Kumagoro42's picture
By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Sep 11 2019 12:00pm



 Brawl is the latest format to come to MTG Arena, following the release of Throne of Eldraine on September 26. Starting from the October update, a Constructed Brawl queue will be added to Arena, whereas MTGO has had a Brawl option since a while (it's currently located in the Commander room). And given that Throne of Eldraine comes with built-in Brawl support, in the form of four preconstructed Brawl decks with exclusive ELD cards as a supplemental product, Arena players already got to experience a little taste of Brawl with a special event that launched September 4 and lasted through September 9, where a slightly reworked version of the four precon decks was made available in a self-contained format where they only played against each other.

 So, what is Brawl then? To make it simple, it's Standard Commander. It debuted last year and it's being now more widely pushed as a quicker version of Commander that plays especially well as a 1v1 format, though it also works for multiplayer. Here's a list of the main differences between Brawl and its parent format:

  • Brawl only uses cards from the Standard pool (so it's a rotating format);
  • Brawl decks are made of exactly 60 cards (59 plus commander) instead of 100;
  • Brawl's starting life total is 25 in 1v1 and 30 in multiplayer instead of 40;
  • Brawl doesn't use commander damage as a wincon;
  • Brawl always gives you access to a free mulligan, even in 1v1;
  • last but not least, any planeswalker can be your commander in Brawl, not just those whose rule text allows it.

 There's also some more technical distinction related to colorless commanders (they can run basic lands), but it's something that only rarely comes up. The two formats play very similarly on a broad level: you have singleton decks (i.e. only one copy of each card is allowed except for basic lands) and a Legendary commander that can be played again and again from the command zone, with a cumulative tax of two mana per each casting after the first. Brawl decks are smaller and the life total is closer to regular MTG games, so the games generally play out at a faster pace. The most striking difference is the fact that Brawl lets you use planeswalkers as commanders instead of just Legendary creatures, which is a big deal.

 Even within a restricted pool, the building options for Brawl are many, and this could feel intimidating to format beginners. Going into Throne of Eldraine, we're entering Standard at its nadir, with only five sets available. Still, Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, War of the Spark and Core Set 2020 already amount to a grand total of 104 Brawl commanders – 44 creatures and 60 planeswalkers (War of the Spark's 39-planeswalker count is clearly the worst offender here). And this is without counting what Throne of Eldraine will bring to the Brawl table, some of which we already know, including the four creatures used as commanders in the precon decks and expressly designed for the format.

 Before dealing with the ELD side of things, though, let's start by reviewing the potential Brawl commanders we're going to have available throughout 2020, starting this installment with the above-mentioned 44 Legendary creatures, divided by color identity (it's worth noting that the four sets leaving the format had 70 of such creatures, mostly due to Dominaria's Legendary theme). In the next installment, we'll examine the planeswalkers.

 Jump to: Monowhite, Monoblue, Monoblack, Monored, Monogreen, Azorius, Dimir, Rakdos, Gruul, Selesnya, Orzhov, Izzet, Golgari, Boros, Simic, Naya, Abzan, Jeskai, Sultai, Mardu, Temur, Pentacolor.



 God-Eternal Oketra: Oketra is a very powerful commander for aggressive creature-based decks, probably the most appealing option in monowhite, even if her arsenal will be somewhat limited by the color's reduced amount of good toolbox creatures. The self-tucking God-Eternal clause can come in handy to sidestep the commander tax.

 Sephara, Sky's Blade: Of course in a vacuum, Sephara is an even more explosive commander than Oketra, though she requires more build-around. The issue here is that the four sets surviving rotations don't have a ton of small flyers to fuel Sephara's alternate cost – in fact, there's only eleven that cost less than four mana, and half of them are pretty dire Limited fodder like Griffin Sentinel. It's still worth a try.

 Tomik, Distinguished Advokist: Nothing particularly exciting in running Tomik as your commander, though he certainly has a high recastability factor. And he's definitely one of the best enablers in a Sephara deck.



 Atemsis, All-Seeing: Trying to break Atemsis's alt wincon in Brawl will be a fun challenge, and a worthy Johnny endeavor. Still not particularly effective, even if it could just mean you're building a good stuff monoblue deck paying a modicum of attention to differentiate casting costs and hoping for the best. The deck can also trying and exploiting our Sphinx's discard outlet ability somehow, even if there aren't that many payoff for that strategy in monoblue.

