devouring deck!
Keeper of Fables pales in comparison to the very recent new card Ohran Frostfang from Commander 2019, but the effect is strong enough that I can see including both of them in many non-Human decks. Maraleaf Pixie looks like a solid two-mana card on rate, and the art is really cool!
It's a big head-scratcher to me why Tome of Legends is in this deck. It seems like a slam dunk inclusion for any of the other decks, most especially Knight's Charge which seems lacking in card-advantage. Chulane already provides so much built in card advantage that I can see a game going by where you almost never actually use the Tome.
I love the Jund flavor of this card, which calls back nicely to the devour mechanic. This color combination has no shortage of recursive creatures that you can easily sacrifice to Korvold and get them back for when Korvold attacks. The first card that comes to mind is Bloodsoaked Champion, but there are plenty of others like Reassembling Skeleton.
Another slam-dunk inclusion would be Rancor , which is particularly useful for Korvold if you need the trample to punch through flying chump blockers – though you'd need to sacrifice something other than Rancor when you attack in that situation.
Two cards that aren't in the Brawl decks for Magic Arena but are included in the paper decks are Gluttonous Troll and Chittering Witch, which provide lots of sacrifice fodder early on when Korvold needs it most. I suspect that neither of these cards will make the transition to Commander outside of very niche, specialty decks that particularly want the tokens they provide. For instance, the Rats for Chittering Witch, or if there's some huge Food payoff that Gluttonous Troll can help provide for. Think something like Revel in the Riches but for Food tokens. Similarly, Savvy Hunter would only play a role in a Food deck given the extreme competition there is for three mana deck slots.
Syr Konrad, the Grim is an interesting card. It's a legend, so you could potentially build an entire Commander deck around it. The triggered ability feels quite small for a multiplayer deck, but the activated ability is intriguing at just two mana given how much mana a black deck can generate. The fact that it's damage and not life loss means it can benefit from having lifelink from something like Basilisk Collar.
I feel there was a missed opportunity for Golden Egg to be an Artifact – Egg Food given the recent printing of Atla Palani, Nest Tender. I do appreciate the call back to the cards like Darkwater Egg that gave rise to "Eggs" combo decks.
For the reprints, Dreadhorde Invasion, Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin, and Judith, the Scourge Diva are all superb in this sort of deck. And Moldervine Reclamation is a fantastic new Commander staple that does a ton of heavy lifting here.
I really like Alela quite a bit. I like that the card only costs four mana and it generates an evasive army so long as you have plenty of artifacts and enchantments. I played a couple games with this deck on the Arena Brawl event and there seemed to be a steady stream of artifacts and enchantments, but of course in a Commander deck you can really load up on them. A reprint of Sephara, Sky's Blade is particularly nice here since the card makes your Faerie tokens indestructible and should be relatively easy to cast for one white mana.
Mace of the Valiant has a very expensive equip cost, but in a deck that can spit out creature tokens in addition to just casting creatures normally, the card will generate a ton of charge counters in quick order. It could fit nicely alongside some proliferate strategies too.
Wow, Shimmer Dragon looks amazing, doesn't it? The first thing I thought of was a deck with plenty of Equipment cards since it doesn't matter if you tap them or not, they grant their effect just by equipping them to a creature. Drawing two extra cards a turn attached to a large flier is pure gasoline.
Even when you get the full "mini-Storm" effect of making two extra copies, I'm not sure Banish into Fable makes the cut in Commander at six mana. All that Glitters might see some play in decks that can reasonably play Auras; in particular, I think it could find a home in Tiana, Ship's Caretaker decks since those decks likely play some number of Equipment cards. Corridor Monitor can basically be "free" if you untap Sol Ring when you play it, but mostly I see this being played in decks that want to copy it and set up some sort of engine; for instance, with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
I like Witching Well a lot. It's just one mana so it's an early play that can help smooth out your draw. Later, you can cash it in to draw two cards if you don't have anything else to use your mana on. If you've got something like Salvaging Station you can keep the fun going.
Heraldic Banner looks a little out of place in a three-color deck, and I can see some potential for feel-bads when you need to call a color you don't have and the creatures you already have don't get to benefit from the power boost. Seems like a fine mana rock for a mono-color deck though!
I have to admit a little bit of confusion over the design of the Brawl deck. Syr Gwyn costs a whopping six mana to cast, and there's only 23 lands and no ramp other than Arcane Signet? I understand that the rest of the deck's mana curve is a relatively low, but given that we're going to run a fair number of equipment cards, we're going to have plenty of mana sinks to use any extra mana on while we await the arrival of Syr Gwyn and the ability to equip Knight 0. Speaking of Equipment, the visuals of slipping a Crystal Slipper on a Knight creature is delicious. Shining Armor makes for a nice combat trick, and the vigilance it bestows is always welcome in a multiplayer game.
I do really like the inherent card advantage of the Adventure cards Foulmire Knight, Order of Midnight, and Smitten Swordmaster. Cast them for the spell effect using the Adventure ability, and then you've got a virtual creature card ready whenever you have the extra mana to cast it. I love these cards with recursion elements like Phyrexian Reclamation, so you are getting back a spell effect along with the creature.
Knights' Charge is a terrifying card for Knight tribal decks, and I like that they reprinted Icon of Ancestry too. In Commander we can add all sorts of great tribal support cards, in particular equipment like Heirloom Blade.
The Arena version of this deck doesn't have Silverwing Squadron and Embereth Skyblazer but the paper versions do and both of these cards do exceptional work in a Knight tribal deck, as do the other new Knights.
Don't forget, you don't have to buy a Brawl deck to play Brawl! Supply of the Brawl decks are going to be tight at release time, and there will be a Brawl event October 26–27 at a local game store near you! It's called Magic Weekend: Brawl, and it is a special multiplayer Brawl day! There are plenty of other legendary creatures in the new Standard that you can build a Brawl deck around, so be sure to give the format a try if you haven't already. I'm definitely planning on attending the Magic Weekend: Brawl event because I suspect some of the promos are going to be great for Commander decks!
So, which of the new cards from the Brawl decks are you excited to get your hands on, outside of Arcane Signet?
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