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Ready to Brawl? Part 5—Tarkir’s Wedges


Good afternoon, everybody. We’re nearing the end of this little series of articles designed to inspire you to build and play decks for Brawl’s second coming, tailored to play on Arena. We’ve got one more set of colours and commanders to cover before five-colour wraps this up, and they are the wedges from Khans of Tarkir block, namely Abzan, Jeskai, Sultai, Mardu, and Temur. Let’s get started.

Abzan

 

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Theme(s): Wolves, Legendary

There was only one true home to house all the best pieces of Wolf tribal we currently have, and let me tell you, Kethis, the Hidden Hand has been taking in a lot of strays. With rotation, Kethis no longer provides an outlet for combo, but he does offer significant mana reductions and recursion, as around one-third of our deck is composed of legendary cards. We have a lot of late-game power, and one of the more innocuous ways to get there is Bond of Flourishing, which is very unlikely to miss in this deck. But now them good boys! Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves takes the tokens provided by our lords in Nightpack Ambusher and Garruk, Cursed Huntsman to mow our opponent’s deck down. I will note that you gain the life regardless of if or how the fight happens, buying you even more time, and that we are fine if both of the Garruk tokens die, as he’ll then have enough loyalty to ultimate the following turn. Gilded Goose is our only producer of food, but one is enough with Tolsimir to allow Wicked Wolf to fight two creatures when it ETBs and survive. Arlinn, Voice of the Pack made it to the party, but Arlinn’s Wolf—while having a not meaningless form of evasion—didn’t feel strong enough on its own to make the cut.

Jeskai

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Theme(s): Flying, Tokens, Spell Doubling

Kykar, Wind’s Fury can be all things to all brewers, it seems. Much like Alela, Artful Provocateur, we generate flyers by casting certain types of spells—in this case, non-creature ones—which allows us to have a lot of utility in our deck without compromising on the creature count. It does also make for a slightly confused looking deck at times. Since Arcane Adaptation rotated out, we lost an irreplaceable piece of an infinite red-mana combo that originally would enable kills with Banefire, which now becomes Expansion // Explosion, but the other two pieces—Bishop of Wings and Divine Visitation to make those Spirit tokens into Angels that die into Angels and so on—is more than good enough to keep, even when it runs counter to Kykar’s desire to sacrifice Spirits for mana. As a substitute to generate the mana, we turn to Smothering Tithe and Thousand-Year Storm, with the option of powering them up further thanks to Emergency Powers and Mirrormade. Having two of anything in Singleton is extremely valuable, and Mirrormade should never be a dead card—even if it’s copying your opponent’s mana rock.

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Theme(s): Flying, Aggro, Combat Tricks

Focusing more on deploying a squadron of cheap evasive creatures is this build of Kykar. We’re mostly looking to tempo our opponents out before they get a chance to stabilize, and while we’re not making full use of all of Kykar’s abilities, they do provide an extra few attackers as well as provide mana to enable Feather, the Redeemed, who shines in this deck. What new toys does Feather get to play with? Teferi’s Time Twist is like having a second copy of Gods Willing, except it brings our creatures back stronger, whereas Run Away Together is in some ways a better Reckless Rage as we have many cheap flyers we don’t mind bouncing and replaying while it repeatedly tempos out big blockers or threats. But by far the all-stars are Stolen by the Fae and Quasiduplicate, the latter when copying Empyrean Eagle over and over to get as many lords as we can.

Sultai

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Theme(s): Enters the Battlefield, Food

It’s probably no doubt in part from watching SaffronOlive’s content for years that I too share a love of Panharmonicon (not that nasty Blood Moon though!)—for who doesn’t enjoy getting twice what you pay for? Yarok, the Desecrated doubles the speed of the unsurprisingly common Cauldron Familiar + Witch’s Oven engine that can so neatly slot into many decks, but we do at least bring food to share this time. Food that feeds a group of Centaurs? Rampage of the Clans is admittedly a pet card I’ve been trying to get to work for a while—and would have done so too in the last Treasure Constructed event with Crafty Cutpurse if it weren't for those meddling wildcards—but I genuinely believe it’s got (four) legs to stand on here. In some ways, it’s hard to pick out what to write about for this deck—it’s going to be super fun to play and should often lead to interesting games of Magic on both sides. Among the handful of decks I’ll be trying out of the gates, this is near the top.

