What Is MTG Arena’s Historic Brawl?

by in Magic: The Gathering Arena | Aug, 20th 2021

We haven’t talked about MTG Arena’s Brawl much here, but it’s time to talk Historic Brawl and some decks. I think it’s time we change that and discuss one of the most interesting ways to play Magic: The Gathering. Today we’re going to focus on 100-card Brawl since it’s finally be revealed to a part of MTG Arena. It’s almost time for 100-card Historic Brawl to be a part of MTG Arena, so we need to consider some decks you can try. From what I understand, this Brawl queue is going to be permanent, so that’s very exciting. But the question we have to ask before we start talking decks is: “what is brawl?” It’s the closest we’ve come to Commander in MTG Arena, so let’s talk about that first.

What Is Brawl?

In Paper MTG, Brawl is known as Commander. Commander started out life as Elder Dragon Highlander, but the mode has stayed pretty much the same. The idea behind Brawl is that you have a Legendary creature that serves as your “Commander”, or the leader of the deck. Whatever that creature’s Color Identity is, those are the only colors you can have in your deck. So if you use, for example, Niv-Mizzet Reborn, you could run all five colors in your deck.

You can only have lands in your deck that can utilize these colors as well. The real catch is that you can only have one of each card in the deck. This includes non-basic lands. The only restriction would be cards that state you can have multiples in your deck (Relentless Rats, for example). Colorless cards that generate mana, you would consider the color it produces as its Color Identity. Your chosen Commander starts off in the “Commander Zone”, where you can cast it from this space anytime you could normally cast it. When it dies, it returns to this zone, and each cast after this costs an additional two colorless mana. So if you cast it three more times, it’s going to cost 6 more mana. Just be aware of that.

The game is played essentially the same beyond this. One thing that might confuse new players are colored cards that have alternate mana costs in them. An example Wizards gives is Kazarov, Sengir Pureblood. It’s a black legendary card, that has a red mana cost in its text. That means it’s a Black/Red card, for purposes of Brawl.

There are so many cool decks that you can make in Historic Brawl in MTG Arena. This is especially thanks to Jumpstart: Historic Horizons that drops later this month. In fact, two cards in Jumpstart: Historic Horizons start off banned in Brawl: Davriel, Soul Broker, and Davriel’s Withering. Trust me, it’s a good thing at least Withering is banned. There is a pretty lengthy list of banned cards though, which you can find here.

Since this is a 100-card Historic Brawl, I can’t possibly talk about every single card in a deck. So I’ll do my best to talk about what makes the deck most powerful or most interesting. They won’t all be world-beating MTG Arena Historic Brawl decks for sure. A lot of Brawl is doing the best with what you have. It’s a mode that’s supposed to be fun to play. There are some seriously obnoxious combos in Commander/Brawl, and we’re going to start with the one that I’m pretty excited about.

Volo, Guide to Monsters Makes Way More Friends (Blue/Green Combo)

Normally, you can only have one of each card in your deck. That’s still true here, but we get around that by simply making copies. That’s something Blue/Green has been known for years now. This particular deck comes to life thanks to the latest Adventures in Forgotten Realms expansion. Volo, Guide to Monsters is the Commander we’ve chosen for this deck. This is a Commander your opponent is going to want out of the way as often as possible. But thankfully, we’re playing Blue/Green, so we’ve got mana ramp!

Quite a few of the creatures in this deck also become copies of other creatures (yours or your opponents), like Vizier of Many Faces, for example. It lets you copy a creature on the battlefield, but if it was embalmed (cast from the graveyard for a specific cost), the token has no mana cost, is White, and a Zombie in addition to other types.

We’re going to make copies of our creatures and just overrun our opponent with really frustrating, and then really powerful creatures. Who is our commander though?

Commander: Volo, Guide to Monsters:

A 4-cost Legendary Creature, this Human Wizard rewards you for having a nice variety of creature types. He’s a 3/2 for 4, which feels a little high. That is until you read the text. “Whenever you cast a creature spell that doesn’t share a creature type with a creature you control or a creature in your graveyard, copy that spell.” Now for your Legendaries, you’re going to lose it immediately. For Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, that’s fine, because it’s going to perish again anyway. You’ll still trigger both abilities twice. Now, say you play Thorn Mammoth, a 6/6 for 7. If you have no other Elephants in play, you copy that Thorn Mammoth.

This will mean you trigger its ability twice, and the Thorn Mammoth will fight up to one creature you don’t control (twice). Then, they’ll do it again for the other Thorn Mammoth. He allows you to duplicate your creatures in a format where the idea is that you have one of each card. It’s really amazing for your mana-producing creatures: Lotus Cobra, Llanowar Elves, Maraleaf Pixie, Paradise Druid, Llanowar Visionary, and Druid of the Cowl.

When you play cards like Dryad of the Ilysian Grove it’s just as powerful, because that lets you play two additional lands a turn. Also exceptional for our cloning creatures.

How Does It Work?

We’re going to mana ramp whenever we can, so we can get Volo, Guide to Monsters into play. Especially if our opponent isn’t likely to have creature removal. His ability to make copies of creatures is just the icing on a very sweet cake. The majority of this deck are creatures that all affect how quickly we can get things going. We do have ideal cards to win the game with though. End-Raze Forerunners is an incredible game-winner when we’ve got plenty of weak creatures in play. It grants our creatures +2/+2, Vigilance, and Trample until the end of turn, and it also has those, plus Haste. Suddenly, we’re swinging for the fences. Even better, if we make a copy of it!

