The Commander Files – An Introduction to Brawl

We’ve had twenty-five years of Magic, we’ve been to Dominaria and back again (hahaha, I had to), we’ve seen casual player made formats rise and formats fall. And through it all, one casual format has reigned supreme and gained such a cult following that wasn’t ever truly expected. Commander/EDH is one of the most popular and fun casual formats that has ever existed.
In saying that, there’s a dark cloud forever hanging over the head of commander/EDH in the form of a barrier of entry. Some cards are super expensive, for sure, but the biggest issue is the phenomenal card pool from TWENTY FIVE FREAKING YEARS of sets. Now there’s a new casual format that’s been announced by Wizards, a little sister to big bad EDH, known as Brawl.


Brawl follows a lot of the same concepts as commander/EDH, but is very different in a lot of ways.

  • Commander damage is not applicable
  • Starting life total is 30 life.
  • Commander can be any Legendary creature OR Planeswalker
  • Deck must consist of 59 cards plus commander (60 card constructed) and may only contain one copy of each card unless it’s a basic land card.
  • Decks may only use STANDARD legal cards, this format also uses the Standard ban list.
  • THIS IS A ROTATING FORMAT based on the standard rotation
  • Recommended group size is four players

A sixty card singleton commander format sounds pretty great, but did you know Australia has been playing something like this for years? Australian Highlander is very similar, except it’s a Legacy format. But how does Brawl shake out in the grand MTG scheme of things?


Not unlike normal standard, you will be looking to hit a lot of the same beats. Sticking to a healthy curve, a good selection of lands to ensure smooth sailing, enough creatures to wreck face and maybe peppered with a few artifacts to spice up your broth. If we look at regular standard deck building, we would want around 23-25 lands, 16-24 creatures and a healthy mix of artifacts and other spells. We want to see enough removal to make sure we can keep threats at bay, so around eight should be a good fit.
You definitely want to run TWO colours, mono colour (as I cover below) has a weak card pool and will lack certain types of effects and resources you need to ensure success, though it’s not impossible to build. When thinking about the deck you want to build, it’s important to consider the following:

  • what colours are your commander?
  • What tools do they bring?
  • How will your deck win?
  • What will your deck do VS control or aggro decks?


I’m interested to see how Brawl shakes out in the end and if we will see a competitive (and officially backed by Wizards, Gavin Verhey has said Wizards are planning that) format for it. I have to admit, the thought of this has me intrigued. I feel like if Brawl had support, it might become a regular event played by players. However, that may force the competitive edge to come in and trash it with optimised lists and doing anything to win. I’m pointing my finger directly at 1V1 Commander, the format that seems great at first glance but the deeper you dive, the more problems it has.



Being a less enfranchised player makes for an easier time getting your hands on certain cards. You don’t have to worry about getting that two hundred something Bayou or that five hundredish Mox Ruby. Not having to dig through boxes and boxes of chaff to find staples or chasing down those hard to get uncommons that have never been reprinted seems like a blessing. Standard is still fairly expensive right now though, cards such as Vraska’s Contempt are around the $20 mark in paper.


A single box should actually be enough to at the least build a deck. Going to a pre-release a few times might even do the same! With the recent announcement of Firesong and Sunspeeker being exclusive to pre-ordering boxes, Wizards signals that they fully believe in and want to promote Brawl as the new amazing casual format. Especially given that not only are they rewarding you for pre-order by GIVING YOU a commander to helm your deck (WHY IS THIS THE ONLY CARD?!), but also in your pre-release box there will be both a random foil stamped promo card AND a legendary foil stamped random card as well.



Ramp looks crazy as fixing will be one of the biggest concerns for some decks and currently Green has the best mana fixers in standard. Add to that, there is next to no fetch lands, so cards like Evolving wilds become a staple. Most colours lack board wipes as well such as Green, so premium removal stars in White and Red at this stage. Black gets a bunch of -x/-x effects, but currently has no full on unrestricted board wipes. Blue has zero board wipes as such but does have a few options such as (rivers Rebuke), making it a great colour to pair if you need access to Blue mana.
Smaller card pool is both a blessing and a curse. As stated above, less choice leads to more innovation. Sadly though, less choice also leads to mono colour decks lacking the variety of tools they have in EDH/Commander to get the job done, they will likely be extremely weak due to poor card selection. I would advise staying away from single colour decks as much as you can to ensure you have another colour that may have the tools your main colour is lacking.


I understand the WHY, but rotation will be a pain. The first standard rotation will be four sets gone. Kaladesh, Aether Revolt, Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation will be gone. The next rotation after, Dominaria is gone, get it out of here! This means that, not unlike standard, the format will be expensive to keep up unless you don’t want to keep your deck fresh and good.


Hahahaha, and you thought Standard was a volatile format? Look, Brawl sounds like a great idea, but then when all those hardcore players decide they want to play, kiss a lot of the fun bye bye as you stare down optimised lists for (The Scarab God) and (Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh). It seems like a pretty sweet format though, so here’s to hoping it doesn’t crumble under the negatives.
Well, that about wraps up another TCF for now, have you been playing Brawl? What sort of spice and pepper are you working on?