Ral, Storm Conduit Historic Brawl Deck Guide
Ral has always been my favorite planeswalker in Magic, and spell copying is my favorite type of deck to play. I built this deck expecting a janky spell copy deck, but it turned out to be far from that, ending up becoming my best performing homebrew deck and one of the best Izzet decks in all of Historic Brawl.
Ral, Storm Conduit, is, for the most part, a combo commander, and this deck relies on all its abilities. The uptick lines up draws, the passive is what wins most games, and the -2 copy ability is what fuels the deck. He exists to control the early game so that a copied spell later game can swing the tide in your favor. The combo element comes in because there’s an infinite between cards like Galvanic Iteration (any card that says “copy the next instant or sorcery spell you cast”) and Increasing Vengeance (any card that targets a spell to copy it, besides Narset’s Reversal).
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About this Guide
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To execute this combo, you first need to have Ral out on the field. You use the -2 to copy Galvanic Iteration (or in this list, Teach by Example), but only resolve the copy, leaving the original on the stack. Then, cast either Increasing Vengeance or Explosion targeting the Galvanic Iteration on the stack. The resolved Galvanic Iteration will copy your Increasing Vengeance, which you can use to target the Increasing Vengeance already on the stack. The newly copied Increasing Vengeance will target the original Increasing Vengeance, making another one which you can use to target the original again, and so on for infinite damage pings with Ral’s ability.
A similar combo exists with any spell -> Increasing Vengeance -> Expansion, with the spell needed so that increasing vengeance has a target.
Ral is very powerful and easy to stick around. The uptick helps line up your draws, particularly to hit land drops, which are very important in this deck. You want to control the board early game with cheap removal and sweepers, and get Ral to resolve and stick. From there, executing the infinite combo or copying any high-value spell will usually propel you to the win.
In the public queue, landing Ral as soon as possible almost always guarantees a win if your opponent does not have removal. In competitive Historic Brawl, the deck has to be played more strategically (see below).
This deck runs a high amount of 2 drops, not because it always wants to play it on a curve but because cheap removal and ramp is key. Unlike traditional Izzet decks, cheap ramp is key because Ral needs to get down fast and be able to copy a large spell.
Removal and Sweepers
Red removal and sweepers in Ral are key for keeping the board just clear enough where Ral can stay for the turn. One mana instant speed removal helps clear out aggressive decks and can be copied instant if you play Ral and have one mana up. Sorcery speed removal deals with bigger threats, and Storm's Wrath and similar cards are necessary to keep your opponent in check.
Counterspells in this deck are key, not only to stop big threats but to resolve Ral. Since our commander is so critical to finishing a game, we want the cheapest counterspells to stop anything our opponent has to prevent him from resolving. Unsubstantiate is included here because it can buy you a critical turn by bouncing a problematic creature or spell. Swan Song and Pact of Negation are not included because Ral doesn’t want to have to deal with a 2/2 and pact is too much mana on the next turn.
Card draw in Ral is very important to find key pieces. The best card draw in the deck comes from the spells that make treasure while doing it. When copied, you don’t have to pay the additional cost for these spells, and they give you additional mana in order to play more cards or do something explosive on the next turn (such as the two finales that are included in the deck).
Tutors, particularly deck MVP Invert, can find the key spells you need to win. Since most of the deck is instants and sorceries, you should be able to find an answer as long as you have mana.
Cards like Experimental Overload are also important in order to recur key cards, particularly time warp, from your graveyard.
Other Win Conditions and Important Cards
Leyline of Anticipation is a more important card for competitive play than casual. While it allows you to cast your sorcery speed removal and sweepers on your opponent’s turn, the real reason it’s included is to flash in Ral on your opponent’s end step to ensure survival. The downside of this card is mitigated because you can scry it to the bottom of your deck with Ral or discard it to things such as Unexpected Windfall.
Big spells like Crackle with Power and Mizzix's Mastery are also important as alternative win conditions for the deck. Using Ral’s -2 and then copying an x=2 Crackle with Power will deal 22 damage to your opponent, often enough to take them out. Mizzix's Mastery doesn’t have to be explained.
Matchups and Mulligans
Ral plays very differently depending on the matchup. Against aggro, board control is key and you want to mulligan aggressively for sweepers. You can play Ral onto a board of three or less power of enemy creatures, as long as your opponent doesn’t have haste. Against aggro, cheap removal backed up by a sweeper should control the board long enough to help you win.
Midrange is Ral’s easiest matchup, partially because it’s the deck that has the hardest time dealing with Ral. Slamming Ral as soon as possible while interacting with your opponent’s threats is the usual game plan against midrange.
Control (particularly counterspell only control) is the most difficult matchup for Ral. You want to save your counterspells to get him to resolve by winning a counterspell duel. Once Ral hits the field, the -2 forces your opponent to have two counterspell a turn instead of one, making it an easy victory. The most difficult part is getting there, and if you lose the counterspell battle, the game is probably lost also. This matchup is by far the hardest to play, and requires you to mulligan for counterspells.
If you want to have a less competitive list, you can ditch some cheap removal for Thousand-Year Storm and other wincons to make more explosive endgames. Before competitive optimization, there were boardstates where I would copy 7 mana spells, particularly Creative Outburst, 50 times (this is not an exaggeration). While the competitive version occasionally has explosive wins, it’s less often that with an unoptimized version. You still can draw 40 cards in one turn or copy lighting bolt 12 times in the optimized version, with the latter even happening in league play.
If you like Izzet but want a deck that’s less controlling than Niv, or want something explosive, Ral is for you. It’s one of the decks that I find is highly competitive but also very fun to play. I encourage readers to try this deck for themselves, it’s a bit of a learning curve but once you know how to play it, very few players can stop you.
The unoptimized deck went 3-0 week one Season 2 of the Historic Brawl League, and over the course of four weeks, placed second overall in season 3 rankings.
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