Last updated on February 16, 2023
Charix, the Raging Isle | Illustration by Viktor Titov
There have been some good crabs in Magic. What would Dimir Rogues have been without the groan-inducing 1-drop of Ruin Crab on turn 1? But for me the appeal of these crabs is that they look really cool.
They can be scary like the OG crab from Tempest, Giant Crab. They can be super cute like Purple-Crystal Crab. There’s even a micro-art cycle of crabs on rocks looking dramatic and thoughtful: Hedron Crab and Thassa's Emissary.
If you’re like me, the art and slowly increasing number makes you want to try out crab tribal. Can that be a thing yet?
Let’s take a look under the sea.
Iceberg Cancrix | Illustration by Jenn Ravenna
Crabs are a creature type, usually in blue. They don’t have a coherent set of mechanics or abilities associated with them, but they do tend to be either hard to remove in some way or somehow disruptive or both.
That makes sense thematically. They have shells and big claws.
I’ve got eight blue crabs for you. The other fifteen are okay in Draft, like Dreadlight Monstrosity, or might show up in some sort of toughness-matters High Alert builds (think Wishcoin Crab, but there’s gotta be better options for that deck.
There are also three Modern Horizons enablers that create 0/3 blue Crab tokens. Specimen Collector creates a few infinite critters combos. Hard Evidence is a really efficient enabler for Indomitable Creativity decks in Modern, Pioneer, and Historic.
And Scuttletide plus Mana Echoes or Earthcraft lets you deck yourself while building an army of giant crabs. All you need is some mass haste, maybe Laboratory Maniac or, as the flavor text says, more butter. You could also try Carnival of Souls. If you’re a combo player then you know you’ve got one of those lying around, so maybe?
Okay, on to the proper crabs!
This unassuming crab was often the first thing you’d see when Dimir Rogues started its dance of control, card draw and mill, like this deck Arne Huschenbeth used to win the Kaldheim Set Championship in 2021. The deck could win with a Soaring Thought-Thief squadron but its typical wincon was a stream of mill while it controlled the board.
Ruin Crab was usually the first to toss your opponent’s cards in the graveyard. Repeatedly milling three is just a huge rate when a crackable land like Fabled Passage is in the mix. And the 0/3 body can stall aggro decks just long enough to get the Thieves' Guild Enforcer machine up and running. Add some spells that get better with enough cards in your opponent’s graveyard like Drown in the Loch and Into the Story and this crab came to play!
This original Zendikar mill crab is strictly better than Ruin Crab in two formats because you can mill yourself, which is often important. Ruin hits all opponents which makes it a must-include if you’re trying to make mill happen in Commander.
But Hedron Crab didn’t quite have the total package of surrounding cards to make it a relevant Standard player at the time. “Yes, really” was Frank Karsten’s seemingly surprised response to the idea that someone would seriously try to play the mill deck at the time.
Hedron immediately contributed to similar underperforming Dimir mill builds in Modern guest-starring cards like Increasing Confusion and Mind Funeral, the latter being one of my all-time favorite card names. But once “8 Crab” builds using both malacostraca (Nerd alert, I know, that’s the crab genus) hit, they started creeping up Reid Duke’s Power Rankings.
For when you want to run 8 Crab in Historic but they still haven’t added Hedron. Fussy and less efficient, Iceberg Cancrix allows you to call the deck “Snow Crab” if you like. But in Historic no one can hear you scream your punny deck titles.
A Complicate effect on a big warded body would be nice enough, but Mirrorshell Crab is also a Stifle-type of effect that can only be countered by other stifle abilities because it’s channeled, not cast. This card shows up in some control builds in Neon Dynasty Standard and we’ll see more of these as other channel cards see more play.
Horseshoe Crab is like the pesky kid that hangs around the cool kids’ infinite combo club and wants in but is just a little too awkward for the vibe. It can almost get there in builds with a card like Experiment Kraj that duplicates abilities along with something like Incubation Druid that nets mana in the tap untap cycle, but the crab is kind of the Erkel to Kraj’s Stefan there.
Horseshoe plus a mana filter like Mycosynth Lattice stands in for the more efficient Pili-Pala in its classic combo with Grand Architect for infinite mana. But even there it feels like it’s writing the paper at the end of detention for the rest of The Breakfast Club.
