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Pteramander in All Formats

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Pteramander is a good Magic card. It gets compared to Delver of Secrets quite a bit and while that makes sense, it’s also a little bit of an unfair comparison. Delver can almost always flip much earlier but Pteramander flips much more dramatically. Also, base Pteramander flies while Delver of Secrets (as opposed to Insectile Aberration) does not. They don’t necessarily fill the same niche and while Delver of Secrets doesn’t see much play in Commander, I think that Pteramander will continue to. In fact, there are already two decks that were waiting for a card like this to come along. The first is a newer one and the other is much older, but even a new dog can learn some new tricks.

Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow

Yuriko is a deck with a lot of potential builds and some of them can be quite punishing. Flipping up Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni when you connect with a Ninja is surprisingly powerful even in a 40 life format and people learned the lesson not to underestimate this plucky shadow-dweller fairly early on. While we aren’t re-inventing the wheel by jamming Pteramander into Yuriko decks, it’s worth revisiting decks that play a similar class of cards every time a new member of that class comes along. You want cheap creatures with evasion to get your ninjas through and Pteramander is less bad drawn late than almost any Flying Men variant. It isn’t Yuriko that I want to discuss today, because as much as this deck gets a bit better in light of Pteramander’s printing, I want to talk about a much older deck that is surprisingly competitive for as simple as the premise of the deck is. Not only do we obviously slot Pteramander into this deck, but I want to build a 75% version of a favorite of casual and competitive Commander players alike - Edric Flyers. Some people call the deck “Flying Men” after the Arabian Nights card but with the addition of Pteramander, let’s update the name, too.

Edric, Spymaster of Trest

The deck is fairly simple - play evasive creatures, play Edric, attack, draw cards, have more creatures, play more creatures, attack more, draw more cards, annex Puerto Rico, win. Arabian Nights was a long time ago and not only have we printed 1/1 flying creatures for 1 quite a few times over the years, a lot of them are like Artificer's Assistant or Siren Stormtamer in that they have significant upside on top of nice stats. Some, like Jace's Phantasm or Pteramander, grow quite large. Some, like Cloud Pirates have a “drawback” that is basically non-existent. Cloud Pirates can’t block any creatures at all because Cloud Pirates is tapped because Cloud Pirates just swung at them and drew you a card. You’re all aggro all the time and you use Blue spells for permission and board control rather than card draw because your creatures can draw you quite enough cards. Ramp isn’t super necessary, either, because your creatures are all quite affordable. You’ll win the game quickly with a card like Craterhoof Behemoth, a card like Triumph of the Hordes or a card like “lots and lots of Time Warp effects.” A few cards like Throne of the God-Pharaoh and Beast Whisperer have come along to give the deck a few upgrades and now that I’m revisiting the deck, I have to ask myself - how are Competitive EDH players building this in a way that would make this inappropriate for a 75% build? What is the spikiest possible configuration and how can I learn from it to make a solid 75% deck with Edric and Pteramander?

Mana Drain
Analysis of all of the posts and primers about the deck that I could find reveal that the main difference is the deck just plays a lot more “Legacy” cards. Sure, it’s still a Commander deck with its Time Warps and Mystic Remora but those lists ran a ton of cards that seem like they’re optimized for dueling - Flusterstorm, Force of Will, Carpet of Flowers, Mana Drain, and other similar cards appear frequently. In fact, without the typical infrastructure of a Commander deck involving ramp and card draw, Competitive EDH builds load up on permission. I expected to devote more than just this paragraph to parsing the difference between casual and competitive builds but it seems like the competitive builds mostly just want to use their considerable hand size and abundant unused mana to protect their board and win a counterspell war over the Triumph of the Hordes that wins the game.

