Wizards of the Coast really tried to make Brawl happen but the expected results never really came in. How is nobody’s favorite format doing right now and is there a future for it?
In their latest customary State of the Game article, Wizards of the Coast discussed a few changes to our favorite digital card game, including duplicate protection and - what got us most excited - the complete list of all Jumpstart cards that will be different from paper Magic to MTG Arena.
There’s one more thing they touched upon, but it never made that much of a splash - the changes to the Brawler’s Guild system. Which got us thinking - is Brawl doing well? Has its popularity diminished, and is it a dying format?
Is Brawl dead?
No, it’s neither dead nor dying. “Magic is dead” is a meme as old as the game itself, proven to be nothing but a joke and reassuring us that we should never be quick to toll the bell and announce the death of a format, let alone the entire game.
Is Brawl thriving, though? In Wizards’ own admission - no.
Originally, Brawl was introduced as the new great thing - it’s like a mini-Commander in Standard, they advertised. The company even pushed a line of official product to support it. Their marketing was aggressive, but the interest simply wasn’t there. Sure, people liked to play it every now and then (and still do), but it’s not Standard and it’s certainly not Commander, making it… nobody’s favorite format, really.
Wizards also got the idea to make Brawl events playable only once a week and charge an entry fee, which additionally discouraged a lot of players from really getting into it.
This last thing changed during the COVID-19 times when Brawl was made free. According to their article, Wizards crunched the numbers and saw that players don’t act the way the company intended, and that - get this - leaving Brawl forever free won’t bankrupt them. Phew, we were worried there for a second!
All jokes aside, Wizards has now embraced Brawl as a supplementary thing that players like to engage in every now and then and their MTGA focus is back on Standard and Limited - established ways to play that do not need aggressive marketing or salesmen tricks to make people excited.
What about the future?
This is the big question. Wizards might be toning it down, but definitely not giving up on their creation. Now all eyes are set on Historic Brawl, the thing that will make or break the format.
The MTG makers are warning that their next thematic set, Zendikar Rising, will be the real test for Brawl with all the new cards it will bring. Once they see how Zendikar performs, they will make a choice of what to do with the format as a whole.
As for us, players, we’ll continue to get a game or two here and there. It’s unlikely that the vast majority of us will lose much sleep worrying about the future of MTGA’s redheaded stepchild.
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