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Brawl for One, One for Brawl

Brawl for One, One for Brawl

With the announcement of Dominaria, Wizard of the Coast has done many things to shake up Standard. From sagas to legends in every pack to exclusive buy-a-box promos, what was once a seriously unbalanced format is in for a massive overhaul. In the process of doing this, one announcement also hit the table; the creation of a new format: Brawl. Brawl is a hybrid of Standard and Commander, designed to appeal to fans of both. It has a lot of the power of a Standard deck without the exorbitant costs of some Commander staples, or the sheer brokeness that would otherwise cause unfun table wipes on turn 3. I’ve seen games be decided by a turn 1 Sol Ring, so a format where I can play a game of Commander without randomly losing to someone’s opening mana rock definitely has my attention. So let’s break down what Brawl is really about.

  • 60 card Standard-legal decks
  • Your Commander can be any legendary creature OR planeswalker
  • Your Commander starts in the Command Zone
  • Your deck can only contain one copy of each card aside from basic lands
  • Your deck can only contain the colours of your Commander
  • Each player starts with 30 life

 

With this in mind, Brawl opens up some pretty interesting dynamics. We’ve already seen how good certain planeswalkers can be when they’re Commanders, such as Daretti, Scrap Savant, so having access to any planeswalker opens up deckbuilding dramatically. You can run anything from Nissa, Steward of Elements ramp to Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh control, or even Chandra, Torch of Defiance aggro. It’s surprising just how powerful always having access to your central planeswalker is, but this little tweak to the Commander rule opens up a lot of possibilities.

 

Another advantage of having 60 cards is that you’re far more likely to see certain cards in your deck without the need to tutor. As a long time Commander player, one of the most frustrating parts of playing is when everyone is tutoring and shuffling every single turn. It’s time consuming, especially when someone tries to search just for value rather than when they have a plan in mind. By shaving 40 cards off the deck, the odds of naturally seeing specific cards increases quite a bit, so that works well for speeding up the game. While this does make it more difficult to assemble combos, it doesn’t completely eliminate the ability to do so, as tutors like Diabolic Tutor, Planar Bridge, and even the Forerunner cycle are still available.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about this announcement is that once a card rotates out of Standard it becomes useless for Brawl, which isn’t something you want to deal with when you’re playing a casual Highlander format. However, this gave me two ideas to further prolong the use of your Brawl decks. The first and easiest thing is to take your rotating Brawl deck and expand it into its own Commander deck. While this may not be a quick solution if your Commander is a planeswalker, you can always implement a house rule to keep your Commander as is, not unlike if you were playing a Teferi, Temporal Archmage deck. With this method you can start off a deck in Brawl to see if you like the direction it’s taking, and if you like it you can expand, and if you don’t it’s not the end of the world to abandon ship before dumping money on Commander staples for it.

The second idea is what I like to call “Build Your Own Brawl”. There are hundreds of legendary creatures and planeswalkers throughout Magic’s history that you could build Brawl decks around, but by limiting ourselves to just the current Standard we miss out on some truly interesting strategies. What I propose to increase the longevity of your deck is to expand the allowed Commander list to any legend, but your deck can only be built using cards from a Standard that legend was in. For example, if I wanted to build a deck around Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, I could only use cards from either Odyssey block to Onslaught block or Onslaught block to Mirrodin block. As well, it would follow the current Commander banlist to stop any shenanigans like a Cromat player from winning with Coalition Victory, or anything involving Shaharazad. This would still discourage players from running mana rocks like Sol Ring and Mana Vault since they would have be used with cards from around Legends-era, which as far as creatures go were pretty underpowered. You could have plenty of acceleration, but the risk of losing because a Ravnica-era deck was just stronger and more cohesive probably isn’t worth it.

 

I’m excited to see where Brawl ends up among the other formats. As a halfway point between Standard and Commander, I can see it being a gateway for fans of either format to cross over. Restrictions breed creativity, and restricting your deckbuilding to just Standard cards is definitely a fun puzzle to solve. I look forward to exploring both “official” Brawl and my own expanded version, as I believe it opens up a lot of possibilities you don’t get with regular Commander. There are a ton of different potential Commanders coming in Dominaria, each with their own mechanics and potential builds, so grab sixty sleeves and get ready to brawl!