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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Nov 21 2022 11:47am
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A GUIDE TO BRAWL: THE BROTHERS' WAR

 

Second fall update to the Brawl series! The Brothers' War adds to the existing pool of legendaries from Innistrad: Midnight HuntInnistrad: Crimson VowKamigawa: Neon Dynasty, Streets of New Capenna, and Dominaria United.

 

 The 24 new commanders come mostly in monocolored form, but there are also representatives of several (though not all) two-color pairs, plus one Bant commander and one colorless.

 The total number of available commanders is brought up to 166. Pithing Needle is still the only banned card in Brawl.

 The count by color becomes as follows.

  • Monowhite: 14 commanders (+3)
  • Monoblue: 13 commanders (+4)
  • Monoblack: 14 commanders (+2)
  • Monored: 11 commanders (+2)
  • Monogreen: 9 commanders (+2)
  • Azorius: 10 commanders (+3)
  • Dimir: 9 commanders
  • Rakdos: 10 commanders (+2)
  • Gruul: 7 commanders (+1)
  • Selesnya: 8 commanders
  • Orzhov: 8 commanders
  • Izzet: 6 commanders (+1)
  • Golgari: 5 commanders
  • Boros: 8 commanders (+1)
  • Simic: 7 commanders (+1)
  • Esper: 4 commanders
  • Grixis: 4 commanders
  • Jund: 4 commanders
  • Naya: 4 commanders
  • Bant: 5 commanders (+1)
  • Abzan: 0 commanders
  • Jeskai: 1 commander
  • Sultai: 1 commander
  • Mardu: 1 commander
  • Temur: 0 commanders
  • Quadricolor: 0 commanders
  • Pentacolor: 2 commanders
  • Colorless: 2 commanders (+1)

 Now let's see what the retrospective on the time of Urza and Mishra brings to Brawl!

 Jump to: Monowhite, Monoblue, Monoblack, Monored, Monogreen, AzoriusRakdos, Gruul, Izzet, Boros, Simic, Bant, Colorless.


 MONOWHITE BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Loran, Disciple of History: Loran was a childhood friend of the future warring brothers Urza and Mishra. As an adult, she became a renowned scholar, Tocasia's favorite student and Feldon's colleague and lover. Her uncommon version, depicting her younger self, is essentially an Argivian Archaeologist (which is a clever nod to Loran's own ethnicity and career) that recurs artifact through ETB triggers, both of itself and subsequent legendaries, in place of the original, clunkier yet more reliable tap-based activation. She can be fine as the commander of an artifact-heavy list, although she would also need a good number of legendary creatures, a double build-around that might not be the comfiest ever.

 Loran of the Third Path: In Terisia City, the largest city in the continent of Terisiare (the setting of Antiquities, The Dark and Ice Age block), Loran, Feldon et al. founded the "Third Path", a research group that represented those intellectuals who didn't intend to pick a side in the destructive clash between Urza and Mishra. They would become the first of their culture to experiment with magic spells as opposed to technological devices. The rare Loran applies this newfound knowledge along with her anti-artifice stance to made herself into a white Reclamation Sage, which is already kind of noteworthy. She also offers the recently established white way to repeatedly dig into the library by allowing an opponent to do the same. This is a potentially dangerous proposition, but it can be played around via white's taxing and generally lower curve. As a commander, this Loran might adequately fit any generic "good stuff" white deck, as she provides utility as well as a way to refill our hand – she can also swing for two before doing so, but she has minimal toughness so it's likely not very relevant, unless we actively want her back into the command zone in order to kill something else.

 Myrel, Shield of Argive: This Argivian nonbinary fighter was the scout captain of Queen Kayla in the war-ravaged city of Penregon. Myrel is a powerful tribal commander for monowhite Soldier decks, but can also work in isolation, slowly building an army on their own. It does involve attacking with a vanilla 3/4, which might stop being profitable after a while, barring some external help. But at least the additional Grand Abolisher static ability means the opponent won't be able to use instant-speed removal in our turn, so if we manage to untap with Myrel still around, we're sure to get our hands on all those 1/1 automatic Soldiers. It remains to be seen whether a go-wide token deck in Brawl would still prefer to go with the more individually robust Adeline instead.


