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Historic Brawl Metagame Report

Starting last Friday, we were given a real treat on Arena: events for 100-card Historic Brawl! This is the closest thing to Commander in the Arena ecosystem, so naturally I was excited to play some games in both the FNM at Home event and the Historic Brawl Fest. It was lots of fun, so I was really excited to find out that we had gotten a data set from the folks at Untapped.gg with information from over 77,000 games! If you’re looking to jump into 100-Card Historic Brawl, which, in my opinion, is the most fun iteration of Brawl so far, I’ve got everything you’ll need to know to get started, including a few deck lists. Since the announcement of this format indicates Wizards wants this to be the future of Historic Brawl, I’d suggest getting in on the ground floor.

I also want to thank the folks in the Brawl Hub Discord community, especially @Skull_Brawl_MTG. That community is responsible for coming up with many of these lists, with Skull_Brawl_MTG being the main architect of more than half the competitively-focused lists you’ll see here.

Let’s start by talking about the popularity of some different color identities. From the 77,811 games recorded by the Untapped.gg tracker, we can see the following:

 

 

Five color decks are more than twice as popular as the next option, which, unsurprisingly, is Simic. The popularity of five color decks was likely buoyed by the unbanning of Golos, Tireless Pilgrim in the format. 

Wait, Golos was unbanned? Yep, and so was Winota, Joiner of Forces. These two commanders absolutely dominated the Historic Brawl scene before their banning, but Arena now has a system that weights commanders based on some behind-the-scenes system, which means that more competitively-oriented players playing high-powered commanders are more likely to be matched with each other, while those playing off-meta choices are more likely to get queued up together. I’d expect the data set we have here to largely represent the folks whose primary focus is winning – after all, they’ve installed a deck tracker for a reason, right?

So, anyway, the Winota unban is likely responsible for the solid representation of Boros here. That “Ink-Treader” bar is pretty much just Omnath, Locus of Creation decks, while the other oddball Nephilim color identities listed at the bottom are probably decks with five-color commanders that eschew one of the colors for some reason or other.

So that tells us what’s popular, but not what’s winning – and we know that those aren’t always the same. Which color identities have the best win rates?

 

 

That’s a pretty big hit for five-color decks, from first in popularity to seventh in win rate. Of the highly represented decks, Boros is the best performer, posting a 61.0 percent over 4,293 games, and it was only outperformed by Temur decks, which I have scant information on. I’d expect that to be mostly Illuna, Apex of Wishes decks, though it could be Omnath, Locus of the Roil or, depending on how things are being counted, a deck with a four or five-color commander and only Temur cards in the main deck.

Color identity is one thing, but my biggest question is this: which commanders are leading the pack? I have some win rate information for some specific deck lists, so let’s take a look at some of the best performers as well as a few of my favorites.

 

 

Header - Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy

Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy Brawl

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It’s my firm belief that this format is about establishing an early game mana advantage, and this Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy list is a great illustration of that. This deck posted a 69.7 percent win rate over 241 matches, which is really impressive. The creature base boasts 15 creatures costing three or less that tap for mana, which is exactly what you’re looking for when you’re playing Kinnan – and yes, that’s why we have Jaspera Sentinel and Saruli Caretaker, as they can help you go off and play another two-drop on turn two after casting Kinnan.

 

Agent of TreacheryUlamog, the Ceaseless HungerCraterhoof Behemoth

The payoffs in this format have gotten stronger and stronger with the releases of Jumpstart and various Historic Anthologies – while Agent of Treachery is still very possible, it’s quite easy to win with something like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Craterhoof Behemoth just as you might do in a paper Commander game. Because of the density of mana-producing permanents – the 15 I mentioned plus six artifacts – this deck is very consistent, and if Kinnan isn’t killed right off the bat, you can make seven mana on turn three most of the time, enabling you to cast one of your heavy hitters directly or, if you don’t have one, to activate Kinnan and go find one.

 

Lightning BoltSwords to PlowsharesWrath of GodAnger of the Gods (Timeshifted)

What does this mean for you if you’re playing against a lot of Kinnan? Well, you should make sure to have early answers, not just for Kinnan, but for the many mana Elves. One-for-ones like Lightning Bolt and Swords to Plowshares will help you stay afloat, as will popular counterspells like Mystical Dispute and Tale’s End, but cards like Extinction Event, Wrath of God and Deafening Clarion are more likely to get you some long-term clearance to enact your own game plan. If you’re able to reliably generate double red, Anger of the Gods and Sweltering Suns play well against this deck too.

