A New Era of Brawl

Posted in Card Preview on July 22, 2019

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

On Saturday at SDCC, Mark Rosewater went into a ton of changes rolling out with Throne of Eldraine. Collector Boosters! Showcase Frames! A brand-new Plane! Oh, my!

The new product lineup with Throne of Eldraine is the exciting result of a ton of work from so many people—and I really hope you're all as thrilled about it as we are!

Among all the many announcements, Mark mentioned another new product: Brawl Decks. He said that I'd be back soon to tell you more details.

. . . And well, would you look at that. It's time!

So, what exactly are these things? Why Brawl Decks? Why now? What else does this mean? Other things that end in a question mark?

Let's dig into it today—and we'll begin with a little bit of background!

Brawl: A History

Let's flash back a little over a year ago, to Dominaria.

We announced this new format called Brawl in March 2018. It was a new way to use your Standard-legal cards and play multiplayer Magic, with some similar trappings to Commander: you could rally behind a legendary creature or planeswalker and build your deck around them. (For more details, check out the format page.)

We viewed this as kind of a test run. Let's announce it, see how it does, and proceed from there.

And initially, it really took off! There was clear excitement and demand at the time. The numbers on Magic Online were great, there was plenty of chatter about people building decks.

It really let you take your Standard cards, maybe even ones you got in a draft, and build using them in new and different ways. It gave a whole new feeling to Standard deck building! It's easy to get into, and there's very little concern about knowing a bunch of older cards or dealing with power level disparities. You can build decks so quickly just from new cards you have lying around!

But despite the initial excitement, we hit some pretty big bumps in the road. The almost too-coincidentally named Baral, Chief of Compliance was a huge problem and we had to ban it—but not before many people in the audience had played against it. Various rules changes and tweaks happened, which muddied the waters further.

And while we had initially planned this as kind of a smaller test to gauge how it went, the format had picked up a lot of discussion quickly. On one hand, that was great . . . but on the other, there was a clear problem: we didn't have anything lined up for it. Players were asking for some kind of official support beyond "this exists!"

So, we began to shift things into place to create everything we'd need to make Brawl a success. We took people's feedback into consideration. And we applied that to what we were working on.

However, there was one especially tricky opponent here: time.

As you may or may not know, it takes a long time for us to release sets. For example, we released War of the Spark in May 2019 . . . and we started design work in June 2016. This is because of all the planning, design, testing, and production that goes into a Magic set. We can find ways to speed that up, especially with reprint products, but even so, it still takes a while. So even though pretty much right after Brawl's release we started quickly spinning up work to release preconstructed Brawl Decks, you're only finally seeing them with the release of Throne of Eldraine.

Given that it was going to take a while to get these ready, we decided it was right to put the brakes on doing a lot with Brawl temporarily. (Plus, Baral, Chief of Compliance didn't help matters.) We would rather wait and launch everything when it was ready and we had everything lined up and ready to go than continue to do half-measures to slowly nudge us along until we could hit Throne of Eldraine.

I'll admit, it was a little painful. I received endless tweets and articles about what Brawl needed to survive . . . while I was working on getting those very things ready to go internally. One of the hardest parts about working here is that often you're working to create the very things that our players are asking for and wondering why you aren't doing.

But I have some good news. We're finally ready to hit the gas on Brawl again and see what happens when we're firing on all cylinders! And this time, we're doing it right with full support. We have designed Standard to support it with plenty of legendary characters (Throne of Eldraine has plenty of legends!), we have an event for it—and we also have a product just for Brawl.

What does all this look like? Let me run you through each piece!

Building a Brawl

Okay, so we wanted to do Brawl preconstructed decks. What was that going to mean?

We looked at a model that worked well for us: Commander decks! These are decks which, in addition to being ready to play, really offer a gameplay experience; you can pick up the full set and be ready to battle!

So, with Throne of Eldraine, you'll find four Brawl Decks on shelves. And, much like our yearly Commander decks, if you play with all four, you create a great experience. These are really at their best when played multiplayer, and playing them against each other is a blast!

And if we were going to build decks that were up to the caliber we wanted for this product, we needed to pick the right person to lead the design process. Fortunately, there was a clear name that came to mind: Melissa DeTora.

She was a perfect fit; we needed someone who could both know what the top Standard decks were looking like—and, in her role on the Play Design team, she definitely does—but was also someone who had played a lot of multiplayer Brawl. She's always working on new decks, and I knew she would do an excellent job leading the process. I don't want to steal her thunder, so I'll let her speak to her design team and process another time as we get closer to release, but as someone who came in for plenty of playtests, I can say it was a ton of fun.

Additionally, a fantastic bonus to these decks over Commander decks is that they're also Standard decks! Each one has a theme and gives you a great starting point from which to build a Standard deck.

These decks use cards from throughout Standard, from Guilds of Ravnica all the way through Throne of Eldraine. The Standard card pool is pretty robust for the format, especially since we've been designing all of these sets now with Brawl in mind. You can find a list of all the sets legal in Standard here.

But still, we knew it would be missing some things. So, we also took a page out of the Commander deck playbook: we made some new cards for these decks.

In the Throne of Eldraine Brawl Decks, you will find 20 unique cards that aren't in Draft Boosters. (They can still be found in Collector Boosters.) Each deck has seven of them—four cards unique to that deck, one card shared with one other Brawl Deck, and two cards shared with each other Brawl Deck. These cards are all legal in Standard, Brawl, and all other formats. (Or at least ones where cards in new sets are legal—sorry, Mirrodin Block Constructed!)

These cards had a few goals.

The first one was to help fix holes the Brawl format has. For example, if certain color combinations were missing or underrepresented, this would be a great place to deploy additional legendary creatures or planeswalkers for them.

