Archetune-Up - Isperia's Flying Circus

(Sphinx's Revelation l Art by Slawomir Maniak)

The Greatest Show on (and Above) Earth!

Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, an article series devoted to using the Theme pages on EDHREC to help tweak a reader-submitted deck! This month we're back with another tribal deck! Which tribe, you ask? It just so happens to be my favorite tribe: flying tribal! Reader Jeremy submitted his Isperia the Inscrutable deck a few months ago, and I've been itching to go over it ever since. I have my own flying tribal deck (albeit in Jeskai), and I was really interested to see how the deck differed when utilizing only two colors as opposed to three.

Normally I'm not a fan of tutors in the command zone, but when they have color restrictions and limitations on what you can tutor for, like Djeru, With Eyes Open, Higure, the Still Wind, or Godo, Bandit Warlord, I'm on board. Isperia hits that mark for me since she's restricted to two colors, needs to deal combat damage, you have to know what's in your opponent's hand, and she can only search up flyers. That may seem like a lot of hoops to jump through, but unlike a lot of other commanders that force you to satisfy a bevy of convoluted requirements, her rewards are well worth the work.

Flying Circus of Tools by Jeremy


Isperia the Inscrutable helms a deck that requires a "shell" to function optimally no matter what path you choose to take it. Due to this, I'm going to try a slightly different method for organizing this article, so I hope you like it!


Flying is Throwing Yourself at the Ground and Missing

The most obvious theme to start with was the Flying Theme, and that's exactly where I began. If you remember from last month's article, I had difficulty finding cards for Morophon the Boundless in the Wolf Theme because the commanders were only in three of the five available colors. This time around, however, we have the exact opposite problem: there are way too many options on this page, and most of them are outside of our colors. What do we do in this situation?

There are themes listed on every commander's page, as you can see above. If we were to click on Isperia's Flying Theme, we're going to get an aggregation of cards specifically tailored for a flying tribal deck helmed by Isperia! I try not to use this too often for my articles since I feel it's a bit like cheating, but this is a situation that requires specific cards that we'll never be able to find in the generic Flying Theme page.

Something Isperia needs that no other flying tribal commander needs is the ability to Peek at opponent's hands. You may only get one attack in with your commander, so playing a guessing game without any idea of what your opponent may have in hand is inefficient, to say the least. Jeremy had a few of these cards in the deck already that made our guessing easier, such as Wash Out and Telepathy, but let's go a bit deeper, shall we?

Wandering Eye is a tutor-able Revelation in this deck. This is in line with others we added, such as Gitaxian Probe, Remand, Sunken Hope, Sorcerous Spyglass, and Narset's Reversal. As long as we know at least one card in any one of our opponents' hands, we can grab Wandering Eye from our deck with Isperia in order to expose all of our opponents' hands. Sure, we need to reveal our hand as well, but that doesn't mean much when our opponents already know everything we're tutoring for.

This deck plans on getting into combat a lot, so we need ways to augment our commander as well our other creatures. Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves provide valuable protection as well as haste, which is incredibly important. Isperia may not last a rotation around the board, so having a way to make sure she can attack right away is incredibly important.

For similar reasons, I added Gravitational Shift and True Conviction. Gravitational Shift pumps our flyers while curbing all ground creatures' power, creating a huge strength discrepancy, and True Conviction pads our life total, makes our haymakers hit harder, and doubles Isperia's triggers. Jeremy already had other cards that provide double strike, like Fireshrieker and Duelist's Heritage, so I only felt like I needed to add one more. Don't sleep on cards like Battle Mastery or Phalanx Formation, though; cards like these aren't often played because, if the enchanted creature dies, you're down on card advantage, but if you're able to connect just once with Isperia, you'll be able to tutor for two flyers and come out ahead on the exchange!

One thing a deck like this loves is cards that bounce, and lots of them. Jeremy already included Cyclonic Rift and Wash Out, so I thought I'd turn things up to eleven: River's Rebuke, Evacuation, Aetherize, and Inundate were all cards I added in. All of these are huge tempo plays that usually leave us farther ahead than our opponents on multiple axes. Not only will they have to cast more of their cards again, more often than not, but these cards provide us with new cards to name with Isperia while also clearing out any pesky blockers. Flood of Tears is another A+ inclusion, and though it didn't make the cut for my list, don't underestimate it!


What's in the (Tool) Box?!?

This section is going to be a combination of a few things, namely some cards I personally added, as well as a smattering of applicable themes for the deck. Needless to say, this is going to be my Bonus Round for the article.

Why did I choose to do it this way? Put simply, there were too many cards available for this deck, and I didn't feel comfortable only talking about the path I took. I'm happy with the deck that I ended up with, but there are an incredible number of routes to take with this deck, and I wanted to touch on all of them, whether I included them in the final build or not. In this section I want to go over the wide breadth of toolbox options that flying creatures have.

First, let's go over the cards that made the cut. I only added seven fliers into the build, one of them being Wandering Eye. Stonecloaker and Restoration Angel were included as a way to reuse a few of the enter-the-battlefield triggers and to protect Isperia from targeted removal. Stonecloaker can also double as repeated instant-speed graveyard hate.

