Kumagoro42's picture
By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jun 06 2023 10:45am


 Second spring update to the Brawl series! The legends-filled "micro setMarch of the Machine: The Aftermath adds to the existing pool of legendaries from Innistrad: Midnight HuntInnistrad: Crimson VowKamigawa: Neon Dynasty, Streets of New CapennaDominaria UnitedThe Brothers' WarPhyrexia: All Will Be One, and March of the Machine. Brawl is at its zenith! Or so one would have said if there hadn't been the announcement that Standard's rotation is going to switch to a three-year period, so all the sets that will release between now and Fall 2024 will keep adding to the same current pool.

 The 21 new commanders from March of the Machine: The Aftermath come mostly in dual-color combinations, except both Azorius and Dimir are missing a representative. Also, the monocolored ones appear only in red and green, which contributes to a general feeling of randomness. Furthermore, there are no planeswalkers in the set, since the main repercussions of the events of the New Phyrexian Invasion is the loss of most planeswalkers' sparks. This caused The Aftermath to be the first Standard-legal set containing no planeswalker cards since 2009's Alara Reborn.

 The total number of available commanders is brought up to 258. Pithing Needle is still the only banned card specific to Brawl.

 The count by color becomes as follows.

  • Monowhite: 21 commanders
  • Monoblue: 17 commanders
  • Monoblack: 21 commanders
  • Monored: 20 commanders (+2)
  • Monogreen: 16 commanders (+1)
  • Azorius: 13 commanders
  • Dimir: 13 commanders
  • Rakdos: 14 commanders (+1)
  • Gruul: 12 commanders (+1)
  • Selesnya: 14 commanders (+3)
  • Orzhov: 12 commanders (+1)
  • Izzet: 9 commanders (+1)
  • Golgari: 10 commanders (+1)
  • Boros: 14 commanders (+2)
  • Simic: 11 commanders (+2)
  • Esper: 4 commanders
  • Grixis: 4 commanders
  • Jund: 4 commanders
  • Naya: 5 commanders (+1)
  • Bant: 5 commanders
  • Abzan: 1 commander
  • Jeskai: 3 commanders (+1)
  • Sultai: 3 commanders (+1)
  • Mardu: 2 commanders
  • Temur: 1 commander
  • Quadricolor: 1 commander
  • Pentacolor: 5 commanders (+2)
  • Colorless: 4 commanders (+1)

 Now let's see what the aftermath of the New Phyrexian Invasion brings to Brawl!

 Jump to: Monored, Monogreen, Rakdos, Gruul, Selesnya, Orzhov, Izzet, Golgari, Boros, Simic, Naya, Jeskai, Sultai, Pentacolor, Colorless.



 Arni Metalbrow: The implacable Arni did it again! After successfully headbutting a troll, a feat that left a horn permanently lodged in his skull, the unrelenting Berserker from Kaldheim has administered a new dose of the same medicine to an invading Phyrexian. So now his forehead has acquired another memento of his foolhardy scuffles. The new card maintains the same body and cost of the original Arni Brokenbrow, but loses haste to gain a sort of weird ability. In most situations, it amounts to giving haste to another of our creatures while also forcing them to attack. It could result in a mana discount in the late game, although attacking with Arni himself just triggers it for, at best, a two-drop, and since we have to pay two mana to cheat it onto the battlefield, there's no real tempo gain involved. On the other hand, it's a way to circumvent most countermagic. The affected creature also triggers the ability again (the very first case of an attack trigger extended beyond the declare attackers step), so in theory we could chain together several creatures of decreasing mana value, provided we have them in hand and enough mana to spend. Truth be told, this Arni doesn't exactly look like strong commander material, as the odds of triggering his one ability multiple times during a game seem pretty low. In general, all effects that only function based on what we have in hand always end up being too narrow in scope.

 Plargg and Nassari: This is the only team up in The Aftermath, and one of only two monocolored team ups out of the 25 we have gotten so far – the other one being Surrak and Goreclaw from the Jumpstart department of March of the Machine. It's also the second team up that takes place on Arcavios after Zimone and Dina, proving that the faculty members of Strixhaven were fighting too, not just the students. In fact, the Orc Plargg is the military history teacher at Lorehold College, while the Efreet Nassari is the dean of Prismari College. Their shared card is basically a reworking of the ETB trigger from Etali, Primal Conqueror. It's worded for multiplayer, where the effect is stronger, but the gist of it in one-on-one games is that we get to cast one of the revealed spells for free, of the opponent's choice. This is quite the letdown, and a 5/4 vanilla body for five doesn't make it better. Then again, this happens every turn, not just once. There will be cases where the opponent doesn't have a good choice to make, and it's both card and tempo advantage regardless. Still a bit clunky, but not to be underestimated too much.



