MTG: Brawl

I don’t think of Brawl as being necessary, at all.

I don’t want to be a jerk about it, I mean, you know, any question of ‘is this necessary’ can always be met in response by a smug ‘well how necessary is any game.’ It’s Standard Commander, which feels like it would have been a simpler way to describe it, but there is the rule that Planeswalkers are valid commanders too, I guess, and that rule in big-pants Commander would have made a lot more Tezzeret-does-something-busted games.

Honestly, I feel really bad about how much of the past year of Magic has been full of me going ‘well I guess it’s okay, fine,’ since I really like the top-down decision making going on. I’m proud of what Magic is doing, I advocate for it as a teacher and a writer, I just, as a player, haven’t been excited by the cards I get to play with.

Still! Far be it from me to turn the whole thing down. I like Commander, I sometimes like Standard, and we have a whole new set full of Legendary creatures who probably can’t swim in the dank water of 1v1 Commander, so why not do something more interesting?

I design Commander decks usually seeing an interaction I want that hinges around something the format makes available (like Heartless Hidetsugu + Grafted Exoskeleton). I like playing a game of Magic where you can always rely on drawing a particular card, especially in an otherwise high-variance game. What then, would I make in standard, with Brawl?

Mostly, nothing great. It’s not that the singleton restriction and the smaller format actually makes for a wider, more interesting deck, with more room for sweet, interesting, cool cards. Singleton and limited formats are usually an opportunity for you to put in cards that you like so you can play with them even if they’re not a normally optimal strategy. It was why I played Prowling Pangolin back in Onslaught era standard.

This means you’re kind of best off playing with a bunch of cards that are good and mostly good in relationship to one another. Little pockets of interconnected synergy, little bubbles of mechanics that don’t work against one another. You can do it, you can fit that stuff in, if you’re not going with the really wide, really powerful cards to start with. Problem is that there just isn’t necessarily that much to make these things interact. Standard is doing too much different stuff.

I’m basically a little worried that Brawl is not going to feature varied decks with some sweet niche cards and is instead going to feature a lot of Blech Well I Needed Some Removal.

Here are two Brawl decks I tried out. Neither made me happy. I hope as I get better at trying this format I’ll be able to see more of those sweet oddballs and fewer But Thou Musts. For now, though, I tried out builds focusing on Tezzeret and Slimefoot.

Tezzeret Marionette

Commander (1)
Tezzeret the Schemer

Creatures (10)
Sailor of Means
Syndicate Trafficker
Contraband Kingpin
Ruthless Knave
Weaponcraft Enthusiast
Siren Stormtamer
Ravenous Chupacabra
Prosperous Pirates
Marionette Master
Deadeye Plunderers

Spells (19)
Expel from Orazca
Depths of Desire
Metallic Rebuke
Fortuitous Find
Heartless Pillage
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Reverse Engineer
Spell Swindle
Glimmer of Genius
Strategic Planning
Live Fast
Lay Bare the Heart
Pull from Tomorrow
River’s Rebuke
Yahenni’s Expertise
Insidious Will

Junk (7)
Glassblower’s Puzzleknot
Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot
Implement of Examination
Renegade Map
Traveler’s Amulet
Prophetic Prism
Inspiring Statuary
Lands (23)
12 Island
11 Swamp
This deck is doing something pretty simple: Marionette Master plus artifact tokens. Tezzy is there to remove a few things, build up a stockpile of artifacts and draw fire from people who think your deck is trying to win with an artifact beatdown. Treasure tokens can do a bit of acceleration to get to those expensive spells, then each one can turn into a big, explosive chunk of damage against your opponents.

It’s not a great deck – most of the control elements feel a bit awkward.

Swampfoot Stuff

Commander (1)
Slimefoot, the Stowaway

Creatures (23)
Deathbloom Thallid
Thrashing Brontodon
Yavimaya Sapherd
Thallid Soothsayer
Defiant Salvager
Bontu the Glorified
Tendershoot Dryad
Sporecrown Thallid
Thallid Omnivore
Baleful Ammit
Plague Belcher
Channeler Initiate
Exemplar of Strength
Defiant Greatmaw
Crocodile of the Crossing
Decimator Beetle
Ornery Kudu
Obelisk Spider
Ruthless Knave
Yahenni, Undying Partisan
Llanowar Scout
Oashra Cultivator

Spells (12)
Fungal Infection
Saproling Migration
Spore Swarm
Nest of Scarabs
Torment of Venom
Lethal Sting
Cartouche of Ambition
Vicious Offering
Fungal Plots
Stinging Shot
Splendid Agony
Grow from the Ashes
Lands (24)
Ifnir Deadlands
Woodland Cemetery
11 Swamp
11 Forest
This one’s sort of similar. I think my problem is that while Slimefoot is cool and he has a cool ability, the two things I want to do to support him – create Saprolings or generate lots of mana – are actually a bit tricky to do in standard. Maybe we’ll come to it in time.

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