Shape Anew - Shu Yun's Flying School
(Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest | Art by David Gaillet)
Pretty Fly for a Blue Guy
Greetings, fellow EDH addicts. Welcome to another iteration of Shape Anew, where we create a decklist around popular commanders but must use at least 40 cards not featured on their EDHREC page, allowing us to explore different and new original strategies. This month, it’s time for none other than:
Tonight, we are Yun
Who doesn’t love Limited? I know I do! And the undisputed, absolute best strategy that everyone should always force is drafting an Azorius flyers deck. Nothing is better, and anyone who says otherwise is blasphemous.
Even if I'm a little biased toward this strategy in Limited, its routine presence in Limited environments raises the question: why are flying strategies rarely represented on the Commander battlefield? Well, the main reason is that combat is a lot harder when your opponents have a combined life total of 120. Normally, the combat step doesn’t produce a lot of value.
Enter Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest. Yes, I know, Shu Yun doesn’t have flying. But this commander doesn't have to be a part of the theme - he just has to enforce it. Shu Yun is a king of the combat phase. Sudden double strike can deal lots of additional damage or could help save a creature. Shu Yun can accomplish this with just a single noncreature spell, which are abundant even in the most creature-centric decks.
Shu Yun is mostly used as a Voltron commander who uses his ability on himself to win with commander damage. However, the double strike can be applied to any creature. Maybe creatures that have built-in evasion for themselves? Dare I say… flyers?
When I think of a flyers deck, I imagine them absolutely filling the sky. It is important to go wide with this sort of strategy, as to not make us too susceptible to targeted removal. Any flyer-related payoff we’ll be adding to the decks is also increasingly strengthened by a multitude of creatures.
Tokens help us accomplish this, with cards like Loyal Apprentice, or Emeria Angel, the latter of which being especially potent because it is a flyer that makes other flyers. Meloku the Clouded Mirror can practically turn all our (untapped) lands into flyers, which is very welcoming during a final alpha strike. Pride of the Clouds not only grants us tokens, but is himself also a beefy boy when entering a flyer-filled battlefield.
Then we have the noncreature spells that will increase our flyer count. Keep in mind that for each of them, Shu Yun can give one of our creatures double strike. We play cards like Battle Screech to give us as many flyers as possible for the lowest possible cost. Better yet are the enchantments like Spirit Bond that help us create a constant flow of flyers.
So, let’s imagine we've filled the battlefield with our airborne friends. What now?
Several "flying tribal" cards have been printed over the years. The one I’m most surprised doesn't see a ton of play is Gravitational Shift. Not only does it give our creatures +2/+0, but it also nullifies a large chunk of our opponent’s creatures with -2/-0. Windreader Sphinx can draw us all the cards we could ever wish for. Casting Mirrorweave after blockers can change all our innocent little weenies into the most massive creatures on the field.
However, those effects pale in comparison to the main reason we are playing red: Earthquake and its ilk. Red board wipes, especially in the past, have a tendency to only hit non-flying creatures. Although this might be a disadvantage to most, we’re taking full advantage of this fact. They’re one-sided boardwipes for cheap! On top of this, they all are noncreature spells as well (except for Ryusei, the Falling Star), which triggers our commander. Let our opponents sweat as fire rains upon them!
We play a combat-oriented deck. This brings some disadvantages with it, especially in the field of card advantage. Creatures in commander games are quite fragile, and unless you plan to win with them in one big alpha strike, tidbits of damage normally don’t cut it. We need to plan for the long game instead.
We do this with Curiosity effects. While curiosity often killed the cat, these effects seem to leave the birds intact. Their evasion is a gamechanger. If we assume at least one opponent does not control a flyer - and that’s often the case - we can connect with one of our flyers for a draw. This is even better when it receives Shu Yun's double strike, and is further amplified by the Coastal Piracy variations on the effect.
Now that our gameplan is in place, we need to add some decent interaction. You’ll never know what an opponent will throw at you, so even with a perfect gameplan (and remember, flyers are perfect, this is an unbiased and objective fact), we still need interaction. I always like to have the interaction package be on-theme, so while a Geist Snatch is worse than Mana Drain, it fits our gameplan better. This exercise sometimes lets you find gems you wouldn’t have otherwise while keeping the list casual.
As another example, I think Boreas Charger is criminally underplayed. This deck is not even abusing flicker or blink effects, but we'll run the Charger because it's a flyer with a good ability. There’s also Spell Queller to save us from a board wipe, Reveillark to restore our board when that board wipe still resolves, and Loyal Drake to help us get a few new cards when all else fails.
Jeskai colors might have the most difficult time with ramp, almost fully reliant on mana rocks to help it out. Luckily for us, those same mana rocks help us through combat, since they're noncreature spells. The speed they give in casting your spells sooner and their damage output through Shu Yun’s triggers make them ideal inclusions. Signets and Talismans are 100% added to our deck.
One piece of ramp I find underplayed is Curse of Opulence. Especially in a deck that likes to attack, the enchantment virtually gives a mana per turn. It even incentivizes attacks, primarily on your opponents, while you gain some additional gold. Dowsing Dagger and Sword of the Animist also provide ramp in decks revolving around the combat step, and the Dagger is especially great to throw on difficult-to-block creatures like ours.
It’s always a little tricky to find the right utility lands in a three-color-deck, as we would generally reserve our nonbasic land slots for color fixing. On top of this, there are not a lot of lands that interact with combat. The main combat-oriented one is Windbrisk Heights: we can often attack with multiple creatures, so we have a decent chance of fulfilling the requirements to cast the hidden spell. As this has a very good chance of being a noncreature spell, it even triggers Shu Yun’s double strike ability mid-combat!
Besides this, we play Moorland Haunt. It provides a little resilience by enabling us to make Spirits out of thin air (‘thin air’ being a creature in our graveyard). Our flyer support will make sure the token will be so much more than a measly 1/1 Spirit.
I like building theme decks around keywords, especially evergreen ones. It means that each set the deck can receive new tools to tinker with, and often makes it easier to further specify your theme for even more punch or flavor. In the case of flying, many keyword-relevant cards have been printed and will be printed in the future. I highly recommend everyone constructing at least one evergreen-keyword-(casual)-deck!
These 55 nonland cards in the deck don’t appear on the EDHREC main page for Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest:
Shaped Anew Cards
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The deck is not able to single-handedly bring back the combat step as the most essential part of a Commander game. However, it does mitigate some problems a lot of creature-centric decks have. For one, flyers have an easy time connecting. There’s always an opponent lacking flyers to help us gain some value through combat damage. This deck is also more resilient than most others, not only casting creatures but also obtaining value and card advantage through them. All in all, don’t dismiss it just because of the deck’s reliance on creatures. Try before you fly.
Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
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Although I often say that different colors can bring different takes on certain themes, I’d like to make this article’s recommendations in a slightly different light. When constructing the deck, I often found myself pulled toward a secondary strategy: instants and sorceries. Although I didn’t fully get it to work, I do think flyers lend themselves for such a secondary theme, especially in combination with Shu Yun as commander. If you want to get really specific, both Feather, the Redeemed and Mirrorwing Dragon care about targeting spells and abilities.
So, for those interested, here’s an interesting challenge:
“Construct a (Jeskai) flyers deck that utilizes additional synergies with instant and sorceries.”
I am very interested to see what you can come up with. If you have any result you’d like to share, you can send it to me via twitter or reddit (@ellogeyen and /u/ellogeyen). I’m open to any comments and discussion regarding the content of the article as well.
Next month, we’ll be visiting a more friendly deck! See you then!