Conditions Allow - Barren Glory EDH

Ben Doolittle • January 9, 2023

(Barren Glory | Art by Dave Kendall)

A Clean Slate

Welcome to Conditions Allow, and to the new year! For this first article of 2023, I wanted to pick a particular kind of card to build around. Something that represents the potential of something resetting and restarting from a fresh beginning, and no Magic card fits that bill better than Barren Glory.

Most alternate win conditions want you to have a lot of things. Maze's End needs ten Gates, Helix Pinnacle needs a hundred counters, and Battle of Wits needs at least two-hundred cards. Only Barren Glory encourages you to pare all the way back to the where you were at the beginning of the game, with nothing, which is a surprisingly difficult place to get to. There are several ways to sacrifice all of your permanents, and discarding your hand isn't especially difficult, but Barren Glory triggers on your upkeep. Specifically, it only triggers if you already meet all of its conditions at the beginning of your upkeep. You have to start your turn with no permanents other than Barren Glory in play and no cards in hand.

Behold My Fields, For They Are Barren

To get an idea for what colors I need for this deck, let's start by figuring out how to sacrifice all permanents, then we'll look at discarding cards. Atogatog is the top commander for Barren Glory decks, thanks to the Atog's predilection for sacrificing all kinds of permanents. Auratog for enchantments, Atog for artifacts, and Thaumatog for lands. Then, Atogatog gets to eat all of your Atogs, including itself, leaving you with a clean battlefield. This still feels like a lot of work, however. If Barren Glory needs you to have as few permanents as possible, let's include as few permanents as possible. Then, all we have to worry about getting rid of is lands.

The simplest way to get every permanent except Barren Glory off your battlefield is Leave to Chance, followed closely by Renounce. For two mana you can get rid of anything on your board. Chain of Vapor is similarly efficient. By targeting your own nonland permanents, you can keep sacrificing lands to wipe your own board. Rain of Filth also works, but only if you really only have lands in play. I am including one creature in the deck, so you will need some way to get rid of it (and any tokens) if Rain of Filth is your method of sacrificing lands.

Luckily, Chain of Vapor helps clean up any pesky creatures you may have been given, and a few of our lands help with creatures as well. I'm not going as far as making this a Lands-style deck, but having Phyrexian Tower and High Market makes it much easier to meet the conditions for Barren Glory. Maze of Ith also makes the cut for helping play defense, since we won't have any blockers for most of the game.

Getting Hellbent

Once you resolve Leave to Chance, you'll need to get all those cards out of your hand. The fastest way is to become One with Nothing. Sacred Rites and Rites of Initiation are also one-mana instants that let you discard your hand. Usually, you need these spells to act at instant speed, because the best time to cast them is the end step before your turn. Devastating Dreams suffers for being a sorcery, but if you have enough cards in hand, it can clean up your battlefield and hand while leaving your opponents struggling to cast spells during their turns. Land Destruction is a controversial issue, but if you're winning the game right afterwards, it should be manageable.

This does bring up the difficulty of protecting Barren Glory when you attempt to win. Without something as drastic as land destruction, there's really no way to do it. Barren Glory's effect won't go onto the stack unless you have no permanents in play at the beginning of your upkeep. This means you won't gain priority before needing nothing in play and an empty hand. No opportunity to float mana or cast spells. And, of course, you can't have a Counterspell in hand just in case someone has Disenchant.

But what if you had two upkeeps? Then you could protect your win with Silence or Orim's Chant, and set yourself up to win in the second upkeep. Paradox Haze does this in a one-two punch, but I like Sphinx of the Second Sun even more. It lets you use Devastating Dreams on your combo turn, and is much easier to get rid of than Paradox Haze. I can even think of the perfect commander to bring this all together.

Together at the End

With Esika, God of the Tree as your commander, you can cast The Prismatic Bridge to pull Sphinx of the Second Sun out of your deck for free. Then, you can Reality Scramble The Prismatic Bridge back into your deck to pull Barren Glory out of your deck. This leaves you with two main phases to get everything cleaned up before your Sphinx of the Second Sun upkeep.

Holding all of this together, I'm including as many draw spells as possible. As a combo deck, your only goal is to put together all the pieces you need to win the game. That means Reality Scramble and some combination of cards to clear your board and empty your hand. Valakut Awakening and Brainstorm are particularly important because they put Sphinx of the Second Sun and Barren Glory back into your hand in case you draw them too early.

This isn't a fast combo deck, however. Board wipes and interaction play an important role in keeping you alive long enough to assemble the pieces, and they create a window to go for the win. Plus, because we're not relying on permanents of our own, we can make use of powerful spells like Merciless Eviction and Devastation Tide to make sure we survive long enough to find all the pieces we need.

With a little ramp to color fix and help get to six mana quickly, this is the final decklist.

Barren Glory

Commander (1)
Creatures (1)
Enchantments (1)
Artifacts (2)
Instants (36)
Sorceries (19)
Lands (40)

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I was a little nervous when I sat down to build around Barren Glory, but I'm really happy with where this deck ended up. I personally enjoy decks that don't rely on many permanents, and Barren Glory is the perfect excuse to lean into that. It's also a really unique win condition, and even if it won't win often it will create memorable game states all the time.

If you've built around Barren Glory, what was your approach? Are there any cards I overlooked, and did you include a backup plan? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.