Five is the number of legendary Krakens, Leviathans, Octopi, and Serpents that existed in Magic before Commander 2018’s release. Now, sleeper hit Arixmethes is makin’ waves as the sixth in Magic’s roster of legendary sea monsters.
It was awkward building a deck around creatures of the deep and not being able to invite Kiora, the Master of the Depths herself. The color identities of these first five legendary sea behemoths were either mono-blue or blue-black. The Slumbering Isle allows such a themed deck to call upon the aid of the false god.
Five years: that’s how long it’s been since I’ve attacked with a 30/30 Leviathan in a Commander game. While the Trench Gorger was meant to be a clever way to thin my library of lands for my instants-and-sorceries-on-top-of-the-library Melek deck, it often became my win condition. And I loved it.
Four creature types (Kraken, Leviathan, Octopus, Serpent) comprise the “sea monsters” of Magic. While there may be large Fish, some Whales, as well as a few Squid, I’m looking to avoid muddying the waters when building this new deck embracing gargantuan swimmers. To maximize the impact of each creature that hits the battlefield, all creatures must either be Kraken, Leviathan, Octopus or Serpent. (Sorry, Reef Worm).
Four is the number of Commander/Brawl decks I’ve created since I got back into Magic. Each of these decks has been built around creative constraints. As Commander 2018 preview season rolled out the new cards, I planned out my next foray into restrictive stipulations. …Then Arixmethes showed up.
Hold up. Change course. Building a Commander deck (or whatever it is you “do” in Magic) doesn’t always have to be “on brand.” In this case, I’m letting loose and having some fun: swinging sideways with majestic denizens of the deep.
Three is the number of times you’ll want to ramp with this Arixmethes deck in the early turns. By turn two, you’ll ramp +1 mana source. This allows a turn-three Arixmethes, who puts you up another two mana sources. On turn four, you’ll ramp one more time, aiming for +2 mana sources once again. By turn five, when most of the action starts happening in a Commander game, you’ll realistically have eight or nine mana, which is plenty to start casting your sea monsters.
While such a game plan may be perilous, the dread your opponents will feel as you prepare to release the Krakens is exactly the experience you want to create in a Commander game.
Three minutes is the length of “Gang-Plank Galleon,” a song from Donkey Kong Country. It’s on my seafaring combat playlist for a roleplaying game I ran, similar to Dungeons & Dragons – specifically, for a ship-versus-kraken battle.
The song perfectly captures the feeling of playing this Arixmethes deck.
The first fifteen seconds are cheerful enough (the first couple turns before you cast Arixmethes).
Then the foreboding build-up begins (when Arixmethes is a land with slumber counters).
At the 30-second mark, the rockin’ starts rollin’ (Arixmethes starts turning sideways – not to create mana, but to inflict 12 Commander damage on an unsuspecting player).
Two factors to consider if you want to play Arixmethes in Commander: politics and removal present in your meta.
For politics, your group may feel bad about repeatedly attacking someone that doesn’t have any threats on the board as early as other players in the game. This is great! By the same token, it may be that your usual opponents would be AFRAID of what you’re cooking up (and, hey, that’s the whole vibe you’re going for, right?), and thus want to kill you off before you have a chance to summon anything scary. If that’s the case, you’ll have to work to win them over.
As for removal: the expensive ramp spells in the deck mainly fetch lands. Ramp is crucial to your strategy, so finding some lands with Explosive Vegetation is a much safer option than casting artifacts like Thran Dynamo, which are more prone to destruction. BUT, this assumes you don’t have some player in your meta that likes to blow up lands. If they do …well, shoot. Call them the true monsters, perhaps.
Two is also the number of pool-lengths I used to swim underwater without coming up for air. I loved swimming exclusively underwater growing up, much preferring it to the surface-level swim strokes. I used to dive down to the bottom of the deepest part of the pool and press my back to the pool floor, so I could gaze up at the water surface. Perhaps this is why I prefer creatures who lurk below the water’s surface.
One decklist came out of this thought experiment. Enjoy: https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/31-07-18-arixmethes-slumbering-isle/
Bradley is a co-host of a weekly Magic: The Gathering design podcast, Beacon of Creation. He was among the Top 101 contestants in Wizards of the Coast’s Great Designer Search 2. He enjoys crafting custom Magic product experiences, like Archfrenemies, and building Commander decks with creative constraints.