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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Nov 18 2021 2:33pm
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A GUIDE TO BRAWL: CRIMSON VOW

 Late fall update to the Brawl series! Back to Innistrad! The legendaries from Innistrad: Crimson Vow are added to the pre-existing Brawl commander options from Zendikar RisingKaldheimStrixhaven: School of Mages, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, and Innistrad: Midnight Hunt.

 The 20 new commanders come in all combinations of one an two colors, except for monogreen. No commander with three or more colors is present, nor a colorless one. The total number of available commanders is brought up to 175 – which is 176, minus the one currently banned, Omnath, Locus of Creation (since October 2020). Pithing Needle is also banned in Brawl.

 

 The count by color becomes as follows.

  • Monowhite: 11 commanders (+2)
  • Monoblue: 12 commanders (+2)
  • Monoblack: 15 commanders (+2)
  • Monored: 10 commanders (+1)
  • Monogreen: 11 commanders
  • Azorius: 7 commanders (+1)
  • Dimir: 7 commanders (+2)
  • Rakdos: 8 commanders (+2)
  • Gruul: 6 commanders (+1)
  • Selesnya: 7 commanders (+1)
  • Orzhov: 10 commanders (+2)
  • Izzet: 9 commanders (+1)
  • Golgari: 12 commanders (+1)
  • Boros: 11 commanders (+1)
  • Simic: 12 commanders (+1)
  • Esper: 0 commanders
  • Grixis: 0 commanders
  • Jund: 0 commanders
  • Naya: 1 commander
  • Bant: 0 commanders
  • Abzan: 0 commanders
  • Jeskai: 0 commanders
  • Sultai: 1 commander
  • Mardu: 1 commander
  • Temur: 0 commanders
  • Quadricolor: 1 commander – 1 banned
  • Pentacolor: 4 commanders
  • Colorless: 0 commanders

 Now let's see what this second visit in a row to the Gothic world of Innistrad brings to Brawl. It's time for a wedding!

 Jump to: Monowhite, Monoblue, Monoblack, Monored, AzoriusDimir, Rakdos, Gruul, Selesnya, Orzhov, Izzet, Golgari, Boros, Simic.


 MONOWHITE BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr: After being murdered (well, maybe manslaughtered) by Olivia in Midnight Hunt, the prime witch Katilda came back as a saintly ghost in Crimson Vow. It's unfortunate for a monowhite commander to carry a "Spirits matter" ability, because you'd really want, nay need to be able to include blue in any Spirit-centered deck in Brawl or Commander. On the other hand, we can easily ignore that tribal connection (except for counting Katilda herself when figuring out her own body size), and go for an enchantment theme instead. Again, maybe Monowhite Enchantments is not necessarily a thing, but Katilda's post-disturb back face functions as an overcharged All That Glitters, which is something. And maybe one day our Dawnhart Martyr build will face an Olivia-led deck and get to put that very specific protection to good use, thus finally avenging Katilda's death.

 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben: Thalia's back in Standard and for the first time in Brawl (though she was already legal in Historic Brawl). She's a simple but effective commander for a White Weenie list. Her tax can be very annoying to any deck trying to set up a powerful late game before getting beaten to death by our white army. Art-wise, Thalia had better renditions, and even the black & white showcase alternate doesn't look too great, but we can always choose to play her as none other than a very fierce-looking Mina Harker.


 MONOBLUE BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Geralf, Visionary Stitcher: Following his sister Gisa, who had appeared in Midnight Hunt with the appropriate epithet of Glorious Resurrector, Magic's own Doctor Frankenstein gets a new card, too. As expected, Geralf is all about making Zombies via mad surgery, but this time he also makes them fly, which is a huge boost, inviting a potential tribal setup. It's another case of monocolored sadness, though, since both Zombies as a tribe and the high toughness theme that stems from Geralf's activated ability are really crippled by the lack of access to black.

 Jacob Hauken, Inspector: For the entirety of the early to mid-game, Jacob is just a Merfolk Looter with different subtypes and body distribution. In fact, he's even worse, because the card we pitch gets exiled, hindering all graveyard synergies. However, if we get to see our Inspector reach the late game, when we'll be able to pay his transformation cost, suddenly we have on our hands a much more resilient card advantage engine that, once per turn, also lets us cast one spell for free. This translates into a huge bomb of an effect, prone to combo shenanigans where we exile a number of scary expensive spells early on, and then we cast it all, once at a time, for basically six mana total. The trick here is succeding to preserve our two-toughness Jacob for that long. It's likely not very easy, but definitely worth a try.


 MONOBLACK BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Henrika Domnathi: This fabulous Demon-lover vamp (quite literally: she's rumored to have been no less than Griselbrand's girlfriend) is a very solid commander for monoblack "good stuff" builds. For four mana, she can just turn right away into a larger Vampire Nighthawk with a strong team-boosting activation. But she can also act as a Demon's Disciple and/or replace herself before getting all dressed-up and revealing her juicier side. Versatility is the name of her game.

