The New Brawl
- Jamin Kauf
With Brawl having a new Banlist and being back on Magic Online, it's time for Jamin to take a look at the way the metagame is shaping up. Which decks perform the best and which ones are played the most? Jamin has the answers in this interesting journey through 59-card decks.
As some of you might already know, I'm heavily into Brawl. The singleton restriction of the format makes for different games every time, while your deck's Commander is a unique reusable resource not present in most games of Magic. Given that, it's not hard to believe that I was pretty excited when Brawl was finally coming back to Magic Online after three long weeks without it as Wizards needed to wait for a scheduled downtime to adjust the ban list and relaunch the new format.
The league filled quickly and while many players simply enjoyed playing with their favorite legendary creature again, some of us were looking for the deck. The deck to beat. The deck to grind trophies with. The deck to win.
The Early Deck to Beat
When Standard rotation hits, players will often gravitate towards an aggressive strategy as putting together a deck of cards with synergizing threats is a lot easier than coming up with one that answers the strategies your opponents bring to the table.
The same was true for Brawl early on. Kari Zev, Skyship Raider was and is incredibly strong in Standard and many players decided to take her straight into Brawl.
Kari Zev Aggro by DreamKing20XX
Commander: Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
This deck's gameplan is quite obvious and very similar to the mono red deck currently in Standard: beat your opponent down with early creatures like Bomat Courier or Earthshaker Khenra and finish the job with some of the impactful four mana cards like Rekindling Phoenix or Hazoret the Fervent. To go with that plan, red also has access to the most efficient removal around in Brawl: Magma Spray, Shock, Lightning Strike and Abrade.
On the other hand, you have Chandra, Torch of Defiance as a Commander which always guarantees your strongest four-drop to be played on turn four and allows your deck to play a lower curve. Both Commanders have posted 5-0 results and even Hazoret has shown up, although these lists usually run even more one and two-drops since they want to attack with Hazoret on turn four.
I want to take the time and highlight some cards out of this specific deck:
Flame Lash is only legal in Brawl through the Kaladesh Planeswalker Decks but makes a great addition since few other red spells can deal with four toughness creatures. Also, four damage to the face can finish an opponent out of nowhere.
Chandra's Defeat is an obvious tech-inclusion, strictly metagaming against red decks. Don't play this if you don't expect to play against a lot of red.
Adjusting to Red
So, is Mono Red the best deck? Have we solved it? Is the format over?
Luckily, I can tell you that it's not. People love controlling decks and that's also true for Brawl. Once the biggest threat had been set, players started to adjust. With only 20 life to play with and red decks pressuring you quickly, slower decks had to become more streamlined and efficient with their removal if they wanted to compete with the 1/3 pirate.
Currently the control-commander that sees the most play is Teferi, Hero of Dominaria as he is not only exceptionally powerful but also allows you to play with blue and white cards - the color pair best known for countering spells and keeping the board clean.
Teferi Control by Shnixx
Commander: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
This is a textbook blue-white control deck, anyone can see that: counter and remove opponent's threats until you can stick a card-advantage engine like Search for Azcanta or Teferi to take over the game with.
With Brawl limiting you to one-offs, you have to go deep when looking for removal: While Farm // Market is not a lot worse than Seal Away, Gideons Reproach and Impeccable Timing are not the cream of the crop. Slash of Talons is probably the worst spell in the deck but also necessary to keep up with cheap attackers.
You can also see other ways red decks impacted this decklist: Oketra's Last Mercy puts your life total out of reach for burn once you've stabilized. Authority of the Consuls disables opposing haste creatures while also giving you additional life to play with. One card in this deck, which is potentially the most powerful card in Brawl - Gideon's Intervention - lets you name your opponent's Commander, preventing them from ever casting it again. This is an incredibly powerful effect against decks that rely on synergy or value out of the format-defining resource and makes for some feel-bad moments on the opponent's side.
Apart from the four-mana enchantment, all of the card inclusions are fairly obvious since they either generate card advantage or deal with threats.
While Teferi might only be the control flavor of the month, I don't expect blue to go anywhere in Brawl, and that it will continue being the base of slower decks in Brawl. Having access to counterspells is necessary in a format where many decks can shoot from unusual angles, so if you want to win slowly and by grinding out the opponent, I'd recommend stocking up on islands!
Lastly I want to touch upon a very spicy list I discovered while looking through the 5-0's of Brawl: Blue Tempo.
I'll let the decklist speak for itself first:
Mono Blue Tempo by Moarchunes
Commander: Jace, Cunning Castaway
This deck looks hilarious and I love it! It consists of basically every cheap creature that has some sort of evasion, reaching from Amonkhet Draft all-star Slitherblade to Standard's recent Warkite Marauder. After deploying its threat, the deck aims to push through damage using Dowsing Dagger (none of your creatures get blocked by the plants it creates), Throne of the God-Pharaoh and Curious Obsession while keeping the cards in hand flowing with Jace, Cunning Castaway. If your opponent tries to mess with your creatures or plays something that's too threatening, you have a suite of counterspells at the ready. The Planeswalker Decks also make an appearance here, Jace's Sentinel basically always being a 2/3 unblockable creature for only two mana.
This deck is an interesting take on aggression in Brawl. The one-off restriction forcing players to play inefficient removal makes counterspells like Spell Pierce an excellent choice at protecting what you're doing, so apparently Islands are not only good for slow, grindy decks.
That's it for this week, I hope you enjoyed the recap of new Brawl. If you want to find more recent decklists, you can find them here and here. Let me know what you're brawling with in the comments or on Twitter and I hope to see you in the leagues soon!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.