Commanding Respect: Bruna, the Fading Light
Hello and welcome back to Commanding Respect, where we scour the edges of the Blind Eternities in search of new commanders to bring to the table in your next EDH game. Today we’re going to take a look at one of Innistrad Emrakul’s favorite Archangels, Bruna, the Fading Light. When you combine a large body with a relevant creature type and abilities with a useful on cast ability and the opportunity to further combine with Gisela, the Broken Blade into a true abomination of late game punishment, it’s easy to see why Bruna is an enticing commander to build. However, the challenge of reliably melding her with Gisela paired with a high converted mana cost often keeps her from play. Today, we’ll talk about ways to help find and fuse our sisters reliably, take advantage of them as Brisela, and other ways to use Bruna when Gisela isn’t available.
First and foremost, it’s important we understand what our commander does and doesn’t do as we approach deckbuilding. Ignoring her non meld and keyword abilities, Bruna is just a 5/7 with flying and vigilance for 7, overcosted even in a format that permits more expensive creatures than others. Her sister Gisela—a 4/3 with flying, first strike, and lifelink at only 4 mana—is a much better deal pre melding. Playing Gisela as our commander instead would mean we could get in commander damage earlier, building up to less work for Brisela once we get to meld the two (note that Brisela counts as a commander as long one of her combined halves was one). However, it is Bruna’s on cast ability that makes her more attractive for a deck whose goal is to swing with Brisela. When Bruna is cast, you can return a human or an angel to the battlefield from your graveyard, letting you pull back a lost Gisela to fuse the turn you play your commander. Additionally if/when Brisela dies—in a game of commander it is wise to expect your commander to die a minimum of once or twice—you can return Bruna to your command zone while Gisela goes to the graveyard, ready to be picked back up again the next time you cast.
Additionally, should you already have access to Gisela when you cast Bruna, you’ll be able to use her on cast ability to instead pick up another powerful creature instead. Bruna plays into the niche graveyard recurring side of white, one that we will be sure to exploit with her and other creatures in this deck. There are several creatures—particularly angels—that bring things back to the battlefield for us; we will certainly want to make use of angels like Karmic Guide, Emeria Shepherd, Reya Dawnbringer and Adarkar Valkyrie to recur creatures that wind up in the yard from dying or discarding. Cards like Faith’s Reward can help us explosively recover from board wipes, and can bring back both halves of Brisela should she die. Note that in preparing to do this, Bruna will have to go to your graveyard and not your command zone, so only do this if you feel certain it won’t get countered. Finally, Conqueror’s Galleon’s land side offers a repeatable way to return creatures, allowing us to get back our creatures again and again from one of the hardest to remove permanent types.
With Bruna and other cards retuning creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield, it is wise for us to consider getting the maximum benefit from this event. While recurring a powerful creature or cheating out a large spell early is nice, we will also want to look at creatures that have powerful enters the battlefield abilities to double dip with. Thalia’s Lancers is one of the first ones to look at, and is a key card for this deck. Their legendary fetch ability effectively means that they are a second copy of Gisela, and as a Human the lancers can be brought back from the graveyard with Bruna. Sunblast Angel grants us powerful removal that we can recur, and since much of our graveyard recursion happens at sorcery speed or at our upkeep, we can feel relatively safe bringing her back without hitting our own creatures. Finally, for more targeted removal, spells like Angel of Sanctions, Fiend Hunter, and Banisher Priest can be kept in the graveyard till needed, and then brought back to take care of dangerous threats.
With the number of enters the battlefield effects coming from our angles and other spells, it is incredibly useful for us to consider blink effects to maximize our value (whereas before we were double dipping, now we will triple and quadruple dip, ensuring that the salsa which is our EDH game is ruined for everybody but us). Spells like Cloudshift have plenty of uses, from untapping a surprise blocker or saving the target of a spell to blinking a Karmic Guide to effectively play a creature from our graveyard as though it had flash. Eerie Interlude is the same effect but on a grander scale, allowing us to trigger any ETB we want. It’s worth mentioning our omission of similar spells like Ghostway—which hits every creature we control. Should we have Brisela out, a mass flicker would be undesirable, as not only would she lose any auras or equipment, she would also split back into her base components and have to wait until your next end of turn to recombine. In addition to our one time flickers we will also add the ever popular Conjurer’s Closet to give us a repeatable source of bonus ETB triggers.
