EDH Deckbuilding – Bilbo’s Unretirement Party

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Hey Magic people! It’s been a while since I built a new EDH deck, and today’s the day to share one I’ve built recently!

Baggins. Bilbo Baggins.

I’m a big fan of the novel, The Hobbit. It was one of my first reads as a child, and I think it’s one of the best things a human has ever written. I really jived with Bilbo, always chasing after a bunch of irresponsible dwarves and wizards and Laketowners. It was quite a shock to read The Lord of the Rings for the first time and see him old and grey.

So here’s a throwback of sorts for Bilbo, Retired Burglar. A return to the days of sneaking in and wreaking havoc among dragons and spiders… and vampires and zombies and space marines and clowns and ninjas and pirates and dinosaurs and Walking Dead characters. Ahhh, Magic the Gathering in 2023.

Bilbo's Unretirement Party

Commander (1)
Bilbo, Retired Burglar

Creatures (6)
Clever Impersonator
Phyrexian Metamorph
Reckless Fireweaver
Silent Arbiter
Trailblazing Historian

Artifacts (20)
Arcane Signet
Chariot of Victory
Hammer of Purphoros
Idol of Oblivion
Inherited Envelope
Inspiring Statuary
Izzet Signet
Library of Leng
Lightning Greaves
Mind Stone
Mirror of the Forebears
Sol Ring
Strionic Resonator
Swiftfoot Boots
Talisman of Creativity
Thought Vessel
Unstable Obelisk
Voyager Staff

Enchantments (11)
Aether Flash
Blood Mist
Brazen Cannonade
Break Through the Line
Eel Umbra
Fool’s Demise
Footfall Crater
Tempered in Solitude
Visions of Phyrexia

Instants (15)
Cackling Counterpart
Essence Flux
Flaring Pain
Ghostly Flicker
Press the Enemy
Raking Claws
Rapid Hybridization
Release to the Wind
Siren’s Ruse
Slip Out the Back
Soothing of Sméagol
Teferi’s Time Twist

Sorceries (11)
Birthday Escape
Blasphemous Act
Curse of the Swine
Fade Away
Irenicus’s Vile Duplication
Mizzium Mortars
Ranger’s Firebrand
Reality Scramble
Relentless Assault
Rolling Earthquake
World at War
Lands (36)
Academy Ruins
Command Tower
Drownyard Temple
Emergence Zone
Endless Sands
12 Island
Keldon Necropolis
Plaza of Heroes
12 Mountain
Rogue’s Passage
Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
Shivan Gorge

Watch and Learn, Frodo

This deck is all about leveraging The Ring emblem. Being the Ring Bearer is a serious responsibility, and if you go by reverse Spiderman logic, that means it comes with great power.

We want to go to the 4th step of The Ring emblem ASAP. Bilbo, Retired Burglar gives us a quick path to that, Tempting us once when he enters, and making it so any blink or copy effect jumps us to step 3. From there, we ideally use something like Birthday Escape, or just another Bilbo blink, to get to the final step. I would probably add Breaking of the Fellowship and Fiery Insciption if I had them.

Blink and Copy? Sounds Like Office Tasks

Since Bilbo, Retired Burglar Tempts us on battlefield entry and exit, a card like Essence Flux gives us 2 Tempts. If Bilbo is already on the battlefield, we’ve had one Tempt already.

We have some variation on these cards with stuff like Suspend, Teferi’s Time Twist and Release to the Wind, all of which delay the re-entry. This is to combat boardwipes. The Time Twist adds a +1/+1 counter, which we don’t really want, but is still good enough to include. Slip out the Back is included also, but doesn’t give us triggers. It’s more for flavour, and to save Bilbo or get rid of something nasty for a turn. It also adds a +1/+1 counter which is something to watch. It can be a sneaky way to get something tapped by Meekstone or make it too big to block Bilbo.

In a similar fashion, making a copy of Bilbo will also give us 2 Tempts, thanks to the Legend rule. Any legendary copy will force us to immediately sacrifice one of the Bilbos. That means we get the entry Tempt from the copy, then an immediate exit trigger.

Cards like Cackling Counterpart and Clever Impersonator offer lots of flexibility as well as being able to copy Bilbo. Irenicus’s Vile Duplication and Mirror of the Forebears both really only give a single trigger, but have additional upside and synergy. I didn’t consider Jaxis, the Troublemaker as it’s in another deck, but it might be great here.

Both Abduction and Fool’s Demise can be used to save Bilbo from destruction and give us more Tempts in the process, but both are usable on opposing creatures. Eel Umbra can save Bilbo at instant speed, or even make a chump too big to block, like with +1/+1 counters.

Fear the Hobbit

This deck is built to have Bilbo attack every turn possible. We have plenty of haste effects, from classics like Lightning Greaves to lesser played cards like Hammer of Purphoros or Break Through the Line, which offer additional upside.

As a typically lone attacker, Bilbo should easily trigger Tempered in Solitude as well as Brazen Cannonade which will provide insurance in case he’s destroyed somehow. Silent Arbiter helps make sure Bilbo only gets a single blocker, but also helps keep the heat off on the backswing. It’s also a decent Ring Bearer itself.

Bilbo is a Rogue, and while I’m not using that, it doesn’t mean you can’t. Prowl cards, like Notorious Throng are an option. Cloak and Dagger could be cool, but it raises Bilbo’s power. Not for me.

