Dear Azami: Derevi, Bird Of Command

When Renton asks for help with his durdly Derevi, Empyrial Tactician deck, David answers the call. Take a look and see what he comes up with!

Hello Azami,

I built this version of the new commander Derevi: 

1 Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
1 Celestial Colonnade
1 Saltcrusted Steppe
1 Command Tower
1 New Benalia
1 Rupture Spire
1 Azorius Chancery
4 Plains
1 Temple Garden
1 Seaside Citadel
6 Island
1 Alchemist’s Refuge
6 Forest
1 Sunpetal Grove
1 Hinterland Harbor
1 Bant Panorama
1 Gavony Township
1 Temple of Mystery
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Glacial Fortress
1 Stirring Wildwood
1 Breeding Pool
1 Budoka Gardener
1 Azami, Lady of Scrolls
1 Eternal Witness
1 Intrepid Hero
1 Murkfiend Liege
1 Roon of the Hidden Realm
1 Edric, Spymaster of Trest
1 Kazandu Tuskcaller
1 Deadeye Navigator
1 Djinn of Infinite Deceits
1 Sun Quan, Lord of Wu
1 Echo Mage
1 Jace’s Archivist
1 Captain Sisay
1 Ulvenwald Tracker
1 Prophet of Kruphix
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent
1 Stonehewer Giant
1 Reveka, Wizard Savant
1 Archivist
1 Voidmage Husher
1 Acidic Slime
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Lu Xun, Scholar General
1 Yavimaya Elder
1 Experiment Kraj
1 Seedborn Muse
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Skyward Eye Prophets
1 Voidmage Prodigy
1 Sylvan Primordial
1 Sol Ring
1 Basalt Monolith
1 Blue Sun’s Zenith
1 Aura Shards
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Birthing Pod
1 Path to Exile
1 Diviner’s Wand
1 Wargate
1 Green Sun’s Zenith
1 Spell Crumple
1 Krosan Grip
1 Bident of Thassa
1 Mirari’s Wake
1 Flurry of Wings
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Praetor’s Counsel
1 Simic Charm
1 Venser, the Sojourner
1 Rite of Replication
1 Chromatic Lantern
1 Cultivate
1 Wild Pair
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Hinder
1 Staff of Nin
1 Coastal Piracy
1 Thousand-Year Elixir
1 Genesis Wave
1 Lurking Predators

But I can’t figure out how to make it win. I have tons of fun with it. Not everyone else does because it can often to lead to a very long turn on my part. What’s so fun about the commander is the numerous interactions it has. The deck is always in the game but has no real way of taking over. I’m often doing a bunch of nothing that affects no one but myself. For this reason my playgroup has deemed this deck “a bunch of nothing,” not what I really intended for my deck. Please help!

Thank you,

Renton Blackstone

Hey everybody and welcome back to my bimonthly guest appearance on Sean and Cassidy’s Dear Azami! There were a large number of suggestions for the newest Empyrial Tactician on the block, so I figured she needed the Azami touch.

Ah yes, “a bunch of nothing,” which has begun to be known in the collective conscious as “durdling.” We’re all guilty of this Magic Cardinal Sin (wedged right between “All Theseing” and “Bad Beat Soapboxing”), and sometimes it’s a hard thing to get out of our system. We may be doing all these actions in our heads and then in our hands, but in actuality we’re doing about as much as a Dragonball Z character does in their first fight with the new baddie. That is to say nothing (Trunks vs. Mecha Frieza notwithstanding).

I’m going to do my best to whip Mr. Blackstone’s (what a sweet name—he should be in the next Bourne Identity movie!) mopey Bant deck into a real contender, one that knocks the socks off of his friends’ decks by *gasp* actually winning the game! If you’ve ever cast Worldly Tutor for Wistful Selkie while you have Momir Vig in play and bounced your Coiling Oracle with your Cloudstone Curio (I better stop, this is beginning to sound too sweet) and you’ve wanted to try something just a bit different, then this article is for you!

Deriving Derevi

As with every Commander concoction I contemplate constructing, I want to analyze the general and pick a theme that coincides with it in some way. This direction will allow us to mold our 100 cards into a flavorful and competitive implement of fun that will create enjoyable stories that will be sung about in the tales of bards throughout the realm in the many years to come.

Derevi is a particularly reliable commander. She not only has lasers screaming through her artwork and narrowly oust Kangee, Aerie Keeper in Dominaria’s “Miss Bird Wizard 2013” pageant, but she ignores one of Commander’s most unwavering rules: the commander tax! So for a mere four mana, she will be at your side, uncounterable and at instant speed, no matter how many times she’s fallen in the line of duty. This lets us plan around having her in play much more than your average three-mana creature.

