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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
May 04 2022 10:33am
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A GUIDE TO BRAWL: STREETS OF NEW CAPENNA

 Spring update to the Brawl series! The legendaries from Streets of New Capenna are added to the pre-existing Brawl commander options from Zendikar RisingKaldheimStrixhaven: School of Mages, Adventures in the Forgotten RealmsInnistrad: Midnight HuntInnistrad: Crimson Vow, and Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. Brawl is at its zenith!

 The 22 new commanders come mostly in one of the allied three-color combinations linked to the five families that are the backbone of the set – and it's good news, since out of of those combinations, only Naya had a commander available in Standard. Aside from those, we get just one or two new monocolored commanders per color – except for black, which gets none. Ob Nixilis in Rakdos is the only dual-colored new commander.

 The total number of available commanders is brought up to 213 – which is 214, 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: 18 commanders (+2)
  • Monoblue: 18 commanders (+1)
  • Monoblack: 18 commanders
  • Monored: 16 commanders (+2)
  • Monogreen: 16 commanders (+1)
  • Azorius: 8 commanders
  • Dimir: 10 commanders
  • Rakdos: 10 commanders (+1)
  • Gruul: 6 commanders
  • Selesnya: 8 commanders
  • Orzhov: 12 commanders
  • Izzet: 9 commanders
  • Golgari: 12 commanders
  • Boros: 13 commanders
  • Simic: 13 commanders
  • Esper: 3 commanders (+3)
  • Grixis: 3 commanders (+3)
  • Jund: 3 commanders (+3)
  • Naya: 4 commanders (+3)
  • Bant: 3 commanders (+3)
  • Abzan: 0 commanders
  • Jeskai: 1 commander
  • Sultai: 2 commanders
  • Mardu: 2 commanders
  • Temur: 0 commanders
  • Quadricolor: 1 commander – 1 banned
  • Pentacolor: 5 commanders
  • Colorless: 0 commanders

 Now let's see what this excursion into a unique 1920s Art Deco film-noir kind of setting brings to Brawl!

 Jump to: Monowhite, Monoblue, Monored, Monogreen, Rakdos, Esper, Grixis, Jund, Naya, Bant.


 MONOWHITE BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Giada, Font of Hope: Giada is the key character in Streets of New Capenna, the runaway teenage-looking Angel who's the only remaining free member of her species, from which the Demon bosses extract the precious Halo substance. But aside from that, she's very likely the best commander ever designed for an Angel tribal deck, at least one that focuses on monowhite specimens. Giada is very cheap therefore highly replayable, swings for two in the air for free, and then makes every other Angel better and easier to cast. Arguably a better job at guiding an angelic host than a more conventional lord like Lyra Dawnbringer does. Giada's only real competitor for the position – and we're talking Commander as a whole, not just Brawl here – would be one that allows for the inclusion of non-white Angels while still helping the tribe, so primarily Kaalia of the Vast. The problem in Standard Brawl, though, is that there aren't currently too many good Angels for her to command; the issue might fix itself at some point during Giada's legality. Otherwise, she'll be more at home in the Historic version of the format.

 Elspeth Resplendent: I bet nobody would have ever thought of seeing devoted knight Elspeth wearing the dazzling clothes of a Jazz Age flapper. But it's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life! (All right, that's a wrong musical reference). Before brandishing her brand new Phyrexian-slashing Halo-infused sword Luxior, Elspeth celebrated her return to active heroine duty – and to what surprisingly turned out to be her native plane – with a five-mana incarnation, the first since Elspeth Tirel. This is also the first Elspeth that isn't able to generate tokens right away, and the first to dig into the library for card advantage. The latter ability doubles as a way to defend herself, if she happens to find a creature with mana value three or less to cheat onto the battlefield – in a more resilient form while she's at it. Looking seven cards deep, the odds of such an outcome are pretty good, but the Resplendent is still a card that we want to include, as commander or otherwise, primarily in lower-to-the-ground aggro builds. This is also emphasized by the plus, which provides huge value if we already have a board presence, and does absolutely nothing if we don't. Probably not as valuable a commander for White Weenie than The Wandering Emperor is, but still pretty good.


 MONOBLUE BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Errant, Street Artist: Well, if we're after a one-mana commander, Errant is currently the only one that fits the bill (aside from Valentin, Dean of the Vein, which is more likely to be cast as four-mana Lisette anyway). Too bad her only relevant ability is so narrow that would be hardly playable in a five-color deck, let alone in monoblue. A one-drop 0/3 with flash, defender and haste is not the commander of anybody's dreams.


 MONORED BRAWL COMMANDERS

  

 Jaxis, the Troublemaker: Let's start by saying that blitz is not a good ability to have on a commander, since it basically trades it for an increasingly expensive cycling effect with a bit of an upside. But Jaxis's activate ability essentially turns any card in our hand, including excess lands, into the blitz copy of a creature we control. Jaxis can't be copied this way, just for the redraw, but it's easy to have anything else around that's worth one mana to have it duplicated for one turn while rummaging in the process. Having to work from within a monored shell limits the possibilities of fully exploiting the discard side of this whole business, but it still makes for an intriguing value-based commander, if maybe a little on the expensive side as a four-drop 2/3 with no other abilities.

