If you’ve been drafting Guilds of Ravnica, you’ve probably come away with lots of exciting cards. And if you’re new to Magic, or haven’t played with new cards in a while, you might be looking for something to do with them.
One of the best formats to use new cards in is Brawl. It’s a 60-card singleton format, which is especially nice if you don’t yet have duplicates of your favorite cards. It only uses cards from Standard, which means the pool of cards is small enough to not be totally overwhelming. And each Brawl deck has a Commander: a legendary creature or planeswalker that sits outside the deck and is always available to be cast. Having a Commander also provides more opportunities to get creative, since the colors of the cards you can use are limited to the colors of your Commander’s casting cost and ability costs.
Choosing spells for a Brawl deck involves the following choices:
- Choosing a Commander and a theme for the deck.
The theme can be a mechanic, a creature type, or even a combination of cards you want to try using together.
- Finding cards that use the theme.
Your first picks at this stage will probably be cards from the same set as your Commander, since those cards are all specifically designed to work well together, but cards from different sets in the same Standard environment are also designed to work together, so you should always be able to find enough cards that do approximately what you want.
- Choosing cards to slow your opponents down.
These include cards that counter spells and cards that destroy or exile things that have already been cast.
Guilds of Ravnica has ten potential Commanders – two from each guild in the set – and each guild is represented by a mechanic that could be a good starting point for building a deck. As an example, I’m going to walk you through the structure of the Card Kingdom preconstructed deck Blade of the Brigade, which uses the Boros mechanic, Mentor. Mentor allows powerful creatures to increase the power of smaller creatures, building up to a decisive victory.
Choosing a Commander and theme
Both of the legendary creatures in Boros colors (red and white) have Mentor. Which is the better Commander, though? Which one do you want to be able to cast multiple times over the course of a game?
Mentor puts +1/+1 counters on creatures until their power is equal to the power of the creature mentoring them, which means there’s only so much mentoring you can get out of any one creature. Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice can target herself with her third ability, allowing her to attack as a 4/5 and letting her mentor more often. She also has flying, which makes her hard for opponents to block.
Tajic, Legion’s Edge is smaller, which means he can do less mentoring, but his third ability is also really exciting, and it’s one you’ll want to have access to as much as possible: he prevents noncombat damage dealt to other creatures you control. This means that, in order to use removal spells to get rid of your creatures, your opponent is going to have to focus on getting rid of Tajic first – and if Tajic is your Commander, you can just cast him again and keep protecting your creatures. You can even use board wipes like Deafening Clarion to destroy all your opponents’ creatures and then attack with all of your own for potentially lethal damage.
Tajic it is!
Choosing cards that use your theme
Now you’ll need to find as many cards with Mentor as you can. Here’s a list of things to look for in your collection. The rest of your creatures should mostly have low power so they can be mentored, and have abilities like vigilance, flying, and first strike that make them powerful attackers on their own. Blade of the Brigade does this well. Some highlights of the list include Swiftblade Vindicator, a great mentor target with three useful abilities, and Bounty Agent, which can destroy opposing Commanders.
This deck will also benefit from having three to five non-creature spells that make attacking with lots of creatures more effective. Look for cards that increase the power of all your creatures, or spells that give all your creatures first strike or vigilance. Blade of the Brigade only has one of these, Heroic Reinforcements, but since a Mentor deck wins by attacking with lots of creatures at once, it’s a good idea to add a few more.
My favorite card in this category is Pride of Conquerors, which gives an extra bonus if you have lots of creatures to attack with. (Lands and enchantments also count toward the bonus, but in this deck, you should have a lot of creatures available to attack with.)
Slowing down your opponent
Tajic’s damage prevention ability can help you turn games around once you fall behind. If you’re planning to modify Blade of the Brigade, you’ll want to include cards that help you take advantage of it, such as spells that damage or destroy all creatures. You’ll also want one or two cards that destroy artifacts and enchantments, and one or two cards that destroy or exile a single creature. All these cards should ideally cost three mana or less, so you can cast them at any time you need them.
Putting it all together
In general, I recommend aiming for 33-38 spells, 20-25 of which are creatures and 10-15 of which are non-creature spells. Since this deck is supposed to be heavy on attackers, you might go a little heavier on creatures and slightly lighter on lands.
Don’t forget to include non-basic lands in your deck, if you have them – Sacred Foundry, Clifftop Retreat, and even Boros Guildgate are good to have for fixing your mana, and if you’ve got a Memorial to Glory, you can sacrifice it in a pinch to make more targets for Mentor.
Keep in mind that your decklist is not set in stone. You’ve got a whole year to iterate on your deck before the cards start leaving Standard, so test it as often as you can and swap out cards that don’t work. Maybe you want more big creatures to make the deck more powerful; or you want more small creatures instead, to make it faster; or you want to switch out some of the big board wipes for single-target removal so you can respond more readily to other players’ decks.
Here’s an example of a deck you can build by modifying Blade of the Brigade. It has a higher percentage of cards from Guilds of Ravnica, since those are the cards you’re most likely to have available. This deck also focuses more on strengthening your own attackers than on removing your opponents’ blockers. This makes the deck a little faster and more proactive than the original precon. The remaining removal takes advantage of Tajic’s damage protection ability.
Valor, Justice, Law
Tajic, Legion’s Edge
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
Light of the Legion
Make a Stand
Pride of Conquerors
The First Eruption