Throne of Eldraine seems to be taking mana in Standard in a little bit of a different direction. Some of the new cards ask players to spend more of a single color of mana either in the form of a stacked mana cost or the adamant ability word. That means we are getting some interesting legendary creatures for mono-colored decks, and today I want to talk about one that caught my eye: Torbran, Thane of Red Fell.
There’s a lot that can be done with Torbran in Commander–ping effects, Repercussion, Manabarbs if you’re feeling nasty–but as we get closer to the time of its (hopeful) relevance I want to talk about Brawl. Plus, I just built a Syr Carah Commander deck in the Commander Newsletter (sign up here!) so I’m feeling like a change of pace.
So, what does Torbran want? Well, little damage effects that add up. Let’s start with permanents that do some pinging.
Spear Spewer has never looked better than it does with Torbran out–it’s okay to ping yourself for one when your opponents are all getting Bolted. Electrostatic Field has the decency to do the same thing without damaging you. Torbran turns Dagger Caster into an asymmetrical Flamebreak–it’s just a shame we can’t Bladebrand it. Immolation Shaman shuts down activations better than ever with Torbran in play. Syr Carah may be the only traditional red pinger in the format, and it’s great even without the Torbran buff, as are Glint-Horn Buccaneer and Skarrgan Hellkite.
There are a few other permanents that do a little more than ping that belong right alongside the Thane of Red Fell:
Obviously, the additive effect of Torbran is less pronounced percentage-wise for these effects, but they’re still quite potent. Cavalier of Flame and Drakuseth function as finishers in this decklist that knock down the remaining dominoes once your opponents have been burned down a bit. Jaya adds some extra fire to the deck while doing a decent impression of the Commander. Leyline of Combustion is a card you’ll be excited to see in your opening hand, as it functions as a strong deterrent.
Tokens are also fantastic with Torbran, as a simple 1/1 crashes in for 3. Let’s check in on our token generators.
Krenko and Legion Warboss flood the board with 1/1 Goblins. Krenko, who may be worth considering as a Brawl headliner in his own right, gets out of control after just one attack, whereas Legion Warboss takes a steadier pace. Torbran allows Chandra, Acolyte of Flame to do an impression of her Flamecaller self while also providing Tibalt with some very explosive Demons. Tibalt’s anti-lifegain tech is also quite welcome in this list.
Of course, it’s not just about the permanents. Torbran is going to need some burn spells, especially since planeswalker commanders are legal in Brawl. Let’s check out our complement of instant and sorcery-speed ways to toss flame around the table.
Some of these are fairly simple point-and-shoot options. Shock, Slaying Fire, Precision Bolt, Skewer the Critics, and Inescapable Blaze all fall into this category. Others are a little more nuanced. Chandra’s Pyrohelix is a one-shot impression of Skarrgan Hellkite’s activated ability. Scorching Dragonfire doesn’t hit players, but it stops graveyard shenanigans. Electrodominance allows you to cast two spells in one. Direct Current is two spells in one if you keep something around to discard (don’t forget your Glint-Horn Buccaneer trigger!) Bonecrusher Giant delivers a mighty Stomp and then sticks around as a 4/3 with upside. Finally, Sundering Stroke is here to end games because you are just going to tap seven Mountains to cast it.
With all this fire being hurled in every direction, we might run out of things to do pretty fast–and the aforementioned Syr Carah can’t do all the heavy lifting. Here’s a quick rundown of the ways Torbran will be drawing some extra cards (or at least doing the red version of that.)
Risk Factor is a strong start to this list. The classic version, Browbeat, asked all opponents if they wanted to take the hit, but Risk Factor lets you isolate the player closest to their demise and give them this devilish choice… twice. Light Up the Stage will always give you cards, but you’ll need to use them right away. The same goes for Chandra, Fire Artisan, who is an even stronger deterrent than normal and can accelerate toward her ultimate thanks to her Acolyte of Flame self. Experimental Frenzy is a thing of tradition in mono-Red at this point, as it should be–it allows for some explosive turns. Brawl decks will miss Arch of Orazca, but at least they get Cryptic Caves as a small consolation.
We have a few cards left unmentioned in the list that don’t fit in the above categories. I’ll go through them one by one and explain their utility, as they’re less directly connected to Torbran than many of the others.
This beat out Ember Hauler due to its ability to blow up artifacts. Sure, you can’t dome someone for four with this, but we have spells for that.
It’s always nice to have some support in the mana department. Runaway Steam-Kin made my Syr Carah Commander list, so there’s no reason it wouldn’t fit in here. The fact that it generates red mana specifically instead of colorless is huge for cards like Slaying Fire and Sundering Stroke as well as just for casting Torbran.
Despite sharing a name with an aggressively mediocre SNES title, this Skyblazer is an obvious Brawl plant that scales up with game size and helps your team crash in for victory. It’s even stronger with some Goblin tokens around.
Sure, the emblems aren’t red, but this Chandra still represents a great clock while also providing board clears and targeted removal.
It’s not quite card draw, but it does provide extra value. While it’s unlikely you’ll be setting X to ten or more, the simple value of recurring two of your spells is huge.
You might one day find you need to destroy an enchantment. On that day, you will need Blast Zone.
This castle has high upside with token generators and comes at a very low cost, as this deck runs 21 Mountains.
I think I’ve listed every card in the deck. I’ll give you the opportunity to check my work by writing out the full decklist here. Hopefully this has inspired you to start brewing Brawl decks for the release of Throne of Eldraine, and hopefully there are some more red cards spoiled soon that make this deck even stronger. I’ll see you next time with more takes on the new stuff!
Brawl: Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
21 Mountain (343) 1 Blast Zone 1 Castle Embereth 1 Cryptic Caves 1 Spear Spewer 1 Electrostatic Field 1 Goblin Cratermaker 1 Immolation Shaman 1 Runaway Steam-Kin 1 Bonecrusher Giant 1 Glint-Horn Buccaneer 1 Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin 1 Legion Warboss 1 Dagger Caster 1 Embereth Skyblazer - Brawl Deck Exclusive 1 Cavalier of Flame 1 Skarrgan Hellkite 1 Syr Carah, the Bold 1 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames 1 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame 1 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator 1 Chandra, Fire Artisan 1 Jaya, Venerated Firemage 1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno 1 Experimental Frenzy 1 Leyline of Combustion 1 Shock 1 Chandra’s Pyrohelix 1 Electrodominance 1 Scorching Dragonfire 1 Risk Factor 1 Slaying Fire 1 Inescapable Blaze 1 Finale of Promise 1 Direct Current 1 Precision Bolt - Planeswalker Deck Exclusive 1 Skewer the Critics 1 Sundering Stroke