A Brawl in Ravnica (Part 1)

Brawl In Ravinca

EDITORS NOTE: At the time of writing this article, Brawl has been announced to be retiring from MTGO which closes a very few strange months for the format. While Brawl still exists and most likely will continue, its existence as a 1v1 competitive format closes the chapter on a format that is suffering at establishing its identity. Below are my thoughts on Brawl in the era of Ravinca.

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A brawl is surely brewing. Well, we hope. Brawl, for me, has been a wild ride. From excitement to hopeful to indifferent, it inquisitive, this newest format has been through some of the most rigorous criticism as it was a format that was built rather than recognized after years of play testing in the community. In its very short existence as a format, Brawl has gone through hotfixes, to dead ends, to absurd memes about its vitality in the Magic community. Its very essence lies on a weird precipice between the structure of standard and the great chasm of casual Magic. The support from Wizards has been strong in terms of coverage and discussion but sorely lacking in any meaningful product for the format. This is why Guilds of Ravnica, the first of three sets set on the world city plane, will make or break this format. Since the format rotates and thus has its decks break apart in terms of identity, its legendary creatures will define the format. This is why it is important to look at the beginnings of Ravnica through the lens of Brawl.

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Aurelia will deliver justice. Mentor is a new mechanic which places counters on creators of lesser power. Mentor is the Boros Legion’s mechanic for the set and it is perhaps the best in terms of flavor. Red / White has historically been the weakest color in a multiplayer environment. This is due to its lack of card draw and aggressive nature fizzling with multiple opponents. Aurelia seems interesting as even if you do not have an army of lesser creatures, the card by itself is a possible 4/5 with flying, vigilance and trample creature cast for 4 mana. Never mind the implications for standard, Aurelia as the brawl commander with a host of other vampire tokens and dinosaurs from Ixalan would be a potential threat and cool image to dream about. I have never been excited over red white in terms of multiplayer games. Perhaps I am not aggressive enough when it comes to multiplayer games or I am just bad at math. Aurelia and the design of Boros however does makes the possibility of red white viable with both Hualti Planewalkers as top end value and a host of low costed creatures at the bottom. Aurelia is not a game ender and in a potential brawl deck she is not the best card. She is however a big threat and for the low cost of 4 mana, you have a flying angel that needs to be dealt with lest you spend all your time crying.

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One of the more interesting aspects of Brawl is the inclusion of Planeswalkers as workable commanders. This is intriguing as Planewalkers are seen as some of the more powerful cards and having them at a players disposal at anytime (for a cost) is potentially unbalanced. Luckily this is still within standard and there have not been many overpowered Planeswalkers. Ral continues this tradition. While I feel Ral’s presence in a spellslinging counter burn deck is important (especially with that ultimate), the utility of a Planeswalker as general has to be carefully tuned as it has no way of protecting itself. Ral comes in with 5 loyalty counters which is good for a Planeswalker but unless this red blue counterburn deck has tons of cheap blockers, Ral is going to be quickly taken out by a horde of tokens from the green white player. His +1 is good for when you are winning and have no threats that are coming at your face and his -3 is disappointing it doesn’t hit any target but we cant have everything can we? Izzet is specifcally building its mechanic of Jumpstart around the fact instant and sorceries will be in your graveyard and you can cast it by discarding another card. This sort of graveyard synergy is going to be interesting as it is a dream of the spellslinger deck to be casting things from hand and graveyard and not be pummeled by the green white token deck. I am going to build Izzet Brawl when the set releases and Ral maybe a card in the 59 but not as the commander. For that there is a better more silly dragon with a smooshed face that will be leading the charge.

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Lazav returns! Lazav, Dimir Mastermind has been a popular choice for black blue commander players due to the original card being a 3/3 hexproof creature which can turn itself into any creature card when that creature enters a graveyard. The original Lazav cared very much about stealing the identity of other players creatures rather than capitalize on possible reanimation. The fact that Lazav didn’t get an enter the battlefield trigger from those cards also made it less oppressive and rather just a hexproof nuisance. New Lazav is here to ratchet down the legacy of its unimpressive name with more hoops to jump through regarding its clone animation or clonamation. New Lazav can hit its own graveyard and in fact an only hit its own graveyard. The UUBB mana cost has been slashed but the activation cost for doing the clonamation is X where X is the converted mana cost. Oh also lets remove hexproof and drop the power a bit so it can’t really do anything in combat. There we go. New Lazav! Lazav maybe interesting in a sureveil style graveyard deck where he is a good tool to also have with a full yard but wouldn’t you want to to have multiple creatures for that activation cost rather than just one masquerading as it? The benefit of old Lazav was skipping the mana cost and just profiting off other players sacrificing creatures. I don’t see this as a viable outlet for Dimir but I could be not seeing a connection.

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Oh Lordy that is a card. Remember when I said that Planewalkers were tough for making into commanders but Vraska is going to be an exception. 4 loyalty counters for 4 with a sac outlet and card draw effect on the +2 and an abrupt decay effect on the -3. The versatility on this card is amazing and in a shell of black green fuckery, this is going to get out of hand. Then there is the ultimate of supreme deathtouch. While the ultimate does seem a little of a stretch to not only have it stick around for three turns and have creatures with evasion when you get the emblem. If you have gotten to that point then you are already controlling the board and Vraska is going to nothing more than make your victory look cool and give it some style. GB already has a commander named Slimefoot which is a funny glass cannon style deck but Vraska could push for a more midrange style brawl suck with a trampling supreme deathtouch creature as a finisher. I am thinking Vraska is going to be in some sort of GBx style standard deck with cards like Assassins Trophy causing everyone praise the return of unconditional removal with little downside. Both colors and even splashing for a third have lots of different options for a deck that is going to be really gross in all formats.

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Oh Green White. You are so weak in this set. Trostani Discordant is a lot for a little payoff. Sure it comes in a deck that is built off of tokens and for 5 you get a 1/4 and two 2/2s. That would be good if it was some sort of repeatable effect but there isnt much or if any blinking effects in the brawl universe so Im working why I am spending 5 for such a weak effect. Do not get me wrong,. there are a lot of good Selensya cards in Guilds of Ravnica including the bomb split card Assure // Assemble. In fact our next article is going to feature the other Green White commander who is much more suited for the task of leading a warm and kind doves which make up this guild. Trostani Discordant does not make sense as a brawl commander and in fact I would even question it being in the 59 unless there was some sort abuse of their effects. Maybe the anthem effect is good enough for some but at 5 mana, this thing should be kicking ass and taking names rather than just giving warnings in the hallways. If the new Azorius guild has some blinking effects coming out in the next set then the combination (Bant) is going to be trouble. Until then I think ill be running to class without needing to worry.

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