 Fblthp, the Lost: If you're looking for a cheap commander with intrinsic value, Fblthp might be your guy. He won't make for an intimidating presence on the battlefield, but he'll always deliver the card-drawing you seek. Only problem: he'll constantly end up shuffled back into the library, and Brawl doesn't currently incorporate the technology for retrieving him, like Proteus Staff in creatureless Fblthp Commander combo decks. So maybe you don't want Fblthp as your Brawl commander just yet.

 God-Eternal Kefnet: A spellslinging monoblue deck can't do much better than running Kefnet as its commander. Well, except maybe considering going Izzet instead, with Kefnet as just one of the 59 in the deck. Your call.



 God-Eternal Bontu: We can just establish all the God-Eternals make for attractive Brawl commanders. Bontu excels in a "sacrifices matter" build, which in monoblack will be orphan of Judith, the Scourge Diva and Mayhem Devil, but still pretty darn effective.

 Massacre Girl: A sweeper effect as a commander? You can't really go wrong with this murderous gal. The opponents will see her coming, but they won't be able to do much about it, and trying and playing around her massacre will be painful.

 The Haunt of Hightower: Ravnica Allegiance's exclusive Buy-a-Box promo hasn't seen much play in Standard even after the advent of Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord. It has the potential to be a heavy hitter, but it takes a lot to get going and doesn't impact the board in any meaningful way when it drops, which is now what you want your six-mana commander to do.

 Vilis, Broker of Blood: Similarly, Vilis represents a high power level concentrated within a single top-end card. This kind of approach historically never works well in Commander formats; if your commander already costs eight, chances are you won't be able to cast it too many times during a game, and you're just presenting the opponent with a way to disrupt your entire battleplan through a single answer. Vilis might be more fitting as a payoff card in Brawl decks headed by more ramp-friendly entities.



 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames: Another "big cost, big reward" commander, though it's slightly cheaper than Vilis and in a color that currently features more ramp capabilities, even if the rotation of Core Set 2019 takes away all the tools to build a proper Dragon-theme Brawl deck – which would have used Sarkhan, Fireblood as a commander, anyway.

 Ilharg, the Raze-Boar: The angry Boar God might just be the least effective God-Eternals to build around in Brawl, because it doesn't do much until it gets a chance to attack and after that it's strictly dependent on your hand composition at that moment. I also feel like Ilharg without green might struggle a little. Still makes for a nice Timmy-pleasing commander, though.

 Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin: Krenko is probably the commander you hire if you want to go monored aggro in Brawl. He's cheap enough that his token gang will surely add up to a fair number of mischievous Gobbos over the course of a game. Worthy of a Cavalcade of Calamity inclusion.

 Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion: Solid midrange commander for a monored good stuff build. Reasonable cost, threatening trampling power, some looting and some mana production. It's possible Brawl will prove to be the right environment to truly express Neheb's potential.



 Gargos, Vicious Watcher: Hydra tribal is very unlikely to materialize in Brawl, but as far as expensive commanders go, Gargos has some merits, its cost remains within Titan mana, and its removal capabilities are crucial in a format that can't otherwise count on the redundancy of solutions.

 God-Eternal Rhonas: The case of Rhonas is pretty straightforward, as he's the best choice to build a Stompy deck in Brawl. Green might just lead to the most balanced monocolored Brawl decks, since it has access to acceleration and removal to any kind of permanent thanks to fight, and its creatures are self-sustained, whereas other colors might fail to reproduce their usual shticks, not being able to easily pile up crucial and specialized effects like white's anthems and red's refueling.

 Mowu, Loyal Companion: A monogreen "+1/+1 counters matter" deck (which, must be said, will always play second fiddle to its Simic version) can't do better than gathering around good puppy Mowu, except maybe going with his own master, Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter, who however doesn't guarantee a counter collector will be around at any given time, while Mowu does. He once again embodies the trouble of ultimately amassing a high degree of power into one easily removed card, but his Hardened Scales ability makes it somewhat easy to build him up again.



 Lavinia, Azorius Renegade: Since her printing, Lavinia has been completely ignored in Standard, being too narrow of a hatebear in the format (she was designed for more Eternal purposes). Still, at the moment she's the only creature option for Azorius decks in Brawl, and considering Esper has none and Dimir is a different kind of control beast, maybe we're going to see Lavinia played just to get access to such a classic color pair through a creature (aw, who am I fooling, everyone will just play Teferi, Time Raveler). Plus she does contribute with something, as her first ability keeps Mass Manipulation at bay out of the Simic ramp decks (remember X is not zero when the spell is on the stack), and the second stops all kinds of free spells, even if that would be more relevant in a format with Omniscience and Mox Amber still around.



