Welcome back to another article from The Epic Experiment!
Normally I like to provide you with budget-friendly ideas to make your next commander game fun, engaging, and a fun night to remember. However, every once in a while we take a break from talking Commander and spend a little time discussing another singleton format. Today, we are going to look at Brawl and how the latest set, Kaldheim, has helped shape the format.
Brawl Vs. Commander
For those who may not be familiar, Brawl is a singleton format that plays similarly to Commander. Each deck has a commanding General or legendary card and the colour identity of your commander dictates what colours can be used in your deck.
The difference between Brawl and Commander are:
- Planeswalkers can be your Commander in Brawl
- There is no Commander damage
- Decks are 60 cards
- You may only use cards that are legal in Standard
Brawl: A Brief History
Initially, the format was rolled out with Dominaria, in part to capitalize on the cycle of uncommon legends that could be used to add variety to the format. However, Brawl really picked up steam when War of the Spark was introduced on account of all the Planeswalkers giving the format a whole new feel. It also came to MTG Arena around the same time making it a viable online format.
Personally, I have been playing it fairly consistently since then as well and have enjoyed the format. It makes for a refreshing change to the grind of standard and puts other, less well known cards on display in an interesting way. While initially the format was largely panned in paper, the Arena environment is diverse, interesting, and thriving ensuring that the format is alive and well during this pandemic.
Many players didn’t really enjoy the notion of Brawl because of the card pool being tied to Standard. This means that if you built a fun and powerful Brawl deck, it had a shelf life and would rotate out of legality at some point. This irks many Commander players because they like the notion that the deck they build today could be played two years from now. Some of this concern has been resolved with the creation of Historic Brawl, which is essentially Brawl but making use of the Historic card pool.
While Historic Brawl is indeed growing in popularity, I am still very much a believer in the Standard variant of Brawl. The appeal to me is that the singleton nature of the format mimics some of the elements of Commander well enough to satisfy an itch while allowing me to look at new strategies or card options and assess them for their long term viability.
I also like the appeal of the affordability of the format. Since many players buy more than enough Standard legal products each year, we are all stuck with this glut of quasi useless cards that now can be given new life.
While the format is quite varied, it is not without its issues. The first issue stems from the fact that it is now essentially 1 vs. 1 which is quite a departure from Commander. We are given an additional 5 life points, but this still seems to do little to dissuade full on aggro strategies. The fact that these aggro decks can exist forces decks to abandon some of the more high mana value cards in favour of playing efficient threats and counters. This narrows the card pool to some degree and assures that true Standard staples will continue to see heavy play.
The fact that we are incentivized to hurry and get our opponent dead also means that you don’t have the time to build value engines as we would in Commander. Mythics like Koma, Heliod, and Valki are all great engine starters in their own right, and don’t need as much of a ramp up as other decks do. This starts to choke out other less potent cards because you are incentivized to play the high value Mythics.
Two for the Price of One!
I have been running two Brawl decks to reasonable success. I think that they highlight the primary difference between the power level afforded some of the mythic legendary options that prevent some of the uncommon’s from having a chance to shine. We will start with Rielle, the Everwise. The velocity this deck generates is considerable and Rielle takes almost no set up in order to be a potent value engine.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum we have Vega, The Watcher, an uncommon from Kaldheim. Vega requires you to set her up with cards from not your hand in order for Vega to be good and is less impactful.
Vega, The Watcher
Rielle’s list is very much trying to make the most of her ability to draw cards when you discard. As a three mana play with 3 toughness, she likely survives things like Bonecrusher Giant//Stomp and Shock, so you can pretty much rest assured you can get at least one activation off of her. The ideal scenario is that she goes unchecked and you can land Improbable Alliance, Teferi’s Ageless Insight, or a Teferi’s Tutelage to turbo mill your opponent out of cards.
If the mill strategy doesn’t work, Ominous Seas, Kiora Bests the Sea God, and Shark Typhoon can quickly take over a game. There is very little set up required, you just need Rielle to be active and have ways to discard. The deck has been very good for me and can get the job done against a number of other decks without much trouble.
While Rielle has fared well, Vega, The Watcher has really struggled. My first build was playing very heavily into the Foretell and Adventure mechanics, but the deck was taking too much to set up in order to be able to face down more aggressive decks. Vega is also a card that can be destroyed easily.
In the iteration you see here I have attempted to address the more aggressive nature of the format and turned the deck into more of an U/W Fliers sort of build with less reliance on the recurring card draw feature. This second version has fared better, but is far from being complete.
That’s all for this week folks. Have fun, stay safe, and I’ll catch you all next time!
Do you have suggestions of what to help boost these deck’s potential? Then leave your suggestions in the comments below!
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