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Not that Baron

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You really can't do an Unmander month without looking at Baron Von Count. The Baron offers the opportunity to build a completely normal Commander deck while focusing on something completely outrageous. For me, this is a perfect Unmander commander!

Let's start by determining what really counts when it comes to the Baron!

The Baron Himself

Baron Von Count is a 3/3 Black and Red creature that only costs three mana.

(Sidenote: Could Wizards mix up the legendary creatures a little better for the next Un- set? So many of them are Black and Red, which fits the theme of them being "Super Villains" but it makes building around them seem a little redundant. Let's open it up a little next time around!)

When my commander only costs three mana, I worry less about protecting him. Recasting him for five or seven just doesn't seem like a big deal. With the Baron though, this is a different story. For his ability to work, you'll need time to cast five spells without an opponent killing him or bouncing him or otherwise finding a way to reset the countdown. With three other players, it can be a difficult task to get the numbers down before an opponent ends the Count.

We'll get to ways around that in a minute, but first let's look at that ability. First off, you don't have to "successfully" cast a spell, just cast it. If your opponents hope to stop the countdown by countering your spell, they will be disappointed. Secondly, the number can be in the text box, mana cost, power, or toughness. The collector number is off-limits. Numbers written out are no good either. It must be a numeral.

Downside

So let's talk about the elephant in the room. Baron Von Count's ability eliminates one player from the game. This is lousy for the player you choose, and you are going to choose that player. Do not roll a die to determine who will be eliminated. We'll talk about that in a minute, but that is a surefire way to ensure the Baron doesn't stay on the battlefield very long. Besides, if you are going to go through all that work, assess the board and make your choice. The question though is how lousy is it really going to be for that player?

If you assume that you get an extra mana every turn until at least turn six, then in a world where you are casting two spells per turn, your first opponent dies on turn six, and the next dies on turn eight. While this is a perfect world scenario, it shouldn't be too bad for the opponent first eliminated. The theory is that each elimination should happen faster as you'll have more mana to play more cards. You'll just need to have more cards.

Protection Racket

The key to making this happen is to keep Baron Von Count on the battlefield long enough for it to happen. There are three ways to make that happen: standard cards that everyone uses to protect their commander; politics; and sheer speed.

The standard cards are fairly obvious. Swiftfoot Boots, Lightning Greaves, Champion's Helm. You don't really need my help with these cards.

Politics is the option most interesting to me. When players start showing their concern about Baron Von Count, determine who you are targeting and announce it to the table. It is amazing how opponents suddenly become disinterested in a threat, when it isn't a threat to them! Most of us don't have enough ways to deal with the threats to our own board states, let alone a threat to another player!

How you'll go about choosing your target is more of a game by game, moment by moment decision. Do you announce the most dangerous player as the first target? They are the most dangerous player at the table for a reason. If they don't quickly deal with Baron Von Count, then their only option is to deal with you. On the other hand, targeting the weakest player at the table is just doing work for the strongest player at the table. At your table, you might be able to get away with not suggesting any target at all. If there are more dangerous targets, perhaps the Count can slip under the radar.

The third option is sheer speed. Maybe you can't keep the Baron on the battlefield for long, so casting a lot of cheap spells is the way to go! A card like Guul Draz Assassin has numbers one through four in the text box, and only costs one mana! This is a great way to race through the countdown faster than some opponents might realize.

The List

For this deck, I reached out to my friend and deck-builder extraordinaire, Brandon Isleib. After playing a few games, Brandon discovered that the key sticking point was finding a card with the right number at the right time. You want to have a card with the number you need right away. You are also looking at less expensive cards for just the reasons I mentioned above. Brandon also did what he could to find ways to draw cards that fit into these prerequisites.

Baron Von Count circa 2018 | Commander | Brandon Isleib


By the Numbers

With this list, there are 44 cards with a "1" on them, 40 with a "2," 34 with a "3," 32 with a "4," and 31 with a "5." Part of what made the deck so much fun to put together, was that you were as interested in the flavor texts on cards as you were with the rest of the card! In fact, if you were to use this specific decklist, you would want specific printings of Greed and Tamiyo's Journal, as they have different flavor texts! Almost every spell in the deck offers three of the numbers needed, so the hope is that you are moving the timer down virtually every time you cast a spell.

There is a real stress on keeping the costs down. There are only five cards that cost more than five mana and most of those are there to cycle away to draw more cards. My personal favorites are some of the level up creatures. With all the levels listed, along with varied power and toughness, the volume of numerals could climb quickly. Jaya Ballard, Task Mage only costs three but is good for the one, two, three, and five slots! Staff of Domination is the all-star, covering all five number requirements, and only for three mana!

The Essentials

Given the importance of having the right card at the right time, Brandon is running plenty of card draw and scrying (something I hadn't considered when looking at cards for the deck). Bloodgift Demon, Arguel's Blood Fast, Greed, Shadows of the Past, Smuggler's Copter, and more.

Even the ramp follows the strategy. Wild-Field Scarecrow hasn't likely ever make the cut in one of your decks, but when three mana gets you a creature with numbers one through four, suddenly paying three and sacrificing it for two more to get two basic lands just makes sense! Neheb, the Eternal is regularly seen in Red decks to up the mana count and it is particularly effective in this deck. If your opponents have lost even just three life each, you have nine mana. If Baron is already on three, there is a good chance you'll be able to wind the clock to zero before your turn is over! Neheb also offers three of the numerals needed!

The Top Three

With a Baron Von Count article, it would be a shame not to include a countdown of my own! In addition to the cards I've already mentioned, there are three more that are just perfect in this deck!

3. Oblivion Stone. I usually don't care for O-Stone. It usually just reads as an eight cost mass removal spell. You aren't going to spend three mana and leave it sitting there, risking losing it. You aren't going to use the fate counter option since it will tap it and make it vulnerable to removal that turn. In this deck though, it serves multiple purposes. It has 5, 4, and 3 so you can play it early and move the countdown clock. You can put a fate counter on Baron Von Count and why wouldn't you? It seems appropriate to have a fate counter on a creature that is counting ever closer to your inexorable death. You can destroy all nonland permanents except for the Baron. Finally, you can just use it as you normally would, when the board requires a reboot. The card is great for Vorthos, Mel, Timmy/Tina, and Johnny/Jennie!

2. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. I'm a big fan of Kalitas, as it shuts down opponents' graveyards completely and with today's meta, that can be a big advantage. Brandon's deck does a great job of dealing damage and destroying opponent's creatures, and that gives us plenty of 2/2 Zombies to either use as chump blockers, or as a push to eliminate an opponent getting close to being eliminated the old fashioned way! Add in the lifelink and getting that little boost of damage can be a big bonus as the game drags on and opponents are eying you up. You'll also note that Kalitas offers up a 1, 2, 3, and 4 with the text box and power and toughness!

1. Archfiend of Ifnir. This is a card that never really hits my radar. Brandon realized that a small cycling theme would be good for finding the cards you need at the right time, so he set up the deck to include several cards with cycling. Given that the Archfiend is already a 5/4 flyer, the value just keeps climbing. Perusing the card will also find you every single numeral you are looking for with Baron Von Count, so this just makes good sense.

Brandon's list is from early 2018; it doesn't have any cards from Dominaria forward. I'd love to hear your suggestions from newer sets that would make the count!

Bruce

@manaburned