Brawl Begins Again: Two Rotation-Proof Decks

Brawl’s coming back.

I’ll admit, I’m cautiously optimistic. Sure, I have a track record of being optimistic about new formats, and sure, Brawl didn’t really stick on its first introduction, which was a surprise given the legendary focus of Dominaria, but this time Brawl has two things going for it that it didn’t have before:

  • Brawl preconstructed decks are coming with the release of Throne of Eldraine. If Brawl is easy to pick up and play, more people are liable to try it, and that’s step one.
  • Brawl is coming to MTG Arena. Even though it sounds like we’re just getting 1v1 Brawl, that’s a step in the right direction. If we ever get multiplayer Brawl on Arena, and if Brawl is fun, I may never leave my PC.

For those who missed the quick lifecycle of Brawl the first time around, here’s a rules refresher:

Your deck must contain one commander card, which can be any legendary creature or planeswalker from a Standard-legal set, along with 59 other cards from Standard-legal sets. Only one copy of any card can be played except for basic lands. All cards in your deck must be within the color identity of your commander (unless your commander is colorless, in which case you can play whatever basics you want because your Karn, the Great Creator deck deserves a shot.)

Starting life total is 30 in multiplayer and 25 in 1v1. Commanders work the same way they do in Commander, except there’s no Commander damage rule.

Brawl doesn’t use the Standard ban list–instead, it uses its own, which currently contains only one card: Sorcerous Spyglass. Presumably this is because literally every deck would play it in order to shut off planeswalkers used as commanders.

We can talk about the Brawl format as it exists today, but what’s the point? There won’t be any real action until Throne of Eldraine releases, which means we’ll be in a post-rotation world. So, if we want to evaluate the future of Brawl, we should really talk about what it would look like without Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, and Core Set 2019. By my count (or, rather, by my search abilities) there are 104 eligible commanders for Brawl available in Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, War of the Spark, and Core Set 2020. I want to talk about two of those Commanders today, and as we get closer to set rotation I’ll find more opportunities to talk about others. Yes, this means if you played Brawl with my decklists today, you’d be missing half the card pool, but let’s be real–almost none of you are playing Brawl right now. (Those of you who are, I’m not dunking on you–I hope you are having fun and continue to have more fun as the format gets more support!)

Two Throne of Eldraine Brawl Decks

Let’s start with a Legendary Creature that’s taking Standard by storm already: Feather, the Redeemed!

Aurelia, Exemplar of JusticeDreadhorde ArcanistTenth District LegionnaireKrenko, Tin Street KingpinGods WillingDefiant StrikeSamut's Sprint

These seven cards (okay, six plus Aurelia, who’s usually a one-of) make up the non-rotating core of the Standard Feather deck and, by my estimation, they all belong in this deck. They even define the two categories of cards we’re looking to fill most of our deck with: spells we can recur with Feather, and creatures we want to cast those spells on.

Let’s widen our lens past just four creatures and see if we can’t find some more fair Feather friends. Or unfair ones. I’m cool either way.

Arclight PhoenixBurning ProphetDiamond KnightErratic CyclopsSmelt-Ward MinotaurSpellgorger Weird

All these reward us for casting spells. Arclight Phoenix returns from the graveyard, Smelt-Ward Minotaur makes blocking very difficult, and the rest get super swole. Diamond Knight’s one-color restriction looks a lot easier when you can cast spells repeatedly with Feather.

Fencing AceSwiftblade Vindicator

Double strike is a hell of a thing with combat tricks on the table, and both creatures make great use of boosts to their power.

Neheb, Dreadhorde ChampionTajic, Legion's Edge

You might just want some powerful creatures, and these two definitely qualify. Tajic protects your board while Neheb helps you turn unwanted land into extra cards.

Mizzium Tank

Okay, this isn’t really a creature, but if you’re casting lots of spells, it plays like one with prowess. This card always felt like one that could almost make the cut in Standard, so I’m guessing it performs quite well in Brawl.

We might also want some creatures that provide counterplay to our opponents’ plans.

Bounty AgentImmolation ShamanTithe Taker

Bounty Agent is useful for its rattlesnake status–players will be hesitant to play creature commanders while this one’s in play. Immolation Shaman doubles as Burning-Tree Shaman Jr. and a mana sink, and Tithe Taker is a creature that comes at a fantastic rate while being fantastically obnoxious.

Enough about creatures now–it’s time for Feather’s arsenal of spells, starting with combat tricks!

Battlefield PromotionGird for BattleMaximize VelocityMoment of HeroismTake HeartArrester's ZealIntegrity // Intervention

Counters, haste, flying, lifegain, and double duty as removal make these the combat tricks of choice for my list. The ones that leave counters behind are almost certainly my favorites, but Integrity // Intervention might be the sleeper hit.

Conclave TribunalPrison RealmCrush ContrabandEternal Isolation

A little removal never hurt anyone… well, except our opponents. It’s good to have versatile options that exile things, and it’s even better to have a card that deals with God-Eternals (by isolating them!)

Unbreakable Formation

Gotta win somehow.

Chandra, Acolyte of FlameChandra, Fire ArtisanGideon Blackblade

A few planeswalkers round out the rotation. Three-mana Chandra gets you more value out of your spells, whereas six-mana Chandra provides some insurance in games that go late. Gideon Blackblade can augment your other creatures while defining the board by himself, and sometimes he can even get rid of a threat.

