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Brawler’s Guildhall: May 2020

Welcome to another week of free Brawl; from dusk till dawn you can yet again dive into Arena’s premier singleton format! Today, we’re bringing you Ikoria’s greatest innovations on Brawl – the new commanders that have stolen hearts rather than wallets!

I’ve built the following decks mostly to win; I suspect Kinnan & Winota are best at that. As always though, a lot of the fun in Brawl is in building your own decks since there are so many different directions you can go in and things you can try out. Your winrate won’t suffer too much if you make a suboptimal choice or six, as it’s a singleton format so the individual cards matter a lot less. So take the decks below as guidelines and tweak them however you want; throw in all your pet cards, ask your friends what they have the most fun with, type “dragon” into the Arena search bar and throw all of those in, even switch up the Commander and keep the core if you like! Brawl is best when you maximise your fun in whatever ways suit you! Don’t stress too much if you don’t have some of the cards either; just go over your collection and find a fun replacement.

Note: I haven’t built Companion decks because those are far worse in Brawl; they compete with your Commander and you’d mostly rather just cast that, and it’s difficult to both adhere to their restrictions and remain within your Commander’s colour identity; hybrid mana doesn’t help you here! Additionally, Yorion cannot be a Commander in Brawl – the mode forces you to use 60 cards only. I feel like the following four decks are better off without them, and that most Brawl decks will be.

Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy (Decklist)

Commander
1 Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy (IKO) 192

Deck
1 Agent of Treachery (M20) 43
7 Forest (UND) 96
1 Arcane Signet (ELD) 331
1 Maraleaf Pixie (ELD) 196
6 Island (UND) 90
1 Gilded Goose (ELD) 160
1 Command Tower (ELD) 333
1 Finale of Devastation (WAR) 160
1 Incubation Druid (RNA) 131
1 Ilysian Caryatid (THB) 174
1 Simic Locket (RNA) 240
1 Faerie Formation (ELD) 316
1 Leafkin Druid (M20) 178
1 Cavalier of Thorns (M20) 167
1 Nissa, Who Shakes the World (WAR) 169
1 Hydroid Krasis (RNA) 183
1 Kogla, the Titan Ape (IKO) 162
1 Kiora Bests the Sea God (THB) 52
1 Castle Garenbrig (ELD) 240
1 Paradise Druid (WAR) 171
1 Frilled Mystic (RNA) 174
1 The Great Henge (ELD) 161
1 Field of the Dead (M20) 247
1 Thassa's Intervention (THB) 72
1 Shark Typhoon (IKO) 67
1 Thorn Mammoth (ELD) 323
1 Vivien, Monsters' Advocate (IKO) 175
1 Mass Manipulation (RNA) 42
1 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244
1 Steelbane Hydra (ELD) 322
1 Once Upon a Time (ELD) 169
1 Breeding Pool (RNA) 246
1 Castle Vantress (ELD) 242
1 Temple of Mystery (M20) 255
1 Woodland Mystic (M20) 344
1 Gadwick, the Wizened (ELD) 48
1 Arboreal Grazer (WAR) 149
1 Midnight Clock (ELD) 54
1 Field of Ruin (THB) 242
1 Migration Path (IKO) 164
1 Simic Guildgate (RNA) 257
1 Thornwood Falls (M20) 258
1 Karn's Bastion (WAR) 248
1 Leyline of Abundance (M20) 179
1 Heraldic Banner (ELD) 222
1 Spinning Wheel (ELD) 234
1 Veil of Summer (M20) 198
1 End-Raze Forerunners (RNA) 124

Let’s start with a classic Simic Ramp Commander in Kinnan, who acts as an insane engine of mana ramp while being a powerful mana sink you can dump that mana into. Kinnan will make your mana rocks into Worn Powerstones, meaning that some of the stranger ones here get to make their brawl debut! Since these decks tend to often run into some serious flood problems, I’ve chosen to mostly eschew early and midgame cards and instead have merely the ramp cards and the payoffs that go way over the top; a nice side effect of this is that whenever you use Kinnan’s ability, you’re more likely to hit something really powerful (though there are lots of noncreatures and a few of the big creature payoffs are x spells, so it’s definitely not a sure thing, and you should certainly still be casting your other stuff first unless you’re fearing a sweeper). We don’t have much interaction, but you shouldn’t really care what your opponents do for the most part anyway!