The use of graveyard recursion and blink/flicker effects is a great way to increase our value, but for most of them to work we have to first cast our spells. Unfortunately, many angels—especially Bruna—are expensive. To ensure that we can cast them before we get left behind by other players we need to ramp adequately enough to ensure that we come out ahead on land drops. For our purposes, the best way to do this is to fall behind. Several white spells like Oreskos Explorer and Gift of Estates let you search for plains if an opponent has more lands than you, and some spells like Knight of the White Orchid and Kor Cartographer even let you put them onto the battlefield. The latter two combo especially well with Emeria Shepherd, if both were in your graveyard you could return up to 3 creatures and put up to 2 lands on the battlefield for playing one plains, which certainly isn’t bad. Keeping a few of these spells ready for when a green playing opponent starts to get greedy can ensure that we can share that greed with them, and that we can get our angel horrors our that much faster. On the non-land side of things, Herald of War makes our angels even cheaper. Keeping the Herald alive for a few turns can make it easy to cast Bruna, even if she’s been tagged with some commander tax.
Even with ramp, recasting Bruna for 9 and beyond mana is not a way to introduce world ending madness to any players in the game but yourself. To prevent this, we want to make sure that Bruna stays alive after our first casting. Spells like Selfless Spirit and Brave the Elements are useful tools for any mono white EDH deck, and new tools like the recently announced Dauntless Bodyguard further expand on white’s protection theme. More specific for this deck, spells like Spirit Bonds can take advantage of our blinking theme to build us a board presence while also giving us a repeatable source of indestructability. Even indestructibility can’t save us from exile effects however, and sometimes we will lose a Bruna/Brisela despite our best efforts. While Bruna can return to the Command zone, an exiled Gisela is an almost game ending hit for us to take. We will include a copy of Pull From Eternity in preparation of this worst case scenario, but we will also make use of some sacrifice effects like Angelic Purge and Culling Dias (if it’s in your budget, Altar of Dementia and Ashnod’s Altar are also excellent choices for this role). By sacrificing Brisela in response to an exiling effect, we can send Gisela to the much more accessible graveyard, and at any point in the game we can use these sac outlets to get a reanimation etb before one of our creatures dies of other causes.
Now that we’ve gotten Bruna and Gisela out through some combination of ramping, reanimation, or other effects, and we’ve ensured that they survived long enough to meld, we need to end the game. Post melding we ideally want our Brisela beatstick to get at least +2/+0 and Double Strike so that she can take a player out of the game with commander damage in just one hit. There are only a few sources of double strike available to a mono white deck, but auras like Battle Mastery or equipment such as Fireshrieker and Grappling Hook will be very useful for our purposes. The downside of these spells is that should we equip them to Bruna or Gisela they will fall off once the two meld. For this reason, spells like Duelist’s Heritage and True Conviction will be highly prized by this deck. Not only will they buff Brisela, but should we need to they can improve our other creatures as well.
While double strike is hard to find in mono white, sources that increase power are plentiful. We’ll run a variety of utility equipment, team wide buffs like Marshal’s Anthem, one time buffs, and tribal buffs like the newly announced Lyra, Dawnbringer. Once we’ve added those, we’ll fill out the deck with some additional angels and various standard tech, leaving us with the decklist below.
End of Turn Brainstorm
Just as Emrakul once reshaped Bruna and Gisela to meet its own purposes, as a player you are free to mutate any deck into your own horrifying creation. The above deck focuses on getting out Brisela while using a slew of angle/human tribal and reanimation effects to support that goal, you may find a different approach more enjoyable. Perhaps you want to focus more on the reanimation aspect of the deck; by throwing in cards such as Sands of Delirium and Grindclock to fill your graveyard so that you can cheat out big creatures quickly. Alternatively, you could run keep a similar shell as the one proposed in the article, but run Gisela as your commander, switching away from Bruna’s reanimation focus towards a more aggressive one where you attempt to put commander damage on the board quickly and use Brisela to finish what you’ve started. Finally, this deck does not take much deliberate advantage of Brisela’s “your opponents can’t cast spells with converted mana cost 3 or less” ability; you may find it fun to focus more broadly on this with a more controlling stax build that prevents your opponents from doing anything but watching in horror as your host of angels sweep decimate their life totals.
And that’s it for today’s article, I hope you have fun mashing together your commander into one of the most nightmarish creatures ever devised by Wizards of the Coast. As always, we’re happy to hear any feedback you might have on this article in the comments below. Until next time!
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