 Nissa, Resurgent Animist: Nissa has suffered more than most during the New Phyrexian Invasion. After being compleated, she became instrumental to Elesh Norn's master plan, providing a way to take control of Realmbreaker, the very engine of the invasion. Luckily, she was ultimately healed by the combined efforts of Melira, Karn and Teferi, and is now back to be the socially awkward Elf we all love and cherish (to be fair, the story where it happens doesn't really clarify how they were able to restore her original body that was twisted and dismantled, but let's just roll with it. Nissa was Phyrexianized for a while, then got better). Of course, at that point the Great Pruning happened, and Nissa lost her spark, like almost everyone else. These former-planeswalker cards bear a special watermark, but are otherwise just legendary creatures. In the case of Nissa, her new form is very similar to a larger Lotus Cobra (which was from Zendikar, after all) with an additional, Omnath-like landfall trigger that cascade-tutors for an Elf or an Elemental. She's quite the effective package, and an instant entry in the hall of fame of the ramp-enabling commanders – even in an environment that doesn't contain as many fetch lands as she would like.



 Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin: Ob Nixilis has lived so many lives. Once upon a time, he was a villainous human warlord; then he became a planeswalker, and later a planeswalking Demon; then he lost his spark, then he regained it, and now he's lost it again and finds himself trapped on New Capenna, with all the crime families seeking revenge. This latest version of the opportunist Demon could be rightly defined as a "pinger lord". His body is a little short on toughness, but as soon as we ping the opponent a first time, he'll get out of bolt range. Every time we do so, he'll keep becoming a more effective finisher while also providing card advantage via impulsive drawing. The setup required for this alluring scenario is quite specific though, as the Captive Kingpin won't be stimulated by any loss of life higher than one. So we either pack our deck full of one-powered evasive beaters, or we rely on the abovementioned repeatable pingers – cards like Thermo-Alchemist, Defiler of Instinct, or Urabrask. Devil tokens also work, like those created by Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, appropriately. It's kind of a narrow build-around commander, and everything must be timed right to prevent Ob Nixilis from being dispatched before the first ping, but it could be worth a try.



 Samut, Vizier of Naktamun: The speedster Samut was on her native Amonkhet when she lost her spark, and she's now taken charge of the reconstruction without skipping a beat. She's been a legendary creature before, as Samut, Voice of Dissent, and her new incarnation is in some regards a cheaper version of the older card, with a smaller body and first strike replacing double strike. More appealing is her haste-friendly Ophidian ability, which uses the same clause we had recently seen on the team up between Goro-Goro and Satoru in March of the Machine Commander. Encouraging the employ of haste in a Gruul deck is not really a costly requirement, but mechanically, it means the card draw won't happen as frequently as it would otherwise. It still makes for a solid "good stuff" Gruul commander, with just a hint of build-around, and perhaps not as well-rounded as Migloz, Maze Crusher is for the same cost.



 Calix, Guided by Fate: Last we saw Calix, he was chasing after Elspeth on behalf of Klothys, to "reweave her into the pattern of Fate". It's unclear what this would entail, but Elspeth is an archangel now, and Calix has lost his spark and his back on Theros, so things don't look super swell for our Nyxborn guy. As expected, a deck commanded by Calix requires a wide enchantment theme, but the payoff is rewarding. His new constellation ability distributes +1/+1 counters, and the saboteur trigger makes up to one copy per turn of one of our enchantments. Calix can also drop as a 3/3 if we want, or we can abuse the ETB trigger every time we return him to the battlefield from the command zone. And since the cloning is enabled by any attacker that connects, the impact on the board is felt immediately. If one were on the market for an enchantment build, Calix could be the way to go in Brawl.

 Danitha, New Benalia's Light: Here's another very focused legend; arguably too much, since this new Danitha wants to be the Lurrus of Auras and Equipment. It definitely caters to a particular subsection of deckbuilders.

