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$50 Sea Monster Tribal | Budget Commander

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Hey friends, it's Tomer, and welcome back to Budget Commander. I bring good tidings because today we're building around one of my favorite tribes, Sea Monsters. No, I'm not squidding you: I've been fascinated with this janky tribe ever since I first laid eyes on Quest for Ula's Temple and the classic Leviathan a long wha-ale ago, and with recent support for the tribe coming from Theros: Beyond Death and the potential of even more support coming in the upcoming set, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, now is the perfect time to make a splash with a Sea Monster Tribal deck! No more merfolkin' around, let's get kraken with a janky Timmy tribe that smashes with big blue beasties!

To sail our Sea Monster deck to victory, we'll be using one of the weirdest sleeper commanders out there: Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle. Arixmethes is a massive 12/12 Kraken creature that taps for UG for the incredibly low cost of 4cmc, but there's a catch: it enters the battlefield tapped with five slumber counters on it, and while it has slumber counters it's a land, not a creature. Once you cast five spells and remove all of its slumber counters, it becomes a creature, ready to dominate the board with its 12/12 body. Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle is the perfect commander for our Sea Monster Tribal deck, being a great source of ramp early on to help cast our very expensive tribal creatures, and then later awakening into a massive Kraken, ready to lead our Sea Monsters into battle!

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You might like this deck if ...

  • You want a Timmy deck that is all about BIG mana and BIG creatures
  • You like the idea of a weird commander leading a janky looking tribe
  • You want a deck that isn't super popular/supported but can be surprisingly powerful

You might NOT like this deck if ...

  • You want to build around a tribe that is stronger / better supported
  • You don't care about creatures, let alone big beefy bois
  • You'd prefer playing a dedicated Combo version of Arximethes
  • You suffer from thalassophobia

If you're looking for an unconventional Stompy tribal deck led by a weird land/kraken commander, then Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle is the commander for you!

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Our Game Plan

Our Sea Monster Tribal deck doesn't have some deep strategy, rather a delightfully shallow one: it's a Stompy deck, looking to ramp out huge creatures and then use them to sink our opponents through combat damage. Since our deck is a slow swimmer, we're packed with ways to repeatedly wash away our opponents' boards, letting us catch up to and get ahead of faster opposing decks. And while our primary win condition is combat damage, we've got some combos up our sleeves that can help us secure victory.


The Sea Monster Core

Not all Sea Monsters are created equal: these are the ones that rise to the top!

All our sea monsters are huge beaters, but the best of them also make a huge splash on the battlefield other ways. Sweet utility creatures include Serpent of Yawning Depths, which make all our creatures unblockable, and Grozoth, which is a mega tutor in our deck since so many of our tribe's creatures have 9 cmc! But the most important sea monsters are the ones that help us catch up to faster decks by slowing them down: allstars like Breaching Leviathan, Scourge of Fleets, and Lorthos, the Tidemaker bounce or tap down the opposing field, letting us catch up to and get ahead of the competition.

Not only do our best sea monsters regain some of our lost tempo, but the few official support cards out there do similar things. Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep and Whelming Wave both reset your opponents' boards without touching your own. Pairing that with board resets like Engulf the Shore and Displacement Wave can wash away our opponents' stuff without taking our sea monsters with them. The mass bounce spells and mass tap spells are integral to letting us keep up with our opponents' faster decks and then clears a path for our giant beaters to swing in for lethal.

Of course, no Sea Monster Tribal list is complete without Quest for Ula's Temple, one of the first and most iconic tribal support cards. This 1cmc enchantment can eventually help us start cheating out our huge creatures for free. It takes a while for Quest of Ula's Temple to get going, but when paired with blue's great tools to manipulate the top of the library (Brainstorm), and perhaps ways to add extra quest counters (Tezzeret's Gambit), you can start dropping down all your big beaters for free! That's a great investment for just 1cmc!

Here are the top cards that I would consider the core of a Sea Monster Tribal deck, featuring the best Sea Monsters and support cards:

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Our primary win condition for our Sea Monster Tribal deck is combat damage. It's the only fitting way to use our huge creatures!

