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Bant? Or Won't?

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Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
I like it when people send me decklists. At the beginning of this project, people would send me lists of decks they had been playing for a while, wondering if they were good 75% decks. It was fun looking at them because it gave me a sense that I was onto something with the 75% concept because other people had been building the same or a similar way already. I instinctively had tapped into something that resonated with people because they shared the same philosophy. When I saw decks that were close to the way I would build with the 75% guidelines we came up with in mind, it was gratifying. Now when people send me lists, I’m getting the sense that they read the articles I’ve written and that they built with the guidelines in mind. It’s fun seeing what they come up with.

It has been a bit since I took a reader-submitted list through the deck garage, so I was happy to receive a list in my inbox from a reddit user who wishes to remain anonymous. He built a Derevi, Empyrial Tactician deck, and he wanted me to take a look to see if I thought it was a good 75% build, and I was more than happy to oblige. Derevi sometimes suffers from the Rafiq problem, but I think if you’re willing to take that on, Derevi can be a fun deck to play, and I’m not here to tell the guy what deck not to play. Let’s take a look at his list, shall we?

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician ? Commander | Anonymous

  • Commander (0)

My first impression is that nothing jumps out at me as something that rules this out as a 75% deck. I always look at a deck first through the lens that asks, “Is something wrong here?” and that is generally a pretty easy step. If I don’t see any tutors, problematic cards that either draw a ton of cards or prevent our opponents from doing too many things (like mass land destruction for example), or linear cards like Laboratory Maniac, I take a deeper look.

Torpor Orb
This deck looks a little on the weak side of 75% to be honest. I think people tend to underpower when they build 75% because they are being conscious of not wanting the decks to be overpowered relative to the decks they’re likely to encounter, but that’s not really a bad thing. It’s very easy to make a deck better, but I don’t think it’s that easy to make a deck worse without disrupting what works about it. Magic decks are like Jenga stacks in that regard: It’s easier to add something to a structure with a solid base than it is to subtract something from the base without knocking over the whole pile. Still, there are a lot of good value cards here.

I like when people send me lists on TappedOut because they have a function to draw practice hands, and while that’s not always going to tell you accurate or usable information, it can tell you if you’re going to mostly draw two-land hands with 6-drops. The mana curve seemed a little high based on about one hundred hands, and it could probably use some more mana-fixing and fewer huge creatures. Looking at a deck on paper is one thing, but forming a bit of an idea about how the deck will mulligan helps out a lot. Not only could we use some more mana-fixing, we need more spells.

This deck is cool, but it looks like it will be pantsed by a Torpor Orb, among other things. As much as I like to jam Acidic Slime and Reclamation Sage and call it a day, I think we need a few more creatures that benefit from being untapped, some mana-fixing, and a lower mana curve. I also think we can make it easier to hit opponents and run some cards I like to run that benefit us when we hit opponents. I think the deck is a fine example of a 75% deck on the underpowered side, which is perfectly fine, especially if you’re going to play with a group you know well (not that you need to build 75% if you’re playing with a specific group in mind, although our guidelines certainly help you integrate into a group like that), and I think we can add a few more thematic cards and power it up a tiny bit.

What would the list look like if I built it to be my ideal 75% deck?

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician ? Commander | Jason Alt

  • Commander (0)

There are an awful lot of creatures in this deck—fifty-one in the original list—which is a lot more than the usual thirty-five to forty in a Derevi deck. I was loath to cut too many of them because they seemed to be the original deck-builder’s reason for building the deck. His “maybeboard,” which is a list of cards on TappedOut that builders are considering slotting in, for example, had another God in it. That’s a lot of Gods! Ephara, God of the Polis, Heliod, God of the Sun, Karametra, God of Harvests, Kruphix, God of Horizons, and Thassa, God of the Sea—this guy loves his Gods.

Ephara, God of the Polis
I figured I had to cut none of them or all of them, so I opted for none even though I could have used the room. But I would just have been adding my own pet cards, so I left his pet cards undisturbed. There is certainly nothing wrong with any of the Gods—literally all of the ones on the list synergize well with the bouncing and untapping that is going on. I like cards like Diviner's Wand in Derevi, but that’s my baggage.

What was important to me was to shore up the mana a bit. Normally, I don’t like suggesting adding expensive lands, but I like the three Lorwyn-block filter lands here. There are a lot of double-mana symbols, and they’re obviously just a suggestion. This is a theoretical deck, after all, and if someone with a real deck built doesn’t want to shell out as readily as someone like I am who is just being hypothetical, I can see why you can’t justify the cost. I don’t normally suggest them, but this deck could really benefit. I also added a Darksteel Ingot. I like Signets, but they’re not obligatory, and this deck has a lot of creatures, and it’s hard to cut any. I cut “cute” ones like Species Gorger and Winged Coatl to make room for Ingot and cards like Krosan Grip and Beast Within.

I could be a little too worried about Torpor Orb, but I think it’s important to be able to benefit from putting stuff into play. I decided I liked hitting them and untapping, so I made it easier to hit them by adding a Sun Quan, Lord of Wu. In addition to Thassa and Archetype of Imagination, Sun Quan makes blocking nearly impossible for opponents, and you benefit from really drilling them with your creatures. I added Cold-Eyed Selkie and Thada Adel, Acquisitor because I love to hit opponents and benefit from it. If I were all-in on my own build, I would add an Edric, Spymaster of Trest to the list and probably a Daxos of Meletis. I guess I just love to get on-hit trigger. But with it being easy to hit opponents, why not benefit? I also feel like adding cards like Thada Adel, and cutting Species Gorger helped lower the curve a bit.

I think there are a lot of different directions you can go with this build, but what is important to remember from a 75% perspective is what we don’t want to do. We want to avoid the temptation to build a “Stax” deck with Derevi. If we do, we have a great deck that is fun to play but that isn’t 75%. Derevi is such a good Stax commander that we suffer from the Rafiq problem as Derevi players, and we have to overcome that. If we want to stick to 75%, cards like Armageddon and Winter Orb need to stay out. Let’s play cards to make our stuff better, not opponents’ stuff worse. We have managed to avoid that here.

Prime Speaker Zegana
Frankly, I don’t know how to deal with taking this deck into an unknown group. I think we’re just going to have to be as diplomatic as possible and try to avoid attracting attention to ourselves or antagonizing anyone with attacks. Derevi can trigger aggression in some people, and we want to build on the powerful side of 75% if we want to avoid being snuffed out early. I think we have some powerful interactions like Prime Speaker Zegana and Deadeye Navigator, two cards that are good on their own outside the interaction. I might add more scaling spells to the deck. I think we have enough Islands to make Vedalken Shackles worthwhile, and Bribery and Desertion are both good choices. With the new tuck rule making it much, much harder to deal with Derevi, we’re going to have less latitude in the future than we might have had in the past. Start with a build like this, and beef it up as necessary. It’s still possible to have a very good, competitive 75% Derevi deck as long as we avoid certain cards and concepts. I think we’re getting there, though, and every addition to the deck will only make it better able to deal with the amount of aggro you draw.

What do we think? What card do you love to run in Derevi that I missed? Should we not bother running 75% at all? Do you have experience with Derevi in multiplayer you’d like to impart? Have a decklist you want me to see? Hit me up in the comments section below, and let’s start a dialogue! Until next week!


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