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Get Ready to Brawl

Hello all! I hope you are having a great day today!

This week I wanted to focus on some Brawling fun times. Today I’ll look at some early decks after playing around with the format for a couple of weeks, and then tomorrow we’ll look at my Top Ten list for Commanders after getting in some play.

Today I want to look at three builds, two of whose leaders are making my list tomorrow, and a third with a leader that I think might be a little bit better for its color combination that the scuttlebutt.

Let’s get started!

Nissa, Steward of Elements

So this deck is a ug deck, and you can build your ug Brawl deck in a few directions. One looks downright Simic with +1/+1 counters and cards like Armorcraft Judge. That’s fine. Another is a big spells deck led by Rashmi, Eternities Crafter. But the third that I think plays the best for the color combination in the format is Nissa, Steward of Elements.

Nissa is more reliable. Getting a 3-drop ‘walker to hit with her and add that early scrying is going to pay off dividends for the rest of the game. When she dies, you can easily bring her back for another iteration. She has game early and late, and she works with power cards in the format, such as Heart of Kiran.

She also works well with various ramping effects too, because as you make your mana better Nissa gets closer to playing at ultimate level immediately. Nissa is very powerful for these two colors, so don’t sleep on her.

I put in most of the mana ramp cards you’d expect to see here, such as Thunderherd Migration, Wild Wanderer, and Hour of Promise.

One of my favorite here is Avid Reclaimer:

Avid Reclaimer
Weaver of Currents
Hope Tender

Isn’t that a pretty good card? You are probably going to be controlling a Nissa planeswalker, after all, right? It taps for your colors, and helps you out. I am also running creatures like Weaver of Currents and Hope Tender as creature-ramping. Mana ramping is important, and creature-based ramping is vital as well!

The deck also wants to reward mana-ramping cleverly. Since I am ramping for Nissa anyway, I might as well add in some effects that also want to use and harness that mana base as well!

My favorite here is likely Wildest Dreams.

Wildest Dreams
Pull from Tomorrow

Without a mana ramping deck, it’s still fine at three or five mana. But if you can get it to seven or nine mana, then you are beginning to really push card advantage into the next stratosphere. It’s a powerful effect for this deck!

And of course, it’s not the only one here either. Pull from Tomorrow plays incredibly well with an engorged mana base. Drawing a ton of cards is just sexy. And again, even at lower costs, a five mana instant that draws three and discards one is satisfactory. Drawing four and discarding one for 6 is fine too. But it’ll scale up powerfully.

Another scaling effect is getting out dorks.

Vizier of the Menagerie
Uncage the Menagerie

Both of these Menagerie loving cards are also solid here. Vizier of the Menagerie provides the opportunity to cast dorks on top of your library for free, and thus use your mana. Uncage the Menagerie also wants to tutor up a few creatures, and the bigger the better. (I adore it at five mana – getting three 3-drops for Jadelight Ranger, Prowling Serpopard, and something else).

You’ll also see cards here like Walking Ballista or Arch of Orazca that have obvious ways to use any extra mana we happen across.

I also am running mana-ramping or card drawing from other places too, like Kumena's Awakening or Bounty of the Luxa. Don’t forget the power of Path of Discovery either!

Path of Discovery

Exploring is good. You are either getting a land or making that dork even bigger. Even small threats are major when they get a little bigger for the same price. You can also decide what to do with the non-land, either keep it on top to draw it, or send to the graveyard. Consider just one example of two under-the-numbers card here:

Thrashing Brontodon

These guys aren’t getting played for how powerful they are in the red-zone, but instead of good they are with destroying stuff you don’t like. And yet, with Path out, even if you miss on the land, Brontodon is now a 4/5 Dinosaur of Destruction and the Manglehorn an effective 3/3 for three mana. And this continues elsewhere as Hope Tender or Skyship Plunderer are also doing some powerful stuff.

Also, while I am talking about Nissa, let me give you a little tip. If your Commander is a planeswalker, especially a cheap one, then Heart of Kiran is downright amazing.

Heart of Kiran

For example, imagine this:

Turn two — Cast Heart of Kiran

Turn three – Cast Nissa, Steward of Elements. Give her +2 to scry 2. After resolving her, remove a loyalty to swing with the Heart. Hit someone for 4 flying vigilance damage

Because the Heart is still out and can block, you can pull loyalty off to protect Nissa, so someone can’t attack into her on their turns, thus making the Heart the obvious must play with a ‘walker. I think Nissa plays as the most abusive ‘walker with a Heart.

And that’s pretty much my Nissa deck! I have a few cards in here as answers to problems that occur, like Blossoming Defense, Insidious Will, Heroic Intervention, and Disallow. Between those, you can counter abilities, spells, fork a spell, redirect it elsewhere, give yourself hexproof or indestructible. So there are a quartet of answers in here as well.

And that’s my Nissa deck! I hope you enjoyed it!

Two more left!

Depala, Pilot Exemplar

And there we are! Depala is strong for a number of reasons, but one is her resilience. If someone clears the board with a Fumigate or similar board-wipe spell, then Depala’s investment in vehicles can still get you a win. You can crew Heart of Kiran with a loyalty counter, use Peacewalker Colossus to smash with the other Vee’s, cast Fleetwheel Cruiser itself to get one free hit in, or cast a dork and then tap to crew, so you can immediately swing. That gives Depala a level of synergetic power that many other tribal leaders lack. You can go with Dwarves and tokens, and Vees to pilot as well, thus giving multiple vectors of attack, and thus requiring multiple methods to shut down. It’s harder to stop Depala’s deck that many other quick tribal leaders.