Mardu

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Theme(s): Knights, Aggro, Equipment

During the Courtside Brawl on Arena, and more generally via peoples’ play experiences, Knights’ Charge was the consensus weakest of the decks, so I’m going to try and remedy that. First of all, in a 1v1 setting, I believe some of the deck's weaknesses are lessened. After all, we only have one person’s life to reduce to zero and only one person with board wipes to make us rebuild. I think Wizards—with the outside designers for the decks under Melissa DeTora—made good products for the budget they had to work with, decks that can satisfy a lot of different people in different ways, but removing the budget allows us to significantly power up this deck. We’ll start with the two mythics, The Circle of Loyalty and Embercleave. They somewhat work at cross purposes, the former enabling a long game and the latter a sudden quick finish, but both have enough support in this deck to often come out for only two mana each. I admit to being surprised that Silverwing Squadron was indeed coded into Arena but was one of the several cards replaced by suboptimal choices for the preview event. In 1v1, it’s a 2/2 flyer with vigilance that comes with another 2/2 vigilance at minimum. I certainly prefer it to Shivan Dragon. I was happy to find a home for Nahiri, Storm of Stone, who reduces equipment costs early before our six-drop commander can come down. And once Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale’s free equip makes that irrelevant, the first strike that Nahiri supplies is still worth her inclusion, in my opinion. For what it’s worth, I would not be inclined to use her downtick for removal unless really needed, and I would treat her more like an enchantment. Lastly, a card I was more than happy to leave in is Mask of Immolation. It might not look like much, but with Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale and any reasonable board, you can turn all your creatures into Footlight Fiends in a single turn to end the game.

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Theme(s): Flying, Angels / Demons / Dragons, Reanimator

I’d surprised myself while writing this as to how far I had gotten without making an explicitly big-creature reanimator deck. But as Kaalia of the Vast will draw us into one or more such creatures around 88% of the time, there’s no better way to get them into play. We use discard outlets such as Rix Maadi Reveler and Merchant of the Vale, alongside Doom Whisperer’s double duty when surveilling, to stock our graveyard and then reanimators, from the one-shot power of Blood for Bones and haste-granting Bond of Revival to longer game plans like The Cauldron of Eternity and Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord—who thankfully doesn’t take an eternity to get enough loyalty to start bring our threats back but does gain us life to survive the mid-game. Because our creatures somewhat two-for-one themselves to get into play, we have a few tools to protect our investment. Feather makes a cameo appearance here to increase the viability of Gods Willing, a card I would already play, and Brought Back can be just the change in momentum we need to spread our wings and close out the game. If all that fails, reanimating our entire graveyard with a big Finale of Eternity never looked so… final.

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Theme(s): Aristocrats

Yes! Finally, a deck and a format where I can play Teysa Karlov and Judith, the Scourge Diva—and their legally distinct back-up—in one place without being punished as much, I hope. Mono-Black Aristocrats was streamlined and consistent, and Rakdos was low to the ground and quick to end games. Now comes the strongest pieces available to accrue value. Kaalia only has one target in this deck and no utility, besides being a 3/3 flyer with vigilance we always have access to, so it’s down to our synergy cards to pull that weight. And bar mana fixing, every card in our deck contributes to that synergy. I’m of course happy to find Outlaws’ Merriment another place to shine, and it works better here—with our numerous death triggers and Teysa's token buffing, we’ll give our opponent no good options and a hasty annoyance every turn. In fact, this whole deck is very much death by a thousand cuts, and nothing hurts like being unable to slowly heal from that because of Tibalt, Rakish Instigator. Some might look at Kaya’s Wrath in a creature-heavy deck and wonder why it is there, but the effect is actually one we’re super interested in having. As well as cleaning the board up if we fall behind early, a way to get a mass of death triggers at once that also gains us life allows us to have a shot in almost any game. Once again, we have the Finale of Eternity here to bring our graveyard onto the battlefield, and if that includes Corpse Knight, it might be game over before we can attack with them.

