The Sleepy Island: Arixmethes Deck Tech

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What’s going down everybody?

It’s time for another Commander Cookout inspired deck. This week, Arixmethes, the Slumbering Isle. An extremely tempo-oriented deck that aims to play the ultra long game. That sounded boring. Let’s try again. A counterspell deck that will kill opponents in one shot. Better, but still not quite there. How about this – Smashy big big, kills opponents when they leave gaping holes open on the battlefield! I like it!

In reality, this deck is all of the above. It’s a blast to play because every game is like a little puzzle. Every game gives you the opportunity to think and politic your way out of sticky situations. This is the kind of deck that will allow its pilot to have those key ‘level up’ moments in the Magic. When things click with this deck, it makes you feel like a new person. Let’s dive in. See what I did there?

Arixmethes, the Slumbering Isle is an extremely unique card. Entering the battlefield as a land gives it a powerful form of built-in protection. As your Commander, you can’t ask for anything better. Generally, Arix is used to generate mana through the early and mid-game. The ability to remove slumber counters from it, on casting a spell, is a choice. So, I always find it best to remove the first four and then wait for an opening. It makes for some tense gameplay situations.

When piloting a deck helmed by Arixmethes, it’s important to understand a few things. First, it enters the battlefield with the counters already on it. That means, it’s never a creature when on the battlefield until all counters are removed. It’s only a creature while in command zone, the stack, your hand or the graveyard. Unless it had all it’s counters removed, of course.

Secondly, removing a counter is a cast trigger. So, you’ll remove a counter prior to a spell that you cast resolving. This will become very important when you cast the spell that removes that last counter and wakes Arixmethes up.

Third, Arixmethes can attack the turn it wakes up, as long as it’s been in play since the start of your current turn. It isn’t summoning sick when it wakes up. Just sick of your opponent’s attitude when they think they’ve got you.

The final thing to keep in mind is that Arix is always your Commander. Regardless of whether or not it’s a creature. 

Inception

This deck, like countless prior to it, didn’t always exist as it does today. Truth be told, this deck had two previous versions of itself under different leadership. The original list was an Edric, Spymaster of Trest deck. It started out as a janky throw-together-hundred of stuff I had in my boxes and binders. Being an Edric deck, made it political in nature. Edric encourages your opponents to attack each other, even if it’s generally correct to go after the Edric player. Having access to blue made it even more political and tricksie. I loved playing it but over time, it started to morph into it’s second generation; the Edric deck. The average converted mana cost of the list went down. It started jamming one drops-with flying. I started prioritizing extra turn spells. When my playgroup caught on to it’s above average competitiveness, they started focusing specifically on me and my deck. Scumbags.

I would consider the Edric deck to have existed in its final form when I added the super stout control package after taking a different deck apart. I figured, hey, if my friends want to come after me, I’ll just jam Force of Will, Mana Drain, Pact of Negation, Muddle the Mixture, etc. With all of that blue-based backup, I was impervious to whatever the meta was doing. When it came around to my turn three or four, I just went off. But, when I deck’s power level supersedes it’s meta, things start to feel stale and un-fun. For the pilot and all the other members of the group. Please remember that when tuning decks. Remember that when you feel salty for losing to something that you think your deck is incapable of dealing with. Remember that when you think it’ll be funny to build the ultimate control deck, or some Stax variant. It turns out to be no fun for everyone if there is a gross mismatch in power levels.

Looking back, switching to Arixmethes as the Commander of this deck was definitely the correct decision. I still get to play all the best control cards. I still get to play a deck that felt like a puzzle and politic to the tenth degree. But now my friends don’t want to roll a metal pipe up inside their playmats and beat me with it. Now I don’t have to run Flying Men and Scryb Sprites. I can run real creatures. And it’s real fun. Let’s take a look.

The List


Single Card Discussion

I like to start with the lands. In many cases, they can help us get a feel for the kind of deck we’re looking at.

Alchemist’s Refuge

 No land in the deck better exemplifies what it’s trying to do. We want to cast things on our own terms as a means to control when Arixmethes becomes a creature. Refuge allows us to grind things out at the end of our opponents turn thereby holding up mana for tricks or removal for as long as possible.

Treetop Village and Faerie Conclave

These act as finisher number two and three late game when we’ve used all other creatures as blockers. For this reason, entering the battlefield tapped is a price we’re willing to pay. Worst case scenario, we can animate them and block as a means to survive an additional round before we eliminate someone.

