Commander Showdown – Esix vs Brudiclad

(Esix, Fractal Bloom by Chase Stone | Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer by Daarken)

From Taken to Token

Welcome to Commander Showdown, where we compare and contrast two commanders with similar abilities to discover the overlaps, differences, and nuances of their strategies!

I’ve mentioned before that my entire family plays Magic – brothers, mom, stepdad, everyone – and one of the things that makes preview seasons for new sets so much fun isn’t just to see which new cards I might be able to get for my own decks, but also to see which cards my family members get excited about for theirs, too. My younger brother rocks all types of commanders, from Ayula, Queen Among Bears to Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer, but when Kaldheim and Strixhaven were fully revealed, he was most excited about the new token-tastic cards that could fit into his Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer deck. After all, what other commander is out there making multiple copies of unique tokens?

Then came the Commander 2021 reveal of Esix, Fractal Bloom.

Well, well, well. Now there’s another six-mana 4/4 commander messing around with crazy tokens. How do these commanders compare? If my younger brother switched to a new commander, what would that new deck look like? Let’s find out!


Bro-diclad

Let’s start off with Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer. Brudiclad took the Commander format by storm when it was first released, instantly whipping up an excited frenzy of brewing for folks to find the craziest tokens to replicate. A pile of Myr could become Clues, and a stack of Treasure could suddenly turn into 6/6 flying Dragons. Better yet, if Brudiclad ever managed to create a token of a creature in play with an effect like Rite of Replication, all those random Thopters and Servos could suddenly become an Utvara Hellkite and really ransack the table.

Brudiclad opens the door to some absolutely nuts scenarios. When assisted by effects like Helm of the Host, the plays can get monstrous; I’ve played my brother’s deck on Olivia Gobert-Hicks’s Twitch stream, and found myself attacking with 17 Brudiclads, a move that in official legal terms is referred to as “Holy Crap, I’m Living the Dream”.

Because this commander’s token-tastic potential is indeed so crazy, players quickly identified the key components and important phases of its gameplan: first, a token collection phase, in which effects like Dockside Extortionist, Confirm Suspicions, or Thopter Spy Network may create many tokens at once or over a short duration; second, the creation of one particularly interesting token, from Faerie Artisans to Reef Worm; and finally, that One Big Turn when Brudiclad hits the field and reshapes the whole game.

This tempo is crucial to playing Brudiclad well; this commander does so much in just a single turn that opponents do not like to let it live. It won’t stick around churning out tokens and shifting them around every round – Brudiclad often only gets one shot. This is a play pattern I noted in a recent Upping the Average video, which I’ll link to below:

That was a fun video to do, but the decklist in that video doesn’t quite match up with my brother’s Brudiclad decklist. Since we also have some new token-tastic cards coming out in Strixhaven soon, I’d like to put forward what we think his final decklist might end up looking like when the preview-season dust finally settles!

Bro-diclad

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What continues to astonish me about Brudiclad is the way it can take even the most innocuous-looking board state and rapidly reform it into suddenly-lethal shenanigans. The new Resculpt is just darn good removal, but it can be used on one of Brudiclad’s own cards to make all those Servos into serious problems. We might think we have a handle on Brudiclad’s power output – it’s just a few Clues and a Servo over there, we don’t have to worry about Brudiclad making anything huge on the next turn – but then out of nowhere there’s a Supplant Form or a Theoretical Duplication and things got real scary real fast. Even a simple Replicating Ring feels like a ticking time bomb, which is a hilarious feeling to get from something as simple as a mana rock!

Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer isn’t just a ‘token deck’. It operates like a problem-solving machine, and the absolute most important lesson players can take away from it is how to prepare for and secure that One Big Turn. Just like an operating manual, Brudiclad has a step-by-step process and a formula of prerequisites, but one we can happily slot almost any ingredients into. As long as we observe the importance of buildup and tempo, Brudiclad will take us far.

There are some other tricks my brother has packed into his Engineer list, but I’ll get to those in a moment. For now, it’s time we take a look at Esix.


From London to Esix

Esix, Fractal Bloom seems primed to bowl us over in much the same was as Brudiclad. As before, we have a six-mana commander who wants to create a bunch of astonishing tokens. What magical changes await us when red gets exchanged for green?

As it turns out, there’s a lot to love. Esix’s ability after a Deep Forest Hermit or an Avenger of Zendikar hits the field is genuinely jaw-dropping. Even a single Brood Monitor would enter, create three more Monitors, which then each create three Eldrazi Scion tokens, resulting in a net of 21 power hitting the field. Master of Waves is another, who in conjunction with Esix should probably rechristen itself as “Master of Tsunamis”.

It’s important to recognize that creatures entering the battlefield with a bunch of tokens is the easiest way to trigger Esix, because Esix can have the tokens simply become copies of that selfsame creature. There are two important points to touch on here. First, this is a wildly different style of tempo than Brudiclad. Brudiclad comes down after the tokens have been set up, but Esix would need to be in play before a bunch of tokens are made. Second, the well of good creatures that make great tokens when they hit the field dries up pretty quick. There are a few others, from Hornet Queen to Myr Battlesphere, but the list gets lackluster almost immediately after that. We can’t just rely on those types of creatures, so we should make a good effort to find other good creatures to copy.

