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Why Brawl is Dead, and Why it Shouldn’t Be


Since the beginning Brawl was intended as a casual multiplayer format for Commander players who could be interested in playing something different.
But what if it was meant for a bigger, brighter future instead of the small and dark hole it resides today, left unplayed by everyone?
First, a little flashback to the short story of the format.

March

Wizards announces the new format together with the new Buy-a-Box system starting from Dominaria onward. The set itself promotes a lot of legends, fueling the new format with options. The excitement is high, brews are made, kitchen tables are filled with players and games are held.
Well, except if there is Baral, Chief of Compliance.

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Then brews are binned, tables are thrown away and games are not being played, simply because there exists an option to say “No” to everything. 
Including excitement.

May

On the mothership Gavin Verhey reports that yes, finally the nightmare is over. Baral as been sealed away to Modern where he resides with his stormy companion Goblin Electromancer. The format has been saved. Except the nightmare breeds a new horror: Twenty starting life total for a single player format.

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Kari Zev, Skyship Raider, another legend from Kaladesh (see a recurring theme here?) begins to be played, and the format is broken again. Mono-red is not as oppressive as mono-blue, but it lets the other player assume they are going to be playing a game, while really it's more a beating on a dead horse.

July

Starting life total for single player is set back to 25 while also having a free mulligan to seven. This adjustment is thrilling and should fix the problem, but Pandora’s box has been opened and no one is willing to give it a try since now the general idea is the format is hot garbage. In fact, some opponents of the community even declared that the format was dead after only ninety days, after BaralGate. And to some extent I think it is true: just seeing the participation during the Brawl side event at Grand Prix Barcelona is enough to sadden even the most fervent believer in the format (which is probably the only guy who attended that tournament, or me).
GP Barcelona Brawl Event Winner Twitter

August

A big tournament is announced for Brawl at Grand Prix Richmond, with an exclusive playmat and 2,800 prize tickets as a prize pool. Now that’s supporting a format.

Adeliz Playmat Winner GP Richmond
In fact, at the tournament thirty-four players (including Gavin Verhey) played out their decks and battled each other in pods of four. Maybe there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. Well, at least for multiplayer. But wait, what about the single player format?

September

Our question is answered not even in a full article, but hidden in the announcement that Guilds of Ravnica and its goodies will be on Magic Online soon.

We are sorry, but from now on Magic Online won't support one-on-one competitive events. Because the queue time is so long and the matches so frustrating, the experience is not fun for anyone involved. That is more or less the summary of the excerpt from the article. But that sparks a question: Wasn’t Standard less fun than Brawl during the same period?

The Standardization of Brawl

In fact from March to September we had a Kaladesh-driven Standard. Including little gems like Mono-Red Aggro, BR Aggro, BR Midrange, BR Planeswalker. Basically the same deck but legally different, according to Wizards' standard for a diverse format. So, in the end of things, wasn’t Kaladesh (and to some extent Amonkhet) the real problem for Brawl? It may be possible that us, the players, were too biased toward skepticism against Wizards attempt at pushing a new format on us? To be fair, Wizards probably has made an error with Brawl: marketing it exclusively for Commander players, while it is also a transitional format for newer player and (possibly) a competitive alternative to Standard.

From prerelease to a constructed format, for a new player it is so much easier to collect the cards needed for a Brawl deck instead of playsets of the most used cards in Standard. Also, having Brawl as a staple in tournaments can be beneficial for Standard players as well. Since most of those players will crack as many boxes as possible to find the next best cards to play, they will find a use for those rares that are now bulk since some of those could be played in Brawl. This raises the price, making box contents more valuable. Opening boxes would be an appealing proposition (as it was back in the days of Block Constructed), as it would either yield a good amount of staple cards for Standard or almost a full deck for Brawl. Brawl could give the spotlight to cards that, otherwise, would be thrown angrily into a binder for "not being an Assassin's Trophy".

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So, in the end, Brawl seems a great thing for both players and Wizards itself. The multiplayer format is still alive and well supported by Wizards, while the single player format just need to be given another chance to brush off its bad reputation. I hope that the support Wizards has planned for the format will help with that.

Closing Up

Thanks for reading! What do you think as been the greatest fault of Brawl as a format? Let me know in the comments your thoughts. Until then, have a great time and play some Brawl with your friends!


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