I suspect how the games play out will be that your opponents will be forced to continuously expend resources to kill Kinnan, who’s cheap and will keep coming back, and then eventually just lose to all the time they’re wasting doing that while your Ramp deck amasses more and more mana sources! Kinnan is of course much better if you can immediately have him pay for himself or generate mana with him, so the entire deck is designed to do that.

The Kinnan deck is one-dimensional but extremely powerful; one danger is that you might find it gets dull after the first dozen or so games since they tend to play out in a very similar way: either you ramp and steal all their stuff/kill them with your busted cards early on, or you don’t! Do make sure you enjoy this kind of strategy or really want to win before you build it, especially if it’s costing you a bunch of wildcards!

Rielle, the Everwise (Decklist)

iko-203-rielle-the-everwise
Commander
1 Rielle, the Everwise (IKO) 203

Deck
1 Merchant of the Vale (ELD) 131
1 Thrill of Possibility (THB) 159
1 Glint-Horn Buccaneer (M20) 141
1 Cathartic Reunion (IKO) 110
1 Field of Ruin (THB) 242
1 Brineborn Cutthroat (M20) 50
1 The Royal Scions (ELD) 199
1 Improbable Alliance (ELD) 193
1 Ominous Seas (IKO) 61
1 Frostveil Ambush (IKO) 52
1 Neutralize (IKO) 59
1 Negate (M20) 69
1 Essence Scatter (M19) 54
1 Gadwick, the Wizened (ELD) 48
1 Startling Development (IKO) 68
1 Lava Coil (GRN) 108
1 Boon of the Wish-Giver (IKO) 43
1 Go for Blood (IKO) 122
1 Sprite Dragon (IKO) 211
1 Beacon Bolt (GRN) 154
7 Island (UND) 90
1 Drannith Stinger (IKO) 113
5 Mountain (UND) 94
1 Izzet Guildgate (GRN) 252
1 Arcane Signet (ELD) 331
1 Talrand, Sky Summoner (M13) 72
1 Irencrag Pyromancer (ELD) 128
1 Tale's End (M20) 77
1 Bonecrusher Giant (ELD) 115
1 Thassa's Intervention (THB) 72
1 Mystical Dispute (ELD) 58
1 Shark Typhoon (IKO) 67
1 Command Tower (ELD) 333
1 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244
1 Swiftwater Cliffs (IKO) 255
1 Temple of Epiphany (M20) 253
1 Steam Vents (GRN) 257
1 Mystic Sanctuary (ELD) 247
1 Castle Vantress (ELD) 242
1 Blitz of the Thunder-Raptor (IKO) 109
1 Niv-Mizzet, Parun (GRN) 192
1 Faerie Vandal (ELD) 45
1 Lazotep Plating (WAR) 59
1 Pteramander (RNA) 47
1 Brazen Borrower (ELD) 39
1 Thryx, the Sudden Storm (THB) 76
1 Voracious Greatshark (IKO) 70
1 Fire Prophecy (IKO) 116
1 Disdainful Stroke (GRN) 37

The deck I am most fond of of today’s offerings, is a focused aggro-control deck (I know, shock horror, aggro in Brawl!) which leverages cheap creatures backed up by a wall of countermagic and removal to lock your opponents out of the game and achieve quick victories. This is in addition to having an absurd draw engine in Rielle, the Everwise + cyclers which ensures you never run out of gas, and Rielle functions as a great threat herself, hitting hard as long as you keep the board clear.

I suspect this is one of the best ways to build an aggro deck in Brawl; it has the advantages of being really focused, making great use of its Commander, and running a pretty low land count since cyclers more than make up for that. I played a couple of test games and it seemed like a real blast to play; I suspect this deck has the most longevity of all the decks I’m showcasing today since drawing a lot of cards and playing so many different kinds of threat really doesn’t get old!

Firesong and Sunspeaker (Decklist)