Kogla, the Titan Ape sure helps too. A7/6, it fights a creature you don’t control when it comes into play. Whenever it attacks, it also destroys an artifact or enchantment the defending player controls. We also want to get Vivien Reid’s ultimate into play. It gives you an emblem that reads, “Creatures you control get +2/+2 and have vigilance, trample, and indestructible.” She’s so incredible, and finding her early is a real boon. The best way to win though is dropping the Forerunners.

That’s not to say he’s the only one. A well-timed God-Eternal Rhonas is terrifying. He grants your creatures double their power and vigilance for the turn. You can also use Biogenic Ooze and make more Oozes for 4 mana (3 green). It also grants +1/+1 Counters to all of your Oozes at the end of your end step. We need mana for that stuff though. Thankfully, this is Blue/Green, so we have mana ramp for days.

If we get an early Tendershoot Dryad, and it doesn’t die, we can simply overrun people with Saprolings. As long as we have City’s Blessing (10 or more permanents in play), all Saprolings get +2/+2, making this scary. You get another 1/1 each player’s upkeep, so the more players, the more you get!

Mana Ramping:

The aforementioned creatures all tap for mana, and that’s excellent. Dryad also assists in simply letting us play additional lands per turn, so copying her with Volo is key. Well, Lotus Cobra gives you temporary mana when you play a land, so it doesn’t really tap for mana. Explore lets us play an additional land for turn and draw a card, and Into The North lets us search for a snow land and put it into play tapped. Once Upon a Time can let you look at the top five of your deck and pick a creature or land and put it into your hand. On top of that, if you have it on Turn 0, you can cast it without paying any mana.

Ilysian Carytid is another “one mana of any color” creature, but if you have a power 4 or greater creature, now it’s two mana of any color. Risen Reef kind of helps. We don’t have any other actual Elementals in the deck, but if we get a copy of it through Volo, we can get his ability to trigger twice. It has us look at the top card of our deck, and if it’s a land, put it into play. Solemn Simulacrum also has us pull a basic land when it comes into play, so another positive. Oh, and Growth Spiral I guess. With all this mana and potential game-winning cards, another thing to be aware of is our copycats.


We have a couple of creatures that copy our current creatures. Glasspool Mimic becomes a copy of a creature you control, but also is a Shapeshifter Rogue in addition to other types. Vizier of Many Faces is a bit better since it can be any creature in play. Why not copy your opponent’s commander if it’s in play? Or another powerful creature? Spark Double can also become a creature or planeswalker, and it gets a bonus! Either a +1/+1 counter (creature) or an additional loyalty counter (planeswalker), and is not legendary if the original target was!

That’s the power of this deck. If you have Volo in play, you get two of these. Volo, Guide to Monsters does point out you cannot have a creature of the same type in play or in the grave. Almost all of our creatures are unique though. We’re going to be mana ramping and card drawing as hard as possible, seeking out our biggest creatures. Since we’re going to duplicate cards when they come into play, we can afford to be incredibly aggressive against most MTG Arena Historic Brawl decks.

Final Thoughts

We had to start with something truly obnoxious. It’s a deck with a lot of possibilities. You can win with Saprolings, Ulvenwalk Hydra, Cavalier of Thorns, Beanstalk Giant, End-Raze Forerunners, so many cards. Or you can simply just overrun someone with a constant flow of weak, but plentiful creatures. We have a wealth of ways to draw cards, and can give ourselves an unlimited hand size, through Sea Gate Restoration. This deck has it all: Counterspells, Mana Ramp, Big Creatures, Utility Creatures, Powerful Artifacts. It’s ruthless.



1 Volo, Guide to Monsters


1 Spark Double

1 Tendershoot Dryad

1 Solemn Simulacrum

1 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

1 Lotus Cobra

1 Mirror Image

1 The Great Henge

1 Esika’s Chariot

1 Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate

1 Dryad of the Ilysian Grove

1 Risen Reef

1 Ilysian Caryatid

1 Ulvenwald Hydra

1 Mind Flayer

1 Maraleaf Pixie

1 Gilded Goose

1 Arcane Signet

1 Biogenic Ooze

1 Thorn Mammoth

1 Llanowar Visionary

1 Explore

1 Growth Spiral

1 Into the North

1 Coldsteel Heart

1 Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner

1 Thragtusk

1 End-Raze Forerunners

1 God-Eternal Rhonas

1 Llanowar Elves

1 Paradise Druid

1 Druid of the Cowl

1 Abundant Harvest

1 Once Upon a Time

1 Glasspool Mimic

1 Turntimber Symbiosis

1 Sea Gate Restoration

1 Veil of Summer

1 Counterspell

1 Memory Lapse

1 Negate

1 Mystical Dispute

1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner

1 Vizier of Many Faces

1 Keeper of Fables

1 Cavalier of Thorns

1 Kogla, the Titan Ape

1 Sawtusk Demolisher

1 Barkchannel Pathway

1 Breeding Pool

1 Blast Zone

1 Botanical Sanctum

1 Command Tower

1 Hinterland Harbor

1 Fabled Passage

1 Temple of Mystery

1 Vineglimmer Snarl

1 Castle Vantress

1 Quandrix Campus

1 Thornwood Falls

1 Littjara Mirrorlake

1 Rimewood Falls

2 Snow-Covered Island

2 Snow-Covered Forest

11 Island

12 Forest

1 Bala Ged Recovery

1 Brazen Borrower

1 Shifting Ceratops

1 Rishkar’s Expertise

1 Kazandu Mammoth

1 Frogify

1 Lifecrafter’s Bestiary

1 Hornet Queen

1 Vivien Reid

1 Beanstalk Giant

1 Decisive Denial

Vorinclex and His Gigantic Friends (Mono-Green Aggro Deck)

