On Balthor: A Love Letter to Nemesis
Throughout the course of this project, it is very likely that I will play against Balthor, the Defiled more than any other general.* This is for three reasons:
1. The guy that plays the Balthor deck (and formerly Savra guild deck) only owns 100 cards.**
2. He also consistently comes to Wednesday EDH rather than Saturday, and
3. He’s really fun to have in EDH games. Even when I’m losing miserably to his deck.
When I first encountered this deck, however, I hated it. I played against it for many consecutive weeks, and really frustrated and tired of losing to it. I had to approach every game knowing that I was likely going to lose all of my creatures to -1/-1 counters or forced sacrifice, and most of my life to some kind of life-drain or just a bunch of swampwalking, death-touching, pumped up Zombies. I would hope and pray for enough people to show up that we’d split into multiple tables.
However, by the time I was putting the finishing touches on a deck called “Oros Hates Balthor” (See game #72), I had gotten used to playing against it, and actually looked forward to trying to win games in spite of it. It helps a lot that the guy that runs it, while competitive and incapable of not trying to win, also can feign (or actually possibly b ) having fun even when he’s not winning. I also appreciate that he actively tells people that they should be attacking him, and he gets annoyed at the same things that I do during the game.
Some of my favorite EDH moments have happened against this deck, like Plagiarizing its 16 card Graveborn Muse draw with Niv-Mizzet on the table to deal exact damage to win the game.
In 1 on 1 matches (not French Style) it’s pretty tough to beat as well.
About the Deck (I don’t have the decklist, since the cards are so shiny, I can’t even afford to write about them)
The very best part about this very good deck is that it is both Tribally and Thematically a Zombie deck. The only non-zombie is Grave Titan, and despite being able to generate ridiculous amounts of black mana, Exsanguinate got cut from the deck when less-Vampiric Zombie replacements were made.*** The fact that “Is it a Zombie?” is the first response to the question “Why don’t you put ____ in that deck?” is a great selling point.
Speaking of selling, this deck is also made out of money. Every basic land is Foil Unhinged. Other lands include a Bazaar of Baghdad, Promo Maze of Ith and other ridiculous things (can’t remember if the Foil Urborg is German yet, but the Crucible of Worlds is). It plays Imperial Seal and Grim Tutor, Candelabra of Tawnos and Black-on-Black Liliana. Every card in it that can be foil, is. He estimates it at about $5,000.
It wins in a variety of different ways. Some games Balthor gets cast many many times, and we die to ETB triggers. Sometimes its massive life drain, and sometimes its swampwalking or Akroma’s Memorial-ed (Zombies like tombstones) beat down. It also loses in fun ways. Mana Crypt and Necropotence are my favorite cards in the deck due to the amount of life loss they can cause. It makes Massive mana with Urborg-Coffers-Vesuva-Nykthos-Deserted Temple-Candelabra trickery or Mikeaeus-Phyrexian Altar-Gravecrawler.
The cards I hate the most, however, are Noxious Ghoul, Vengeful Dead and Zombie Master. Geth is high on the list as well, but only because he’s really the only example of the deck reanimating things from other graveyards.
So, Thank you, Balthor the Defiled, for teaching me the importance of Graveyard Hate, and for often being the biggest threat at the table (and diverting attention away from my weak decks).
*Savra, Queen of the Golgari was in the running, until that deck got taken apart. Balthor has now shown up in more than 20% of the games that I’ve played.
**He secretly has a few more than 100 : like Promo Diregraf Ghouls for Tokens, and a few other cards that might go in the deck, or that he hasn’t sold or just given away.
*** Pontiff of Blight and Gray Merchant of (inappropriate slang for sodomy) are actually more brutal than Exsanguinate in this deck.