Temple of Mystery, Riptide Laboratory, Reliquary Tower and Novijen, Heart of Progress

All value/extra use/good stuff lands. They let us dig, reuse some creatures and keep all our information privately at hand. I should note that Novijen will actually put a counter on Arix if you cast it, then five other spells. Just because he wasn’t a creature at the start of the turn, doesn’t mean Novijen doesn’t work on it. That’s come up exactly once ever, but hey, we’ve got to extract all the value we can.

Tolaria West

This lets us search up a win-con for the deck or a counterspell to make sure we can push through our fifth and final spell to wake up Arix.

Rogue’s Passage

This makes Arix unblockable. A feat not to be trifled with once it’s awoken and pumped and dripping with Phyrexian ichor. Of course, this is the wincon that Tolaria West finds for us.

Besides mana production from Arixmethes itself, there are only a couple other cards that I use to kick start the game. First, Sol Ring, because well, it’s Sol Ring. The second, Sylvan Library. An extremely powerful card-draw and selection tool. Allowing yourself to draw up to three cards per turn, in a two-mana package, is unrivaled. Even at the cost of eight life for taking all three cards it allows you to see is a low cost if those three cards awaken Arix and win you the game.

When looking at the mana-curve of this deck, one might notice that it’s fairly low. With an average converted mana cost of 2.71, there’s always great stuff to help move us along to Pound Town. Generally, I separate them into two distinct categories.

Digging/Making Mana

Card draw, recursion and mana dorks to make sure we have enough answers to stay alive. Sure, there’s 25 creatures in the deck. But they weren’t exactly the ones that were picked first in gym class.

All low-cost mana producing cards to power out a turn two or three Arix and kick the party off.

All of these serve us by way of drawing cards, getting cards back or creating some form of redundancy that the format of Commander otherwise seeks to eliminate.

The trend of mana production, reusing things that have already been tapped or getting things back from our graveyard continues into the three and four-cost slots as well. Those are typically the follow ups to Arixmethes in the mid-game and are available with some form of counterspell backup. There are the Garruk Wildspeakers, Kiora, Master of the Depths and Archaeomancers of the list.

Control

This second category really makes the deck feel like that draw-go style control deck of old. It’s really what makes the deck appealing to the blue players that borrow it in my play group that want to feel smarter than everyone they’re playing against.

All these just stop your opponents from playing Magic, sort of. They stop your opponents from playing Magic in our direction.

I’ve found it’s best to politic when I have these cards in hand. You see, I don’t actually want to cast any of these. I’m happy to sit back, have a couple drinks, socialize, etc. I want my friends to have a grand time killing each other, though. So, I’m happy to let them do that until it affects me being able to one-shot them. Or money-shot them, as we’ve come to call it in a few of the decks that I’ve built in my time spent engaged with the format.

The Payoffs

We’ve come to my favorite part again! And, today is no exception.

Overwhelming Stampede

 Lord love a duck! When I drop this card onto the table, people have physically let out yelps. Nobody, and I mean nobody, who’s playing this deck for the first time understands what’s about to happen when Arixmethes has one counter on it and you cast Stampede. You see, the last counter comes off prior to the spell resolving. When it does, your whole board gets plus twelve plus twelve! It’s an otherworldly feeling to spend your entire game sculpting the battlefield and politicking and building a hand and grinding value to be able to drop this card. It’s my favorite part of the deck.

Triumph of the Hordes 

See above, except with this card. Euphoric I tell you! This is when those creature lands come in handy.

Loyal Guardian and Turnabout/Cryclonic Rift/Capsize 

These cards combine for an effect greater than the sum of their parts. Your opponents typically see your Guardian slowly ticking up your team. Remember, Arix is still your Commander even if it’s not a creature. As such, they leave all their blockers up so we don’t crash in. When we have the ability to get rid of them all at once and smash; oh boy, do we smash. Loyal Guardian is one of the reasons that some of the small value creatures from the deck’s Edric days still hang around.

Craterhoof Behemoth

The green card responsible for more Commander game wins than any other green card. Yes, it does exactly what you think it might in this deck too. Have lots of creatures? Yes. Have an opening? Hell yes! Again, another spot for those nifty little creature-lands to add to Team Pump and Dump.

