Okay FINE. Yeah. We’ll look at Unstable commanders.
Sometimes a new legendary creature comes out that values other cards in a new way, making cards that were previously useless suddenly amazing in the right EDH deck. The last time I wrote about this sort of thing was with Mairsil, the Pretender and a fresh look at activated abilities. This time it’s Baron Von Count and… numbers!
If we can keep this guy on the field for the time it takes to cast five spells with the right numbers in the right places on them, a target player loses the game. It’s not quite a win condition. It’s a targeted lose condition, which becomes a win condition if we do it enough times. However, if we can actually pull off this challenge in a game this winter, it will certainly be a memorable and exciting victory.
Note that the starting loyalty value of a planeswalker is not listed among Baron Von Count’s relevant numerical search areas, so we presumably can’t use that to trigger the Baron’s countdown. However, planeswalkers do tend to have lots of different numerals in their text box, so we are going to see some of them here. Also note that with regards to the mana cost, we are looking for actual numerals of generic mana, not the total converted mana cost. A creature that costs a single black or red mana does not trigger a count for “1”, unless there is also a “1” in the text box, power, or toughness.
Because of the power and toughness criteria, creatures may be more interesting to the Baron than non-creatures, especially if they have different numbers for power and toughness so that they can represent more numerals.
While reminder text for certain keywords or abilities might be in parentheses and italicized, it is literally in the text box. Any creature that has megamorph also has a chunk of reminder text talking about a 2/2 creature for 3 with a +1/+1 counter, in addition to whatever numerals might be in the mana cost to activate megamorph (and don’t forget the casting cost, creature power, and toughness on top of all that). Also check out awaken and (regular) morph as abilities with numeral-inclusive reminder text. Just don’t cast them as morph creatures, because the 2/2 morph doesn’t have a text box.
Here is a search for cards within a red/black color identity with all of “5”, “4”, “3”, “2”, and “1” just in the text box, not yet considering mana cost, power, or toughness. We’re going to be seeing a lot of creatures with the level up ability, because they tend to have lots of numerals.
To avoid looking at repeat cards for the rest of these searches, we look for four of the numerals but specifically not one of them. For example, “4”, “3”, “2”, “1”, but NOT “5”. Here is a combined list for 5432, 5431, 5421, 5321, and 4321.
Say the doom counter is on 1 and I cast a creature spell with 10 power. Does the middle ability trigger?
Yes. The number 10 is made up of the numeral 1 and the numeral 0.
“10” includes a “1”, so it counts. As another example, the “13” damage from Blasphemous Act would count for both “1” and “3”. It would also probably kill your Baron, but that’s not the point. It’s the digits that are important here. (Anyway, if your Baron counter was on the 1, then casting Blasphemous Act would still get the trigger to destroy target player before the spell resolves and kills the Baron…)
Here’s a combined list for 543, 542, 541, 532, 531, 432, 431, and 421. The search for 321 returns many more results all by itself, so I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
These searches only look at the text box, not the casting cost, power, or toughness. Thus, many of these cards (e.g. Jaya Ballard, Task Mage) are actually better for the Baron than this search method implies because they have additional relevant numbers in other non-text-box places. Also, the updated oracle text for Blood Lust says: “If target creature has toughness 5 or greater, it gets +4/-4 until end of turn. Otherwise, it gets +4/-X until end of turn, where X is its toughness minus 1.”
So we found a few cards with several of the numbers we want. Many of them, especially the level up creatures, are initially very cheap to cast. What if we could cast those few cards over and over? For this trick, we look to commanders such as Animar, Soul of Elements and Gonti, Lord of Luxury who enjoy bouncing their own creatures back to their hand so they can get another trigger by casting them again. In addition to the usual artifacts, Lava Zombie does what we want and also has four of our favorite numerals somewhere on it, making it especially good in a Baron Von Count deck. (This might be the only EDH deck where Lava Zombie is actually good…)
On a similar note, the dash ability lets a creature self-bounce back to your hand so you can cast it again next turn and rack up those numerical triggers. Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury has four of our numbers and isn’t otherwise terrible. After that, Mardu Strike Leader and Vaultbreaker have three numbers each.
Why destroy only one player?
When the doom counter moves from “1,” destroy target player and put the doom counter on “5”.
See the word “When” at the start of that sentence? That means it is a triggered ability. With a Strionic Resonator, we can copy that ability and choose new targets for the copy, destroying two players when our countdown ends. If we can make more copies of that artifact, then we can kill even more players with a single countdown. Sculpting Steel? Mirage Mirror? Check out the page for Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient if you want to go deeper on tricks for this particular artifact-doubling strategy.
This takes the concepts from the article and adds some of my favorite removal with a semi-standard artifact package. Swap in tutors or card draw to your personal taste. Enjoy…