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Band-Aids for Birds

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Sometimes you hit a home run.

Many times I come up with a deck idea, and it just doesn't pan out the way I hoped. I find a few cards, but there just isn't enough there to build a deck. Sometimes I have what seems like an original idea, then I take a look and find out that is practically the only way to build for a particular commander, and others have already done it to death. Other times I think of a deck idea and the whole deck just falls into place, then I play it and discover it is miserable. Either I'm not having any fun or my opponents hate the deck and hate me for playing it.

But sometimes you hit a home run. You have an idea that sounds fun and unique, and you find the commander that helps execute the plan perfectly. You put the deck together and it meshes perfectly! You play a few games and every game is more interesting than the last. Your opponents practically cheer when you win games! Okay, maybe the last part is a bit far-fetched, but you understand what I'm saying: the games are fun for everyone.

And since I'm writing this before any cards from War of the Spark is previewed, and before I get to PAXEast, today, of all days, seemed like the perfect day to share this deck with all of you!


Soraya

Soraya the Falconer

The best place to start with any Commander deck is the commander, so here we are! The key to Soraya is knowing that her Oracle text replaces "Falcons" with "Birds." This means that virtually every deck ever made using Soraya as the commander is a bird deck. That makes good sense. Giving birds a small pump is often enough to make flying creatures seem to cost the same as creatures on the ground with comparable power and toughness. And when everyone loads their decks with birds, it just makes sense. As you can see from the decklist, there are plenty of birds in the list.

Banding

However that isn't the real theme for the deck. It is Soraya's second ability that brings the theme of the deck home. With only two mana, any bird can gain banding until the end of the turn!

Now I know some of you are a little confused by what banding actually does. You hear old-school players dismiss banding outright or just chuckle and suggest it is a stupid ability. Those are the players who don't understand banding rules and just how dominant a creature with banding can be. Banding is only confusing because it acts differently depending on whether you are attacking or blocking. When you are attacking you can band creatures together. They are treated as one creature for purposes of blocking. I could go into exactly how this works, but I see no reason to bore you. When you attack as a band, you can only have one of the creatures in the band not have banding. This limits how often you can actually attack with a band. On top of that, the benefit to attacking with a band is that you determine how combat damage is done to the band. So you swing with a 9/9 and a 1/1 with banding, into a 3/3 deathtouch creature. You can put all the damage on the 1/1, so in the end you lose the 1/1 but kill the 3/3 deathtouch creature. This is cool, but I really want the banding for blocking!

Normally when you block with multiple creatures, your opponent determines which creatures take damage. However, if at least one of the creatures blocking has banding, you determine which creatures take damage! If an opponent attacks you can block with five creatures. Give your 1/1 bird banding until the end of the turn, then you can spread the damage so everything survives and you kill the blocker, or you can put everything on a weak creature and sacrifice it to take out the attacker!

I know you are already thinking about ways to abuse this, so let me help you along with a few amazing options that may not have jumped out of the decklist at first glance.

Mesa Falcon: The Mesa Falcon is a great banding recipient. You can pump up the toughness so it can absorb all the damage coming in, while the other creatures can safely pile in the damage needed to kill off the attacker!

Duskrider Falcon/Freewind Falcon: When you are facing down a Black or Red creature, these falcons are band-tastic! As mere 1/1 creatures, you can endless block a creature, but you aren't going to kill many doing only two damage. When you band them with four other creatures, suddenly you are able to do enough damage to take down Eldrazi!

Commander Eesha: With protection from creatures, Commander Eesha is a banding all-star! The puny two points of damage that she normally deals is pumped way up when I block with everything! I choose to put all the damage on Eesha, and with protection from creatures, nothing dies! This combo threat guarantees no one will swing your way!

Mother of Runes: Perhaps you thought the Duskrider and Freewind Falcon were too corner case? Mother of Runes lets you pile the damage anywhere you want!

Mirror Entity: When people see Mirror Entity, they start counting up your mana to see how big your creatures are going to be. With banding, you can safely spread the damage all around! Suddenly you only need to pump two or three mana into the Mirror Entity and you are shutting everything down!

Stuffy Doll: Stuffy Doll doesn't need banding to do its thing, but it makes for a great creature to always take the damage in a band! Indestructible creatures are great with banding and Stuffy Doll brings that to a whole new level!

Sword of Fire and Ice: Pump up a creature and give it protection from Blue and Red. A banding dream come true! I would have included other Swords but I was specifically looking for the card draw available in this one.

Glarecaster: Now we get really crank up banding to Beatles-level power! Glarecaster has always been a great card, but it has tended to be used against the creature either blocking it or being blocked. With banding, you obviously direct all the damage to the Glarecaster who will send it wherever you want it. Importantly, you also have all of your creatures doing damage to the creature Glarecaster is blocking! You are taking out the attacker and are free to send the Glarecaster damage anywhere! Dome the opponent who attacked you or take out a different creature whose controller was smart enough not to attack you in the first place!

More than just a Band-Aid solution

There will come a time in the game when getting your commander out isn't an option. As opponents discover just what a lynch pin Soraya is for the deck, they will make sure she sits on the bench. This is when other cards step to the fore and keep the banding theme rolling!

Baton of Morale and Helm of Chatzuk: The Baton is a little better when you are looking to attack with a band as you can give multiple creatures banding, but on defense, Helm of Chatzuk is king. With either of these cards out there, your opponents will know they won't be getting an effective attack against you, so they will look elsewhere. Nothing screams out rattlesnake quite like the Helm of Chatzuk!

Cathedral of Serra: This is a little narrow, given there are only three legendary creatures in the deck, but it is worth it! Bands with Other Legends isn't banding; it has similar rules but it is slightly different. Suffice to say that when Major Teroh and Commander Eesha are both out with Cathedral of Serra, things are going to get very ugly for my opponents!

Cooperation: This aura is in there less for the banding (which is great don't get me wrong!), and more to draw fire away from big threats. So many players love value, that the allure of taking out the creature with Cooperation on it will draw out the removal so creatures like Metallic Mimic or Mother of Runes will be spared! Do not underestimate the allure of a two for one!

Beyond the Band

The rest of the deck is pretty much what you would expect. I have plenty of birds and cards that make birds. Battle Screech and Aven Squire have both proven their value in games already! There are plenty of card draw spells, especially for a White deck, along with all the ramp I could include. If the deck has a weakness, it is a mana hog. Repeatedly banding creatures can really pile up the cost, so you need to be ready. Add in the removal package, a Vedalken Orrery, and the lands to give you a solid 100 cards!

I'd love to hear what you think of my deck of banding birdies! Any deck that is "for the birds!" is well suited to me, especially today!

Best Wishes,

Bruce