Wizards revealed that Dominaria will continue the trend of having a special buy-a-box promo for those that buy an entire sealed booster box at a local retail store, but this time it comes with a very big twist. As opposed to having unique art like past buy-a-box promos, this card, Firesong and Sunspeaker, won’t be included in the normal set and will only be available as a buy-a-box promo.
The announcement drew some public outcry about the fact that the card is being made Standard legal, out of fear that the rarity could lead to an exorbitant price if the card becomes a competitive staple. Those fears seem unfounded, because the six-mana legendary creature is clearly designed for more casual play, specifically Commander, but it seems that it’s truly intended as a marquee commander for the new "Brawl" format, which Wizards hinted at in the buy-a-box announcement and fully expanded on the following day.
What is Brawl?
Brawl, in a nutshell, is Commander for Standard, because it follows essentially the same rules as Commander, but only includes Standard-legal cards. There are a few key differences, the biggest one being that it’s played with a deck of 60 cards compared to 100, which is more suited to the smaller Standard card pool. It also allows for planeswalkers to be used as a commander, which offers an alternative to choosing a legendary creature.
In normal Commander, the commanders deal special commander damage in addition to normal damage and dealing 21 points wins the game, but this rule is absent from Brawl, which does make commanders themselves slightly less powerful, but it’s a minor difference, and Brawl does share the same 30-point life total as Commander.
How Will Brawl Impact Standard Cards?
Well, the addition of what is essentially a new format that uses the same card pool as Standard will logically increase the demand for Standard-legal cards, and will thus increase the price of those cards. There will be plenty of crossover demand from players that will use the cards for both formats, which won’t actually add to overall demand, but because it is a technically a different format that will draw players that have no interest in Standard, especially because it’s being pitched as a casual multi-player format, it means there should be a very sizable amount of demand that doesn’t crossover.
Similar to how past attempts at creating new formats have increased demand, which caused the temporary price surges we saw with Tiny Leaders and Frontier, and have sustained huge growth in Old School and Pauper cards, anything that increases the utility of cards will increase demand for them and therefore their price. Brawl will have the effect of making Standard cards and decks more expensive, but this is balanced by making product more worthwhile to open, which also increases the relative value gained from playing Limited and from winning prize packs.
Brawl will also have the effect of increasing demand for cards that aren’t quite good enough for Standard but will be playable in Brawl due to the requirement that players dig deeper to find something like the best 35 cards to support their strategy instead of around a dozen in Standard.
Taking the current Standard format for example, the tribes of Ixalan haven’t made much of an impact on the competitive Standard metagame, but Brawl is the perfect place for these decks to shine, whether it’s a Admiral Beckett Brass Pirates deck, a Gishath, Sun's Avatar Dinosaur deck, a Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca Merfolk deck, or an Elenda, the Dusk Rose Vampire deck. There’s a limited number of on-tribe cards to fill out these decks, so pretty much all of them should see a significant increase in demand. From the perspective of Dominaria, which features a ton of legendary creatures that can be used as commanders, it’s going to breathe a lot of life into cards that are fun and exciting but won’t actually cut it in Standard.
This effect should be an all-around positive, since this demand isn’t impacting Standard staples, but is creating a market for cards that would otherwise have little to no demand and might otherwise be draft fodder. This will make packs more valuable, which helps justify opening product, whether it’s the retailer opening to create an inventory of singles or the player building a collection.
Another interesting thing to consider about Brawl is its potential to increase demand for foils, because if Commander is any indication, players like foiling out their singleton decks. A competitive Standard player foiling out their deck is rare, which means most Standard cards don’t demand a large premium for foils – but Brawl could change that equation and will lead to a whole new market for Standard foils.
On the other hand, Brawl decks will eventually rotate along with Standard, as opposed to Commander cards always being legal, which does make foils of its cards significantly less desirable, but I still expect that we'll see more demand than before. The best place to focus might be on the legendary commanders themselves, since like with Commander commanders, the conspicuous position they occupy outside the main deck lends itself to being blinged.
The Future of Brawl
In the announcement detailing Brawl, it’s described as having drawn the largest-ever crowds at R&D’s internal playtest sessions, which must have gone well seeing that it’s being introduced as a supported format, and reading around online shows a lot of excitement about Brawl.
I think it’s important not to underestimate the impact of the Commander crowd, which over the past few years has shown huge demand for that lion’s share of Magic cards that fall between competitive staple and useless, and has the potential to really help Brawl take off and change the landscape of the Standard market as we know it. There’s also a large contingent of players that might be interested in Commander but don’t buy the cards due to price, whether they borrow decks, proxy cards, or just don’t play, but now have the incentive and means to get into Brawl.
What do you think about Brawl and its anticipated impact on the marketplace?