Last updated on July 18, 2023
Bruvac the Grandiloquent | Illustration by Ekaterina Burmak
I have always loved mill strategies. When Bruvac the Grandiloquent was first previewed in the opening months of the pandemic, I fell in love. I knew immediately that I wanted to build it as a Commander deck, so I made it a project for me to build for the rest of the pandemic.
I knew I would want to play some Commander games to reconnect with people once it was safe to return to game stores. This deck project means a lot to me and I feel honored to share the fruits of my labor with you today.
Manic Scribe | Illustration by Matt Stewart
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Kami of the Crescent Moon
Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant
Sphinx of the Second Sun
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Folio of Fancies
Realmbreaker, the Invasion Tree
Font of Mythos
Arch of Orazca
The Mycosynth Gardens
Desert of the Mindful
Dunes of the Dead
Memorial to Genius
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Otawara, Soaring City
It’s very clear what Bruvac the Grandiloquent wants to do. You need to mill people, which is quite the tall order in Commander. With presumably three 99-card decks to mill out, we can’t just rely on a bunch of one-shot mill effects like competitive variants might do. Instead, we can focus on permanents that continually mill and let them escalate turn after turn. We have to work a little harder than usual since mill decks aren’t traditionally mono-blue, but I like that challenge.
The way that I’ve chosen to do this is to combine the various blue enchantments that mill players whenever you draw a card with as many versions of Howling Mine as we can find. In addition to that, we want to constantly draw cards to trigger these enchantments, which is a running theme you’ll see permeating through the entire deck.
We’re looking for enchantments that mill a player whenever you draw a card. For that, we have the following:
Having any of these on board will let us keep milling our opponents turn after turn. Sphinx's Tutelage works especially well with Bruvac’s ability. Bruvac doubles the amount that you mill, then Tutelage asks if any of those four cards share a color in order to repeat the process, which is considerably more likely to happen. I’ve seen this combination mill a player’s entire deck with just a few triggers.
There are a few more cool enchantments in the deck that continually mill players. Memory Erosion is a classic. While I’m not a fan of using Rhystic Study, this is my version of it. All of a sudden, players will be wondering if they can afford to cast the spells they want to when each one mills them for two or four cards. Fraying Sanity is also absurd with Bruvac. While it can only enchant one player, it combines with Bruvac to multiply a mill effect by six. Say you mill an opponent for two cards. Bruvac doubles that to four. Then in the end step, Fraying Sanity mills them for four, doubled again to eight, making for a total of 12 cards from just a single mill for two. It means Archive Trap or Startled Awake will often mill an opponent out in one shot.
Forced Fruition is a card that I’m quite fond of, but it has proven to be a little too expensive to play in this deck and it can sometimes be a double-edged sword to give opponents so many extra cards to play with.
The last card to note is Mirrormade, which lets us copy any of the absurd enchantments we’ve already talked about. Even better, it can also be a copy of most of the fantastic cards in the next section.
Howling Mine is the key to this deck. Not only does everyone get to draw extra cards, pushing them closer to losing, but it also helps you get multiple triggers from many of the cards in the previous category. We are also fortunate to have a few different Howling Mine variants in the deck:
A great new card which keys off of these too is Yuta Takahashi himself, Faerie Mastermind. With Howling Mine in particular, this will draw you an extra card on every opponent’s turn. Even without some of these cards to help it, players draw enough extra cards in Commander that this is likely to trigger a lot whenever you play it. This is a brand new addition to the deck which I haven’t had a chance to play, but I’m excited to test it out.
We are a deck that doesn’t affect the board much, which often makes us vulnerable to aggressive decks, so we need to pack some good disruptive cards to stay alive. We may be mono-blue, but we do have some board wipes. Evacuation is a classic card which will help us reset the board, as will Commander staple Cyclonic Rift. We also have Engulf the Shore, which can be a liability with how few Islands we’re running, but it still clears away all the small tokens we’re scared of that aggressive decks tend to run.
We obviously need some counterspells since we’re blue. Fierce Guardianship is a brilliant Commander staple that works well here. Not only do we want Bruvac on the board as often as possible, but it’s also not embarrassing to just cast for the full mana cost. We also have some all-stars of the counterspell world, including Mana Drain, Cryptic Command and Mystic Confluence.
There are also some options that go outside the box a little. Thieving Skydiver is a personal favorite, which has a bunch of applications all the way from stealing an opponent’s win condition to just stealing their Sol Ring at the start of the game. Undead Alchemist is a card you might not think of as disruption, but it fills that role for us. We don’t have much in the way of board presence, but a few mill effects with this zombie down will fill up our board quickly and help protect us against incoming attacks. Given that those tokens will be able to mill players further, it can also be a win condition that cascades out of control if given enough time.
We may be focusing on permanents that mill our opponents each turn, but we have a few other ways to do it. Hedron Crab and Ruin Crab are fantastic, especially because Ruin Crab mills each opponent at once. We also have a few nice one-shot mill cards including Archive Trap, Startled Awake and Fractured Sanity. We can’t double it with Bruvac, but Tasha's Hideous Laughter is a powerful card with the tendency to really annoy your opponents as they sit back and watch a bunch of their precious cards and combo pieces get exiled, unable to do anything about it.