 Etrata, the Silencer: Etrata could have been a bonafide scary win condition if she went back to the command zone after each hit. Alas, she's shuffled back into the library, a destiny worse than death for commanders. So it'll just result in a strictly worse Etrata deck (speaking like that's actually a thing that exists) where you can only play one copy of Etrata and you have no commander.

 Lazav, the Multifarious: Withing Brawl, Lazav won't be able to copy his pal Kethis, the Hidden Hand, but will still copy all sorts of other dead creatures. He'll be the go-to Brawl commander in Dimir (the only other options so far are Ashiok, Dream Render and the very specialized Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge), and rightly so.



 Judith, the Scourge Diva: Oh boy. A Rakdos sacrifice deck with Judith at the helm is... very close to a regular Rakdos sacrifice deck, but with Judith always around. Tier-1 material right there.

 Rakdos, the Showstopper: If you wish to go big in Rakdos, nothing will beat the main guy himself. It's not as surefire a sweeper effect as Massacre Girl is most of the times, but it gives access to a second color, and casting our showstopping Demon again and again will be truly spectacular, in spite of anything that may happen with his random trigger – at least we know Mayhem Devil will be spared.



 Nikya of the Old Ways: This Centaur lady is the only non-planeswalker Gruul option right now, and is an enticing one. Her main competitor in the big mana category is Nissa, Who Shakes the World, and each of them brings a different brand of versatility into the proceedings, with Nikya opening red avenues and Nissa allowing for noncreature spells. I guess at that point it's a question of personal taste, because both options seem pretty strong in Brawl.



 Emmara, Soul of the Accord: Selesnya currently owns the best collection of Brawl dual-color commander candidates. Emmara is perfect as a cheap commander that works wonders in a go-wide strategy. Remember all those times when you suicided your Emmara attacking into a trade only to get a token? Now you'll be able to do that and then replay Emmara a couple turns later!

 Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves: On the other hand, Tolsimir makes for a more midrange-y commander providing repeatable removal and lifegain. He's also allowed to run all of the Wolves in his deck, especially Nightpack Ambusher (though not the new Garruk, unfortunately).

 Trostani Discordant: But the mother of all Selesnya decks is (literally) Trostani, a generic good stuff option where you clearly feel incentivized to play the other Selesnya commanders under her rule. Then again, you'll probably going to play these three in any Selesnya Brawl deck, regardless of who gets to wear the commander hat between them.



 Teysa Karlov: In a similar manner to Judith with Rakdos, Teysa's identity encompasses the two colors she needs to create a functional "tokens matter" and "death matters" deck in Orzhov. I expect she'll be popular enough.



 Niv-Mizzet, Parun: Here's another of the Brawl commanders that's going to have many, many fans. You'll get to do your Izzet hi-jinks recklessly, with the knowledge that your Niv-Mizzet is just lurking in the shadows, waiting for the moment you'll hit six mana and the endgame will commence.



 Izoni, Thousand-Eyed: Izoni could work as a commander in a deck with Golgari graveyard strategies, just chilling in the command zone until the time is right for a big undergrowth payoff. However, I feel like giving up on early commander action could hurt such a deck, and for that reason Izoni will be overshadowed by the likes of Vraska, Golgari Queen.

 Storrev, Devkarin Lich: A less specific collection of black-green cards might assemble under Storrev's command. He looks akin to Neheb, just a powerful midrange trampler with added value, in his case recursion. Probably still less desirable than Vraska, though.



 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice: Boros rivals with Selesnya for power level of their commanders, with these three guys and gals going to be featured heavily either inside or outside the command zone. Aurelia is the non-nonsense choice, a big-butted flyer that boosts a member of your team starting from turn four.

 Feather, the Redeemed: And Feather, whoa. Imagine a Feather deck that never fails to cast her on turn three? Where the titular Angel will always come back to the battlefield, no matter what? If there's a card with any chance of ending up banned as a Brawl commander, it's this.

 Tajic, Legion's Edge: Tajic is less powerful than the two Angels he shares his color identity with, but he hits faster, and is suitable as the commander of a Boros deck that aims to go aggro in a more traditional way, without too many fancy interactions involved.



