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Ready to Brawl? Part 4—Alara Shards


Good afternoon, everybody. I’m back again as we move on from the two-colour pairs in Magic onto the three-colour combinations, starting with the Shards: Bant, Esper, Grixis, Jund, and Naya. As mentioned, three of the four Brawl precons have commanders in these colours; as such, an upgrade for each is included. And let’s go!

Bant

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Theme(s): Enters the Battlefield, Value

There’s no set way I’ve gone about upgrading the precon decks, as I personally don’t need to worry about paper prices—just the cards I have or want one-of on Arena—nor I am replacing a set amount of cards each deck. Just taking the stuff I don’t like out for things I think will work better is what I’ll primarily talk about. While I might ordinarily prefer blink / flicker effects on and supporting Chulane, Teller of Tales, we have a couple of key ways to take better advantage of recasting our creatures. God-Eternal Oketra can quickly swarm the board with her large zombie tokens, while Feasting Troll King can make a banquet’s worth of food—and both are hard to permanently remove, too. Hydroid Krasis, on the other hand, is just the value beast it’s been the last year or so. We can also pick up our powerful adventure creatures to re-use their spell halves. Vivien, Champion of the Wilds allows us fine control with our creature-based answers in Knight of Autumn and Cavalier of Dawn, so I expect this upgrade to be as comparatively powerful as the original deck was in the event. And of course, I kept the Chulane + Frilled Mystic semi-lock. It could become a full lock with Rule of Law, but Chulane wants and really can play multiple spells a turn very often.

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Theme(s): Toughness, Defenders

Arcades, the Strategist? Bah! Who needs him. These butts were made for walking just fine, between Huatli, the Sun’s Heart and High Alert—it’s Slaughter the Strong rotating that's a pain in the a—. We can take advantage of a couple of new cards from Throne of Eldraine in Crashing Drawbridge and Fortifying Provisions. Between Chulane and most of our walls being cheap to cast, the haste provided by the Drawbridge, in combination with the already key Tower Defense, can enable a victory from almost any board state, while the enchantment is close to a Glorious Anthem that gains us three life. Powerful ramp but mediocre creatures like Arboreal Grazer and Gilded Goose become above-rate threats once we have a toughness-as-damage effect on board. It’s so important to have one piece that we’re running Ignite the Beacon to search out Huatli in addition to one of our other powerful Planeswalkers, like the Standard besties Teferi, Time Raveler and Oko, Thief of Crowns. Between the high toughness, Huatli, and some incidental cases, we have a lot of life gain with no real endpoint, but Loxodon Lifechanter is well placed as a top-end threat in the deck. Oketra shows up once again, this time for her now 6/6 Double Strike nigh-immortal body, with the zombies as pure gas.

Esper

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Theme(s): Flying, Artifacts/Enchantments

There are so many ways to build Alela, Artful Provocateur, even within the confines of just improving the original deck’s game plan. For an early build, I leaned in harder to supporting the flying theme and aspect of Alela. But as well as avoiding homogeneous flying decks, I don’t believe Alela needs such cards, beyond universally powerful support like Empyrean Eagle and Sephara, Sky’s Blade, as a frolic of 2/1 Faerie tokens generated by good artifacts and enchantments is enough. I praised the deck's design earlier, but I do have to point out what seems like an obvious mistake / unfortunate requirement—the choice of wrath. The precon runs Kaya’s Wrath, a completely reasonable sweeper that can gain you a lot of life. Over in Knights’ Charge, they have Single Combat, ostensibly to play equipment during the downtime of the drawback. I feel it fits so much better here as we can leave Alela alive and follow up with many cards that will make tokens. We’re also running Planar Cleansing as a last resort to completely clean the board. But to break the symmetry, we’re looking to draw into Dance of the Manse to rebuild very quickly. The Heraldic Banner should name blue, less for fixing than because when all is said and done, our blue Faerie tokens will be our most numerous creatures.

