Empyrial Tricks of the Trade

Posted in Command Tower on February 20, 2014

Not all Commander questions come directly to me.

Question Elemental | Art by Edward P. Beard, Jr.

The boundlessly cheerful editor for DailyMTG.com, and fellow Commander fanatic, Mike McArtor shared this question from the Ask Wizards queue:

I have recently bought the Evasive Maneuvers deck and I have cards like:

And I have also some green, white, and blue spells, like big creatures, enchantments, and counterspells.

I think that Derevi, Empyrial Tactician is a great commander because she can always go back to the battlefield, paying 1 ManaWhite ManaBlue ManaGreen Mana using her activated ability (3 if you untap a land after that). In spite of your enemy is always killing her, she can always return to the battlefield and she's cheap. She also has flying.

My opponent plays a Jhoira of the Ghitu deck and he is always beating me.

I would like to make a budget exalted Commander deck with Derevi, Empyrial Tactician but I have no idea of how to do it. Could you help me?

It's possible you have a better idea of how to make a Commander deck with Derevi so I'm very interested in your opinion.

Thank you very much in advance and have a nice day.

Commander is a tough format to build decks in. While I've shared some general ways to build decks in the past, "budget" is not a word I've used in any of them. There used to be dedicated column for Building on a Budget and it approached defining what budget really means from a variety of angles.

For Commander, there are plenty of practical ways to define it:

  • Updating a preconstructed Commander deck (such as the one including Derevi)
  • Relying more (or completely) on commons and uncommons rather than rares and mythic rares
  • Using only cards randomly found in other purchases (Born of the Gods Fat Pack, Theros Holiday Box, etc.)
  • Being given or swapping spare/extra cards from friends

Since Derevi, Empyrial Tactician comes in a preconstructed deck, we'll assume we're starting with that, and focus on commons, uncommons, and offbeat rares that combine well with her as a commander. However, Commander is always what you want to make of it, so feel free to explore other avenues if that's what works for you.

Aerial Maneuvers

Let's start off with what comes in the "starter" Derevi deck:

Evasive Maneuvers—Commander (2013 Edition)

Download Arena Decklist
99 Cards

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician's ability to tap or untap things is one half of the synergy equation. (We'll get to the "Put Derevi onto the battlefield..." half in a bit.) There are several awesome interactions already built into the deck for it:

There are several easy-to-add cards that work similarly:

But don't take just my word for it. Several of you shared similar ideas, like James:

In response to your question of the best commons and uncommons to use with Derevi, Empyrial Tactician, I had a few ideas:

Ocular Halo makes any creature have the option to turn some number or all of the triggers into a card. Oracle's Insight does essentially the same thing. Skyward Eye Prophet does an upgraded version of the same thing.

There are many other creatures with tap effects that could be used over and over with each trigger. Simic Growth Chamber, Azorius Chancery, Selesnya Sanctuary, and other lands that add multiple mana per tap let you get mana explosions, and Freed from the Realworks well with the type of cards you're likely to include. Something like Tidewater Minion or Kiora's Follower let Freed from the Real combo for infinite mana.

Blink effects could add a new wrinkle to things, letting you get extra triggers off of Derevi. Presence of Gond, Commander's Authority, and creatures that tap for creature tokens make another useful untap trigger that also likely expands the number of triggers you'll get the next time you attack. Tideforce Elemental is another effect to mix in and do crazy things.

Other than these, Auras that enhance mana production, like Utopia Sprawl and Fertile Ground, make some of the absurdity much more likely, and from Born of the Gods, many of the new inspired creatures, if you can find a way to tap them often, give a beneficial effect for the untap as opposed to the tap. For example, Arbiter of the Ideal with an Aura that gives it a tap ability, or maybe Viridian Longbow, could go totally nuts.