Let’s look at some synergies here as well to explore the why more:

Don’t forget that Hazoret and Oketra both make ideal pilots in case they can’t attack or swing, they can still ride a vehicle and smash away. They also both provide useful outlets for shooting folks or making dorks. Oketra’s dork making is particularly compelling as she can net you the needed power to crew up a deck. That’s a similar space to Master Trinketeer, Angel of Invention, or Pia Nalaar.

There is also a lot of pro-artifact synergy here as well. Now, I had to cut cards like Walking Ballista, Inventor's Apprentice, or Combustible Gearhulk that were strong pro-artifact options but not on theme. But I am still running stuff like Refurbish, Inventor's Fair or . . . 

Restoration Specialist

 . . . Restoration Specialist! These synergies that let you push your deck well into a strong place, as they meet your Dwarf need as well as tie into the pro-artifact theme. You’ll be happy to see this as a Dwarf body, and then as a means to recur a Skysovereign later after it was smashed down onto the ground in multiple pieces.

Solemn Recruit
Toolcraft Exemplar
Fairgrounds Warden
Veteran Motorist

The good thing about Depala is that not only does she pump your folks, but she provides a lot of cad advantage too. And we have a number of Dwarves that are great to see. We have scry-into Pilot Veteran Motorist or Fairgrounds Warden as a subtle answer or the Exemplar and Recruit as powerful as well. These Dwarves just have so much synergy with the deck, and the fact that they are cheap lets you cast two or three when Depala taps and X’s into more than one.

Depala manages the pieces well! She is, by far, the best tribal leader in Brawl.

  1. Two great colors
  2. Pumps both her tribe and Vee’s
  3. Has built in card advantage that works over time
  4. Has built in resiliency
  5. Is cheap and can be easily recast over and over again
  6. Tribal has strong synergy with her other strategy

What’s not to love?

Neheb, the Worthy

Compare her to, say, Neheb, the Worthy. Both are 3-drops, and both give stuff to your team — Neheb gives first strike and +2 in the front (at times). Neheb can also force everyone to discard when you hit, so there is some advantage there. But Neheb is clearly not winning this battle:

  1. Neheb is smaller
  2. Neheb only grants +2/+0 sometimes
  3. Neheb is easy to answer – just block the 2/2
  4. Neheb supports nothing else.
  5. Depala on the other hand, can tap to crew a Vee or tap to attack, and before you block, she can use her ability to X and draw two or three Dwarves or Vehicles

And as you start to look at other tribe enablers in Standard that are legal for Brawl, no one else comes out as well as Depala.

She is the Exemplar!

One deck left!

Now, the first Neheb may not be really potent, but the second?

For my final deck, I am just going to give you a taste. Tomorrow, as this leader makes my Top Ten, I will talk about it more extensively, but it’s good, trust me. It combines ramp, power, burn, and removal in one color.

Neheb, the Eternal

I will talk tomorrow about how Neheb, the Eternal is such as powerful Commander in Brawl, when I clock in my Top Ten List.

This is, in fact, how glory looks!

Now let’s drill down into Neheb for a bit.

Neheb really does a few things well. First, Neheb himself has afflict: 3. If you block Neheb, you will lose three life. If you don’t block Neheb, you will take four damage. If Neheb survives combat, then I will always make at least 3 mana from Neheb alone. Now, Neheb has an awesome tool:

Key to the City
Tilonalli's Summoner

This is a great way to ensure you swing with Neheb into an empty board, and still maximize your mana-making potential.

That means every creature in this deck will add to Neheb’s mana making frenzy when you swing and hit a player. And a card like Tilonalli's Summoner will help to make that a reality. You can smash someone hard after making many of these creature tokens. If you have ascend, they’ll stay around for more turns, and if not, they still hit for damage to convert to mana.

Neheb really wants more two things to work. Burn on the one side, and then cards that can use a lot of mana made.

Here are some cool mana sinks:

Welder Automaton
Walking Ballista

There’s no question that cards like Welder Automaton or Walking Ballista can be used as mana sinks for extra mana that Neheb makes. You can also see Arch of Orazca or Zealot of the God-Pharaoh in here as well.

It’s also no secret that my Neheb deck plays some strong mid-range bodies, that you can cast well, things with a big board presence like Etali, Primal Storm that can punch people hard while making more mana for the fuel. Cards like Glorybringer have a powerful presence. There’s also a lot of useful burn too, and burn spells you might have mentally relegated as Limited-only are suddenly nasty here:

Hungry Flames
Liberating Combustion
Insult // Injury

You’ll find a lot of powerful adjuncts to your strategy, from Chandra, Torch of Defiance to Combustible Gearhulk and more.

Well, I hope that you enjoyed my trio of decks!

What have you built around in Brawl so far? Anything you find to be overrated or underrated? Check us out tomorrow when I look at the Top Ten Commanders for Brawl!

Dominaria is Now Available for Preorder!