Despite being one of the leading personalities in the business of Serious Magic for Winners, I’m also secretly a fan of more casual formats. I love to play Cubes of all kinds, and have quite a few EDH decks that, whenever I can, I shamefully play with some other filthy casual friends.
I took an early interest in Brawl as a format, but my experience mirrored more or less everyone else’s. Despite the cool multicoloured legendaries that had been cleverly inserted over the last year or so, Brawl just didn’t get off the ground. However, with Wizards finally announcing that Brawl was going to receive actual factual proper support as a format, I started to get excited about what kind of decks I’d be interested in putting together.
But with no set date for Brawl’s arrival on MTG Arena (it’s currently “later in the year”), I’m not looking to build out decks that won’t survive the upcoming rotation. Therefore, I started sketching out Brawl decks that would be legal when Throne of Eldraine arrives to give me a starting point. Even though this tragically locks me out from playing my beloved Zacama, there are still plenty of Brawl commanders I’m excited to try out!
Brawl Decks After Rotation
Yarok, the Desecrated
Everyone from SPBKASO downwards will be raring to go with Yarok. It’s the archetypical commander–it stretches across three colors and gives you very clear instructions of how to build the best deck with it. I’d already tried the card out with the Arena Boys, and take it from me, there are no brakes on this value train.
Commander: Yarok, the Desecrated
1 Breeding Pool 1 Overgrown Tomb 1 Watery Grave 1 Temple of Malady 1 Temple of Mystery 1 Dimir Guildgate 1 Golgari Guildgate 1 Simic Guilgate 1 Dismal Backwater 1 Jungle Hollow 1 Thornwood Falls 1 Evolving Wilds 6 Forest (347) 3 Swamp (339) 3 Island (335) 1 Pelt Collector 1 Incubation Druid 1 Leafkin Druid 1 Paradise Druid 1 Burglar Rat 1 Fblthp, the Lost 1 Merfolk Skydiver 1 Pollenbright Druid 1 Lazotep Reaver 1 Evolution Sage 1 District Guide 1 Aven Eternal 1 Gleaming Overseer 1 Risen Reef 1 Golgari Findbroker 1 Zegana, Utopian Speaker 1 Prime Speaker Vannifar 1 Dungeon Geists 1 Cavalier of Gales 1 Cavalier of Night 1 Cavalier of Thorns 1 Roalesk, Apex Hybrid 1 Biogenic Ooze 1 Izoni, Thousand-Eyed 1 Dream Eater 1 Agent of Treachery 1 Meteor Golem 1 End-Raze Forerunners 1 Guild Globe 1 Arcane Signet 1 Disinformation Campaign 1 New Horizons 1 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 1 Guardian Project 1 Vraska, Golgari Queen
Yarok improves more or less every card in this list–don’t forget it effects noncreature cards, too! This means your temples and lifegain lands have doubled triggers, and your Guild Globe, Disinformation Campaign, and Guardian Project all draw two cards. That’s not even touching on the creature suite, which is chock-full of the sickest value cards across the Sultai colors.
There are some obvious and somewhat boring inclusions like Risen Reef, the Cavaliers, etc. However, there are a few subtle subthemes in this deck that Yarok also maximizes. Various amass cards, for example, will swiftly build a massive Zombie Army with Yarok’s assistance, and the +1/+1 counter synergies don’t end there. There’s Evolution Sage, Zegana, Utopian Speaker, and even stuff like New Horizons to make the most of the light proliferate splash.
My favorite thing about this deck–particularly when it comes to fighting through a long multiplayer game–is its recursion. Gravedigger, Golgari Findbroker, and even Cavalier of Thorns provide ways to regrow multiple cards from the yard, and when combined with Prime Speaker Vannifar, you can build a value engine that rivals Birthing Pod in its heyday!
Another commander that gives you clear instructions as to how to use her is Teysa Karlov. She wants death triggers and tokens, preferably in conjunction with one another–perfect for the afterlife mechanic. There aren’t many creatures in Future Standard that have death triggers, but the ones that do don’t muck around, and they’re bolstered by some sweet token generators to get full value from Teysa.
Commander: Teysa Karlov
Obviously, afterlife creatures like Seraph of the Scales are the gold standard in a Teysa deck as they benefit from both halves of the card. However, other death-trigger creatures also put in work alongside Teysa–Midnight Reaper draws extra cards, Rising Populace gets huge, and the Cavaliers work double duty on their way out too.
The real fireworks start, however, when you combine Cruel Celebrant or Vindictive Vampire with Teysa and an army of tokens. These cards hit each opponent, meaning that once you’ve flooded the board with tokens, opponents will be in big trouble should they come near you.
There are plenty of ways to generate tokens, too–everything from Dawn of Hope to Finale of Glory. Divine Visitation is the perfect finisher, turning all your little 1/1s into great big flying 4/4s, and given this deck’s ability to go long thanks to lifelinking tokens, huge lategame cards like Visitation, the Finales, or a six-drop planeswalker should seal the deal.
There are a few mediocre interactive cards in this list, such as Mortify, that are more or less just placeholders for new additions from Throne of Eldraine. Obviously all these decks will shift significantly when the new set arrives, so earmarking the weaker cards you’ll look to switch out will help in upgrading the deck later in the year.
Nissa, Who Shakes the World
Nissa is obviously an absolutely bonkers card, and having reliable access to her as a commander while playing Brawl is a very exciting prospect indeed. While this limits you to a single color, there’s a fair bit of depth in the green card pool, and we’re looking to go big with Nissa’s prodigious mana-making abilities.
Commander: Nissa, Who Shakes the World
This is a clear-cut ramp deck, plain and simple. It will regularly land turn-three Nissas, and should you untap with your general still alive, you can curve into massive top-end like Voracious Hydra or Planewide Celebration way ahead of schedule.
There are plenty of ways to go big in the lategame–generic green monsters with the hidden rules keyword “large”–but there’s a clear favorite and Finale of Devastation is there to help you find it. End-Raze Forerunners is Brawl’s take on Craterhoof Behemoth, and pairs excellently with all the little mana dorks (including the rarely-seen Woodland Mystic, a Planeswalker Deck card).
There are some grindier, more midrange elements, however. A couple of planeswalkers, along with ways to draw extra cards like Guardian Project and Shared Summons. The one thing this deck is lacking is real interaction, but who needs that? You don’t need interaction if your opponents are all on minus-fifty life thanks to End-Raze Forerunners doing their best work.
While there will be a lot of game-changing additions with Throne of Eldraine, if you’re looking to get stuck in with some Brawl, it’s not too early to start putting a deck together. Despite only being built from half the current Standard format, these decks are fun, resilient, and powerful starting point. Good luck in your brawling out there!