 Urabrask, Heretic Praetor: The "good" Praetor shows up on New Capenna, and this time he's not just a universal haste provider like his original Urabrask the Hidden form. What we get is a free impulsive drawing per turn, while the opponent is forced to turn their regular draw into impulsive draw, which disrupts their longterm planning and particularly shuts down countermagic. But mostly it's a "draw an extra card" deal for us, attached to a decent-not-great 4/4 hasty body for five. Better than the only other monored commander of the same cost in current Brawl, the underwhelming Zalto, Fire Giant Duke, but probably worse than four-mana options like Zariel, Archduke of Avernus or Toralf, God of Fury, and equally missing any real thematic hook.


 MONOGREEN BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Vivien on the Hunt: "Vivien cannot do wrong" confirmed. The fifth premier-set incarnation of the fierce green archer is yet again a very playable planeswalker card, even while reaching her historically highest mana value. As a commander, she sits near the "too expensive" side of things, but she can either sprout out 4/4 Rhinos for a few turns, or dig for a creature, or, even better, do a perfect replica of a Birthing Pod activation while going up and up in loyalty. That ability alone looks like a very fun build-around.


 RAKDOS BRAWL COMMANDERS

 

 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary: There was currently only one other planeswalker to elect as commander in Rakdos colors, and that's the seven-mana back face of Valki, God of Lies. So what about an Ob Nixilis or two? The Adversary really wants you to casualty out a second copy of him, because the first one alone wouldn't probably do enough. But things get better once we're able to both create a Devil and drain the opponent for two every turn or so (the opponent isn't likely to choose to discard a card unless it's some surplus land in the late game). Florian, Voldaren Scion is still the preferable three-drop to command a generic "good stuff" Rakdos list, because Ob Nixilis isn't generating too much of an advantage. In fact, he requires a sacrifice to begin with, which is card parity in most circumstances. And he's easy to remove, even when there's two of them at once, as their loyalty total starts pretty low, grows quite slowly, and has only those little Devils to hide behind.


 ESPER (OBSCURA) BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Raffine, Scheming Seer: Each of the five families express three different cycles of legendary creatures in their colors, one per rarity from uncommon upwards. The mythic ones are the five bosses, which are all Demons in addition to a different creature type that doesn't usually get paired with Demon. Raffine, the crime lord of the Obscura family, is a Sphinx in Esper colors, which is a typical color combination of multicolored Sphinges. She is the cheapest of the bosses, but of course also the least impactful. She comes with minimal power and a semi-negligible amount of protection. But the weirdest thing about her is that is an Esper card that encourages us to go wide aggro, in order to power up her connive. If an Esper deck ever wants to take that route in Brawl, Raffine might do some work. Then again, the Obscura legends represent the totality Esper commanders currently available, so this is the only mythic that could sit in the command zone of an Esper build right now.

 Toluz, Clever Conductor: All the rare legendaries from this family cycle have hybrid mana in their cost, which makes them easier to cast and potentially fit for monocolored decks as well. The latter aspect is kind of moot when we're evaluating them for Commander and Brawl, but the cost flexibility can be relevant. Toluz provides a connive trigger, but her main ability works with any discard effect, essentially making us retrieve the pitched cards when she dies (and in the meantime, they're secure in the exile zone, so they can't be interacted with). Now, a death trigger is typically not something we want to see on a commander, even now that they actually work as written after the rule that used to prevent it was changed. In the case of Toluz, the value is actually quite high, and the build-around practically effortless, as we're not adverse to include looting effects in an Esper deck. Overall, she looks like a more appealing commander than her boss Raffine herself, for the same cost – even with that tragically low toughness. After all, we actively wish her to die every once in a while.

 Queza, Augur of Agonies: It appears the Obscura's who's who is an all-female affair. This Cephalid lady (oh yeah, the Cephalids are back, after 19 years!) takes the form of a very straightforward card. Her "drain when you draw" ability is meant to interact with connive, but it actually rewards a basic action of the game, and one that's already emphasized in Esper. So it's almost safe to say the uncommon Queza is the best and most versatile Esper commander we can field in Brawl. She doesn't offer any strategic advantage, but she's a win condition, and might well be the only creature in the deck that she commands.


 GRIXIS (MAESTROS) BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Lord Xander, the Collector: At seven mana, the Vampire art connoisseur Xander is the more expensive among the family bosses, which doesn't bode too well for his playability as a commander. He's basically a collection of disparate triggers: an ETB trigger, an attack trigger, a death trigger, all disruptive, but not very synergistic. Realistically, you can count on resolving them only once per game, maybe a few more times in the case of the milling – which might become the deck's win condition, if supported by other similar effects. The ETB in particular is not going to do much by the time we're able to deploy a seven-drop.