This crab’s cleanest use is probably as a machine gun or a Cyclonic Rift at home with like Viridian Longbow on it to ping as many creatures as you have blue mana. Or using a Banishing Knack effect to bounce things at that same rate.
Look, you know if you’re the kind of janky builder who wants to do these kinds of things. If so, let me just suggest you toss a Mirran Spy, a 0-casting-cost artifact, and either Altar of the Brood or Elusive Spellfist as a wincon to that Banishing Knack pile.
Charix, the Raging Isle
The Monarch of The Island of Misfit Memes, Charix, the Raging Isle goes in so many places. Toss it in your unblockable Tetsuko Umezawa deck and watch everybody squirm while you slooooowlyyyy accumulate enough basic lands to deliver lethal!
Charix is the new beater in your High Alert deck. Or make it your mono blue commander and look, I have a Charix deck and I still don’t know exactly how I’m supposed to win with it after all the counterspells and bounce.
Dragon Throne of Tarkir? If you need an on-theme blue crab tribal commander, this is what you’ve got as your sole crab legend, but good luck.
Purple-Crystal CrabPurple-Crystal Crab
This is your public service announcement that Purple-Crystal Crab, a functional Oculus reprint you want for your ill-advised All You Can Eat Crab Buffet tribal deck, exists. It’s from a product few players have probably even heard about, so #themoreyouknow.
Let’s go, Sci-Fi channel movies from the aughts! You can get up to decent shenanigans with cards like Simic Ascendancy and Verity Circle with Sharktocrab, but Simic () decks likely have a lot better things to do at that point.
Scuttlegator is below rate every step of the way.
These death effects never work out the way you’d hope and since Riptide Crab’s white pip puts it out of your blue crab tribal and Yarok, the Desecrated deck in Commander I'm struggling to find a home for its cute little ferocious face.
These are Eldrazi crabs, so that’s fun.
“Hey, your Archaeomancer there is too expensive at four mana. How about we make a deal? Can I interest you in three mana?”
“No. Let’s do eight. Final offer.”
“Hey, that’s not how this is supposed to work!”
“Tell it to Ulamog, buddy.”
How do flash, emerge, and temporary hexproof fit together strategically? I still don’t think you’re ahead if you use emerge to nullify a removal spell or keep nine(!!) mana up to flash Drownyard Behemoth in. But if you’re running Charix commanded crab tribal you gotta have this, right?
Vexing Scuttler | Illustration by James Paick
A 12 crab mill deck isn’t the worst way to get into Modern if that’s something you’re after. Most of these cards are inexpensive and even the pricier ones, like Archive Trap, aren’t bad by current Modern deck prices. This decklist by Jim Davis is a decent place to start. Play your crabs, play some lands. Drop a few mill spells and hope for the best.
Today? There’s probably a better Dimir mill deck in Modern with only a smattering of crabs. But this is a way to start if you want to put the pinchers on their library.
Charix for EDH
There are crab tribal decks using this behemoth for fun, but most Charix, the Raging Isle decks have cards like Artful Dodge and Twisted Image to go all in on sneaky commander attacks. Enough of those plus a lot of disruption is the idea.
The trouble is that Charix needs even more toughness buffs or two turns to finish someone off. I guess it makes flavor sense that your wincon is as slow as an Island rising out of the sea and revealing itself to be a giant monster, but this just doesn’t have the tools yet to really work.
As a player of this deck, I can tell you it works better in 1v1 or Duel Commander matchups since all the annoying blue control cards can flow directly toward one opponent, opening space for Charix to rage on. It’s also a satisfying deck to give a kid learning Magic or Commander since it’s evocative and fun and its plan is super clear.
Growth-Chamber Guardian | Illustration by Bram Sels
Crabs haven’t quite fully come out of their shells at the Magic party. The printing of Scuttletide is a signal that we may get there and it’s a, well, sea change in how crabs work in Magic.
The giant monster space seems to be shifting toward the kraken creature type, even with Charix, the Raging Isle and Mirrorshell Crab holding the line. But if you’ve ever been to a healthy beach you’ve seen loads of crabs all scuttling together. It would be interesting to see Magic lean into that space.
At the Hard Evidence rate, is a Dragon Fodder for 0/3 crabs that far off? A crabby Felidar Retreat variant? It’s pretty bad news for aggro if it happens. Which is fine with me. Does that make me too shellfish? Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
That’s all from me for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: