Brawl is set to become a permanent game mode on 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.
Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy
Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy is all about ramping faster than any other deck in Brawl. Kinnan’s first ability makes nonland permanents tap for one additional mana of the same type. This ability supercharges Simic ramp.
To enable this strategy, Kinnan needs mana rocks and mana dorks. Paradise Druid’s hexproof stops most early removal. Leafkin Druid and Incubation Druid can tap for more than one mana in the mid to late game. At the top end, Nyxbloom Ancient is the most powerful creature in the deck for generating mana by tripling the mana produced by permanents you control..
What can be done with all this mana? The classic Finale of Devastation for 10+ mana into End Raze Forerunners is always a strong finisher. Casting massive X spells like Hydroid Krasis, Voracious Hydra, or Mass Manipulation are effective mana sinks that ensure victory with enough mana.
Kinnan’s activated ability shouldn’t be underestimated either. Reaching the seven mana required to activate this ability is a breeze in this deck. Great creatures to hit with Kinnan’s ability are Kogla, the Titan Ape, Meteor Golem, or Cavalier of Thorns.
Kenrith, the Returned King
The most versatile commander on this list, Kenrith, the Returned King can do everything. This five-color commander comes with a slew of activated abilities on a 5/5 body for five mana. While Kenrith can just be a five-color good stuff commander, he shines when used in a control shell to grind out value with his abilities.
For most players, the relevant activated abilities on Kenrith are his draw a card (3U) and gain five life (2W) abilities. It takes a lot of mana to get Kenrith’s engine going so add control pieces like Kaya’s Wrath and Deafening Clarion to rid the board of any early aggro coming your way.
Once the board is cleared and you’ve stocked up some mana it’s time to start playing bombs like the recently banned from standard Agent of Treachery, Thassa, Deep Dwelling, or Genesis Ultimatum.
A control deck in 2020 wouldn’t be complete without some busted planeswalkers. Use Teferi, Time Raveler and Narset, Parter of Veils to control the board while Liliana, Dreadhorde General and Ugin, the Ineffable create tokens and card advantage.
Five-color decks are in a good position with shock lands, temples, Fabled Passage, and efficient ramp making multi-colored decks consistent. Niv-Mizzet Reborn is more focused than other five-color Brawl options. The strategy revolves around building insurmountable value through the formats best two-colored cards.
It’s important to get each color online quickly due to the intense color requirements of most cards in the deck. Chromatic Lantern and Smothering Tithe can alleviate the stress of color requirements. It takes until turn five for Niv-Mizzet Reborn to start taking over the game so early removal and disruption are crucial. Thought Erasure and Assassin’s Trophy can deal with early threats and can be fetched with Niv-Mizzet’s ETB ability.
Speaking of Niv-Mizzet’s ETB ability, it’s the driving force behind the deck’s value engine. Niv-Mizzet fetches 3-4 cards on average per ETB trigger. The ability can close out the game by finding you a Dream Trawler to play onto a locked-down board.
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
If you’re looking to cram 10 games of Brawl into an hour Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is the perfect option. Since Torbran was released in Throne of Eldraine he’s been a premier aggro option.
At four CMC (1RRR) Torbran can end the game fast. If a red source you control would deal damage to a player or a permanent they control it deals two extra damage when Torbran is on the battlefield. This means a Skewer the Critics hits for five. A Scorch Spitter can deal six damage off an unblocked attack.
Since this is an aggro deck it’s important to end the game as fast as possible, especially with control commanders like Kenrith running around. Early threats Fervent Champion and Bone-Crusher Giant can chunk the opponent down before Torbran comes out on turn four. Ideally, when Torbran enters the battlefield the opponent is sitting with close to 15 life. Chandra, Acolyte of Flame and Legion Warboss can provide the attackers to end the game.
In the unfortunate event a game goes long, consider adding some late-game firepower like Drakuseth, Maw of Flames.
Korvold, Fae Cursed King
This dragon has seen some standard play and for good reason. While Korvold is expensive at 2BRG his impact on the game is worth it. Korvold gets a +1 +1 counter and draws a card for each permanent you sacrifice. With the sacrifice theme being well supported in the current meta this engine is one of the easier to get going.
There are plenty of sacrifice outlets worth putting in the deck. The best outlet by far is Woe Strider. It’s a free, repeatable sacrifice outlet that ETBs with some 0/1 fodder to get things going. Ayara, First of Locthwain, Erebos, Bleak-Hearted, Witch’s Oven, and Priest of Forgotten Gods are strong sacrifice outlets that generate late-game value.
Who are the lucky creatures that will get sacrificed? Cauldron Familiar is a strong option, especially when combined with Witch’s Oven. Izoni, Thousand-Eyed can create a legion of sacrifice fodder with her undergrowth trigger.
There are some powerful sacrifice payoffs in the format. Mayhem Devil pings any target for one with each permanent sacrificed by either player. Syr Konrad, the Grim deals one to each opponent when a creature enters or leaves your graveyard. Konrad combos well with Command the Dreadhorde as a late-game finisher.
Be careful against an opponent playing Tamiyo, Collector of Tales. A lot of players forget about her passive ability which prevents your spells from causing the opponent to discard cards or sacrifice permanents. It can shut down your gameplan.