But what exactly can we do with her? Well, she wants to attack, as those of the Bant shard (both the fictionally physical plane and physically fixated color combination) are wont to do. She also wants all your other creatures to do this. And what’s our reward? A measly Twiddle? That’s it? It doesn’t even draw us cards like “format staple” Esper Sojourners?” What’s the deal? Well, we can explore that later, but let’s just say it works well with:

1. Activated abilities
2. Permanents that create more than a single mana
3. Permanents that don’t untap

While we don’t want go down door #3 too much, we still want to abuse leverage these synergies with our “aggro” deck to the best of our ability.

Now, before we get into this, yes I’m aware of how well she works with Hokori, Dust Drinker; Opposition; Winter Orb; and Stasis. These cards will more likely than not win you more games than if you weren’t playing with them. I myself feel that they are a bit of a copout and the default direction people are going to want to take Derevi. It’s fine if you want to do that, but I’m not interested in criminally wasting my opponent’s time and making them feel miserable while only I get to play the game and plink for a couple points of damage a turn. I’d rather just go watch some baseball game (and that’s saying something).

Renton’s deck isn’t a bad starting point, but I can see why things were approaching critical mass on the Durdle-O-Meter. There are controlling elements such as Supreme Verdict and Hinder, but there are also creature- and board-based elements like Murkfiend Liege and Experiment Kraj (coworker and Painter’s Servant aficionado Jonathan Suarez refers to him as “Experiment Kanji,” and that’s what I’ve called him ever since).

I’m going to try to remove these awkward controlling cards and streamline the deck into a Marlin of Attackingness where our goal is not to directly draw cards and remove threats but to gain value by attacking and twiddle our way to victory. Plus it gives us a good excuse to attack players instead of just sitting back, playing the political stratagem, and seeing where the night takes everybody. The game has to end at some point! Just try to make every game memorable.

The Tactician’s Troops

OUT: Intrepid Hero; Kazandu Tuskcaller; Ulvenwald Tracker; Archivist; Reveka, Wizard Savant; Skyward Eye Prophets

These guys have tap abilities (which is awesome) but don’t really do a whole lot or are too slow (which is not awesome). I’ve added in some more creature that tap for awesomesauce but not as awesome as the ones Renton was already playing with (Captain Sisay and Arcanis the Omnipotent).

OUT: Roon of the Hidden Realm, Deadeye Navigator, Jace’s Archivist, Echo Mage

We’re not a Flicker/ creatures with enter-the-battlefield abilities, Wheel of Fortune, or Spellslinger based deck, so these guys hit the bench (despite the Rhino looking like he’s serving up some pancakes for Rhox War Monk to flip).

OUT: Voidmage Prodigy, Voidmage Husher

I honestly only like having counterspells when I have no other way to answer something. And I’ve tried Hushing, but I’ve never been able to hold up that much mana when I need it most. Cutting these is another move to try to push this deck into a more proactive role on the control/aggro axis.

OUT: Sylvan Primordial

Ah yes, Primeval Titan’s younger brother. This automatically replaced P. Titan in 105% of Commander decks out there (some didn’t play the M12/13 powerhouse), and I’m getting a little tired of seeing it. So I switched it out for some more combat-oriented cards, ones that end that game quicker than just having it limp on (unless Rite of Replication is involved with this guy—YEESH).

IN: Phantasmal Image, Sakashima the Impostor, Progenitor Mimic

I’m a fan of clones as much as Patrick Sullivan is a fan of spells that cost “R.” In this deck, though, you get a lot of millage out of them, what with Birthing Pod, Chord of Calling, and just wanting more creatures to attack with! Sakashimaing Derevi for double triggers sounds like an absolute delight.

IN: Prime Speaker Zegana; Daxos of Meletis; Cold-Eyed Selkie; Thada Adel, Acquisitor; Drogskol Reaver; Weathered Wayfarer

So ya like to draw cards, eh? Well, here are some (mostly) attacking-oriented guys that allow us to reap the benefits of card advantage all while still dropping some dudes into play. Weathered Wayfarer also allows us to get perhaps the most important Derevi untapee.

IN: Trygon Predator, Pentarch Paladin, Beguiler of Wills

While we love to attack, we also need to interact, as is the nature of the game. Beguiler of Wills is particularly spicy. Empress Galina was considered as well, but she’s too close to the Stasis / Winter Orb style of playing for my liking. Hurray for more creatures that do things!

