Let’s Kill: Derevi Stax

April 29, 2014

This entry is part 3 of 12 in the series Let's Kill

Hayes  Hello again. Back again for another season of Commandercast. I’m going to be breaking down decks into their nuts and bolts on “Let’s Kill”. I will not be including formal 100 card decklists. This is because I personally believe that doesn’t matter. All you need to know to beat a deck is what the critical parts are. Think of these articles as individual mini primers, but both the person who wants to play the deck and the person who wants to kill the deck benefit from reading it.

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician


You fat flying bastard.

This is the first thought I usually have when I sit down to play EDH with folks I don’t know and one person pulls out a Derevi. I’ve seen a lot of good-stuff bant Derevi decks, derpy decks with complete randomness, and then the icy as hell stax Derevi. Of these variations today we will talk about stax as it is the most potent of the various forms and the hardest to fight against. We’ll look at what stax is trying to accomplish in EDH, how Derevi plays into that role, and how other decks can interact with stax.

SmokestackIn EDH any stax strategy is trying to play cards that symmetrically limit everyone’s ability to play creatures, mana rocks, and mana acceleration while at the same time playing through its own ‘hate’. In the derevi deck this is usually done via little mana dorks like arbor elf or llanowar elf. The pilot of the deck usually plays a mana dork or a mana rock on the first two turns. Then they immediately slam down one of many enchantments or artifacts that make all opponent’s lands/creatures/etc come into play tapped (root maze, frozen aether, loxodon gatekeeper). This prevents opponents from playing a useful land on their following turns and making a play that they can capitalize on. If the stax player doesn’t have an effect that taps your stuff, they’ll play something that forces you to pay a tax. This tax could be literal and force you to pay more mana for things (sphere of resistance, thorn of Amethyst, etc) or it can punish you for playing creatures by making you sac your creatures (something like tainted aether).

Where does Derevi come flying in? Usually after the first one or two stax have been thrown out. He’s good at blocking any early creatures your opponents put out, and tapping down opponent’s lands so they fall into the dreaded winter orb trap. His effect is as powerful as a single activation of opposition, only his ability can be more flexible because it can tap down any permanent on the board.

The most dangerous aspect of Derevi is his ability to untap your own permanents. This can make effects like winter orb almost entirely one sided and let derevi continue to play the game while all other players struggle to even achieve more than 4 mana on any given turn. When seedborn muse or prophet of kruphix comes down it boosts your resource potential so far ahead of everyone else that they might as well of already of lost the game.
Seedborn Muse


What’s the win condition?

Well most of the time stax decks win by moving inches each turn. Most games where I’ve seen derevi lock everything up ends with a large team of about 8 little dorks/utility dudes running across the field each turn to smack someone down.

Llanowar Elves                            Flying Men


That sounds easy, let me play!

Wait on a second, stax comes at a cost. While the Derevi deck is possibly one of the cheaper competitive decks (you can aquire all the essential stax components for less than 50$) it is also the least political. Once you throw down sphere of resistance everyone knows what your plans are and all guns will be pointed your way.

Mastering the art of Stax is knowing what strategies to focus on hating against. If your meta is full of aggro meekstone is a great option. lodestone golem hates on more strategies overall, but is less punishing. Editing your deck constantly and making sure you have a balanced supply of dorks, rocks, stax and a few counterspells is crucial to combating your local meta.

The few counterspells Derevi decks have are usually tailored toward fighting low costing permanents. Spell snare isn’t unplayable like it normally is. Spell pierce becomes a blowout often.

The most important part in playing Derevi is managing when your system of Stax breaks. Stax isn’t unbeatable, just like other EDH decks. When people realize what you are playing they will adapt to kill you. When you have a team of little guys Blasphemous Act becomes way more enticing for your opponents. Worst case scenarios include a bane of progress coming in to clean up the trash. Whatever way it happens, your pile of stax will very possibly break if your opponents gain a window of opportunity.

When this happens how you respond is important. Some people like to use replenish or open the vaults to bring all their stuff back to the battlefield. Most players run enough stax effects that they don’t need to play them all from their hand. This way when people start to break through another stax effect can take the original’s place right away.

Politically there are few motivations for decks to help the stax decks. The only style of decks that really benefit from stax are those that don’t care about mana. Goblins and elves usually fall into this category because they can have explosive turn one plays that propel them through various taxes. They also have the ability to make lots of little creatures, which the Derevi deck has limited ways of dealing with.

If you want to play against stax make sure you bring answers that cost 1 cmc. Cards like nature’s claim allow you to fight through tax costs and blow up whatever you think will let you get back into the game. This can be crucial, especially if you are able to blow it up right before you would normally untap.

Some people think that playing pithing needle or repeatedly killing Derevi solves the problem. They are wrong, killing Derevi gives your opponent another activation with derevi (at instant speed) and pithing needle doesn’t stop the triggered ability Derevi gives all your creatures, nor does it stop your opponent from casting Derevi naturally. You are better off targeting the stax effects.

I personally wouldn’t recommend playing stax. Save your money for a deck that is more interactive. Playing stax can usually lead to everyone you play with constantly turning their creatures sideways at you and everyone holding up counterspells for your turn two stasis.


That’s all for this info shout on Derevi. He’s a heartless owl, don’t let his cute looks deceive you. The next article will be about goblins in EDH, showcasing my Wort, Boggart Auntie, deck. Thanks for reading, until next time!


Hayes Pierson



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