Countering and killing Kinnan lets you focus on countering huge threats cast from hand, as it’s pretty hard to stop Kinnan’s activation. This Kinnan list is mostly interested in protecting its own game plan rather than interacting with yours, and as it’s one of the fastest decks out there, I think it can afford to take that kind of singular focus.

Let’s take a look at one of the Boros lists that’s doing well – specifically, this Winota list that logged a 68.6% winrate over 299 games.

 

Header - Winota, Joiner of Forces

Winota Historic Brawl

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Planeswalker (1)
Enchantment (1)
Cards 99

 

Yes, seriously, that’s 51 creatures. This deck is not joking around. Of the 40 creatures with mana value three or less, 25 are non-Humans, which will make it easy for Winota to trigger multiple times in combat on turn four. Add to that eight noncreature spells costing three or less that make non-Human tokens and that’s a recipe for a big win.

 

Blade HistorianHaktos the UnscarredAngrath's Marauders

At the top end, we have Humans like Blade Historian, Haktos the Unscarred and Angrath’s Marauders to help close the door quickly, and when you find yourself in an aggressive mirror, you’ll be happy to have Baird, Steward of Argive to play Propaganda and Lena, Selfless Champion to throw out an army of blockers.

 

Uro, Titan of Nature's WrathDeafening Clarion

So how do you beat Winota? Countering her is a great option, but that still leaves you vulnerable to a wide variety of powerful aggressive creatures. As before, board wipes like Deafening Clarion and Wrath of God are solid options, but another option is to play cards like Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, gaining life and pushing your plan forward a bit to try to simply go bigger. A lot of the most powerful decks in this format are of a singular linear focus, and that means disruption isn’t always on the menu. That said, this Winota list has quite a few disruptive elements of its own – Bounty Agent, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Elite Spellbinder are great cards for this list, though I’m not sure I like Eidolon of Obstruction too much.

 

Header - Captain Sisay

Captain Sisay Historic Brawl

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Commander
Cards 99

 

I couldn’t ignore the win rate and popularity of Selesnya, and the responsible commander is none other than one of my personal favorites, Captain Sisay. Protecting and activating Sisay are the main focus of this list, and that’s why you’ll see cards like Snakeskin Veil and Fight as One alongside surprise powerhouse Crashing Drawbridge.

 

Shalai, Voice of PlentyFinale of DevastationUrza's Ruinous BlastUgin, the Spirit Dragon

Once you’re established on board, you can play a midrange game with powerful cards like Shalai, Voice of Plenty and Vivien Reid before finishing opponents off with a Finale of Devastation. Urza’s Ruinous Blast and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon are great sweepers, while The Immortal Sun and The Great Henge are solid ways to generate an insurmountable advantage over just a few turns. My favorite card in this list is Kenrith’s Transformation – it’s a really powerful way to scuttle someone’s Commander entirely. It can be hard for Kinnan and Codie decks to deal with the Elkening!

How do you beat Sisay? Well, you kill Sisay – that’s why there are so many defensive spells in this deck. If you can’t tutor for your silver bullets, this deck loses many of its consistent elements, and without blue, card draw options are limited. If your opponent can stick and protect Shalai, you’ll almost certainly lose the game, so be ready to put up a fight about that if you see it.

 

Header - Codie, Vociferous Codex

Codie, Vociferous Codex Historic Brawl

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Planeswalker (1)
Creature (1)
Artifact (1)
Enchantment (1)
Cards 99

 

This Codie, Vociferous Codex list has won 64.8 percent of its 795 games, and it looks a lot like the one I’ve been piloting for the last few days. Using Codie’s pseudo-cascade allows you to get extra value out of your targeted removal and discard spells, making it easier to deal with powerful early boards from decks like Kinnan and Winota.

 

Approach of the Second SunMizzix's MasteryHour of PromiseField of the Dead

Many of my wins have come from Approach of the Second Sun, though I’d say many more come from Mizzix’s Mastery – casting a few spells in the early game and then tutoring up the Mastery with Grim Tutor or Solve the Equation is a real power play, especially if you’ve already discarded (or even cast) a Magma Opus. Thought Distortion can win a control mirror all by itself, and frankly, if my hand gets torn apart with it, I’m probably scooping. Finally, Hour of Promise is the sleeper hit of the deck, usually grabbing Command Tower and Field of the Dead for powerful incremental value.

