Wednesday Brawl – Brawl Crafting Guide Part 2
So you’ve opened 50, 100, maybe even 200 packs of Thrones of Eldraine so far, and you’re still missing some very important rares and mythics. You may find yourself asking questions like this:
Cards you can’t find in packs
Unfortunately, there are some cards in Thrones of Eldraine that you will never find in packs! But there doesn’t appear to be a clear way to see which cards these are. As far as I can tell, there is no definitive list available online that shows the exact list of “craft-only” Eldraine cards. Rather than drop a laundry list of all of the cards in a glob right here, let’s instead separate them into tiers.
If you didn’t catch my last Brawl Crafting guide, you can take a look here. Regardless, these three cards I would consider must-crafts if you’re going to play Brawl mode. It’s going to cost you one rare wildcard, but trust me, it’s worth it. There’s no reason to craft more than one copy of any of these.
Tier 1: The Kings
Let’s start with the two “craft-only” cards that have seen play in top-tier Standard decks. Since only a small selection of cards are even considered playable in the ultra-competitive Standard format, seeing these cards rise to the top in the best Standard decks of the day is quite an achievement! If you have the mythic wildcards to spare, don’t hesitate crafting at least one of each and drop them into every Brawl deck they fit into.
Korvold, Fae-Cursed King: With Oko, Thief of Crowns out of the picture, we’re seeing a lot of Jund Sacrifice decks floating around. Korvold gives you a sizeable 4/4 flying body that immediately grows, and grows again every time you attack. Important note: Korvold gets bigger and draws you a card whenever you sacrifice a permanent, which means throwing a cat in the oven will do the trick! He synergizes well with Mayhem Devil, Vraska, Golgari Queen, Wicked Wolf, or simply “eating” your own food will draw you a card!
While stitching together 3 different colors of mana isn’t as easy as it used to be pre-rotation, it is still very doable with Green as one of the colors, and by using some of the cards mentioned above like Command Tower and Arcane Signet and other mana rocks like Chromatic Lantern. Paradise Druid and Golden Goose will be your fixers, filling in for a missing Swamp here or a missing Mountain there.
Kenrith, Returned King: Don’t let Kenrith’s wall of text put you off, he’s extremely powerful when you have lots of mana available of multiple different colors. While in Standard this generally means playing Jeskai Fires, Kenrith can be great fun in your Brawl deck. He’s one of the few commanders that will allow you to play a 5-color deck!
Tier 2: On the cusp of greatness
For whatever reason these cards, while strong, just aren’t quite strong enough to make it into the top-tier Standard decks of today. That said, these are well beyond strong enough for your Brawl decks, so don’t hesitate to drop them in! Let’s take a look at their strengths, as well as what’s keeping them out of the top tier.
Faerie Formation: Not to be underestimated, this 5/4 goes wide by filling the board with tiny evasive 1/1 faeries. This synergizes incredibly well with any across-the-board buff effect like Heraldic Banner or Alela’s passive +1/+0 to other fliers. The big downside to Faerie Formation is that it’s just too expensive to make these 1/1 faeries. Most of the time you’re going to have more productive things to do with 4 mana.
Alela, Artful Provocateur: Believe me when I say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Alela per se. She’s got a smattering of very useful abilities: Keeping you alive while killing anything she touches, creating a whole flying squad out of thin air, and then buffing that flying squad while it tears your opponent to shreds!
The main issue with Alela, unfortunately, is simply her colors. She’s an aggressive Esper card, and you’ve probably been playing Magic: The Gathering long enough to know that that’s an uncomfortable fit. Going wide with 1/1 faeries does not mesh well with board sweepers like Kaya’s Wrath, Realm-Cloaked Giant, and Ritual of Soot. Yet these are the cards that Esper decks often play to slow down the opponent and make time for you to slowly take the game over.
That said, she’s a very fun Commander to build around when you’re playing Brawl, a format that often sees far fewer board sweepers in general. Just cross your fingers that you don’t find yourself in an Esper mirror match!
Chulane, Teller of Tales: As long as he’s not caught by a Tale’s End, Chulane is going to bring a super-powerful engine! Much like the popular Risen Reef, he will both draw you cards and ramp your mana. In a few turns, Chulane can take over a game if he isn’t stopped.
But of course, that’s the best case scenario. Generally with Chulane, you don’t get an immediate benefit. You can pop him out at 5 mana and have him get countered or Murdered right away, or if you’re running a 1-drop creature then you can maybe get a card out of him. But top-tier cards are able to get you value faster, or in Kenrith’s case, are just more versatile – Kenrith can do much more than draw you cards.