There are so many potential game-changing powerhouses in the Green collection, but one of my favorites is a recent addition: Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider. A 6/6 for 6, with Trample and Haste, he doubles all counters you would add to your creatures, and cuts in half any counters your opponent would add to something. In Mono-Green, you have so many creatures that come in with X +1/+1 counters. In addition to the Mono-Green options, we have some colorless picks that also join the crew. Since those cards have no color identity, they can be used in the deck. The idea is that we mana ramp with some artifacts and spells, and get Vorinclex in play.

We can make some unreasonably big creatures in this deck. Not all of them have Trample though, so we need another card to really make things powerful. Enter Garruk, Save Herald. His -7 gives our creatures the power to assign damage as though they weren’t blocked. A few big Hydras, Giants or Trolls, declare that power and swing out? We’re going to mash someone into a paste. Not a deck that requires a ton of finesse or planning, we play creatures and hammer people into the ground like a tent spike.

Commander: Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider:

Honestly, there isn’t a lot to say about this commander. It doubles all of our counters and halves our opponents. It makes virtually everything in this deck completely OP. It takes nearly no effort to make 20/20 creatures, thanks to Vorinclex and some of the other traits our creatures feature.

How Does It Work?

Vorinclex gives us the ability to play creatures with X amount of +1/+1 counters, and make them really nasty. Consider the Voracious Hydra. It’s a 0/1 Trample that costs 2 Green + X. It will come into play with that many +1/+1 counters, and when it enters play, you have two choices. It can fight an enemy creature, or you can double its +1/+1 counters. If we pay 5 mana, we get a ⅚, which becomes a 10/11. Then we can double it again thanks to that Vorinclex. All it needs is haste, and we can win the game.

That’s the name of the game here. Pretty much every powerful creature we use is malleable. They can come in as whatever casting cost we can afford. We have several ways to inflate them too, for example, Biogenic Upgrade. A bit expensive, as a 6-mana Sorcery, it distributes 3 +1/+1 counters across one, two, or three creatures. Then we double the number of +1/+1 counters on each of these.

If we have a series of creatures with 10 +1/+1 counters, they go from 11/11s to 22/22s. Vorinclex has a friend though, in the form of an enchantment. Branching Evolution doubles the amount of +1/+1 counters that you would normally produce. Getting both of these into play means we have to spend way less mana to make creatures a threat. Heck, we can use Vorinclex (or Branching Evolution) to cast Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi to create an 18/18 Legendary Land with Haste.

Dealing With Inflation:

We have so many creatures that can start off as big as we can afford. It’s not always going to be worth it to just pump them up for our full mana pool. That’s because of counters, removal, or simply needing to play more things in a turn. Almost every other card in the deck enhances this in some way. Some of my favorite inflatable creatures are Stonecoil Serpent, for example. With its Reach, Trample, Protection From Multicolored, it’s an amazing card to win the game with.

The various and manifold Hydra are great: Wildwood Scourge, Steelbane Hydra, Voracious Hydra, Feral Hydra, Hungering Hydra. There are Oozes who also come in this way, like the Ochre Jelly. There’s also Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig for 3 green. A 0/0 that comes into play with 4 +1/+1 counters, it also gains another +1/+1 counter when a green creature enters play for you. If that creature’s power is greater than Yorvo’s, he gets yet another +1/+1. With our doubling systems, this can get out of hand fast.

We have a card that can come in with +1/+1 counters, and also find lands for us! Fertilid is a 0/0 that comes in with 2 +1/+1 counters on it. This is definitely a card we want to give more +1/+1 counters to. Why? We can pay 2 and remove a +1/+1 from it to find a basic land and put it into play tapped. We can use a host of spells to give it more +1/+1 counters, to make sure we always have more lands. The First Iroan Games can give a creature 3 +1/+1 counters, for example. Verduous Gearhulk can give any of our creatures 4 +1/+1 counters, distributed as we choose. Then there’s Expanded Anatomy, which grants two +1/+1 counters to a creature and gives it Vigilance.

These are just a few of the ways we can bump up creatures’ stats, not even counting our planeswalkers. My favorite way is to play it via Turntimber Symbiosis. We look at the top seven of our deck and put a creature into play from among them. If it costs 3 or less, it also gains 3 additional +1/+1 counters! If we do this with Branching Evolution or Vorinclex, that number gets so much bigger. We’ll have mana, don’t you worry. And power.

Mana Ramping:

Vorinclex is key to our success without a doubt. We need some mana to really make this thing go. We can pair him with Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter, which makes all of our creatures that have at least one +1/+1 counter tappable for one mana. In a way, Animation Module is a boon for this card. Whenever a +1/+1 counter gets added to a creature you control, you can pay 1 colorless. If you do, create a 1/1 Servo Artifact Creature Token. These don’t have +1/+1 counters on them, but with a Kicked Vastwood Surge, they could! Now they can all be tapped for mana! On top of that, we have Nissa, Who Shakes the Earth. We want her in play as soon as possible. As a 5-drop Planeswalker, she gives us extra green mana whenever we tap a Forest. That one’s a no-brainer.