 

Goblin RuinblasterSnakeskin Veil

Beating Codie can be accomplished with sufficient early game pressure and a kill spell for Codie – if it isn’t around on turn four to accelerate and accumulate value, things are going to be a lot harder for the pilot. A little land destruction in the form of a Goblin Ruinblaster can really hurt as well! If you can sneak in an important creature and protect it with cards like Snakeskin Veil, that can also seal the deal, as counterspells don’t appear too much in these lists. I, for one, have been demoralized pretty badly by Shalai and Ranger’s Guile in concert, which is why Soul Shatter makes this list.

 

Header - Muxus, Goblin Grandee

Muxus, Goblin Grandee Historic Brawl

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Mono-Red is fairly popular, and a lot of that is thanks to everyone’s favorite wacky Goblin, Muxus, Goblin Grandee!

 

Palladium MyrCatalyst ElementalChandra, Torch of Defiance

The deck is almost entirely Goblins and Muxus, though a few special guests like Palladium Myr and Catalyst Elemental make the list as well for the express purpose of accelerating the big guy out. Even Chandra, Torch of Defiance is here with a focus on ramp! Throw in six two to three-mana value rocks and you’ll manage to cast Muxus on turn five more often than not.

The problem here is that turn five may not be fast enough against the above decks, though I admit I don’t yet know what Muxus usually gets matched up against. Since the commander bracketing isn’t public, I’ll just have to play it to find out, but I haven’t seen a Muxus deck yet myself, which indicates it may not be listed as top tier.

 

Header - Galazeth Prismari

Galazeth Prismari Historic Brawl

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Here we have Galazeth Prismari, although this could easily be turned into a Niv-Mizzet, Parun list by cutting some of the artifacts for spells.

 

Golden EggBanefireRiver's RebukeSolve the Equation

Galazeth lets you use artifacts like Golden Egg and Sleeper Dart as cantripping mana rocks, which means it’s often easy to drop your commander on turn four and have the ability to protect it when it lands. Once it’s on the battlefield, you can go big with Banefire and Mass Manipulation or ruin an opponent’s board position with a River’s Rebuke. This deck also boasts three Time Warp effects and a Solve the Equation to help you find exactly what you need.

Beating this deck, as with others before it, usually involves going under it and dodging the board wipes, but countering Galazeth can work just as well. This list is reasonably well equipped to push back with cards like Swan Song and Spell Pierce, but it won’t win every war on the stack.

 

Header - Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria Historic Brawl

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We wouldn’t be playing Brawl if there wasn’t a solid planeswalker commander, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is here to do the job.

 

Teferi, Hero of DominariaAgent of Treachery

This is a classic control deck content to win via an opponent’s concession after a few board wipes and a Teferi ult, though Agent of Treachery can get the job done if need be. If you’re looking for a more traditional control list than Codie, I’d suggest aligning yourself with this hero and going on a very slow and deliberate adventure.

 

Header - Fun Deck Lists

Now that we’ve covered some of the heavy hitters, let’s talk about some of the most fun deck lists I encountered in the data I was given.

 

Admiral Beckett Brass

Admiral Beckett Brass Historic Brawl

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Planeswalker (1)
Cards 99

 

While this Admiral Beckett Brass list only won 54.6 percent of its 55 games, that’s still above a coin flip, and this Pirate tribal deck is really cool! While Arena lacks the powerful Pirates of Commander Legends, there are still plenty of great options like Hostage Taker, Captivating Crew and Captain Lannery Storm, and if you need something special on the top-end, well, there’s always Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, right? Reflections of Littjara is a powerhouse in this list, as is Vanquisher’s Banner, and if you manage to get an Admiral Becket Brass trigger off, you’re probably winning the game.

 

Jodah, Archmage Eternal/Gyruda, Doom of Depths

Jodah/Gyruda Historic Brawl

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Planeswalker (1)
Cards 99

 

Jodah and his best friend Gyruda won 62.5 percent of their 56 games together, and while Gyruda locks us out of powerful green one-drop accelerants, the twos are good enough to help you ramp up to Gyruda one time. If you hit something like Ulamog or Craterhoof, that might be all of the help you need, and if you don’t, you can play a midrange game and try to bait your opponent into a bad attack before casting Settle the Wreckage or force them to overcommit into Wrath of God. If you’ve never dropped a Gyruda into play off Back for More and gotten a Spark Double off the trigger, you haven’t lived, and this deck will help you solve that deficiency. 

