Raise Your Standards – So You Wanna Brawl?


Hello and welcome to another episode of Raise Your Standards.  This week I’ll take a look at the latest Standard variant, Brawl.  I’ll give you my thoughts on the new format and whether I think this format will be a bonafide hit or just a flash in the pan.  Let’s get started.

What is Brawl?

Brawl is a format that was recently announced by Wizards of the Coast as a sort of Commander/Standard hybrid.  Each player chooses a legendary creature or planeswalker to be their commander, which starts the game in your command zone.  They build a 59-card Standard-legal deck that can only include a single copy of any given card other than basic lands.  All cards must be in the same colors as the mana symbols on your commander.  Each player begins the game at 30 life.  You may cast your commander from the command zone, and doing this costs 2 additional generic mana for each time it was previously cast.  If your commander is countered or leaves the battlefield, you can choose to put it back into the command zone if you would like.  That’s the basic gist of Brawl.

Who is Brawl for?

In my opinion, Brawl is great format for you to play if you are a new player of Magic and are looking to get into the game.  It’s also good for those players who have stopped playing and are looking for a way back into Standard.  The reason for this is because it is a format that only requires you to have one copy of any given card in your deck.  Brawl decks can be easily built by even the most casual of players, and will generally be just as good as the Brawl decks built by players who play Standard and have playsets of the tournament staple cards.  This makes Brawl a good format for players who have a limited Magic budget as well.

But Brawl is also a format for those players that are Standard tournament players.  If you have complete playsets of all of the Standard cards, you have everything you’ll ever need to build a plethora of Brawl decks.  It’s a great way for this type of player to get a little extra mileage out of some of those cards that are almost good enough for Standard play, but not quite.  You’ll be able to utilize more of your collection by playing Brawl.

Even if you normally don’t enjoy playing Commander, I would say to still give Brawl a shot.  The Commander card pool is huge, reaching all the way back to the beginning of the game.  Because of this, there are many busted cards you can use and broken combos to try.  But these types of cards and combos aren’t present in the Standard card pool.  There are still certain cards that you might play in multiple Brawl decks, but nothing like Sol Ring that is a staple in every Commander deck.

Advantages of Brawl

I’ve already touched on a couple of these.  You’ll be able to use more of the cards you have in your collection than you would if you just played Standard.  When you can only have one copy of Lightning Strike in your deck, suddenly Open Fire looks like a reasonable card to play.  Cards that are slightly worse than other cards become a way to gain redundancy for your deck.

Also, since the format is a singleton format, the cost to play Brawl is considerably cheaper than playing Standard.  After all, you only need one copy of Rekindling Phoenix for your Brawl deck, which will set you back around $25.  If you wanted to play Rekindling Phoenix in Standard, you’re looking at somewhere around $100 for the full playset.  It’s a much less lower barrier to entry to play Brawl than for Standard.

Another advantage is that it’s similar to playing Commander without games taking as long.  If you’re like me, when you sit down to playing a game of Commander you know you’re committing yourself to the game for at least the next hour or two.  With Brawl, you have both a lower starting life total and library size, so games don’t last as long.  There are also less of the broken combos that can extend games much longer than usual.

Disadvantages of Brawl

The main disadvantage of Brawl is that it is another format that might divide the player base at your local place of play.  It can be very frustrating to show up to play with your Standard deck only to find out that the other players that showed up only brought their Modern or Legacy decks.  Having more variety in formats can make it harder to find a game of the format you’re looking for by chance.  That means more planning must be done to ensure the format you want to play will have other players at the same time.

It can also mean that events happen less frequently.  Imagine a scenario for Friday Night Magic where 12 players have shown up to play.  Six of the players want to play Standard, while the other six want to play Brawl.  You now have a scenario where there are more than enough players for one of the events to happen, but the possibility of neither event happening (except as a casual event) because neither event reached the 8-player minimum needed for a sanctioned event.  That can create a feel-bad moment for some players.

Will Brawl Last?

I think the fact that Brawl is a format that was introduced by Wizards of the Coast rather than a fan-created format makes it more likely that Brawl will be relevant for at least the next couple of years.  It does seem that the format was introduced at the perfect time since Dominaria is full of Legendary creatures.  Once Dominaria rotates out of Standard, it’s anyone’s guess whether the format will continue, since the amount of Legendary creatures will shrink dramatically.  However, I’m hopeful that Wizards of the Coast has planned for this to ensure the format survives.

Wrapping Up

I’m cautiously optimistic about Brawl.  Originally I was skeptical, however as time goes on I become more and more accepting of having it as a new format.  What do you think about Brawl?  Do you think it will last, or will it die much like Tiny Leaders and Frontier did?  Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.  Or you can reply to me directly on Twitter (@mikelikesmtg), or email me directly at mikelikesmtg@gmail.com.  And, don’t forget to like our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MTGDeckTechs/) to be sure to be notified when a new article is posted.

Also, be sure to check out my articles every Thursday on GatheringMagic.com.  If you like the innovative decks I write about here each week, you’ll want to check out my articles there as well.

Be sure to join me back here next week for another installment of Raise Your Standards.  I’ll see you then!

Mike Likes


Mike Likes

Mike Likes

Mike started playing Magic back in 1994, but gave it up at the end of 1995. He came back to the game during the Lorwyn block and has been playing ever since. Around this time, he opened and ran his own comic & game store, while also raising his newborn daughter. After 8 years, he sold his business and moved to Wisconsin with his wife and daughter. With the debut of Kaladesh, his entire family became regular Magic players. He now has hopes of competing alongside his wife and daughter at a Grand Prix or similar event in the future. #MTGDad

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