Birds & Ravens

Join Bennie as he builds a Bird tribal Commander deck around Derevi, Empyrial Tactician from Commander 2013!

Early this week I took a stroll through the Commander archives here at StarCityGames.com to remind me which of the new Commander 2013 legends have already been featured by me or my fellow Commander aficionados and was a little surprised to find so few of them given the star treatment. I was glad that Derevi, Empyrial Tactician was still open to being explored because I think that little fellow has got a lot going on. Being able to sidestep the commander tax and only cost four mana forever—and effectively having flash and being uncounterable—is quite unique and fascinating to consider as you build your deck.

This past weekend I played a handful of Commander games, and one of the players had a Derevi deck so I got to see it in action. He basically used it as the commander for a good-stuff Bant deck, and I didn’t see any overt ways to take advantage of Derevi’s untap trigger abilities. I think you can certainly break things off by leaning heavily on Derevi’s untap triggers, but for my first Derevi deck I was more interested in taking a walk on the feathery side.

Yep—a tribal Bird deck!

The makers of Magic cards have long given sweet tribal support to a whole host of creature types over the years, but Birds are pretty low down the list. Kangee, Aerie Keeper is fine and all as a Bird lord, but he’s not exactly way up on the power scale. Derevi isn’t a Bird lord at all, but he is a powerful Bird legend that adds another color to the mix, bringing us some depth in green cards on top of his inherent power, and is more than happy to benefit from any tribal juice we can pour in the deck.

Tribal Goods

Mutavault; Seaside Haven; Runed Stalactite; Soulcatchers’ Aerie; Shared Triumph; Keeper of the Nine Gales; Soraya the Falconer; Aven Warhawk; Airborne Aid; Distant Melody; Door of Destinies; Coat of Arms; Celestial Gatekeeper; Aven Brigadier; Crookclaw Elder; Kangee, Aerie Keeper

There are a handful of Bird-specific tribal cards out there, and my favorites are Soulcatchers’ Aerie, which makes every dead Bird a boon to future Birds, and Keeper of the Nine Gales, which does a mighty fine Tradewind Rider impression. Crookclaw Elder is pretty sweet too, turning Birds into card draw. Who doesn’t love card draw? Then there are the generically good tribal support cards such as Shared Triumph, Door of Destinies, and the sometimes hair-raising Coat of Arms (depending on whether anyone else is playing tribal).

I tossed Runed Stalactite in here to help out some of the non-Birds in the deck; there aren’t too many but are a few, and if the board has been swept clear and I’ve got a bunch of feather counters on a Soulcatchers’ Aerie and rip a Soraya the Falconer off the top of the deck, I’ll be quite happy to equip her with the changeling Equipment. Also, occasionally there will be players you have no other way to kill outside of a tribal-boosted Inkmoth Nexus.

The Birds

Birds of Paradise, Judge’s Familiar, Soulcatcher, Mindshrieker, Thrummingbird, Aven Mimeomancer, Lieutenant Kirtar, Aven Mindcensor, Cloudchaser Kestrel, Raven Familiar, Azorius Keyrune, Roc Egg, Warden of Evos Isle, Mirror Entity, Commander Eesha, Major Teroh, Sawtooth Loon, Thieving Magpie, Murder of Crows, Glarecaster, Windbrisk Raptor

Of course you can’t have a Bird tribal deck without Birds, and I went through and picked what I think are the best of the bunch. Mindshrieker should do a nice number screwing up people’s instant-speed tutors and can also reset the top of your own deck if you don’t much like what Sylvan Library or Soothsaying is showing you. There are also a surprising number of cards in this deck that provide counters to proliferate with Thrummingbird. Aven Mimeomancer is a fun little card; it can shrink large monsters down to Bird-killing size, pump up your own 1/1 Bird tokens, and can throw some more feather counters on Kangee! And of course we cannot have a tribal Bird deck without Thieving Magpie—Jonathan Richmond might hunt down my Commander card and revoke it!

The Bird Makers

Pride Of The Clouds, Druid’s Deliverance, Sundering Growth, Flurry of Wings, Jotun Owl Keeper, Battle Screech, Emeria Angel, Beck // Call

There are also a handful of cards that make Bird tokens worthy of our deck. I include Druid’s Deliverance and Sundering Growth here as utility cards with populate—there should be a token Bird around we can copy.