 MONOBLUE BRAWL COMMANDERS

    

 Drafna, Founder of Lat-Nam: As stated in his epithet, this guy was the leader of the College of Lat-Nam, alongside his better-known wife, Hurkyl. The College was one of the three schools that created the Third Path to oppose Urza and Mishra's technological terrors. In spite of this, Drafna's incarnation is still heavily reliant on artifacts. In a Drafna-led list, we want to have artifacts with strong ETB to retrigger (at the very least some cheap cantripping ones, like Prophetic Prism or Ichor Wellspring), as well as enough resources to duplicate an artifact spell on the stack for three additional mana. It all aligns with a very Johnny/Jenny build, possibly a fun one, not necessarily a very efficient one.

 Hurkyl, Master Wizard: Drafna's wife, of Hurkyl's Recall fame (fun fact: that was the first time a magic spell was cast in Terisiare), incarnates into fairly-costed, resilient body whose only function is to carry an end-of-turn trigger. The rule text is a bit wordy, but the gist of it is: if we cast a noncreature spell in Hurkyl's presence, we can look for another spell of the same type among the top five cards of our library and put it in our hand. It applies to all types of noncreature spells we happened to cast in the turn, but of course the chances of casting an instant, a sorcery, an artifact, an enchantment and a planeswalker during a single turn, and then find one of each in the top five are pretty slim, borderline null. There might be case for two types at once, but obviously the best way to minimize the odds of failing to find a match is playing Hurkyl in conjuction with a deck that's heavily built around one specific noncreature type. Artifact seems the natural choice, especially if we want to run her hubby Drafna as well.

 Urza, Powerstone Prodigy: First sighting of Urza, in the lesser of the three incarnations provided by The Brothers' War (in virtue of him being one of the two titular warring bros). This is back when he was still a monocolored young man of great ambitions. In this form, he's a specialized looter, in that he doesn't want you to discard excess lands, but artifacts. Which is a steeper cost for looting, but we get a free Powerstone for our trouble, and that'll help us cast the expensive artifacts we'll draw later (the first Powerstone also neutralizes the cost of Urza's activation). Like most cards in the set, to properly exploit Urza we need an artifact-heavy deck – particularly one where we're able to reutilize the cards Urza made us send to the graveyard to generate his Powerstones. It's a build that seems more fitting of Historic Brawl, but there might be harsh competition for the command zone there, even just in monoblue: Emry, Lurker of the Loch immediately comes to mind, though she also synergizes very well with Urza's discard tendencies.

 Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim: The Brothers' War is very light on the planeswalker side. There are only three, one of which is even hidden behind a meld pair. Teferi is one of the other two, and he's the protagonist of the story in the present, when he attempts to time-travel back to the events of the Brothers' War, in order to discover how his old mentor Urza was able to activate the Golgothian Sylex, something Teferi and his friends might have to do again to repel the new Phyrexian invasion. The Temporal Pilgrim is the sixth non-planeswalker-deck incarnation of the blue mage, the third monocolored, and the second at mana value 5. It's far from the power level of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, but still a solid five-drop walker, made especially resilient by the static clause that increases his loyalty every time we draw a card (which also means his 0-cost ability is actually equivalent to a +1). This Teferi can defend himself with a vigilant token that naturally grows over time, and then supply the expected steady stream of card advantage. The ultimate is essentially a one-sided sweeper, and can be achieved sooner than one would think, if supported with external card draw – definitely not something a blue deck is averse to. Very good pick as a commander of a control-oriented monoblue build.


 MONOBLACK BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Ashnod, Flesh Mechanist: Mishra's main apprentice, caught in a star-crossed love affair with Urza's own apprentice Tawnos, Ashnod didn't have a card named after her since the longest time (she had three very recognizables ones in Antiquities and a lesser one in Alliance). Now we finally get to meet her in card form, as a one-drop deathtoucher that turns sacrificial fodder into Powerstones first, 3/3 Zombie artifacts later. The whole process is not effortless, though. Sure, blocking Ashnod's attacks might be costly, but it could also just mean as little as trading with some random 1/1 token. And the Zombie-making activation only starts becoming efficient the moment we have several Powerstones to sink into it. Ashnod is a cheap commander for monoblack builds, but not the most reliable sacrifice outlet nor the most exciting payoff.

 Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor: With the printing of the demonic Gix, we finally put a face to a name that was frequently mentioned in many other cards. We're also given an example of a Phyrexian Praetor from the Yawgmoth-dominated past, distinct from the more familiar quintet of New Phyrexia. As a three-drop, he's the cheapest a Praetor has ever been in the game, but still boasting a decent body and a solid card-drawing saboteur trigger, one that even presents intriguing and unexpected group-hug applications in multiplayer. The activated ability reads as over-the-top, but it's actually not the most attractive component of Gix. It basically involves spending seven mana to blindly turn cards from our hand into cards from the top of our opponent's library. It's possible the trade will occasionally prove advantageous, whenever we get to cast spells that would require more than seven mana and are worth more than what we discarded. But to be honest, it doesn't seem very likely. The best way to go at it, short of finding extra value in discarding, is waiting until we can pitch a bunch of lands, which we're certain will prove less appealing than whatever we're going to find. In general, though, our own cards are going to be more useful to our gameplan than our opponent's cards, because we put them in our deck for that very reason. This said, stealing cards is always fun even when it's not super-productive, and Gix is already terrific even not counting his last ability, so he's legitimately in the competition for best non-specialized monoblack Brawl commander of this era, a group that notably includes fellow Praetor superstar Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.


 MONORED BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Feldon, Ronom Excavator: Here's Loran's archeological peer and husband Feldon, whom most veteran Magic players know of indirectly due to his famous Cane. He also had a previous incarnation as Feldon of the Third Path in Commander 2014. This new Feldon is printed within a Standard-legal premier set, though, so he couldn't be given such a powerful activation. Still, a hasty suicide attacker that hopes to trade or chump-swing into a selected impulsive draw? That seems a bit awkward, not to mention completely out of character (Feldon actually quietly outlived Loran into old age). He's little more than an aggressive two-drop that replaces itself. It won't cost much to replay him from the command zone several times over the course of a game, but the whole maneuver will quickly reach diminishing returns.

 Mishra, Excavation Prodigy: The other half of the brotherly duo, uncommon Mishra forms a mirrored pair with his blue counterpart Urza, Powerstone Prodigy. Both are three-drops but, being red, Mishra rummages rather than looting, and he generates volatile mana rather than permanent rocks. He's clearly faster: haste means we can deploy Mishra on turn four, immediately activate his ability and get two extra mana to cast something else. In the long term, Urza seems destined to win the ramp race, though. Which is more or less what happened, give or take some Phyrexian meddling.


 MONOGREEN BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea: Gwenna is a minor character in the Brothers story, but her card is sweet enough. Her high-profile mana production generates any color in any combination – this is rarely the case for this type of cards (e.g. Fyndhorn Elder, Somberwald Sage, Gyre Engineer), making her very useful in non-monogreen builds as well, though it's admittedly irrelevant when we pick her as commander. The central identity is unsurprisingly creature-based, as she can't help casting anything else, but the flip side of this clause is the trigger that untaps Gwenna (and grows her into a threat, while we're at it) whenever we cast a five-powered critter, thus potentially chaining several spells per turn in the mid to late game. Monogreen is not faring very well in Brawl at the moment, with only Shigeki, Jukai Visionary as a non-specialized commander that's both cheap and valuable. Gwenna represents another competent option for ramping.

 Titania, Voice of Gaea: If Gwenna is not a very well-known name, with the Maro-Sorcerer Titania we enter smack in the middle of Magic history. )Titania's Song was in Alpha (though it's possible at the time it was just a reference to Shakespeare's character), Priest of Titania has long been a staple of Elf decks, and we even had already gotten a card incarnation with Titania, Protector of Argoth in Commander 2014. Another very powerful version is part of The Brothers' War Commander decks, under the moniker of Titania, Nature's Force, while Titania's Command is one of the main set's most pushed green cards. What of her Voice of Gaea avatar, then? She's the most tame of these Titanias – at least as far as the front face is concerned, because she's part of a meld pair with Argoth, Sanctum of Nature. To be fair, Voice of Gaea is still a solid three-drop 3/4 with reach and some incidental lifegain. But the only real reason to place her into our command zone is if we're planning to bring about the truly titanic Gaea Incarnate. It can be a fun venture for sure, but it's far from being a simple one, as it involves a land that's not too easily fetchable and enough self-mill to ensure the presence of a minimum of four lands in our graveyard – something that only three of the New Capenna fetch lands (i.e. Brokers Hideout and co.) can help with in a monogreen deck. And once a hopefully massive Gaea Incarnate has been summoned, it's not even guaranteed that she'll be able to close the game in one hasty swing – she might, but she could also fail to connect for enough damage or even just eat instant removal right away. In which case we're kind of screwed, because at that point all the lands that were in the graveyard will have returned to the battlefield, while conversely Argoth will sadly lay in our graveyard – and just pray the removal effect didn't exile it instead, as that would mean the end of our melding dreams.