Of course, there are many more decks than I can describe, both competitive and casually oriented, and you can win with pretty much anything given the matching system. I’ve played against so many sweet decks that I can’t even imagine what else is out there, and I’m excited to find out as I continue playing the format as much as I can.

 

Header - Most Played Cards

If you’re brewing your own deck, you probably want to know about some of the key cards to be aware of. There were some constants in the 55 deck lists I had access to (each of which was played at least 50 times), so I pulled some of the most popular cards in of each type to help you get a greater picture of the format from a brewer’s perspective.

 

Creatures # of copies
Agent of Treachery  21
Paradise Druid  18
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath  16
Llanowar Elves   15
Tangled Florahedron   15
Ilysian Caryatid   14
Incubation Druid  14
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger 14
Lotus Cobra 12
Bonecrusher Giant  10
Brazen Borrower 10
Gilded Goose  10
Golos, Tireless Pilgrim  10
Kogla, the Titan Ape  10
Koma, Cosmos Serpent  10
Leafkin Druid  10
Oracle of Mul Daya  10
Solemn Simulacrum  10
Torrential Gearhulk  10

If the deck lists I have are a solid representation of the meta, then the format is defined by mana acceleration and huge payoffs. Cards like Spikefield Hazard may be worth including as hosers for one-toughness accelerators, though plenty of two and three-toughness options are on the table as well – three of the four one-drop acceleration creatures have two toughness. Including red in your deck for damage-based early sweepers could work, though black has some options as well, and I don’t see those being explored in what I’m looking at here. Perhaps some of the controlling Sultai decks, like the Jorn, God of Winter lists, could slot in cards like Golden Demise or Pestilent Haze, though Crippling Fear, Extinction Event, Ritual of Soot and Shadows’ Verdict might be enough. 

 

Planeswalkers # of copies Artifacts # of copies Enchantments 
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon   27 Arcane Signet   43 Search for Azcanta   17
Chandra, Awakened Inferno   11 Coldsteel Heart   24 Shark Typhoon  17
Chandra, Torch of Defiance   11 Mind Stone  23 Binding the Old Gods   14
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria   11 Chromatic Lantern 11 Omen of the Sea   12
Nissa, Who Shakes the World   11

The planeswalkers in the format are mostly here as late-game haymakers that put the nail in the opponent’s coffin, though Chandra, Torch of Defiance is here to help commanders like Muxus and Zacama, Primal Calamity ramp and virtually draw cards. The artifacts are mana rocks – surprise surprise – while the best enchantments are value engines.

 

Instants Sorceries
Memory Lapse  21 Time Warp   24
Negate  19 Sea Gate Restoration   21
Mystical Dispute   18 Explore   19
Tale’s End   18 Alrund’s Epiphany   17
Brainstorm   17 Thoughtseize   17
Growth Spiral   17 Hour of Promise   16
Counterspell   15 Shatterskull Smashing   15
Narset, Parter of Veils   15 Casualties of War   14
Disdainful Stroke   14 Inquisition of Kozilek   14
Jwari Disruption   14 Into the North   14
Once Upon a Time   13 Bala Ged Recovery   13
Spell Pierce   12 Cultivate  12
Sublime Epiphany   12 Emeria’s Call   12
Veil of Summer   12 Maelstrom Pulse  11
Dark Ritual   11 Duress   10
Eureka Moment   11 Extinction Event   10
Lightning Bolt   11 Grim Tutor   10
Prismari Command   11 Thought Erasure   10
Behold the Multiverse   10 Turntimber Symbiosis   10
Silundi Vision  10 Wrath of God  10
Swords to Plowshares  10

Cheap disruption is the name of the game here, with Tale’s End not getting as much representation as I’d thought it would (if you’re playing blue and not packing Tale’s End, I urge you to reconsider). Anything that deviates from that formula is likely to be a high-end haymaker like Alrund’s Epiphany or Casualties of War, with exceptions being ramp (Into the North et al) or the Zendikar Rising MDFCs that play double duty as spells and lands. 

Now that you’re all ready, I hope you hop in the Historic Brawl event before it ends and have a great time! Ideally, that’ll mean we shift Historic Brawl permanently to 100-card decks and get to play it in queues more often. Good luck out there!

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