How They Brew It - Split Decision

Michael Celani • July 25, 2023

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael, I've been asked to talk to you about your recent content. As you know, Commander's Herald is a website for hard-hitting, real journalism about Magic: the Gathering's Commander format. We've been the first to report on major stories no other publication dared touch. It is not an appropriate venue to make jokes about how excited you are for the bear sex in Baldur's Gate 3. Or at least, I hope they were jokes. Look, I went along with that article where you refused to use apostrophes the entire time, and that article where you tried to scam all our readers with NFTs, but this is just sad. Replace this note with a REAL intro by the launch date. We're supposed to be journalists, man!

Brawl in the Family

Good morning, humans! How are we all doing tonight!? I can't hear you, Rosemont! Yeah, you're all excited, you've waited all year, but it's finally that time again! I'm Rex Dinotruffle, but you can call me by my persona name, Michael Joseph Celani, because you're at Humatinée, the yearly convention for animals that like to roleplay as people! We got a great show lined up for you today. Once you've picked up your convention license at the DMV, meet some new friends playing games at the Casino, or shop for a commission and that pair of human ears you've been eying at Wal-Mart!

And we've got more great panelists for you this time around! You read it right: Wilson, Refined Grizzly is here, and he's running his annual panel, "Alcoholics Afficionados: How to Get Into the Spirit of Spirits." He's a true Tavern Brawler at heart, a guy who's always willing to buy everyone another round, so of course he's got to have the cash to back it up. And he's got a decklist stuffed full of the most mana-hungry cards you can imagine to prove it! Make sure you check him out on the main stage Friday night!

Living the High Life

That's right: when writing a believable human character, you have to have at least one flaw, and what flaw is more human than alcoholism? Step one to functioning as an alcoholic is to make the perfect cocktail, and Wilson has the first two ingredients: casting Tavern Brawler, and then ripping a high-cost card off the top to make him a menace. It's a tried-and-true strategy, but since we're running such a high-value deck in the first place, why not take advantage of our top-shelf booze by spicing it up with a few secret ingredients?

  • Calibrated Blast (and its older, slower, and less-precise cousin, Erratic Explosion) finds the next nonland card in your deck and does damage equal to its mana value to any target. In practice, it'll almost always be three or more, so you can rely on them as bad Lightning Bolts in a pinch. Combine them with a Fiery Emancipation, though, and watch it become a potent burn spell that closes out games with very little hubbub.
    • Riddle of Lightning lets you choose the highest mana value from the top three cards of your library for damage, and in the unlikely case all of them are terrible, you can take your chance on the hidden fourth card by scrying the first three to the bottom.
  • Your opponents can stop you from drawing cards with Combustible Gearhulk at their own peril. Sure, it might be three lands in a row, but it could also be a twelve-drop, an eleven-drop, and a ten-drop, doming them for 33. Are they feeling lucky?
    • If you've found your Scroll Rack, you should always activate it for three before they make the decision. Did you just stack the deck for damage, or are you just ditching three lands?
  • Your big spells will end up in the graveyard eventually, but that doesn't mean they're done working for you. Recur or exile them with Vengeful Rebirth, Volcanic Vision, Surge to Victory, or even Draconic Intervention and clear the board or push through that last bit of damage to kill a player.
  • And on the opposite side of things, since the decklist skews so high in terms of cost, Flamekin Herald is practically guaranteed to search up hits like Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and Scroll Rack. You have two commanders, so that's two good low-cost permanents tutored onto the battlefield for free!

Big, Drunk, Beefy Bears

Now, I know some of you just got excited reading that header, but please, this is not an after-dark panel. It's true that in real life, we animals get much weaker and more erratic when inebriated. But humans are fantasy creatures; who says they don't grow a six pack when they chug that many? And just like we took advantage of the naturally high cost of the deck to bombard our enemies with literal sticker shock, we can use the power buff granted from Tavern Brawler to enhance the effect of some of our other cards.

Time To Split

But this is all bog-standard. You've seen this all before; clearly this deck built itself! Why is it on How They Brew It? Well, think about it: aside from Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and Traverse the Outlands, I haven't really mentioned any ramp. At the same time, we've been talking up how mana-hungry all the cards in the deck are. How can you expect to cast a seven-cost card when you only have three lands to your name?

The trick is realizing that the concept of mana value on cards is stupid. When you have a split card like Insult // Injury or Fast // Furious, the mana value of that card is the cost of both spells added together. Road // Ruin is effectively an Untamed Wilds that the game thinks costs six, so Wilson gets all the alcohol he needs while you only pay half the tab.

And since every mechanic is secretly split cards (which is secretly Kicker), there's a few more ways we can cast spells for way cheaper than we declared on the intake form. Beanstalk Giant's adventure is another Untamed Wilds stapled to a seven-drop, whereas Rust Goliath and Akroma, Angel of Fury can each be cast for pennies on the dollar, albeit in a weaker form.

If you even deign to cast them at all, that is. These modal double-faced cards have lands on the back of them, so what Wilson sees as a seven-cost sorcery you see as your land for the turn. Tavern Brawler does say you can play that card, meaning lands are allowed. They say there's no such thing as free beer, but that's only if it's not crafty enough!

Oh, the Humanity

Thanks for coming to visit the panel! That's for all three of you here that actually attend panels instead of just playing Magic: the Gathering in the basements of the hotels and getting transported to the hospital for heat stroke thanks to how suffocating those suits are. Seriously, I think there's more Commander played at these then there was at Magic 30. Now go enjoy the rest of the con, and try not to do anything that'll get an hour-long video essay made about us in a year!

And also, if you enjoy How They Brew It, please check out the Discord and other stuff at my website. On the Discord, you can now force me to make a short roast of whatever commander you want. I've already posted a few to my YouTube channel, so maybe yours will be next! Hope to see you there!

Split Decision (Wilson, Refined Grizzly // Tavern Brawler EDH)

View on Archidekt

Commander (2)
Creatures (18)
Sorceries (19)
Instants (13)
Artifacts (9)
Enchantments (3)
Lands (36)

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

View this decklist on Moxfield

Newly appointed member of the FDIC and insured up to $150,000 per account, Michael Celani is the member of your playgroup that makes you go "oh no, it's that guy again." He's made a Twitter account @GamesfreakSA as well as other mistakes, and his decks have been featured on places like MTGMuddstah. You can join his Discord at and vote on which decks you want to see next. In addition to writing, he has a job, other hobbies, and friends.