A Brawl for All

Last week Wizards of the Coast introduced the world to a new casual format in the form of Brawl. Brawl is a variant of the Commander format created by Gerritt Turner, a senior brand narrative designer for Wizards, that uses only cards from that are legal in Standard. For those of you who are unaware/missed WoTC announcement, here is a quick overview of the format.

*Each player’s deck is exactly 60 cards. Other than basic lands, no card may appear in a deck more than once. Each card must be legal in the Standard format; cards banned in the Standard format can’t be played in the Brawl variant.
*Before the game begins, each player designates one legendary creature or planeswalker card in their deck as their commander. This card begins the game in the command zone and the other 59 cards are shuffled up.
*The mana symbols that appear on your commander dictate what cards may be in your deck. Mana symbols that don’t appear on your commander can’t be in the deck. For example, if the Dominaria card Firesong and Sunspeaker is your commander, your cards may have R, W, both, or neither, but no B, G, or U symbols may appear anywhere in your deck. This includes the card’s text box as well as its mana cost; for example, Pride Sovereign from the Hour of Devastation set can’t be in your deck if your commander has only G in its cost and rules text.
*Each player begins the game at 30 life rather than 20. If you’re playing a multiplayer game (which we recommend for Brawl!), each player draws seven cards again on their first mulligan and the player who plays first draws a card on their first turn.
*As long as your commander is in the command zone, you may cast it from there. Doing so costs an additional two mana for each time you have cast the card this way this game.
*If your commander is countered or leaves the battlefield, you may put it back into the command zone instead of putting it anywhere else it would go.

As with every new thing that comes from WoTC, the reaction from the community was mixed. Some, like good friend to the site and fellow UKMTG content creator Tim (also known as Dijital Llama) view it as a fun and exciting format to have a crack at. Others have been more sceptical as to whether we need another casual singleton format. So today I thought I would have a look for myself and weigh up the format to see what the pros and cons of Brawl are. So, if you are still on the fence as to whether to try it out for yourself, then read on.

It uses only Standard cards

The first thing we need to talk about is the fact that Brawl only uses Standard legal cards. The main worry that many players have voiced is that the Standard card pool might not be large enough for a singleton format. The issue isn’t that the Standard pool lacks a sizable number of cards, but rather that their might be a shortage of ‘playables’ to draw from. This is however one of the main appeals the Brawl has for budding brewers. Its very easy to select a counter spell package when you can have four copies of Disallow and a playset of Supreme Will, but it’s a lot more difficult when you can only have one of each. Trying to figure out what to run when you don’t have the luxury of playsets is hard enough, but when you are also restricted to a limited collection of cards you have to really think about your picks.

Planeswalkers as Commanders

One of the unique things that Brawl offers over it’s big brother is that you don’t just have to select a legendary creature to head up your deck, you can instead choose to pick a Planeswalker to be your commander. This opens up a lot of possibilities for some interesting deck building. Many playgroups already have house rules allowing players to use Planeswalkers as commanders, but this is far more relevant in a rotating format like Brawl. Commander currently has twenty-five years’ worth of legendary creatures to pick from, where as Brawl only has at best eight sets and at worst four to select from. So, adding Planeswalkers to the mix gives players more options when building their deck. Whether this will be a good or a bad thing, we will have to wait and see.

But why not Commanader?

While Brawl is itself a standalone format, it is (to the admission of its creator) a Commander variant. This has lead some, mainly those who are hardcore Commander players, to question why anyone would play a ‘lesser’ version of the format when you can just play the ‘original’. This would be a fair point to make, if it didn’t overlook two key points. Firstly, Commander was not the ‘original’ singleton format as that honour goes to Canadian Highlander. Secondly, it overly looks the fact that brewing a Commander deck is a daunting prospect for new players.

As I stated above Commander currently has twenty-five years’ worth of cards to select and build form, and for those that haven’t got a ton of experience it can be a little overwhelming to create their first deck. Yes, they could always go ahead and get one of the amazing preconstructed decks that are available. But when you play precon’s you miss out on the joy of brewing and personalising your own deck. With a smaller card pool and a reduced deck size, Brawl allows newer players a chance to play a casual and fun looking format, that could also open the doors to them to one day battle in the realms of Commander.

But the question still remains, is the format any good? Well, you only learn by doing, so if I am to have an opinion on the format I might as well give it a go. I already have an opponent lined up in the form of Tim, whom I be facing at GP Birmingham. But what should I play? Well I’m putting that question to you. I will be holding a poll on my Twitter to help me decide what Commander I should select. So, if you want a say in what I play make sure to check that out.

But what do you think? Do you fancy giving this new casual format a go for yourself? If so what are you going to build? Why not let us know in the comments below, and while you are there why not subscribe to the site to keep up to date with all the latest from us here at Master of Magics. But until next time remember, Good Luck and Have Fun.

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