 Sigarda, Font of Blessings: The most adept survivor of the former Powerfpuff Angels, Sigarda is still around and still caring about Humans. In this new version, her thoughts include the fellow Angels as well, and her whole Vizier of the Menagerie deal lends itself nicely to a double tribal build. Plus, she's trading in hexproof again, like some of her earlier incarnations; except this time she's not messing around, as she incorporates the entire wording from Privileged Position. A 4/4 flyer for four with all this strategic and tactical value? Definitely ranking near the top of the Selesnya commanders of this (extended) era, including the other Sigarda still in the pool.



 Jirina, Dauntless General: Another "Humans matter" commander, with a bit of random graveyard hate attached. Generally speaking, commanders whose only function involves being sacrificed aren't the most effective, but this new Jirina is almost as cheap as they get, so she can easily weather a few installments of commander tax. And saving our entire team from mass removal may prove crucial enough.



 Sarkhan, Soul Aflame: Sparkless Sarkhan still does Sarkhan signature things, which is caring about Dragons and turning into one on occasion. As far as Dragon-themed commanders go, Rivaz of the Claw is better positioned for the same cost, with higher benefits and a more relevant color combination. Rith, Liberated Primeval and Zurgo and Ojutai also feel more appealing than Sarkhan, whose contribute is limited to a small cost reduction and what essentially amounts to a roundabout way to give haste to one Dragon per turn.



 Tyvar the Bellicose: Tyvar took his desparking like the ultimate Chad he is, and proceeded to lead the Kaldheim Elves towards some sort of renewed grandeur. The more explicit tribal element in Tyvar's first non-planeswalker card is not that impressive – just some deathtouch when attacking, which is the weaker kind of deathtouch – but his second ability affects Elves only in a roundabout way, in that it affects all mana dorks we control, most of which will probably happen to be Elves. It translates into a commander for creature-based ramp decks, capable of making the ramping into its own payoff and wincon. It's easy to build around, and accompanied by a quite decent 5/4 body for four mana. It might not be as strong as some of the other Golgari commanders of this era (especially the two Glissas), but it's a valid choice.



 Nahiri, Forged in Fury: After a near-death experience post-uncompleation, Nahiri is back with what's actually the most expensive incarnation she had ever gotten. And of course she's about Equipment, as she's always been (with the exception of Nahiri, the Harbinger, which is arguably still her best card to date). In fact, she's going all-in with the theme this time, using the presence of Equipment to reduce her casting cost, then performing an impulsive drawing for each equipped creature we attack with – adding further tempo benefit if we ever reveal, you guessed it, yet another Equipment. It's powerful stuff in the right build, and while Equipment-based decks aren't the easiest to pull off, particularly in singleton, Nahiri, Forged in Fury is by and large the best option for that kind of list in Brawl, blowing out of the water previous Boros contenders like Astor, Bearer of Blades or Nahiri's own Phyrexianized form.

 Pia Nalaar, Consul of Revival: In the aftermath of the failed invasion, Chandra's mom is supervising the reconstruction on Kaladesh, while still putting her beloved Thopters to good use. Now, a Thopter tribal deck is obviously out of the question in Brawl (it's barely feasible in Commander), but we can just read Pia as a maker of hasty flying tokens, triggered mostly but not exclusively by impulsive drawing. She's also a reliably cheap commander, so in any "good stuff" Boros deck with a natural abundance of "from exile" effects, she can be right at home.



 Jolrael, Voice of Zhalfir: The denouement of the new invasion arc reunited the formerly phased-out-of-time Zhalfir with the rest of the Multiverse, and this means the nature sorceress Jolrael came back as well, acquiring some affinity for blue mana in the process. This is perfectly represented by her ability of animating lands into card-drawing Birds. And yes, it is as terrific as it sounds: every turn we get a free flyer of potentially considerable size, and we draw one card when it connects. More so, we may draw several cards per turn if we pair Jolrael with other land creatures, like those from Awaken the Woods or Wrenn and Realmbreaker. A four-drop 3/3 doesn't look like much, but the Bird-land is created right away (at least if we cast Jolrael pre-combat), and gets haste. Unfortunately, it doesn't get untapped, so it's more of a turn-five play, but Jolrael still makes for a good leading lady in a generic Simic build.

