Today I wanted to try my hand at designing a deck for Brawl, the new Standard-only Commander variant. I talked more about the format as a whole earlier this week, but this article will be more about brainstorming what I would want to play when and if I get the chance to play some brawl myself.

In Brawl as in Commander, it’s best to start with the commander. There were a lot of good options. I considered making a planeswalker-led deck around Vraska, Relic Seeker or making a classic big mana/swarm deck around Grand Warlord Radha. I even considered a Voltron deck built to smash people with Grunn, the Lonely King. But in the end I decided it was time to go outside of my comfort zone and build something a little more controlling.

Azor comes with a sizable body that has evasion built in, a powerful enters the battlefield trigger, and he lets you cast Sphinx’s Revelation every time he attacks. This is an extremely potent package, and I believe that two color decks will strike the best balance between having a reliable manabase and having access to a wide enough variety of spells.


Speaking of mana, let’s take a look at the lands. This is a control deck and I plan to run many board wipes, so I want to fit as much utility into the land slots as possible.

Arch of Orazca, Field of Ruin, Scavenger Ground, Shefet Dunes, Ipnu Rivulet, Desert of the Mindful, Desert of the True, Dunes of the Dead

Arch of Orazca acts as a late-game card advantage engine. While it might pale in comparison to Azor’s patented Sphinx’s Revelation, it will help rebuild after a wrath. Field of Ruin provides a crucial answer to the powerful double-faced lands from Ixalan block, and Scavenger Grounds lets you pack repeatable graveyard hate against any decks that want to lean on their graveyard for value. The rest of the deserts are mostly there to give you multiple chances to Scavenger Grounds people, but every now and then you might encounter a reason to mill someone with Ipnu Rivulet. Plus having a few cycling lands help smooth out awkward opening hands.

Glacial Fortress, Meandering River, Irrigated Farmland, Evolving Wilds

This is what I was talking about when I said manabases could get pretty shaky. Even counting Evolving Wilds there are only four dual lands we can run and three of them enter the battlefield tapped. Yes, Aether Hub and Survivors’ Encampment are out there, but they only really work in very specific decks.

6 Plains, 6 Island

The rest of the manabase gets rounded out with six of each relevant basic land, bringing the total to twenty-four. I could honestly see that number being higher because this deck never wants to miss a land drop, but I included a fair amount in the way of mana production elsewhere—like the next section.

Ramp Spells

Search for Azcanta, Thaumatic Compass, Azor’s Gateway, Manalith, Pyramid of the Pantheon

Manalith is just a straightforward mana rock. Not spectacular, but solid. Pyramid of the Pantheon is much harder to make work, but it’s fairly easy to build up over time and provides a huge boost in mana once it goes fully online.

Much more interesting are the double-faced lands. I’m including them under the ramp section because they are technically spells that make mana, but each one also has a ton of additional utility. Search for Azcanta provides card selection early and turns into a powerful card advantage engine later on. Azor’s Gateway similarly provides card filtering in the form of looting, but once it transforms it will most often provide a massive boost in mana that will let you draw a monstrous number of cards with Azor, which in turn makes Sanctum of the Sun produce even more mana on the next turn.

Thaumatic Compass lets you guarantee land drops when you need to, and once you get up to the high land counts that Azor want it transforms into a Maze of Ith, giving you an extremely powerful defense against whatever green monster is threatening you this game.


Since our primary plan is to stall for as long as possible until you get to the point where Azor can take over we want as many ways to buy time as possible, and that means as many wraths as possible.

Dusk // Dawn, Fumigate, Hour of Revelation, Wakening Sun’s Avatar, Aethersquall Ancient, Urza’s Ruinous Blast, Settle the Wreckage

The Dawn half of Dusk // Dawn actually has a tiny bit of utility for us, but it’s mostly a way to clear away everyone’s big threats before playing Azor. Fumigate has the added benefit of gaining life, while Hour of Revelation hits everything that isn’t a land. Urza’s Ruinous Blast leaves commanders alone, but that also means we can play it fearlessly without losing our commander.

Wakening Sun’s Avatar is very expensive at eight mana, but it leaves a solid threat behind. Aethersquall Ancient is similarly a wrath attached to a body, with the crucial difference that it is A: repeatable and B: doesn’t actually kill anything but is instead a way to repeatedly stall you opponents and force them to waste mana regaining board presence while you get to further your own gameplan.

And finally Settle the Wreckage can wipe an entire attacking army at once. This might count as more combat trick than wrath, but it gives opponents a reason to fear attacking unless you’re tapped out.

Card Advantage

Working off the very basic premise that more cards are good, I wanted a few more sources of card draw for when Azor is off the battlefield.