Bower Passage, Favorable Winds, Serra Aviary

I also added a few cards that enhance fliers, which should play nice with all but flightless Birds. Bower Passage is a nifty card designed for green decks, making fliers unable to block their ground pounders, but in a deck with nearly all fliers it effectively makes all our creatures unblockable. Since Derevi wants you to connect with creatures and since our creatures are usually going to be relatively small, making them all unblockable seems pretty sweet.

Tapping & Untapping

Gavony Township, Gaea’s Cradle, Oracle En-Vec, Coalition Relic, Opposition

For each creature that connects with an opponent, Derevi provides an option to tap or untap something. This can be as small a benefit as untapping each attacker so you have blockers on all the other turns . . . or it could be something huge like stacking the untap triggers on Gaea’s Cradle and tapping it between each trigger resolving so you generate some insane amount of mana. There’s a reason why old combo decks used to run Mind Over Matter! Speaking of old blue enchantments, I thought Opposition would go great in this deck. Use it to tap down any potential blockers at the end of turn, untap, attack, and then untap your attackers and be ready to tap stuff again.

Keeper of the Nine Gales could be pretty insane with enough untap triggers stacked up. Coalition Relic could be a nice way to turn untap triggers into stored mana for another turn. What I’m really looking forward to untapping though is Oracle en-Vec, which can be tapped to force opponents to declare what attackers they’re going to be using during their turn. No other creatures can attack, and if they happen to declare an attacking creature and you can tap them down with Opposition, those creatures will die.

Here’s the first pass of the deck:

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 12-13-2013
Magic Card Back

Thoughts on some of the other inclusions:

Soothsaying: The potential to generate a ton of mana led me to run this over Sensei’s Divining Top since you can potentially get a turn where you dig really deep and stack the best cards to the top of your deck.

Mark of Asylum: This was a favorite of mine when it was Standard legal to pair up with Master of the Wild Hunt. I’ve got it here namely as protection against the very popular Silklash Spider, which could otherwise put a serious crimp in my flying style.

Prophet of Kruphix / Seedborn Muse: Not that I’ve really got to justify these two powerhouse cards in a Bant deck, but I think the awesome synergy with all the tap/untap stuff we’re doing offsets these non-Bird flies in the ointment—and hey, you can always equip one with a Runed Stalactite!

Stormtide Leviathan: I briefly thought about Magus of the Moat to shut down ground attackers since most all my creatures fly . . . but then I remember this big monster and figured he’d be even better. I’d love to throw a Runed Stalactite on this guy!

Special thanks to the Birdman himself, Jonathan Richmond aka Norbert88, for his featherly advice on building a tribal Bird deck. Some of the good ideas are his, but any bad ideas are all mine.

So what do you think? How would you go about building a Bird tribal Commander deck around Derevi, Empyreal Tactician? Let us know in the comments below!

Winter Is Coming

Speaking of Birds, working on this tribal deck and searching for cards had me run across a handful of Ravens, which of course brings me around to Game of Thrones. I never got around to reading the books, but I’m a huge fan of the show. After seeing the advertisements for their online game several times this past season, I finally jumped on board and started playing Game of Thrones Ascent about six months back.

I really have enjoyed playing it, and it’s pretty much an ideal interactive game for me—you get to jump online for about ten minutes, set up tasks and send guys on adventures, check progress on stuff, and then go back to doing other all the other stuff during the day that keeps you busy. I can rarely carve out three or four hours all at once to play an online game, but I can definitely jump on for five or ten minutes ten or fifteen times a day.

The main reason to bring this up is that while I have a fair number of "friends" in the game I’m always looking for more. Disruptor Beam seems to be working on improving the social-interaction aspect of the game, and I’d love to connect with any of my readers who are also playing the game. If you play, let me know so we can become friends in the game and join in the adventure!

Take care,


Facebook = Bennie Smith, Writer
Twitter = @blairwitchgreen
Email = [email protected]
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Blog = my fantasy and horror fiction writing
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Game of Thrones Ascent = friend request

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