 Kiora, Sovereign of the Deep: Krakens, Leviathans, Octopi and Serpents – the marine megafauna is always the most Timmy/Tammy tribal batch in existence. And the desparked Kiora is now fully focused on her pets, giving each of them a form of cascade. Clearly, a deck can't run too many of the big fellas, but a regular blue-green ramp build where our occasional Hullbreaker Horror or Tidal Terror come with extra profit attached can't be too bad. Kiora herself owns a decent defensive body that's hard to target, although that's unlikely to factor much in the choice of running the prideful Merfolk in our command zone. It might still be more of a proposition for Commander proper – or at least Historic Brawl, where some of the changelings are legal. 



 Rocco, Street Chef: The nonbinary Cabaretti chef is back, and this time they've decided to feed everybody, no matter the affiliation. We benefit more from the impulsive drawing deal than any other customer, because we get a Food token and a +1/+1 counter every time an opponent eats Rocco's meals, but it still feels more than a bit group-huggy. It's nice to get another commander for Naya, though; it's now the three-color combination with more options to its name in current Brawl, tied with Bant.



 Narset, Enlightened Exile: Creature Narset is teaching our team martial arts, so they get prowess. Even more relevant is her ability to flash back for free a noncreature spell from any graveyard every time she attacks. It's based on her power, but she also has prowess, so it's not difficult to raise that bar – plus, she can cast any one-mana or two-mana spell without extra help, and that'll trigger her power anyway, so she's capable of a solid damage output. All in all, she belongs in the category of the "centerpiece commanders", those that constitute a wincon on their own that most everything else in the deck is fueling. There are only two other Jeskai commanders available at the moment, Hinata, Dawn-Crowned and Zurgo and Ojutai; both are quite strong, but Narset is right there with them, as the most natural choice for the kind of spellslinging build the color triplet favors.



 Nashi, Moon's Legacy: The adopted son of the late Tamiyo has gone Sultai, inheriting the Simic pair from his mom. He has the same cost and body of Zimone and Dina, plus a couple of generally useful if not crucial keywords. However, Nashi's whole shtick is a particular brand of creature recursion via token copy, triggered by his attacks. It's conditionally restricted to either the Rat subtype, which corresponds to Nashi's native Nezumi tribe, or the legendary supertype, in memory of Tamiyo's story circle. Mechanically, it results in a bit of a random set of requirements, but the legendary clause in particular can be built around effortlessly within three colors. It's quite different from the other Sultai commanders we can field in Brawl, which include Tatsunari, Toad Rider, but the power level and deckbuilding challenges are roughly equivalent.



 Niv-Mizzet, Supreme: Nicol Bolas didn't manage to defeat the everlasting Niv-Mizzet, and neither did the Phyrexians. The ancient parun of the Izzet League reaffirms his status as Ravnica's Living Guildpact with a five-color form, same as Niv-Mizzet, Reborn. This time he's protected from monocolored spells, which makes him quite hard to get rid of, and recurs instants and sorceries from our graveyard. To that end, instead of the typical flashback, he employs the more unusual jump-start, which was the Izzet mechanic in Guilds of Ravnica. It's normally just a worse flashback, but since any instant or sorcery we discard to pay for jump-start will in turn acquire jump-start itself, Niv-Mizzet can let us essentially recycle most of our spells in a spellslinging list. As far as five-color deckbuilding requirements go, Niv-Mizzet, Supreme is more demanding than Omnath, Locus of All, but also less byzantine than Jodah, the Unifier. On top of that, he functions as an evasive finisher too, something that none of his current Brawl contenders is able to claim – except perhaps for Kyodai, Soul of Kamigawa, who however doesn't provide much in terms of strategic advantages.

 Tazri, Stalwart Survivor: The heroine of the Eldrazi wars redefines herself quite narrowly as a lord for creatures with activated abilities. Her first ability is particularly convoluted: all creatures with activated abilities will get another activated ability that generates mana to pay for other creatures' activated abilities. Strictly one for Johnnies and Jennies.



 Karn, Legacy Reforged: The gentle Golem sacrificed his spark (i.e. the late Venser's borrowed spark) to heal Nissa and Ajani, so he's actually one of the few ex-planeswalkers that weren't directly affected by the Great Pruning. He's now back to be an "artifacts matter" creature, with a body that's as big as the most expensive artifact around him (so at the very least he'll be a 5/5 for five), and a valuable mana-producing ability that caters to artifacts only. It seems perfectly positioned to be the new go-to commander for colorless builds, and not just in Brawl. Here, he might share that duty with his former planeswalking self, Karn, Living Legacy.

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