 

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Theme(s): Mill, Enchantments

Bon après-midi à tous et bienvenue dans l'édition Prêt-à-bagarre de Français. Or not. We’ve had quite a few variations on Mill decks thus far—some that want to mill our opponent, some that want to exile their stuff, and even some that prefer to mill themselves first. This build takes advantage of the opportunity to put Kaya, Orzhov Usurper and Ashiok, Dream Render into the same Esper Control shell for the middle plan. To that end, Midnight Clock serves as anti-mill, whether our opponent is initially aiming toward that or if the game goes long. Our mill speed in this deck is fairly slow, so take your time to set up your defenses and grind your opponent’s deck, little by little. This time, we want Kaya’s Wrath as it is a mana cheaper—if sometimes difficult to cast with the single copies of colour-fixing lands—with Single Combat as a secondary wrath due to us having very few creatures. While we have access to all three Leylines in Esper (Leyline of Sanctity, Leyline of Anticipation, and Leyline of the Void) that all help us to sculpt the match to our liking in different ways, it is possible to draw multiple in our opening hand. Besides the Reddit / Twitter posts for getting all three out before the game, I don’t think you should keep such hands—even if I will (do as I say, not as I do). Leyline of Sanctity is the best to have early, and Leyline of the Void is a redundancy pick, while Leyline of Anticipation’s granting of Flash to our spells really comes into its own in the late game.

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Theme(s): Hard Choices, On-Board Answers, Control

You are under pressure.

Do you play your card into my on-board answer (Bounty Agent, Hanged Executioner)? Do you give me resources or use up yours (Clackbridge Troll, Smothering Tithe)? Which one spell do you cast (Rule of Law)? How do you proceed when I can't be targeted (Leyline of Sanctity)? What happens when I use your own weapons against you (Mnemonic Betrayal, Eyes Everywhere)? Where will you turn to for help (Ashiok, Dream Render, Narset, Parter of Veils)? How do you set up attacks at such a cost (Archon of Absolution, Revenge of Ravens)? I will give you one chance; make it count (Wishclaw Talisman).

You are under pressure. I am inevitable.

Grixis

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Theme(s): Control, Steal Effects

The might of one of the most ancient and powerful beings in the Magic-verse is yours to marshal as you see fit with Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God. But why just settle for the spells in your deck? Take what you want, and dominate your opponents with their own spells to truly break them. Then, do it again with God-Eternal Kefnet. Augur of Bolas, while certainly a flavour win, has a reasonable 75% or so chance to draw you a card in this deck and serves as a nice speed bump while you maneuver yourself into a position to deploy your considerable threats Nothing is less sacred or more satisfying than bending your own brother, Ugin, the Ineffable, to your will then taking his spark for his betrayal with The Elderspell. All will bow before the Tyrant’s Scorn

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Theme(s): Amass / Zombies

“What’s that in the mirror, or the corner of your eye? What’s that footstep following but never passing by?”

It’s been a while since we had a deck directly inspired by one of my earlier Singleton lists, but we’re back with Zombie Tribal. Liliana, Untouched by Death is an incredible synergy card to lose out on, but the great part about the inspiring deck was the high innate power level it could leverage, even before we overwhelm our opponents with the Zombie horde. Both Foulmire Knight and Murderous Rider are nice replacements that came in with Throne of Eldraine, and honestly, it’s pleasing to build Bolas with a totally different feel from the most obvious control path. Because we will want to recur our Zombies, we have cards like Eternal Taskmaster, the second half of Connive // Concoct, and—finally at its full power—Deliver unto Evil. Three mana for your four best cards that have already put in work should give you plenty of gas to close out the game.

“Perhaps they're all just waiting, perhaps when we're all dead, out they'll come a-slithering from underneath the bed.”

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Theme(s): Burn + Card Draw, Combo

Our goal is to deal all the incidental damage we can by causing our opponent to yo-yo between drawing and discarding their hand. It was hard to leverage symmetrical discard effects until Magic 2020, thanks to Bag of Holding and Glint-Horn Buccaneer, but now, Awaken the Erstwhile and Dragon Mage become one-sided card advantage. Alongside those is the new Folio of Fancies, with which we aren’t primarily aiming to mill our opponent but instead to keep our hand well-stocked and deal damage thanks to Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted, which is where our combo comes in! It’s difficult to set up but absolutely worth it to give our opponent our Vilis, Broker of Blood with Role Reversal while we have Ob Nixilis in play. With this achieved, them either losing life or drawing a card will begin an endless cycle between the two until they die or can remove one of the pieces at instant speed. To that end, we have a small suite of counterspells to make sure the kill is secure. Also: you get bonus points for wins earned by killing your opponent with Foreboding Fruit. However you do it, we’re very specifically not playing Narset, Parter of Veils. It might seem odd to draw the line there and not at Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage, but we have and need control over when we want our opponent to draw and when we want them to discard—Narset disrupts that and our combo kill.

