Forgotten Harvest - Kangee Bird Tribal
(Empyrian Eagle | Art by Jason A. Engle)
The Bird is the Word!
Hello, and welcome back to another exciting edition of Forgotten Harvest, where I highlight the hyper-underplayed cards on EDHREC in 300 decks or less. This week's topic is all thanks to a recent visit to my LGS. A fellow patron was talking about their Esper Commander deck led by Sharuum the Hegemon and its Bird subtheme. He said that he would much rather just play Azorius with Kangee, Aerie Keeper, but thought there wasn't enough support for a tribal Commander deck. I don't think he knew who he was talking to....
There are a few different things going on here with Kangee. Obviously, we're going to want to aim for Bird tribal, relying on some little-played gems to bring in some fun abilities. But there's also the use of feather counters to increase Kangee's avian buff. Turns out, there are a fair number of Bird-related cards that relate to counters. While most "counters matter" cards see way too much play to earn a spot in my articles (I'm looking at you, Thrummingbird), there are a few below that could use some extra love from deckbuilders. But first, let's get into those that help the tribe.
Birds of a Feather
First up, we have the original Bird lord, Soraya, the Falconer (215 decks). Since Homelands, she's been retconned to effect all Birds and not just Falcons. While I totally recognize that Banding is usually to be avoided like the plague, the intent here is to use her solely for the buff with the activated ability there only for those brave enough to travel back to 1995. Some of you may say that Favorable Winds is a better return on investment here, and you're probably right, but I like the flavor associated with Soraya, and I tend to prefer creature-based effects in tribal decks.
Keeper of the Nine Gales does a pretty good impression of Tradewind Rider, especially in a Bird tribal deck. There are a fair number of Bird token makers like Migratory Route and Battle Screech, so having some spare 1/1s around to help activate the Keeper's ability shouldn't be a problem. Access to white generally makes bounce and counter strategies less the "last resort" in Azorius decks, as white can blow up almost anything. But with the tribal restrictions and a lack of creatures that offer repeatable removal, this is a nice addition. The Keeper sees play currently in 297 decks.
Also from Legions, Crookclaw Elder bridges the gap between the Bird and Wizard tribes, and sees play in 266 decks. The card draw option using your leftover Bird blockers is a great way to refuel your hand. This seems to be something that Birds are generally good at doing, whether through Airborne Aid or using Seaside Haven. I generally expect a full grip from this deck on any given turn. Also of note, there are enough Wizards in this deck to make the other ability possible, though with all of your creatures already in the air, it's more of a political tool to help opponents.
Next up, we have some of the oft-neglected Birds themselves, and first on that list is Glarecaster. Currently in 218 decks on EDHREC, this birdie is the master of redirecting damage. While the ability is a little costly, the effect on the game can be quite significant. This is especially true when you're redirecting commander damage with a Voltron deck at the table. Based on the wording of Glarecaster, the damage isn't filtered through anything on redirect, and would still count toward reaching the magical 21 damage for your opponents.
As with most tribal decks, this one is going to care about attacking often, so adding in Birds that trigger effects when they enter combat seems appropriate. Skymark Roc is just such a card with a useful effect. On attack, it can remove a chump blocker from a single combat, or shred a small token on the battlefield. It's in a reasonable 192 decks right now, as this kind of effect isn't very strong on it's own, but exactly what we're looking for in a Bird.
I've talked about Sawtooth Loon before when building Dromar's Bounce House, so you should already be familiar with its hand-filtering effect. Once again, it functions as another solid Bird with a good effect to add to the list. It's still neglected, in only 164 decks. Another Bird of note that helps with draw is Raven Familiar from Urza's Legacy (275 decks). One of the few blue cards with Echo, it's just one more toolbox Bird able to provide access to options.
Fly Like an Eagle
Not all of our pro-Bird cards are going to care about creature type. Some only care that the creatures have wings. For instance, Core Set 2020's Empyrean Eagle buffs all of our flyers for a very good rate. As the set is still fairly new, the Eagle only sees play in 59 decks right now, but I expect this number to climb swiftly! I think Kykar, Wind's Fury wouldn't mind the inclusion of this Eagle.
Also from Core Set 2020, Sephara, Sky's Blade provides some much needed protection for our winged friends. This will come in handy during a Supreme Verdict, for sure. She's also a great basher in her own right, adding some much-needed power to the field. Again, as Core Set 2020 is still new, she only sees play in 217 decks at the moment. I'm less certain of her future, however, as she feels more like a part of the 99 than a commander. Maybe I can give her a deck of her own in a future article.
Then there's one of my favorite cards from Modern Masters: Unsettled Mariner. Seeing play in a measly 212 decks, this card is definitely in much need of some love. What I like most about the Mariner is that it specifies all permanents you control, not just creatures. That means that your opponent's Aura of Silence is going to cost a little more when trying to blow up your Cryptic Gateway. Plus the card fits into any tribal-themed deck! Seriously, those playing Sygg, River Guide need to update their decklists.
Don't Counter Your Chickens Before They Hatch!
As I said above, Kangee not only has love for the feathered friends but can also play into counter synergies as well. I've included cards like Karn's Bastion and Tezzeret's Gambit to help Proliferate Kangee's feather counters. There're also Birds like High Sentinels of Arashin and tribal cards like Soulcatchers' Aerie that love counters.
Another underplayed Bird that likes counters, this time of the energy variety, is Aetherstorm Roc. Played in 270 decks, the Roc builds up energy whenever a creature hits the field on your side, then turns that energy into a +1/+1 counter and removal of a blocker on an attack. Referring to two different kinds of counters, this Bird definitely benefits from Proliferate effects.
Finally, providing some unexpected counter synergy, is Jötun Owl Keeper (166 decks). One of my favorite cards from Coldsnap, the Owl Keeper builds up age counters using its Cumulative Upkeep trigger, and upon its death, gives you a Bird for each counter. While Cumulative Upkeep isn't very fun outside of Braid of Fire, combining with Proliferate can help squeeze the most Bird tokens out of the card before its demise.
Alright, here's the deck!
Kangee Bird TribalView on Archidekt
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
Well that about does it for this bird-brained deck on Forgotten Harvest. Unleash your questions, comments, and snide remarks in the comments section below. I'll be on there to talk about how just how far the mighty dinosaur hath fallen, and to convince you to play Unsettled Mariner as often as possible! Let me know if you have any hyper-underplayed tribes that you think need some more love. Or, for that matter, any generally hyper-underplayed cards and strategies that you'd like me to talk about. I love suggestions from readers! See you all in two weeks.