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By: CheshirePlaysGames, Albert Caynes
May 03 2018 12:00pm
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Dominaria has hit and with it comes a new way to play Highlander in Standard, as per my last introduction article on An Introduction to Brawl. However, not unlike it’s older sibling EDH/Commander, there is a seedy villain lurking in the wings, biding his time to strike. And strike he did.

Not unlike said older sibling, the scourge of blue wreaked havoc on the first Brawl 1v1 MTGO Brawl Challenge. Allowed to run free and destroy opponents like a scary well-oiled machine. “Oh Chesh, you’re just being overly dramatic” a person calls from the crowd gathered around me, like a crowd witnessing a car crash. Let me open your eyes to the TRUE horror.

Six of the top eight decks were Baral decks, seventeen of the top thirty two were Baral decks and thirty of the top thirty two were Blue/X based. Showing that Blue is, at this stage, THE breakout colour. But the real issue here is exactly what it looks like, Baral is a problem this early, but will Dominaria shake things up? I’m in the mindset that Dominaria WON’T shake things up enough for Baral to not be played in droves, let me break it down for you:

WHY IS BARAL SUCH A GOOD COMMANDER?

  • Casting cost is low, meaning that he can be dropped early on and start impacting the game on turn three.
  • Easy to re-cast if required, even if you opponent kills it a few times.
  • Makes all your Counterspells into loot and counter. Because ditching lands for usable cards when you have enough lands is pretty gas.
  • Makes all your instant’s and sorceries cheaper, meaning being able to cast them a turn before R&D expected. This makes a huge tempo swing for spell based and counterspell decks.

THAT BEING SAID…If Baral DOES get banned, how much will that truly change the format going forward and will another overlord appear?

NICKY-B SALTS YOUR WOUNDS

Nicky B is a POWERHOUSE, and though his CMC is rather expensive, he ends games like the Sword of Damocles. He dangles a seven mana seven point swing over your head in Grixis. It’s not hard to grind your opponent down and then seal the deal with one or even two Bolas 7’s to the dome.

At the very worst, he either comes down and starts killing the opponents hand or starts milling your opponent looking for spicy free plays.

THE SCARAB GOD PROBLEM

It’s not like R&D or anyone else at Wizards is out to ruin everyone’s fun, but sometimes they screw up like anyone else. It’s only human, right? Scarab Guy here is good at coming down on turn five and then reanimating the stupidest biggest thing in a graveyard like Carnage Tyrant. Sure it comes back as a 4/4, but a hard to kill 4/4 and your opponent only has limited sweepers. We already know how good The Scarab Guy is in Standard, many of us have tried him as a commander in EDH and he IS pretty nuts when you're reanimating Kitesail Freebooter into a 4/4, getting back a fresh shiny new Hostage Taker or Warkite Marauder.

Dominaria brought a bunch of amazing cards, but none of them solve either of these problems in the long term. So moving forward, what should we be looking at?

SUGGESTIONS BASED ON EXPERIENCE

BANS, BABY! Okay so hear me out, Baral, Chief of Compliance NEEDS to be banned. We know this, we covered this. That should lead to a more fluid and fresh 1V1 metagame for Dominaria Brawl and should lead a less repressive format going forward. We really need a separate ban list just for Brawl, and then we need to unban a bunch of stuff on the standard list that doesn't need to be there.

We need a watch list, we need to have Wizards be transparent about this with cards such as (Helm of the Host), some cards just need to be watched closely to ensure they don't create an unhealthy environment.

At Grand Prix events, you can enter a 4v side event for Commander and I’m unsure why this hasn’t been tried on MTGO, unless I missed them somehow. Brawl seems like it was NEVER intended for a competitive environment, and I seem to remember Gavin Verhey saying something to that effect. Wizards taking casual formats that are popular (or in this case, being pushed as) seems like a pretty odd thing to do. Leave some formats casual, there was no big call to make this a competitive format without the proper forethought and testing to ensure the format is fair enough. 

THAT'S IT! That's me all tapped out tonight, so I hope you enjoyed the article. Have you been brewing Brawl? Jamming tribal Fungals? Let me know below!