 Prime Speaker Vannifar: Of course Vannifar is going to be a fan favorite (she sure is mine!). She'll be the queen of the toolbox decks, and Simic has some good bullets to offer in that regard. All hail the pretty Ooze!

 Roalesk, Apex Hybrid: By comparison, Roalesk is less enticing, but he's still a solid flyer that boosts his team, so I can see him played as a curve-topping commander in more aggressive Simic lists. The death trigger is a nombo for a commander, though, since going back to the command zone is a replacement effect.

 Zegana, Utopian Speaker: For lovers of +1/+1 counters shenanigans, Zegana might be the way to go. She replaces herself, eventually swings for eight, and provides a form of evasion to everyone else. Not too flashy, but synergistic enough, even without actually fostering those counters.



 Rienne, Angel of Rebirth: The Core Set 2020 Buy-a-Box promo is very out of touch with her environment, being currently the only shard-aligned creature in Standard, whereas her own set featured a full cycle of wedge-colored legends (that you'll see below). She's not a bad card, though, she just suffers for lack of surrounding development. But she basically wants to lead a Kaleidoscope Brawl deck, which could be fun.



 Kethis, the Hidden Hand: I'm not sure what Kethis will do in Standard once the Dominaria legends will be gone, therefore I can't tell how good he'll be in Brawl. But he could easily be played straight as a lord for Legendary creatures – a commander of commanders, if you will.



 Kykar, Wind's Fury: The cycle of five three-colored Legendary creatures from Core Set 2020 has a bit of a "designed for Brawl" label all over them, and Kykar in particular. Considering there aren't three-colored planeswalkers in Standard right now except for Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God, and that Throne of Eldraine seems mostly focused on monocolored or shard-aligned creatures, Kykar could really end up being the only option for Jeskai in Brawl; and while serviceable, it feels already outclassed by this Esper Faerie.



 Yarok, the Desecrated: One of two powerful ways to build Elemental Tribal in Brawl (the other one being Omnath, of course), Yarok goes way beyond that description, positioning itself as one the most powerful commanders in the format. That trigger-doubling ability is just that good.



 Kaalia, Zenith Seeker: The powerful Angels from Dominaria as well as the Dragon theme from Core Set 2019 are going away, but of course the trifecta of iconic flyers Kaalia cares for will always have some good representatives in any given Standard pool. So she'll remain playable, if perhaps not exceedingly alluring, even in a Timmy-esque build chock-full of potential targets. She's not Kaalia of the Vast, essentially – she won't help dropping those fatties onto the battlefield, she'll just put one of them in your hand, maybe two if you're lucky, or maybe even none. After Throne of Eldraine, Mardu players might be better off trying the more novel Knight route.



 Omnath, Locus of the Roil: Aggressive-minded Elemental players will favor Omnath over Yarok – after all, you want access to the red Elementals and the Chandras.



 Niv-Mizzet Reborn: Going all-color in Commander always feels a bit like cheating, since the restriction to the commander's color identity is a big part of what makes deckbuilding for the format so fun. This said, rainbow Niv-Mizzet is not without his build-around component, since he doesn't just want to lead a generic five-color deck, but one where there are cards of each color pair, evenly distributed among the various Guilds. And that's even more of an intriguing deckbuilding challenge in Brawl than it is in regular Standard.

 Golos, Tireless Pilgrim: Now, Golos on the other hand is as five-color good stuff as they get. It even helps you fix your mana without asking any specific color for casting it. It's probably going to be popular in Brawl nonetheless, possibly reenacting Field of the Dead shenanigans there.

 The Legendary creatures from Throne of Eldraine will be analyzed in the installment focused on the set, once all the cards will have been spoiled (the same will subsequently happen for the 2020 sets). We already know Throne of Eldraine offers an option for some of the missing three-color combinations, namely Esper, Jund, and Bant, plus a different option for Mardu and a couple monoblack ones. Currently, Grixis is the only shard that doesn't have any Legendary creature available in Brawl, following the rotation of Admiral Beckett Brass and Nicol Bolas, the Ravager; planeswalker options remain. Four-color combinations are extremely rare (only eight of them exists in the game), so not to be expected.

 See you in the next installment, where we'll talk about all the Brawl planeswalker commanders from Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, War of the Spark and Core Set 2020!