Epic Experiment – Baird Superfriend Prison

(Baird, Steward of Argive | Art by Christine Coi)

Epic Preparations

Hello EDHREC fans! I’m Bernardo Melibeu, and this is Epic Experiment, a series where we throw all common sense aside and experiment with some unusual strategies, changing how we normally build our deck. Is it going to work? Who knows?! We’re making science here. When you’re an Izzet mage, blowing things up is half the fun.

In this article we’ll be taking thing slowly with Baird, Steward of Argive

Creatures can’t attack you or a planeswalker you control unless their controller pays {1} for each of those creatures.

Observation 1:

He’s a lock piece in the command zone. This can be quite useful in the right shell, since he’ll always be available to us.

Observation 2:

Paying one mana for each attacking creature is not that much of a burden on our enemies. To be effective, we need to stack multiple instances of this type of effect.

Observation 3:

He can be used both aggressively and defensively. When used as an aggro tool, he allows us to attack with less fear of repercussion. When used as a defensive tool, he relieves some of the pressure our enemies might bring.

Observation 4:

Four mana is a lot for a mono-white commander.

Observation 5:

It’s a shame that he doesn’t have access to Rhystic Study. I know that it’s a great card and many non-blue decks would also love to play it, but Baird, Steward of Argive would really appreciate not only the Study’s draw ability but also its taxation effect.


The Old Formula

Here we can see that people, by stacking multiple tax effects, try to establish a board state that makes it difficult for their opponents to attack back, or even play cards. This type of support is needed because, as I mentioned before, paying one generic mana to attack isn’t that much of an imposition on our enemies.


The Epic Ingredients

Baird is a lock piece in the command zone – that is, he prevents them from doing something they probably want to do. He wants to slow the game down and from there take over the game by slowly accruing incremental value. Planeswalkers thrive in this style of gameplay, and the best part is that Baird can help us protect them with his ability. This at first seems like kind of an obvious direction for a Baird deck, but astonishingly, it isn’t. The lack of Superfriends decks with Baird at the helm might be a symptom of the his low popularity.

This list will be divided, mainly, in two parts: lock pieces and planeswalkers. The first will stop our enemies from doing what they like, which paves the way for us to do what we like, and for our wincons to slowly grind our opponents out of the game.

For lock pieces we are looking for ways to enhance our commander’s tax ability. These effects may vary from making all spells cost more to play, like Sphere of Resistance, Thorn of Amethyst, and God-Pharaoh’s Statue, or even adding extra copies of Baird’s effect with Norn’s Annex, Archangel of Tithes, and Peacekeeper. In a similar fashion, we’re also running a creature-hosing kit with cards like Cursed Totem, Meekstone, and Torpor Orb, making it difficult for our opponents to pull ahead in the game.

The last batch of stax is more proactive, opting for a more direct approach to slowing our opponents down. Smokestack makes them sacrifice a number of permanents each turn; this can be a dangerous card to play, but our deck can easily negate its downside with the sheer number of tokens we can generate with our planeswalkers. Rule of Law, and Ethersworn Canonist, at first, each seem a bit like a nonbo with Baird, Steward of Argive, but consider that each of these cards make recovering from a board wipe extremely difficult.

For our planeswalker suite, we’re rocking 14. They don’t seem like all that much in a vacuum, but once we have a firm grasp on the game they quickly show their value. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is a win condition and a board staller. Karn, Scion of Urza is a way to generate card advantage, and he has the added benefit of providing a body to block when necessary. Karn, the Great Creator works as both a Null Rod effect and a small clock. Teyo, the Shieldmage is a nice addition that can help block on the ground by providing a couple of Walls and giving us hexproof. Ugin, the Ineffable is one of the best planeswalkers available to us; he draws us cards, provides chump blockers, and he has a little bit of mana acceleration built in, making him a true all-around card.

Aside from the main structure of the deck, there’re a few support cards that are worth mentioning: Contagion Engine, and Karn’s Bastion are the Proliferate on-demand cards, which is very helpful when trying to sustain our planeswalkers. Karmic Justice makes it very dangerous for our opponents to destroy any of our lockdown pieces. Arena Rector is a nice way to cheat into play one of our bigger planeswalkers (like Karn Liberated or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon).


The Mixture


The biggest issue with the list, and with mono-white in general, is the lack of card draw; this makes our games somewhat dependent on starting hands and/or lucking out with our draws. Aside from that, the deck runs pretty smoothly, with lots of answers.

Aside from the aforementioned wincons, we can still win the game by beating down our opponents with tokens. White Sun’s Zenith is a great flexible finisher that can be cashed out early in the game if needed. Luminarch Ascension is a good constant source of tokens. It’s reasonably easy to get online, but still we shouldn’t be slamming it down until we can protect ourselves.


Methodology

For our opening hand, we want some sort of acceleration and a lock piece; the planeswalkers can come later on. The most important part here is curving out well and making sure our own lockdown and taxation effects don’t affect our own board.

In the early game, we need to accelerate our mana by playing our mana rocks. The difference between playing Smokestack or even any random planeswalker on turn three instead of turn four is huge, because that could give our opponents the time they need to pull ahead of us. In many cases, there’s no coming back from that especially against ramp-heavy decks.

By the mid-game, we should hope to have assembled some sort of combination of lockdown effects. Having multiple of those is really important because, when alone, they are usually only a small nuisance, but together, they absolutely prevent our enemies from playing effectively. This is usually the time when we need to start thinking about playing planeswalkers, and our decision to play or not should be based on board state and whether or not we can protect them. Sometimes, if we have multiple in hand, we can try to test the waters, but I would take caution since we can’t recover them.

By the late game it becomes a bit easier to take over the board with an active planeswalker or two. By this point most of the creature-heavy decks have already lost gas because of our numerous board wipes. However, our taxing effects can become obsolete quite quickly (that Rule of Law isn’t all that threatening once people are in top-deck mode), and the “political tool” that we lose by playing this kind of deck can be too much for us to recover from. Be very precise with your timing, both when you choose to deploy the tax and stax effects and when you choose to deploy your win conditions. That’s how you’ll emerge victorious.


Epic Results

This list was light on the token subtheme; going forward, I could see how investing more oon the token strategy could be enjoyable. Alternatively, we could go the other way around and opt for more of a “hatebears” approach with effects like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Leonin Arbiter. Adding mass land destruction spells like Armageddon can also be quite effective at locking people out of the game; just be sure to check with your playgroup if they’re okay with it, since it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

If you feel that you’re getting aggro’d by the table, investing into more board wipes and Ghostly Prison effects might help taking the edge off you.

One fun little “combo” that I see very often is equipping Helm of the Host to our commander. This might be a bit clunky, but it’s fun and should be considered when investing heavily into tokens.

That’s it for this Epic Experiment! What do you think about this list? Did it manage to defend our planeswalkers? Do you have any questions about the deck? Which cards did you like? Which didn’t you? Was the Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know in the comments below!

Bernardo is a 25 years old library science student. He's been playing(on and off) since portal and somehow manage to survive mirrodin block while being a total casual(beast tribal ftw?). He loves all the shades of blue and being the one saying "nope", while holding a full grip of cards in hand.