Politics

Against every type of deck, you’re going to need to politic your way out of situations. I’m not really talking about the kind of politics where you make deals to leave people alone for a turn, or two. Those are garbage deals at the best of times. Besides, we don’t have that type of leverage with this deck. We can’t back that up because people aren’t scared of Arix with five counters. Or any number of counters, other than one or zero. What I mean is that we need to threaten to counter stuff unless its pointy end isn’t in our face. Now, we can’t really do that with targeted spells as the target is announced on casting. Instead, one must have great threat assessment and Commander intuition. One must be able to recognize when it’s ok to take some lumps and when it’s correct to pull the trigger on a Counterspell. All things that come with experience. So, if you build something like this, be patient. Remember, countermagic rewards the patient, in all ways.

Matchups

Aggro/token/incremental damage

This is your trickiest matchup because there is typically a lot of spell, creature and/or damage volume to put up with. Having access to only a small number of sweepers makes it difficult to keep the life total high enough to survive an alpha strike. In this scenario, prioritize finding Regrowth, Archaeomancer, Snapcaster Mage, etc. to keep those Cyclonic Rifts and Whelming Waves flowing.

Mana denial/control/stax

Generally, our spells are efficient enough that we aren’t bothered by things that slow down ‘typical’ EDH decks. Of course, I would highly encourage you to use Counterspell on Trinisphere based on our average converted-mana-cost. Additionally, watch out for Strip Mine and Wasteland type effects. While it’s not the end of the world if Arixmethes is killed, it is unfortunate. You will have to start your several-turn plan over again. That being said, running into the late game is going to give us enough mana to be able to cast it for six, next time. If this happens, just look to drag the game out as much as you can.

It should be noted here that if you can remove all slumber counters, Arix will become a creature upon casting the spell that removes that last counter. This means that your opponents Strip Mine ability that’s currently on the stack targeting Arixmethes, (the Land) will fizzle and Arix will live. It isn’t uncommon to have a large enough grip of instant speed spells as to be able to cast five in a row and immediately wake it up. Another yelp-inducing play that I’ve had happen on several occasions.

Combo

If there’s one combo player. They’ll wish they were never born when playing against this deck. You’ll stop them at every corner. Then, the aggro players will stomp them into the dirt. That being said, you’ll have probably blown your wad and may leave yourself exposed to stack-based threats. Here, more than ever it is important to politic by way of bluffing. Make them think you have a counterspell. Make the aggro player think you still have gas by the language you use. Talk about counterspells and denial. It’ll put the idea in their head. There’s no real way to explain this, it just comes with reading the pod, reading you meta and play experience. It just takes practice. Again, countermagic rewards the patient.

Potential Upgrades

To take this deck to the next level, it’s pretty obvious that it’s missing a few key, colour fixing lands. Tropical Island, Breeding Pool, Hinterland Harbor, Waterlogged Grove, etc. All lands cards that belong in an EDH players binder but ones that I just haven’t mustered the cash to get ahold of. If you have them, any land that gives you green or blue while coming into play untapped is a welcomed addition to this deck. My collection-building complacency has just not afforded me the opportunity to jam them, as of yet.

After that, it’s tough to recommend anything. This deck is tailored to my meta and how I’ve learned to politic and bluff. It would be hard for me to suggest anything, as it might not work the same way for you. I’d say, build a control package that you think you can pilot to a zero-counter Arixmethes and see if you can smash. If nothing else, it’ll teach you about deck building, playing control and politicking in multiplayer EDH.

Final Thoughts

What a deck! In a word; tension. That’s how I would describe it. After a game with this deck, I can never tell if I need to have a cigarette, a shower or cry myself to sleep. It’s certainly a rewarding experience to pilot the deck to success. At the same time, it’s extremely difficult and it takes practice. Both in playing the 100-stack but also in politics and using language to get what you want out of the particular situations you find yourself in.

If you’ve got some of the harder to find gems in this deck, I’d highly encourage you to pick up an Arixmethes and play it for a while. It’s different than all other Simic decks that I’ve played, despite having some of the most powerful, and redundant, Simic cards in the list. Arixmethes just adds a unique political and mental strain to every player in every pod it’s a part of. The stakes are always high when it’s at one slumber counter. I’ve found it hard to replicate outside of this deck and it’s a real treat when you finally level up enough to make it sing.

Thanks for joining me today! If you’d like to find anything else out about this deck or play-test it, it’s available here. Additionally, you can hit me up on Twitter with questions. If you’d like to hear about other decks like this, you can tune into Commander Cookout Podcast wherever better podcasts are found. You can check out Commander Cookout on YouTube and of course, get everything else Commander Cookout related right here on Face to Face Games.