Building Brawl

Posted in How to Build on May 1, 2018

By Michael Majors

Michael Majors is a former professional Magic player and content producer who now works as a contractor on the Play Design team within R&D.

Hello! It's Michael Majors again, and although I've been on a several-month hiatus from the written word, I'm back and ready to talk about Brawl! Brawl is a brand-new Standard-legal-only Commander variant designed for multiplayer that recently released on Magic Online with Dominaria, featuring 1v1 Leagues.

Wait, what?

One might assume that Play Design and Brawl just don't mix, with most of our purview being the health of competitive Standard, but that couldn't be further from the truth! Many of the Play Design team, including myself, have been brawling since the format's inception, and we want to make it clear that we're invested in it.

With players already playing multiplayer Brawl and data from Magic Online starting to come in, we want to make sure that we're hearing the feedback from across the community.

We understand that there are two distinctive types of Brawl experiences and we want to help support and make adjustments to them as necessary. Let us know your perspective!

Now at this point, it's possible you're questioning why I'm the guy writing this article. That's a great question that provides a perfect segue into some of my personal favorite attributes of Brawl, especially as a 1v1 format.

Brawl provides unique gameplay with cards you've never been able to play competitively before.

Have you ever had that sinking feeling after you've built and tested a Standard deck that it just barely wasn't good enough for competitive play? You've executed on your build-around, or grown fond of an interaction, but they were just pushed out on rate or by the pressures of the format?

I have. In fact, this was basically my job on Pro Tour teams. The role of the prolific deck builder is to try and fail repeatedly to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks for the team.

I've come across tons of decks and cool interworking pieces that I've fallen in love with throughout the years, but never had a formal setting to let them shine.

Brawl is the representation of that to me, and why I'm so excited about it. I can build my decks to support a bevy of interactions while being promised a huge variety of gameplay.

Brawl is a brewer's dream.

Some Brawl Basics

I promise I'm going to get to some decklists, many of which show off some sweet Dominaria cards, but first let's tackle some basics of the format.

Picking a commander doesn't have to be daunting.

Not sure what interactions you want to build around? Let's just start with some colors you're interested in and a legendary card you find sweet. The beginning of the process can be as simple as internalizing "Okay, I'm going to pick 35 cards I like."

I'm only being a little sneaky. This leads me to my next point:

Play more lands than you might be accustomed to.

Brawl doesn't have as many options for mana-fixing as Commander, which naturally means your mana base will be less reliable.

The format is also much slower than normal Standard, as it's without four-ofs and has a higher starting life total. You're also, of course, operating with a commander.

These factors, especially highlighted by the fact that every deck starts with a built-in mana sink, mean you should be playing more lands than normal. I often default to 24 or 25, which also makes it easier to play a few awesome colorless lands like Arch of Orazca or Scavenger Grounds.

Colorless cards are a great place to start filling in your deck.

Kaladesh and Ixalan blocks have a huge amount of options for artifacts, including more specialized varieties like Vehicles or the card-advantage-producing transformation artifacts. Dominaria helps contribute to this as well, headlined by Mox Amber. Every deck in Brawl starts with a legendary card, after all!

Artifacts being a staple of Brawl also means that artifact removal is at a premium in the format. Everyone plays artifacts, and we're playing one-game matches, so be prepared to pack those Dissenter's Deliverances and Abrades!

Decklists

White-Blue Raff Capashen Flash

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage

Are you a blue mage who's interested in something different than Baral, Chief of Compliance? Raff Capashen is a great choice for a classic blue player looking for that familiar "White-Blue Flash" gameplay.

In addition to making giant monsters at instant speed, we also have a few weirder tricks up our sleeve, from Urza's Ruinous Blast out of nowhere to a Cultivator's Caravan becoming a creature mid-combat when all we had at the start of our opponent's turn was a lowly 3/3!

Have you missed Sphinx's Revelation? Azor, the Lawbringer flashed in during an opponent's end step might be even stronger!