However, there is one alternative win condition that we can add to the deck: Combo. Since Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle taps for UG, it enables infinite mana combos. Freed from the Real and Pemmin's Aura are both creature auras that untap the enchanted creature for U. If we enchant Arixmethes with either of these, we can tap Arixmethes for UG, use the U to untap it with the aura, and generate infinite G mana in the process. While this doesn't win the game on its own, we can dump this mana into various outlets, flipping over our library with Genesis Wave, winning on our upkeep with Helix Pinnacle, or making our creatures infinitely large with Nylea, God of the Hunt. There's many variants to this infinite mana combo as well, like replacing Arixmethes with Argothian Elder and any two lands, or Kiora's Follower and Simic Growth Chamber.

While our deck is not be a dedicated Combo deck -- we want to stick to a Sea Monster Tribal theme -- I will incorporate them as a nice backup plan. If you're looking to make this deck more competitive, however, then a focused Combo version would definitely be a good start!

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Since our deck is more on the slow side, it's important that we have powerful board resets to help us keep up with the rest of the table. Some of our Sea Monster cards already do this (Scourge of Fleets), but we can add even more asymmetrical board resets: Displacement Wave can bounce permanents that are smaller than our high cmc monsters, while Inundate will also leave our blue beaters untouched. Flood of Tears can even double as ramp for us, dropping a huge creature after bouncing everything.

If we're running lots of mass bounce, then creatures with ETB removal triggers get a lot better: cards like Reclamation Sage and Manglehorn get better if you're bouncing them with Whelming Wave to recast later.

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Card Draw

Our sea monsters are huge, which means they pair nicely with green's card draw that scales off creature size, like Prime Speaker Zegana and Rishkar's Expertise. We can easily refill our entire hand by casting a single one of these!

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Land ramp is generally the best option for our deck because mana rocks / mana dorks are prone to being swept away by our mass bounce spells. If you're running Freed from the Real combos, however, then mana dorks that untap lands like Ley Weaver are an exception that are worth running as well.

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Lands that can tap for multiple mana, like Simic Growth Chamber, are sweet because they enable Freed From the Real combos with untappers like Kiora's Follower. Other than that, the usual mana-fixing a utility lands are good here.

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Deckbuilding Checklist

Alright, now that we've gone over the card pool we're working with, it's time to talk about how we craft the deck. As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain amount of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. This is my general checklist of minimum requirements:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 sources of "card advantage;" I use this term loosely but am mostly looking for card draw or any spell that nets me 2+ non-land cards in hand / directly into play
  • 6 targeted removal, split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
  • 2 recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest 
  • 1 surprise "I Win" card; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup

The remaining deck slots are filled with whatever cards fit the deck's theme and add to the overall synergy. That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.

Now that we've covered the deck's goal, the cards we're going to building with, and have a check list of cards that we'll need, let's build the sample decks!


$50 List

The first list is currently $50 US at the time of writing this. The deck is fair and straightforward, looking to ramp hard so we can cast our big sea monsters, then control the board with our powerful bounce and tap cards so our sea monsters can smash through for victory. There's infinite mana potential with Freed from the Real, which can draw our deck with cards like Gadwick the Wizened or Lore Weaver, but it's not an outright win condition.

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$100 List

Doubling the budget lets us pick up the remaining sweet Sea Monsters, specifically Stormsurge Leviathan. I left out Kiora Bests the Sea God, which while on-theme for our deck, it doesn't have enough synergy since it's an enchantment and not a creature. Speaking of creatures: because of cards like Quest for Ula's Temple and all the Kioras rewarding us for playing lots of creatures, I leaned hard on the Creatures Matter subtheme of the deck, which further rewards us with cards like Vivien, Champion of the Wilds. The amount of planeswalkers has increased, which was a coincidence since there's so many good ones for this deck, but they do have additional synergy here with our bounce spells being able to reset loyalty counters. I added Evolution Sage to the mix as a way to further capitalize on our 'walkers, which can be fetched up numerous ways now.

While this Sea Monster Tribal deck is still focused on winning with our tribe, I did expand the combo backup plan. Pemmin's Aura is now there to increase the consistency of assembling the infinite mana combo and I've added more ways to use infinite mana, including infinite pump with Nylea, God of the Hunt. I'm purposefully downplaying the combo in these lists though since if you focus on optimizing it too much, eventually you need to dump the Sea Monster Tribal theme entirely.

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$200 List

The $200 list starts picking up the expensive staples to fill out the deck. We also made a real overhaul to the lands, which while expensive will increase our consistency and speed.

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That's All, Friends!

I've got one more article for you coming along and after that, we'll open the polls again for you to decide what the future commanders should be! Thanks for reading!

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