Not too long ago, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) released an article regarding a new format that they plan to support called “Brawl”.
Brawl is basically Commander / EDH Lite. It’s a 60 card version of EDH (59 cards and 1 card is your commander) that is limited to only standard, legal cards. Planeswalkers can be commanders, and starting life is 30 instead of the typical 40 found in regular EDH matches. To add some more context, a regular EDH match also consists of 100 cards, and outside of a small ban list, almost any card is legal. Planeswalkers also cannot be commanders within EDH.
Now, before I start ranting and raving about what I don’t like… because we all know that’s what I’m good at… I think it’s important to look at the Pros and Cons.
- Planeswalkers as Commanders is a great move. I’ve been saying for years now that we should be allowed to use them for that purpose. We’ve seen it done before with the 2014 Commander Set, and I don’t quite understand why they haven’t adjusted the rules to apply to all formats. While Planeswalkers as Commanders have the potential for game breaking play (Looking at you guys… Original Sorin, Liliana of the Veil, Ugin, etc.), I do believe that if they were to make it legal for all of EDH there’d need to be some serious tinkering for the ban list. I truly enjoy that this change is being rolled out for a new format, which you can choose to play rather than forcing all to play this way.
- Rotating formats add variety. I’m not the biggest fan of rotating formats because after cards rotate out, they usually lose a huge amount of their value – both from game usage and price wise for reselling. However, because the format has new sets come in and out, we’ll get to see a variety of decks in the format which could help keep things fresh.
- Limited card pools help keep things fair. Let’s be honest, no one likes to limit their resources. There’s nothing worse than going up against a player who probably spent $2,000+ on their deck while yours is a budget build for less than $100. While this still could be a problem for some players in this format, it also helps to level the playing field a bit more as each player needs to strongly consider the value of adding specific cards to their decks.
- Limited card pool. You’re probably thinking… Hold on. You just said this was a good thing? Well, personally I’m the type who hates to be limited on my resources. I don’t own $1k+ decks or anything too fancy, but I like to have options and multiple strategies that can be thought up ahead of time or on the fly. I can already tell we’ll be seeing similar issues that Tiny Leader and Standard had after a while, where eventually we’ll see a lot of the same decks over and over again. Sure, when the sets rotate we’ll see different decks come into play, but with the limited pool, I don’t think we’ll see as many unique decks as we see with regular EDH.
- Potential cash grab. You’ll either agree with me or not, but that’s not the point here. To me, this seems like a way for WotC to push standard more than they already do. They claim that “Oh, this is a cheaper version of standard because you’ll only need 1 copy of card _____” but to me, it’s coming across as a way of tricking people into standard by selling them on the idea that this is a “Budget Friendly Version of Standard”. In theory, yes it will be cheaper to get into but it will also start to drive up the prices of cards due to the influx in demand for the cards needed in this new format.
- Not the best investment. One of the things that makes EDH so good is that the cards used in this format rarely change, thus allowing them to retain their value. Whether it’s a $2 card or a $50 card, those cards will maintain a fairly steady value. That means when the average player wants to sell their deck to fund a new one, they’ll be able to get a decent amount of their money back. With Brawl posed to have a rotating list of cards allowed for the format, this makes certain high-value cards a risky investment in the long run. Dropping $20 on a card today may make it worth $2 in a few months when the format rotates it out.
So, what can make it better?
As you all know, I love to complain. Call me the old man of Magic the Gathering at this point. Hey, kids! Get off my lawn!
But I don’t want to come across as someone who just throws complaints and negative energy out into the world, without any intent to provide a solution or idea on how to fix it. Now, this is merely my suggestion, but at least it’s an idea for making the format more viable in the long run.
Instead of limiting it to just standard legal, make the format into the New Extended format. For those of you who don’t know, Extended was a format that predates Modern. Modern essentially replaced Extended. It was a rotating format that included every set in the last four years. So if we’re playing Extended right now, it would be everything from Khans to now. And then once Dominaria drops in, it would rotate out Khans, leaving Origins as the oldest set allowed in the format. Extending the format to include sets from a few years back would increase the card pool variety, and the variety of decks you would encounter when playing out there, in the wild.
And while keeping it as a rotating format, we would still see a change of decks as new sets come in, and old sets leave. Extending the format to a longer period of time would also help some of the cards retain their values, allowing players who focus more on budget builds to feel as if their investments into risky cards will hold up.
It would also provide more value to certain cards, as there are plenty of cards that are good, but just not good enough for Modern. For example, Rally the Ancestors, Siege Rhino, Archangel, Avacyn, etc.
The larger card pool would also encourage the sales of some of the supplementary products, like VS Sets, Commander, Master Sets, etc., as well as standard sets. So WoTC would still be able to walk away from the new format build with a pretty, shiny penny in their pocket.
But when you think about a solution, you also have to think about the potential problems that come along with it.
One major problem I foresee with the above suggestion is that there would have to be a ban list for the format, at least when it comes to commanders. If we extended the card pool out to Khans, that would make Ugin legal as a commander. And as some of us know, Ugin is definitely a bit broken on the Commander side of things. Of course, there are probably a few other cards that would be an auto-include when it comes to banning due to their broken synergy with the format. Personally, I would include everything that is already on the ban list for Standard as a start, and just add a few extras along the way that are exclusive to this format.
Another issue with this idea is that it might spike the price of Modern. Modern is already becoming a format that is getting a bit too pricey to get into. It’s no Legacy or Vintage deck, but a solid Modern Deck can easily run $1k+. With another format driving the prices for certain Modern staples, it’s easy to see that cards like Fetchlands could see a significant spike in their already high pricing. The good thing is that once the cards rotate out of the Brawl format, it might have a positive outcome on Modern. It may also drop the prices of those cards as well, as they may only be valuable for Standard and Modern.
The takeaway – If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
EDH is fine the way it is, and Standard is great too. At the end of the day, it feels like we’re overcomplicating things more than they need to be by creating and supporting a format that’s a cross hybrid between the two.
So how do you feel about Brawl? Love it? Hate it? What would you change? Let us know in the comments below.