Green-Blue Rashmi's Pummeler

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Rashmi, Eternities Crafter

This Rashmi deck is a great example of the creative ways in which Brawl affords opportunities to create redundancy and cohesiveness even in a singleton deck. How do we gain enough access to Electrostatic Pummeler to get the job done? Uncage the Menagerie is one of the answers, and likely my favorite card given life through Brawl. Searching for a Trophy Mage and the Pummeler itself gives us access to Mirage Mirror as well, a great tool to copy the Pummeler and let us punch through.

Rashmi is a part combo, part beatdown deck, with just enough tools to control the battlefield through some of our top-end blue spells like Confiscation Coup, Baral's Expertise, and River's Rebuke.

Mono-Black Torgaar's Colony

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Torgaar, Famine Incarnate

If you read Andrew's piece two weeks ago, you might already know that I have a certain fondness for Torgaar, Famine Incarnate. This is a mono-black deck with a bunch of combos held together by tutors and removal.

Why, yes, there are nine Rat Colonys in my Brawl deck. Secret Salvage is a nice combination with the Rat contingent to fuel Torgaar, Gate to the Afterlife, or Bontu's Monument.

This deck has a variety of back-door dramatic win conditions, from Pitiless Plunderer combining with Revel in Riches and Marionette Master for a greed-fueled Treasure victory to classic Fireballs with Cabal Stronghold teaming up with Walking Ballista and Torment of Hailfire.

Blue-Red Jhoira Artifact Combo

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain

Raise your hand if you tried to make Paradoxical Outcome and Aetherflux Reservoir happen.

Me too.

Often the issues with these types of combo decks is that they're weak if they don't draw the engine cards that make them tick. Ironically, when one has access to their engine piece at any time, this singleton deck might be more consistent than normal Standard fare.

So, what is this behemoth capable of? Aetherflux Reservoir dealing the killing blow is the obvious choice, but there a lot of options, such as copying our Gilded Lotus multiple times and going off with Paradox Engine or looping Paradoxical Outcome with The Mirari Conjecture to gain an outrageous amount of value. Maybe we take some extra turns, swarm an opponent with The Locust God, or go for a classic March of the Machines impersonation with The Antiquities War.

I'm barely scratching the surface here. I can only imagine that Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain represents the possibility of a lot of awesome engine-heavy Brawl decks.

Jund Darigaaz Reincarnated Ramp

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Darigaaz Reincarnated

Dominaria not so quietly features a Jund Dragon legend. Midrange players, rejoice! My take is a little bit more on the ramp side, though, combining powerful sweepers with black disruption and a touch of heavy-hitting reach using Cut // Ribbons and Torment of Hailfire to combine with the commander's 7-power haste.

Before Dominaria released, ramp decks featuring Mastermind's Acquisition and Wildest Dreams were a popular strategy in Standard, and I've borrowed some elements from those decks to give this Darigaaz deck a super powerful late game.

Green-White Huatli Traction

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Huatli, Radiant Champion

Huatli, Radiant Champion was the first commander I built around when Brawl was announced. What can I say? I like drawing cards, building huge battlefield positions, and, well, not going out of my way to kill my opponents until the time is right.

I've since updated the deck with Dominaria, picking up a few goodies, most prominently Shalai, Voice of Plenty. There are tons of ways to pull ahead in this deck when your goal is to obtain a Huatli emblem, but my favorite example of your raw inevitability is (hopefully you've transformed Growing Rites of Itlimoc into the Cradle of the Sun) to loop Walking Ballista repeatedly with Restoration Specialist, which can be retrieved by both Renegade Rallier and Dusk // Dawn!

This has been a lot of content to digest, but I hope that I've inspired you to jump into Brawl or try out some brews featuring Dominaria! Again, I want to reiterate that we're really excited about the possibilities of this new format and welcome all perspectives and feedback.

Don't expect this to be the last time you hear from me about Brawl's possibilities!

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