Conditions Allow - Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant EDH

Ben Doolittle • August 7, 2023

(Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant | Art by Billy Christian)

Eleventy-One Years is Far Too Short a Time

Welcome back to Conditions Allow, where I take a legendary creature with a drawback and turn it into a strength. Continuing on with commanders from Tales of Middle-earth today, I'm tackling a truly venerable hobbit, although you may not know it to look at him, Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant.

Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant wants to help you stay alive as long as possible, gaining life up to the ripe old age of 111. Once you do, he'll disappear and let you put all of the creatures in your deck into play. Hobbits like to give gifts on their birthdays after all, and Bilbo is spoiling all of us with a Primal Surge. In order to get it, however, you have to get to 111 life points first.

To Go Infinite, Or Not?

Getting over a hundred life may sound like a challenge, but there are a variety of ways to gain infinite life. Generally these aren't considered very useful because they don't actually win the game, but when your commander lets you put every creature in your deck into play afterwards, it becomes an easy win condition.

Most of the time, however, you only need one more card to win the game once you have infinite life. That really reduces the impact of searching your deck for every creature, so I'm not going to include any infinite life combos in this deck. This raises the question: how am I supposed to get up to 111 life in less than ten turns?

Soul Sisters

My plan is to do what Abzan does best and put a lot of creatures into play. In 1v1 Magic, Soul Warden can be very annoying, and that only scales up in a four-player Commander pod. Every creature entering play gets you closer and closer to that 111 threshold. Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant even doubles that lifegain to two per creature.

This really takes off once you have multiple Soul Warden-esque creatures in play, so this deck is playing as many as possible. Most of these don't function in quite the same way, though. Soul Warden triggers for every creature that hits play, while Impassioned Orator and most others only notices creatures you control. Auriok Champion is the only other creature that notices every creature entering play.

Send in Everyone

Once you have a few Soul Wardens in play, the next step is to keep playing creatures. Oketra's Monument doubles the impact of every creature you cast, while Tendershoot Dryad makes its tokens much larger, so they can hopefully block more. Wolverine Riders is also a great inclusion for this deck, since it both makes tokens and gains life from those tokens all at once. I'm also a huge fan of Adeline, Resplendent Cathar and Silverwing Squadron. They both get very large very quickly, and they help you to push through damage if you can't gain enough life.

Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant is going to put a target on your back as soon as you start gaining life. All the tokens you make should help, but just to be sure I'm also including Arachnogenesis and Galadhrim Ambush. Not only do they both prevent combat damage for a turn, they also put a bunch of tokens into play, triggering your Soul Wardens and making sure you can defend yourself next turn too. Akroma's Will also fits into this category, since it gives your creatures lifelink.

Once you do get to 111 life, though, you'll need some high-impact creatures to put into play. Most of the life gain creatures in the deck are white, so Evangel of Heliod and Reverent Hoplite both make a ton of tokens. Lena, Selfless Champion can also flood the board at the right moment, gaining you a bunch of life at once. Along with Avenger of Zendikar, all of these make creatures when they enter play, making them perfect for once you activate Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant and try to win the game.

Turning Gain Into Pain

Of course, just gaining a bunch of life doesn't win you the game. That's where Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose and Elas Il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim come in. Once you hit 111 life and activate Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant, you'll go get the rest of your Soul Wardens, all your token-makers, and these two creatures. Every Impassioned Orator will see every other one enter play, along with the token-makers and their tokens, and gain you life for each. Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose turns that into life loss you can aim at each of your opponents.

If that isn't enough to win the game, then you can also use Woe Strider and Viscera Seer to sacrifice your creatures, pinging each opponent with Elas Il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim. Sanguine Bond and The Meathook Massacre are noncreature additions that help make sure you have enough damage when you're ready to activate Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant.

Taking Care of Problems

To help make all this happen, I'm making as much of the card draw and interaction in the deck as possible happen on creatures. Welcoming Vampire and Mentor of the Meek both work great in tokens decks, although I've opted to include Dawn of Hope over Tocasia's Welcome as a mana sink. These all go alongside Guardian Project and The Great Henge, so you hopefully won't have to set yourself too far back with Night's Whisper.

Likewise, Reclamation Sage and Cavalier of Dawn both fit into the removal suite, alongside classics Swords to Plowshares and Return to Nature. Abzan gets to play very flexible removal, as Unexpectedly Absent, Mythos of Nethroi, and Assassin's Trophy can all hit any permanent type (other than lands). For the most part, this deck doesn't worry too much about creatures, though, so you'll want to pay special attention to any artifacts and enchantments that could slow you down. I've also been enjoying Blessed Respite as a surprise fog and graveyard hate in my green decks.

Put this all together and here's the final result.

Birthday Bilbo

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Commander (1)
Creatures (31)
Enchantments (5)
Artifacts (3)
Sorceries (7)
Instants (15)
Lands (38)

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Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant was one of the cards that immediately caught my attention from Tales of Middle-earth for how well it transformed the flavor of Lord of the Rings to mechanics in Magic. It's also a powerful payoff that's worth the effort you have to put into achieving.

How would you build around Bilbo, Birthday Celebrant? Are there any cards or synergies I've overlooked? 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.