Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Making Magic in the Arena - Nethroi Brawl (And Some Kenrith)

Just to add some variety to my usual streams, I figured that it would to challenge myself to do something new in Magic the Gathering: Arena. For that reason, I thought it would be fun to give Brawl a shot.

Building myself some new brews to test out this new (to me) format, let us see how the format, and my deck-building, holds up.

You can find both my Kenrith and Nethroi lists on TappedOut.

Though it's obvious that the Kenrith deck didn't pan out, I'm happy I still gave it a chance because it taught me more about Brawl than all my time theory crafting could ever teach me about the format.

As you all may know, I play a lot of Commander, and that experience playing King Kenny warped the way I built the deck. Unfortunately, there are key differences between Brawl and EDH that hurt my chances with the deck.
  • Commander is primarily a multiplayer format, where Brawl is designed to be 1v1.
  • The card pool is still limited to Standard playable cards, with a few exceptions added as part of Arena's Historic format.
Both of those facts result in a lower CMC, and faster games than you'd expect from EDH, which gives someone like me less time to prepare and get their engine on board. Reliably reusing a 4B cost ability is a lot easier when pitting multiple opponent's against each other than it is in a 1v1 fight. I think Kenrith can still work as a commander, but it requires an entirely different strategy than I'm used to.


While Nethroi is also a general that I've piloted in EDH, the style I'm used to playing him with was significantly better suited to the Brawl format. Unlike Kenrith, Nethroi isn't relying on too many activated abilities, and thus doesn't need to be as mana greedy.

After my experiences with Nethroi in Commander, I counted on him being the way I would out-value my opponent after they used up all of their removal options. The deck is deliberately built using cards that either have low, or no, power in the graveyard, allowing me to maximize the potential of my 10 power allotment, so it's no surprise that I can mass resurrect a ton of creatures.

What was surprisingly was that I was regularly able to do it multiple times in the same game. Cards like Gemrazer and Necropanther were thrown in purely because they are value creatures. However, if we mutate them onto the stack that Nethroi is already part of, we gain another trigger of that ability, which can allow us to mass revive a ton of creatures in the grave once more. It's a synergy that let's us sustain way more than we ordinarily could.

The other all star I want to shout out to, that I was shocked performed as well as it did, was Embodiment of Agonies. It partners well with Nethroi on several ways.
  • By virtue of the fact that we're playing a singleton deck, we will almost accidentally include many cards of different mana costs. This means that when it's played, it will often come out with above average stats for his casting cost.
  • It's not human, meaning that we can mutate Nethroi onto him.
  • It's base power is still technically 0, so if it dies, it can be resurrected with Nethroi's mutate trigger without eating into our 10 power budget.
  • Since it has innate flying, and it's power comes in the form of +1/+1 counters, mutating Nethroi onto it transfer those counters onto the mutated stack, and give Nethroi the flying ability it'll need to help safely swing in for tons of lifelink damage.
I threw it into the deck just to serve as another easy revival target, and I was surprised to see it turn the tides in so many of the matches I played. Though the deck hasn't been updated on TappedOut, I actually slotted in into my Commander deck after seeing how well it did here.

It was a ton of fun seeing board states and card combos that I don't often get to see in Magic: Arena, so I look forward to playing much more Brawl. It's no substitute for EDH, but I can't help but think about what other possibilities and interesting synergies must exist for the format. My inner Timmy can't help but get excited over the space of possibilities.

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