Multiple copies of Biovisionary sounds excellent. I’m hardcore in love with the idea of recruiting another Agent of Treachery or five to my side of the field (though I’m sure our opponents will be much less fond of this). But my absolute favorite cards to duplicate are the ones whose power-ups get absolutely bonkers when we get more of them in play. Do you know what happens when three Pathbreaker Ibexes attack? I’m not a Quandrix mage, that’s math I can’t do, but I know for certain that it’s an absolute K.O.

Even a single Cultivator of Blades can cause problems – if the Fabricate allowed us to make two more Cultivators, those can keep their own counters, and when the three of them attack next turn, as their triggers resolve one by one, our opponents will go through the full cycle of grief: denial that this is happening, bargaining with us to take it back, anger that they didn’t think of this themselves, depression-but-not-really-cuz-this-is-awesome, and then acceptance that they got absolutely smushed.

With these lessons in mind, here’s what I think the full flowering of our Fractal Bloom would look like:

Why Esix Afraid of Seven?

Commander (1)
Creatures (25)
Sorceries (18)
Instants (9)
Enchantments (3)
Planeswalkers (2)
Artifacts (5)
Lands (37)

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There are some especially spicy cards I want to highlight, and I’ll get to those in a moment, but for now I really want to linger on how this commander’s playstyle is a complete 180 from Brudiclad. Brudiclad waits for the table to be set before he comes around. It doesn’t care if we made lots of tokens and then one big one, or one big token and then lots of little ones, just so long as both those conditions were met before he enters.

Esix scrambles up that order. We want a good creature in play, then to play Esix, and then to make tokens that will copy that good creature. Or we want an opponent to have a good creature, and then to play Esix, and then to make a lot of tokens. Or or or we want to play Esix, then play a creature that also comes with its own tokens, which will then copy that creature. Regardless of which, Esix is a lot of mana and will get the best benefit if it can survive a round at the table, and even after that happens, it’ll still need a turn to set up for an attack. In other words, we have to be careful and guard our board very keenly.

This is a more belabored process, but it also turns out that Esix has better fallback options than Brudiclad if Plan A doesn’t work out. Brudiclad needs to make it to combat to turn Treasures into Dragons, but if it can’t make it there, it’s up the creek without a paddle – it’s not like we can attack people with a bunch of Treasure tokens. Esix, though, is fine just playing good creatures. Ezuri’s Predation is solid even if we don’t have our commander in play. End-Raze Forerunners is still great to play on a board of tiny 1/1s, and Parallel Lives and other such effects still amplify a bunch of Avenger of Zendikar tokens admirably.

All in all, while these commanders both make phenomenal use of clever token reshaping, their biggest difference isn’t even their different colors, but actually their different tempos.


Cards to Consider

Let’s finish up with some final suggestions for cards that may not get a ton of love, but which deserve more attention for each of these token-tastic commanders.


Brudiclad

  • Kiora Bests the Sea God: I’m flummoxed as to why this doesn’t show up in Brudiclad decks more often. It’s an 8/8 hexproof token. We’ll even get to tap things and steal stuff. This is great, especially alongside the new Spawning Kraken.
  • Shared AnimosityTurns out we don’t always need a big token to transform into. All our Myr share the same creature type.
  • Gargoyle Castle: What a unique token. It’s nice for lands to give us an out if we haven’t found a way to make anything bigger!
  • Dance of Many: My bro let me know I missed this one in the video I posted above. It’s a cheap way to get a very interesting token, so give it a look if you’re in the market for clones of enemy Scute Swarms and Balefire Dragons.
  • One With the Machine: We don’t have a ton of artifacts, but we don’t not have a ton of them either. If our commander manages to stick around, that’s a great one. This deck can run out of cards in hand fast. Pack it with ways to fill back up, more than you think you need, because if the One Big Turn gets scuppered, it’ll take a lot to claw back in.

Esix

  • Alrund’s Epiphany: Make two awesome copies. Take another turn. Make more awesome copies and swing. Do an excited dance cuz holy heck is that awesome.
  • Skyclave RelicIt’s just ramp, but it can come with tokens, too! If we’re hard-up to find other token-making cards, this is a late-game ramp spell we won’t be sad to topdeck. Shout out to Growth Spasm here as well.
  • Spawning BedThis and Foundry of the Consuls are a must. If our lands might make us more tokens than even a spell we could cast, we are missing out on value if we don’t take full advantage of it.
  • Spontaneous GenerationIt requires careful timing, but we’ve all seen how many cards green-blue can draw. If we play things right, this could be one of the most potent token-makers in our arsenal.
  • Oko, Thief of CrownsAlright, this one’s just me being cheeky, but it’s also kind of hilarious. This is a removal effect that can also double as a token-maker in a pinch. It’s spendy, so it’s not a ‘must have’ card, but of all the decks that could play Oko, this one really tickles me.

Bloomin’ Brood

So, which token-transformer is your favorite? And of course, which pair would you like to see on the next Commander Showdown?

Til next time!

Joey is the lead editor and content producer for EDHREC. You can find him hosting and creating tons of great videos over at https://www.youtube.com/edhrecast or give him a follow at @JosephMSchultz on Twitter, where he likes to celebrate Commander, coffee, and corgis.