Ahoy planeswalkers! If you’re a regular reader of Hipsters of the Coast, you might be wondering why on earth I’m writing about Magic’s newest format, Brawl. I generally write Vorthos content; in over a year of writing for Hipsters, I’ve never written an article that involves a deck list. Well, I’ve decided to try something new for a simple reason: I’m excited about Brawl! And, more specifically, I’m excited about what Brawl might mean for Arena.

To explain why, I need to talk about my experiences with a different game. For much of the summer and fall, I was an avid player of The Elder Scrolls: Legends. That game introduced me to the challenges of card acquisition within the confines of the game’s economy. This is a challenge that could be exacerbated in Magic. In Hearthstone and Legends, you can only play three copies off any card and some of the most powerful are unique (meaning you can only run one copy in your deck), whereas Magic decks can easily need full four-card playsets of multiple cards at mythic rare (with the difficulty of getting those cards potentially exacerbated by an economy that looks really complicated. Depending on how the economy is balanced, with Magic’s frequent release of large sets, it could be quite costly (in either time or money) to obtain the cards for the Standard deck that you really want to play or that you might need to compete at the game’s highest levels.

Making one-on-one Brawl part of the game could help resolve this challenge. Offering a singleton format as an alternative option for competitive play renders more cards playable, leading to interesting deckbuilding challenges and opportunities and more variance in gameplay. The latter of which could be especially helpful to level the playing field for newer players trying to build their collections. It alleviates the strain of needing playsets of mythics while creating a format where players can enjoy the game and grind for rewards that might help them build a competitive standard deck. I also think its could be a very fun way to play—Legends’s special Singleton event was probably the most fun I had playing that game. (That, and stealing a game off of user IvanFloch, who is either a past Magic Pro Tour champion or messing with a very specific subset of the game’s player base.)

Programming command zone rules into the game for one-on-one Brawl, meanwhile, lays vital groundwork for bringing Commander to Arena, taking care of a key part of that format’s rules baggage. Expanding to multiplayer support could then put multiplayer Brawl into play, leaving only an expanded card base needed to really launch Commander on Arena. Brawl also launches within a favorable climate, with legend-centric Dominaria poised to provide a plethora of Brawl commander options, even at uncommon.

So, as a fun thought exercise, I decided to take my own standard deck—a green-red energy deck that borrows some of Ramunap Red’s beatdown tools (which, I should note, has taken me to several undefeated FNMs)—pull it apart, and see imagine it might look like as a Brawl deck built for one-on-one play, with the intent of grinding for the playsets of cards I need to complete the standard deck.

Now, the only eligible Brawl Commander for red-green currently in standard is Samut, The Tested—one of the most maligned planeswalkers of recent memory. She might just be the perfect fit, however, for such an aggressive shell. This is a deck designed to hit hard and fast, and Samut’s ability to give double-strike to a creature is something that opponents need to respect.

As a general principle, I’ve tried to focus on rares and mythics that are in the 75 for my Standard deck—cards whose acquisition brings me closer to what I want to do in Standard—and to try keeping more to uncommons and commons to fill out the deck. I couldn’t resist slipping in Green-Red Monsters mainstay Resilient Khenra, combo powerhouse Electrostatic Pummeler, and dinosaur powerhouse Regisaur Alpha. It’s a little awkward that Samut, the Tested would be an extra mythic to acquire, but to try compensating I’ve restrained myself from obvious upgrades like Flamewake Phoenix and Rhonas, the Indomitable.

At the same time, it’s a deck that has room for lots of powerful rares that one might open naturally in the course of building an Arena collection (had Arena been running from Kaladesh to present). Ripjaw Raptor? Kari Zev, Skyship Raider? Rishkar, Peema Renegade? Deathgorge Scavenger? Slot them in over something like Thriving Grubs and go to town!