A 75% build of the deck is going to be quite tricky. I don’t want to start at a competitive build and dumb it down - by “I don’t want to” I mean “doing so violates one of our most important tenets of 75% deck-building” and it seems like a recipe for a mess of a deck. The problem is that the way I would typically attack this problem, using my aufbau method or otherwise, would be to try and limit the consistency of the deck. A deck with a ton of flyers and evasive creatures on top of a commander that turns all of them into unblockable Ophidians is that a simple strategy like that is very consistent. Since I don’t want to hamstring the deck I think the method for a 75% build will be to use some of the deck space occupied by permission and time warp effects for my favorite type of effects - Bribery effects. Besides, if you really want to take extra turns, maybe Expropriate will go your way.

I don’t think cards like Triumph of the Hordes are not in the spirit of 75% per se, but I think if I want to inject any alinearity into the deck, I want some uncertainty in the win condition. If you are going to try and deal 120 damage with 1/1 creatures, you’re going to quickly deck yourself with Edric out. You’ll need some way to win the game and while I still plan to add cards like Beastmaster Ascension, I don’t want to have too many “I win” cards like Craterhoof and Triumph in the deck because with this many ways to draw cards, you’ll get those cards fairly often, and with the ability to force them through with countermagic, you’ll get them off more often than 1/x games. I’m not saying the deck is too good as-is, I’m saying it could get boring and I’d rather have some uncertainty and excitement. Therefore, I am looking to use their win conditions rather than my own where possible. I’ll have a few but I won’t tutor for them which means I may have to prolong the game until I draw enough cards to win with my own win conditions, meaning it will be far more attractive to beg, borrow, or steal. Mostly those last two, I think. Our cheap, evasive Ophidians, coupled with creatures that get beefy like Jace's Phantasm and Pteramander plus their creatures should make for some interesting games to say the last. What would a 75% Edric Pteramander deck look like?

Ptera Eternal | Commander | Jason Alt


Hypnotic Siren
I like how this turned out quite a bit. There were some cards that I like in a 75% build that synergized very well with the Edric Fliers deck. One of those is a card I don’t use much but which is more of a “modal” card in this deck than in most and that’s Hypnotic Siren. Drawn early, you play it as you curve out on creatures and draw cards with Edric since a 1/1 flier is usually pretty tough to deal with early in the game. Drawn late, Siren takes control of either a big, game-ending creature or a troublesome creature to prevent your opponent from benefiting from it. Either way you’re getting a ton of mileage out of the creature. Another creature I like in this deck is Thalakos Deceiver. It’s ublockable given its shadow ability but you can trade it for a creature of theirs which is very nice once Ophidians are a little underwhelming. Thada Adel, Acquisitor works well in this shell and even Sower of Temptation is a Faerie which does everything from stealing creatures to powering Spellstutter Sprite. If only you could trigger Prowl with it for Knowledge Exploitation or Notorious Throng! As it is, Sower does a ton of work in the deck and I’m glad they’ve been reprinted it enough that I can scoop a bunch of them for my decks.

If you want to make this a more competitive deck, there are plenty of primers online, but the Cliff’s Notes version is that you want to add a lot more hard counters, cut some of my card theft cards and include cards I discussed removing like Triumph of the Hordes and Craterhoof. Add a few more Time Warp effects as well. Expropriate and Notorious Throng are cute but the deck wants Time Warp and other more definite effects if you want to be more competitive. As you get more competitive, even cards like Skullclamp become less necessary and instead you want cheaper removal and cheaper counters. You’ll cut Frilled Mystic for Negate and Krosan Grip for Nature's Claim, etc.

I didn’t start at a competitive deck and remove anything, I started with a casual deck with a lot more creatures and added cards I wanted which meant I cut a lot of creatures. There are possible elf and faerie subthemes to explore and you can have redundant copies of your creatures to ensure you have the effects you need.

What do we think? Is this a good home for Pteramander? Could you see yourself sleeving up a relatively straightforward deck where the only uncertainty is what you’ll snag with Bribery? Does Edric suffer from The Rafiq Problem to such an extent that you’d avoid this build altogether? Let me know in the comments section. Thanks for reading as always. Until next time!