Baron is one of those cards whose benefit is immediately apparent to beginners, but also includes some more subtle rewards for more advanced players.
The early game benefit is pretty apparent: it’s a huge amount of buying power this early in the game, and can even lead to a Turn 3 / Turn 4 double Gold buy. The drawback is just as apparent: if you miss the Estate, you’re pretty much DOA, since you have one gimped hand with a dead Baron, and another gimped hand full of Estates. And like Moneylender, this will happen more and more as the game goes on, since you’re less and less likely to draw the Baron with the Estate.
The question is, then, when is the Baron risk worth it? Compared to, say, Horse Traders, Baron more reliably gets to $6, but less reliably hits $5 on Turns 3 and 4. So in games with critical $5’s (e.g., Witch), I would take something like Horse Traders or Silver instead, sacrificing the $6 chance for more guaranteed $5’s by the first reshuffle. (Especially since Baron, like all combo cards, is much worse with Cursers out.) But without good $5’s, you’re better off shooting for an early Gold, especially if there are worthwhile $4’s (Caravan). Good cheap cards in general will soften the blow of missing your Baron.
Baron somewhat conflicts with trashers (if you’re Remaking your Estates, you won’t have any for your Baron), but even then can sometimes be worth it. Baron/Chapel, for instance, gives you a pretty strong chance at a Gold/trash 4 cards scenario; if there are no good $2 cards, drawing them together doesn’t actually hurt, since it wouldn’t have done anything even if it was a Silver. With trashing, Baron is more likely to connect with the Estates. And like most other opening cards, Baron meshes nicely with trash-for-benefit like Salvager or Apprentice, since you can get rid of it after your Baron odds drop too low.
At a more advanced level, Baron retains some of his power past the opening. Unlike Moneylender, you can incorporate Baron as a cash generator in total draw decks. The fact that he discards rather than trashes Estates becomes an advantage, since you can keep triggering Barons with the same Estate for a ridiculous amount of coin per Action. He’s very helpful in a double-Tactician deck with +Actions, since it’s hard to do better than +$4 per Action. And the +Buy is quite convenient, especially if you’re playing multiple Barons per turn.
Hunting Party is, as always, a good alternative to a total draw deck, and works quite well with Baron since you only need 1 copy of the Estate and the Baron. It has the advantage of starting with 3 copies of its combo card, and Baron and Hunting Party can start reliably churning +$4. Add in a Gold, and with a few Hunting Parties you can consistently generate $8 each turn (with each hand ideally being Copper, Gold, Estate, Baron — you can even swap the Gold out for Silver if you think you can draw an extra Copper each time). Like most combo cards, Baron responds well to most hand-discard attacks but not to cursing attacks.
You should almost never take the Estate with the Baron. It’s a useful consolation prize in the extreme late game, and makes Baron slightly less awful then, but gaining additional Estates with the Baron early on will slow you down too much. Though of course, in Silk Road or Gardens games, his Estate gain is quite powerful and further boosts his own power somewhat.
- Hunting Party
- Total deck draw
- Caravan and Haven, as compensation if you miss your Baron, and as helpers to trigger Barons
- Warehouse and other sifters
- Strong $6 and $4 but no good $5’s
- Strong opening $5’s
- Opponents’ cursers
- Early trashing