 AZORIUS BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Harbin, Vanguard Aviator: The son of Urza (or perhaps Mishra) with Queen Kayla bin-Kroog, Harbin is also a direct ancestor of the immortal Jodah. He died at the end of the war, when Urza went nuclear and detonated the Golgothian Sylex. But not before becoming a valiant aviator, as attested by his card, a perfectly above-the-curve 3/2 flyer for two, doubling as an explosive endgame finisher for Soldier builds. Azorius has been repositioned in that direction by The Brothers' War, and Harbin is hands down your commander of choice if you wish to go that same route in Brawl.

 Urza, Prince of Kroog: After marrying Kayla (a sad, loveless affair uniquely pursued to acquire an ancient tome that was part of her dowry), Urza became royalty in Kroog, the capital of the Kingdom of Yotia (destined to be razed to the ground by Mishra). In the process, he seems to have acquired mastery of white mana – something that, in case you were wondering, didn't prevent him from becoming a fanatic perpetrator of war crimes. This is the version of Urza that portrays the great artificer in the adult phase of his long life, and of course it's a straight-up "artifacts matter" card. The Prince of Kroog pumps them and copies them, albeit for the latter part he might invite some help from the Powerstones his younger incarnation used to make. It's the best Urza in Standard and likely the best Brawl commanders for artifact-centered decks.

 Urza, Lord Protector: Ultimately Urza turned into a mad planeswalking god, and his Lord Protector stage depicts him just on the verge of that transformation. Just like unmelded Titania (but, as we'll see below, not in the case of Mishra), the card on its own is nothing special, just a solid spell discounter with an affordable cost and a nicely defensive body. It's a good thing that its meld counterpart is a strong artifact, The Mightstone and Weakstone (which finally vindicates the previous, awful rendering of such crucial items); we won't feel bad including it in a deck commanded by the Lord Protector. But it's clear that the main goal in such a deck would be melding the two parts together to summon the completely insane Urza, Planeswalker. It's unquestionably a Timmy/Tammy thing, but who says it shouldn't be attempted, even just for the lulz? Meld as a mechanic is kind of a meme, after all.


 RAKDOS BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Mishra, Tamer of Mak Fawa: To nobody's surprise, the ruthless and impetuous Mishra grew up to be Rakdos. Once separated from his brother, he spent some years with the desert nomads of the Fallaji Empire. It was at this point that he was able to control a Dragon Engine (or "Mak Fawa" in Fallaji language) that was sent to him by the Phyrexians. And that's how we get this rare Mishra, a strong midrange creature with two distinctive static abilities. The first of them turns all opponent's attempts at dealing with our permanents into a true nightmare where their targeted removal spells are all transformed into Bone Splinters. The second ability allows us to unearth any artifact for three mana (the lore hook here is that the Mak Fawa was buried under the sand). And while the former is valuable in any deck, the latter requires some degree of "artifacts matter" theme, which is only right. The Tamer of Mak Fawa is an expensive commander that plays more defensively and tactically than Rakdos is used to. But the color pair doesn't have much in Brawl right now that's not build-around; Florian, Voldaren Scion and Ob Nixilis, the Adversary are likely the best all-purpose Rakdos commanders in the format. Five-mana Mishra is not exactly amazing, but he might compete at that level.

 Mishra, Claimed by Gix: And there's the Mishra who eventually turned biomechanical and is all eager to meld with a shiny Phyrexian Dragon Engine and become a giant, nearly unstoppable monstrosity (spoiler: he was stopped in the end). Mishra, Claimed by Gix is actually the best of the three legendary creatures that compose a meld pair in the set – or at least the one who makes more sense to play as a commander, because he does work even before we manage to find his second component (which is in turn a good creature that we can even let die or fetch to the graveyard and then unearth later, once Mishra is in place). A 3/5 for four is arguably more appealing than a 4/4 for five, and the life-draining trigger based on the number of attacking creatures is solid – a wincon in its own right if we choose to go wide, something Rakdos lists are fully equipped to do.