IN: Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite; Craterhoof Behemoth

All things must come to an end. The Harry Potter franchise. Your Klondike bar. My date with an awesome girl (hah, just kidding, that never began). Commander games are no exception. Craterhoof is extremely powerful, and your playgroup might not enjoy him ending the game so quickly. To this I say, he’s eight mana! Just play again, silly goose! At least he breaks your neck instead of putting you in a sleeper hold. Usually that sentence goes the other way around . . .

IN: Medomai the Ageless, Sphinx Ambassador, Isperia the Inscrutable

Freakishly fat flyers! Medomai is the only McDarby approved way of taking extra turns in Commander. You have multiple hoops to jump through, can’t repeat it over and over, and get to do it in a cool way instead of just Time Stretching with Riku and Regrowthing it. And while Isperia can grab the other two after a turn or two of combat, Sphinx Ambassador (or Bob Barker as I like to call him) is an automatic fun maker. Just try it. I promise you won’t be disappointed. You just have to shout “come on down!” Rod Roddy style to even trigger the ability.

IN: Stoneforge Mystic

Keeping with the “attacking is good” mantra we’ve got going on, I’ve added some Swords of Something and Other. Guess what creature finds them?!

IN: Rafiq of the Many, Silverblade Paladin

Sometimes you gotta Go for the Throat. Other times you want to double up on your combat damage triggers. These guys have your back. Quick Anecdote: My second Commander deck (after Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind of course) was Rafiq. Knightly honor and all that kinda does it for me. But after casting him on turn 2 and then Finest Hour on turn 3, killing the table one after another and realizing every game was just “cast Rafiq, attack, attack, attack,” I shelved it. He does a much better job as a 99 than as a one.

IN: Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch, Bloom Tender

Remember that thing that I always copy from Gavin Verhey say? Add another land/mana source to your deck? Well, since we want creatures, let’s add some mana dorks! Yeah, sweepers stink, but sacrificing to Birthing Pod or equipping a Sword of This and That onto it in the early game makes up for it methinks. Also, let the prospect of Derevi being in play with an active Bloom Tender sink in.

IN: Elvish Piper

We have lots of creatures and only so much mana to work with. This can fix our problem in addition to working well with our commander. Synergies abound.

Spells Are For The birds

OUT: Supreme Verdict

Sweepers are highly useful in Commander (and even more so in Constructed). But the Noble Hierarch, Bident of Thassa, Murkfiend Liege deck has less use of one as I do of the gym shorts my grandma got me for Christmas.

OUT: Cultivate

While most green-based decks are the “get tons of lands into play” kind, we just need to replace the word “lands” with “creatures to fight with” and you can understand why we don’t need this or its arcane ilk.

OUT: Praetor’s Counsel

This card is the control mage’s Craterhoof—same mana cost and same effect on the game except more ponderous, and it isn’t even good if you’re ahead! Be aggressive, be be aggressive.

IN: Stolen Identity

I too like casting Lightning Bolt every now and again, and I like it even more if you get to do it (at least) twice! So this is spell is kind of like Quenchable Fire. Except, you know, good. And fun! Play it.

OUT: Path to Exile, Spell Crumple, Hinder, Krosan Grip, Simic Charm, Flurry of Wings

All reactive spells, and we want to have proactive creatures. You could say we’re evolving our Kakuna into a Beedrill, but most everybody wanted a Butterfree so my reference doesn’t really work. I could use some better literary devices.

OUT: Blue Sun’s Zenith

But it draws cards! Isn’t drawing cards one of the two axioms of Commander? You shouldn’t even be writing this; you don’t know anything about the format. Just go back to sorting through bulk rares, you sorry excuse for an Izzet Mage.

OUT: Venser, the Sojourner

Like I said before, we’re not really flickering anything, and a planeswalker doesn’t jive with our deck as much as Craw Wurm’s card type does. So unfortunately he gets chopperinoed.

IN: Chord of Calling

It’s like a Blue Sun’s Zenith! Except for only one card! But also enough Black Loti to cast it! And it comes into play at instant speed! So it lets us leverage our deck as a giant toolbox and be tricksy little Hobbitses!

Empyrial Choso

OUT: Behemoth Sledge, Diviner’s Wand, Thousand-Year Elixir, Staff of Nin

I’ve replaced these somewhat subpar Equipment with some somewhat superpar Equipment. And Staff of Nin needed to be a creature since its pingyness just didn’t do enough even when comboed with our commander.