We also run staples like Explore, Into the North, Vastwood Surge, Cultivate, Tangled Florahedron, Replicating Ring, Coldsteel Heart, and Arcane Signet. Replicating Ring is the one we want to play after or as close to the casting of Vorinclex as possible. It taps for one mana of any color, and at the beginning of our upkeep, we add a Night Counter. If it has eight or more, remove them all and create eight colorless snow artifact tokens named “Replicated Ring”. Each of these taps for one mana of any color.

Suddenly, 8 mana from nonlands! We pair this with Vivien, Champion of the Wilds, since she lets you cast creature spells as though they had Flash. Suddenly, we drop a 30/30 on our opponent’s turn. One of our Mana Ramp spells can even buff our creatures if we have the spare 8 total mana for it. For 4 mana you can cast Vastwood Surge to find two basic lands and put them into play tapped. If you pay 4 colorless for the Kicker, each creature also gains two +1/+1 counters! Skyclave Relic can be kicked to add another couple of mana artifacts to tap too!

Final Thoughts

This is such a great deck. It’s got a nice pile of useful planeswalkers, plenty of ways to get mana too. We even have Strixhaven Stadium if we want to find a sort of cheesy way to win the game. It’s also great for when our opponent is gaining untold amounts of life. But we’re hopefully going to just slam someone into the dirt with incredibly huge creatures that just grow in size constantly. Each new creature is bigger than the last. I adore the concept of this as one of the Historic Brawl decks for MTG Arena. We have access to Trample, or can simply bypass our opponent’s ability to prevent our damage from going through (Garruk). It has a fair amount of rares in it (25), but only 11 Mythic Rares, so it’s not too bad to slap together.



1 Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider


1 Glittering Frost

1 Verdurous Gearhulk

1 Biogenic Upgrade

1 Strength of the Pack

1 Turntimber Symbiosis

1 Ivy Elemental

1 Hungering Hydra

1 Feral Hydra

1 Ochre Jelly

1 Wildwood Scourge

1 Steelbane Hydra

1 Voracious Hydra

1 Animation Module

1 Expanded Anatomy

1 Naturalize

1 Return to Nature

1 Wilt

1 Mirror Shield

1 Castle Garenbrig

1 Tranquil Thicket

1 Vastwood Fortification

1 Explore

1 Into the North

1 Sculptor of Winter

1 Tangled Florahedron

1 Cultivate

1 Elder Gargaroth

1 Ugin’s Conjurant

1 The Great Henge

1 Old-Growth Troll

1 Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi

1 Vastwood Surge

1 Kazandu Mammoth

1 Blessing of Frost

36 Snow-Covered Forest

1 Replicating Ring

1 Arcane Signet

1 Skyclave Relic

1 Tome of Legends

1 Snakeskin Veil

1 The Ozolith

1 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds

1 Ellywick Tumblestrum

1 Garruk, Unleashed

1 Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter

1 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger

1 Battle Mammoth

1 Nissa, Who Shakes the World

1 Vivien Reid

1 Garruk, Savage Herald

1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

1 Coldsteel Heart

1 Faceless Haven

1 Solemn Simulacrum

1 Stonecoil Serpent

1 Strixhaven Stadium

1 Pelt Collector

1 Inscription of Abundance

1 Fynn, the Fangbearer

1 Branching Evolution

1 Fertilid

1 The First Iroan Games

1 Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig

1 Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate

There’s No Escaping Ugin (Colorless Ugin Combo)

Surprised there’s a colorless deck among these? Probably shouldn’t be. Especially with Ugin in MTG Arena! However, it’s not the big, AOE damage-dealing Ugin! Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is in the deck, but our commander is far more important. No, we want to keep and defend Ugin, the Ineffable instead. His passive makes your colorless spells cost 2 less to cast. Suddenly, it’s not so hard to cast cards like Mystic Forge, Hedron Archive, and God-Pharaoh’s Statue! We have Metalwork Colossus as an 11-cost, but it costs X less to cast, where X is the total converted mana cost of noncreature artifacts you control.

We have so many of those. If we get Ugin out, even if it makes our spells cost less, it will still take the default cost. We can mana ramp incredibly easy in this deck, of course, thanks to colorless artifacts. We can do so much and have quite a few ways to win. Ulamog, Ugin, and Metalwork Colossus are most likely the ways we’re going to batter opponents. We don’t run a single basic land either, and run one of everyone’s favorite lands of all time: Field of the Dead! Reasonably sure it should be fine to use here. I believe Brawl uses a different ban list.

How Does It Work?

Somehow, we seem to have found a theme without intending to: Copying cards! One of my favorite artifacts is Mishra’s Self-Replicator. Whenever we play a “historic spell”, we can pay 1 colorless. If we do, create a token that is a copy of Mishra’s Self-Replicator. That means we get another 2/2 with that same ability. Historic Spells in this case are Artifacts, Legendaries, and Sagas. So essentially, every single thing in our deck other than lands count. That sounds like it will get expensive after a while. That’s why we need one of our mana ramp cards, Azor’s Gateway (when it transforms).

What’s our ultimate goal though? We’re going to play colorless mana ramp cards and nonbasic lands, to make sure we cast Ugin, the Ineffable. Hopefully, we get some low-cost blocking artifacts, too. That can come from Whirlermaker, which can be tapped/pay 4 colorless to make a 1/1 colorless Thopter artifact token with flying.