Some of these are already commons that come alongside Derevi, but new cards like Arbiter of the Ideal and Kiora's Follower build up powerful combinations of cards to use. Since I'm also a personal fan of blink effects, such as Mistmeadow Witch and Roon of the Hidden Realm already in Derevi's deck, finding more ways to use that angle gives us variety opponents wouldn't expect.

With Born of the Gods, inspired arrives, and that goes well with Derevi. Aerie Worshippers, God-Favored General, and Pheres-Band Raiders are among the best. They get to untap thanks to Derevi and produce more creatures, which of course supports Derevi's strategy.

Also, sac outlets are really good with Derevi, since you can play with her ability. Culling Dais makes sure you don't run out of cards and Perilous Forays lets you get some duals, to fix your mana, or simply get more basics.


Perilous Forays is an excellent utility enchantment since it helps convert any creature, Derevi or not, that's about to die into more lands on the battlefield. Even better: it's an uncommon, just like Culling Dais. Using Derevi's "Put Derevi onto the battlefield from the command zone." ability isn't something to overlook.

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician likes Diviner's Wand. It equips itself whenever she comes into play and gives the player something to do with excess mana. Best of all, it makes Derevi a scarier threat and sticks on the battlefield when she's taking another stay in the command zone.

If playing with the Azami, Lady of Scrolls, then the Equipment can be tapped for a card as well.


I've had a premium foil Diviner's Wand sitting in my Commander Box for ages, but Derevi, Empyrial Tactician is just the commander it has been waiting for all this time. (Aside from Azami, Lady of Scrolls, of course!) Putting Derevi back onto the battlefield during the end step of the turn before yours lets you untap controlling Derevi, and drawing your card for the turn pumps her up a notch to boot. I like it!

So where does that leave us? We have a pile of ideas, generally commons and uncommons, and a preconstructed deck we can tweak to taste. While what you want to swap in and out is something you should try for yourself first, here's how I'd take all these ideas and apply them to the deck Derevi comes in:

In Out Reason
Perilous Forays Restore Ramping lands will help us use Derevi more
Simic Growth Chamber Thunderstaff Ramping up mana will help us use Derevi more
Everflowing Chalice Leonin Bladetrap Ramping up mana will help us use Derevi more
Spawning Grounds Presence of Gond Lands tend to stick around more than creatures
Freed From the Real Diviner Spirit Works as both "removal" and a combo piece
Kiora's Follower Thornwind Faeries Works with Freed from the Real
Tidewater Minion Borrowing 100,000 Arrows Works with Freed from the Real
Cathars' Crusade Tempt with Glory Why share when you don't need to?
Centaur Glade Curse of Predation Making tokens is a great mana dump
Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage Cure of the Forsaken Making tokens is a great mana dump
Aerie Worshippers Curse of Inertia Making tokens is a great mana dump
Indrik Stomphowler Phantom Nantuko Artifact/enchantment removal
Diviner's Wand Sword of the Paruns Card draw
Dawn to Dusk Æthermage's Touch Removal and recursion for enchantments
Dismiss Arcane Denial Why share when you don't need to?

What you choose to do is ultimately up to you. Nudging your deck down a focused path with Derevi in mind will strengthen how your position plays out, and you don't need splashy rares and mythic rares or a hifalutin online columnist to do it. (But both would sure help, right?)

The Cause and Effect

Changing decks is always an exercise in self-exploration. What you want, and how you want to do it, isn't something anyone else can determine.

What's fascinating is that I constantly encounter discussions of what Commander "really is" and why others "don't play Commander right." It's a topic worth tackling, and we'll start at the highest level: Are monocolored commanders (such as Purphoros, God of the Forge and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa) in the spirit of the format, as opposed to multicolor commanders?

  • Feedback via email
  • 300-word limit to explain your point
  • Sample decklist is requested (does not count against word limit)
  • Decklists should be formatted with one card per line with just a leading number, such as "3 Mountain"
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

While I have my own thoughts around whether many or few colors is in the spirit of Commander, I'm really excited to see how you handle it.

Join us next week when we get restrictive. See you then!

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