Commander
1 Firesong and Sunspeaker (DAR) 280

Deck
1 Deafening Clarion (GRN) 165
8 Mountain (UND) 94
8 Plains (UND) 88
1 Justice Strike (GRN) 182
1 Solar Blaze (WAR) 216
1 Integrity // Intervention (GRN) 227
1 Response // Resurgence (GRN) 229
1 Purphoros's Intervention (THB) 151
1 Dawn of Hope (GRN) 8
1 Storm's Wrath (THB) 157
1 Sacred Foundry (GRN) 254
1 Shatter the Sky (THB) 37
1 Haktos the Unscarred (THB) 218
1 Arcane Signet (ELD) 331
1 Outlaws' Merriment (ELD) 198
1 Heliod's Intervention (THB) 19
1 Lava Coil (GRN) 108
1 Fires of Invention (ELD) 125
1 Ugin, the Ineffable (WAR) 2
1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno (M20) 127
1 Chandra, Fire Artisan (WAR) 119
1 Elspeth Conquers Death (THB) 13
1 The Wanderer (WAR) 37
1 The Birth of Meletis (THB) 5
1 Banishing Light (THB) 4
1 Cavalier of Dawn (M20) 10
1 Temple of Triumph (M20) 257
1 Wind-Scarred Crag (M20) 260
1 Boros Guildgate (GRN) 244
1 Command Tower (ELD) 333
1 Blast Zone (WAR) 244
1 Firemind Vessel (WAR) 237
1 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244
1 Boros Locket (GRN) 231
1 Electrodominance (RNA) 99
1 Mobilized District (WAR) 249
1 Field of Ruin (THB) 242
1 Castle Ardenvale (ELD) 238
1 True Love's Kiss (ELD) 34
1 Drannith Magistrate (IKO) 11
1 Realm-Cloaked Giant (ELD) 26
1 Finale of Glory (WAR) 12
1 Bonecrusher Giant (ELD) 115
1 Sarkhan the Masterless (WAR) 143
1 Soul-Guide Lantern (THB) 237

The new Commander everyone gets for free from the Guildhall this month certainly has some potential! To counteract the great aggro decks I’ve put in this article, I suspect a lot of lifegain will be needed… and the two giants certainly provide! While Boros may not be the most commonly thought of pair for a Control strategy, it has the maximum number of wraths available, which Firesong and Sunspeaker have amazing synergy with. This is a deck full of disparate elements but the plan is the same: control the board, gain enough life that your opponents really can’t pressure you, and then win with one of your payoff planeswalkers/enchantments. I suspect its strength really depends on how much Winota, Rielle, and other aggressive decks you’re facing since it won’t be great against the “go big” decks like Kinnan.

Nethroi, Apex of Death (Decklist)

iko-197-nethroi-apex-of-death
Commander
1 Nethroi, Apex of Death (IKO) 197

Deck
1 Mythos of Nethroi (IKO) 97
5 Swamp (UND) 92
1 Elspeth Conquers Death (THB) 13
1 Plains (UND) 88
1 Eat to Extinction (THB) 90
1 District Guide (GRN) 128
1 Cavalier of Thorns (M20) 167
5 Forest (UND) 96
1 Evolving Wilds (IKO) 247
1 Find // Finality (GRN) 225
1 Polukranos, Unchained (THB) 224
1 Deathsprout (WAR) 189
1 Back for More (IKO) 177
1 Boneyard Lurker (IKO) 178
1 Skull Prophet (IKO) 206
1 Paradise Druid (WAR) 171
1 Once Upon a Time (ELD) 169
1 Eerie Ultimatum (IKO) 184
1 Underrealm Lich (GRN) 211
1 Fiend Artisan (IKO) 220
1 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244
1 Field of Ruin (THB) 242
1 Blood for Bones (M20) 89
1 Cavalier of Night (M20) 94
1 Shatter the Sky (THB) 37
1 Unbreakable Bond (IKO) 101
1 Arcane Signet (ELD) 331
1 Vivien, Monsters' Advocate (IKO) 175
1 Migration Path (IKO) 164
1 Knight of Autumn (GRN) 183
1 Golgari Guildgate (GRN) 249
1 Dirge Bat (IKO) 84
1 Murderous Rider (ELD) 97
1 Finale of Eternity (WAR) 91
1 Vraska, Golgari Queen (GRN) GR8
1 Casualties of War (WAR) 187
1 Garruk, Cursed Huntsman (ELD) 191
1 Command Tower (ELD) 333
1 Indatha Triome (IKO) 248
1 Jungle Hollow (IKO) 249
1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General (WAR) 97
1 Circuitous Route (GRN) 125
1 Temple Garden (GRN) 258
1 Temple of Plenty (THB) 248
1 Temple of Malady (M20) 254
1 Temple of Silence (M20) 256
1 Godless Shrine (RNA) 248
1 Overgrown Tomb (GRN) 253
1 Tymaret Calls the Dead (THB) 118
1 Castle Locthwain (ELD) 241
1 Veil of Summer (M20) 198

This is a grindy and fun Abzan deck, for those of you who’ve been itching to get their teeth back into some classic midrange. Almost every card in this deck generates colossal value; there are more 2 and 3-for-1s than you can shake a stick at, and so your opponents will quickly find themselves buried under the weight of all your value. There’s a graveyard subtheme where plenty of the cards try to fill it for Nethroi, the king of grind, who will force your opponents to wrath your board every time you mutate him, and for your several other reanimation spells.

