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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jul 07 2020 12:00pm
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A GUIDE TO BRAWL: CORE SET 2021

 Summer update to the Brawl series: Core Set 2021 is in the pool! The legendaries from the new core set provide further options when it comes too choose a commander for your Brawl deck, on top of those already available in the current meta, i.e. all the creatures and planeswalkers from Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, War of the Spark, Core Set 2020Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond Death, and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Eight sets available: Brawl is at its zenith!

 The 17 new commanders mostly come in single color, as core sets are traditionally more skewed towards a lower complexity. With these additions, the total number of available commanders is raised to 184 – which is 188, minus four that are banned: Oko, Thief of Crowns (banned in November 2019), Golos, Tireless Pilgrim (banned in March 2020), Lutri, the Spellchaser (banned in April 2020), and Winota, Joiner of Forces (banned in May 2020).

   

 The count by color becomes as follows (not including the planeswalkers from the starter decks).

  • Monowhite: 15 commanders (+2)
  • Monoblue: 16 commanders (+2)
  • Monoblack: 17 commanders (+3)
  • Monored: 20 commanders (+3)
  • Monogreen: 19 commanders (+3)
  • Azorius: 6 commanders (+1)
  • Dimir: 7 commanders
  • Rakdos: 5 commanders
  • Gruul: 9 commanders (+1)
  • Selesnya: 8 commanders
  • Orzhov: 8 commanders
  • Izzet: 8 commanders – 1 banned
  • Golgari: 8 commanders
  • Boros: 7 commanders – 1 banned
  • Simic: 10 commanders – 1 banned
  • Esper: 1 commander
  • Grixis: 1 commander
  • Jund: 1 commander
  • Naya: 2 commanders (+1)
  • Bant: 1 commander
  • Abzan: 2 commanders
  • Jeskai: 3 commanders
  • Sultai: 2 commanders
  • Mardu: 3 commanders
  • Temur: 2 commanders
  • Pentacolor: 4 commanders – 1 banned
  • Colorless: 3 commanders (+1)

 The Historic options available through the direct challenge on MTG Arena are here (a lot more of those will come with Jumpstart and Amonkhet Remastered). The older commanders added to Arena through the now discontinued Brawlidays and Brawlers' Guildhall events, and also made legal in Standard within the digital platform, are currently six: Rhys the RedeemedTalrand, Sky Summoner, The Gitrog MonsterBladewing the Risen, and Hanna, Ship's Navigator, and Firesong and Sunspeaker.

  

  

Aside from the four banned commanders, two extra cards cannot be included in Brawl decks, as one shuts down commanders that are planeswalkers and the other prevents the casting of all commanders from the command zone.: Sorcerous Spyglass and Drannith Magistrate.

 

 Now let's see what the new set brings!

 Jump to: Monowhite, Monoblue, Monoblack, Monored, Monogreen, Azorius, Gruul, NayaColorless.


 MONOWHITE BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Mangara, the Diplomat: One of the six legendary creatures linked to the set's Teferi spotlight (he was one of those who had to deal with the Zhalfirin mage's time experiments in Jamuraa), Mangara is a great commander for monowhite players who want to discourage their opponents from attacking and punish them when they try to outvalue us. His 2/4 lifelinker body is also very fitting for a defensive role. Most every other available monowhite commander at the moment is geared towards aggro, or else it's a one-trick-pony like Teyo and The Wanderer, so Mangara is a very welcome addition that opens new avenues for the color. Like most of these Teferi-flavored cards, Mangara had a previous in-game representation as Mangara of Corondor from Time Spiral – since Teferi caused his temporal displacement during the events of the set.

 Basri Ket: Meet new guy Basri, an Oketra devotee who's rebuilding the faith in a greater good among the survivors of Bolas's endgame on Amonkhet. Three-mana planeswalkers that leave counters and tokens around have got to be at least playable commanders. The aggro enhancer role Basri pursues is crowded at the moment, but he packs enough useful abilities to become popular.


 MONOBLUE BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Barrin, Tolarian Archmage: Teferi's old mentor at the Tolarian Academy (which he founded with Urza), Barrin's career as Magic card started in Urza's Saga with Barrin, Master Wizard. His latest incarnation is similarly all about returning permanents to hand, thus acting as a contemporary take on Man-o'-War. He can't be flashed in at instant speed to rescue somebody on his side from removal, a la Whitemane Lion; but if you do choose to have him bounce one of your permanents anyway, Barrin will reward you with one card draw, and will do the same for every turn where he witnesses such a self-bounce happen. This dynamic could create the basis for a deck where the plan is abusing the ETB triggers of your creatures and resetting planeswalker loyalties. Even in monoblue, there might be enough targets for that to be a satisfying build. Of course, Thassa, Deep-Dwelling vies for the command of the same exact list, but Barrin is cheaper, adds card advantage on top of the abused effects, and can still act as a tempo gainer in a pinch.

 Teferi, Master of Time: The centerpiece of the set is a Teferi that returns to monoblue for the first time since Teferi, Temporal Archmage. After two extremely overpowered Azorius cards, this new Teferi feels much less controversial, as he mostly acts as a source of looting, while occasionally neutralizing an attacker for a turn. The ultimate is powerful but requires work, and can't be expected to happen too often. Still, both the activation in the opponent's turn and the return of phasing are unique abilities for a planeswalker, and seem to fit particularly well the flavor of the time mage (after all, several old cards named after Teferi had phasing; it's what he did to Jamuraa, it's kind of his thing). He might not be the most effective monoblue commander for Brawl, but he can do a solid job of digging through the library, perhaps all the while enabling graveyard synergies.


