May 29, 2012
By MIKE aka DIABEETUS
I still remember my first time. He was tall, dark and brooding. He was powerful, lean and Legendary. This was Baron Sengir in all his lordly might. I remember being drawn into those piercing, evil eyes and knowing that he knew all of my unspoken desires … and… and… this has gotten really homoerotic… sorry.
I started playing Magic just as Homelands was coming out. I remember walking down to the one and only bookstore in my horrible little hometown and talking to old Mr. Johnson as if it was yesterday.
“Can I get a pack of 4th Edition?” I asked.
“We’re sold out.” The shopkeeper gruffly replied.
“How ‘bout a pack of Chronicles?”
“Sold out of that, too. How about a pack of Homelands?”
“Um… do you have anything else?”
“Not until next week.”
I looked forlornly at the mangled three dollar bills in my hand. “Are you sure you don’t have anything else? At all? Maybe in the back?”
“Buy something or get out!”
Walking out of the store, I started thumbing through my new cards to see what Fate had saddled me with this time. Being new to the game, I had a few misconceptions. One of which was that the greater the casting cost, the better the card was, and this guy cost 8 mana! Awesome! What else? Flying? Awesome! Gets bigger when he kills dudes? Awesome! Regenerates other vampires? I wonder what regenerate means! I need to get some vampires! Vampires rule! (This was when vampires didn’t sparkle and could be all manly with other manly vampires lustily tearing at each other throats… and sucking… oh god) Summon Legend? Excellent! I should find out what that means!
Fast forward 16 years and he is still with me sitting at the front of my black rare binder, a bit rough around the edges, but demanding that I build a great deck around him. The time is now! But where to begin?
My play group is pretty creature friendly at the moment so that means a target rich environment, plenty of dudes to kill. The Baron has to do some damage to a creature, and that creature has to die for him to get those sweet +2/+2’s. So how do we do that? Attacking with him will work if a player has a flier that is smaller than the Baron and he’s willing to block with it. Not great. What about doing damage to kill them? Viridian Longbow popped into my brain and I immediately kicked my brain’s ass for being a big pussy. One damage a pop isn’t going to cut the mustard in EDH. There must be something better out there. Time to fire up Gatherer and see what it is.
As it turns out there are a few options, very few. Hankyu, Heavy Arbalest, Surestrike Trident, Thornbite Staff and Viridian Longbow are all artifacts and only a few of them are okay, let alone good. I did find a couple of cool options in red and blue, but “This is a Baron Sengir deck and by God, it will STAY a Baron Sengir deck!” Okay, not the best start. I’ll come back to this later.
Now that I have 3 whole ways to deal damage to critters thanks to the Baron’s love of all things mono-black (sigh), how am I gonna kill them? With mono-black this is a no brainer. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting piles of cheap black removal. In this case sweepers aren’t the way to go. We don’t want to massacre these guys, we want to assassinate them. Doom Blade? Check. Go for the Throat? On-theme check. Witch’s Mist? What!? As it turns out, this card works great. It’s an enchantment, so it’s hard to deal with and it sticks around to kill all sorts of stuff while it’s on the board. Ping a guy for one, pay (2)(B), tap, kill, rinse, repeat. Grab a handful of other kill spells and we are good to go.
Another way I could get creatures to die is by forcing them into combat. Now this really got me excited. So excited, in fact, I want to make this the main focus of the deck. Some of the best creatures in EDH just sit behind bigger guys and never swing at anybody. Let’s fix that. Norritt, Nettling Imp, Arcum’s Whistle and Bullwhip will… er, whip your opponents’ creatures into a frothing rage. They will have to attack. “Come at me, Bro!” I will scream. What if they attack me? Sweet! Feed them to the Baron or to your Pit Trap. If not? Let them go after someone else. At worst they die at someone else’s hands or take out someone else’s guy. At best, you ping the attacker or the blocker and finish them off. Super sweet. Red cards like Rage Nimbus, Aggravate and Heckling Fiends would fit the bill perfectly but, you know, the Baron is an elitist prick. “If it ain’t black, send it back!” he screams.
Now we need to get some loyal subjects for the Baron to oppress under the iron-mailed fist of the bourgeois. Sengir Vampire, Soul Collector, Krovikan Vampire, Dread Slaver, and Mephidross Vampire all benefit from killing creatures, but there just are aren’t enough of them. Garza Zol, Plague Queen would be tits, as would Blood Tyrant, Vein Drinker and the totally ridiculous Vampiric Dragon, but they have red and/or blue in them.
Damn you, Baron Sengir! This is a flimsy premise as it is. This should be a deck built around forcing creatures to attack, causing chaos on the battlefield, trying to cash in on that chaos and having a metric ton of fun doing it, not a sub-par shrine devoted to reminding everyone why it is you never make it into anybody’s decks. Why do you have to cock-block me at every turn with your “over-priced, mono-black, aristocratic, snobgoblinery?” Are you are just too good for red and blue? Fine! Screw you! Garza Zol, you’re legendary, right? Yeah? Good, you’re in! Baron, piss off!
