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Runo Stromkirk - Illustration by Matt Stewart

Runo Stromkirk | Illustration by Matt Stewart

As a long-time Magic and Commander player, I’ve never thought of blue as the big-mana big-creature kind of color. It easily becomes that in Simic (), but that’s more green’s thing, right?

Wrong! Runo Stromkirk and I are here to tell you how you’ve all been led astray. Turns out blue has some excellent top-end creatures ready to rival the likes of green and red just waiting for their time to shine.

Come with me and dive into this sea creature deck!

The Deck

Watery Grave - Illustration by Raymond Swanland

Watery Grave | Illustration by Raymond Swanland

The deck I’ve brought to you today is a Dimir () build with two goals: getting massive sea creatures into the graveyard for later reanimation, and flipping its commander into the powerful Krothuss, Lord of the Deep. You can then duplicate your attacking creatures or even triplicate them in the case of krakens, leviathans, octopuses, or serpents.

This gets out of control quite quickly as you can imagine. A lot of the biggest blue and black sea creatures like Shipbreaker Kraken and Hullbreaker Horror are monstrosities in their own right, and having two copies of them in play can outright kill opponents.

This list has a heavy focus on the graveyard like lots of other Dimir EDH decks. It’s an advantage for dealing with the commander’s transformation requirements, but it also helps protect the overall strategy from board wipes and removal. Your big creature got removed? Just start making copies of your next-most-powerful creatures in play.

This deck certainly has a reanimation subtheme going on, but that isn’t its primary focus. The graveyard is a means to an end for your commander’s abilities. Adding a Reanimate and a Persist can lead to doubling the value in some instances. Getting out a turn 2 Icebreaker Kraken is certainly amazing, but don’t hard mulligan for this kind of line.

The Commander

The heart of this deck is Runo Stromkirk. This legendary vampire cleric is what grants you the power you need to run over your opponents, but Krothuss, Lord of the Deep is what’s most interesting.

Krothuss allows you to make two copies of attacking creatures when it attacks as long as it’s a sea creature (kraken, leviathan, octopus, or serpent). This deck’s massive sea creatures are already some of the strongest in the game, so you can often completely take over a game when you have three times as many of them (Tribble trouble, anyone?).

Runo’s requirement to flip is that you have a creature with a mana value of six or more on top of your library during your upkeep. Most of your creature base fits this bill, but you don’t need to rely on chance. When Runo enters the battlefield it puts a creature from your graveyard on top to perfectly set you up for the next upkeep.

Pair that ability with a few Entomb effects and you’ve got yourself an easy turn 4 Krothuss, Lord of the Deep.

Early Game

Most of this deck’s creatures dwell in the 6-mana range and higher, but it still has a strong early game with some cheap creatures, cantrips, and interaction.

Nadir Kraken

There are a few choices outside of your commander to get a body on the board. Nadir Kraken is a cheap threat that grows tall and wide throughout the game.

Sea-Dasher Octopus

Sea-Dasher Octopus presents a great early blocker that also gives you the opportunity to capitalize off another player taking some damage.

Solemn Simulacrum

Solemn Simulacrum is a reliable creature that gets you a card to replace it and also ramps you out, which is key to a non-green big-mana deck.

The deck also employs Brainstorm, Ponder, Frantic Search, and Windfall to help dig through the deck and set you up for an early Krothuss.

Interaction

This deck is chalk-full of interaction, including some of the best tools that both blue and black have to offer.

Blue offers exceptional counterspells like Counterspell, Mana Drain, and Negate. They’re all cheap ways to shut down early threats from other players or help protect your commander and other engine cards.

Cyclonic Rift

Cyclonic Rift is a no-brainer here. It’s one of the best cards you can cast if you overload it, and also one of the most annoying to see cast from across the table.

Go for the Throat 2X2

Black also offers some exceptional removal in the form of Go for the Throat.

Pongify is also here for some threats that are harder to reach.

Tutors and Entomb Effects

Entomb effects are arguably among the most important kinds to have in this deck, and there’s  a smorgasbord of them to get your graveyard full ahead of playing Runo Stromkirk.