Temur

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Theme(s): Elementals

I’ve a mind to what will happen come rotation next Autumn, especially as we never truly got a sense of the effects from the first year of paper Brawl after interest declined. But I’d be surprised if Arena didn’t lessen the sting and that more decks would survive in some form than you might think. This deck does not. Just three cards—Once Upon a Time, Escape to the Wilds, and Fires of Invention—will survive to see new homes, so we better get going while the going is good. Fortunately, the Elemental theme of Magic 2020 was sufficiently pushed that we have a high-synergy, high-power level deck to leverage. One of my favourite interactions is how Overgrowth Elemental sees the tokens from Chandra, Acolyte of Flame die, which gains you two life and itself two +1/+1 counters a turn cycle, on top of the value a similar set-up grants with Risen Reef. The Reef is probably our best Quasiduplicate / Repudiate // Replicate target, by the way, though it’s surprising how much having access to Repudiate // Replicate has been a game-changer in the past. It’s a bit of a shame, personally, how little use I’ve been able to get out of Icon of Ancestry, as it really felt like Wizards was going hard on tribal support for a few years but seemed to have pulled back after Ixalan block.

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Theme(s): Creature/Spell Doubling, Adventures, Seven Dwarves

Twice Upon a Time, there was a great elemental, a being of pure energy born of growth that turned to anger as its home was destroyed. The Elemental adapted and fought for its land and grew to have the power of the Roil itself, a force of terrible strength that causes storms and earthquakes and all manner of unpredictable natural phenomena without restraint. A wizard who studied such curiosities called upon his fellow scholar, a young woman who fell from the moon and made her home upon the earth, but as close to the stars as she could reach. Though she traveled often, with a yearning to study the heavens so that she might return one day, the Elemental was all rage and pain, and she feared for her safety. It was decided that she would be accompanied by the alchemist, her handcrafted automaton along with its engineer, her band of brave assistants, and every scientific tool they could carry.

They endured many trials in locating the Elemental. A great and terrible Dragon that desired the scholar’s journal and the alchemist’s golden lantern captured them and demanded they exchange these beautiful treasures for their lives. The alchemist was quick of thought and deft of hands though and was able to give the Dragon what it appeared he wanted—only for them to turn to ash in his hands once they were safely away. They traveled underhill and over dale, braving the elements, enraptured by palaces through the fires and the forests, where a cursed monster hid, pining for his beloved. He requested that the party keep a weather eye for her on their venture and entrusted them with a keepsake of hers that he wished to return, which she had left behind while searching for a cure. Locals were eventually able to guide them to the home of the elemental, from the charming, to the tricksy, to the fearsome; from the inscrutable, to the indecipherable, to the intimidating but timid, and finally to the disturbing but well-traveled, with knowledge of a secret pass through which our party could barely squeeze.

This home was a heaving landmass, at once bitingly cold and perilously hot. Undeterred, and filled with a heart of compassion grown from the friendships she had formed, the scholar stepped into the heart of the landmass to calm the Elemental. It was reckless, brave, and kind, but as the Elemental rose in fear to confront another disturber to its home, the trinket entrusted to her shone with a bright light and split in twain. The second one drew out all the hate and sorrow the Elemental had experienced and fractured into pieces, thus ending the Elemental's suffering. Confused but grateful, and still far from trusting of more solid beings, it left the land so the soil  could heal in its absence. The alchemist collected all the fragments and dust she could, for this might be enough for the wizard to bring peace and prosperity to the kingdom.

Or to its ruin, on the back of a star.

Wrap-Up

I hope you don’t mind indulging me at the end there. One of the most powerful motivators that encourages me to brew and not be concerned with power level or playability is the stories the decks can tell, and how you can put a piece of yourself into them that you win or lose with together while having fun playing such a personal thing all the same. Next time: we close strong on some five-colour brews, from the powerful to the absurd. It’s not to be missed.

Until I see you again,

Erengard (@Erengard_PG on Twitter)


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