Kumena’s Awakening, Secrets of the Golden City, Oracle’s Vault, The Immortal Sun, Jace, Ingenious Mind-Mage, Dovin Baan

Ascend is a fantastic mechanic for Commander and Brawl, putting Kumena’s Awakening and Secrets of the Golden City on a much higher level than they normally would be. The Immortal Sun does everything you want, but other than the card draw ability I’m most excited to have a card that shuts down all the Planeswalker commanders that we’re sure to see. At this point it’s worth noting that I’m running two Planeswalkers myself and I’m more than happy to shut them down with The Immortal Sun because other people will be running scarier ones.

Specifically, Jace, Ingenious Mind-Mage and Dovin Baan are in the deck. The former acts as yet another card advantage engine, albeit one that can potentially take the three best creatures on the board, while the latter is primarily a way to mess with utility creatures that will occasionally draw cards. If Jace’s ultimate is strong, Dovin’s is game breaking. A one-sided Static Orb that can’t be interacted with isn’t something that anyone is set up to combat. As always you can’t plan on getting the ultimate off, but if you get lucky and can keep the board clear for a few turns that emblem ends games.

Oracle’s Vault is a personal favorite card of mine. It’s slow to get going, but once you assemble the requisite brick counters it doesn’t just draw cards, it gives you a free spell every turn. That is a massive amount of advantage, even in a primarily reactive deck such as this one. Hitting a counterspell is almost always a loss, but I made a conscious choice to limit the number of blanks this could hit.

Removal & Counters

Conventional multiplayer wisdom dictates that one-for-ones aren’t worth running, but they have a place here because we aren’t trying to fight over the battlefield and we really need to not die while building up to our first activation of Azor. More than that though, the sheer number of cards this deck is able to draw means that you actually are able to pace three other players in terms of raw resources. Add in a healthy dose of lifegain for the threats that slip through the cracks and the fact that there’s only so many x-for-1s in the Brawl cardpool to start with and we have a solid plan.

Cast Out, Ixalan’s Binding, Commit // Memory, Icy Manipulator, Countervailing Winds, Disallow, Essence Scatter, Negate, Insidious Will, Supreme Will, Gideon’s Intervention, Sorcerous Spyglass

Out of the cards here, the counterspells were largely chosen for their flexibility, while the actual removal is almost entirely exile-based and whenever possible hits multiple card types. The hands-down best card in this section is Gideon’s Intervention, which lets you pick a commander of your choice and make sure it never does anything. Technically speaking you can name any card, but locking down a commander is just so uniquely powerful that it can’t be understated.

Sorcerous Spyglass plays into a similar space, but locking down abilities rather than entire cards. If nothing else, I like having another way to shut down opposing Planeswalkers but there will be far more targets than just them.


Karn’s Temporal SunderingTimestream Navigator, Nezahal, Primal Tide, Baird, Steward of Argive, Blackblade Reforged

To round out the last few slots I pulled some unique effects within Standard: the only two extra-turn effects, the only card that gives you no maximum hand size, the only Ghostly Prison variant, and one of the most efficient power-boosting equipment. Most of those are fairly obvious inclusions when put that way, so the only real note I have on the first four cards is that, unlike a lot of our other big creatures, Nezahal is a legitimately unkillable finisher. It’s completely uncounterable and punches at about the same level as the biggest threats in Brawl with a 7/7 body. Its second and third abilities, while being very valuable in and of their own right also work together to ensure that you’ll always have the cards in hand to save Nezahal with the fourth ability.

Blackblade Reforged seems to be at odds with the rest of the deck. We’ve been almost wholly committed to fighting for time and cards rather than racing our opponents to zero, and it’s not like we’re going to be putting this on a chump blocker to add to our defenses. Counting Azor, we only have three legendary creatures in the deck, and you really don’t want to be paying seven to put the Blackblade on something. For that matter, we only have six creatures in the entire deck. The simple fact is that I was worried about how quickly Azor could close out games and the real possibility of burning through the deck before you could finish opponents off. This slot was basically a tossup between Blackblade Reforged and Approach of the Second Sun, but in the end I decided to go with the new card over an alternate win condition I’ve already used in a few commander decks.

This should go without saying in a brand-new format, but I’m far from sure about how this deck will perform. We simply don’t have a framework for what’s good in brawl yet, but you know what? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Once I get a chance to play with Azor I’ll post updates, talk about how the deck is going and how enjoyable the format is as a whole. Until then, peace.

Levi Byrne has been with the game since Worldwake and has a rabid love for fantasy writing that goes back decades. Despite some forays into Legacy he plays Commander almost exclusively, and has a love for the crazy plays and huge games that make Magic what it is. He was the go-to advisor of his playgroup on deck construction for more than five years before joining Dear Azami.

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