 GRUUL BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Hajar. Loyal Bodyguard: This guy was Mishra's main ally among the Fallaji, and remained by his side through all of it. As a card, his cost/body ratio is impressive, but a commander that sacrifices itself to save other legendaries is doing kind of the opposite of what it should be doing. Although, there are two dozens of legendary creatures with red or green identity in Brawl right now, so one might try and build a deck that cares about preserving them. And by the way, one of those creatures is the artifact-friendly Meria, Scholar of Antiquity, which felt very out of place in Dominaria United. This is as good a place as any to try and reevaluate her in light of the new set. And yes, she definitely got better, though it still doesn't feel like Gruul is the right spot for doing "artifacts matter".


 IZZET BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Saheeli, Filigree Master: Saheeli is Teferi's main sidekick during Operation: Ask Urza. In fact, she's the one who rebuilt the Golgothian Sylex and concocted the Temporal Anchor that allowed for the whole time escapade in the first place. She's going to become the Urza of our times! (On second thought, let's hope not). She got rewarded with a new brilliant incarnation. In fact, this might just quietly be the best Saheeli ever printed. It's the fourth since her debut as Saheeli Rai, which shares with the Filigree Master both the starting loyalty and the cost of the two main abilities. For one mana more to hardcast, the new version is able to scry and (with minimal extra effort) draw as a +1 or create two flying Thopters as a -2, whereas the original could merely scry or make temporary copies of existing artifacts. Even more flattering is the comparison with the other four-mana version, Saheeli, the Gifted, which was even printed within a Commander set. Izzet is currently left with only six Brawl commanders to choose from, and Saheeli is easily the more robust of them, perhaps on par with Eruth, Tormented Prophet, but with greater versatility on her side.


 BOROS BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Queen Kayla bin-Kroog: Urza's long-suffering wife is declined as a Boros-colored three-drop with an exciting ability that could take a moment to properly parse. What Kayla does is, to use the case that's most likely to happen, let us spend four mana to deploy a two-drop and a three-drop of either creature or artifact variety and then replace them with fresh cards. Of course there are a few hiccups to this exchange. First of all, we need exactly a two-drop and a three-drop (technically it's also possible to add a one-drop to the deal, but it seems very improbable to have one in hand by turn four). Additionally, we're discarding the entire hand in the process; all the cards get replaced by Kayla, but ideally we want to make sure not lose anything of value through her activation. It's kind of complicated and situational, and possibly not something a Boros deck should even care for to begin with, but it's a fascinating route to potentially achieve both mana advantage and card advantage in a fell swoop. Well, a sorcery-speed swoop, to be more precise.


 SIMIC BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Tawnos, the Toymaker: Urza's talented apprentice who fell in love with the villainous Ashnod, i.e. the wrong brother's apprentice. In the same way as his beloved, Tawnos had several cards named after him in Antiquities, the most famous being Candelabra of Tawnos and Tawnos's Coffin (the latter was the stasis pod that he used to survive the Sylex Blast). His first personal incarnation came in Commander 2018, as the Izzet-colored Tawnos, Urza's Apprentice. By comparison, this Simic one is a much more whimsical affair, a "Bird and Beast" tribal lord that makes for a quirky build-around commander. Here's an example of how a Tawnos Toymaker deck plays out in Historic Brawl. Unfortunately, the build is not supported enough in regular Brawl at the moment, with only 13 creatures to copy.


 BANT BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Tocasia, Dig Site Mentor: The Argivian archaeologist that was mentor to both Urza and Mishra, as well as Loran. It's the odd triple-colored creature in a set that's strictly dual-colored. Her abilities are also pretty weird. I guess giving surveil to our team is meant to make all of them into archaeologists. And then there's a massive excavation of artifacts, but in order to exploit that in Brawl, we would need to first send Tocasia to the graveyard (and leave her there), and then have both eight mana available and a worthy number of targets to retrieve. It's a challenge, and Tocasia feels really unique, but honestly every other Bant commander that's legal in Brawl at the moment seems more engaging.


 COLORLESS BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Liberator, Urza's Battlethopter: Apparently, at some point Urza had a sentient, named Thopter he went to battle on. It's currently one of only two colorless commanders that are available on Brawl. It gives instant speed to all our spells, and it grows a bit bigger over time, to a degree. It could be worse, but it's probably no match for Karn, Living Legacy – which was made much better with the release of The Brothers' War, as expected.


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