Wednesday Brawl – Is it Casual or Competitive?

Just in time for another week of Brawl, here’s an article exploring the softer side of Brawling. If you are new to Brawl, see our beginner’s guide here and check out the Brawl Crafting Guide for some tips on what cards are particularly good in Brawl.

Check out all our Brawl decks in one place!

As a new format to Magic: The Gathering Arena, Brawl mode is still discovering its identity. For many reasons you’ll see below, Brawl is often viewed as a casual, “kitchen table” format. On the other hand, Magic is by design a competitive game with many of us spending hours of research trying to find that last bit of edge to earn the win.

I’ve seen (and played) competitive Brawl decks replete with top-tier rares, and I’ve seen (and played) janky Brawl decks suffering from very questionable gameplay choices (try an Ugin deck in Standard Brawl this week and you’ll see what I mean). What’s pushing this format towards competitiveness, and what’s pushing it towards casualty casual-ness?

Competitive Influences

When the regular Brawl queue graces us with its presence for 24 hours once a week, it brings with it the daily win rewards. These daily win rewards will drive many players, perhaps most, towards more competitive decks that will earn those rewards quickly before the daily reset. Players with thin card collections especially could see this as an opportunity to pick up some wins without having to have 4 copies of all the top-tier Standard rares and mythics. This is understandable!

Also, MTG Arena draws plenty of players with full-time jobs, kids, and long commutes because there’s the ability to complete several games within 30 minutes… especially if you play aggro. I’m convinced that there are loads of parents out there grinding out a Mono Red game here and there while their baby sleeps, conceding if a game lasts more than 8 minutes because they have to prepare some formula or change a diaper.

Beyond the daily win rewards though, there’s your basic gaming psychology. It just feels good to win. Not everyone needs clean wins or particularly rewarding wins, or even wins on their own terms. “A win is a win,” you might say.

Casual Influences

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But before you scrap your janktastic Roalesk Proliferate deck, hold a moment. Brawl mode has built-in rules that lead the format back towards the kitchen table you shared with your friends from school. It’s a Singleton format, meaning that nobody is allowed to put 4 Cats and 4 Ovens in their deck. This vastly reduces the number of broken or near-broken combos available, or at least makes them far less likely to hit. The fact that the card pool is limited to Standard also forces everyone to use some cards that wouldn’t be considered playable in a regular Standard environment.

Then there’s the flavor factor. If you’re like me, you love the idea of actually being able to play those giant behemoth creatures and planeswalkers whose very concept is exciting. Many Standard games are over before either player would have enough mana to cast a Vilis or a Drakuseth, but Brawl mode is by its nature a bit slower and more diverse, allowing enough buildup for epic, edge-of-your-seat finishers.

If that’s not enough to convince you that there’s room for casual Brawls, there’s a special mode in MTG Arena called “Friendly Brawl”. You can choose this option from the pull-down when you create a deck. Friendly Brawl is the Historic version of Brawl mode, welcoming the entire MTG Arena collection with exciting Commanders like Torgaar, Famine Incarnate and Muldrotha, the Gravetide. What makes this game mode “friendly” is the fact that you can currently only play it as a direct challenge with someone you meet outside of MTG Arena.

The major drawback of Friendly Brawl is that there are no win rewards. Then again, some might see this as a feature. Without that extra-powerful incentive to win, there’s more incentive to play your way and take a gamble with that ridiculous Jodah, Archmage Eternal deck, you creative rock star! Sometimes it’s more about how you play the game than whether you win or lose. Would you still lose with a smile on your face if you managed to create 30 Polyraptors on the way out?

If you don’t have friends who play MTG Arena, then don’t fret, there are ways to meet people online who are always hungry to play some Standard or Friendly Brawl with strangers any day of the week! Check out the Brawl Hall discord or ArenaBrawl.net at the bottom of this article, perhaps the people you meet there will become gaming buddies for a long time to come.

Tying it all together

Is Brawl mode friendly or competitive? It will always be a little of both, just like Magic: The Gathering itself, but for now it is up to us to decide the fate of Brawl. The kinds of decks we play today are going to affect the kinds of decks you will see next week. If you show the community that you’re willing to try out a bizarre Mowu, Loyal Companion brew today, perhaps next week you’ll face up against an equally strange Teyo, the Shieldmage concoction!

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Brawl Deck of the Week

Judith, the Scourge Diva (Decklist)

Judith the Scourge Diva is all about hitting ’em hard and fast! Start the game off swinging with cheap threats that grow or provide value like Knight of the Ebon Legion, Robber of the Rich, and Dreadhorde Butcher. Clear the way for these small threats to punch through to the face with Angrath’s Rampage, Murderous Rider, and Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty.

Once your deck rolls into the 3+ mana territory, you’re dropping serious threats that demand answers: Rotting Regisaur, Spawn of Mayhem, and Doom Whisperer. With any luck, one of your creatures will be chosen to wield the awe-inspiring Embercleave to close the game!

Budget Brawl Deck of the Week

Grumgully, the Generous (Decklist)

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Grumgully the Generous is all about dropping counters on your creatures to make them bigger when they come out. But what if there was a way to make them even bigger than that? This deck combines Grumgully’s +1/+1 counters with the Riot mechanic from Red which also adds +1/+1 counters, then slams some Proliferate cards to tack on even more counters! If your creatures aren’t quite big enough to take down your opponent’s front line, there’s plenty of direct-damage to bridge that gap.

As with any budget deck, there are definitely some upgrade options! Grumgully is still a strong Commander, but there are some great rare and mythic cards that will fit right into the Proliferate motif. Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin will gladly take those Proliferate counters and use them to swarm 1/1 goblin tokens everywhere. Pelt Collector, Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig, Biogenic Ooze, and Voracious Hydra will also gorge on additional counters. Any planeswalkers you’d like to add will benefit from the extra loyalty from Proliferate (yes, it adds Loyalty counters in case you forgot)! Best of all would be Nissa, Who Shakes the World, whose forest-creatures will grow bigger and bigger with Proliferate while she herself races towards her ultimate, making the forests indestructible!


Thanks for stopping by this week! Join our Discord server if you have any questions or need any help. And as always, keep Brawling my friends.

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.

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