Brawl is set to become a permanent game mode in Magic Arena with the release of Core Set 2021. The format was initially brought to Arena in October 2019 with some controversy because the mode was only available on Wednesdays.
Brawl is similar to the Commander format in Magic. Brawl decks consist of 59 single copy cards and a commander who’s either a legendary creature or planeswalker. Each card in the deck also has to match the color identity of the commander and be Standard legal.
Since Brawl is available at all times, here are the top commanders and strategies to build the best deck in Brawl via Arena.
Esika, God of the Tree // The Prismatic Bridge
Players looking to use all of their favorite Rare and Mythic Rare cards in one deck look to Esika as the perfect catch-all general. This five-color God fills the role that Kenrith, the Returned King occupied before rotation as the best “good stuff” deck in the format.
The front side of the card is a solid ramp effect that rewards a deck full of legendary Creatures. Esika is a good 1/4 body that produces mana and enables other legendaries to produce mana. In a five-color deck, this is a valuable ability to have because the mana costs are going to be demanding.
But Esika wouldn’t be one of the best cards in Brawl if it were just a boosted Paradise Druid. The back side of Esika, The Prismatic Bridge, is a game-breaking effect that will produce overwhelming value if it’s allowed to stick around for more than a turn.
The Prismatic Bridge represents a bomb directly on the battlefield every turn. Most decks don’t have enough removal or can produce enough pressure to swing the game in their favor after The Prismatic Bridge resolves.
Tergrid, God of Fright // Tergrid’s Lantern
Tergrid is the meanest deck in Brawl. This whole strategy centers around forcing the opponent to discard and sacrifice nontoken permanents and gaining control of them. It’s a great deck that attacks an opponent’s resources on different levels.
Sacrifice-based removal is hard to deal with compared to targeted spells. Sacrifice gets around Indestructible, Ward, and Hexproof abilities. It also makes opposing sacrifice strategies fail because you gain control of their key pieces.
Discard effects should take precedence when building a Tergrid deck. Discard drains your opponent of resources and generally lets you pick what card they lose. This is a powerful selection when paired with Tergrid.
While the deck is relying on Tergrid to work, it’s important to have backup win conditions. As a five-mana commander, a couple of removal spells will make Tergrid too expensive to reasonably cast. Adding other strong Black win conditions like Professor Onyx and Dreadfast Demon.
Volo, Guide to Monsters
Volo, Guide to Monsters is similar to Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy in its ability to generate a massive battlefield in one turn. The Blue and Green card from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms wants its deck to have Creatures with different types to consistently trigger the token copying effect.
The Standard card pool is in a good place to run Blue and Green Creatures. Mono-Green Aggro is one of the top decks in Standard and is packed with cards that are individually powerful. Blue has solid top-end bombs and support cards. The hardest part is making the decision between Creatures of a similar type.
Cards like Toski, Bearer of Secrets and Mind Flayer are key additions because they are the best cards within their respective types. They are also single-type Creatures. Creatures with multiple types further limit your ability to consistently trigger Volo.
Limit the number of legendary cards in the deck to only one or two. The legend rule will force the copy to be sacrificed.
Xanathar, Guild Kingpin
Control mages must look at Xanathar, Guild Kingpin as the strongest card to lead a traditional no-fun Brawl deck. This deck doesn’t rely on Xanathar to win the game. It plays a normal Blue and Black control gameplan with loads of removal and countermagic. Xanathar is a finisher that’s always available and demands an answer before it takes over the game.
Look to lean on Black’s incredible suite of removal that is legal in Brawl. Bloodchief’s Thirst, Infernal Graps, and The Meathook Massacre will deal with any opposing threat. Blue provides disruptive Creatures in Ruin Crab and Mind Flayer.
Generally, a Xanathar will lean on Black because of its strength in the format. The sacrifice synergy between Skullport Merchant and Shambling Ghast works in any shell and Lolth, Spider Queen is one of the best stabilizing cards in the format.
Tovolar, Dire Overlord // Tovolar, the Midnight Scourge
Werewolf tribal is a strategy that looks to blitz the opponent with large aggressive Creatures. Tovolar turns Werewolves from a fun deck to a threatening force in Brawl. The ability to draw cards and transform your Wolves and Werewolves are key aspects of Tovolar. The deck doesn’t fall apart if you can’t resolve it, but it definitely loses a lot of bite.
Innistrad: Crimson Vow introduced Avabruck Caretaker // Hollowhenge Huntmaster as one of the best top-end cards in a Werewolf deck. If this card flips to its Nightbound side every Creature gets Hexproof. This blanks targeted removal and the +1/+1 Counters it gives out will get out of hand quickly.
Other key cards are Reckless Stormseeker and Kessig Naturalist. Reckless Stormseeker is a powerful spell that gives other Creatures haste. Kessig Naturalist is a necessary ramp spell that will enable two-spell turns.