Last updated on March 8, 2023

Junk Winder - Illustration by Campbell White

Junk Winder | Illustration by Campbell White

Sea serpents sightings have happened across the world’s waters for thousands of years. They’re the classic cryptozoological monster you halfway hope is real. Steeped with romantic nostalgia for pre-scientific ages, there’s just something about a sea serpent that makes us, like Agent Mulder, want to believe.

Serpents were slow, ineffective, and vaguely unplayable creatures in Magic for a long time. Recent sets have started to reverse this trend, so if you grew up hoping there really was a Loch Ness Monster, I may have cards for you to consider in your Commander decks. Let’s get into it!

What Are Serpents in MTG?

Yorion, Sky Nomad - Illustration by Steven Belledin

Yorion, Sky Nomad | Illustration by Steven Belledin

Serpents are a creature type in MTG, usually in blue. The first serpent was printed back in Alpha. There are only 46 of them, an indication of how rare they are. There’s usually not more than one serpent in a set.

Best Blue Serpents

This is where most of the serpents live. Ya know, ocean vibes and all that. Most are unplayable. You know that already, but there are some interesting build arounds that are worth diving into.

#29. Ronom Serpent

Ronom Serpent

Ronom Serpent is the worst card I’ve ever ranked on Draftsim. Unplayable.

#28. Steelclad Serpent

Steelclad Serpent

Getting better, but Steelclad Serpent is still unplayable.

#27. Deep-Sea Terror

Deep-Sea Terror

Rounding out the trifecta of cards that have boggling limits on their ability to attack is Deep-Sea Terror. Unkeyworded threshold, anyone?

#26. Shoal Serpent + Spire Serpent

Shoal SerpentSpire Serpent

Understatted walls that commonly aren’t walls. Hard pass.

Spire Serpent is probably better than Shoal Serpent, I guess?

#25. Shrouded Serpent

Shrouded Serpent

A sometimes-unblockable 4/4 for seven? Yuck. There are easier ways than Shrouded Serpent to get your devotion numbers up.

#24. Denizen of the Deep

Denizen of the Deep

Someday something will be printed that breaks this card. Just you wait!

Until they print something that says “when a creature is returned to your hand exile it and then return it to the battlefield at the end of turn,” Denizen of the Deep seems mostly unplayable.

#23. Islandhome Giants

Slipstream SerpentVodalian Serpent

Giant things that have some version of the terrible old keyword, islandhome. Sigh. Islandhome gives the creature islandwalk, but it also makes you sacrifice it if you control no Islands.

Serpent of the Endless Sea gets the biggest, so that’s good. Vodalian Serpent is merely underwhelming instead of actively terrible if you have a kicker synergy. Slipstream Serpent dies to land destruction. Nope.

All of these are callbacks to the original…

#22. Sea Serpent

Sea Serpent

Alpha’s Sea Serpent. You have to respect the idea behind the islandhome mechanic. It’s long past time to move on, but still. There it is.

The card is evocative and was one of the biggest dudes in Alpha.

#21. Dirgur Nemesis

Dirgur Nemesis

Dirgur Nemesis is the Magic equivalent of Wile E. Coyote running into a wall.

#20. Sliptide Serpent

Sliptide Serpent

The world we used to live in had Sliptide Serpent as a rare! Take time to be kind to a Magic boomer today. They opened it in yesteryear’s Nemesis booster so that you could have cards on your table today.

#19. Frilled Sea Serpent

Frilled Sea Serpent

Frilled Sea Serpent sometimes finished Draft games. There’s a wide market of other unblockable creatures in Commander…

#18. Gearseeker Serpent

Gearseeker Serpent

… like this one! Gearseeker does a little affinity dance and was pretty nice in Limited, but I can’t see a Commander deck that wants this.

#17. Taniwha


Taniwha has to be top 10 on the list of bad cards from the ‘90s that we all tried so hard to break, but failed. You phase out your lands and use artifact mana to throw down an Armageddon or a Sunder.

That’s a terrible plan even in formats that don’t get as salty at mass land destruction as today’s Commander. If I was rolling some MDL in EDH these days I’d pack a Taniwha just to see if there was enough old school respect to let me get away with it.

#16. Harbor Serpent

Harbor Serpent

I like the distributed islandhome vibe here. It feels like an improved design that keeps the lore. It’s tantalizingly close to underpowered but actually playable with Harbor Serpent.

How many more cards until there’s something to sleeve up?

#15. Benthic Behemoth + Scrapdiver Serpent

Benthic BehemothScrapdiver Serpent

Maybe these? They’re basically unblockable in Commander. Still, Scrapdiver Serpent doesn’t quite get there for seven mana and Benthic Behemoth needs to do more for its eight.

