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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Sep 22 2021 12:00pm
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A GUIDE TO BRAWL: MIDNIGHT HUNT

 Early fall update to the Brawl series! It's rotation time! The legendaries from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt start a new cycle, pushing out of the format all Brawl commander options from Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond DeathIkoria: Lair of Behemoths, and Core Set 2021. Still legal in Brawl are the cards from Zendikar RisingKaldheimStrixhaven: School of Mages, and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Brawl is at its nadir!

 The 20 new commanders come in all combinations of one or two colors, excepf for monored – for that we'll probably have to wait for the Vampire-focused companion set Crimson Vow, releasing this November as a second fall set.

 The total number of available commanders is brought down to 135 – which is 136, minus the one that is currently banned, Omnath, Locus of Creation (since October 2020). Pithing Needle is also banned in Brawl.

 

 The count by color becomes as follows (and at last we have no planeswalkers from the Planeswalker Decks in the pool anymore).

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

 Now let's see what this new visit to the gothic world of Innistrad brings to Brawl!

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


 MONOWHITE BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Adeline, Resplendent Cathar: Adeline is a good aggro commander in white. Her body is bound to be around a 4/4 when she starts attacking on turn four (assuming at least a two-drop, plus another creature cast on four, plus the single token she generates in one-on-one). She can play both offense and defense at the same time. Her tokens are immediately put in harm's way, so their chances of survival is low, but it's still an extra attacker per turn, even if she's not the one doing the attacking. It could synergize well with anthem effects. In short, a perfect embodiment of white's more generic strategy. Of the surviving competition, she seems more well-rounded than clunky Nadaar, Selfless Paladin, less than Mavinda, Students' Advocate, but also less demanding where deckbuilding is concerned. Reidane, God of the Worthy is still probably the best option for Monowhite Aggro, but one cannot be too wrong for going with Adeline in the command zone.


 MONOBLUE BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Lier, Disciple of the Drowned: Rotation wasn't kind to monoblue in Brawl, removing excellent commanders like Emry, Lurker of the Loch, Gadwick, the Wizened, Thassa, Deep-Dwelling, and Teferi, Master of Time. What's left is mostly a couple of high-profile top-ends like Iymrith, Desert Doom and Mordenkainen, plus a few legendaries that uncharacteristically care for permanents, like Orvar, the All-Form and Grazilaxx, Illithid Scholar. This means that any monoblue spellslinging deck now welcomes Lier as its new commander of choice. He entirely prevents the use of countermagic, but that's as much protection as it is hindrance. In exchange, we get to cast each of our spells twice, which makes Lier kind of a late-game play (we need a conspicuous amount of mana in order to be able to exploit the ability right away), but one that comes with a lot of built-in value, even if he stays around for just a turn or two.


 MONOBLACK BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Gisa, Glorious Resurrector: Monoblack is the color with the largest amount of available Brawl commanders right now, and was generally left in a good place post-rotation. All three new additions to its stable are impressive in their own way. In particular, the return of the beautiful, deranged Gisa gives us a four-drop with a solid battlefield presence that accomplishes two different things without requiring any extra resource: she stops the opponent's creature recursion; and she provides an endless stream of material, in turn enabling two potential outcomes, i.e. either a massive alpha strike with decayed Zombies or a constant supply of fodder for sacrifices. Both can be enough to convince us to back Gisa's infectious insanity as well as her trusty shovel.

 Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia: Jadar is essentially a miniature version of Gisa. He's tiny, cheap, yet keeps us stocked with one sacrificial body each and every turn. Now, sacrifice strategies work better when accompanied with red, but black is still the primary color for those effects; there can be enough redundance to make such a gameplan functional in Brawl, and there are certainly plenty of them in Historic Brawl.

 Jerren, Corrupted Bishop: This mad cultist might be used in much the same way as Gisa and Jadar, completing a triptych of powerful sacrifice enablers. Alternatively, or additionally, he can lead a quite peculiar Human tribal build in monoblack (there are another 23 Humans with a monoblack identity in Standard at the moment), replacing them when they die and turning them into lifelinkers. What makes Jerren unique, though, is that he's his own battleplan, offering a subgame of "reach exactly 13 life" (probably with the help of some surgically administered lifelink), which lets us summon the mighty Demon lord Ormendahl. And while the former resident of Westvale Abbey is around, the game is ours to lose – the battlefield turns into our own playground, and all those puny Humans suddenly become sweet, sweet extra cards.


 MONOGREEN BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Saryth, the Viper's Fang: The renegade witch Saryth (Katilda's rival who pushed for the Dawnhart coven to worship an ancient snake god) immediately evokes a partnership with Fynn, the Fangbearer. That would still place Fynn in the command zone, though, since his ability is the real unique one, whereas Saryth's universal deathtouch can just be substituted by native deathtouch – even if the number of other creatures that naturally have it in monogreen is currently reduced to just four, half of which require a pricey activation. Saryth also protects Fynn and co. with her second ability, which interacts nicely with vigilance. As far as four-drop Brawl commanders go in current monogreen, she's not as valuable as Toski, Bearer of Secrets, but definitely leaves both Kolvori, God of Kinship and Ellywick Tumblestrum in the rearview mirror. Or whatever the snake god equivalent is.

 Wrenn and Seven: The quality of monogreen five-drop planeswalkers has been decreasing with each Standard cycle lately, descending from the all-time high of Nissa, Who Shakes the World to the still very valuable but not quite as strong Vivien, Monsters' Advocate, and then further down to the narrower second coming of the Dryad Wrenn, now equipped with a brand new exoskeleton/companion. Wrenn's play pattern clearly starts with creating a Treefolk, which makes for a striking board presence that protects her well against all kinds of attacks. On the other hand, the second activation is rarely relevant (though it could be with Lotus Cobra on the battlefield), and the plus is not packing a ton of immediate value either. This said, Brawl might be the format that better suits the pursuit of Wrenn's powerful ultimate, which could result in a hand permanently filled with an overwhelming amount of cards. And that's when the land drop ability definitely comes in handy, to provide the mana to cast all those spells (including a fresh Wrenn). Of course, it's awfully slow, which is why Brawl could represent the right environment to try it. Wrenn's competition for an expensive monogreen commander position includes Ashaya, Soul of the Wild and especially Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, maybe even over-the-top Old Gnawbone (whereas The Tarrasque is probably not a serious consideration). The Dryad/Treefolk combo has yet to prove itself, but it comes with a prestigious pedigree.


 AZORIUS BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Dennick, Pious Apprentice: Azorius lost its most important commander with Yorion, Sky Nomad, leaving the color combination with just a bunch of mostly ineffectual specialized headliners, plus Niko Aris. Dennick doesn't change the situation, being very low impact for a commander. Also, disturb is not a particularly advantageous mechanic in Commander formats, more so when the initial disturb cost essentially already includes the commander tax.

 Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset: To exacerbate Azorius's dire straits, we get the worst Teferi ever printed in the colors. Granted, both previous versions of the time mage were extremely busted, but even the four-drop Teferi, Master of Time that just left Standard had abilities that felt extremely more appealing than just some untapping in our turn and an Impulse at the cost of two loyalty counters. It's hard to imagine a reason to want this Teferi in the command zone over Niko. Then again, maybe he is the best option in Azorius after Niko, which is very bad news for fans of the combination.


 DIMIR BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Ludevic, Necrogenius: The mad scientist Ludevic, of Test Subject fame, had already appeared as Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist in Commander 2016. Now that he's finally getting a card in a premier set, he switched colors from Izzet to Dimir and took a transformer approach. The impact of his front side is limited, though his stats for a two-drop are decent enough. But then he does a sort of impression of The Mimeoplasm, cloning something else from our graveyard and making it bigger. The activation can be as expensive as we see fit, but will cost no less than five mana in any case. It can be a good payoff in a "graveyard matters" build, a way to achieve a roundabout reanimation – usually as a one-shot deal, but repeatable as a commander, although entirely new targets will be required for a second go.


 RAKDOS BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Florian, Voldaren Scion: This Vampire Noble can be a very solid commander. His stats secure a line of defense on turn three, while the color pair can be declined aggressively enough to ensure a steady flux of impulsive drawing. The package doesn't lean into any particular strategy other than "consistently decrease your opponent's life total", which is what we're gonna want to do anyway. This is a positive factor, but could also make for a too generic Brawl experience. For instance, Kalain, Reclusive Painter suggests a more intriguing "Treasures matter" build. And both Valki, God of Lies and Orcus, Prince of Undeath make for flashier leaders. This is not to say Florian is not a strong commander; in fact, he might just be the new go-to Rakdos "good stuff" option.


 GRUUL BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Arlinn, the Pack's Hope: The latest Arlinn's incarnation is not just a Wolf and Werewolf tribal commander. Any creature type benefits from her plus ability, even if it's designed to facilitate a transformation stage with no spells cast in our turn. She creates tokens, generates mana, and turns into a large indestructible trampler at night. Considering the Gruul alternatives for the command zone right now aren't that great (the only other surviving pre-Midnight Hunt rare is Phylath, World Sculptor, which is only suitable for a specific ramp/landfall build), we can safely say it's Arlinn's time to shine.

 Tovolar, Dire Overlord: On the other hand, Tovolar is exclusively meant as a tribal leader, the best to date for these tribes, even in Commander. There's a grand total of 23 other Werewolves and Wolves in Standard at the moment, which is enough to sustain a 60-card Brawl deck, even if some of them are more geared towards Limited. It's not going to be a great build, but it could be a fun one.


 SELESNYA BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Katilda, Dawnhart Prime: The supreme witch of Innistrad is a strong fit for a Human tribal list in Brawl (and it's worth noting Human barely qualifies as "a tribe", more like "pick any creature you like in the colors among one third of those that exist"). The protection is cute but will be hardly ever relevant, but a permanent Song of Freyalise represents a big mana boost, and then later we'll have a more flavorful Gavony Township activation. So if Human-based go-wide is your jam, Katilda is your girl.

 Sigarda, Champion of Light: Selesnya is the color of the Human faction in Innistrad, so the new Sigarda is also going to provide great support to the same battleplan as Katilda. In fact, the two of them could easily take turns commanding the same exact list. Katilda is cheaper and board-oriented, Sigarda is more resilient and supplies card advantage. Take your pick. Maja, Bretagard Protector is also going to be in that list, but not in the command zone.


 ORZHOV BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Liesa, Forgotten Archangel: Orzhov is among the color pairs with more and better options for Brawl commanders. At five mana specifically, Liesa faces fierce competition from Kaya the Inexorable and Shadrix Silverquill. Both of them perform more varied functions than the Forgotten Archangel (Liesa is the fourth angelic sister of Bruna, Gisela and Sigarda who was defeated by Avacyn centuries ago; she previously appeared as Liesa, Shroud of Dusk in Commander Legends). However, the one function Liesa provides, on top of just shutting down the opponent's creature recursion, is invaluable. In her presence, all of our creatures essentially become immortal. More so, they get to retrigger their ETB abilities, which indicates a theme for a Liesa build, behind just generic Orzhov creature-based aggression. At five toughness, she's also not too easy to kill with damage, and she's an evasive lifelinker that can race the opponent on her own. It's a real embarassment of riches for the color pair at this point in the curve.


 IZZET BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Vadrik, Astral Archmage: "Day/night switch matters" is a small theme for Izzet in Midnight Hunt. The problem is that this mechanic is good at starting the day/night cycle, but not too good at keep it going. It relies on the environment already doing it on its own, for instance when the opponent is running Werewolves or other daybound/nightbound creatures. If we have to enable Vadrik's trigger in a Brawl deck that won't necessarily face the right opponent all the time, we can only count on The Celestus plus a handful of red Werewolves, which wouldn't be especially synergistic with the rest of the deck. Coupled with the fact that the payoff of a cost reduction for instants an sorceries is not even that impressive, it looks like Vadrik is not going to be a major thing in Brawl. Despite being an uncommon, Rootha, Mercurial Artist remains the superior choice for a spellslinging commander. In that deck, Vadrik can just be employed as a fancier Goblin Electromancer.


 GOLGARI BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Old Stickfingers: Strangely enough, no Golgari commander from the current pool really cares about filling the graveyard – the closest is Nissa of Shadowed Boughs getting more things to cheat onto the battlefield, but she could do the same from the hand, anyway. On the contrary, Old Stickfingers is the kind of Golgari card that both wants and enables a big fat graveyard. If we're already self-milling, we can even cast it for just two mana as a finisher. Otherwise, we can sink all our mana resources into its X and be guaranteed to dump creatures into the yard. It remains to be seen how effective this strategy is going to be in Brawl, but the potential is there. Plus it's cool to see such a defining Golgari tradition being reinstated.


 BOROS BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Rem Karolus, Stalwart Slayer: This is just an efficient three-drop for an old-fashioned Boros Burn deck, which is a nice change of pace after all the Equipment-themed commanders we were getting lately (e.g. Akiri, Fearless Voyager, Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients, Koll, the Forgemaster, Bruenor Battlehammer). It might constitute the new paradigm in the colors – just add damage-based spells.


 SIMIC BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Slogurk, the Overslime: It's funny how many legendary Oozes exist, for such a still relatively small tribe (almost one out of every four of them has the legendary supertype). Slogurk is an excellent one in formats where fetchlands other than Evolving Wilds and Field of Ruin are legal. Self-milling can still enable the Overslime, in fact to even larger proportions; but then it becomes the main theme of the deck, and it might fit Golgari more than Simic. At this point of the cycle, there's shortage of Simic commanders that aren't hyper-specialized, like Verazol, the Split Current for "kicker matters", Kasmina, Enigma Sage for superfriends, Tanazir Quandrix for +1/+1 counters synergies, or the very specific "anti-tribal" build that Volo, Guide of Monsters requires. Koma, Cosmos Serpent is arguably the more popular Brawl commander in these colors, but even he basically functions as the payoff for a ramp deck.


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