By Aaron AKA Uncle Landdrops

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Happy Friday folks! We had a bit of a miscommunication with the posts this week (Curse you Dodo Bird! Just kidding!), and so I’m talking Strategy and showing Technology at the same time this week, continuing the multimedia trend, and killing several birds with one article-sized stone. (Note: Just so we’re clear, no Dodo Birds will be harmed. Just pigeons. Yeah. Eff pigeons.)

Anyway… I’m a huge fan, friend, and contributor to Uriah’s YouTube Channel, CMDR Decks, and this week, he posted a deck I talk a lot about here on the site – Barrin, Master Wizard. I thought it’d be a great opportunity here to not only support Uriah and CMDR Decks (Subscribe, support, and share your decks too! It’s so easy!) by re-posting, but also give you guys the skinny on Barrin whilst adding to the kinds of content you get here on CommanderCast.

As an additional bonus, I also have some mailbag questions about Barrin I answered a few weeks ago (Kudos to Sebastian for the additional content!). So if I didn’t cover something in the video, check out my correspondence with him below.

I know this is a little long, but if you like this, I will attempt to do more stuff with videos moving forward. So gimme some feedback, will ya?



What is the general strategy with the deck, i.e. what is your typical route to victory?

One of the best parts about the deck is that I don’t actually know how I’m going to win when I sit down at the table and pull the deck out. I may have mentioned this in the Better Deckbuilding article, but I’ll go a little deeper into what that means.

A lot of times, players want to have that “winning image” of a card or subset of cards that will win them the game. The way I designed my Barrin deck, as well as the way I play it, offer up the alternative to this – a concept I call, “active management style,” where we aren’t looking for one or two specific cards to win; we are looking to use a combination of card advantage and board advantage to figure out what resources are going to win us the game, adapting to whatever conditions our opponents can throw at us.Because of this, I don’t have any “typical routes” to victory. I have won by ultimating planeswalkers. I have won by milling opponents. I have won by basically doing everything except winning with General damage. Essentially, we’re just focused on committing cards to the board, and generating value by managing our card advantage and our board state.

Do you try to control the tempo of all opponents at once, or do you focus your efforts on one opponent at a time?  If so, do you always focus on the biggest threat and how do you avoid people feeling like they have been singled out?

Much like the way I don’t have an intention when I win, I don’t have the notion to control my opponent’s pace proactively. I activate Barrin’s ability in moments where I get to be “reactive,” meaning that my opponent has declared an attack on me or a planeswalker I control, or that they’ve targeted something I want to keep. Sometimes, I activate Barrin’s ability at the end of an opponent’s turn, but I usually do that with extra mana open in order to play around their responses.As a result, this provides me with the ability to out-tempo my opponents in most cases.

Do you feel that you have enough permanents, or things which create permanents to consistently achieve your game plan with the deck?

Yes. I have been playing and tuning this deck long enough to find the right combination of card draw and stuff that I like. Obviously, there are some big differences that will change depending on your metagme. Mine tends to involve less counterspells and Wraths, being more influenced by the Sheldon Menery, “Build Casually, Play Competitively” construct than trying to win with “top tier decks.”

Do you feel the deck needs any engine cards, such as Wall of Kelp or Nuisance Engine to help fuel Barrin’s ability?

Not necessarily, but I wouldn’t opposed to trying out Wall of Kelp. I think the deck wants a lot of creatures, even ones that aren’t good in combat, but I don’t have it in here now because 1) it was in my cube and 2) I didn’t think of it. Cool idea though.

I noticed that you included all of the available creatures with undying/persist to consistently provide permanents for Barrin, however during your updates you removed cards like the Wellsprings and Myr Battlesphere which would seem to do the same.  What was your reasoning behind removing these cards?

One of the things I love about this deck is that the process and design were a lot different than my other decks. Normally, I put it in TappedOut, playtest, and edit before I pull the cards and put it together and goldfish test.This time, I just picked cards I like, cards I thought would be good, and went from there. I was able to get a good idea of what I wanted to do in-game, what kind of power level I wanted it to have, and tuned and tuned until I found 100 cards that I really really loved to play over and over.So there really wasn’t any specific reasoning. The ones that have been shuffled in are cards I like- I just found ones that I’d like to play more, and that I thought would be a little more exciting. I don’t tend to look at a deck with the expectation that these are the cards that are always going to be in there every time. I like to change things around. The Wellsprings and Battleball are definitely cards that could come back, so I wouldn’t say they are never coming back. In Myr Battlesphere’s case, I’d say that it was probably just because I preferred to have my mana open than have to wait to 9 mana so I could cast it and still have mana open to activate Barrin. Even then, multiple activations of Barrin just felt better at 9 than a Battlesphere.

Do your planeswalkers tend to stick around for multiple turns, or do you activate them once or twice and then sacrifice them to Barrin?

Funny Story. I had every intention of using them as a sacrifice to Barrin more than I do. One of the reasons there’s so much Jace and Jace-things in the deck was so that my playgroup could see Jace die a lot. What I realized though, is that no one respects the Jaces that I do play (I don’t believe in Mind Sculptor as a Commander card), and the better, more powerful ones like Tamiyo, well, I tend to defend them pretty well. As I mentioned, I routinely get 2-3 activations of a planeswalker off, and I’m able to successfully control when I’m okay with letting them die.

Lastly, you have included a fair number of ‘Looter’ type cards.  Are there specific cards that you are digging for or were these included for another reason?

Merfolk Looter and Thought Courier are cards I’ve been playing in Commander for a very long time. Bonded Fetch is just a cool bonus. I’ve been playing them since before I began playing Commander, so they are basically “pet cards” recommended to me a long time ago by Grandpa Growth, my co-host from TGZ.They’re basically pet cards, but they always generate an insane amount of value, regardless of what deck they’re in. I honestly don’t see a whole lot of reason to not play them. Here in Barrin, we can use them to generate a little more value, in that we can declare a block and sacrifice them to Barrin to bounce creatures. Of course, we do that after normally after we’ve activated them 3-4 times. It’s not card advantage, but being able to see more cards than your opponents is always helpful.I also have a little bit of a graveyard/Threshold thing going on- just a couple cards that I’m okay with pitching, and other cards like Relentless Skaabs, that need a creature to exile in order to cast. There’s nothing I’m really looking for specifically, but again, that active management style means that we are always looking for more cards and specific things within the context of the moment in game, like Polymorphist’s Jest if I can’t handle bouncing an Avenger of Zendikar and Plant tokens, or an Arcane Lighthouse for Hexproof/Shroud creatures.