Tier 3: Fun or Situational Brawl cards
You probably won’t see these cards in Standard any time soon, for various reasons. They’re expensive, situational, a touch underwhelming, or perhaps all three. If you’re die-hard committed to Brawl mode, craft away! If you’re unsure whether you’re truly a Brawler at heart, consider saving your wildcards for other cards that are playable in Standard. Who knows, maybe there will be some new synergy in a future set that renders one or more of these top-tier in Standard. If you don’t believe me, think of the M19 card Scapeshift and its synergy with M20’s Field of the Dead!
Mace of the Valiant: Deviously grin to yourself as your Mace slowly grows, bit by bit, as your opponent’s inevitable demise slowly dawns upon them. Pair this with token-generators like Alela for maximum fun! Unfortunately, you’re going to see some games where it just doesn’t pump up fast enough.
Shimmer Dragon: While expensive, this card has the potential to really bring you ahead if you’re willing to dedicate enough of your card slots to artifacts – but it might be hard to do that, at least in Standard Brawl, with the current card pool, since there just aren’t that many good brawl playable artifacts around. If your commander is Emry, and perhaps you’re playing Historic, look no further than Shimmer Dragon for your top-end!
Taste of Death: This tasty rare is like an epic-level Plaguecrafter! Your best bet with sacrifice effects like this is to either play few to no creatures so that you don’t have much to lose here, or you can play lots of creatures so that you can keep your good ones. Chandra, Acolyte of Flame combos well with this card by providing you two free units of sacrifice fodder! Also keep in mind that the three Food tokens you get is enough to bring your Feasting Troll King back from the graveyard. The only problem is that sometimes this card will hurt you more than your opponent.
Embereth Shieldbreaker: Not a fan of the cat oven combo? Trash their oven with a Shieldbreaker! This card can come in handy quite often in Brawl because mana rock artifacts are all over the place. That said, it’s a bit underwhelming if there are no artifacts to destroy.
Rowan, Fearless Sparkmage: Without her brother Will, Rowan has a much higher casting cost and hence just doesn’t pack quite as strong a punch. Her +1 ability is similar to the The Royal Scions’ +1 buff ability, but coming 2 turns later makes it far less useful. Without the blue-leaning draw/discard option of the siblings, Rowan is narrower as well. Her ultimate is insane though!
Steelbane Hydra: Perhaps the #1 card that I would say is custom-built for long Brawl games, Steelbane Hydra is incredibly versatile. Pump a lot of mana into it and blow up your opponent’s Doom Foretold, Great Henge, and all their mana rocks one by one. If your turtle hasn’t shrunk to microscopic size by then, smash away!
Thorn Mammoth: Speaking of smashing, check out my description of Thorn Mammoth in the Brawl Crafting Guide (Part I). In short, you’ll get a lot of special Green removal out of this beast’s recurring fight mechanic!
Knights’ Charge: White and Black have been two of the Knightliest colors of Magic: The Gathering since the game’s inception, symbolizing the battle between Good and Evil. But why choose between Good and Evil when you can have both? Drop Knights’ Charge into your White/Black (or better yet, White/Black/Red) Knights Tribal deck with Syr Gwyn (see below).
Banish into Fable: I’ll admit it, for a long time I was not a fan of “bounce” effects because it felt like I was only delaying the inevitable. The key to efficiently using bounces is to advance your own game in the time it takes the opponent to catch up. Banish into Fable, while expensive, does this for you. It bounces one, two, or even three of your opponent’s cards and creates a knight for you each time!
Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale: Do you remember playing the Eldraine Courtside Brawl event back in September? If so, you’ve probably seen Syr Gwyn many times… sitting in your opponent’s Command Zone. Syr Gwyn is intimidating on her own and synergizes well with Equipment, but there’s really not a whole lot of good Equipment to be had these days and she just costs so much mana, which is especially bad because if she’s your Commander you don’t have access to Green ramp to get her out faster.
If you can get past her high cost and her mandate to put Equipment in your deck, she can be downright bloodthirsty with an Embercleave or a Mace of the Valiant in her hand. Hence, I call her situational.
Tier 4: Jank!
… And now we look at the rest of the cards. These cards are just too pricey for what you get, either due to a high casting cost or an underwhelming ability, or they’re attached to specific planeswalkers as part of casual starter decks. Some of them are intended for multiplayer games of Magic (more than 2 players).
Rather than listing all of the craft-only jank cards, you’ll just see a few examples below.
Cards that are just too expensive: These cards all have fascinating abilities that would be loads of fun to pull off… if you ever get the chance. You need 6, 7, or even 8 mana lying around, and a single Murderous Rider would invalidate all of your hard work.