Jace is one of Magic’s most famous (or infamous depending on your perspective) planeswalkers and a bunch of Jace variants focus on mill. The newest version, Jace, the Perfected Mind has even revolutionized mill decks in Modern, so we absolutely want it here. Jace Beleren works similarly to a Howling Mine variant and Jace, Memory Adept can mill a player as a one-shot effect each turn.
We also have a couple simple cantrip spells. Brainstorm is the best cantrip for us, since drawing three cards at once will trigger all of our enchantments. Mill decks also get their very own Ancestral Recall, otherwise known as Visions of Beyond.
I like my decks to be hyper-focused on the theme they’re presenting, so nearly every card is designed to go with the theme. But we do have a couple of cards that look strong enough to go in the deck. The new Jin-Gitaxias does a ton for us and should be fairly easy to transform. Its Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty counterpart, Jin-Gitaxias, Progress Tyrant, also looks amazing, letting us copy a lot of our most important cards while disrupting our opponents during their turns.
The mana base of this deck is extremely simple. Of course it is, we’re only one color after all. No need for dual lands here. But we can still be creative with it. Only half of my mana base is actually Islands, since there are a lot of powerful utility lands that we can make use of. Most of them are simply here because we can turn them into card draw to combine with our deck’s pieces, like Memorial to Genius and Blighted Cataract. The best of the lot here is actually a sorcery: Sea Gate Restoration, a big and powerful draw spell which masquerades as a land if we need it to.
Our mana rocks and acceleration are also fairly typical, including the usual Sol Ring and Arcane Signet. We also have Mind Stone and Hedron Archive which can turn into late game card draw and trigger our deck’s best cards. As a monocolor deck, we also get to make use of Sapphire Medallion.
Above all else, we have Midnight Clock. It can only provide extra mana for a couple of turn cycles, but it then turns into a one-sided Timetwister, which triggers all of our enchantments without resetting any opposing graveyards. It’s a perfect fit for the deck.
To be perfectly honest, we don’t tend to go into every Commander game and expect to win. Mill tends to be something that a lot of Magic players find very annoying, which often paints a target on our head. But that’s absolutely fine. If you expect that going in, you’ll be alright. All we want to do is get as many of our mill engines going as humanly possible. Disruptive cards should be saved for the most dangerous cards you might play against.
You should really look to play Bruvac as early as possible, assuming that you don’t have something much better to play instead. Bruvac doubling all of your mill makes it a massive threat that you have to get down early to make the most out of.
Rule 0 Violations Check
We do have a few infinite combos built into this deck. I’m not usually a fan of them, but they’re too funny to ignore. First of all, Traumatize mills half a player’s library, but that gets doubled to their entire deck with Bruvac in play. Naturally, we’re going to play as many of these effects as we can fit in. Cut Your Losses is a variant that can potentially hit two players and Maddening Cacophony hits all of our opponents at once.
Fleet Swallower is a much slower version of this which I recently removed from the deck, but Terisian Mindbreaker is a new version from The Brothers’ War that may very well make the deck in the future if I can find room for it.
There is one more infinite combo in the deck. Temple Bell creates an infinite loop with Mind Over Matter. You tap the Bell to have everyone draw a card, then discard your card to untap it. Then just rinse and repeat. This usually defeats everyone if you’re the player with the most cards in your library, but that’s not always guaranteed. Hence the Kozilek, Butcher of Truth that we can discard to reset our deck and never lose to our own combo. Funnily enough, this is also our best way of defeating other players with Eldrazi titans of their own to stop us milling them out.
These two combos are the only major Rule 0 violations that we have. The deck’s power level is relatively low and we tend to be more of an annoyance at a table than an actual threat, so there shouldn't be any other issues. There aren’t a lot of other offenders as I don’t enjoy playing with mana rocks like Mana Vault and Mana Crypt. I also don’t like using Rhystic Study or other similarly annoying cards.
There are quite a few cards that can be very pricey and unnecessary for the deck to function. Mind Over Matter absolutely comes to mind as an expensive card (about $55-60) that does nothing for the deck but enables one of the infinite combos. Similarly, a very powerful card that has been increasing in price lately is Memory Jar, which is not necessary either. Fierce Guardianship is similarly great but unnecessary at around $45-50.
Ultimately, for this build to work you only need two particular components: the Howling Mines and the Sphinx's Tutelage variants. All of those are pretty cheap and the rest of the deck can take hold in whichever way you can afford to make it.
There is another build of Bruvac out there that is somewhat popular: Persistent Petitioners. It’s about 30-40 copies of Persistent Petitioners alongside Thrumming Stone and a variety of other mill cards as well as any advisors that support the theme.
When I announced to social media that I wanted to build a Bruvac deck, a lot of people suggested this build and I’ve even had some players expect me to be playing it when I present Bruvac to them across the table. Honestly, I think the idea sounds incredibly boring. The large concentration of Petitioners seems to me like it would make games play out very similarly and that’s not what I’m after with Commander. However, that is clearly just my own opinion and this kind of strategy might be right up your alley, which is also fine.
Jin-Gitaxias | Illustration by Ekaterina Burmak
I want to reiterate that this deck means a lot to me. I have played it a lot since the UK national lockdowns were eased two years ago and it has been a way for me to have fun with friends that I couldn’t engage with while I was stuck indoors for 13 months. I hope you have enjoyed this too.
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