Running Rings Around Blockers

It’s tough to block Bilbo. Since he gives you a Tempt trigger on entry, he can always be the Ring Bearer. As a 1/3 Ring Bearer, he can only be blocked by 1 or less power creatures, which will struggle to kill him without something like deathtouch.

The big problem is chumps. Chumps are usually 1/1 tokens made by some triggered ability of another card. They’re usually repeatable, or at least a side bonus for something better like a land. They’re almost always expendable. And they can block Bilbo.

Lots of decks can make chumps, and if all of our opponents can do that, we’re stopped cold. We have a lot of game against chumps as a result. Pyrohemia and Aether Flash take advantage of Bilbo’s 3 toughness and the fact that most chumps just have 1. Rolling Earthquake can clean up a board full of chumps, or a board full of big things, or even several opponents with low life. Fade Away really messes with early token generation.

We also have Soothing of Sméagol and Ranger’s Firebrand, both of which give us a cheap Tempt and can deal with a small blocker. Mizzium Mortars deals with a single blocker early, and a big chunk of the board later.

Finally, Curse of the Swine, Pongify and Rapid Hybridization all offer premium removal while creating a token or tokens that can’t block Bilbo. In a worst-case scenario, this removal can be used to rescue a Bilbo that’s been stolen or debuffed.

Loot Me, Smaug

Ideally we are attacking every turn with a quick road to step 4 of the The Ring emblem. Step 2 allows us to loot on every attack, which is, by itself, a great way to filter through the deck.

There are some cool discard payoffs out there, and plenty of stuff with Flashback, Jumpstart, and other ways to resonate from the graveyard. Slowly but sure, I cut the ones I had. It’s probably the first thing I’ll revisit after playing the deck a few times. Some madness cards might be good, and all of Currency Converter, Rielle, the Everwise, Brallin, Skyshark Rider, and Conspiracy Theorist could be worth testing. I don’t have any of those. I do have Glint-Horn Buccaneer but it was cut.

I also passed on Ghost of Ramirez DePietro and young Urza/Mishra (Urza, Powerstone Prodigy & Mishra, Excavation Prodigy, and cut things that triggered on ‘second draw’, like Mad Ratter and Improbable Alliance, mostly so I could run Aether Flash.

The only extra payoff I have for step 2 of The Ring is Library of Leng, a holdover from early 90s Magic that allows you to discard to the top of your deck if you want.

Watch That Third Step

Step 3 of The Ring is kinda out of place, and we don’t really use it. We’d rather not be blocked.

A Short Cut to Victory

Step 4 of The Ring is how we plan to win the game. Repeatedly connecting for 3 life off of each player will ends things surprisingly fast. But we need to help it along a bit.

First, we have double strike. I’ve included a mix of permanents like Blood Mist and Fireshrieker with spells like Twinferno and Raking Claws, to keep opponents off-balance. Plus there are only so many permanents that give double strike and many are expensive to cast.

Second, we have extra combat steps. Again, not plentiful overall, and we only have 2 in Relentless Assault and World at War. I sold my Aggravated Assaults and never had a Savage Beating. There are others.

Finally, we have Strionic Resonator to double the trigger. Lithoform Engine works, too. To make sure our combat damage gets through stuff like The One Ring‘s protection from everything, we have Flaring Pain.

Treasure As Well as Loot?

Bilbo’s second ability makes treasure when he connects with a player. If all goes well, we’ll get that trigger at least once a turn. We can sac them for mana, but we have a few cool synergies too.

Since we have a high mount of artifacts overall, we’ve got Reckless Fireweaver for damage and another 1/3 body. We also have Inspiring Statuary to turn our artifacts, including treasure, into a sort of mana rock. Idol of Oblivion leverages the token aspect of treasure, and Reality Scramble turns a treasure into something better. Or Bilbo into another one of our creatures. You never know.

The Unexpected Party

When Gandalf and the dwarves showed up at Bag-End at the beginning of The Hobbit, they were partly looking for a 14th member of the group, to keep from being 13. There was plenty of superstitious tension to be had with Gandalf ducking in and out, making the group into 13 at the worst times, like Mirkwood.

I figured the ideal stand-in for Bilbo might be someone who really likes 13s. Maybe another 1/3, something that could win the game. Triskaidekaphile seems perfect.

Fresh Mana

The mana base is pretty simple. I wanted all lands that enter untapped, and simply don’t own stuff like Steam Vents or (gasp) Volcanic Island. The non-basics include some ways to deal damage, some ways to protect or blink Bilbo, Rogue’s Passage for avoiding blocks, Drownyard Temple to discard, and Tolaria as a place to go where there will be no bands of dwarves to ruin Second Breakfast.

The ramp package is all rocks, and there are plenty despite the low curve. We expect Bilbo to be killed and need to be recast. Inherited Envelope and Unstable Obelisk offer enough upside to make it in as 3-mana rocks. Depending on the makeup of your version, cards like Mana Geyser, Pyromancer’s Goggles, and Neheb, the Eternal might get you to where you want to go.


Retirement is for old guys like Ents and Wizards. Not Bilbo. Forget how the card is named Bilbo, Retired Burglar and take this deck out for a spin. Get some loot, make some treasure, and smash down your opponents with the most unlikely Ring Bearing menace Middle Earth has ever seen!

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for Reading!

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