Feature Article from Ryan Hipp

The Blood Baroning of Madison: A Champion Returns

Ryan Hipp

7/8/2013 10:01:00 AM

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Hello once again! If you are anything like me, you have grown tired in the mature stages of this standard of Jund, Junk, UWR, the Morbid decks and so many, many varieties of aggro. So I wanted to play something sweet, something spicy, something mostly off the radar, something that could Crush unprepared opponents. Then it became clear as day: it was prime time for Blood Baron of Vizkopa to make his long overdue debut.

Over the last two weeks or so, Blood Baron of Vizkopa had shown up in Junk Rites as a one or two of but I really didn't want to resort to playing Junk Rites, so the shell was unclear to me. Back when Gatecrash first came out, I played a BWR list featuring Assemble the Legion, Obzedat, Lingering Souls, Blood Artist and Vampire Nighthawk. The deck was okay, but there was certainly something missing. After losing to Thundermaw Hellkite and Esper with Planar Cleansing and Terminus again and again, I moved away from the pile and didn't give it another thought. I was excited for many things in Dragon's Maze, and I saw Blood Baron's potential but I wanted to jam him in Esper midrange more than anything, but still dismissed the BWR deck. Then Scream had to Crush a daily on MTGO with a very similar list, but with the missing piece of the puzzle.

The philosophy of spreading opponents' relevant removal thin certainly made this deck choice appealing. Having must answer threats like Assemble the Legion, Obzedat, Ghost Council, Olivia Voldaren, and Blood Baron of Vizkopa against the bigger decks and Vampire Nighthawk and Boros Reckoner against the faster ones was excellent in practice games. But in the end I solidified on this deck because of the revamped Naya deck that surfaced over the last few weeks; Thundermaws, Reckoners, Rampagers, Voices, Domri, Etc. Mostly threats that die to Dreadbore or cannot beat Reckoner/Blood Baron. The colors also have a lot to offer as far as combating Sphinx's Revelation goes.

Anyway, enough rambling about why the deck is sweet. Here are the down and dirty details.

BWR Midrange by Ryan Hipp
Finished 1st Place at 2013 TCGplayer Open 5K - Madison
Main Deck
2 Aurelia, the Warleader
4 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
4 Boros Reckoner
1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
2 Olivia Voldaren
3 Vampire Nighthawk
Creatures [16]
2 Assemble the Legion
2 Blasphemous Act
3 Dreadbore
2 Mizzium Mortars
4 Pillar of Flame
1 Rakdos Keyrune
1 Rakdos's Return
4 Warleader's Helix
Spells [19]
3 Blood Crypt
2 Cavern of Souls
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Sacred Foundry
Lands [25]
Deck Total [60]

1 Devour Flesh
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Rakdos's Return
3 Rest in Peace
2 Rolling Temblor
2 Sin Collector
3 Slaughter Games
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

The Good:

- Plenty of efficient removal
- Resilient/diversified threats
- Scary follow ups (Blood Baron of Vizkopa into Aurelia, the Warleader and Boros Reckoner / Blasphemous Act combo)
- Planeswalker pressure
- Doesn't care too much about Thragtusk decks
- Redundancy in removal and Stabilizers
- Sweet board plans
- Powerful racing capabilities

The Bad:

- No card selection
- Can have a rough game one against Sphinx's Revelation decks
- Awkward openers
- Opposing Obzedats can be troublesome
- No real way to benefit from flood
- The deck is beatable, although it can be tuned to beat anything


Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Bye

Round 3: Izzet Blitz (UWR Cyclops combo) 2-0

I'm not sure about his specific list, but with limited relevant removal on his side, the lifelinking creatures got me out of reach of an Artful Dodge combo. Dreadbore and a Mortars killed two Nivix Cyclops while pillar killed a Guttersnipe and he could never get something going.
Game two he got stuck on two lands, even after looting and thought scouring several times. Sin Collector, Liliana, and Rest in Peace seal up the game before it even started.