Ugin’s passive again, makes all of our colorless spells cost 2 less. Treasure Map? 0. Voltaic Servant? 0. We have so many 2-drops that are suddenly 0-cost! We’re also trying to get some cards exiled, and that’s for the best. Azor’s Gateway is a card I want to cast as early as possible. You can tap 1, and draw a card with it, then exile a card. You have to pay attention to what you exile. The reason is, if you have cards exiled this way that have 5 different mana costs, you gain 5 life and transform Azor’s Gateway.

Now you have the legendary land Sanctum of the Sun. It can be tapped for X of any one color, where X is your Life Total. Combine this with Aetherflux Reservoir for maximum mana. It’s important to note that it doesn’t require this card to exile cards for you. You also have Karn, Scion of Urza. Its +1 reveals the top two of your deck, and your opponent chooses one to exile, and the other goes into your hand. However, it gets a Silver counter. You can also pull those Silver-token exiled cards with Karn. Finally, for -2, you can make a 0/0 construct that gains +1/+1 for each artifact you have in play (could be a ton of them). Finally, Mystic Forge can pay 1 colorless to exile the top card of your deck (which we can see while it’s in play), making things that much easier.

Aetherflux Reservoir is one of our potential win conditions. It grants us 1 life for each spell we’ve cast this turn, whenever we cast a spell. That can stack up really quickly, especially with Sanctum. We can pay 50 life to deal 50 damage to any target.

This deck also features a card that should be banned in Historic Brawl (it is banned in Commander). Paradox Engine untapped all nonland permanents you control when you cast a spell. So you use all the artifact mana generators, cast a spell, untap them, do it again and again. You can store away cards in hand with Reliquary Tower (no maximum hand size), and drop tons of cards in one turn. Suddenly, it’s not so hard to cap out your Aetherflux Reservoir.

You can also just run people down with a 10/10, or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. It still makes your opponent exile the top 20 cards of their deck whenever it attacks, and it’s so easy to put it into play. One of my personal favorite ideas is to use Sanctum of the Sun and Mishra’s Self-Replicator to just produce a ton of 2/2 artifacts, and batter someone with 50/60/70+ 2/2s.

Mana Ramp In Brief:

We have quite a few mana ramp artifacts, but not as many as previous MTG Arena Historic Brawl decks. Coldsteel Heart probably sounds familiar, but we also have Palladium Myr for 2 colorless, and Mind Stone for 1 colorless. Skyclave Relic is the same (1 mana), and so does Spinning Wheel. We also have clone cards like Sculpting Steel, that can come into play as a copy of any artifact in play. So it’s going to be pretty easy to get things going. We also have Jhoira’s Familiar, which isn’t a mana card, but it makes Historic Spells cost 1 less, so we can get things out much faster. Forsaken Monument also makes colorless mana sources tap for 1 more, and also gives us 2 life when we cast a colorless spell.

Final Thoughts

The loop for this deck is honestly pretty easy. We grind out as many sources of colorless mana as possible, then start playing tons of cards a turn. It’s really annoying and really powerful. We can make a near-endless supply of those 2/2s, make lots of zombies instead, or just clatter people in the noggin with huge, powerful constructs. The possibilities are endless! Or we can just make people give up with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Since none of our cards have a color to them, we can safely exile as much as we want with him. We can wait people out with God-Pharaoh’s Statue, dealing them 1 life lost a turn and making their cards cost more. We can use the Planar Bridge to just look for cards and put them in play immediately.