#14. Sandbar Serpent

Sandbar Serpent

I love the cycling on Sandbar Serpent. Being able to drop fatties in the ‘yard for reanimation is a decent option in a lot of decks.

Not sure that this is big enough to matter. The design is perfected later in Striped Riverwinder.

#13. Dreamwinder + Kukemssa Serpent

DreamwinderKukemssa Serpent

These forgotten cards are likely now useful in Slogurk, the Overslime. Land sac decks were usually in mono green or Golgari () before the Overslime. I think Dreamwinder can find a home there. Kukemssa Serpent is a riskier bet because of the full islandhome.

#12. Marjhan


This card! Marjhan has been floating around my boxes since I opened it in a Homelands booster a million years ago. The art is off the chain, to use the vernacular of the times. Come on, right? That little thing is a sperm whale!

This has long been one of the few sac outlets in mono blue. That doesn’t mean much when you pay seven mana for it. The kitchen table dream before memes in 1995 was to pair this with Seasinger and Hootie all their Blowfishes.

If you’re trying to do Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep, I think you should put this in the deck. That would make your deck measurably worse, but you owe it to the ‘90s.

#11. Tolarian Serpent

Tolarian Serpent

Self-milling this many cards in any other color would be valuable. You know you’d love Tolarian Serpent in Syr Konrad, the Grim if the colors worked out. This is going in the deck immediately if they give us a Dimir () Konrad effect.

Until then I can see this is in a deck filled with things like Dollhouse of Horrors, God-Pharaoh’s Gift, and Back from the Brink. Maybe with more self-mill and a some clone creatures? Blue reanimator anyone?


#10. Wormhole Serpent

Wormhole Serpent

There are simpler ways to make your Voltron commanders unblockable than Wormhole Serpent, but hitting them with a Charix, the Raging Isle enabled by this is more poetic, maybe?

#9. Floodtide Serpent

Floodtide Serpent

Every Theros set had a blue precursor to Geothermal Kami. It was great in Neon Dynasty Draft, and Floodtide Serpent, like its siblings Riptide Chimera and Shimmerwing Chimera.

I find these cards really useful in Bant () enchantress EDH decks helmed by commanders like Tuvasa the Sunlit or Amareth, the Lustrous. They’re a bit slower, but the ability to restart your card draw is engines is key if you’re building a control version of enchantress.

#8. Biolume Egg / Biolume Serpent

I don’t understand why people aren’t playing Biolume Egg in Elminster scry matters decks. A lot of those builds have a blink subtheme thanks to cards like Oji, the Exquisite Blade.

You don’t ever really want to sacrifice this serpent egg because Biolume Serpent isn’t compelling. The Egg is a good role player for that deck, though.

#7. Sword Coast Serpent

Sword Coast Serpent

The answer to the overcosted serpent problem is to staple an adventure spell onto it. Drop the Wave and then you’ve got Sword Coast Serpent when you don’t have anything better to do.

This is an auto-include in Gorion, Wise Mentor decks.

#6. River Serpent

River Serpent

River Serpent lacks the next card’s hexproof, but this is still useful.

#5. Striped Riverwinder

Striped Riverwinder

Cycling for one then hexproof when you need it? Striped Riverwinder is the business for common serpents! Runo Stromkirk agrees.

#4. Cryptic Serpent

Cryptic Serpent

Cryptic Serpent is the next card’s ancestor, and it’s almost as good.

#3. Tolarian Terror

Tolarian Terror

This beater from Dominaria United Draft is sneaking into more and more decks across formats with players squeezing Tolarian Terror into various Izzet () shells like Arclight Phoenix in Pioneer and Murktide in Modern.

The card hasn’t yet found the right home, but this isn’t a terrible card for Izzet spellslinger decks in Commander. Especially budget minded ones.

#2. Serpent of Yawning Depths

Serpent of Yawning Depths

Making everything large unblockable is good. We’re finally getting to cards you don’t have to defend to skeptical tablemates.

Serpent of Yawning Depths is a must-include in giant sea creature tribal decks.

#1. Junk Winder

Junk Winder

Of course you simply must include Junk Winder in decks that drop a lot of cardboard like Lonis, Cryptozoologist and Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth! You can tap down a lot of stuff with this.

Best (Eh) Black Serpent

#1. Bog Serpent

Bog Serpent

Planar chaos means we get this unplayable blue design in black! Just say no to Bog Serpent.

Best Red Serpents

#2. Lava Serpent

Lava Serpent

Cycling for two is expensive these days. Lava Serpent isn’t a good enough payoff outside of a haste-fueled Draft win out of nowhere on turn eight.

#1. Lightning Serpent

Lightning Serpent

This Ball Lightning descendant is half of Purphoros’s Intervention. That’s okay, but Lightning Serpent is basically burn to the dome camouflaged in creature form.

Maybe this is worth it if you’re packing cards like Blaze in your mono-red EDH deck? It doesn’t seem like a great idea, but there could be synergies.