OUT: Chromatic Lantern, Darksteel Ingot

Three-mana ramp spells clash with our general’s modus operandi of gettin’ in there early and often, so they got the axe.

IN: Mana Vault

Synergy #3 from the beginning of this whole shebang appears! Count it!

IN: Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Light and Shadow

These allow us to skirt by some would-be blockers and reward us for attacking. Since we have access to our commander for many moons more than normal thanks to her activated ability, we can count on Voltroning her up much more than normal. Sword of Feast and Famine gets my vote for best “Sword of Whoever and Whatever,” and the other two are just needed to round out the five colors but also have merits in their own right.

The Enchanted Tiki Room

OUT: Wild Pair

This one was hard to cut because of how awesome it is. It’s like a double Birthing Pod but no work! Unfortunately something had to go, and I merely turned it into another enchantment that does something similar but doesn’t even need you to cast spells to get value.

OUT: Lurking Predators

I’m hesitant to run this is a deck that is only 50% creatures. We have way less than that with no library manipulation. Thanks, but no thanks. Go back home, Animar is waiting for you.

OUT: Aura Shards

This card is very good. If you want to win more, play it. But it’s not a creature like Trygon Predator is. So it had to go. If this could trigger Coastal Piracy or be sacrificed to Birthing Pod, I’d be all aboard

IN: Hibernation’s End

I’ve honestly never seen this card in play. But with a deck that’s focused on getting all kinds of creatures (including mana dorks) into play and some excess mana sometimes after untapping your lands at the end of combat, I figured no deck would be able to see The End better than this one.

IN: True Conviction, Dismiss into Dream

When somebody casts True Conviction, it feels like a shotgun blast to your spleen. Or a shotgun blast anywhere I suppose. Actually, I think I could lose my spleen as so long as I win every game of Commander I want to win. (But I don’t want to win every single game. Yeah, it’s a weird concept; Magic should only be about winning, right?). Also, this may not be M14 Limited, but Derevi does a mighty fine Zephyr Charge Impression.

The Bird Bath

OUT: Reliquary Tower, New Benalia, 4 Forest, 3 Island, Plains

This part can be improved only as much as you need to. I’ve not added some of the more expensive lands that will assuredly make your deck run smoother (fetch lands, filter lands, dual lands), but I’ve added a lot of utility lands that give you a little more oomph for your planeswalking dollar.

IN: Hallowed Fountain, Simic Growth Chamber, Ancient Tomb

Derevi loves herself some lands that give you lots of mana; it lets you ungh, double up ungh, ungh on her beautiful triggered ability for mana “replenishing” goodness.

IN: Strip Mine, Dryad Arbor, Treetop Village, Yavimaya Hollow

Some lands that no creature deck that runs Equipment and Green Sun’s Zenith should be without. With some better (read: more Plains and Forest) lands such as Savannah and Tundra, we could run Knight of the Reliquary as another toolbox engine.

IN: Winding Canyons

I’m just following the heralded Dear Azami tradition of recommending that Winding Canyons be in every Commander deck ever.

IN: Gaea’s Cradle

But here’s where things really get crazy. Say you have some duders in play and then you attack. You can then stack your Derevi Triggers to target this. Or say Captain Sisay. And make near infinite green mana and draw near infinite cards. This card is worth so much for a reason, and while it may not be because of Derevi, I still feel this is as “fairly broken” as I can make it.

Tail Feathers

With all these sweeping changes I’ve made to turn a control-ish Bant deck into a more martial form, I’ve arrived at these 100 cards.

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
David McDarby
Test deck on 01-07-2014
Magic Card Back

And per usual, Renton will be receiving $20 to StarCityGames.com that can be used toward picking up any number of cards that I’ve recommended, a few of which can be found below!

We’ve changed from a slow, slightly schizophrenic, durdling entity to something that while capable of durdling is much more focused on dem blazing Bant beats and untapping for value and profit. I hope you’ve enjoyed this somewhat stream of consciousness rant on the ethos of Durdle vs. Murdle (my made-up word for aggroing people out before they can durdle) and hope you stop back by in two weeks when hopefully Sean lets me do this again.

Thanks for reading gang. Stop by and say hi to me if you see me buying cards on the SCG Open Series. If you see me out battling, I’d love to play a game of Commander with ya. If I like your deck, I might even give you a prize!

David McDarby

@J_Beleren on Twitter

Linuka on Twitch

Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? We’re always accepting deck submissions to consider for use in a future article, like Kristjan’s Scion of the Ur-Dragon deck. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azami includes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com!

Email us a deck submission using this link here!

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