Voidstone Gargoyle and Spell Queller were additions made on the premise of tempo. Voidstone Gargoyle is a catch-all to a pesky card. It can trap commanders in the command zone, or it can render them inert if they were already cast. Prossh, Skyraider of Kher or Golos, Tireless Pilgrim aren't nearly as scary if they can't activate their respective abilities. Spell Queller can soft-counter 13 of the 25 most popular commanders of the past two years, and 90 of the 100 most-played cards of the past two years. Spell Queller has plenty of targets to hit in Commander, though if you think it's a bit too restrictive, then Draining Whelk is a six-mana hard-counter version you can use instead.

The final two additions were personal inclusions that also happened to be listed on Isperia's page: Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade are great choices for this deck. The issue with including these in your average deck is that you won't be able to often get both of these on the board at the same time. Luckily, our commander not only tutors, but we included a smattering of cards that will allow us to tutor for two cards at once. This deck can assemble Brisela, Voice of Nightmares with relative ease, but make sure you have Counterspell backup, such as Dovin's Veto, or the aforementioned Spell Queller, since your opponents will know what's on the way.

There were three other themes that I originally looked at to supplement the deck: Sphinx Tribal, Angel Tribal, and the Blink Theme. I'll go into more detail on why these themes didn't make the cut, but I do want to stress that there are some very good options in here. Both Sphinx and Angel tribal have similar kinds of creatures that can be put into the deck; high-costed, evasive threats with solid abilities stapled onto them. Adding more cards from either of these themes into the deck would take a bit of reworking with the mana base, mainly adding more mana rocks to support the copious amount of creatures with a CMC of six or more. This is definitely doable, it's just not the way I wanted to skew the deck.

On the Sphinx page, the standouts are creatures like Consecrated Sphinx, Chancellor of the Spires, Atemsis, All-Seeing, and Sphinx of the Final Word. All of these creatures have powerful abilities we would gladly tutor for when we need them. Each provides a different, necessary function that the deck can use, whether drawing cards, flashing back your opponents' spells, protecting your instants or sorceries, or simply dropping an opponent out of the game. If a heavier Sphinx tribal deck is the way you decide to go, Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign would also be a great inclusion, which provides both mana discount and card advantage.

Angels play similarly to Sphinxes, as the majority of them are high-powered, high-costed threats. The main difference is that Angels usually have much more varied mana costs, and they have much better support/toolbox abilities. Even at a cursory glance, the Angel page has many more impressive options for a toolbox deck like ours. Angel of Serenity, Sephara, Sky's Blade, Aegis Angel, Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Karmic Guide, and Angel of Sanctions, are all fantastic options that I'd love to tutor up. This isn't even including the Angels Jeremy already has in the deck, like Angel of Finality, Emeria Shepherd, Angel of Jubilation, and Sunblast Angel.

There are certainly strong showings from Sphinxes, but I do think that, since there are many more powerful options in the Angel theme to add to your toolbox, I would definitely start there. Both are powerful threats that work well with True Conviction and anthems like Gravitational Shift, and will help with a beatdown plan to close out games. I cannot stress this enough, though: make sure you have enough ramp to be able to support these expensive creatures. Don't be afraid of jumping up to 15 mana rocks if necessary. If you have a deck like this and have trouble closing out games, adding a few of these powerful threats should do the trick.

If win conditions aren't something you need, then we can look into the Blink Theme for a bit of value. When talking with Jeremy, he mentioned that he was interested in keeping a light blink theme in the deck. I was able to keep it pretty lean, but there are still quite a few options to talk about in this section.

For example, Mulldrifter, Cloudblazer, Elite Guardmage, and Reveillark are all good sources of tutor-able card advantage. A few Angels such as Angel of Serenity and Karmic Guide make reappearances in this section too, as removal and recursion, respectively. This section also gives us access to spells like Ephemerate and Ghostly Flicker to double dip with a spell that can protect our creatures and provide incremental value. If we we wanted to commit more to the Blink theme without using a divisive commander like Brago, I'd lean a bit more into generic ETB creatures as opposed to strictly keeping with flyers, though I would keep enough to have a good toolbox to pull from.


It's Just Falling with Style

Just like that, after jumping through a few hoops, we stick the landing! With only 99 decks to her name, Isperia, the Inscrutable is the 18th most played commander in Azorius colors, which I think is a bit too low. You might need to work a bit for her reward, but the payoff is there. Being able to grab any flyer from our deck is incredibly powerful. I've dabbled with Isperia once before, and I may go back and try her once again. She's definitely more interesting that Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, at the very least.

Deck submissions for this series are currently closed, but don’t let that stop you from getting in touch with me to talk about everything Commander and MTG! I’m active on Twitter @TheJesguy, and I can always be contacted via email at thejeskaiguy@gmail.com!

As always, thanks for arche-tuning in!

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Angelo is a Connecticut resident who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. Along with Commander, he loves Limited, Cube, and Modern, and will always put his trust in counterspells over creatures. He is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation's rotation out of Standard.