Brawl is coming to Arena!
So what is Brawl, and why should you care? If you’re not familiar with Brawl, or it’s older brother Commander (aka Elder Dragon Highlander), here’s a quick primer.
Brawl is a 60 card Constructed format. Each of these decks will have a “Commander” – that is a Legendary Creature, or in this case also a Planeswalker, who sits in the Command Zone. What is the Command Zone? Well, I probably should do a whole article on Zones, but the Command Zone is where your Planeswalker Emblems sit. Aside from that, and Commanders, it’s not used for much.
You can cast your Commander from your Command Zone anytime you could cast a Creature or Planeswalker. (Note, if you have something that modifies the timing, likeVivien, Champion of the Wilds, then you can cast your Commander at instant speed, if it’s applicable to that card type.) Whenever your Commander would change Zones – this means things like going from the Battlefield to your hand, or to the Graveyard, or being Exiled, or from your Hand to your Graveyard – you may choose to put it back into the Command Zone.
Each time you cast your Commander out of the Command Zone after the first, there’s a “Commander Tax” – which means that you’ll have to pay an additional 2 generic mana to cast it. For example Emmara, Soul of the Accord costs 2 the first time you cast her (GW), then 4 (2GW), then 6 (4GW), etc… This only applies to casting it from the Command Zone. If it gets bounced to your hand, and then you cast it from your hand, there’s no Commander Tax. Likewise, if you could cast it from your Graveyard – and the only example I can find of this in Standard is Squee, the Immortal – there’s no Commander tax there either.
There’s two basic deck-building restrictions in Brawl. First, it’s a Singleton format. This means that each deck can only contain one named copy of any card, except for basic lands (Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, Forest). With me so far? Here’s the fun part. Second, every card in the deck must match the “color identity” of your Commander. Also, you can’t run lands that produce colored Mana which does not match your Commander’s color identity.
Color identity is determined by the color of mana symbols in the Commander’s casting cost, PLUS any colored mana symbols in its rules text (excluding “reminder text”)
Blind Obedience only has a White color identity because the hybrid Mana symbol is in the text that explains how Extort works.
Here’s some examples:
Chandra has a Mono-Red color identity. Each card in a deck with Chandra must be either mono-Red or have a Colorless color identity (For example Rakdos Locket has a B/R color identity, so you couldn’t play it with Chandra).
With Chandra as your Commander, the only Basic land you can run is Mountain. You could not run a Shock Land, like Stomping Ground, even though it has the “Mountain” type. You can run lands that have no color identity, like Arch of Orazca, or Blast Zone. You can run lands that produce multiple colors, as long as they don’t specifically contain a mana symbol not aligned with your Commander’s color identity, for example Interplanar Beacon, or Lotus Field, or Unclaimed Territory. You can also run colored aligned non-basic lands, like Memorial to War. All this applies to any other mono-colored Commander. Fblthp, the Lost can only run Islands, Baird, Steward of Argive can only run Plains, Isareth the Awakener can only run Swamps, and Marwyn, the Nurturer can only run Forests.
Sorin and Kaya both have a Black/White color identity. Hybrid mana symbols count as both colors for the purpose of Brawl.
Nicky B has a Grixis color identity (Grixis is the name for the U/R/B “Shard” color pairing) You do not have to actually run all three colors in your deck. You could use him as a commander for a B/U or U/R, or R/B deck.
Ugin has a Colorless color identity. It would be very hard to build a Brawl deck around him, because you cannot run any Basic Lands. Frankly, I think it might be impossible, but I’d love to see your list, if you manage it.
Golos is a 5 color commander. Because his activated ability is WUBRG, that counts toward his color identity. There’s absolutely no restrictions to what you can put in a Golos deck, aside from the Singleton restriction.
Well, that’s the basics of the Brawl format. So why should you care? Brawl coming to Arena is great – and a net positive for everyone – for a variety of reasons.
Singleton formats are just fun. We’ve had them come through on Arena as special events from time to time, and they’re always entertaining – well except for the Rat and Petitioner decks. Having a Commander adds an extra layer of depth to the game play. They’re also much more accessible to newer players, because you only need one copy of each card, instead of 3-4.
If you enjoy brewing, Brawl is a fantastic format. It’s narrow enough to give you starting parameters, but broad enough to let you really express your creativity, and your individual preferences for play style and color.
Even if you’re not interested in playing Brawl, it’s serving a currently unrepresented segment of the Magic community – Commander players. While we can be confident that we’re not going to see any multiplayer formats on Arena anytime in the near future, it’s good to give an onramp to Singleton fans. That just means more people who’ll be enjoying Arena, which means that Arena will keep going strong.
I’m looking forward to brewing up some Brawl decks, and I’ll see you in the Arena.