The 9 Best Commanders in Brawl
Last week, Wizards of the Coast announced a brand new format entitled Brawl. (Not to be confused with the upcoming YouTube Series from the Creators of Commander's Brew, Commander's Brawl – of which the Kickstarter begins April 3rd!) This format uses Standard legal cards in a 60 card singleton deck played in a multiplayer setting. You choose a Legendary creature OR Planeswalker(!) as your commander and start at 30 life.
Personally, I'm a little conflicted. I hate the idea of creating even more of a demand for Standard legal cards, thus driving prices even higher. Plus the idea that these Standard Legendary cards might be harder to get a hold of now bothers me as a Commander player.
But on the other hand, I kind of like the idea of playing a similar, maybe faster (time wise) game of Brawl with my current EDH group when we're crunched for time or just tired of our other decks. The challenge of a limited pool of cards sounds fun to brew with, plus now when I draft I can play even more of the commons, uncommons, and of course rares I normally wouldn't consider for full-on Commander.
So as Natalie Imbruglia sang, I'm torn.
As far as real critiques go of the format, I'm not certain this will get EDH players out to FNM (if that is one of the aims). Yet, I can see new players embracing the format because after a Draft they may see the beginnings of a sweet Brawl deck and get hooked.
And like it or not, Brawl is here. For how long is up to us, but in the meantime I'd like to take a look at the current crop of Standard-legal Commanders and talk a bit about their viability in the new format.
Some things to note before we start:
- I have no idea how this Brawl meta will work out. Will it resemble Standard with Energy decks and Scarab Gods dominating? Or will it look more like EDH with a bunch of crazy decks durdling until they pull off some wacky combo for the win? Who knows!?
- There is no Commander damage in Brawl.
- There are no five or four colour commanders currently available in Standard/Brawl, and only four three-colour commanders, plus two three-colour Planeswalkers. Even then, among those three colour generals (and Planeswalkers) you only get the choice of Naya or Grixis. So if you're looking for a wide variety of 3+ colour commanders, it ain't here.
- When Dominaria becomes legal, this will all change 😐
So let's start!
I don't know how viable aggro will be in Brawl, but if an aggro deck exists, it's likely going to be led by Hazoret. The 5/4 with Haste is enough to close out even 30 life games, but certainly won't be as effective as it's Standard-based counterpart.
Having Ghalta as a Commander is dangerous in regular EDH due to all the mana dorks and ramp. Even in Brawl, a 12/12 with trample that you always have access to seems wild. Not only does Ghalta crush most any creature in it's way, but even if your opponents manage to deal with it, Ghalta negates its own commander tax if a couple of friends are on the battlefield. Support that with cards like Prowling Serpopard and Rhonas the Indomitable and a classic stompy mono-green strategy seems well set up.
This one is a no-brainer. The Scarab God has been terrorizing Standard and EDH alike since it's introduction, and Brawl looks like it will be no different. If anything, The Scarab God may be even more effective in this new format because, unlike Commander, it doesn't have to deal with the efficient removal and board wipes and unlike Standard, you'll have it in your command zone. Whether it turns out to be zombie/embalm/eternalize based or just good old UB control, this could easily be the best deck in the format.
The card advantage and evasion offered by Kumena and the other merfolk in this deck is enough to overrun opponents at even 40 life. So it should be no surprise that in a smaller format with less life this commander is still a force to be reckoned with. Sure you'll have less merfolk to play with, but that concession easily evens out since it's simply a caveat of the format that the power level will be lower than classic Commander.
It's possible that Vona, Butcher of Magan is a better commander for the WB Vampire deck, but I'm leaning towards the creature synergy as opposed to the pure utility of Vona. Really, either seems viable to me. At the very least the WB deck will definitely be something to look out for in your local Brawl meta. With so many ways to gain life and handle creatures with cards like Tetzimoc, Primal Death and Profane Procession and even great sac outlets like Yahenni, Undying Partisan, something tells me this deck could be tier one easily.
Hapatra helms the -1/-1 deck which takes advantage of all the Amonkhet cards in standard that deal in those counters. Obviously without access to cards outside of Standard the deck looks nothing like its EDH cousin. However, when you combine the -1/-1 counter creatures with some cards that let you explore, all of a sudden your creatures and tokens look a lot better. There may well be a real deck here.
Since the EDH version of Gishath basically comes entirely from Ixalan block, it shouldn't be too hard to put together a great dino deck for Brawl. The main hurdle you'll face in this format is finding enough ramp to make sure you can cast your eight-mana commander. Thunderherd Migration, Beneath the Sands, and even Harvest Season all look like they do decent impressions of better EDH ramp spells, so something tells me this deck is viable.
While I think Azor is a decent creature, this one is mostly because of the control deck you'd build around it. Azor's ability is actually super awkward to pull off, mostly because in a control deck you want to leave that mana up when you pass the turn to counter spells or draw cards. But with Azor you often have to decide on one or the other. Still, the value is there and having a 6/6 flyer around never hurts either. Would you run Approach of the Second Sun in this singleton format? My guess is yes.
There has to be a treasure deck in brawl, and I think this is the one. Obviously splashing isn't a real thing in this format, but you get a lot more value from your treasures here. In this deck they not only act as ramp and fixing but also, when combined with your commander, as a way to take out opponents. Planeswalkers as commanders are a fun idea, but in a multiplayer setting they're not easy to keep around and generally have less of an impact on games than in a 1v1 setting.
I think Brawl will be a fun format to play in at the start, but even though it's being touted as a casual experience, with prize support at FNM I can easily see it turn to become something more competitive. Even in danger of being “solved” if one consensus best deck emerges. Of course this new format will never replace Commander or give Commander players the same experience, but I just can't help but think that it offers just enough to entice some of us to try it out.
Let me know about your Brawl experiences in the comments below and if you think there's a great commander that I've left out! Thanks for reading, and see you in two weeks!