Hey everyone! Welcome back to The Brawl Project. I hope everyone had fun with the Brawl launch on Magic Arena over the weekend because I certainly did! During my expedition into the Brawl event queue, I saw a wide range of strategies. It’s great to see people trying out so many different things!
Prior to the update, there was a lot of question surrounding whether we would ever get to play Historic Brawl, and Wizards of the Coast was very silent about the matter. However, with the update on Thursday, they snuck in a nice little surprise: You can build Historic Brawl decks! There’s no queue available for it, but if you have a friend who wants to battle you can do a direct challenge! If you don’t (yet) have friends to direct challenge in Brawl, I set up a Discord server in order to facilitate direct challenges between Brawlers looking to do battle.
So how well received was Brawl? Let’s take a look around the Magicverse:
Holy crap, Brawl is a much needed breath of fresh air on @MTG_Arena.
I hope the metrics reflect widespread interest, because I want this to be a thing forever; sell me sleeves with the face of each Legendary in-game if you need to monetize it, but by God let it happen.
— Noxious, the Crownless King Because WTF Oko (@coL_noxious) October 25, 2019
That’s pretty good! Looks like there was nothing wrong with the…
Not banning Oko as a commander for Brawl is a mistake.
— Amy the Amazonian (@coL_Amazonian) October 21, 2019
Okay, well to be fair
it would have taken an omniscient genius to foresee Oko becoming a problem as a commander ah heck, who am I kidding. We all knew Oko, Thief of Crowns was going to be a nightmare for many of the more expensive creature commanders such as Chulane, Teller of Tales or Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale. I know many people out there were hoping for an Oko-as-a-commander ban on October 21, though the announcement came and went with no changes to the format. But I have good news! Oko is far from unbeatable in Brawl. Today we’re going to talk about some of the strategies you can use to gain an edge against opposing Oko decks.
Let’s take a look at the limitations of a Brawl deck that has Oko, Thief of Crowns as its commander:
- No sweepers. The closest thing Simic has to a sweeper is Flood of Tears, which costs six and is a temporary measure. White has Cast Off (from Realm-Cloaked Giant), black has Ritual of Soot, and red has Flame Sweep, but Simic must interact with creatures one at a time.
- Limited removal options. There are no Murder-esque cards in blue or green in Brawl right now; if a Simic player wants to eliminate a creature, their options are countermagic (such as Sinister Sabotage), transformation effects (such as Oko’s +1 or Frogify), or fight/Tail Slash effects (Prey Upon, Rabid Bite). Cards like Prey Upon are dicey because they require sticking a threat first, and most Simic decks I’ve seen play creatures that are higher up on the curve like Questing Beast or Cavalier of Gales. Interaction early in the game is basically nonexistent, and when Simic decks do interact, it’s mostly via countermagic or bounce spells.
- Threats are mostly creature-based. Sure, Oko is a powerful card and can make 3/3s every other turn, but it sure takes a while to kill somebody from an empty battlefield and Oko. Simic decks often rely on large green creatures to do the thumping; cards like Guardian Project or Once and Future can keep the cards pumping so they won’t stall out quickly but ultimately the path to victory is through attacking with creatures. If you can shut down the creature game, you can find another way to gain an advantage.
How are we going to exploit these weaknesses? I offer three solutions in the form of three decks:
Solution #1: Going Wide with Tajic, Legion’s Edge
- 1 Fencing Ace
- 1 Loyal Pegasus
- 1 Boros Challenger
- 1 Healer's Hawk
- 1 Sunhome Stalwart
- 1 Bounty Agent
- 1 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
- 1 Venerated Loxodon
- 1 Swiftblade Vindicator
- 1 Haazda Marshal
- 1 Tajic, Legion's Edge
- 1 Tithe Taker
- 1 Clamor Shaman
- 1 Tomik, Distinguished Advokist
- 1 Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
- 1 Feather, the Redeemed
- 1 Skyknight Vanguard
- 1 Faerie Guidemother
- 1 Giant Killer
- 1 Robber of the Rich
- 1 Charming Prince
- 1 Ardenvale Tactician
- 1 Bonecrusher Giant
- 1 Hushbringer
With this deck, we can keep the pressure on Oko. Decks with creatures this cheap are inherently powerful against blue control elements; holding up three mana for Thought Collapse when your opponent has two creatures already attacking you feels really awkward. Oko’s +1 would actually be an upgrade to a lot of the creatures we’re playing.
Tajic, Legion’s Edge is the best commander in the format to keep planeswalker commanders in check. Haste means that the opponent must already have a blocker out before casting their commander, lest they lose a guaranteed three loyalty. This deck has no shortage of creatures that can be cast for one or two mana and pick up Tajic’s mentor trigger upon an attack.
The best form of interaction Oko decks have with a “go wide” deck is to put up big blockers and hope we don’t have answers. If you look at this deck’s removal suite, you will see that it’s all enchantment-based removal that doesn’t care about the size of the creature we’re getting rid of (as opposed to the red damage-based removal).
