Brawl Champs And The Great Estrid Unmasking!

Bennie isn’t ready to move to Ravnica with the rest of the world! He’s still got lots of fun ideas for his Commander 2018 goods! Check out his latest finished list here!

Wow, what a great weekend! Not only did we have a nice long holiday weekend
(if you’re here in the U.S.), but Grand Prix Richmond was going on right
here in my backyard. It’s a true pleasure to be able to attend such a huge
event and only spend about fifteen minutes on the trip there. I was
particularly thrilled to get to participate in the first ever Brawl
Championship, with none other than Wizards of the Coast R&D’s Gavin
Verhey on hand to add to the fun!

Now, I think Brawl is a cool format, and I had built a couple decks for the
format, but I could count on two fingers the number of Brawl games I’d
actually played. My Magic time is taken up with playing Commander as much
as I can, Standard for the occasional Friday Night Magic, and more
Commander. But having the Brawl Champs in my town focused my mind to the
task at hand.

I had originally built a Brawl deck around Marwyn, the Nurturer. It was
fun, had a bunch of Elves, and a lot of cool green cards, but it was
nowhere near competitive. I also had a five-color Jodah, Archmage Eternal
deck that was all about energy production, thanks to the energy cards
banned in Standard being legal for Brawl. It was also fun, but the few
games I’d played with it didn’t overly impress as a competitive choice.

So, I turned to Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. The deck had a ton of removal and
control elements and lots of mana ramp to flip over to Nicol Bolas, the
Arisen, a truly insanely powerful planeswalker. Playing a few games with it
left me feeling like it would be a strong choice, but not exactly a fun
choice. Winning the Brawl Championship trophy would be a nice feather in my
cap, but the odds would be long even if I had a ruthless, cutthroat deck. I
didn’t exactly want to be a dream-crusher along the way.

Luckily, my friend Eric brought his Gishath, Sun’s Avatar Brawl deck to one
of our testing sessions, and the deck just looked like a ton of fun,
featuring some epic turns. When he won our last session of the night with
the deck, he said that he wished he could come play in the Brawl Champs and
bring the dino heat. I asked if he’d be willing to let me play with his
deck and he said sure! So, in a move as old as tournament Magic, I audibled
into a different deck the night before the tournament.

34 people came out to play in the tournament. It was five rounds of Swiss
with four-person pods. The winner of each pod got five points, second place
got three points, third place got two points, and last place got zero
points. At the end of five rounds the top 4 players would play a final pod
to determine who would get the trophy and how the big prize ticket pool
would be split. But even though most of the prize value was held in the
final four, there was some good value for the rest of the players. Each
round you played you received 20 prize tickets, so if you stayed to the end
you got 100 prize tickets to go claim some prizes. Each pod you actually
won gave you an extra 40 prize tickets.

I ended up winning two pods, came in second two pods, and then third place
in one pod, so my point total was quite high. Depending on how the top
table mustered out, I could slide into fourth place, but unfortunately, I
ended up in fifth place on tie-breakers. I did get to play Gavin in my
final pod and that was loads of fun! He was playing an Arcades, the
Strategist deck that did have a small handful of playable creatures with
defender, but mostly it was a Bant Goodstuff deck. I did experience several
attack phases featuring Suspicious Bookcase on offense, which was awesome!
Gavin also demonstrated the power of Chaos Wand in the format. Don’t leave
home without it, folks.

The guy who won the trophy had a Firesong and Sunspeaker deck. I got to
play him three rounds in, and at one point he played Star of Extinction
with his commander on the battlefield. When the dust settled – and my poor
Dinosaurs dying in the most flavorful way – he had gained 300 or so life.
Yeah, he ended up winning that pod. Super-nice guy, I’m glad he took it

Of course, the other big thing going on this weekend was PAX West in
Seattle, where some cool news from Guilds of Ravnica was revealed.
Earlier last week I’d made a bold prediction that we would not see the
Ravnica shocklands reprinted this time. My theory was that shocklands would
lead to a Standard dominated by X-color + red Goblin Chainwhirler decks, so
instead, Wizards would make some new duals that wouldn’t do that. I posited
some sort of variant of the painlands, but instead of taking a point of
damage for getting one of the two colors, you could only spend that mana to
cast multicolor spells.