I suspect that this deck is up there with Rielle in terms of longevity and fun since most of the cards are really sweet and unique, and so it should play out in a very fun and different way each game!

Winota, Joiner of Forces (Decklist)

iko-216-winota-joiner-of-forces
Commander
1 Winota, Joiner of Forces (IKO) 216

Deck
1 Alseid of Life's Bounty (THB) 1
8 Mountain (UND) 94
1 Legion Warboss (GRN) 109
9 Plains (UND) 88
1 Haktos the Unscarred (THB) 218
1 Raise the Alarm (M20) 34
1 Stonecoil Serpent (ELD) 235
1 Reverent Hoplite (THB) 33
1 Sacred Foundry (GRN) 254
1 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244
1 Truefire Captain (GRN) 209
1 Tajic, Legion's Edge (GRN) 204
1 Syr Carah, the Bold (ELD) 145
1 Temple of Triumph (M20) 257
1 Justice Strike (GRN) 182
1 Faerie Guidemother (ELD) 11
1 Hanged Executioner (M20) 22
1 Anax, Hardened in the Forge (THB) 125
1 Drannith Magistrate (IKO) 11
1 Runaway Steam-Kin (GRN) 115
1 Fight as One (IKO) 12
1 Hushbringer (ELD) 18
1 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator (WAR) 146
1 Unbreakable Formation (RNA) 29
1 Embercleave (ELD) 120
1 Arcane Signet (ELD) 331
1 Inspiring Captain (M20) 25
1 Fires of Invention (ELD) 125
1 Forbidden Friendship (IKO) 119
1 Venerated Loxodon (GRN) 30
1 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame (M20) 126
1 Lavabrink Venturer (IKO) 19
1 Healer's Hawk (GRN) 14
1 Bonecrusher Giant (ELD) 115
1 Tin Street Dodger (RNA) 120
1 Goblin Banneret (GRN) 102
1 Grim Initiate (WAR) 130
1 Conclave Tribunal (GRN) 6
1 Inspiring Commander (ANA) 5
1 Regal Leosaur (IKO) 202
1 Heraldic Banner (ELD) 222
1 Command Tower (ELD) 333
1 Castle Ardenvale (ELD) 238
1 Castle Embereth (ELD) 239

Winota has gone a long way towards proving herself as a busted card in Standard, and being able to guarantee drawing her in Brawl fixes most of the problem the Standard deck has. This is a powerful focused aggro deck designed around getting the maximum number of nonhumans into play early and then using t4 Winota to cheat as many powerful expensive Humans into play as possible, setting up a gigantic attack and getting a colossal mana advantage. The deck’s main weakness is to sweepers so I’ve included a lot of cards that dodge or get around those such as Unbreakable Formation, Fight as One, the planeswalkers, and Anax. The deck is further helped by the fact that most Brawl decks won’t be running tons of wraths anyway; perhaps 2-3 in a 60-card deck, and because you get so much value on the same turn off Winota, you can often just ride that advantage to victory through a sweeper. If your opponent is holding up mana on turn 4, consider waiting on Winota – she can be quite weak to instant-speed removal so you can just play other stuff and waste their mana that way; a card I missed out that you could try is Bolt Bend; it doesn’t work with much else in the deck so I ultimately cut it but it is very good with Winota, if you can delay playing her till turn 5.

Winota is about as powerful and one-dimensional as Kinnan but I suspect significantly more fun to play, since games will be quick and there’s a lot of fun to be had when you’re cheating loads of very different big random Humans into play. This is probably the deck I would recommend the most on that basis, since it strikes a solid balance between fun and good!

Thanks for reading! This was my first foray into brawl content so feedback would be especially appreciated!

  • That being said, I have close to fifty articles on other formats and concepts at this point! As always, you can find them all, the whole shebang from Limited Set Reviews to Draft Tier List to Strategy Articles to Deck Guides, at mtgazone.com/drifter. If you don’t see anything specific then I’d recommend Hypergeometric Calculator in Magic, my strategy article which teaches you how to tap into an invaluable resource pros already use, to assist in your deckbuilding and mulliganning decisions! Or if you’d like to keep up with Standard, find my recent metagame update here.
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Drifter
Drifter

Drifter is a draft and strategy specialist, with hundreds of articles under his belt! Of special mention are his Limited Reviews and draft coaching service.

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