Derevi, Empyrial Tactician can be a frustrating commander to play against. This is probably because of its famous activated ability (which basically gives it flash and circumvents around commander tax) paired with its incredibly versatile tap/untap effect.
The tap down effect can be used defensively or aggressively to tap down lands and supplement our stax engine. Versus voltron decks you can tap down creatures before they have the chance to attack you. You can also tap down artifacts or value lands (see: Cabal Coffers ) during a player’s upkeep so that they don’t have enough mana to execute their combos.
What is Stax?
It is somewhat debatable what the true definition of Stax is, especially in EDH. Some say that the name is derived from the card Smokestack for its potential to lock out other players by denying resources. The idea is that you have something small (like a token or recurring creature) that you don’t mind loosing each turn. Because you are OK with sacing stuff each turn everyone else will loose critical resources like lands faster than you will. See this article for an alternate idea where the name Stax came from – a old Type 1 meta deck built to starve and attrition opponents.
I’m personally not a believer that Smokestack is effective in EDH. Sure, you can play a tokens deck and throw Smokestack in there, but that alone does not satisfy what makes Stax Stax.
Our Deck’s Gameplan
In EDH, games can be over very fast. With the help of fast and unfair mana rocks like Sol Ring they can possibly end on turn four or sooner. In an effort to stop these faster decks, people can opt to play a type of Stax that I think is more viable – even if it can still be fragile.
Players can choose to include cards like Trinisphere, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Lodestone Golem, Sphere of Resistance, Aura of Silence, Thorn of Amethyst, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, Glowrider, Vryn Wingmare, to increase the cost of spells that are normally included in fast, broken, and often combo oriented decks.
Combine these effects with Winter Orb, Stasis, Static Orb, Hokori, Dust Drinker, Opposition, Tangle Wire – or enter the battlefield tapped clauses like Thalia, Heretic Cathar, Frozen Aether, Kismet, Loxodon Gatekeeper and you have a package to make it incredibly difficult for your opponents to play quickly or build up their board presence. With the Winter Orb effects you let your opponents untap one land during their upkeep and then tap that land down again via Derevi when you swing.
The drawback of this strategy is that you yourself often have to have fast mana (or go first) so that you can get your initial pieces/small creatures on board before your opponents get too deep into developing their boardstates or combos
Another thing that is difficult for Stax is the ability to regain control of the board if someone casts a single mass destruction spell (think Bane of Progress ) that wipes out all of your Stax effects. If you loose everything, the top deck Stax cards you draw will have almost no impact because alone Stax cards do very little.
Derevi is the Best with Stax
The reason we are choosing Derevi for this Stax deck is because he is the glue that can hold a Stax deck together. Alongside the traditional Stax cards Derevi can enter play at instant speed and tap lands, mana creatures, or mana rocks down before they can be used. Derevi’s reliable effect from the command zone can let you fight to regain board control or be used as a trick when someone is about to try to take control away from you. Because the Winter Orb effects don’t effect your creatures or artifact mana from untapping this means there are many ways where you can keep untapping mana creatures or rocks and still be in the game where your opponents’s lands are still locked underneath Winter Orb or Stasis.
Some will argue for a Teferi, Temporal Archmage deck or Grand Arbiter Augustin IV Stax deck. I think Derevi is better because he includes green and because of his instant speed deployment. The access to Green lets us play all of the fast mana dorks such as llanowar elves, birds of paradise, or Noble Hierarch (among others) – this lets us cast Derevi turn 2 sometimes. The mana dorks are also not bad draws in the mid to late game: you can hit your opponents with the mana dorks and continue to tap down their lands, or you can use the mana dorks after a Armageddon effect has ravaged the table. Once a Derevi stax deck has the game locked down the game will most likely end with small creatures and Derevi beating players to death.
Inside the deck is also a coastal piracy package – Coastal Piracy, Edric, Spymaster of Trest, and Bident of Thassa allow us to draw a few more cards each turn as we are getting Derevi triggers. These are good for when we are making 1 for 1 trades with our opponent because eventually we will starve out all other players through net card advantage.
This type of deck wants a swords package – games can go long. When you are pounding out Umeawa’s Jitte or Sword of Fire and Ice triggers each turn you can answer threats and recur value each turn. The sword package also allows you to close the game out faster once you have established control of the game.
How do you build Stax? What is the Definition of Stax to you? Share your Stax decks with us!