Secondly, we wanted to make sure these cards were also exciting for Commander decks as well. Why? Well, Brawl is something a lot of Commander players will check out and a good stepping stone to Commander. Additionally, these just tend to be effects great for multiplayer play—which Standard doesn't have many of naturally and Brawl decks can create more of.

And finally, we wanted to make sure these cards were aimed at Brawl (or Commander) and not competitive Standard. While there will be plenty of these cards floating around between these decks and the copies people open in Collector Boosters, these are going to be Standard-legal, and our goal was to make cards awesome for Brawl and Commander, not ones intended to tear up the top tables of a Mythic Championship. (They're still a blast in casual or FNM-level Standard, just not pointed at top-tier Standard play.)

What's an example of one? Well, today I'm excited to say that I actually get to show you off some cards! Technically speaking, these are the first full Throne of Eldraine cards anybody will get to see. I feel honored!

So, bringing all of that together, something you see everywhere in Commander are mana rocks: artifacts that make mana. However, Standard doesn't usually have ones that cost two mana. That leaves Brawl in a tricky spot. Additionally, Brawl mana bases could use some help as they don't have access to as many dual lands as a format like Commander.

But how could we make a card in these decks which does that for Brawl without impacting Standard?

Well, say hello to a card which perfectly threads that needle. Introducing Arcane Signet!

Arcane Signet

Arcane Signet appears in every one of these Brawl Decks. It's a cheap colorless mana accelerant and fixes your mana colors, giving your Brawl deck what it needs without impacting Standard at all, since you don't have a commander in Standard play. Perfect!

And, of course, given how popular mana rocks are in Commander, I expect this to become a staple for many Commander players.

In addition to new cards like this one, the decks have tons of excellent old reprints. You'll find quite a bit of good stuff. I can't quite tell you what's in there yet, but these decks are a great value. We hope that Brawl Decks will be even more accessible to new players or players who are unsure how much they want to commit to Magic than Commander decks have been.

Okay, so we have these four decks. What else?

Well, there's a big one. And it's one I'm thrilled to talk about next!

Brawl on MTG Arena

. . . Because why bury the lede, right?

Perhaps the number-one most requested thing for Brawl since the day it was announced has been, "When will Brawl be on MTG Arena?" And I'm thrilled to announce it's coming soon!

MTG Arena doesn't currently have a format like Commander where you build around a legendary creature, and now you can finally get that experience there! Before the year is out, you'll be able to play 1v1 Brawl on MTG Arena. As I write this, I can tell you I've seen Brawl on MTG Arena here at Wizards, and it's awesome! They don't even have all the bells and whistles in yet, but the ones they do have are very cool.

I'm not going to scoop all the MTG Arena team's cool plans and details, but you'll be hearing more from them about Brawl—and these Brawl Decks—showing up in an MTG Arena client near you.

Brawl in Stores

Another popular request has been having special Brawl events and support in stores. And with Throne of Eldraine, that's becoming a reality!

During the Throne of Eldraine season, 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!

Come on down, bring your Brawl deck (or pick up one of the new preconstructed ones!) and prepare to play! It's casual and fun. Additionally, anybody who participants in a Magic Weekend: Brawl event and has an MTG Arena account will get an email with a unique code for a Brawl cosmetic item in the game!

And that's all in addition to whatever your store owner is offering, too, of course. We don't recommend putting prizes on winning at these events—we find multiplayer is best when it's light and the focus is on the fun—but there may be prizes awarded in some fashion. As always, you'll want to get in touch with your local store to learn all their specific details.

Legends of Eldraine

Before I go today, I have one more thing I want to show you.

Earlier, I gave you a preview card example of what you'll find in the Throne of Eldraine set. It was a neat card—but also a bit more of a workhorse.

Well, like the Commander decks, each Brawl Deck has a new front-facing legendary creature. (They only include one possible commander rather than three.) And, as I mentioned before, one of the goals of these decks is to fill holes in the format and try to make sure that as many two-, three-, and five-color combinations were playable as possible.

Well, after Throne of Eldraine rotates in, Arcades, the Strategist rotates out. And that leaves a big green-white-blue hole in the format. So, one of the decks is a green-white-blue deck.

And, of course, there's a new legendary creature helming that deck. This is a card that I'm sure will turn some heads for Brawl and Commander alike.

World, meet your second Throne of Eldraine card: Chulane, Teller of Tales!

Chulane, Teller of Tales

Whoa! Now that's a wild commander! All my creatures cantrip and ramp me? That's all every deck I've ever played wants to do! Plus, reusing my enters-the-battlefield effects (or just Chulane's trigger) with that bounce effect just makes things even better.

Brawlers: start your deck-building engines now!

You can expect Chulane's deck—and the three others—to show up in your local game store when Throne of Eldraine releases.

I'm so glad to finally get to share all of this with you today, as it's been the culmination of a year and a half of post-Brawl preparation. Hopefully, this gets you psyched to try the format, either again or for the first time.

Finally, I want to say thank you for all the feedback on Brawl. I know the whole format has had plenty of discussion, and as someone at the center of it and trying to listen to it all, I deeply appreciate all your notes on what you've wanted to see. I hope this gives many of you what you have been asking for us to try with the format!

Speaking of feedback, if you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them! You can reach me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or simply via good ol' fashioned email.

Oh, and speaking of Commander, who's ready for Commander (2019 Edition) previews? They'll kick off right around the corner at Gen Con the first weekend of August! I'll be there on a variety of panels previewing cards along with a host of other wonderful Magic guests. So follow along online and in person if you're in the area, then check back right here the following week as previews continue!

Talk with you all soon!

Email: BeyondBasicsMagic@gmail.com
Instagram: GavinVerhey
Tumblr: GavInsight
Twitter: @GavinVerhey

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