1 Ugin, the Ineffable


1 Arch of Orazca

1 Whirlermaker

1 Unstable Obelisk

1 Spinning Wheel

1 Skyclave Relic

1 Sculpting Steel

1 Scrap Trawler

1 Replicating Ring

1 Aetherflux Reservoir

1 Palladium Myr

1 Mirage Mirror

1 Letter of Acceptance

1 Introduction to Prophecy

1 Foundry Inspector

1 Filigree Familiar

1 Dungeon Map

1 Crucible of Worlds

1 Crystalline Giant

1 Chaos Wand

1 Voltaic Servant

1 Treasure Map

1 Tome of Legends

1 Cosmos Elixir

1 Darksteel Reactor

1 Golden Guardian

1 Hedron Archive

1 Ugin’s Conjurant

1 Stonecoil Serpent

1 Metalwork Colossus

1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

1 Meteor Golem

1 The Immortal Sun

1 Planar Bridge

1 God-Pharaoh’s Statue

1 Dreamstone Hedron

1 Spare Supplies

1 Wandering Archaic

1 Mishra’s Self-Replicator

1 Paradox Engine

1 Introduction to Annihilation

1 Guardians of Koilos

1 Forsaken Monument

1 Myriad Construct

1 Mystic Forge

1 Lithoform Engine

1 Karn, Scion of Urza

1 Jhoira’s Familiar

1 The Deck of Many Things

1 Sleeper Dart

1 Mimic

1 Scavenger Grounds

1 Reliquary Tower

1 Radiant Fountain

1 Mobilized District

1 Mirrodin’s Core

1 Interplanar Beacon

1 Labyrinth of Skophos

1 Karn’s Bastion

1 Inventors’ Fair

1 Ghost Quarter

1 Field of the Dead

1 Field of Ruin

1 Faceless Haven

1 Emergence Zone

1 Dungeon Descent

1 Detection Tower

1 Crawling Barrens

1 Buried Ruin

1 Bonders’ Enclave

1 Blinkmoth Nexus

1 Blast Zone

1 Sunscorched Desert

1 The Biblioplex

1 Treasure Vault

1 Tyrite Sanctum

1 Mazemind Tome

1 Ichor Wellspring

1 Heart of Kiran

1 Guild Globe

1 Guardian Idol

1 Golden Egg

1 Eye of Vecna

1 Coldsteel Heart

1 Azor’s Gateway

1 Amulet of Safekeeping

1 Mind Stone

1 Manifold Key

1 Unknown Shores

1 Throne of Makindi

1 Spire of Industry

1 Guildmages’ Forum

1 Hall of Oracles

1 Cryptic Caves

1 Cascading Cataracts

1 Aether Hub

1 Access Tunnel

1 Zhalfirin Void

1 Hope of Ghirapur

Flames Are a Chandra’s Best Friend (Mono-Red Aggro)

I’ve said it since time immemorial, but Chandra’s not my favorite of the planeswalkers. I’ve often pointed out that there isn’t a single good copy of her, but that’s simply not true. It’s more attributed to how much I disliked Mono-Red Aggro at the time. Chandra, Torch of Defiance is an excellent card though, especially for its ultimate. Once you get that emblem, it’s not a big deal what happens to her. We just need to get that -7 to pop off and then cast spells with reckless abandon.

However, this is Mono-Red Aggro, so it’s not exactly a one-trick pony. The deck features any number of ways to really frustrate an enemy player. It also has pretty much every Chandra card I can possibly think of. Embercat, Outrage, Revolution, etc etc. We also have a few other Chandra planeswalkers in the deck, Flame’s Catalyst and Awakened Inferno. Oh and Flame’s Fury. And Bold Pyromancer. Torch of Defiance is the best one to use as a Commander though, I think. It’s not the cheapest (that’s Chandra, Acolyte of Flame), but it has the most powerful ultimate ability for my money.

Commander: Chandra, Torch of Defiance:

There were too many Chandra cards to pick from, but this one’s my personal favorite. It’s a 4-cost, so we won’t be waiting for it for too long. We may have enough removal and inexpensive creatures to keep her safe. She has 4 base Loyalty and four abilities:

  • +1: Exile the top card of your library. You may cast it this turn. If you don’t, Chandra deals 2 damage to each opponent.
  • +1: Add 2 Red Mana to your mana pool.
  • -3: Deals 4 damage to target creature.
  • -7: You get an emblem with “Whenever you cast a spell, this emblem deals 5 damage to any target.”

Even creatures/artifacts count as spells until they resolve, so consider that. We can get free mana from her, and are unlikely to ever use her -3. We want to ramp that -7 as fast as possible. This is easier with Chandra’s Regulator. We can also use Keral Keep Disciples to deal 1 damage anytime we activate a loyalty ability of a Chandra. We have 10 Chandras in this deck. Just some food for thought.

How Does It Work?

This deck works probably exactly how you think it will. Play lands, and deal direct damage. Hopefully, we turn one Mox Amber though. Just the ability to have a mana producer for 0 is nice. It requires us to have a legendary and/or planeswalker out to use it, but that’s what our commander is here for. The artifact mana producers we’ve already talked about are here too. Not much reliable mana ramp, but that’s okay. In theory, we could turn-2 Magda, Brazen Outlaw for Mox Amber. It gives our Dwarves +1/+0 (mediocre), but it creates a Treasure Token when our Dwarves are tapped. Again, not all that useful, since we don’t have a ton of dwarves. We can sacrifice 5 treasures to seek an Artifact or Dragon card though.

Magda’s a Dwarf though, so they count. This is a pretty wild amount of weird damage in the deck, that’s for sure. We can get treasures through Goldspan Dragon though since it creates a Treasure anytime it attacks or is the target of a spell. And now our treasures sac for two mana instead of one, so either way is going to be useful. If I’m going to seek out a dragon, it’s going to be Inferno of Star Mounts, since it’s a 6/6 Flying/Haste that can’t be countered. It can also deal 20 damage to any target if you manage to make it a 20 power creature (which takes a ton of mana).

However, with Leyline Tyrant, we can stack enough mana for that, or simply use it to win the game with. It makes your Red Mana not leave the pool as steps/phases end. When/if it dies, that remaining red mana deals X damage to any target. That’s what this deck is to me: Sudden, huge amounts of damage. Leyline Tyrant is key to that. It also makes Devil’s Play a potential game-winner. Devil’s Play is a 1-cost Sorcery that deals X damage to a creature or player. It also has Flashback (3 Red+X), so you can cast it once from the grave.

As one of the keys for the deck is sneaky damage, let’s look at Sin Prodder. It’s a 3/2 Menace Devil, and during your upkeep, you reveal the top card of your deck. Your opponent can put it into your graveyard. If they do, the Mana Value of that card is dealt as damage to them. Otherwise, it goes into our hands. There are going to be cards your opponent will let you keep, and cards your opponent are desperate to keep out.

This means your opponent has to gauge whether or not that extra card for you every turn is worth it. Like for example, Fiery Emancipation, which functions as a Furnace of Rath (only better). It makes sources of damage we deal do triple damage. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is also in that camp since it makes our red sources deal +2 damage. There are so many damage cards in this deck that your opponent will really have to consider what they let you have.