Here’s my Feather list:

10 Plains (331)
9 Mountain (343)
1 Boros Guildgate
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Temple of Triumph
1 Wind-Scarred Crag
1 Arclight Phoenix
1 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
1 Bounty Agent
1 Burning Prophet
1 Diamond Knight
1 Dreadhorde Arcanist
1 Erratic Cyclops
1 Fencing Ace
1 Immolation Shaman
1 Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
1 Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion
1 Smelt-Ward Minotaur
1 Spellgorger Weird
1 Swiftblade Vindicator
1 Tajic, Legion’s Edge
1 Tenth District Legionnaire
1 Tithe Taker
1 Arrester’s Zeal
1 Battlefield Promotion
1 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
1 Chandra, Fire Artisan
1 Conclave Tribunal
1 Crush Contraband
1 Defiant Strike
1 Eternal Isolation
1 Gideon Blackblade
1 Gird for Battle
1 Gods Willing
1 Maximize Velocity
1 Mizzium Tank
1 Moment of Heroism
1 Prison Realm
1 Samut's Sprint
1 Unbreakable Formation
1 Uncaged Fury
1 Integrity/Intervention
1 Feather, the Redeemed

Liliana, Dreadhorde General

Liliana, Dreadhorde General

For the more control-minded, however, Feather may not be the brawler you need. Might I suggest instead taking advantage of the rules of Brawl that let you use a planeswalker as your commander? Perhaps Liliana, Dreadhorde General?

This control deck must play quite a few creatures to take best advantage of Liliana’s passive, and luckily there are plenty of eligible choices. Let’s start with some value creatures:

Audacious ThiefBurglar RatEternal TaskmasterMidnight ReaperVindictive VampireYarok's FenlurkerGravedigger

Whether you’re getting cards for yourself, taking cards from your opponents, recurring dead creatures, or just gaining a little life, value is important in a control deck, especially one that can’t counter spells. All these creatures provide some level of value, and if it’s just a one-shot thing, then you can be even more excited about drawing a card when that creature dies.

Cavalier of NightDoom WhispererDread PresenceGod-Eternal BontuGravewaker - Planeswalker Deck ExclusiveThe Haunt of Hightower - Foil Buy-a-Box Promo

Of course, you do need to win the game somehow, and these six creatures, whether it’s by being huge or by their abilities, all drive you very quickly toward victory. Dread Presence is easily the sweetest new inclusion, but The Haunt of Hightower might be the coolest. It can be a bit annoying to get your hands on Buy-a-Box promos, but this one’s worth it.

Massacre GirlMeteor GolemPlaguecrafter

Removal stapled to creatures is what this kind of deck is all about, and these three do a great job. Massacre Girl is the best available Wrath (although Liliana’s -3 competes) while Plaguecrafter represents a huge improvement over the average edict. Meteor Golem helps compensate for mono-black’s weaknesses in terms of what it can’t destroy.

Boneclad NecromancerHerald of the DreadhordeLazotep ReaverOrzhov EnforcerUgin, the IneffableVizier of the Scorpion

Of course, generating some blockers that can play defense before Liliana shows up and feed her card draw ability after she appears is important. I was too worried about Dreadhorde Invasion to slot it in, but maybe you’re braver.

Let’s move on to some spells. Removal spells, that is!

Bleeding EdgeBone SplintersFinale of EternityMurderous BetrayalPrice of FameSevered StrandsSpark HarvestThe ElderspellLiliana's TriumphOb Nixilis's Cruelty

Okay, yes, this is a lot of removal, but it’s worth it. We have three Bone Splinters type effects to get some card draws off Liliana as well as some more obvious point removal. Price of Fame is a sweet one particularly because of the discount you get against legendary creatures. Big shoutout to The Elderspell in this format–it’s incredible.

Blood for BonesCommand the Dreadhorde

A little more value couldn’t hurt (except Command the Dreadhorde, which really hurts.) Blood for Bones is an incredibly fun card to cast and more than delivers on its promises.

That’s the breakdown – here’s the full list!

Commander: Liliana, Dreadhorde General

25 Swamp
1 Audacious Thief
1 Boneclad Necromancer
1 Burglar Rat
1 Cavalier of Night
1 Doom Whisperer
1 Dread Presence
1 Eternal Taskmaster
1 God-Eternal Bontu
1 Gravedigger
1 Gravewaker - Planeswalker Deck Exclusive
1 Herald of the Dreadhorde
1 Lazotep Reaver
1 Massacre Girl
1 Meteor Golem
1 Midnight Reaper
1 Orzhov Enforcer
1 Plaguecrafter
1 The Haunt of Hightower - Foil Buy-a-Box Promo
1 Vindictive Vampire
1 Vizier of the Scorpion
1 Yarok's Fenlurker
1 Bleeding Edge
1 Blood for Bones
1 Bone Splinters
1 Command the Dreadhorde
1 Finale of Eternity
1 Murderous Betrayal
1 Price of Fame
1 Severed Strands
1 Spark Harvest
1 The Elderspell
1 Ugin, the Ineffable
1 Ob Nixilis's Cruelty
1 Liliana's Triumph

Okay! That’s that for this week’s breakdown of Brawl. Hopefully it sticks with its introduction to MTG Arena, as its time on Magic Online was not quite what most people were hoping. Until next time!

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