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There are many upcoming changes in sight for the ever-popular Brawl format, so it’s about time that we talked about it. We’ll provide an in-depth guide for playing MTG’s Brawl as well as some strategy talk for deck building, but don’t worry! We won’t stop there. Consider this your one-stop-shop for everything Brawl, from paper Magic to MTG Arena and back!
Brawl is a game mode in MTGA that went live back in September of 2019. It’s kind of a Standard-esque substitute for the famous Commander format, or at least it’s very similar. Commander is a popular format among veteran MTG players, and it definitely wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that players love it.
A Bit of Brawl History
Although it’s not a competitive format, players were eager to play it for the first time on MTG Arena. First, we had Wednesday Brawl, which was the first time a format was scheduled as a weekly event. Then, after months of people asking Wizards to make Brawl a full-time format, so to speak, they launched “Brawlidays”, which created an uproar within the community (for good reason, might we add).
At first, WotC introduced Brawl enthusiastically. There were various articles on dailymtg.com, official streams for the format, and the official Twitter account announced that players could play Historic Brawl via Direct Challenge with their friends. It’s no surprise really that Brawl quickly became very popular.
Brawlidays (and Brawlers’ Guildhall) Enter Stage Left
Some were happy to have Brawl as a regularly scheduled play mode, but there were also a lot of players who couldn’t play on Wednesdays, or who just wanted to play it anytime they wanted. Players became even more vocal in their demand that Brawl become a regular mode. Eventually, they… kind of got what they wanted (but not really).
In early December 2019, WotC announced Brawlidays, an event with an entry fee of a whopping 10,000 gold or 2,000 gems, which allowed players to play Brawl whenever they wanted until January 16. The only reward being a copy of Rhys the Redeemed after your first win. Yay.
There were many discussions on Reddit where most people agreed that having to pay a hefty price to play Brawl was disappointing to say the least. A lot of players decided to boycott Brawlidays or even MTG Arena altogether because of this.
After Brawlidays ended, there was the Brawlers’ Guildhall. This event was identical to Brawlidays except that the card you got for your first win was Talrand, Sky Summoner, and it ended on February 13. Then it was “renewed” on February 11, and continued on until March 19 awarding players with a copy of The Gitrog Monster on their first win.
If this schedule confuses you, you’re not the only one. The good news is we have an MTGA events calendar so you can always see when your favorite format is available.
Although you can play Brawl with players on your Friends List, not everyone has that many friends on MTGA. Thankfully, ArenaBrawl.net has been created for you to circumvent the Brawlidays event by finding players to play Brawl with. Take a look.
When it comes to Brawl, the rules are kind of a mishmash between the Commander format and Standard. It’s a non-competitive format that tries (and in most aspects succeeds) to be the best of both worlds. So, let’s dive into what exactly that entails, shall we?
First let’s get the basics out of the way: your deck will contain 60 cards with only one copy of each card except for basic lands. You’ll have one “Commander” card along with 59 other cards to (assumingly) support your Commander. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on to the nitty gritty of it!
When it comes to decks for Brawl, you need to create an entirely different deck that follows different rules than Standard. First, you need to pick a legendary creature or Planeswalker as your Commander, which is placed in the “Command Zone” at the start of the game. This is just next to your hand in MTG Arena, as you can see on the opponent’s side below:
This means that, since your Commander is not in your deck, you don’t need to draw it and can play it as soon as you have the mana. If your Commander is removed from the battlefield (killed, exiled, destroyed, etc.) then it’s placed back in your Command Zone. Its mana cost is increased by two every time this happens, but you’re able to play it (in theory) as many times as you want.
The next thing to keep in mind when it comes to choosing your Commander is your “color identity”, which is dictated by your Commander’s mana cost and any mana symbols in its rule text. Your deck must then be built using cards that follow your color identity.
For example, if you pick Niv-Mizzet, Parun as your Commander, you can only use red and/or blue cards for your deck. You don’t need to have every color from your color identity in the rest of your deck, so you can pick a multi-colored Commander but build a mono deck. Don’t forget that you need to have enough mana to cast your Commander if you go this route, though.
Quick note: if you select a colorless Commander, you can only use unlimited copies of one type of basic land. No mixing and matching for you.
MTG’s Brawl is somewhat similar to the Commander format, but there are some differences:
- Players start the game at 25 life instead of 40
- Your deck consists of 60 cards instead of 100
- The Commander damage rule (if a Commander deals 21 damage to the opponent its controller wins) doesn’t apply
- You get a free mulligan
- Your deck must be Standard-legal
Brawl mode also has a separate ban list than Standard, with only two currently banned cards: Oko, Thief of Crowns and Sorcerous Spyglass. The two formats are vastly different and the same cards don’t have the same impact, so having the same banned list wouldn’t make much sense. Except for Oko. Oko is always broken.
