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Commander Top 10: Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle

Are you snoozing on Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle? Bennie Smith releases the Kraken with his latest Commander Top 10.

Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle
Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle, illustrated by Dimitar Marinski

Double Masters is upon us!  This is a particularly great set for Commander fans since so many of the reprints are cards that Commander players love to play but are often quite expensive, so putting more in circulation is awesome.  Be sure to check out Sheldon Menery’s review of the best pickups from Double Masters if you haven’t already!

Included in the mix are 25 legends, and while not all of them are ones that I’d be thrilled to open in a booster pack, some are welcome sights.  In particular is the triumphant return of Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle, one of the coolest and most flavorful designs for a Simic legend in years. 

This fan favorite from Commander 2018 was designed by none other than Scott Larabee—not only does he work for Wizards of the Coast (WotC) but he’s also a member of the Commander Rules Committee.  So, if you see him playing on the Rules Committee stream on Twitch, be sure to pop in the chat and tell him how much you love this big, sleepy Kraken!

Before we go further, it’s a good idea to familiarize ourselves with the rules clarification on Arixmethes from the Double Masters release notes:

Arixmethes can’t be played as a land.

Arixmethes isn’t a land until after it has entered the battlefield. Effects such as that of Blood Moon won’t affect its enters-the-battlefield ability. Similarly, replacement effects that modify how creatures you control enter the battlefield will see Arixmethes entering as a creature rather than a land. However, triggered abilities (such as landfall abilities) will see that a land has entered the battlefield and not a creature.

Arixmethes can tap for mana the turn it enters the battlefield as long as it has slumber counters on it. If you can figure out how to untap it, that is.

While Arixmethes is a land, it’s still green and blue, it’s still legendary, and its converted mana cost is still 4.

Arixmethes’s effect causing it to be a land overwrites any earlier effects that gave it additional types. For example, a Phyrexian Metamorph that copies Arixmethes will be a land, not an artifact land, until its slumber counters are removed.

Arixmethes’s triggered ability resolves before the spell that caused it to trigger, but after targets have been chosen for that spell. It resolves even if that spell is countered.

Once Arixmethes is a creature again, it can attack on the same turn as long as you’ve controlled it since your most recent turn began.

It would be easy to just build a Simic good-stuff deck with Arixmethes at the helm, filled to the gills with all the obnoxiously overpowered cards WotC has printed for the color combination in recent years.

But that seems like a huge waste of effort that’s just turning such a cool commander into a glorified ramp spell!  I mean, it’s a Kraken for Pete’s sake—shouldn’t we look for more big blue monsters to rally around our sleepy one?

Well, I did a quick search, and there is a total of fifteen Krakens in the Simic color identity, and a few of them would be considered questionable inclusions unless you are a total thematic maniac.

A couple of things I did notice in my search though: there are a few cards that talk about other sea creatures in a group.

I could go with a theme of Krakens, Leviathans, Octopuses and Serpents, but that would end up with a very top-heavy mana curve to pay off just four cards.  And besides, the cool factor dwindles quite a bit once you step outside of Krakens.  So, what should I pair up with the Kraken theme?

Then I remembered, as of Ixalan, there are a lot of Merfolk within the Simic color combination!  This seemed perfect—Merfolk offer up synergistic tribal synergies within their own cards, so I wouldn’t have to waste slots on tribal support cards that would make me choose between Merfolk or Krakens. 

And Merfolk would offer up plenty of early-game plays and battlefield presence in the early- and mid-game, and if my Merfolk army is being neutralized, it would be time to release the Krakens!  Which certainly sounds like something Merfolk might use as weapons to defeat their enemies.

Let’s get brewing!

1. Shadowspear

Before I start filling out my decklist with Merfolk, I wanted to knuckle down and look for some good cards to pair up with Arixmethes itself, and the top of the list has got to be Shadowspear

This fantastic Equipment card is a staple for most Commander decks anyway due to its array of useful abilities, but the trample and lifelink abilities become turbo-charged when equipped to a 12/12 commander.  The trample makes it incredibly hard to block without taking a huge amount of commander damage, and the life swing makes it very difficult to race.  And if your opponents are doing a good job at keeping Arixmethes in check, we’re going to have other large Kraken creatures that could pick this up too.

I’m including some other nice picks as well:

2. Stormsurge Kraken

Speaking of other Krakens, how about Stormsurge Kraken?  Even if Arixmethes is slumbering as a land, it’s still your commander, so Stormsurge Kraken’s lieutenant ability would be in effect.  A 7/7 with hexproof for five mana is bound to be chump blocked, so you can surely rely on this as a source of card draw. 

I love the flavor for how Quest for Ula’s Temple will play out: at least a few of the creatures you reveal with the quest will be Merfolk, and once enough of them join the quest, you’ll be able to start cheating out the huge monsters the Merfolk have stirred up.

Tolarian Kraken is a great new card from Core Set 2021; being able to convert cards drawn into tapping or untapping creatures will be very useful tapping down blockers or untapping your monsters after they attack so they can block.

