Art by Michael Komarck

The new year has brought some new products with it, of course, and Wizards of the Coast has presented five new pre-constructed decks for the Commander imprint within Magic: the Gathering. These decks make bringing new people into the format long-called EDH (Elder Dragon Highlander) a lot easier. Each deck provides reprints of old favorite cards as well as new and exciting selections that work just fine outside of the format, while others feel exclusive to the unique situations presented by a singleton deck of 100 cards with one set aside.

Case in point: [mtg_card]Derevi, Empyrial Tactician[/mtg_card]. Her ability is tied directly to the ‘command zone’, an area of play within the game that is neither the graveyard nor ‘exile’. Your Commander, or general or whatever you call them, begins play in this zone rather than your hand or deck, and is cast from this zone. Each time you cast the card, you must pay 2 extra mana for every circumstance that’s returned it to the zone. So, if an opponent kills it, or you sacrifice it, or if an ability would exile it, you send it to the command zone, and can bring it back, albeit needing to pay more for it. It creates a very real drawback to bringing your Commander into play every turn.

Derevi has a way around that drawback.

Printed on her card is an ability that allows you to bring her directly from the command zone into play. Her base mana cost is cheaper than this ability, but I don’t think most players will be casting her as they normally would. Not only does the cost of her ability not increase every time she is killed or exiled, the ability can be used on an opponent’s turn. And, whenever she enters the battlefield, or one of your creatures does combat damage to a player, she taps or untaps another permanent card. This could be a land or artifact you need to produce mana, or a pesky thing on your opponent’s battlefield you need out of the way.

I really, really enjoy playing with enter the battlefield effects. There’s a very nasty trick you can play with [mtg_card]Fiend Hunter[/mtg_card] that allows you to exile opposing creatures permanently. The synergy between [mtg_card]Sun Titan[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Eternal Witness[/mtg_card] is incredibly impressive. The deck comes off the shelf with a few cards to enable these things, such as [mtg_card]Conjurer’s Closet[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Mistmeadow Witch[/mtg_card], but being a pre-constructed “jack of all trades” deck, needed some tweaking to really make the most of the mechanic.

For example, the deck did not have Sun Titan or Eternal Witness. When it come to ‘bouncing’ or ‘flickering’ cards to make the most of them, my old friend [mtg_card]Venser, the Sojourner[/mtg_card] comes immediately to mind. [mtg_card]Deadeye Navigator[/mtg_card] felt like a must-include, as its ability is cheaper than that of the Mistmeadow Witch and can be used to either trigger its partner or flicker itself to bond with something new. [mtg_card]Acidic Slime[/mtg_card] and Fiend Hunter not quite enough recurring removal for the deck, so [mtg_card]Terastodon[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Sunblast Angel[/mtg_card] needed to go in. So it went until I had a deck I was comfortable with. You can see the complete deck list here.

It’s a blast to play. With no counterspells and little direct damage, the deck is not overtly aggressive and thus can play it quiet for a few turns, avoiding confrontation as much as possible. There are a few political cards that can incentive your opponents to fight one another more, or lead to negotiations (“Is that creature giving you trouble? How about I take control of it with [mtg_card]Rubinia Soulsinger[/mtg_card] and you smash that guy’s face in?”). I think there are a couple cards I could cut but I’m not sure what it might be missing – perhaps a few more board clears like [mtg_card]Terminus[/mtg_card] or [mtg_card]Day of Judgment[/mtg_card].

How does the deck look to you? Would you be willing to play it?