I’ve always loved singleton formats—I used to play Australian Highlander, I have a Cube I constantly tinker with, I take my Common Cuboid with me when I’m doing coverage at Pro Tours and Grand Prix, and I even host a weekly podcast about Competitive Commander! For this reason, I was very excited to learn of the new format Wizards announced this week. I can’t wait to get some Brawling done!
For those who missed the announcement, Brawl is a new spin-off from casual Commander. It’s a 60-card singleton format that uses almost all the same rules as traditional EDH, with the notable exceptions of both smaller deck size and life total (30, rather than 40). It seems like the perfect on-road toward 100-card EDH, but like many other singleton format enthusiasts, I’ll be brewing up decks to slam and/or jam with immediately!
The very first card I thought of was Admiral Beckett Brass. Pirate Grandma is not only a powerful Pirate lord, she’s also perfectly on-flavor for a format called Brawl. Flood the board with cheap creatures—many with evasion—and plunder your opponents’ best permanents!
Commander: Admiral Beckett Brass
This deck is extremely low to the ground, making the most of various raid abilities, as well as Admiral Brass’ ability. There are, however, some excellent late-game value engines to take advantage of: Arguel’s Blood Fast, Vance’s Blasting Cannons, and of course the mighty Tomb Robber (who some think looks like me—I don’t see it).
I really like Deadeye Quartermaster as a top-end threat. Fell Flagship seems excellent in conjunction with our tiny flyers, and flipping a Dowsing Dagger should be easy enough. A light smattering of interaction helps to keep your opponents honest. Fiery Cannonade can be a disgusting blowout, Siren’s Ruse helps to dodge removal, and there are a few counterspells to hold off mass removal. Take to the seas and shiver their timbers!
Ever since Thunderherd Migration was first previewed, I was keen to exploit its Rampant Growth effect in Standard. I love ramp decks (I almost always force ramp in Cube), and so it’s a little disappointing that a competitive deck that seeks to cheat out enormous green idiots hasn’t yet come to the fore.
Fortunately, however, Brawl lets us do exactly that—it’s 50% ramp spells, 50% enormous stompers, and 100% proper, honest, little kid Magic.
Commander: Gishath, Sun’s Avatar
This deck has a game plan that’s easier to follow than a large-print road map drawn by Katy Perry’s Twitter account. Open the game with a flurry of ramp spells and cost-reducing cards, then slam beater after beater into play until your opponents have had enough—it’s that easy! You’ve got enrage synergies out the wazoo, some nice utility lands, and even a few tutors thrown in for good measure.
Why Gishath above Zacama? There are a few reasons for this choice, but the principal one is the way the mana works out. Between mana dorks like Drover of the Mighty and cost-reducing cards like Knight of the Stampede, Zacama quite often won’t untap nine mana worth of lands. Besides, according to Frankie Numbers, Gishath is likely to produce almost three Dinosaurs per attack!
Despite Celestial Colonnade not being an option in Brawl, I’m nonetheless keen as mustard to explore the possibilities of playing my favorite archetype—White-Blue Control. Azor, the Lawbringer is a repeatable source of one of my favorite cards of all time—Sphinx’s Revelation—although it comes with the downside of attacking for 6 every turn (he ends the game sooner rather than later, which runs contrary to the proclivities of white-blue mages everywhere).
Pack a deck full of counterspells, card draw, enough sweepers to keep you alive, and some enormous game-ending threats. There’s no better way to play Magic!
Azor Brings the Law
Commander: Azor, the Lawbringer
With all the countermagic you can eat and plenty of ways to draw extra cards, you’ll never run out of answers with this deck. There are plenty of places to dump extra mana—Pull from Tomorrow, Sanguine Sacrament, and of course Azor himself all offer terrific payoffs after you’ve got access to something like a flipped Azor’s Gateway.
While the white removal suite isn’t quite what it is in other singleton formats—there’s no Path to Exile or Swords to Plowshares here—the mass removal it offers is excellent. Between Fumigate, Settle the Wreckage, Slaughter the Strong, Hour of Revelation, and Cataclysmic Gearhulk, you should have a nice empty board to work with.
The finishers might have a tough time getting it done against other removal-heavy decks, so there’s a cheeky copy of Approach of the Second Sun for when you’ve had enough and want to wrap it up “quickly.” I don’t know why you’d ever want to lessen the torturously slow agony your opponents must be suffering, but hey, you can’t have all the fun all the time.
I don’t know what the Brawl format will look like, but I know my starting point will definitely be Azor, the Lawbringer!
Brawling into the Future
I’m thrilled to be able to get stuck into a new singleton format. There are so many engaging questions to answer now we have Brawl on our hands, and so many exciting new possibilities to discover. In particular, the fact that we can use planeswalkers as Commanders is pretty sick. I’ll be back next week with some spicy brews with some of Standard’s best ‘walkers!