SCG Daily – The Golden Age #2: Leviathan, Too!

In the first article in this series, we looked at Sheep, Starfish, and Hippo tokens. Today, we’re going to the other extreme.

In the first article in this series, we looked at Sheep, Starfish, and Hippo tokens. Today, we’re going to the other extreme.

If you’ve only been playing Magic for the past six or seven years, you might not appreciate cards like Tidal Kraken and Vizzerdrix. Those of you who know my writing probably think that I’m mentioning Vizzerdrix just so I can hyperlink to pictures of cute, darling, bunnies (not that kind of bunny). Nothing could be further from the truth. Vizzerdrix is special because it’s the most recent stage in the devolution of the non-Fying, big Blue creature. You see, nowadays, every color other than Blue gets a giant, wingless creature occasionally, yet because Blue is the color of large flyers, it pays a premium to Hurricane-proof its warriors. You won’t find a 5/6 non-Fying Blue creature printed within the last half-decade that’s as efficient as Mahamoti Djinn. Indeed, if you ignore the Starter Set’s Vizzerdrix, you’ll even find it difficult to prove that Tidal Kraken has been given a higher casting cost because it’s unblockable; there just isn’t much to compare it with.

But it wasn’t always like this. No, back when the game was young, it was the other way around. Now big Green creatures are as common as herring on an oatcake, but in the sets between Magic‘s creation and Mirage, there were but three Green creatures with a power greater than six: Force of Nature, Scaled Wurm (check out the cozy Daniel Gelon art), and Gargantuan Gorilla. And how many creatures with a power greater than six were in Blue’s arsenal? Three as well, but you’ll have to trust me when I say that if Blue’s crew met Green’s team in a dark alley behind 7-11, the garbage man would find scattered bits of nature and clumps of gorilla fur there the next morning.

Let’s, however, start from the beginning. Way back in Alpha, Blue had three creatures with a power of five. Sea Serpent was vaguely playable (hey, walls were a lot better back then), Mahamoti Djinn was godly, and Water Elemental would make today’s color wheel enthusiasts scream. Of these, Sea Serpent is the most interesting because it had Islandhome (both you and your opponent need Island) and, in Magic‘s first set, it was the only creature to follow the real-life mythical tradition of huge, slithery ocean-going monsters. But that would change.

Compared with Arabian Night‘s Island Fish Jasconius, Sea Serpent looked like a Kelp token. Island Fish Jasconius wasn’t any good, but they sure don’t make Blue creatures like it anymore. Nor do we often see creatures like LegendsElder Spawn, a creature which bears an unsatisfactory resemblance to coral but could really beat down on Red decks if it were possible for Blue decks to assemble seven mana. Most importantly, Elder Spawn likes eating Islands. This will become a trend.

As promised, the next Blue monstrosity, The Dark‘s Leviathan, eats Islands. Lots of Islands. So many Islands that it can only attack twice unless you get some extra land in play. It is, however, awfully large, far bigger than its great-great-grandchild, Cosmic Larva). But is it really +7/+7 larger than Legends’ Segovian Leviathan? From the pictures (Both of which are fantastic. Melissa Benson and Mark Tedin rarely disappoint.), I’d say they’re about the same size.

Although the creature type Leviathan is impressive, nothing beats a Spawn. Sadly, Fallen Empire‘s Deep Spawn does not share its predecessor’s creature type. Yes, despite the great many creatures with “spawn” in their name, Elder Spawn is the only true Spawn in Magic (Fine. Excluding Mistform Ultimus.). Amazingly, considering its pedigree, Deep Spawn isn’t all that bad. Milling away the top two cards of your library is hardly disadvantageous (Early on, there was an overestimation of the importance of undrawn cards. This will be covered more fully in a later article.). While it might not be much fun to keep your Homarid tapped, its untargetability ability was, at the time, unique. Deep Spawn was the creature that gave rise to the likes of Autumn Willow and Troll Ascetic. If you want to be impressed even further, recall that, except for Force of Nature, Leviathan, and Colossus of Sardia (all which came with massive disadvantages), only Craw Giant could do so much Trample damage. Relatively-undercosted tramplers like Crash of Rhinos and Rootbreaker Wurm didn’t appear until years later.

Next came Polar Kraken (a Kraken, not a Monster like Tidal Kraken) in Ice Age. Mark Tedin (master of crinkly, gray monsters) returned for this card’s inordinately amusing art. I’m sure that the fact that a platoon of what appear to be Pale Bears is facing down what was then the largest creature in Magic‘s history added to creature’s cult status. I, for one, was a Polar Kraken groupie, and it’s undeniable that, if cast, Polar Kraken can end games quickly. It’s worth noting that unlike Elder Spawn and Leviathan, the Kraken’s upkeep cost can be paid with any type of land, not just Island. Until Phyrexian Dreadnought in Mirage, Polar Kraken was the largest creature in the game, and it wasn’t until Onslaught‘s Krosan Cloudscraper that the Biggest Colored Creature Record was stolen from it.

The last of the mammoth Blue creatures was Marjhan from Homelands. Dare I say it, but Marjhan isn’t half so bad a multiplayer card as it at first appears. Seven mana is significant, and it won’t be able to attack every opponent, but even tapped, it’s a heck of a defender. Compared with Kuro, Pitlord (an obvious descendent), this Serpent is a beast. Well, you can’t trash optimism, can you?

The question on the tip of your tongue is surely, “But can any of these cards be played today?” A part of me wants to say, “No.” However, another part of me begs to answer, “Certainly. I mean, Kumano, Master Yamabushi looks better than Marjhan, but Kumano is a legend, and you could play as many Marjhans as you desired.” But any idiot could build a Marjhan deck. My interest, on the other hand, has always been in Polar Kraken.

I’ll admit that, in some situations, Darksteel Colossus might be slightly superior to Polar Kraken. Still, Polar Kraken wins the day for the simple reason that it can’t be targeted by Rebuking Ceremony. When looking for a Polar Kraken deck, we’re looking for a deck that can accelerate mana, make up for lost lands, and support Blue. Luckily, the deck featured in the previous article of this series works perfectly. After a few, insubstantial tweaks, we get:

U/G Turbolamb v. 1.1

4 Eternal Witness

4 Soratami Cloudskater

4 Azusa, Lost but Seeking

4 Ovinomancer

2 Meloku the Clouded Mirror

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

3 Crucible of Worlds

4 Condescend

2 Oxidize

3 Kodama’s Reach

2 Polar Kraken

12 Forest

9 Island

2 Blinkmoth Nexus

I’m telling you, it’s genius. Wizards printed Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Crucible of Worlds solely to make Polar Kraken and Ovinomancer big shakers in Vintage.

I’ll leave you with a bonus fish, Arabian Night’s Dandan. This two-mana critter might not be a real monster, but at least it’s more real than Imaginary Pet, the only other two-mana Blue creature with a power of four. In today’s Standard, the cheapest four-power Blue creature is Air Elemental. Air Elemental costs a full three mana more than Dandan. And unlike Dandan, Island Fish Jasconius, Elder Spawn, Leviathan, Deep Spawn, Polar Kraken, and Marjhan– It flies.


-Adam Grydehøj

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