Rowan’s Battleguard: Having to wait until you have 4 mana to get a 3/3 First Striker is terrible. The fact that it will sometimes be a 6/3 instead is decent but narrow. Compare this to other 4 mana creatures: Questing Beast, Torbran, Rankle, Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice. Sure, Rowan’s Battleguard will kill any of these in one go, but these other cards have more versatile abilities.
Oko’s Hospitality: Changing all your creatures to 3/3 could be useful if you’re running lots of 1/1 tokens, especially if they have +1/+1 tokens on them, but in some cases it will backfire by actually making your creatures smaller. I could see this card synergizing really well with Nissa and allowing you to beat everyone down with gigantic trees, which could be lots of fun! If this card was a bit less expensive I’d upgrade it a tier and call it narrow rather than janky.
Cards intended for multiplayer: Not much to say here. Most of the time, cards intended for multiplayer have their power diluted on the assumption that it will be strong enouhg when multiplied by the number of opponents you have. Huge exception not shown here: Priest of the Forgotten Gods.
But what about the collectors out there, the people who want a copy of every single card but don’t want to spend wildcards unless they absolutely have to? Well, here’s a list of all the craft-only Eldraine cards. This list is cards only, it does not include card styles.
Brawl Deck of the Week
Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God (Decklist)
Have you been practicing your Evil Laugh? Nicol Bolas is probably straight-up the most evil planeswalker in the multiverse, stealing the power of all the other walkers on the board. His +1 ability is a non-stop value engine, granting you an extra card and costing your opponent one at the same time! In a pinch, Bolas’ -3 ability can remove an opposing threat, but use this sparingly as it leaves him quite weak to attacks. When using Bolas, be wary of his strict mana cost – in this deck you’ll need three separate black mana sources.
Protect your Bolas with the best removal spells Standard has to offer: red and black provide straight-up destruction in the form of Bedevil, Murder, and Angrath’s Rampage, and blue will prevent your opponent from getting threats on the board in the first place! From what I’ve seen, Bolas is one of the strongest Commanders in Standard right now. One of your toughest match-ups is going to be Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Because Niv is uncounterable, be sure not to waste your counterspells on him. Due to a lack of creatures in your deck, you rely on casting spells to remove your opponent’s threats, and this will draw your opponent one card per spell while Niv is in play.
Keep an eye out for some of the cards mentioned in this article – we’ve thrown in Taste of Death and Faerie Formation just for fun. If you don’t have these cards, consider Ritual of Soot and Kefnet, or just toss in your favorite Grixis removal, counterspell, or creature. You have lots of good options!
Budget Brawl Deck of the Week
Dovin, Hand of Control (Decklist)
It’s Budget Azorius this week with Dovin, Hand of Control. With a blue-white color combination, most of the time you’re either going aggressive and wide with small flying creatures, or you’re going with few to no creatures in a control type deck. This is the first, loading up with just about every small blue or white aggressive flier in Standard! Note that I’ve shied away from 1/3 fliers as they are just going to take too long to bring it home. Also note that this deck is light on removal, the point here is to be proactive and just slam through everything your opponent tries to do. If you’re fast enough, it just might work!
There are of course many upgrades you can do to make your winged squadron fiercer. The obvious first upgrade would be to bump your Hand of Control into a Dovin, Grand Arbiter – a planeswalker who can make you 1/1 fliers every turn! You can throw a Faerie Formation in to top off your token game even more. If you’re confident in your 1/1 production game, consider putting Divine Visitation in, which changes these 1/1s into 4/4s. Sephara, Sky’s Blade is a no-brainer in this kind of deck, capitalizing on going wide, but don’t get too attached to her because she’s a removal magnet.
That said, the best cards in this deck are Empyrean Eagle and Heraldic Banner. Rally of Wings is a classic way to finish the game after going wide, hoping to get those last points of damage in before your opponent stabilizes – or sweeps the board! Regardless of how awesome the rares and mythics are that you slot in, make sure to keep these star uncommons in there unless you’re confident you’ve made the right choice. Oh, and if you don’t have Garrison Griffin already, then it might not be worth crafting; Theros will probably bring in some better suited 2/2 fliers.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Thanks for dropping by for another weekly Brawl article. We hope to see you out there Brawling this Wendesday! Join our Discord server if you have any questions or need any help, or if you’d like to discuss the finer points of top-tier strategy or hilarious jank!
If it’s not Wednesday and you want to Brawl, check out these options:
- Brawl Hall: This is a Discord server created by the popular MTG YouTuber and streamer Merchant. There are over 3000 people currently in the server that you can connect with to play Brawl on demand and have friendly chat with each other.
- ArenaBrawl.net: This is a new website that allows you to enter your MTG Arena ID and find other players that are currently available for Direct Challenge. You can find players interested in Standard or Friendly/Historic Brawl, and the creators are working on a chat feature as well.