The opposition will be forced to trade with our threats at or behind mana efficiency, and we can leverage that tempo to keep pressure on the battlefield to attack Oko down any time our opponent tries to cast the planeswalker.
Solution 2: Dodging the Interaction with Vraska, Golgari Queen
- 1 Sanitarium Skeleton
- 1 Thrashing Brontodon
- 1 District Guide
- 1 Midnight Reaper
- 1 Golgari Findbroker
- 1 Burglar Rat
- 1 Cavalier of Night
- 1 Yarok's Fenlurker
- 1 Cavalier of Thorns
- 1 Gilded Goose
- 1 Rankle, Master of Pranks
- 1 Order of Midnight
- 1 Savvy Hunter
- 1 Murderous Rider
- 1 Questing Beast
- 1 Feasting Troll King
- 1 Deathless Knight
Many people have pointed out to me that Vraska, Golgari Queen’s -3 ability can kill an Oko, but the power of this deck in the matchup goes far beyond that. This deck features many creatures that work well against the interaction from an Oko deck; many creatures have their value tied to their enters-the-battlefield trigger (such as Burglar Rat or Golgari Findbroker), and others have built in recursive effects (Sanitarium Skeleton, Deathless Knight). Many of the permanents play well with sacrifice effects, whether they provide extra permanents to sacrifice or have a death trigger. Oko might be able to get some value out of his +1 on some of the larger threats, but Vraska can cash in the Elk for a card with her +2 and you can think about recursion.
Also note that many of the plays of this deck can’t be interacted with by Oko. Dreadhorde Invasion and Trail of Crumbs are enchantments, while Garruk, Cursed Huntsman and Liliana, Dreadhorde General are planeswalkers. Sure, countermagic could be an issue, but this deck makes enough relevant plays early on to make it tough for the opponent to wait for the one big payoff card, like with a ramp deck.
Oh, and have you gotten a chance to cast Casualties of War in Brawl yet? I target your Oko, Arcane Signet, Questing Beast, and a land. You can often get four targets out of it, and rarely fewer than three. Strongly recommended.
Solution #3: Shutting Down the Threats with Nicol Bolas
- 1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
- 1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General
- 1 Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
- 1 Narset, Parter of Veils
- 1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno
- 1 Duress
- 1 Unsummon
- 1 Convolute
- 1 Negate
- 1 Murder
- 1 Chromatic Lantern
- 1 Disdainful Stroke
- 1 Reave Soul
- 1 Thought Erasure
- 1 Sinister Sabotage
- 1 Ionize
- 1 Lava Coil
- 1 Price of Fame
- 1 Ritual of Soot
- 1 Discovery
- 1 Bedevil
- 1 Cry of the Carnarium
- 1 Liliana's Triumph
- 1 Angrath's Rampage
- 1 Tyrant's Scorn
- 1 Drawn from Dreams
- 1 Arcane Signet
- 1 Epic Downfall
- 1 Drown in the Loch
Why bother even playing creatures if they’re just going to turn into Elk? We go for the long game with Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God, focusing our efforts on shutting down the opposing threats and taking over late. I wrote about Nicol Bolas in Brawl in my first-ever article for this series, but I made a few tune-ups to this decklist to adjust to the metagame, but the idea is the same. Clear out the battlefield with the many, many removal spells of this deck to make way for Nicol Bolas, whose +1 will let you pull ahead in resources. From there you can win with a Nicol Bolas ultimate or rely on one of your other planeswalkers in Chandra, Awakened Inferno or Ral, Izzet Viceroy to deliver the final blow.
For some reason, green has access to a bunch of haste creatures in this format, so you definitely have to be careful about just slamming a planeswalker on an open battlefield. Fortunately, all these planeswalkers have high loyalty and a pretty solid effect upon their first activation, so even if it is possible for them to get attacked down, it’s not easy.
This Nicol Bolas deck’s results against Oko are going to be dependent on how many counterspells the opponent is playing, but with plenty of cheap interaction it should be able to stay alive to reach the end-game. Once any planeswalker sticks, the tides will surely turn in your favor.
We Can Beat Oko!
I wish you luck in taking down everybody’s (least?) favorite three-mana planeswalker – Oko, Thief of Crowns. I will be streaming a heckuva lot this week and plan on incorporating viewer battles and viewer decks! I look forward to seeing what everybody else has brewed up, so stop by and say hi!
Don’t forget, there’s a giveaway this week (and every week)!
!!!It’s Giveaway Time!!!
RETWEET and FOLLOW for a chance to win the Savage Hunger Brawl precon. A winner will be drawn at midnight on Monday!
USA ONLY (sorry rest of the world ) pic.twitter.com/7tEite3fSA
— Sunyveil (@Sunyveil) October 26, 2019