The best of the best are Entomb (obviously) and Unmarked Grave. These are both cheap ways to get your choice of creatures into your graveyard on curve, but a copy each of Buried Alive and Otherworldly Gaze should add some consistency.

Krakens

The deck runs more krakens than any other type of creature. They’re some of the best blue and black creatures in the game, but there are also just more of them to choose from.

Icebreaker Kraken

Icebreaker Kraken starts off the top end at a whopping 12 mana. It gets progressively cheaper for each snow land you control. Nice bonus, but it’s mainly here to tap opponents down and be a big body in play.

Deep-Sea Kraken

Deep-Sea Kraken has a similar story. It’s got a suspend mechanic that ramps up the more spells your opponents’ cast, but you really love a 6/6 unblockable that you can clone a bunch of times.

Trench Behemoth

Trench Behemoth is next, and it’s pretty sweet. You can return a land you control to give it hexproof and make it a more stable blocker that’s immune to combat tricks. You can also phase out opponents’ creatures on landfall to clear the way for your own other creatures.

Scourge of Fleets

Scourge of Fleets is my favorite kraken to duplicate. It bounces creatures with toughness less than the number of Islands you control, which becomes really powerful once you start doing it every. Single. Turn.

Who could’ve guessed this deck would have such stax?

Leviathans

There are four leviathans in the list, and you don’t want to skip out on any of them.

Kederekt Leviathan 2X2

Kederekt Leviathan has as interesting an effect as its name. This bad boy bounces the entire table’s nonland permanents to their hands on top of having unearth to synergize with your graveyard shenanigans. The board wipe hits your tokens and commander too, but it may be just what you need in a squeeze.

Stormtide Leviathan

I like Stormtide Leviathan a lot. It’s an 8/8 with Islandwalk, but it also makes Islands of all other lands in play. That works really well with the previously mentioned Scourge of Fleets while also making for a really powerful attacker.

Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep

Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep has kicker and bounces all non-sea creatures to their opponents’ hand if you pay . Given that all your creatures fall into that category, this is a glorified Cyclonic Rift.

I just wish you could get that effect when it gets copied by your commander.

Breaching Leviathan

Breaching Leviathan is the most expensive leviathan yet. It’s a 9/9 for that taps all nonblue creatures for a turn if cast from your hand. Again, I wish that effect were repeatable, but I can admit it would be a little too powerful.

Other Sea Creatures

Sea-Dasher Octopus

Sea-Dasher Octopus is a great early creature that generates powerful card advantage and can easily mutate onto an existing creature. Great, I’m hooked.

Mesmerizing Benthid

Mesmerizing Benthid is a little more complicated. It makes some 0/2 Illusions that tap whatever they block and give the main body hexproof. This is a great duplication target and makes for excellent defense.

Lochmere Serpent

Onto the serpents, Lochmere Serpent also has some interaction. You can sacrifice lands and pay a small amount of mana for various effects, like drawing a card or giving it unblockable. You can also bring it back from the graveyard for , which is just perfect.

Serpent of Yawning Depths

Serpent of Yawning Depths is an enchantment creature that makes your sea creatures unblockable to everything except other sea creatures. This basically reads as “unblockable,” full stop, unless an opponent is running a strategy like this one.

Junk Winder MH2

Junk Winder has affinity for tokens (you’ll have lots), and a 2-mana 5/6 is nothing to underestimate. It also taps nonland permanents whenever a token enters the battlefield under your control, placing it among this deck’s more powerful stax engines.

Enchantments

Blue has access to some strong enchantments in Commander, and they shouldn’t be left out.

Kiora Bests the Sea God

Kiora Bests the Sea God is your only saga, but it’s a great one to have. It makes an 8/8 Kraken and grants the ability to tap opponents down, but it also lets you take one of their permanents!

Fun and powerful, I love it.

Rhystic Study

Rhystic Study. Because Rhystic Study.

Heartless Summoning

Heartless Summoning is a cheap black enchantment that just discounts all your creature spells while giving them a slight debuff (-1/-1). That’s not too significant since the difference between a 7/7 and an 8/8 isn’t much when you’re playing them two turns early.