Blue and red open up a ton of options for me. More ways to deal damage with creatures (Fire Whip, Power of Fire, Psionic Gift and Quicksilver Dagger), more artifact hate (Shattering Spree and Shatterstorm), some land destruction (Boom//Bust and Stone Rain), some card draw (Mystic Remora, Portent, Ponder and Diabolic Vision) and a few more fun kill cards (Pongify and Ovinize) plus all of the other goodies I mentioned earlier.
Here is what I ended up with:
COME AT ME BRO: THE DECK
*** Commander ***
Mirri the Cursed
Pit Trap – Ice Age version only
Blade of the Bloodchief
Obelisk of Grixis
The first thing I think some of you will notice is the fact that Baron Sengir is still in the deck. Yes, he’s an over-priced, under-powered card, especially in this day and age, but I am still Brokeback Mountain for him. He still fits the theme and he’s still a bad ass, I’m just glad that I didn’t kill myself trying force him in as the commander. It would have resulted in an unplayable deck and I would never have really pushed the force-guys-to attack mechanic without serious access to red. “I wish I knew how to quit you, Baron Sengir!”
The next thing you may have noticed is that this is a theme deck, not Sengir themed or vampire themed, or any other purely aesthetic theme (though it is close). This deck has a mechanical theme. Granted, it’s not the most mind blowing idea out there but it is intriguing. What other mechanical themes are out there, sitting in the dry, musty darkness of my commons box? What mechanics from bygone eras waiting for someone to look at them with a fresh set of eyes? I was toying around with Eon Hub and just looking at every card that has the word upkeep in it. I have that kind of time. What about that card that gives you extra upkeeps, Paradox Haze? There are just so many parts of this game that can be manipulated and played with that you just never see anyone even try to use. Most of them will probably fail spectacularly, but I would rather fail big than win small.
After playing this deck a few times I have found some cool successes and some utterly dismal failures. First let’s look at the successes. Soul Collector, Krovikan Vampire and Dread Slaver make combat a dicey prospect for any of my opponents. Whenever an opponent attacks they have to take into account the fact that if a creature they are attacking or blocking with dies or even gets close to death there is a good chance that I will be stealing that creature and using it against them. In a multiplayer environment, trying to keep track of that on top of everything else going on in this chaotic format is difficult at best and I have definitely caught people not paying attention. I will usually try to tutor one of these first time, every time. Way better than just getting a few +1/+1 counters.
Forcing creatures to attack at inconvenient times is great for disrupting creature based combo pieces and putting the brakes on creature based acceleration. Plus, this is a fantastic political tool. Just the threat of doing this to an opponent will make them leery about summoning smaller creatures. Being the table’s inflammatory, poop-flinging howler monkey can really get the alliances forming quickly, too. Usually against me, but hey, at least people are working together to kick my ass.
And now for the failures. And boy… there are a lot of them. The most glaring of these came to light as I was sitting at the table with Surestrike Trident in my hand and I actually took a second to R.T.F.C. It only allows your creatures to deal damage to players. After removing this card from my deck I performed rectally adjacent cranialectomy.
Ovinize isn’t a kill card. Dumb.
Boom//Bust needs to go. This deck is so mana thirsty that I can’t give up even one land to snipe a single land with the Boom side of this card and mass land removal with Bust is utter suicide and without mana to burn I can’t protect myself from anyone.
The next one is a whole class of cards that I didn’t even think about putting in the deck. These cards make critters “fight” like Arena, Magus of the Arena, Rival’s Duel and Triangle of War. There aren’t enough of these to completely replace the clunky “deal-one-damage-and-then-find-a-way-to-kill” (God, it’s even clunky to type) mechanic, but they are much more elegant and basically achieve the same result. Need to get me some of those.
The saddest failure of this deck is how many types of decks just kick the holy hell out of it. Are you running a deck with very few to no creatures? Congrats, you have just blanked half of my deck. Are you running a token deck? Well, I’ve got good news for you. Tokens totally disappear when they go to the graveyard so you don’t have to worry about me swinging at you with your own guys. I’m sure there are others, but these are the one that I know for sure. I still have the bruises on the inside of my colon to prove it.
Is this an unstoppable powerhouse running rough-shod across the burnt hell-scape that used to be the local card shop? No. Is it capable of maybe winning a few games? Probably. Did I indiscriminately kill off every player’s utility creatures and inspire them to stomp my yam bag into a smooth, creamy paste? You betcha’!
I guess the point that I’m trying to make is two-fold:
- When you are trying out a new deck concept that is based on a particular commander and it just isn’t working, step back, take some time and decide if that card is really the best one for the job. There is no sense in painting yourself into a corner just trying to force one card into your deck at the expense of a fun and relatively playable deck.
- Baron Sengir has an unholy grasp on the fragile flower that is my heterosexuality and I can feel him squeezing! Send help! And whiskey! And lumberjack shirts!