The Guilds of Ravnica previews at PAX West blew that theory out of
the water when we got to see that shocklands would indeed be back. As a
Commander fan, I’m thrilled to have more copies of these lands in
circulation because they are fantastic for Commander manabases. As a
Standard fan, I’m a bit worried, especially given the return of the convoke
mechanic for Selesnya, which is typically fueled by small token creatures.
They even previewed a new spin on Selesnya legend Emmara, with Emmara, Soul
of the Accord.

She makes 1/1 white Soldier tokens. Nevermind the head-scratching choice of
not having her churn out Saprolings despite having Saprolings popping up in Dominaria. How could Selesnya token themes gain any traction in a
world full of Chainwhirlers?

Despite a little bit of concern for Standard, as a Commander fan I’m stoked
to see what’s coming up in the previews over the next few weeks! And
speaking of Commander, let’s get on to my next deck!

Commander 2018
is the gift that keeps on giving. There are so many cool new legends to
build Commander decks around. I’ve written about
Xantcha, Sleeper Agent
Aminatou, the Fateshifter
, and
Lord Windgrace
so far. The next card I want focus on is the very popular leader of our
Bant deck, Adaptive Enchantment-Estrid, the Masked!

Let’s dig deep into this card, shall we? I’ll start with the abilities.

+2: Untap each enchanted permanent you control.

Most of the time we’re enchanting creatures with Auras that do cool stuff,
but since green is in the color identity, we also get to tap into Auras
that enchant lands. Estrid encourages us to use Auras for mana acceleration
so that her +2 ability can generate even more mana. The creatures you
enchant can gain a pseudo-vigilance ability if you activate this ability
post-combat. Both lines are quite strong in Commander, so having them tied
to a +2 loyalty ability is amazing.

1: Create a white Aura enchantment token named Mask attached to another
target permanent. The token has enchant permanent and totem armor.

One problem with playing a lot of Auras is that destroying the enchanted
permanent ends up destroying the enchanting cards as well, so Estrid’s
second ability is a perfect complement to our strategy. The totem armor
enchantment protects the permanent, and it also makes it eligible to untap
from Estrid’s first ability.

7: Put the top seven cards of your library into your graveyard. Return
all non-Aura enchantment cards from your graveyard to the battlefield,
then do the same for Aura cards.

Replenish is a fantastic card in any enchantment-heavy deck. It’s also on
the reserve list and is a $50-60 card. Don’t worry, Estrid’s got your back
with her ultimate ability! It even mills some extra cards into your
graveyard, so if you play enough enchantments, you’re bound to get one or
two extra.

Okay, let’s be real here-finding good cards for our Estrid deck is not
hard. In fact, when I was searching through card databases for cards I
quickly found way more cards than I could possibly squeeze into the deck.
So, I don’t think I’m breaking ground for any crazy technology here.
Instead, I just want to share what angles and cards I decided to focus on
when cutting down to our 99.

Mana Ramp

The first order of business in any Commander deck is mana ramp, but I think
it’s even more important with Estrid. Not only does her +2 ability turn
into a massive mana bump for you if you’ve got a few land Auras, but having
all that extra mana makes it much easier to keep recasting Estrid when she
inevitably gets destroyed. I picked most of the best ones, and in honor of
Utopia Sprawl needing an actual Forest to enchant, I’ve also gone deep on
playing sacrifice lands that can search up a ForestMisty Rainforest,
Windswept Heath, Verdant Catacombs, and Bant Panorama.

Kiora’s Follower makes a pretty good target for a Mask token, since it will
let you untap anything else each time you activate the +2 ability.


Estrid’s Mask tokens have totem armor, but there are plenty of other Auras
that have the ability too, so I’ve added some to the mix. Then there’s the
awesome Umbra Mystic that adds that ability to all your Auras!

Removal Enchantments

Keeping with the theme, we’ve got some pretty good removal options that are
enchantments too. Darksteel Mutation is a favorite way to neutralize
otherwise problematic commanders.

Enchantments/Auras Matter

Ah, here’s the meat of the deck! There are lots and lots of good cards that
synergize with enchantments in our three colors, and I feel I’ve chosen
most of the best ones here.