The Mana Base

Acceleration

This deck is top-heavy so it needs some acceleration to propel you into the mid and late game.

Mana Crypt is the best here, especially if paired with Sol Ring. This deck is hungry for colorless mana, so it’ll take it wherever it can to adequately deploy its threats.

Aether Vial 2X2

Aether Vial is an interesting choice. You can cast this turn 1 and just sit on it, letting it slowly start to churn out value. Hopefully putting twice the number of creatures into play helps balance things if you can’t ramp out early enough.

Thran Dynamo, Arcane Signet, and Fellwar Stone ranks toward the lower end of power levels. They’re still decent mana rocks even if they’re not free, and it’s not like there’s that much else to cast early on.

Lands

This deck has a very diverse mana base for a 2-color deck, but believe me, it’s worth it.

I really like utility lands like Bojuka Bog. Graveyard decks are just about everywhere, including this one, so this can be a decent disruptor. Cabal Coffers is a great way to ramp out, especially if paired with the all-time favorite Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.

Cavern of Souls 2X2

Cavern of Souls is unbelievably good here. You’ll slip in most of your creatures (or your commander) without fear of countering if you always name either kraken or vampire. Don’t overthink choosing the creature type: you have a use for the colorless mana no matter what.

Castle Vantress

You’ll be happy to have Castle Vantress in play later in the game. The scry 2 can be extremely valuable in filtering draws to get you out of a pinch.

Volrath's Stronghold

Volrath’s Stronghold is key to flipping your commander. You heavily rely on Runo’s ETB effect and the chance to flip it, so I love having the Stronghold here. But it’s sadly the first to go when it’s time to make budget cuts.

The Strategy

This deck’s strategy is straightforward: deploy your commander, stock the graveyard to flip it, and start making token copies of the best creatures. The best part is that you still have really great end-game creatures to cast even if you don’t manage to get moving and cloning early.

The only part that truly matters to win is getting to that 6-mana value mark, but that’s easily accomplished through strong early interaction and powerful mana acceleration.

Combos and Interactions

Rule 0 Violations Check

While this deck has no infinite combos (at least, not on purpose), you should be on the lookout for some elements certain play groups or game stores may not allow. Still, I don’t think you’ll have any problems with this deck if you properly explain its power level ahead of time.

Demonic Tutor

The first is Demonic Tutor, a cheap, non-specific tutor that makes combos and decks like this that much more powerful. There aren’t any game-winning combos that make this card super busted, but it’s usually what more casual playgroups point to when they mean high-power.

Cyclonic Rift

On that note, Cyclonic Rift is also a red flag for some players. It’s not super cheap or game-ending, but it often delays games or gives one player such an advantage that they end up winning half an hour later. I’ve never personally had a problem with this card, but some do.

Mana Drain and Mana Crypt are also things to be aware of. The crypt offers free mana, which some settings deem ban worthy.

Budget Options

A lot of the most expensive cards are also the best, but you need to be able play the deck.

Volrath’s Stronghold is the first to go. It’s a very powerful card, but it’s nearly $100 and just not worth that kind of investment.

Mana Crypt is probably next. It’s been getting too expensive for most players at nearly twice the price of Volrath’s Stronghold. Take this out, throw in some other fat mana rock, and call it a day.

Mana Drain is also expensive and is easily replaced by any other counterspell.

Other Builds

Given how this commander is so narrowly focused on sea creatures, I can’t really recommend any other strategy. But I can see the possibility of a stronger reanimator theme.

Throw in some extra tech like Stitch Together, Doomed Necromancer, and Apprentice Necromancer and you can start exploring what else the deck might need.

Commanding Conclusion

Lochmere Serpent - Illustration by Sam Burley

Lochmere Serpent | Illustration by Sam Burley

I’ve always been a fan of big blue creatures. I’d normally turn towards Simic for that kind of stuff, but Runo Stromkirk has really impressed me with what Dimir could offer.

What do you think of the commander and the list as a whole? Is it right up your alley, or do you like a more conservative control approach to Dimir? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or over in the official Draftsim Discord.

That’s all from me for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!

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