Samut Brawl

Commander: Samut, The Tested

Creatures: Greenbelt Rampager, Earthshaker Khenra, Resilient Khenra, Merfolk Branchwalker, Voltaic Brawler, Longtusk Cub, Sage of Shaila’s Claim, Servant of the Conduit, Thriving Grubs, Khenra Charioteer, Ahn-Crop Crasher, Lathnu Hellion, Brazen Scourge, Thrashing Brontodon, Tishana’s Wayfinder, Electrostatic Pummeler, Thriving Rhino, Raging Regisaur, Bristling Hydra, Hazoret the Fervent, Glorybringer, Regisaur Alpha

Spells: Shock, Blossoming Defense, Crash Through, Harnessed Lightning, Lightning Strike, Abrade, Invigorated Rampage, Hungry Flames, Bombard, Struggle // Survive, Insult // Injury, Sweltering Suns, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary, Flame Lash

Lands: Sheltered Thicket, Rootbound Crag, Timber Gorge, Desert of the Fervent, Desert of the Indominable, Hashep Oasis, Evolving Wilds, Aether Hub, 8 Mountain, 7 Forest

I believe it’s customary to offer some comments on why I’ve built this the way I have, so…

The Energy Package

Eight creatures create energy when they enter the battlefield. More fragile and weaker energy creatures like Thriving Grubs, Thriving Rhino, and Sage of Shaila’s Claim create the possibility for cards like Bristling Hydra, Electrostatic Pummeler, and Longtusk Cub to go off. An opponent would be wise to respect these cards.

Trample Plus Double-Strike

Cards that grant trample, like Larger Than Life, Invigorated Rampage, Khenra Charioteer, and Crash Through play extremely well with Samut’s +1 ability, especially since they are cheap enough to be played pretty easily on the same turn that Samut is first cast. Her ability to deal damage directly to an opponent, meanwhile, can also give the deck valuable reach.

I know Crash Through is probably the jankiest card on the list, but I think it has a lot of potential. Being able to grant trample for only one mana makes it easier to go off with Samut’s +1, and as a fail case it can be cycled for one red mana to try digging for more powerful cards.


Although this is an aggressive deck, it has a pretty good portion of creatures with four or more toughness. This means that I think Sweltering Suns is workable—it’s good insurance against another aggro deck, and the swingier gameplay of a singleton format means that there’s more likely to be time to cycle it away in games where it’s bad.

Otherwise, red has a lot of efficiently-costed removal spells to take out small-to-mid-sized creatures. It’s possible I should have Naturalize or Appetite for the Unnatural as an additional hedge against powerful artifacts and enchantments, but I just couldn’t find a card I liked less.

The Deserts

One of the challenges of Brawl is the limited number of ways to fix your mana, since there just aren’t that many nonbasics in standard at a given time. Desert of the Fervent and Desert of the Indomitable offer a little bit of flood insurance and can help, and the deck has a lot of cards that cost two, which means that a turn-one tapped desert is typically fine, while you can still develop your board if you really must play one on turn three. Once in a while, they will also provide the opportunity to get a little more value off of Hashep Oasis.

Having typed this all out, I actually really want to play this deck—I may need to pick up the few cards I don’t have so that I can join in if I chance upon an opportunity to play Brawl in real life. And the fact that this new format is exciting me seems like it has to be a good sign.

I really think 1v1 Brawl has a lot of potential in Arena as an alternative format that encourages creative deckbuilding, provides the opportunity to use a larger portion of the cards in the game, and will allow the technical team the opportunity to start laying the groundwork for features that are likely to be highly sought-after, such as multiplayer play and, ultimately, Commander. I’ll be looking forward to Arena coming to Mac regardless, but I’m particularly eager to see if Brawl’s rollout at this specific moment in Magic’s history is going to presage a push in Magic’s long-awaited attempt to rise up and challenge Hearthstone.

Beck is a financial aid counselor and theatre history Ph.D. student who lives in the greater Boston area. He believes in playing standard like a Johnny, drafting like a Spike, and only playing modern decks that involve the number eight.

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