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Budget Commander: Baral, Chief of Compliance ($32)

Welcome back to Budget Commander! It's been a while, but I've come back with a cheapo deck that you can crush your playgroup with and make them hate everything Blue! Say hello to everyone's favorite Chief of Fun Police, Baral, Chief of Compliance!

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I'm sorry. You're welcome.

Counter Spells. Draw Cards. Win Game.

Baral, Chief of Compliance has a straightforward game plan that is laid out right on his card:

  1. Cast lots of instants and sorceries to take advantage of his sweet ramp.
  2. Counter your opponent's most threatening spells while looting in the process.
  3. Win the game however you feel like.

Baral helps you directly with steps 1 and 2, and you've got plenty of options for step 3 once the time comes. He pretty much dictates how you will build the deck and how to play it. You're going to fill you deck up with instants and sorceries, aka a Spellslinger deck. You also want an above-average quantity of countermagic to take advantage of his loot trigger, aka Draw Go. During play, you will pass your turn with your lands untapped, waiting to counter threatening spells or draw cards. Then you will draw more cards while countering more spells. Finally, once your opponents are locked down and the last remnants of joy drain from their faces, you will end the game with a big finisher.

You might like the deck if ...

  • You want to play a Control deck
  • You want a deck focused on playing instants and sorceries
  • You love drawing cards
  • You want to crush Combo decks
  • You hate everyone you play with and want them to suffer

You might NOT like the deck if ...

  • You want to play an aggressive deck
  • You want a creature-heavy deck
  • You like your friends

Baral, Chief of Compliance is strong. He naturally builds himself as a highly interactive deck due to the amount of countermagic you'll be packing. He's a great choice if you want to win games on a tight budget, but I must emphasize this point: many players won't find him fun to play against. Make sure your group is cool with you busting out Baral!


Why Baral Over ... ?

Baral, Chief of Compliance has some competition for being the commander of your Mono Blue Spellslinger deck. There's also the old classic Talrand, Sky Summoner, and more recently Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. All of them have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to leading your deck.

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Talrand, Sky Summoner acts as both a powerful defense and a finisher. Passively making 2/2 flyers each time you cast an instant or sorcery adds up fast in a Spellslinger deck. Initially they act as a great deterrant against would-be attackers, which is important in a Spellslinger deck because focusing on instants and sorceries means you'll often have less creatures on the battlefield than your opponents. Then once you've reached a critical mass of flyers, you can go on the offensive and win the game with your big drake army. You can also run a Polymorph package that uses your free drakes to cheat out big creatures like Sphinx of Uthuun. Talrand's biggest weakness is his fragility: he doesn't have any built-in defense and any smart opponent will try to get rid of him before you can untap your lands. Because of this, it can be awkward tapping 4+ mana to cast him and then protect him with countermagic that often costs 2 or more mana. Sometimes it's tough having enough mana.

On the other hand, Baral, Chief of Compliance accelerates your game plan for only 2 mana, immediately making your instants/sorceries cheaper and letting you loot. With the same four mana you need to cast Talrand once, you could cast Baral and still have enough mana up for Disallow. Baral can't directly protect you from attacks or act as a finisher, but the mana ramp and looting still pushes you ahead in the game.

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Jace, Vryn's Prodigy costs as much as Baral, Chief of Compliance and also loots. Jace's looting is more consistent, once per turn until he flips; Baral's looting has higher variance, could be 0 a turn, could be 3+, it depends. Jace can do neat things when he flips into a planeswalker, most notably flashback an instant or sorcery, while Baral gives a discount to your instants and sorceries. I think in your average Spellslinger deck, Baral is going to be better. Jace shines best at the head of a competitive High Tide Storm deck, where Jace can flashback key combo pieces like High Tide to generate huge mana and close out the game with a giant Temporal Fissure or Brain Freeze.

Oh, and Jace costs more than the entire deck I'm writing about, so there's that too.


Counter Stuff

Since Baral, Chief of Compliance lets you loot when you counter spells, we're going to be running an above-average amount of them. I don't recommend jamming every deck slot with countermagic and calling it a day. You can't counter every threat, and there will be plenty of times where you'll need other types of answers in the game, not to mention slots dedicated to ramp, card advantage, and win conditions. I'd recommend trying about 15 counters and then tweaking the number from there based on your own personal playgroup.

Playing a deck focused on countering stuff is a very straightforward plan, but takes a lot of time to master. You do not have the cards nor the mana to counter every single thing your opponents cast. You need to pick and choose only a select few of the most threatening spells to counter. Knowing what to counter and what to let resolve requires a deep understanding of not only your deck but of each opponent's. You need to know what cards are key pieces to your opponent's game plan and whether or not you have outs against them should it resolve. Sometimes it's better to let Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur resolve if you have Pongify in hand to deal with him before your opponents gets any real value. Woe is you, however, if you let Derevi, Empyrial Tactician resolve her Earthcraft with a full board and a full grip of cards, not realizing that she is about to pump out way too many spells with all that extra mana, and you have no way of keeping up with her. Learning to play the deck optimally just comes down to practice so you can familiarize yourself not just with your own deck, but your opponent's decks. 

Here's a big ol' list of sweet counters under $2. This isn't an exhaustive list, but rather some of my favorites:

As a Draw Go deck, you're encouraged to leave up most of your mana untapped and ready to pounce on any card that is too threatening to let resolve. Because you'll often have so much untapped mana available, you're in the unique position to really take advantage of cards like Desertion, which often costs too much mana to play in a regular deck but fits perfectly here. You still want to focus on cheaper counters like Swan Song, but sprinkling in some high-cost, high-power counters too is a great way to add some extra punch to the deck.

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Draw Cards

Because you want to keep most of your mana untapped for all those sweet counterspells, the best-suited forms of card draw are often instants. If you aren't countering a spell then you're spending that mana on drawing instead. The biggest exception to this is Mystic Remora, the best damn card draw in all of Commander. All hail!

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Here are some of my favorite card draw  / card filtering spells under $2 in no particular order:

Because Baral, Chief of Compliance will be looting for you, he's particularly good paired with flashback cards like Think Twice, which you can discard and still get value, and also delve cards like Treasure Cruise.

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Alright, so you've drawn lots of cards and stopped your opponents from having fun. How do we wrap things up? There's quite a few ways, actually:

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Budget Baral ($32)

The rest of the deck is rounded out with generic removal and ramp cards. Putting it all together and you get this sample list:


Upgrades and Fiddly Bits

Here's a list of cards over $2 that serve as good upgrades if you're looking to make the deck more competitive:

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Here's a sample blinged out Baral list for your enjoyment. Just keep in mind it's not playtested and therefore not perfectly tuned! It's just here to give you an idea in the direction he can go:


Next Up: Selenia, Angel of Pain!

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Next Budget Commander will be about Selenia, Dark Angel! It's a super sweet, extra janky budget combo deck that is jam-packed with silly win conditions including Near-Death Experience, Triskaidekaphobia, and Repay in Kind! I think you guys will enjoy it. As always, I love to hear from you guys! I encourage you to tell me what you like to see in Budget Commander and work with me to make the series better than ever. You can reach me in the comments section below or tweet me @BudgetCommander.

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