For my money though, the most important card in the entire deck is Chandra’s Regulator. It’s a 2-cost Legendary artifact that lets you pay 1 colorless each time you use a Chandra planeswalker’s loyalty. If you do, copy the ability and pick new targets (if you want). You can also discard a red or Mountain card to draw a card. But the ability to keep pumping out extra Chandra abilities? Oh yes, it’s so great.

Direct Damage:

God, there’s so much. Of course Lightning Bolt. I count Honden of Infinite Rage as it is guaranteed direct damage each turn. Roil Eruption is good too, and if you pay the Kicker (5 colorless), it’s 5 damage to any target. Not all of them hit players, like Thundering Rebuke and Chandra’s Triumph. We also have Sweltering Suns to do more damage (3). Slaying Fire also deals damage to any target (3), and if 3 red was spent on it, it deals 4 instead.

Final Thoughts

This deck wound up more enjoyable than I initially thought. We can do a ton of annoying damage that your opponent has no choice but to accept. We can duplicate cards, loyalty abilities, keep mana around longer for huge plays, and deal unstoppable damage every turn. I wound up adoring it though. Though we can also win via creatures, thanks to Anax, Bonecrusher, and Chandra’s Embercat for example. But I like to win via Inferno of Star Mounts and Devil’s Play.



1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance


1 Chandra’s Embercat

1 Honden of Infinite Rage

1 Bonecrusher Giant

1 Anger of the Gods

1 Anax, Hardened in the Forge

1 Magda, Brazen Outlaw

1 Runaway Steam-Kin

1 Sin Prodder

1 Roil Eruption

1 Abrade

1 Lightning Bolt

1 Mind Stone

1 Guardian Idol

1 Arcane Signet

1 Labyrinth of Skophos

1 Thundering Rebuke

1 Karn’s Bastion

1 Slaying Fire

1 Sweltering Suns

1 Solemn Simulacrum

1 Nyx Lotus

1 Skyclave Relic

1 Heraldic Banner

1 Mimic

1 Coldsteel Heart

1 Stone Rain

1 Mox Amber

1 Inferno of the Star Mounts

1 Fiery Emancipation

1 Goldspan Dragon

1 Double Vision

1 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

1 Leyline Tyrant

1 Devil’s Play

1 Interplanar Beacon

1 Forgotten Cave

1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno

1 Chandra, Heart of Fire

1 Keral Keep Disciples

1 Karplusan Hound

1 Chandra’s Revolution

1 Chandra’s Outrage

1 Chandra, Bold Pyromancer

1 Chandra, Novice Pyromancer

1 Chandra’s Spitfire

1 Chandra, Acolyte of Flame

1 Chandra’s Triumph

1 Chandra’s Regulator

1 Chandra’s Pyrohelix

1 Chandra’s Magmutt

1 Chandra, Fire Artisan

1 Crawling Barrens

1 Chandra, Flame’s Fury

1 Chandra, Pyromaster

31 Mountain

1 Heart of Kiran

1 Pia Nalaar

1 Jaya’s Immolating Inferno

1 Jaya, Venerated Firemage

1 Jaya Ballard

1 Chandra’s Incinerator

1 Jaya’s Greeting

1 Flames of the Firebrand

1 Young Pyromancer

1 Chandra, Flame’s Catalyst

1 Chandra’s Outburst

1 Chandra’s Flame Wave

1 Chandra’s Firemaw

1 Fight with Fire

Xanathar Doesn’t Want You to Counter (Black/Blue Control)

The idea that our opponent can’t do anything during our turn but be sad is wonderful. On top of that, we can cast the top card of their deck and play it as we see fit! This feels like a deck that doesn’t have a regular “Win Condition”. We have a few creatures that can win the game, but it’s more likely that we’re going to use our opponent’s cards to win the game. This is thanks to cards like Ashiok, Nightmare Muse, and Liliana, Dreadhorde General. These two popping their ultimates ruin the game for our opponent. Then we stack counter and removal spells on top of each other, to spell doom for the other player.

We don’t want to allow them to get a head up on us. We combine this with Mordenkainen to give us no maximum hand size. Now, suddenly, we’re going to have an endless supply of frustrating spells, and Chromatic Lantern. That will make our lands tap for any color, fixing any potential issues we have of not having the land colors we need. Of course this only means we can tap for Blue/Black.

Commander: Xanathar, Guild Kingpin:

Xanathar, Guild Kingpin is a little pricey. 6 mana for a ⅚ isn’t bad, especially when you consider his special power. During your upkeep, you choose an opponent. That player can’t cast spells until the end of your turn. You can also look at the top card of their library any time, and you can play that card using any mana to do so. The longer the game goes on, the scarier it is. Turns turns our opponent’s deadliest weapons into ours. Even if we don’t need the card, I’m going to be tempted to cast things out of spite. Simply so my opponent can’t do so. That’s why I adore this card. Now our opponent can’t play removal or counterplay during our turn. We can stock up our counters though, and stop any of their threats too. What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is also mine.

How Does It Work?

Since Xanathar is a little on the expensive side, we aren’t going to be dropping him too early. Unless we get a few of our mana ramp artifacts in play, I wouldn’t count on it before turn 5 or 6. Almost everything in the deck is a spell or artifact. We have a few creatures, but for the most part, we’re just casting spells to slow down the pace of the game. That’s what we want. Slow it down, slow it waaaaaaaay down. We have an obnoxious amount of counters. Memory Lapse, Negate, Neutralize, Disallow, Jwari Disruption, Saw It Coming, Supreme Will, Exclude!

As you can see, we have no shortage of counterspells. What if we don’t have a counterspell handy though? What if your opponent manages to get creatures out? We don’t want to counter everything, after all. The real power of a control deck is to figure out the most important threats, and stop them. For everything else, there’s spot removal. The name of the game is stopping people from getting going, while also setting up our planeswalkers and commander.

Some of my personal favorite removal spells are here. Doom Blade! Power Word Kill! Heartless Act! Cast Down! Erebos’ Intervention! We have so many cool things to use to eliminate creatures. Eat to Extinction, Vraska’s Contempt, Hagra Mauling. The list just goes on. We also have AOE removal, thanks to black. Extinction Event (Evens or Odds), Ritual of Soot (3 or less Mana Value), and Crux of Fate (All Dragons or All Non-Dragons). These are our tools to keep people away from our planeswalkers.

Peel away at your opponent’s threats, and get Xanathar, Guild Kingpin into play. From there, play smart, and make sure your opponent always has threats that you can cast instead of them! How do we actually win? We use their cards, we make them give up, or we obliterate their board, and swing with our few creatures. We can also make our opponent potentially deck out, but that’s way harder. If we need to win through force, we have Iymrith, Desert Doom, and Torrential Gearhulk too. For the most part, we’re going to use our foes’ cards.


Mordenkainen is new and neat. I don’t really think he’s overpowered, but I like him. His ability to draw cards and put an unwanted one back on the bottom of your library is useful. His -10 can be bonkers though, provided you can win the game off it. You swap your hand and library, then shuffle. You receive an emblem that gives you no maximum hand size. Now, if you can’t draw, you still lose the game. I’d like to put a Platinum Angel somewhere in it for that reason. But in the late game, when you have a ton of lands, you can probably set up a victory.

Liliana, Dreadhorde General is a way to set up an easy victory. Her ultimate makes your opponent pick one permanent they control of each type and sac the rest. That’s already amazing. Her other powers are useful, like making Zombie tokens (and when we have a creature die, we draw a card). Ashiok, Nightmare Muse is my personal favorite though. Its +1 creates a ⅔ Black/Blue Nightmare token, and whenever it attacks or blocks, each opponent exiles the top two of their deck. You have a -3 that returns a nonland permanent to its owner’s hand, then they exile a card from their hand.

Finally, that -7. You can cast up to three face-up cards your opponents own from exile, without paying the mana costs. Depending on how well you’ve done, this is a game-winning play. Just play the biggest, meanest stuff you can.

Final Thoughts

This is my kind of deck. I love control, I love slow, frustrating decks. If only I could make it an Esper deck (Blue/White/Black) for some other nonsense, but I like what’s going on here. We can do so many frustrating things. Our opponents can’t spam draw thanks to Narset, Parter of Veils, and we just make sure the game is as annoying as possible. However, it starts slow, so hyper aggro could easily overtake it, if we don’t get any solid AOE board wipes. That is something to be aware of. Other than that, I adore using my opponent’s cards as my cards too, and this deck excels at it.



1 Xanathar, Guild Kingpin


1 Brainstorm

1 Fabled Passage

1 Evolving Wilds

1 Crawling Barrens

1 Arch of Orazca

1 Watery Grave

1 Temple of Deceit

1 Fetid Pools

1 Drowned Catacomb

1 Hagra Mauling

1 Clearwater Pathway

1 Hive of the Eye Tyrant

1 Castle Locthwain

1 Hall of Storm Giants

1 Castle Vantress

1 Brazen Borrower

1 Hedron Archive

1 Mazemind Tome

1 Field of Ruin

1 Baleful Mastery

1 Ice Tunnel

1 Cast Down

1 Skyclave Relic

1 Chromatic Lantern

1 Guardian Idol

1 Dimir Locket

1 Erebos’s Intervention

1 Vraska’s Contempt

1 Eat to Extinction

1 Extinction Event

1 Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty

1 Torrential Gearhulk

1 Blood on the Snow

1 Ritual of Soot

1 Price of Fame

1 Murderous Rider

1 Walk the Plank

1 Power Word Kill

1 Heartless Act

1 Bloodchief’s Thirst

1 Sea Gate Restoration

1 Hieroglyphic Illumination

1 Jwari Disruption

1 Essence Scatter

1 Disdainful Stroke

1 Arcane Signet

1 Command Tower

1 Mind Stone

1 Coldsteel Heart

1 Crux of Fate

1 Sign in Blood

1 Eliminate

1 Doom Blade

10 Snow-Covered Island

1 Dark Ritual

1 Negate

1 Memory Lapse

1 Counterspell

10 Snow-Covered Swamp

1 Tale’s End

1 Iymrith, Desert Doom

1 Disallow

1 Neutralize

1 Commit /// Memory

1 Graven Lore

1 Behold the Multiverse

1 Silundi Vision

1 Midnight Clock

1 Search for Azcanta

1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General

1 Mordenkainen

1 Narset, Parter of Veils

1 Ashiok, Nightmare Muse

1 Tyrant’s Scorn

1 Drown in the Loch

1 Thassa’s Intervention

1 Sublime Epiphany

1 You Find the Villains’ Lair

1 Supreme Will

1 Saw It Coming

1 Exclude


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