 Sorin the Mirthless: This new dandy-looking, ennui-filled Sorin is the best planeswalker in Crimson Vow, though the bar was not set too high there. He sports an effective, if uninspired, array of abilities: some Dark Confidant action as a plus; one of the most impressive tokens ever created this way as a minus; and an ultimate that's perhaps not utterly game-winning, but close enough. Nothing about the Mirthless screams build-around, but he's never gonna look bad in your command zone.


 MONORED BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Chandra, Dressed to Kill: Chandra hadn't been featured in a premier set that wasn't a core set in quite a while (since War of the Spark; as a mythic, since Kaladesh even), but this new three-mana incarnation seems all fashion and little substance, especially if compared to all the mileage that was extracted from her previous three-drop version. To be fair, she's not exactly terrible, with a first plus that provides a bit of ramp and second one that takes the form of her signature impulsive draw, if in an unusually conditional way. The ultimate she builds towards is worth just for the emblem. All her abilities really want to operate within a monored build, so commanding a Brawl deck might be a good deal for her. Problem is, Birgi does basically all of the same things, better.


 AZORIUS BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Dorothea, Vengeful Victim: Did you ever wish to run Geist of Saint Traft as a commander, except on a different body? (I mean, Invocation of Saint Traft exists, but it can't start from the command zone). That's what Dorothea does for you, with the slight bonus of one attack or block by the same 4/4 Spirit that's gonna emerge later from the Aura. She's also in the correct colors to helm a Spirit deck, albeit her Spirit synergies are limited to just being one until she engages in combat, and then being one exclusively during combat.


 DIMIR BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Runo Stromkirk: Of all the bloodlines of Vampires that exist on Innistrad, Markov and Voldaren always seem to get the lion's share of legendaries. No more! The Stromkirk house, especially known for aggressive creatures like Stromkirk Noble and Stromkirk Captain, gets now to immortalize its own progenitor in card form. The occultist Runo has long been a prophet of the ancient Kraken named Krothuss, and now he's finally managed to summon the great duplicating beast of the seas. Doing it isn't easy feat, but it doubles as a nice build-around in Brawl and Commander. It's clearly a build that runs a good density of six-drops, preferably belonging to the marine megafauna that Krothuss will be happier to multiplicate once it shows up – which should make short shrift of most opponents (imagine suddenly attacking with a triple instance of Hullbreaker Horror or Icebreaker Kraken). Being in blue and black, which is first for an Innistrad Vampire, means Runo can easily lead a list specialized in self-discard into reanimation strategies. After all, you need to have a companion already on the battlefield when Krothuss attacks.

 Toxrill, the Corrosive: Apparently, Dimir is the color pair that's most friendly to colossal monsters in Crimson Vow. Toxrill is a very expensive commander that's its own win condition, steadily decimating the opponent's board turn after turn, like a slow-motion, viscid Massacre Girl. The big Slug can also draw us cards and/or provide a token army while mucking the scenery, and it boasts enough of a natural size to become a fast clock on an emptied board. The Slug life is not a quick life, though, and green's help would have really been appreciated to offset those seven mana sitting in our command zone. But the slime counters persist and are reactivated by Toxrill's subsequent iterations, so it's all a slippery slope from there.


 RAKDOS BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Anje, Maid of Dishonor: In yet another political move, the vicious Anje Falkenrath was selected by Olivia as her maid of honor (and, in all honesty, we could have done without the Addams Family inversion in her epithet. It just sounds ridiculous, even vampires can appreciate the difference between honor and dishonor). Anje is one of two Vampire-centric commanders in Crimson Vow, the other being Edgar, Charmed Groom. She doesn't actually do much for the team, except for those Vampires who also care about the Blood tokens, particularly Voldaren Bloodcaster and Wedding Security. Regardless, Anje will be happy to exploit the increased flowing of Blood to drain the opponent to death, and that could represent a good way to resolve a stalled game. And her body is slightly above the curve at four mana.

 Olivia, Crimson Bride: The bright red center of the entire Crimson Vow storyline is more of a reanimator commander than one that cares about other Vampires – though she does want to have some other legendary ones as insurance, and currently we have five more available in Standard, including Drana, the Last Bloodchief, who's sort of a less effective version of Olivia. A deck running the Crimson Bride in the command zone has a very straightforward battle plan: ramp a little to reach six mana asap; and, in the meantime, make sure to discard big stuff that she can reanimate later. Missing blue, we lose a number of strong self-discard spells like Prismari Command. It's not a big issue, though, as we have cards like Cathartic Pyre and Unexpected Windfall, and especially the Blood tokens (we should also not forget how the learn spells can still be used as looting in Brawl and Commander). We also miss on some prime reanimation targets like Hullbreaker Horror and Toxrill, the Corrosive. But there's still plenty of Demons and Dragons that are eager to be bitten by Olivia and then walk her down the aisle, and into the red zone.