The reason Sorcerous Spyglass is banned is simple: if your opponent has a Planeswalker as their Commander, this spell easily shuts that down with a measly mana cost of two colorless. Bit of a rain cloud on your parade.
What it Means to be Singleton
Now, let’s talk about MTG Arena Singleton. Brawl is a Singleton mode, which means that you can only include one copy of each card in your deck. Duplicating them during play with spells like Quasiduplicate is free game, though.
You might already be familiar with the Singleton event that occasionally comes up, since it changes the way you formulate your strategy. Because you can only have one copy of each card in your deck, you need to pick cards that have value on their own and don’t need multiple copies to work well.
A perfect example of this is Seven Dwarves, which would have very little value in a Singleton mode. You also need to make sure that your cards have a good balance between value and synergy. Don’t worry, we’ll discuss strategies like this in just a bit.
Happy day, happy day! We’re pleased to let you know that Brawl is in fact not exclusive to MTGA!
You can play Brawl on MTG Online or even go with paper Brawl if you want. Keep in mind, though, that there aren’t many players who invest in Brawl decks so you might have more luck playing digital Brawl.
Good news is that you can play paper Brawl with two to six players, so if you like multiplayer games it might be worth haranguing your friends into playing with you.
WotC does have some paper Brawl products if you’re gearing up to play with your friends or local Magic players. Check out Amazon for the Knight’s Charge or Faerie Schemes pre-con decks, or even get all four Throne of Eldraine pre-con Brawl decks at once.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking to start an ever-flowing collection of Brawl products, that’s about the end of it. Fear not, though! You can also check out CardKingdom, MTGgoldfish, or TCGPlayer for recently published Brawl decks or individual cards if you’re itching for more.
We’ve covered a lot regarding Brawl, but now it’s time to talk about strategy. There are two main things to keep in mind when it comes to Brawl decks: first, your deck needs to be Singleton
in case you forgot over the last four paragraphs, and second, you need a good Commander.
If you are fond of playing decks that stack multiple copies of a card, then—sorry to say—you’re going to need to change your strategy. If you want to stack Ajani’s Pridemate, for example, you only get one shot at it unless you have a way to bring it back from your graveyard. The same goes for stacking merfolk.
When it comes to MTG Arena Singleton decks, you need to both choose and play your cards more carefully. If your high-value card gets removed, it’s probably going to hurt more.
Most control decks are going to suffer in Singleton format. You can’t have multiple copies of the same counter-spells, so you need a variety of similar but yet still different spells. This makes it more expensive to play Brawl with a control deck, but the same idea goes for any deck that relies on multiple copies of the same cards. Insert shameless self-plug here: if you’re in need of more cards, check out our Promo codes article if you haven’t already.
Choosing your Commander can be tricky. It determines your color identity, it has to be a legendary creature or Planeswalker, and it needs to have synergy with the rest of your deck.
You need to stick with your Commander’s color identity when selecting the rest of your deck, and you won’t gain anything if your Commander doesn’t fit since it could probably be removed easily. Even though you can play it again and again with a higher cost, this can add up quickly if your deck isn’t well suited to protect your Commander.
You should pick a Commander that you’ll be able to use in coordination with your deck, and vice-versa.
A Couple of Commander Commendations
A great example of a useful Commander would be Alela, Artful Provocateur. It has individual strength as a 2/3 with flying, deathtouch, and lifelink, provides bonuses to other creatures with flying in the form of a +1/+0 counter, and it has synergy with both artifact and enchantment spells.
If you’re planning on using a lot of spells in your deck, then Ral, Izzet Viceroy would be a good choice.
You can use Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin for a solid early game. Know that there are many more fun and interesting options than mono-red Krenko decks, though. Please.
One of the most successful and popular Brawl decks is the Korvold sacrifice deck. Keep in mind, though, that it needs some insight to play well. As the name suggests, the entire deck is based on sacrifice synergies and making sure your commander, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, is on the board and getting buffed up. But it’s a bit of a double-edged sword: if you play your hand without any plans or weighing your opponent, you’re going to end up with nothing to sacrifice
and lots of regret instead of control of the board.
And finally, if you really want to make sure your opponent gets the message, a Nicol Bolas Planeswalker deck is a brutal display of power. Since Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God can copy the loyalty abilities of other Planeswalkers, with a decent collection of Planeswalkers you can create an unstoppable army of heroes—or villains… probably villains—to crush your opponent.
Oh, and if you need any help deciding which Planeswalkers would be best for the terrifying Nicol Bolas deck, check YouTube for the latest Brawl decks. Content creators like Merchant and Noxious talk about Brawl strategies in depth and would definitely be able to shed some light if you’ve got any more burning questions.
Reddit is also a great place to check as players discuss the latest Meta and come up with counters to great decks they’ve faced. Websites like MTGgoldfish and Aetherhub are another great place to find the latest and most successful Brawl decks.
A Commanding Conclusion
And that just about finishes it all up. Thanks for coming, hope you had fun, don’t forget to tip your waitress!
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