While this deck isn't all that common, the board plan is easy. Assemble is too slow, Pillar only kills Guttersnipe, Olivia and Blasphemous Act take too long to get set up.

-2 Assemble the Legion, -2 Olivia Voldaren, -1 Pillar of Flame, -1 Aurelia, the Warleader , -2 Blasphemous Act

+3 Liliana of the Veil, +2 Sin Collector, +1 Devour Flesh, +2 Rest in Peace

Round 4: Big Naya 2-0

This match up can go either way, but I believe this deck is favored game one. Pillar of Flame slows their aggression by killing Mana dorks and Voice of Resurgence. Saving Dreadbore for Thundermaw Hellkite is key. I don't recall the games, but they went similar to testing: removal spell, Boros Reckoner, removal spell, Olivia/Blood Baron.

-2 Assemble the Legion, -2 Blasphemous Act, -1 Aurelia, the Warleader

+1 Devour Flesh, +3 Liliana of the Veil, +1 Rolling Temblor.

Round 5: UWR Flash (No Planeswalkers) 2-0

This match up feels unlosable post board. To make matters worse for him, my opponent put me on the wrong deck, bringing in things like Izzet Staticaster, a card that doesn't have much of an effect on our list, while we get to bring in some sweet ones against their archetype.

Game one, he suffers from mana problems and dies to Assemble the Legion. Game two, he gets Slaughter Games'd into oblivion and Obzedat finishes the job.

Round 6: Big Naya 1-2

Game one I keep a slower hand with only one Pillar of Flame as removal and get crushed via double Boros Reckoner into Thundermaw Hellkite. Game two I have double Pillar for his double Voice and Dreadbore for his Hellkite, my opponent runs out of gas and loses to Blood Baron and Aurelia. Game three I open on three lands, double Warleader's Helix, Boros Reckoner, and Blood Baron. This is a fine hand on the play against Big Naya, but not great. He has double mana dork into Hellkite and I brick. This may seem like a more common occurrence but campire nighthawk, Pillar of Flame, Dreadbore, Mizzium Mortars, Olivia Voldaren, and Rolling Temblor (two damage Redirect from reckoner + Helix) were outs to a Hellkite.

Round 7: Junk Tokens 2-0

Finally! The colors I came to beat. Game one I have Keyrune into Blood Baron against a Lingering Souls into Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. Aurelia seals the deal as she should. Game two I have a removal heavy hand but find a Blood Baron and Sin Collector to claim victory.

Round 8: Big Naya 2-1

I drew both Blasphemous Acts game 1 against a Boros Reckoner, which is why they come out in this match up. The other 2 games went according to plan. Olivia is a house and Nighthawk is a tough barrier sometimes. In general, untapping with Blood Baron is how to lock up this match up; don't burn Dreadbore if you can help it until the Hellkite comes down. Pillar isn't a good late game top deck but it does deal with their early aggression, which is exactly what you want to be doing before going over their end game.

Round 9: Intentional Draw

Quarterfinals: Jund Aggro 2-0

My opponent was on the play and I had a casual double Vampire Nighthawk into blood baron draw against his Burning-Tree Emissarys. He didn't have Falkenrath on four and couldn't race eight life a turn supported by removal spells. Game two my opponent missed his third land drop for two turns as I hid behind a Reckoner.

Semifinals: Caleb Durward with Jund Midrange 2-0

I kinda owe this win to Caleb, as he knocked perhaps the scariest match ups out in his quarterfinals match. Not that the Bant Auras matchup is unwinnable but it requires an above average draw to compete with some of their better draws.

The matches here went as they did in testing. Assemble the Legion taking over the game and Obzedat doing what Obzedat does. I land an early Rakdos's Return followed by Olivia and he doesn't find Bonfire in game one. Game two he Liliana of the Veils our hands away and but Obzedat dodges her edict until she dies. He finds Putrefy and I find Assemble the Legion and a Blood Baron. There was some number of Beast Tokens that went around that almost killed me via Kessig Wolf Run, but Assemble is pretty nutterbutters in long games. And again, no Bonfire.

Finals: Steven Hay with Junk Reanimator 2-1

Game one a Reckoner and an Olivia give him a hard time. He resolves a Thragtusk, Blood Baron of his own, and a Fiend Hunter. I rip a timely sixth land to Overload mortars and take game the game.

Game two he gets mana dorks for days. I Slaughter Games Thragtusk and he casts Obzedat. I hide behind Reckoner but Lingering Souls and Gavony Township get me good.

Game three I have Rest in Peace, a Keyrune, and a Blood Baron. A Reckoner comes down at some point and Warleader's Helix prevents a Restoration Angel Flicker. He runs out of gas and succumbs to the Blood Baron beats.

Just like that, the tournament was over, only dropping one match to Big Naya.

 Aurelia, the Warleader
Store QTY Price  
Good Games USA 1 $6.01
Lucky's Card Shop 11 $6.25
Gama Pro Demo 4 $9.23
Gama Pro Demo 4 $9.23
Exiled Games 1 $9.25
Swovy 1 $9.95
CO Home Brewers 2 $10.00
TopTierBoardGames 1 $10.84
Pinnacle CAG 1 $10.90
Tiger Magic 1 $10.99
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Aurelia, the Warleader Magic MTG Card
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Jund Aggro:
Falkenrath Aristocrat can be a problem when supported by multiple creatures, as Tragic Slip didn't make the 75. Making them sac is a fine alternative and Liliana can buy some time. Focus on trading with their guys as much as possible, one-for-one'ing until Blood Baron or another threat can take over.

SB: -2 Assemble the Legion, -1 Aurelia, the Warleader, -1 Rakdos's Return
+3 Liliana of the Veil, +1 Devour Flesh

Jund Midrange:
This can go either way. Sometimes they have double miracle Bonfire against a zero reckoner draw, sometimes they are packing two Mizzium Mortars for Blood Barons but generally speaking, you want to deal with the first side of a Thragtusk and not walk into Bonfire or overloaded Mortars. Assemble is your friend.

SB: -4 Pillar of Flame, -3 Vampire Nighthawk -1 Blasphemous Act
+2 Liliana of the Veil, +2 Slaughter Games, +1 Devour Flesh, +2 Sin Collector, +1 Rakdos's Return

I left a Nighthawk in to pressure Garruks and Lilianas against Caleb in the semifinals but cutting the last one for the second Sin Collector seems better. Pillar is a necessary evil; although we don't care too much about Huntmaster flipping, we do need to deal with it before we are taken to Value Town and they get a board state of Wolf Tokens and Kessig Wolf Run, so it would be nice to leave one or two in. Slaughter Games naming Thragtusk, Olivia, or Bonfire is what I would name against them, none of which is really necessary but can help smooth out the games.

American Midrange (No Planeswalkers):
The key to this matchup is to stop their Revelations, or resolve Assemble/Obzedat in a relevant time frame. AEtherling is their only real path to victory, as we have removal for days for any restoration Angels. Blood Baron can also be terrifying for them, as Azorius Charm, Searing Spear, and Pillar of Flame don't deal with it.

If their game plan is Moorland Haunt and Thundermaw Hellkite, life gets easier. If it's AEtherling, we gotta find Slaughter Games or race, both of which are reasonable plans. Cavern of Souls makes their life difficult as well.

American Control (Planeswalkers and 4+ Sweepers):
Very Similar to Midrange, but needs to be played differently as they can deal with Blood Baron much easier. Luckily, they play less Counterspells than their Midrange counterparts, making Assemble easier to resolve. Sphinx's Revelation, Tamiyo, and their sweepers are how they take over.

SB: -2 Blasphemous Act, -4 Pillar of Flame, -2 Mizzium Mortars
+3 Slaughter Games, +2 Sin Collector, +3 Liliana of the Veil

Bant Auras:
Reallllyyyyyy dislike this deck. It's being hated out but people do love their free wins, and the deck isn't going away. That said, we can't just be cold to it, and I'm a firm believer that they will rarely beat double pillar, double edict effect. Rolling Temblor can be another cushion against Invisible Stalker and Geist as well.

SB: -1 Rakdos's Return, -2 Assemble the Legion, -2 Olivia Voldaren, -1 Aurelia, the Warleader
+3 Liliana of the Veil, +1 Devour Flesh, +2 Rolling Temblor.

Esper Control:
Another good match up. Sorin and Lingering Souls lists need some serious number of removal spells to keep us down. Blood Baron is good against most of their deck if they are on this version. If they are playing the old school Drownyard lists, this plan changes a bit if this is the case.

Sorin Lists: -2 Blasphemous Act, -4 Pillar of Flame, -2 Boros Reckoner -2 Vampire Nighthawk
+1 Rakdos's Return, +2 Sin Collector, +3 Liliana of the Veil, +3 Slaughter Games +2 Rest in Peace

Nephalia Drownyard Lists: -2 Blasphemous Act, -4 Pillar of Flame, -2 Mizzium Mortars, -1 Dreadbore
+3 Liliana of the Veil, +3 Slaughter Games, +2 Sin Collector, +1 Rakdos's Return

Big Naya:
Perhaps the matchup I tested through the most. Dreadbore is your friend. Assemble the Legion is too slow. Killing Hellkite and stabilizing is the game plan but watch out for Advent of the Wurm tokens as they can eat a Blood Baron. People's lists Change, as such, this board plan should as well.

SB: -2 Blasphemous Act, -2 Assemble the Legion, -1 Rakdos's Return
+3 Liliana of the Veil, +1 Devour Flesh, +1 Rolling Temblor

Naya Blitz:
Even though this deck has fallen out of favor, it's still around, but the matchup is pretty good all things considered. Nighthawk is hard for them to beat, as is Reckoner, but this isn't any new information.

SB: -2 Assemble the Legion, -2 Aurelia, the Warleader, -1 Rakdos's Return
+1 Devour Flesh, +2 Rolling Temblor, +2 Liliana of the Veil

Izzet Blitz (UWR Cyclops):
Not sure if this is something to plan for, but the cards in my sideboard certainly splashed hate onto this deck. Playing plenty of removal that deals with Cyclops and Guttersnipe make Geist of Saint Traft their only real path to victory.

SB: -2 Blasphemous Act, -2 Assemble the Legion, -1 Aurelia, the Warleader, -2 Olivia Voldaren, -1 Rakdos's Return
+2 Sin Collector, +3 Liliana of the Veil, +1 Devour Flesh, +2 Rest in Peace

Shutting off their turn four/five kill and gaining some life is the easiest path to victory. Rest in Peace takes away roughly half of their gas.

Golgari Control (Messengers and Disciples.dec):
Only tested this match up a little, but it always felt very favorable. Outside of Mutilate, they are fairly weak to Blood Baron. They win by resolving a Disciple's trigger on a Thragusk or Geralf's Messenger.

SB: -2 Blasphemous Act, -2 Mizzium Mortars, -3 Vampire Nighthawk
+2 Slaughter Games, +1 Rakdos's Return, +2 Liliana of the Veil, +1 Rest in Peace, +1 Sin Collector

From what I've played in the matchup, killing Garruks, exiling Messengers and not getting blown out by Mutilate are the ways to win this one. Reckoner stops assaults on the ground, sometimes they run Ultimate Price as well, which makes Nighthawk worse.

U/W Flash (four Renounce the Guilds):
This is pretty much the same as American Midrange, but includes more Rest in Peace because their plan involves Runechanter's Pike and Moorland Haunt. At least once in testing I cast Slaughter Games naming Renounce the Guilds too.

Junk Aristocrats:
Possibly the best match up there is. Blood Baron really earns his stripes here. Keep them off Blood Artist and not dying to Lingering Souls tokens is the best way to go about this match up. By all means necessary, do not let them get a 5/5 Demon.

SB: -2 Assemble the Legion, -1 Rakdos's Return
+3 Rest in Peace

If they start including Obzedat, Devour Flesh may be the best out.

The Aristocrats:
The other morbid deck. The matchup again feels good because Blood Baron has protection from their colors and they don't play Mizzium Mortars. Keep them off Blood Artist and a 5/5 Demon. After board, edict effects are your friend, play the long game and trade one-for-one when possible.

SB: -2 Blasphemous Act, -2 Assemble the Legion, -1 Aurelia, the Warleader
+3 Rest in Peace, +1 Devour Flesh, +1 Liliana of the Veil

A second or third Liliana of the Veil could come in on the play, as it hits their best turn two and turn three plays, especially when supported by Pillar of Flame. Cutting the Rakdos's Return and trimming the last Aurelia are good places to start.

Junk Rites:
This matchup is fairly based on their draw; sometimes they have Acidic Slime and sometimes they don't. As far as tips go, try to pillar Acidic Slimes whenever possible. If that means not killing a mana dork on turn one to Dreadbore it on two, so be it. 'Burning' Dreadbore on a mana dork is usually fine. We don't care too much about Angel of Serenity and have plenty of outs to Thragtusk.

SB: -2 Assemble the Legion, -3 Vampire Nighthawk, -1 Pillar of Flame, -1 Warleader's Helix, -1 Rakdos's Return
+3 Slaughter Games, +3 Rest in Peace, +1 Sin Collector, +1 Devour Flesh

Assemble is real weak against Slime, Nighthawk trades unfavorably but can stay in if they are Lingering Souls heavy. The Devour Flesh answers an Obzedat or Blood Baron of theirs. Slaughter Games makes life easier by naming Thragtusk, Obzedat and the like. (Don't name Angel of Serenity.) Reckoner is your friend. If they Fiend Hunter him, it's often a blowout when you Overload Mortars or kill it with a Helix at instant speed. Blood Baron also pulls his weight in the matchup. Keep in mind, you really want them to play fair. Rest in Peace and Slaughter Games do this efficiently.

There is also an argument to leaving in Rakdos's Return or even bringing in the second but without a Rest in Peace, that plan can be pretty vulnerable, and their Slimes hurt our mana development and Rakdos's Return is pretty mana hungry.

Store QTY Price  
JanuaryBabyOTW 1 $1.50
timewarp cards 1 $1.86
enigmaohawaii 1 $1.99
Cyclonic Cards 1 $1.99
The Jank Drawer 1 $1.99
Wooburg Games 1 $1.99
Heroes Ink Comics 1 $2.06
Land In Front 1 $2.17
Paper or Plastic 1 $2.23
MTG Deal Deli 1 $2.24
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Magic MTG Card Dreadbore Magic MTG Card
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Going Forward:

After this tournament, I know for a fact the deck wants the fourth Dreadbore. If you noticed, Assemble the Legion came out in almost every match up with the exception of Jund and UWR. It was pretty miserable to have maindeck. Moving them to the board in place of a fourth Dreadbore and another Obzedat is the first edit I would start testing.

Rolling Temblor was really unimpressive, if (hopefully “when”) Hexproof dies, it's an easy cut from the board. In its place, playing something like Tragic Slip to deal with Obzedat and Aristocrats might not be unreasonable.

Something I played with a while ago was a one-of Legion's Initiative. Saving the relevant threats and pushing Blood Baron out of Mortars range seemed sweet on paper. Plus with Aurelia you can get three combat steps and it makes both her and Reckoner fatter while making assemble hit harder. Unfortunately, this deck plays the control role too often, and dodging mortars isn't all that important because in the aggressive match ups, they have plenty of other targets that they need to get around. If you expect tons of control, or even slower midrange decks, it's probably worth looking into though.

It's a shame there is so little time in this Standard format left, but I will for sure be tuning this deck in M14 to see if there is any merits in editing and running it back.

Cya you guys next time,
-Ryan Hipp