Commander is an incredibly complex format that can be won and lost through precise application of powerful spells, carefully sequencing them for maximum devastating effect to bury your opponents. Easy to learn but hard to master, truly it is the thinking person’s game. ALTERNATIVELY, we can say “fuck that noise” and perform our best Rita Repulsa impression and MAKE OUR MONSTERS GROW before turning them sideways like champs. If you’ve read many of our set reviews you’ll probably have read me waxing poetic about new tools for a tribe that I have multiple personal decks of – that’s right folks, this one’s for the Birds.
The Commander: Commander Eesha
This deck began way back in the days where there were few enough Legendary creatures that I was halfway entertaining the idea of having at least a deck list for each of them as a Soraya the Falconer deck. It wasn’t terribly feasible even then but I’m an insane person and Birds were a meme before memes existed and so a really, really bad but funny version came to be. Over time I decided that while I’m mostly a kitchen table player, it does kind of take some of the fun out of things to play with a deck that can’t even begin to compete, and so the list began to evolve. Commander Eesha isn’t exactly a world ender, but they fit the deck much better both by being the appropriate creature type and objectively a better card. Flying is always good to have, and protection from creatures is a great ability that will low key do a ton of work while also not being so threatening as to demand an immediate answer. You could absolutely make a pretty threatening Voltron deck if you wanted, and I would argue that might well be the more powerful build of the deck, but this was intended to be a tribal deck and so it shall remain. In fact, since they’re both a Bird and a Soldier, there are a number of Soldier synergies included as a subtheme.
Now we come to the first bit of bad news – this is a mono white tribal deck that sticks to the theme pretty hard, so even though Wizards has started to make some improvements in the ramp and card draw departments, the situation isn’t great. Here at least you can always up the mana rock count if you wanted to but for the type of games I play the deck in it generally functions fine. A lot of time even if things go wrong and you stumble it can actually benefit you politically, though it’s never a great feeling to have to fall back on that. We have a couple of outright stars like the ever present Sol Ring and Smothering Tithe, an on theme land catch up in Keeper of the Accord and the classic Land Tax, and some mana doublers like Caged Sun and Gauntlet of Power which also play into our heavy use of Anthem effects.
The Card Draw
Look, this is what I like to refer to as fine quality, historically accurate, artisanal mono white. See back in the day there were colors whose whole thing was that they traded being good at drawing cards for being good at other things – it was a different time for green and red, when cards like Harmonize roamed the battlefield because they were one of the few ways to draw cards in the color. This is all a roundabout way of saying the draw in this deck is bad, and that’s with having put a couple of modern pieces in. Going heavy on basics means we should be able to activate Endless Atlas without issue, Slate of Ancestry can keep the ball rolling once we get started, and we have another tribal piece in Esper Sentinel.
The Targeted Removal
We’re only running a few pieces of targeted removal, but they’re good ones. Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile are classic, unparalleled creature removal, and we even have it stapled on to the body of Lieutenant Kirtar and Catapult Master. We also have Return to Dust and Generous Gift to hit other types of threats, and if your playgroup demands it there are plenty of other pieces that could be added. Aven Cloudchaser and Cloudchaser Kestrel give us some supplemental enchantment removal as well.
The Board wipes
Another area where white has a ton of options, we’re running pretty light on wipes since we’re a creature based deck that would also prefer not to blow up its own artifact and enchantment support. Wrath of God is the OG, and while it’s on the pricy side Mass Calcify can swing a game in your favor extremely hard – it should probably at least be Martial Coup instead if not one of the many cheaper or more flexible options like Austere Command but c’mon…. Where else am I going to run a Mass Calcify? Major Teroh lets us hate on black specifically, able to exile at instant speed which is pretty cool.
Since this is an old deck, we have a whole bunch of cool stuff that you don’t see much anymore that I happen to really enjoy, mixed with some great new hits like Flawless Maneuver. Angel of Jubilation shuts off quite a few things as does Aven Mindcensor. Entangler lets Eesha stonewall incoming attackers, as can effects like Mobilization which give us vigilance and some token production, as do Emeria Angel and the classic powerhouse Battle Screech. Rootborn Defenses and Soul of New Phyrexia give us vital additional protection against board wipes. Enlightened Tutor and Idyllic Tutor get us pieces we need to end the game. Angelic Skirmisher lets us pick between several useful effects during EACH combat, and once you have another vigilance source and can be adding on first strike or lifelink you can stabilize or pull ahead easily – similar with True Conviction. Finally we have maybe my favorite card in the deck: Concerted Effort. The primary use is to give Eesha’s flying and protection from creatures to your whole team and crash in with your massively buffed birds and soldiers, but there are a few other creatures that can give useful abilities as well. Battlewise Aven can give first strike, and Captain of the Watch can be expanded to include your non-Soldier creatures as can Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite.
This is the real meat of the list. There are 21 cards that provide some level of anthem effect and you might be surprised how quickly this adds up, even in Commander. These vary from a bunch of +1/+1’s like the classic Glorious Anthem and the god damn majestic Aven Brigadier who buffs both creature types in the deck, to the oddball Daru Warchief, to the +2/+2’s of Elesh Norn, Steel-Plume Marshal, Konda’s Banner, and on average Light from Within as well. A couple cards are global effects like Serra Aviary and Crovax, Ascendant Hero so you need to keep that in mind, as well as that a few things may only impact Birds or Soldiers. Finally there are haymakers in Cathars’ Crusade, Mirror Entity, and Coat of Arms if the grindy game plan doesn’t work out.
Thanks for joining us for our latest kitchen table Commander deck! Make sure to keep an eye out for the other decks in the series! If you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.