Major news! Brawl has undergone some big changes. More than I expected, actually. Baral, Chief of Compliance getting the ban hammer wasn’t a surprise to anybody, really, but the changes that came alongside it I did not expect. For a more detailed description of the changes, Gavin Verhey laid them all out here, but here’s the TL;DR:

  1. The starting life total in 1v1 is now changed from 30 to 20.
  2. You can now play any number of basic lands of one chosen type if you are playing a colorless commander, like Karn, Scion of Urza or Hope of Ghirapur.
  3. Baral, Chief of Compliance and Sorcerous Spyglass are banned.
  4. Aetherworks Marvel, Attune with Aether, Felidar Guardian, Rampaging Ferocidon, Ramunap Ruins, and Rogue Refiner are all unbanned.

The biggest change is that life totals are reduced from 30 to 20 in 1v1. This will make it a lot easier to be proactive and aggressive, and that games in Brawl won’t only be won by big splashy effects but also early game interaction. Since proactive decks will most likely be tier 1, existing archetypes will have to play a lot more early interaction. Brawl only comprises the Standard card pool, so there are not many options, meaning that you will most likely have to play all of them. Maybe you can get a little creative, but it could be a bad thing if it takes away the varied game play that a singleton gives you, and homogenizes the format. Time will tell!

First, let’s have a crack at a proactive Brawl deck.

Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca

Commander: Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca

Interestingly enough, there’s about exactly enough different Merfolk to make Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca into a viable deck, complemented by some powerful noncreature spells. Sure, Giltgrove Stalker and Tishana’s Wayfinder aren’t exactly tier 1 Magic cards, but always being able to have access to Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca definitely makes them a whole lot better. I almost chose to play Jungle Delver to be able to go 1-drop, 2-drop, Kumena, draw a card as often as possible, but even I had to draw a line.

Supplementing the Merfolk is Metallic Mimic alongside some powerful effects. Hadana’s Climb, Vanquisher’s Banner, and Deeproot Waters are all nutso in the deck, but Song of Freyalise might be the card I’m most excited to pair with these cards. With the possibility to go wide, dump your hand, and then go for a large attack, all the modes of Song of Freyalise make sense in the deck.

Next up, we have the change that makes colorless commanders possible. Note that you still can’t play any colored spells, nor can you play any colorless cards with colored mana in their text box if your commander is, say, Hope of Ghirapur, so building such a deck will be interesting. The only commanders available are Karn, Scion of Urza, Hope of Ghirapur, and Traxos, Scourge of Kroog. If you want a chance to win a game, I would suggest picking Karn, Scion of Urza out of the three, because the downside of only playing colorless spells isn’t worth the “upside” of playing Traxos or Hope of Ghirapur.

Karn, Scion of Urza

Commander: Karn, Scion of Urza

The reason to play Karn over any of the other colorless generals is because he’s a much more powerful card, and the upside of his -2 ability in a deck full of artifacts might measure up to playing a color. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be much reason not to just play Chandra, Torch of Defiance if you’re using Karn for his card advantage.

The fact that you always have Karn on turn 4 and multiple times over a game, making 4/4s, 5/5s, and ever larger creatures that keep scaling is quite powerful. The game plan here isn’t to be aggressive or proactive however, but rather to keep casting Karn and slowly overwhelm your opponent. Because of that, any kind of mana rock that helps recast Karn when he gets countered or dies are welcome. Cards such as The Immortal Sun, Urza’s Tome, or Weatherlight also help cast Karn more times because they are must-deal-with threats that help Karn get through permission spells.

Lastly, we have the bannings and unbannings. Regarding the bannings, I must say that I agree with both of them. Baral, Chief of Compliance has been the plague of the format and has dominated everything lately. Being able to smooth out your draws, and make all of your counterspells and draw spells cheaper, makes the deck too efficient. What people tend to also forget is that Baral, Chief of Compliance is also a 1/3, so it actually blocks a lot of creatures that try to go under its counterspells. Sure, Baral will definitely get worse with the life total change from 30 to 20, but I still think it would be the best deck regardless.

Sorcerous Spyglass, on the other hand, I did not see coming. That every deck should have access to a cheap way of shutting down any commander planeswalker even before they come down doesn’t make sense and eliminates one of the interesting, unique aspects of Brawl. Good call!

The unbannings most likely won’t create too many new decks, but the addition of some long gone energy tools made me interested in building an energy deck. Even Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai work well with creatures or artifacts triggering to give you energy—why not throw them in as well?

Jodah, Archmage Eternal

Commander: Jodah, Archmage Eternal

Now this is a spicy one! Given that there are not currently any R/U/G commanders in Brawl, the main energy colors, I’ve branched out to the only 5-color commander there is: Jodah! With that, you get some extra sweet cards in white and black, like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Winding Constrictor for energy, or the Felidar Guardian combo.

I built the deck to feel similar to the old 4-Color Energy deck before the bannings. It tries to play the best solid midrange good stuff cards that either assemble value over time in energy or are blatantly powerful, like The Scarab God or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Many of the cards give you flexibility, making the midrange strategy even more powerful by doing double-duty. For example, Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a threat and removal, much like how Cultivator’s Caravan fixes mana and turns sideways. Speaking of fixing mana, that’s what the rest of the cards in the deck do.

Building this deck is truly a puzzle. There are clearly tons of choices across five colors, and building it correctly might be impossible. There are so many ways you could build game plans and the mana base, making it even more interesting to toy with. How would you build it?