 MONOBLACK BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Kaervek, the Spiteful: Another well-known face from Teferi's past (previously appeared as Kaervek the Merciless in Time Spiral), Kaervek has only one effect on the battlefield, but it's a very impactful one, potentially shutting down entire strategies – no more cats in the oven, for one. If you don't mind shrinking your own creatures as well, he can be the commander for you. He's a little dull and fragile, otherwise.

 Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose: How would you enjoy Sanguine Bond as commander? Fanatical Ixalan vampire priest Vito does what the lifegain combo enchantment does, but for a smaller price, and with an activation that brings the combo to fruition. Of course, as a creature, he's more vulnerable to removal. But that's also what makes him able to headline a Commander and Brawl list!

 Liliana, Waker of the Dead: Post-war Liliana has symmetrical discard as a plus and conditional creature removal based on your graveyard size as a minus. It is a bit underwhelming. I can't see her being a successful commander even in decks that care about discard and manipulate the graveyard. Unless you really like how she looks in that fabulous purple dress, which you should (especially in the showcase treatment). Also, is it me, or does she look heartbroken, perhaps over Gideon's demise? First time Liliana was depicted in one of her planeswalker cards with such a non-defiant demeanor.


 MONORED BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge: Avid treasure hoarder Gadrak wants to be in a Brawl deck that runs a lot of artifacts, so he can consistently attack as a 5/4 flyer on turn four, but also a deck with a sacrifice theme, so he can create Treasure tokens to help you ramp into your curve-toppers. It can be a fun build-around.

 Subira, Tulzidi Caravanner: Teferi's wife Subira never had a card to her name before. She can make other small creatures connect (because she's a caravan drover), and later draw cards out of their connections. I'm not sure if a deck can be based around this pretty narrow concept, but she seems functional enough.

 Chandra, Heart of Fire: Chandra is back to her pre-M20 Fire Artisan pattern of inescapably advancing towards her ultimate. Unlike her predecessor, the impulsive drawing ability is not something you can't afford to do every turn, but the free Shock is handy. The ultimate itself could lead to some kind of combo, since it's surgical tutoring. This said, at five mana she's not cheap. The planeswalker suite from M21 looks definitely a little de-powered, which is not a bad thing.


 MONOGREEN BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Azusa, Lost but Seeking: A commander specialized in ramp. Generally speaking, there are two types of commanders for ramp decks: those that provide the payoff, like Kogla or Kamahl, and those who enable it. Azusa belongs to the second category; do not underestimate her.

 Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse: Teferi's lady friend Jolrael, formerly of Jolrael, Empress of Beasts fame, really wanted to have a Simic identity. Monogreen is still capable of drawing two cards per turn consistently enough, with effects like Beast Whisperer, Guardian Project, or The Great Henge, so a build can be attempted for the jungle queen. Her activation is also ramp payoff, as discussed above.

 Garruk, Unleashed: The apex predator is back, freshly returned to monogreen status after his decade-long curse was finally lifted in Throne of Eldraine. This incarnation is sorely losing the comparison with the similar Vivien, Arkbow Ranger. But once she rotates, maybe Garruk can take her place at the helm of her lists.


 AZORIUS BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Niambi, Esteemed Speaker: Teferi's daughter Niambi was only given a Planeswalker Deck card before, as her dad's greeter in Dominaria's Niambi, Faithful Healer. Unlike Barrin, she's able to perform the Whitemane Lion routine; compared to the cat, she loses one point of toughness and is a bit harder to cast, but in exchange gets the chance to turn duplcate copies of legendary cards into fresh gas – something that works a little less smoothly in a singleton format, but can still be useful, perhaps even leading to interactions like Emry casting God-Pharaoh's Statue or The Magic Mirror from the graveyard. It might be too narrow, though.


 GRUUL BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Radha, Heart of Keld: The half-elf Radha is a very strong commander for ramp builds. She complements Azusa's ability (as well as Dryad of the Ilysian Grove's, of course), while giving access to a second color. Removing lands from the top of the library is always a valuable ability, enabling more explosive uses of cards like Experimental Frenzy or Vivien, Monsters' Advocate. And the mana sink is a good payoff for all those extra land drops, even if it would really like a way to add trample to the proceedings – which green certainly doesn't lack. Incidentally, in a nice bit of more inclusive representation, Radha's body shape has radically changed since her Planar Chaos days as the younger and impossibly thin Radha, Heir to Keld – elves can be thicc, too! Or maybe that's a product of her human genes.


 NAYA BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Rin and Seri, Inseparable: The Buy-a-Box promo directly plays into the set's cutesy "cats & dogs" theme, with a pastoral-looking card that shows the two proverbial enemies living together in peace and harmony. If you always wanted to try a double-tribal Brawl deck that celebrates one or both of your favorite household pets, well, then Rin and Seri have been made for you. They're functional enough, swarming the board with little puppies (that they attract, not breed, one would hope), and then turning them into both direct damage and lifegain. It's not a quick process, but it's a fun enough build-around.


 COLORLESS BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: The original Ugin from Fate Reforged is a very powerful planeswalker, and the third colorless commander in current Brawl, after Karn, the Great Creator and Ugin's own previous incarnation, Ugin, the Ineffable. Core Set 2021 added next to nothing for colorless Brawl decks, and a functional colorless ramp is still out of reach, making an eight-mana commander kind of unplayable. But it's something to keep in mind during the 15 months big Ugin will remain Standard-legal.


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