Jund

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Theme(s): Sacrifice, Voltron

I was spoilt for choice when it came to upgrading Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, which I actually found to be more difficult though fulfilling. A Jund Singleton deck that was built to utilize the attack triggers of Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire and Etali, Primal Storm with haste enablers the turn they came into play was the first and my favourite deck to play last year in the events. This is odd when I tell you that my favourite colour combination / guild is blue-white / Azorius. Such is the fun that can be had from the raw value Jund decks can grind out—Korvold perfectly follows in this vein. I was never able to get God-Eternal Bontu and Mayhem Devil to work in Standard—along with the rotated World Shaper—to make a janky Standard Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle deck (turns out I just needed to wait for Field of the Dead, a nice value land here, to arrive). Korvold not only doubles the card draw of that deck but also easily makes himself into a one-shot kill. On the lower end of the mana curve (but not the power), is one of my favourite cards to come out recently: Chandra, Acolyte of Flame. She seemed so innocuous to me at first read during spoiler season, but there’s rarely a situation in which she doesn’t do something positive for you, in particular combining with Priest of Forgotten Gods to provide her the fodder to draw you a card, generate mana, and tear apart your opponent’s board. In contrast to my dislike of the change made for the Courtside Brawl I’ll get to for Knights’ Charge, I actually quite like Izoni, Thousand-Eyed here.

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Theme(s): Land Destruction, Spell Recursion

I’ve heard it said the best part of Magic is not allowing your opponent to have lands to play. I wonder who said that. Well anyway, here’s just about every land-destruction spell in Standard. Some are of otherwise dubious use, but Casualties of War is a stone-cold bomb, and if we ever get to duplicate it with Repeated Reverberation, I can’t see how your opponent can get back into the game. Without blue, we have a tougher time recurring our land-destruction spells, but it’s not like we don’t have reasonable options. Vivid Revival can return up to three of our powerful multicoloured spells, including the aforementioned Casualties of War, whereas Once and Future can get any two cards back into our hand—immediately, if we meet the adamant requirement. Deliver unto Evil won’t be at full strength here, but again, our options are limited, especially as all three of those spells exile themselves on resolution. A second, more complicated way to assemble a recursion loop is to use Loaming Shaman to shuffle in cards we’d like back and Golgari Findbroker to get Loaming Shaman back from our graveyard. Our sacrifice outlets for that slow loop and to utilize our commander are more trimmed than the precon upgrade, but we do have Witch’s Oven and Vraska, Golgari Queen. The otherwise hitherto absent Root Snare is perhaps a little too cute, but when it works, it’ll feel like the most powerful spell in the deck.

Naya

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Theme(s): Go-Wide, Multicolour

I like this deck, from as superficial a reason as to how I think heavy-gold Naya decks look visually to how cohesively the various options fit together, but I don’t know that I can fully endorse spending a mythic wildcard (or the 45- / 90-pack Magic 2020 bundles) on Rienne, Angel of Rebirth. Cores of this list are present in the Selesnya tokens and Boros Feather, the Redeemed decks. We do have a few neat cards that shine here should you already have a copy of Rienne or—like me—if you’re going to be playing enough Brawl that you want a copy. Hero of Precinct One, while not benefiting from Rienne directly outside of the token, can build a huge board for us to pump for massive damage. I’ll stick Outlaws’ Merriment in just about any deck it makes sense for as it reminds me of one of my favourite enchantments: Assemble the Legion. Any mono-red or mono-white cube draft that I was starting to be cut on would get there on the back of the Legion. The Outlaws don’t provide quite the same level of inevitability as that, but the creatures, pumped by Glass of the Guildpact, do more than enough work. Where possible, there are token generators to take advantage of the Glass; most also conveniently trigger the Hero. Like I say, it’s a tight package that I hope is tempting to build, but it does come with that warning.

Wrap-Up

We’re getting into the home stretch now. Are there any deck ideas for the colour combinations we’ve already done that you’d wished I’d made, cards you wanted to see find a home for, or ideas you’d like to share in the comments below? Next time: from Shards to Bizarralara, reintroduced to Magic and given their current names, the Wedges.

Until I see you again,

Erengard (@Erengard_PG on Twitter)


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