Best Multicolored Serpents

Here’s what you bought your ticket to see! These are some awesome cards.

#7. Slinking Serpent

Slinking Serpent

Sorry, I know I got your hopes up. Not this one.

Slinking Serpent is unplayable. Swim away!

#6. Verazol, the Split Current

Verazol, the Split Current

Verazol, the Split Current makes for a fun Simic () kicker matters deck that’s surprisingly effective on lower powered tables. For me it’s the most fun low-powered EDH deck I have. It’s packed with strange creatures, interaction, and card draw. You gum up the works while looking for a few key payoffs like (natch!) Roost of Drakes.

What’s cool about this serpent is how it interacts with the commander tax. It enters with a counter for each mana spent to cast it, and that includes commander tax! It gets bigger as the game goes on for time you pay that tax, which is wild.

Crucially the second casting of Verazol is usually the same cost for the same result as your first casting, often a total mana cost of four. That helps if you have some powerful early kicker things to copy.

#5. Lochmere Serpent

Lochmere Serpent

Throne of Eldraine was so broken that Lochmere Serpent barely saw play. Mill or discard it for some sneaky graveyard hate. Honestly that’s almost good enough for a lot of decks.

This in the ‘yard also threatens to flash in to kill an attacker if you have a mere eight mana lying around. Bad things are happening if you have eight spare mana, but this is a nice card to include if your Dimir or Sultai () deck does that occasionally with a grip full of instants.

This can Squandered Resources your way to more cards and always threatens to flash in to do the last seven unblockable damage.

#4. Bladecoil Serpent

Bladecoil Serpent

Bladecoil Serpent is colorless, but for color identity purposes it’s Grixis (). There are lots of options with this card, and all of them have sneaky utility. Especially as a Commander game drags on.

Cast this for six blue and get a big body while drawing three cards. That alone is worth the price of admission. Think of the hoops you jump through to make Ox of Agonas work!

#3. Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait

Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait

Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait is a supersized version of Tatyova, Benthic Druid and is quite a bit better as a commander. Tacking an Exploration onto the basic landfall card draw trigger is quite good. Aesi is the most popular Simic commander for that reason.

You can build this to really lean into the landfall triggers, but you can also just use it as a value play to mitigate midgame flood with whatever Simic plan you have brewing.

#2. Koma, Cosmos Serpent

Koma, Cosmos Serpent

Koma, Cosmos Serpent is nuts. It’s a good commander, but it really shines in the 99 for serpent tribal decks, token multipliers like Adrix and Nev, Twincasters, and even as a clone payoff for Sakashima of a Thousand Faces and whatever green pipped partner you run.

No card I own makes the table groan as much as this when it hits the table, even though I own dozens of better cards. If that’s something you want, sleeve it up!

#1. Yorion, Sky Nomad

Yorion, Sky Nomad

The recently banned-in-Modern originator of archetypes, this blink lord almost needs no introduction. Yorion, Sky Nomad can’t be used as a companion in Commander because you aren’t allowed to run 120 cards, but it remains popular as a blink commander in its own right. It’s also a powerful part of the 99 for generals like Ranar the Ever-Watchful and Brago, King Eternal.

This is a much cheaper card since its ban. Might be time to pick one up?

Best Serpents Payoffs

Serpents are big and expensive. Recent serpents have power crept up to playable, and they fit into a lot of niche builds from kicker to blink. There are a few EDH options that put the serpents front and center.

Simic Shenanigans

Koma, Cosmos SerpentAesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait

Powerful Simic serpents like Koma, Cosmos Serpent and Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait are almost must-includes in Simic decks they don’t command. Card draw and tokens. All you’re missing are counters to get the full Simic trifecta of power!

Sea Monster Tribal

The downside of the mopey old blue serpents is turned into an advantage in big seas creature decks. Brinelin, the Moon Kraken likes expensive cards. So does Runo Stromkirk. Kenessos, Priest of Thassa digs for serpents and cheats them into play. One 6-drop unblockable 5/5 won’t win the game, but seven of them just might! Of course, there’s always Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep, which can propel the victory.

Wrap Up

Cryptic Serpent (Amonkhet) - Illustration by Lius Lasahido

Cryptic Serpent (Amonkhet) | Illustration by Lius Lasahido

I’m a huge fan of sea serpents improving in Magic. They’re evocative and their art is often really compelling. I have my custom sleeve art ready to go, but I think a sea serpent-themed deck needs a few more pieces to work swimmingly.

Until then I’m playing at least one secret sea serpent in every deck that has the color. Seems only right to have them lurk beneath the surface like that.

How about you? Are you a fan of cryptids in Magic? What mythical beast do you want to see more of? Let me know in the comments below or on the Draftsim Discord.

Until next time!

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