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
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
A ‘Spikier’ deck that has less synergy but a higher power level. We
wanted to use the new Adventure mechanic from Throne of Eldraine, so
this deck is about ramping, casting lots of creatures and spells, and
rebuying your creatures to get multiple uses out of them
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
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,
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.
For the reprints, Incubation Druid and Time Wipe are both high quality
cards that have already made the jump into Commander decks so it’s nice to
see them here.
This deck for Johnny players has lots of obvious synergy and combos. It
uses the Food mechanic from ELD and sacrifices permanents for value.
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.
This deck has more of a mix of synergy and power. The combos are less
obvious, and there are lots of things to discover. It uses the artifact
and enchantment theme from ELD, and has a light flying theme as well.
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
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
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
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!
For the player who wants to play creatures and attack. This deck is
easier to play than the others. It’s all about Knights and Equipment.
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
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?
Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter! I run polls and
get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the
I’ve been writing about the Commander format and Magic: The Gathering in general for nearly two decades. Visit the Star City Games article archives for tons of content dating back to January 2000!
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