It seems like only yesterday we were returning to Zendikar to fight the Eldrazi. This week, we find ourselves back on the incredibly popular adventure world; this time, however, the threat looming under the surface is not formless tentacle monsters but the unrelenting and monstrous Charix, the Raging Isle. Like many of the more casual Magic players, I have awaited the game’s first legendary crab for quite a while, but I never envisioned that we would get anything like this.

Looking at Magic’s crabs prior to Charix, a common trait is high toughness, which Charix certainly has. Graft on the Leviathan creature type and it makes sense that you’d get a high toughness creature that favors having a lot of Islands on hand. From that very basic design skeleton, we get an open-ended general that I feel is a great jumping-off point for the deck we’ll be talking about today.

Prepare yourself for some dopey fun! This deck chiefly wants to use its general as a very fast clock, while the long-term game is to play as much into deep-sea tribal as possible. In playtesting, I found this deck to be really fun, aiming itself very well at a lower powered playstyle. I’m excited to premiere it.

Commander: Charix, the Raging Isle

Creatures: Crafty Pathmage, Deepchannel Mentor, Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, Kraken of the Straits, Mulldrifter, Phyrexian Metamorph, Pursued Whale, Scourge of Fleets, Serpent of Yawning Depths, Shoal Kraken, Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep, Solemn Simulacrum, Soratami Mirror-Guard, Spark Double, Stormsurge Kraken, Stormtide Leviathan, Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive, Tolarian Kraken, Wonder

Artifacts: Accorder’s Shield, Cathar’s Shield, Endless Atlas, Everflowing Chalice, Kefnet’s Monument, Mind Stone, Neurok Stealthsuit, Nyx Lotus, Sapphire Medallion, Sky Diamond, Skyclave Relic, Slagwurm Armor, Sword of the Animist, Tawnos’s Wand, Thought Vessel, Worn Powerstone, Zuran Orb

Enchantments: Aether Tunnel, Aqueous Form, Awesome Presence, Cloak of Mists, Imprisoned in the Moon, Invisibility, Mirrormade, Monastery Siege, Ophidian Eye, Protective Bubble, Quest for Ula’s Temple, Writ of Passage

Planeswalker: Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor

Instants: Arcane Denial, Disdainful Stroke, Dismiss, Engulf the Shore, Frantic Search, Infiltrate, Negate, Neutralize, Thassa’s Rebuff

Sorceries: Artful Dodge, Distortion Strike, Flow of Ideas, Inundate, Quasiduplicate

Lands: 27 Island, Evolving Wilds, Ghost Quarter, Halimar Depths, Lonely Sandbar, Memorial to Genius, Myriad Landscape, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Remote Isle, Terramorphic Expanse

Less is More

It becomes pretty easy to threaten the rest of the table with a general that could have upwards of sixteen power during combat. But as everyone focuses on how much power our general could have, it is important to remember that the ability is rigid, because fluctuating the amount of basic lands you have in play at a moment’s notice is not something that Wizards has given us access to yet. Meaning that we will very easily be able to change our general’s power, but we have no way to reset their toughness, only expand it with equipment like Slagwurm Armor or Accorder’s Shield.

Luckily, blue has a long history of making lower powered creatures unblockable, ranging from Onslaught’s Crafty Pathmage to Dominaria’s Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive. The gameplay here is pretty simple, making our general unable to be blocked and then spike up his power after blockers have been assigned and Charix is safe. This suite of cards is admittedly sparse, with Soratami Mirror-Guard, Tawnos’s Wand, and Writ of Passage rounding it out. This is by design, as in the event that we switch gears, we have auras such as Awesome Presence, Invisibility, and Protective Bubble around so that our other creatures can share in the fun.

More than We Can Fathom

I have alluded to the fact that I don’t necessarily believe that our general will be able to win games by itself. Which is why I chose to play into another casual archetype and explore “deep sea tribal” with krakens and leviathans. One of the redeeming factors of this strategy is just how often these large creatures come with useful wide-spread spell effects attached to them, such as Scourge of Fleets and Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep acting as mass bounce.

Continuing the theme of unblockability throughout the deck, Serpent of Yawning Depths will make our large creatures harder to block. Kraken of the Straits might as well be unblockable in a deck that sports so many Island, while Stormsurge Kraken gives your opponents a simple choice: take damage or give us cards. And Quest for Ula’s Temple will be around to potentially sneak in large creatures on an opponent’s end step. Overall, these might not be the most cost-effective choices we could make, but they are good for a metagame shake up.

Sail Away with Me

Possibly more than any mono-colored deck I have ever assembled, basic lands are going to be the name of the game. Our ability to ramp starts with one of my favorite cards that people don’t talk about enough, Sword of the Animist. While the strategy might not be consistent, the ability to get an extra land into play every turn should ensure that we’re able to present a two-turn clock on a regular basis. I hate to say it, but in the present Commander metagame, if a Voltron general can’t present a two-turn clock, I question its viability.

On the theme of Island-matters cards, Engulf the Shore will very likely reset the board, allowing our general to get in an alpha strike if the moment calls for it, or simply give us a feeling of safety. Flow of Ideas, while not a great card in many contexts, is worth a shot here. I say this because so many of the spells we’re looking for to prevent blocking cost two mana or less. In theory, we should be able to recover from board wipe and on the next turn easily be able to attack unencumbered.

Of course, all this talk of islands is great and all, but our general can be undone by having too many islands in play. We walk a very fine line as we move into the later part of the game. Unfortunately, the only answer to this conundrum I could find was Zuran Orb. Then again, if the game goes so long that a single activation of our general leaves them with three or less toughness, we may be prolonging our victory too much.

In the Other 99

Something that I always want to be mindful of, but I don’t always have time to talk about when covering monocolor generals, is how that general could play a part in the other ninety-nine of a deck. Obviously, Charix works as a finisher in a deck with Assault Formation, High Alert, or even Huatli, the Sun’s Heart. But I might actually use it in Mairsil, the Pretender. That may seem weird, as Mairsil naturally only has four toughness, but in a three-color deck you’re not going to have an awful lot of basic lands in play anyway and with Xanthic Statue, it’s easy to create a potent combo.

The bar for usefulness is pretty low regardless, so I think Charix works as a finisher in just about any deck with blue. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up, even if just for the reaction from the rest of the table. To me, that speaks to the best part of a card like this. In theory it should never be something that prices players out of playing with it. And I think having access to inexpensive, fun cards is never a bad thing.

As somebody who returned to Magic at just the right time to experience Zendikar the first time around, I can say that I’m a little let down knowing that we will have a trip to the plane that does not feature the Eldrazi. Of course that is not the hill I want to die on—it’s really not worth getting so hung up on a detail like that, knowing that I am in the minority of people that enjoy the colorless lovecraftian beasts.

Next week, I will be talking in greater detail about my unhappiness with lack of the ally creature type in Zendikar Rising. I don’t want to spoil what’s to come, but I think it’s going to be fun. Thanks for reading.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH and the EDH community. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.

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