Brago, King Eternal is a cool choice here; if he deals combat damage to a
player, you’ll get to “blink” your enchantment out and then back into the
battlefield, setting off beneficial triggers and letting you reposition any
Auras you want.

Other Enchantments

Rounding out the enchantments are just high quality good cards in our
colors. I particularly like Rancor, Spirit Loop, and Angelic Destiny
because they come back to your hand regardless of what happens to the
creature they’re enchanting.

Sturdy Creatures

Outside of creatures that directly synergize with our enchantment themes I
want some creatures that are sturdy enough to enchant and have a reasonable
chance of making an impact. Creatures with hexproof are awesome in this
regard, like Invisible Stalker, Sigarda, Host of Herons, and Dragonlord
Ojutai. Mother of Runes is a good way to protect a creature from targeted
removal that might get around protection from destroy, like totem armor.
Just keep in mind that giving a creature protection from a color will also
make Auras fall off if they’re that same color. For instance, Estrid’s Mask
token is a white Aura, so if you’re protecting something from Swords to
Plowshares with Mother of Runes, you’ll lose the Mask. I think that’s
probably a fair trade off.

Planeswalker Stuff

Having a planeswalker as your commander means being able to count on having
a planeswalker on the battlefield quite often, so cards that care about
planeswalkers gain a ton of value. None more so than The Chain Veil, which
is quite absurd with Estrid. If you enchant The Chain Veil with a Mask
token (and let’s be real, you should anyway since people will want to
destroy it), it will untap whenever you +2 Estrid. If you also have
enchanted permanents that can generate at least four mana, you can chain
The Chain Veil activations over and over with the bare minimal effect of
adding an arbitrarily large number of loyalty counters on Estrid, making
her practically immune to damage. Let’s be real though-you’ll probably be
netting extra mana along the way, so you’ll get to cast whatever you want,
and then cap it off by activating the ultimate.


Let’s round things out with some controlling elements, a couple
counterspells and some sweepers to keep people honest.

Here’s how the deck ended up:

Estrid, the Masked
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 09-04-2018
Magic Card Back

37 lands are a little lighter than I typically like to go, but between the
low mana ramp enchantments, the low mana cost of Estrid, and lots of card
drawing, we should be okay.

So, what do you think? There are obviously a lot of great
enchantment-themed cards in these colors that I ended up not choosing, but
do you think there are any I should have made room for?

Deck Database

Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January
2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith”
and the commander name into the Google and it should pop right up. I’ve
written a lot about Commander – and Magic in general – so if you want to
explore further, the

Starcitygames.com article archives

have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Commander 2018

Aminatou, the Fateshifter


Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

, Lord Windgrace

Core Set 2019

Sai, Master Thopterist


Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma


Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire


Chromium, the Mutable


Grothama, All-Devouring


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

, Grand Warlord Radha
, Arvad the Cursed,

Muldrotha, the Grave Tide


Slimefoot, the Stowaway


Yargle, Glutton of Urborg

, Squee, the Immortal

Firesong and Sunspeaker


Jodah, Archmage Eternal

Masters 25

Hanna, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan

Azor, the Lawbringer

, Etali, Primal Storm

Nezahal, Primal Tide


Zacama, Primal Calamity


Tetzimoc, Primal Death


Zetalpa, Primal Dawn


Ghalta, Primal Hunger


Grusilda, Monster Masher


Dr. Julius Jumblemorph


Vona, Butcher of Magan


Tishana, Voice of Thunder


Admiral Beckett Brass


Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith


Inalla, Archmage Ritualist


Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist


O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami


Mairsil, the Pretender


Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation

Razaketh, the Foulblooded

, Zur, the Enchanter
(Mummy’s Curse),

Djeru, With Eyes Open

, The Locust God, Karona, False God
(All the Deserts),Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal


Oketra the True

Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun

, Atogatog
(Cartouches & Trials),

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons


Samut, Voice of Dissent


Rhonas the Indomitable

, Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block

Yahenni, Undying Partisan

, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (5
Color Energy),

Rishkar, Peema Renegade


Kari Zev, Skyship Raider


Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016

Breya, Etherium Shaper


Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice


Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

(no green creatures),

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

(Tribal Gideon)

Commander Strategy

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander