Balefire Dragon has earned a spot in my toolbox of EDH cards. Let's a take a look at how it got there.
07/21/19: Please Sir, Play a Legendary Land
I'm really proud of this deck and it remains one of my favorite builds from the West Coast Commander League. July of 2019 had points themed around Modern Horizons
. Since the set featured the Ninjutsu mechanic, I suggested "Deal combat damage with at least 2 creatures that weren't on the battlefield at the beginning of combat" as one of the weekly point options. And that incentivized blue/black, as those are the colors ninjas tend to show up in. But the rest of the points available on that day looked to favor green-heavy decks. So I built a red/green deck that crammed a bunch of cards to earn those points.
Without any context, it looks pretty strange that I'd have a red/green Loam deck with a bunch of cards like Inexorable Blob and Warcry Phoenix. But when it came to scoring points, this one was quite successful. Because of the color combination and the heavy use of land ramp, I wanted some outlets to take advantage of all that mana and turn it into imposing creatures on the board. I also knew I might be cheating some creatures out with Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, so that called for some big, hard-hitting attackers. Also, one of the point categories was to hit an opponent with a "Sword of X and Y" (having an evasive attacker with multiple triggers on hitting a player was nice). All of those factors made Balefire Dragon a strong choice.
Looking back at the point totals, it was in the month before this one that I'd finally gotten the hang of building decks that could accumulate lots of points. But many of the decks that were good at picking up points, especially some of the ones I built in late 2019 and in 2020, weren't really focused on taking people out. In the West Coast Commander League, eliminating an opponent is only worth 1 point, and the combined total you'd get if you single-handedly eliminated all three opponents and won the game would be 5. That's pretty good, but there are way more points up for grabs, even if you never eliminate a player yourself. What I really liked about this deck was that it did both. I won 2 out of 3 games, and did so with good, old-fashioned beatdown. Ultimately, it was the presence of token-generators and Landfall engine stuff that dished out the most damage for me, but much of that happened after I'd already softened people up with nontoken creatures. Even Livonya Silone held her own.
Balefire Dragon wasn't really a key card in this deck, but I did have at least one game in which it forced changes to the board state that helped me set things up for eventually taking over with Zuran Orb + Titania, Protector of Argoth. Balefire Dragon itself wasn't really important here, but I think that my evaluation of it as an excellent card to use with Ilharg, the Raze-Boar was 100% correct.
09/08/19: Breaking a Few Eggs
This one was a little too gimmicky, but was built to earn points for putting a dragon or dinosaur onto the battlefield by sacrificing another permanent. Since I ran 14 dragons and dinosaurs and since Balefire Dragon had already proven itself, it seemed like a sensible inclusion. I think that with Atla Palani as my commander, my opponents were expecting some well thought-out deck with explosive combos, and that's really not what I did here. Simply put, Atla Palani is not difficult to abuse, and this deck was lazy about trying to abuse the card. I could have done better. Still, I seem to recall that this deck performed well. Part of the problem might have been that I happened to face some nasty decks. And really, I held my own.
Balefire Dragon was actually kind of amazing in this deck. If my memory is correct here, I chose Balefire Dragon for the Livonya Silone deck on a whim because of Ilharg, the Raze-Boar and then I chose it for this deck because I still had it sleeved up in a pile of cards I flipped through while looking for dragons and dinosaurs. So although this was certainly not my first experience with Balefire Dragon, it was somewhat formative. The excellent performance of the card in this deck made an impression on me and solidified a place for Balefire Dragon in my EDH toolkit.
11/10/19: Needs Mor Beatdown
I'd always wanted to play with one of the original namesakes for the Elder Dragon Highlander format, and I'd finally gotten the perfect excuse to do so. With the power creep in the format, the original commanders are looking less and less viable as serious options, even at genuinely casual tables. So do it while you've still got a chance!
By the time I built this deck, I'd pretty much mastered building decks for the West Coast Commander League. Just now, when I reviewed this list, it looks like a pretty flexible beatdown deck with various methods to cheat big creature out early. Initially I didn't even notice the spiteful gimmick I'd employed when constructing this. With the advent of the new Pioneer format, the League attempted to incentivize decks built entirely from Pioneer-legal cards. So I tried to build a deck with no
Pioneer-legal cards. However, I ran out of time and botched it. At the last minute, I did swap out one Pioneer-legal card that had been in the deck. But I missed two more.
I do remember grinding out one win because of a dramatic showdown between my Ulamog and my last opponent's Zacama, but I forget how this deck performed over all. Anyway, Balefire Dragon is a good card and so is Sneak Attack.
11/17/19: Sunastian's Magic Ramp
Although this deck was a rushed mess, it set a personal record for me on points in the League. Like I said, I'd mastered building these decks. Despite being just a mediocre mana dork, Sunastian Falconer is one of my favorites among the 55 original legendary creatures. As a commander, Sunastian Falconer provides the perfect excuse for a red/green deck to go all-in on big mana silliness. So I did. Balefire Dragon was a no-brainer here.
Strangely, I recall few actual details on this one. None of the games made that much of an impression. I seem to recall that this was the day where there was some kerfuffle with people comboing off and collaborating to take down a particular player, and perhaps that was just more interesting than my own games. I guess I mostly had smooth sailing with this one, which might explain why I earned so many points. I might have used a big Finale of Devastation on Balefire Dragon, as that sounds familiar. But I can't remember the details.