Today’s article will be brief. It’s about the confines of the Elder Dragon Format that were breached by Derevi, Empyrial Tactician.
I’ll put this out there: I’m not a fan of the Bruising Bant Bird Wizard. I should, but for reasons I’m going to elaborate on in painful detail below, I don’t.
I mean, I should like Derevi as a commander. He’s a big flying, pecking, parakeet-toolbox!
- He’s on board with whacky tap/untap antics! Giving your creatures that pierce the enemy lines a mini Turnabout is a powerful effect. At the least you can untap your own creatures, giving them psuedo-vigilance, or tap down problem permanents. If you want to get more spells out of your mana pool to cast something huge second main phase like Genesis Wave or Deploy to the Front then Derevi’s untap ability becomes useful for untapping karoo lands and mana-rocks.
- Derevi nearly always is relevant in mid-and-late game (which can be a problem for aggresively-costed generals who stop becoming cost-efficient after dying once or twice—I’m looking at you, Anax and Cymede etc.)
- He has evasion. Never, ever, underestimate how useful this is in a general, especially when you want to peck some poor sod to death with General Damage.
That’s three big upsides for only . And if that was all there was to ol’ parakeet-head, I’d be ok with him. He’d be in the same league as Anafenza,the Foremost or Glissa the Traitor: an aggressively priced general with upsides (and powerful synergies) that could swing the game your way more often than not.
One thing makes Derevi unfun, and I dare say, contrary to the spirit of EDH. And that’s his activated ability that allows him to just flutter away from paying the commander cost—one of the few constants in the EDH format.
When your general dies, it becomes harder to resummon him/her to the battlefield. It’s almost as if the ‘commander tax’ is the mechanics of your general wising up to the fact that life is dangerous and he will probably die horribly at some point to a Mutilate or Wrath of God, to say nothing of Pongify or Innocent Blood. And it takes you more and more effort to get him to come out and play, to the tune of 2 colorless mana.
Derevi breaks that rule HARD. He makes playing against him in a group format unpleasant and tedious. For one extra mana, he effectively gains flash and is immune from all but the most persistent of general hate (Oblation, Chaos Warp, Spin Into Myth etc). In a big table with competitive players, you really want to avoid 1-for-1 trades like spot removal unless you have no other choice—it’s ideal to hit multiple threats with one card, thus gaining card advantage and keeping your opponents in check simultaneously.
However, since the passing of the new ‘tuck rules’ (a change I have not implemented in my playgroup), tucking a general is no longer a viable strategy in an unfamiliar playgroup. Cards like Song of the Dryads and Darksteel Mutation are now just some of the ways of keeping a pesky general from being replayed (I have a conscience, so I won’t even mention Humility). Thanks to Wally, the site admin, for pointing this out.
Don’t get me wrong, I love activated abilities. They open up interesting design space for cards, add flavor, and generally allow the game yet another level of complexity. But Derevi’s activated ability breaks the game in his favor, just from the low cost. If the activated ability was say, six mana total (3 colorless and 3-bant-colors) it would be closer to balanced, in that it could only be successfully utilized mid-late-game and would be about the same as Commander Parakeet eating a few Doom Blades. 8 would actually be fair, but I run the risk of harping on this point.
To conclude: Derevi is not some monstrous force. He can be beaten, he’s not some nigh-unstoppable avian juggernaut. However, playing Derevi is contrary to the spirit and practice of EDH which values creativity, versatility and fun above all else. He’s just simply not a fun card at the end of the day—if you want to make yourself a target and the table your enemy, by all means play captain parakeet.
Some fun cards to spit in Derevi’s eye, as a farewell:
Hand to Hand Insures Derevi can’t flash out during combat and prevents combat tricks and circles of protection.
Burning-Tree Shaman: It does only one damage, but is a nice body for a low price, and each time Derevi comes down he Lava Dart‘s his controller. Definitely more flavorful than utilitarian, but I have a soft spot for this card.
Pithing Needle and Phyrexian Revoker are two staples in EDH and should be in any deck that wants to be adaptable and efficient. Doesn’t stop the player from hardcasting captain parakeet, but does slow him down a bit.
Azorious Guildmage For those who like the icy hand of control—unsurprisingly commonly found IN Derevi decks.Squelch Stifle Voidslime
Voidmage Husher These cards are for those who prefer to react rather than prevent.