Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Welcome to Jankmander with Sona. What is Jankmander you might ask? Jankmander is a type of deck building that uses self-imposed limitations, aka Jank, in building commander Brawl decks. In this series, I’ll take you through my process of deck building and how I honor the limitations of Jank. I also hope to address the idea that just because a deck is Jankified, that it can’t be focused or optimized.
There are some things to keep in mind when building a deck. Brawl is a format that uses a legendary creature or planeswalker to command your forces against another mage who has their own commander. Then you’ll make a deck with 59 other cards where each other card may only be used once with the exception of basic lands. Only cards from Standard sets can be used in Brawl and it has its own ban list (https://magic.wizards.com/en/game-info/gameplay/rules-and-formats/banned-restricted). Also, the color identity (the mana symbols found on the card in the casting and abilities) must match those found on your commander. For example, if your commander has the casting/ability symbols for blue, red and green you can’t use any cards with black or white mana symbols. Hybrid cards also count for both colors for color identity, so you wouldn’t be able to use something like Footlight Fiend in a mono red deck (the casting cost is either red or black mana aka Rakdos). For more on Brawl, see this page from WotC (https://magic.wizards.com/en/game-info/gameplay/formats/brawl).
You might be asking “why are you making a Brawl deck?” The answer to that is simple, because I love to play Brawl! If you aren’t familiar with Brawl, it is very similar to Commander in design but it is restricted to only the sets legal in Standard. This means that which sets are legal rotates. Brawl was created with the release of Dominaria and has gained in popularity since the inclusion of the format on Arena. The game can be played with a single opponent (you both start at 25 life) or more (everyone starts at 30 life). Besides deck size and limitations on the sets, Brawl also allows planeswalkers to be used as commanders, so there are some gameplay differences between Brawl and Commander. However, since Brawl is a singleton format with a commander, it can easily be Jankified like Commander.
In this article, we’ll create a Brawl deck using only the cards found in Standard legal Theme Boosters. Theme Boosters contain 35 cards with a rare card and potentially an additional mythic (see this video from Tolarian Community College; https://youtu.be/sUTpE4cZEM4). Generally speaking, Theme Boosters aren’t a good investment. But given the number of cards, these have the potential for the creation of Jank. Ideally, a War of the Spark Theme Booster would be an ideal purchase to ensure that one obtains a suitable commander (much like the Dominaria set was ideal for this too). However, neither local game store near me had any WoS Theme Boosters available. To make up for this, I purchased three guild Theme Boosters (Azorius, Selesnya, and Simic) and a white, green, blue, and monster Theme Booster from Ikoria. From these boosters, I had three options for commanders: Emmara, Soul of the Accord; Kaheera, the Orphanguard; and and Zirda, the Dawnbreaker.
In my card pools, red was very limited so Zirda wasn’t a good choice. Likewise, the number of cats, elementals, dinosaurs, nightmares, and beasts were limited. Based on this, I selected Emmara as the commander. Luckily I had a sizable pool of green and white cards to choose from. Also, in my packs I had pulled a Temple Garden shockland and a Smothering Tithe. Next I determined which cards were available in the following categories: Removal; Ramp; Utility Spells; and Creatures. Smothering Tithe was an automatic include since my commander has white in the identity. I also included Almighty Brushwagg, as I love that card and a 1 CMC drop with trample and the ability to pump for +3/+3 is fantastic in a common card.
The end result was a functional Brawl deck that I built in paper and began testing in Arena. The deck played okay, but wasn’t as strong as it could have been with optimization. One of the big issues is that my pool of utility artifacts was very limited as was commander synergy. However, against similarly restricted decks, this would be fun to play. My LGS runs a sealed league with the release of each set that transitions into a Brawl league. You build a brawl deck from 10-12 draft boosters and it's a good Janking. I went with the Theme Boosters first since the rare card pool is much more limited as the bulk of the cards are common rarity with only a few rares. This helps to highlight an important issue that can arise with Jank. Sometimes the restrictions are too great and you end up with a deck that doesn't preform well against unrestricted decks. I can still be fun to go through the process, but I don't recommend using theme boosters as a source for a deck except if your playgroup is using the same restrictions. The card pool is too shallow and the potential for getting a commander is very small so you have to take what you get. However, if you haven’t ever created a Brawl deck from sealed booster draft packs, I highly recommend it. In a future post, I’ll describe how to build a Brawl deck from booster packs as well as describe some of the Brawl variants. Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next time on Jankmander with Sona. Have a Great Janking!