Dominaria will be remembered, even if minorly, as the Brawl set. Excitement and support for the format mounts. Dominaria adds nearly double the number of available commanders to play around with to the new format. Some are misses in the format, but most bring exciting new corners of this cardgame to explore. Join me in welcoming the new legendary figures to the spellslinging world of Brawl.
Adeliz, the Cinder Wind — The Wizard support in Standard seems a tad light for a singleton format, but considering this deck is also a spell-slinging one it may work out well. Probably not going to be the most powerful Brawl leader, but she is the best choice for your Wizards in Brawl.
Arvad the Cursed — Arvad’s stats are fantastic for a commander in this format. Creating legendary tribal is difficult. It may be still worthwhile to run a partial theme and just use Arvad as value. I doubt the Vampire creature type will be impactful, but someone will toy around with it.
Aryel, Knight of Windgrace — Support for knight tribal is surprisingly one of the best. There are quality creatures all along the curve, and the knights-matters cards are impactful. She is fantastic herself to boot. There is little not to like when she makes guys and Terminates too. She works well with current format contenders like Paradox Engine or with your draft chaff. Aryel will be a force to be reckoned with until she rotates.
Baird, Steward of Argive — I’m not sure what sort of mono-white deck is out there with Baird at the helm, but Ghostly Prison effects are fantastic in multiplayer. Probably better as a 99, but I would love to see some creative lists. Whatever is done with it probably involves Fall of the Thran.
Danitha Capashen, Paragon — Danitha is great! If there were commander damage in Brawl this would be the Rafiq of the format. Regardless, she will be fun to play.
Darigaaz Reincarnated — This card could have been Scornful Egotist in the Jund colors and been playable. There is a serious lack of three-color options for commanders and people love playing themselves some Jund. Darigaaz is a beater in the air and you don’t have to pay the commander tax if you don’t wish. Jund/Rock deck will exist in every format.
Demonlord Belzenlok — One life for one card is always a good rate. When you stick that card draw on an elder demon you are in some fantastic territory. I love a commander that draws you cards, and even if this ends up being the most horrifying Dusk Legion Zealot you have ever seen, it is still fantastic. When you cast Belzenlok and you hit multiple times that can turn a game from a losing position to winning. Panharmonicon for extra fun.
Evra, Halcyon Witness — Bring out your Key to the City. When you attack with this beast you will probably want to have eight mana held up instead of four. You may need to give yourself a little more wiggle room than four life when they inevitably Vraska’s Contempt this away. Eternalizing Evra with God-Pharaoh’s Gift in Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun list is probably where you want to be.
Firesong and Sunspeaker — These bovine siblings are my favorite Boros commanders in EDH; nothing changes for Brawl. Sweltering Suns gains you a billion life and Approach of the Second Sun domes someone for seven. The twins are twice the fun.
Garna, the Bloodflame — She is the cycling commander we needed in Ahmonket. She costs a lot, but in a world where we have Gilded Lotus we are doing better on the high-cost commander front. She recovers you from an opposing Fumigate and you get to punish the player who played it with hasty threats.
Grand Warlord Radha — Radha is my type of commander. I love that she has a big butt (at four toughness) and she ramps you into “X” cost spells or more dudes to defend you. Jaya’s Immolating Inferno is a beating with Radha on the field. Any commander that can either ramp or draw you cards is my type of playstyle; deckbuilding is skewed toward more action.
Hallar, the Firefletcher — Not bad, but call me back if the next sets have more kicker.
Jaya Ballard — Really, all you’re looking at is the ultimate. She doesn’t do enough otherwise. If you can make that happen, then she is all worthwhile. Mono-red control may become a thing here. Hour of Devastation doesn’t work well with her on the field, which is too bad since that is the best Red has for mass removal. This would be a tricky build, and I’m not sure where she fits into Brawl, if at all.
Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain — Draw engine, yay! Jhoira is the artifact commander we want Saheeli Rai to be. Her power level may drop significantly when Kaladesh rotates out in the fall with all the artifacts. The legendaries alone may not be enough to make her tick as a powerful general. She works fantastically as a place to put Standard’s new Gilded Lotus and Paradox Engine combo.
Jodah, Archmage Eternal — There are few cards in Standard I would rather pay WUBRG for rather than the cost. Even still, access to a five-color general is a good thing. Color fixing in singleton with Standard’s card pool means you have few ways to make this work as well as it does in EDH.
Josu Vess, Lich Knight — At four mana this card is fine and could go into various knight decks. At ten mana Josu is a big bag of zombified bananas. I can’t guarantee ten mana is reliable, but I can guarantee you this is the sort of crazy stuff Brawl was made for.
Karn, Scion of Urza — I’m still waiting for Wizards of the Coast to fix colorless decks in Brawl. I’m also not sure if colorless is good. If both those cases happen then I will be excited to play this beefy card advantage engine.
Kazarov, Sengir Pureblood — White is a much better secondary color for Vampires right now than Red is, but even then this card isn’t bad. Seven mana is rough. I get that, but Kazarov’s triggered ability is amazing when teamed with any mass-damage spell, like Sweltering Suns. His activated ability, too, is expensive, but still relevant. Mana-sinks in this format are very important. There comes a time where your best option is to sink mana into activated abilities rather than commit more to an already clogged board. I don’t think this is the best Vampire choice if you are going for the tribal theme, but if you do decide to pick him up you will find something fun to do.
Kwende, Pride of Femeref — This is my sort of pet card. My favorite ability in Magic is double strike. Double strike is amazing, but with the limited card pool of Brawl, and the mono-colored nature of this card I’m not feeling this one as a commander. As support, I’m higher on it. He probably does some work in Samut, Voice of Dissent. He also might be a nice inclusion in…
Lyra Dawnbringer — I’ll just say that you don’t need Angel tribal themes to make this new Baneslayer Angel a good commander. Lifegain matters a lot in this format. An evasive, recursive threat that keeps you on your feet is one of the best things you can hope for. The Angels you can take advantage of for the lifelink, while not plentiful, are powerful. Even if you don’t want her as your commander, do yourself a favor and grab one of these to play in Brawl for the next couple years. You won’t regret it.
Marwyn, the Nurturer — Marwyn seems to have the same problem as many other commanders here. They don’t work in Brawl because the support for their tribe is lacking. She is interesting as a ramp card. If you can find a way to give here more power then you may be able to rush out big bad Green creatures. I’m not sure what that build looks like though, and frankly, I’m less interested in that idea than just brewing with someone else.
Muldrotha, the Gravetide — Muldrotha is the best commander in the set. No question, for either EDH or Brawl. The diversity of three colors is great and access to such amazing recursion is unparalleled in Standard. Sagas, artifacts, self-mill, superfriends, deserts, or anything else your heart desires. So long as you have permanents in the graveyard to get back, then this giant, antler wielding, tentacled, slime-infested, elemental woman is your commander. The only problem is six can be a bit much at times. Really though, there is no reason we won’t see her running around every game store.
Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar — I love that you get what is likely a 6/6 to start and she only gets bigger from there. Not only does she get bigger, but she will rarely cost much more than six to cast. I like her more than our ape friend from earlier too. Having trample and a theme to build around is lots of fun.
Naban, Dean of Iteration — Enter the Battlefield (ETB) abilities are not plentiful on Wizards in Standard, but if you can reliably find a way to get Arcane Adaptation this could get to be lots of silly fun interactions. Having a reliable way to find Panharmonicon sounds better.
Naru Meha, Master Wizard — As was pointed out to me in my Blue set review, this card goes (technically) infinite with Illusionist’s Stratagem. You can draw as many cards as you wish (limit being there is no Laboratory Maniac), or combo with Sailor of Means to make tons of treasure. If you’re trying to just make Wizard tribal without infinite combos then Adeliz, the Cinder Wind has red. That being said, there is nothing wrong with giving Naru Meha a shot.
Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage — Raff is one of those legendaries from Dominaria that I have no idea why he isn’t rare. Casting your deck, if you build right, with flash is phenomenal. Josh Lee Kwai has touted the power of Vedalken Orrery many times on the Command Zone. I love the idea of casting planeswalkers at instant speed. Specifically Gideon, Martial Paragon when you have Gideon of the Trials emblam on the field.
Rona, Disciple of Gix — Rona has a lot of play to her. She can be pure value town, drawing extra cards, or you can use her as a recursion engine for sagas. Phyrexian Scriptures is a brutal way to repeatedly reset a Brawl game with her.
Shalai, Voice of Plenty — The two most important ways to win at Brawl are cards that break parity and mana sinks. While Shali’s activated ability is not the best available option in either of those cases, it does both while having a relevant first ability as well. A go-wide deck like this would be susceptible to mass removal. If you build and play with that in mind you will be rewarded greatly.
Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy — Brawl rewards linear strategies more than EDH did and leaning into that is probably for the best. That being said, I do love having the option to go wide and tall with Shanna. Shanna is a bit of a big dumb beating stick, but it’s fun to see that at such a low cost.
Slimefoot, the Stowaway — Saporling Tribal, what more do I need to say?
Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep — I wrote oodles about the leviathan in my Blue set review. The fishy is not the best choice for Brawl though. There are fewer ramp cards, and the tribal isn’t as cool. Pass.
Squee, the Immortal — Squeeeeeeeeeeee!
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria — Fighting for a spot as the control commander (blue/white Cheons if you will) the hero planeswalker gives Azor, the Lawbringer a run for his money. For anyone who hasn’t played against Venser, the Sojourner’s ultimate, a bit of advice, just scoop.
Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle — Unfortunately, there are few ways to break this with Standard’s card pool. Some minor ways to abuse this will be with Hope of Ghirapur, Restoration Specialist, and Encampment Keeper. Teshar is one of my favorite cards in Dominaria, so I will be scouring for lists when more are available.
Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive — Tetsuko will be crewing many an Ovalchase Dragster until fall. Defending yourself will be the only question in playing her as your leader. A team of unblockable “X/1″s sounds unbeatable if you whiff on Sweltering Suns for a few turns.
Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker — As someone who has faced down Bruna, Light of Alabaster in EDH too many times I can attest to the power of a card like this. Her attachment recursion is slow. Rebuilding could take so long that you die in the process. I’m not sure how to feel about her, but I’m glad she is an available commander here.
Torgaar, Famine Incarnate — Reducing commander tax is fantastic. Finding a way to utilize that in mono-black is difficult but not impossible. Servos, thalids, and Oketra’s Monument work well as minions to sacrifice to your avatar general. When Trogaar comes in that’s when the real party gets started. Half a player’s life is a lot. This ability also helps boatloads against lifegain.
Traxos, Scourge of Kroog — This is a big boy for little cost. I like that. Lets hope Wizards fixes colorless soon.
Urgoros, the Empty One — Too expensive. Play another black general… or don’t and have fun with something you’re not going to see everywhere.
Valduk, Keeper of the Flame — My favorite reason to play auras and equipment. Armies on every swing is fun to see every time. Strider Harness will strike fear into the eyes of others. However, be careful ruling with fear.
Verix Bladewing — Two dragons, cool. Bladewing bros is a good card, but there is nothing interesting here.
Whisper, Blood Liturgist — Demon tribal could be really fun, if a little under powered. Two creatures is a lot. Whisper will be good, but not broken.
Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp — I give this card more flack than it deserves. Five power on turn four is good, but Zahid is not interesting enough for me.
I have a few decklists I am working on for the new commanders, but I have to save those for future entries into this series. What are you brewing with? What do you think about my assessment? Did I miss something?
I look forward to seeing you in the next Let’s Brawl!