 GRUUL BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Halana and Alena, Partners: No legendary Werewolf in Crimson Vow, but at least we've gotten the first card that celebrates the partnership (in work and life) of forest girls Halana and Alena. And they kind of take their cue from meta-relevant Werewolf Reckless Stormseeker. So now we can start in the command zone a four-mana version of that same haste-giving ability, which also distributes at least two +1/+1 counters per turn, beginning from right away. A 2/3 first striking body with reach is also not negligible, and wears Equipment well – which in turn also improves the counters production. All in all, a serious candidate for best all-purpose Gruul commander of this era.


 SELESNYA BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Torens, Fist of the Angels: You cast a creature, you get a creature; and these bonus creatures have a good chance of becoming 2/2s sooner rather than later. Plus, they're Human, which has become a major benefit in Selesnya and in fact interacts winningly with both Katilda, Dawnhart Prime and Sigarda, Champion of Light, the two major rivals to Torens for control of the same build's command zone. But if you really want to go wide, you have to go Torens, and that's a given.


 ORZHOV BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Edgar, Charmed Groom: The grandfather of all Innistrad Vampires comes with a built-in way to circumvent the commander tax. That's a powerful trait in itself, requiring either exile-based removal or artifact hate to finally send Old Man Edgar back into the command zone. Being an anthem for his tribe, as well as a way to repopulate the board with precious lifelinking members of it, Edgar looks like the primary candidate to helm a Vampire tribal deck in Brawl. The only issue is that he doesn't get access to the red Vampires – those are Voldarens and Falkenraths, not Markovs. There still are 36 of them as potential picks in an Edgar deck, 11 of which are rares of mythics. For comparison, a Rakdos legendary like Anje, Maid of Dishonor would have access to 54 Vampires, of which 20 of high rarity. Going with Orzhov, the main advantage is Welcoming Vampire. The bigger losses are Bloodthirsty Adversary, Cemetery Gatekeeper, Dominating Vampire and Olivia's Attendants. If the choice is between Anje and Edgar for a Vampire tribal deck (the best Vampire commander might actually be Florian, but he's not particularly Vampire-related), then Edgar is the most powerful card, but Anje offers a better selection of accompanying creatures and a clear win condition via Blood. It might just boil down to personal tastes.

 Kaya, Geist Hunter: This new three-mana Kaya is the most specialized of the set's planeswalkers, but also the most disappointing. She requires token creation in order to do anything at all with her first two abilities, and it's unlikely she'll get to use the minus right away. So her play pattern is: put a +1/+1 counter on an existing creature token; next turn, double one token-making effect if we have one to play, otherwise put another +1/+1 counter on a token. And that's pretty much it. The ultimate creates a lot of flying Spirits, but it's hard to reach. Of course, the minus also concerns noncreature tokens. Which, how is master assassin Kaya enhancing the production of Blood and Treasure again? Or Zombies, for that matter. And how does hunting geists result in more geists? Did she shut down the containment system? And why is she hunting geists to begin with, when the issue at hand is all about Werewolves and Vampires? This card seems ill-conceived and not very well implemented. But an Orzhov list with a strong token theme might still give Kaya a try.


 IZZET BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Eruth, Tormented Prophet: Eruth has a very powerful ability that essentially doubles our card draw capability, if at the price of turning every draw into an impulsive draw. Any Izzet deck can easily enjoy the effect, with the caveat of needing a low curve and/or a robust amount of ramp. With Rielle out of the format, and a recent streak of legendaries that, for the most part, were pretty weak sauce, Eruth firmly positions herself as the leading Izzet commander of this cycle. Those nightmarish visions paid off, in the end.


 GOLGARI BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Old Rutstein: A Golgari build that's interested in self-milling pretty much has to run Old Rutstein as a commander. The additional value he produces isn't anything crazy, but it's steady, and nicely adds to whatever else the deck is trying to accomplish with that game plan. Too bad Grolnok, the Omnivore won't be able to share a list with our resourceful pedlar.


 BOROS BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Odric, Blood-Cursed: Yup, brave marshall Odric has been vampirized. It was Henrika Domnathi who did it, but Odric hasn't become a full-blown creature of the night, he's more like the Blade of Innistrad now. Except, the card that represents this new form of his turned out enormously underwhelming. All this Odric does is, at best, to provide a handful of Blood tokens, which in themselves are just redraws. And being Boros, he doesn't even give us access to the cards that are able to put the Blood tokens to better use, since those cards are all black. On many boards, he'll just be a 3/3 vanilla anyway. Just abysmal.


 SIMIC BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Grolnok, the Omnivore: As far as self-milling strategies go, this quirky Frog is the major alternative to Old Rutstein, and probably the superior commander between the two, since those kinds of effects and their payoffs have been located in blue-green more than in black-green lately. The same applies to Frogs, of course, first and foremost in their changeling form (everyone knows Realmwalker is the best Frog ever printed). Build the deck right, and Grolnok becomes one of the craziest card-advantage commanders in the game.


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