3. Merrow Reejerey

If there’s one thing Merfolk know how to do, it’s churn out great “lord” cards that boost other Merfolk and often provide an additional ability, and the best of the bunch is Merrow Reejerey. Its trigger when you cast a Merfolk spell is that you can tap or untap target permanent, which could be a creature (like Tolarian Kraken mentioned above), or it could be a land — maybe your opponent has a pesky Maze of Ith that’s holding your commander at bay.  Or maybe you just want to get back one of the mana you spent to cast the Merfolk so you can cast another spell, which can be particularly nice if two of the mana came from Arixmethes!

More Merfolk lords:

4. Merrow Commerce

There are other Merfolk cards that do fun things with Merfolk other than provide a +1/+1 boost and one of the best is Merrow Commerce, which is a Tribal Enchantment – Merfolk!  This fun enchantment untaps all the Merfolk you’ve attacked with and gives you an extra activation from Merfolk that tap to power various abilities. As we go through the list, you’ll see quite a few Merfolk that get powered up with Merrow Commerce.

Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca, for one!  Kumena loves to have a handful of other Merfolk around that it can tap to do nice things.  I’m also including a few other cards that care about Merfolk.

5. Salvager of Secrets

Quite a few Merfolk creatures have nifty abilities that will give us an edge sometimes, and one that I really like is Salvager of Secrets.  In addition to providing a Merfolk body, it can get back a clutch instant or sorcery you’ve used earlier in the game. 

It’s also part of a sneaky combination with Whelming Wave:  since Salvager of Secrets is not a Kraken, Leviathan, Octopus or Serpent, it will be returned to your hand when you cast Whelming Wave, clearing the battlefield of most of your opponents’ creatures so your Krakens can rampage over life totals.  Then you can cast Salvager of Secrets and get back Whelming Wave to cast again, which can certainly help close out a game if it’s gone on long enough.

I love the idea of Caller of Gales giving our Slumbering Isle flying for the turn—that’s some serious sorcery right there!  Kiora’s Follower can double your Arixmethes mana each turn, or let Arixmethes both attack and block by untapping it.

6. Greater Good

If your deck has a fair number of large creatures that your opponents are going to want to kill, then Greater Good does good work keeping your cards flowing.  Well, when your commander has twelve power, and you’re also playing a bunch of giant Krakens?  Greater Good is going to be nuts!  Let’s also not forget how nicely it pairs with Ominous Seas: if you’ve made an 8/8 Kraken that’s going to die, you can sacrifice it to Greater Good to draw eight cards, discard three, and put eight foreshadow counters on Ominous Seas to be ready to make another 8/8 Kraken.

Since we’re playing Simic we’ve got a bunch of other great card-drawing options and I’m including a fair number of them here:

7. Opposition

Since the deck can potentially churn out a fair number of small Merfolk creatures, you can use them to power up Opposition to tap down threats from your opponents’ side of the battlefield, or even shut them off from mana if you’re worried they’re going to cast something to wreck your position.  Tapping a few Merfolk to tap down your opponent’s largest blockers while your huge Krakens crash in sounds exactly like what we want to be doing.

I’m including some other cards to help us deal with our opponents’ permanents:

8. Hadana’s Climb

Some of our Merfolk provide +1/+1 counters, so Hadana’s Climb can add counters early, but the real prize is when we get to transform this card into Winged Temple of Orazca.  When we have a 12/12 commander and other huge Krakens, being able to tap a land to give a creature flying and +X/+X where X is its power is the sort of thing that ends games in a hurry.

Nesting Grounds and Clockspinning do nice work with +1/+1 counters but can also be used to remove slumber counters from Arixmethes. 

9. Voracious Greatshark

As a blue player we’ll want various ways to interact with our opponents including counterspells, and I just had to find room for Voracious Greatshark to play along with our oceanic themes.  Countering someone’s commander by casting a 5/4 Shark at instant speed is going to feel awesome!

I’ve included some other, more mundane ways to interact with our opponents:

10. Castle Garenbrig

Even though our commander provides a very reliable way to ramp our mana from the command zone, I want to make sure we include some other options too.  I particularly like Castle Garenbrig because it can turn five mana into six green mana, which can really help cast some of our more expensive Kraken creatures. 

Since Arixmethes costs four mana, I leaned heavily on two-mana land ramp cards like Rampant Growth since they’d usually help you cast Arixmethes on Turn 3, giving you access to six or seven mana on Turn 4: perfect to drop a couple of Merfolk in a single turn, or to power out a scary Kraken early.

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:

Commander


Here’s how the deck looks graphically, thanks to our friends at Archidekt:

Sharp-eyed readers may note that I’ve got way more green-mana producing lands than I should if you consider the balance of blue cards to green cards, but since my mana ramp spells are green, I’m okay with increasing my chances of green sources early since I can use those spells to go get more blue mana.

What do you think?  Are there any cards I’ve overlooked?  If you see any new cards from Jumpstart or Double Masters that should find a home here, let me know!

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do a deckbuilding stream every Monday evening, and pepper in some other Commander-related streams when I can.  If you can join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel. And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

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