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Ready to Brawl? Part 3—Ravnica Allegiance


Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome back to the third installment in this series on Brawl decks, where we’ll be tackling the guilds featured in Ravnica Allegiance: Azorius, Rakdos, Gruul, Orzhov, and Simic. Again, the decks are not explicitly intended to be guild themed unless stated, but the available card pool pushes us in that direction. And off. We. Go!

Azorius

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Theme(s): Taxes, Instant-Speed, Control

Do you take pleasure in making your opponent’s life—in this specific game—miserable? It’s okay, we -all- feel this way from time to time. The taxing aspect provided by cards such as Dovin, Hand of Control, Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor and God-Pharaoh’s Statue really slow your opponent down to a crawl. Another way to achieve this is the interaction of our commander with Rule of Law giving our opponent one spell a turn cycle with us at two thanks to Leyline of Anticipation. Those two elements work against each other, as if we are taxing their mana they might only be able to play one spell anyway, but drawing either yet not both is the aim and having redundancy is nice. Azorius Skyguard and Archon of Absolution deter attacks while casting Emergency Powers on our opponent’s end step with Narset, Parter of Veils in play is back-breaking.

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Theme(s): Artifacts, Golems

In blue-white’s take on an artifacts-matters theme, we have this deck led by Dovin, Grand Arbiter. This deck is more creature focused than the blue-black offering, which complements Dovin’s uptick nicely. In particular, we have a small but fun Golem sub-theme thanks to white cards like Master Splicer and Cavalier of Dawn, the latter of which can target itself to create a Golem token and immediately get an artifact or enchantment out of our bin. Dance of the Manse is here more for its ability to bump our creature count in a subtle way, but of course, getting a bunch of artifacts back into play from our graveyard is exceptionally useful. I expect Karn, the Great Creator to occupy a weird place in Brawl. He can go in any deck, and his passive should find applications against 90%+ of decks, but not being able to wish from a sideboard and needing sufficient artifacts to animate mean he also doesn’t want to be in many decks. The shoe fits here though.

 

Rakdos

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Theme(s): Aggro, Aristocrats

I enjoy the Aristocrats play style and, in particular, have been playing a lot of Rakdos builds on that foundation during the last few Standard formats. I abandoned this deck early on because I already wanted to make a Mardu deck with all the best enablers and pay-offs in one place, and I expected mono-black to be best in that configuration too. But then later on, while I was merrily making decks, I realized I didn’t have any Rakdos Brawl decks, and it bothered me enough to where I resolved then and there to make decks for each colour identity currently in Brawl. I actually finished the deck below first, but I didn’t want such an obvious—and I hope good, based on Standard—deck to be missing. Now, it was a pleasure to tidy the old girl up. I also wanted a place to include the neat little threesome of Piper of the Swarm, Chittering Witch, and Mad Ratter, and this was the perfect fit.

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Theme(s): Burn, Control, Punisher

Part of the reason why I didn’t have any Rakdos decks for so long, with Judith, the Scourge Diva temporarily shelved, was me not feeling inspired by the choice of commanders and cards that immediately came to mind. My first pass at this deck had a Rakdos aggro Knight theme—vestiges of which can still be seen in individually powerful cards like Stormfist Crusader and Cavalier of Flame. It seemed a shame not to include reasonable demons such as Spawn of Mayhem and Doom Whisperer, but the die roll is a fickle friend as to whether building in support for Rakdos, the Showstopper’s ability works out for you. The final morph of the deck was to include cards to punish our opponent along the lines of Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted and Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage. Trimming it down to 60 cards with some glue, in the forms of Murderous Rider and Bonecrusher Giant, leaves us with an interesting amalgamation of a deck—one I’m personally intrigued to see in action. Expect updates to this list more than any other.

Gruul

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Themes: Aggro, Stompy

Playing above-rate creatures and smashing face are a tried-and-true Gruul tradition, and this deck makes no exceptions. While it doesn’t much help us colour fix for our spells, Fires of Invention does allow us to use a variety of activated abilities on our creatures, like Skarrgan Hellkite's and Cavalier of Flame's, without slowing our board development. I’ve always loved the combo of Challenger Troll and Aggressive Mammoth, and nowhere is that duo better suited than here. Our creatures are big but can lack trample, which makes them easier to chump block. And token decks can also team up to take one of our creatures down—not so with those two on the battlefield.

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Theme(s): Ramp, Creatures, Activated Abilities

Much like Etrata, the Silencer, while the Commander card pool can enable you to sufficiently leverage the drawbacks of Nikya of the Old Ways, I did not expect to find a deck up to my standards in Brawl. We’re a long way from when Magic: the Gathering was newly released though. In those days, the creatures were all terrible, and the (blue) spells were where the magic was happening. Fast forward to Throne of Eldraine Standard, and nowadays, all the best creatures have spell-like effects—enough to substitute somewhat for our inability to play spells when Nikya is in play. As well as some creatures with enters-the-battlefield effects to simulate spells, the real power is in the activated abilities, with all the extra mana we have. Steelbane Hydra is such a good rare wildcard spend among the cards from the Brawl decks, in my opinion. It’s like having a playset of Thrashing Brontodon in Singleton, which we are also playing a copy of. If you can get Nissa, Who Shakes the World and / or Leyline of Abundance into play before Nikya, you will have ludicrous amounts of mana to spend on Skarrgan Hellkite or Biogenic Ooze. We also have the world’s saddest wrath—Dagger Caster without a way to grant Deathtouch—but there’s no other option. At times like these, I can understand the desire for hybrid cards to go into decks playing only one of the colours, though that wouldn’t help us with Status // Statue in this instance, as it has a gold Golgari half.