 Evelyn, the Covetous: If Evelyn's ability only worked on her ETB, it would already make her a decent variant on Gonti, Lord of Luxury: no selection, but more affected cards, including one from our own library, which is typically more valuable. She misses Gonti's secondary role as a deathtoucher that can trade for anything on the ground, but she can ambush an attacker and blocks well. What really puts her over the top, though, and turns her into, once again, a much more interesting commander than the mythic she should defer to, is the tribal element. Under Evelyn's watch, every Vampire we drop becomes a semi-Gonti. And being in Grixis, she gives access to all the relevant bloodsuckers, except for Welcoming Vampire. There's a deck that's waiting to be built.

 Cormela, Glamour Thief: With the glamorous Cormela, the spellslinging deck has just gotten a new commander that allows for an extra color (black), and is intended for going big with a double mana boost on turn five, allowing us to cast a four-drop and a three-drop instant or sorcery. Plus she dies into card recursion. What more to ask?


 JUND (RIVETEERS) BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Ziatora, the Incinerator: The Riveteers labor leader Ziatora is, quite literally, a Dragon lady. She's the right commander for a Jund build that incorporates a ramp element and enjoys having big threats at the top of the curve. As a 6/6 flyer, Ziatora will be both one of these finishers and a way to weaponize them in an supplemental way through her free-of-charge, end-of-turn Fling. Alternatively, she can just routinely eat some low-level goon, kill something on the other side of the battlefield (or burn the opponent's face in preparation for a grand finale), and make three Treasure to go even bigger the following turn. It's a bit of a Timmy/Tammy approach, but it looks roaringly fun.

 Ognis, the Dragon's Lash: A haste lord! But even on her own, Ognis is an efficient four-drop that can catch the opponent by surprise and improve our next turn's mana production (unfortunately, the Treasure tokens she makes cannot be activated right away). A thinking person's Jund commander.

 Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder: Another solid no-nonsense option for these colors, the enforcer Mr. Orfeo simply gives us a bonus power duplication during each of our combat phases. Jund creatures can put that to some good use – starting from the very first turn Mr. Orfeo shows up and lets us attack with a 10-powered Kazandu Mammoth or something equally scary.


 NAYA (CABARETTI) BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Jetmir, Nexus of Revels: "Grandpa Cabaretti" is a big fat Cat who loves to party. To better accomplish that life goal, he likes to be surrounded by friends and allies, hence the scaled trio of continuous effects. Getting a bonus for controlling nine or more creatures is as win-more as they get, but we can probably count on vigilance and a little power boost under most board states. Plus he's an above-the-curve 5/4 for four. Naya already had a commander in the form of Minsc, Beloved Ranger, who still maintains his appeal; but Jetmir is a serious competitor for decks that tend to go wider.

 Jinnie Fay, Jetmir's Second: Jinnie Fay has a name that sounds right out of a Bertolt Brecht's crime ballad, as well as the best build-around ability of all the New Capenna wannabe commanders. Turning any kind of tokens, which includes Treasures and such, into our pick of 2/2 hasty Cats or 3/1 vigilant Dogs is truly the spectacular replacement effect. And she's a three-drop 3/3 to boot. Hard to find a better commander for token builds. These three-colored legendaries are really proving to be game-changing in Brawl – and arguably in Historic Brawl, too.

 Rocco, Cabaretti Caterer: Short of a deck that heavily relies on a specific creature to execute an endgame combo, the impression is that Rocco will be a frequent value inclusion in Naya or five-color decks more than a command zone denizen. Then again, is tutoring a creature onto the battlefield really worth three extra mana, if all we get out of the deal is an extra 3/1 body? After all, Chord of Calling comes with a built-in discount and works at instant speed. But if tutoring is important to us, Rocco still does a good job of it in Brawl. Only not one that particularly requires him to be in command.


 BANT (BROKERS) BRAWL COMMANDERS

   

 Falco Spara, Pactweaver: This Bird's name evokes the protagonist of an old Italian comic book about a hitman (it literally means "the hawk who shoots"), but Falco he's actually at the head of a law firm. Although, he actually sounds more like he offers protection in exchange of payments, mafia-style. At any rate, his card features a ton of text. For just four mana, we get a 3/3 frampling body, a shield counter, permanent information about the top of our library, and the opportunity to exchange any counter from one of our creatures (which includes Falco's shield, but that's probably better used as a last resort) for card advantage. The build-around here seems to be a sort of "counters matter" deck, but Falco does enough on his own already, and Bant is likely to have value creatures with incidental counters anyway, so he can be rightfully classified as a "good stuff" commander – and a great one at that.

 Rigo, Streetwise Mentor: Now, this Cat is more build-around material, because we want to be able to trigger the card drawing every turn, and in order to do so, we have to give the streetwise Rigo a one-powered team to command. More specifically, we need one-powered creatures that don't just crash and die into any blocker, so ideally flyers. There aren't too many of those in any given Standard rotation, and they tend to be designed for Limited, cards like Mistwalker, Needlethorn Drake and Network Disruptor. So maybe the correct way to approach Rigo is just to go wide with tokens and suicide-attack them into fresh cards.

 Lagrella, the Magpie: Banisher Priest as a commander? Heck, why not. It relegates our commander to a pure utility role, but it sure is effective. And Lagrella also lets us store someone from our team underneath her, so we can make it larger later while we punish the opponent for trying to get their creatures back.


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