Orzhov

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Themes: Exile, Enchantments

The Exile Zone started, along with Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, with three cards I knew I wanted to include: Kaya, Bane of the Dead, Oath of Kaya, and Leyline of the Void. With those starting pieces, my build path seemed clear: make a durdly control deck that relies on enchantments to buy time for Kaya to ultimate. Because she can deal an absurd amount of damage in one use but has a negligible downtick alongside an uptick that won’t often have targets to enable the lifegain, The Elderspell is the perfect two-card combo to win out of nowhere. You should honestly not cast Kaya unless you are forced to because you can and need to gain life, as spending only five mana to win the game once you have The Elderspell in hand is much more powerful than trying to do it for seven, nine, or possibly even more mana. We can target our own planeswalkers in a pinch to provide Kaya with the counters—among which is Liliana, Dreadhorde General, whose ultimate is a considerable secondary option.

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Theme(s): Lifegain, Graveyard Recursion

Without Commander damage as a feature of Brawl, lifegain becomes a more viable game plan. Life for life’s sake though still isn’t foolproof—there are many instant win / loss cards in the format, and decking—especially against mill—is still a concern. So, we turn that lifegain into a weapon with such draft playables as Soulmender and Epicure of Blood. On the other end of the spectrum, we can churn through the sum of our (non-land) deck thanks to Bolas’s Citadel and make the biggest creature in almost all the games with Loxodon Lifechanter. Thankfully, we don’t have the same drawback Evra, Halcyon Witness had with similar lifegain shenanigans, whereby a power-reducing instant could kill you, as the Lifechanter’s trigger is a may.

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Theme(s): Vampires, Life as a Resource

I was curious to see if I could leverage Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord’s powerful abilities even though most of the best Vampire Tribal cards had rotated out and left the Standard deck featuring him dead. It was quickly obvious that there aren't enough reasonable playables in mono-black, so we’re back with Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord again. It does allow us to play Cruel Celebrant and Pitiless Pontiff, among others. The second sub-theme of using our life as a resource, partially because we have a lot of incidental lifegain, was to fill out the rest of the deck. Font of Agonies has never found a home—and was a terrible rare in Draft to boot—but we do get to take advantage of it with Blood Operative and Doom Whisperer, which provide a nice little value engine. For what I think is the only case, we also have a planeswalker from the Planeswalker Decks in Sorin, Vampire Lord. I don’t actually think any of the PDPs are that bad in Brawl—it’s just that at 59 cards after the commander, there are generally more powerful things to include. If you ever get to ultimate him though, that should be game.

Simic

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Theme(s): Toolbox, Enters-the-Battlefield Triggers

I don’t believe Prime Speaker Vannifar is an overly oppressive commander for Brawl like she is in Commander proper, regardless of how she is built. Being able to tutor your deck for the best creature answer is a powerful ability, but there isn’t much in the way of a combo to be achieved with the Standard card pool—just lots and lots of incremental value. Fblthp, the Lost is finally found, and the little guy comes with a second card if we go the extra mile to find him. Cavalier of Gales—and its death trigger—mean we’ll never run out of targets for five-mana creatures to search for, but if we somehow ever were to, Loaming Shaman can shuffle the best cards in our graveyard back into our library so we can start all over again. You’ll want to slowly ramp up the pressure on your opponent until you are in a position to cast or tutor for End-Raze Forerunners and swing in for lethal.

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Themes: Mill, Persistent Petitioners

To round us out this installment, it wouldn't be a format with the Singleton restriction if you didn't try to break it, right? Persistent Petitioners literally forms the bulk of the deck (Seven Dwarves fans, fear not; they're off to work they go in a later article). Our green includes are slight, but I think it's very worth it to have Tamiyo, Collector of Tales to helm the deck. She's around 73% likely to hit at least one Petitioner on average, while her passive and downtick are just gravy. The Great Henge is expensive to cast in this deck but worth it to make all our Petitioners cantrip (likely into another Petitioner) and helps to enable the janky Plan C of advisor beat-down with Icon of Ancestry. As Tamiyo helps to mill us, Jace, Wielder of Mysteries is our Plan A, with Plan B being milling our opponent.

Wrap-Up

Three down, and three to go. Next time, we will cover the three-colour shards originating from the Shards of Alara block. Many of the Brawl precons are in these colours, so upgrades of each are included.

Until I see you again,

Erengard (@Erengard_PG on Twitter)

 


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