With the release of Commander Legends, Magic the Gathering has entered a brave new world where Legendary Creatures printed at uncommon can make a dramatic impact on the competitive game. Sure, we’ve had legendary creatures printed at the uncommon rarity before, starting in Champions of Kamigawa and later in Dominaria. Commander Legends put the uncommon Legendary Creature parade on turbo, releasing dozens of interesting and potentially powerful Legendaries at the uncommon rarity.
In particular, Araumi of the Dead Tide took the Commander world by storm, and quite literally so being a Merfolk Wizard. This little Blue & Black 3-mana creature with a 1 / 4 body takes advantage of the Encore mechanic. At first glance, it seems a high cost to pay, requiring you to not only tap Araumi, but also exile cards equal to the number of opponents you have. Then you choose a creature in your graveyard, pay its mana cost, and exile it. Doing this allows you to make a token copy of that creature for each opponent you have. Those copies gain haste, but then have to be sacrificed at the end of the turn.
In a one-on-one playing situation, having to do that plus paying the mana cost of a creature in your graveyard, doesn’t seem all that worth it. However, in the case of creatures which have enter-the-battlefield abilities, you can create a ton of value in a hurry. Then, if you have 2 or 3 opponents, those abilities are multiplied further with the additional token copies entering the battlefield.
Encore is an extremely clever mechanic. The upside is that in a one-on-one game, you’re only exiling one card at a time. So, Encore is a well-designed ability in that it scales well to the game situation. It also means that because of the higher opportunity cost of exiling cards in a multiplayer game, you have to be more mindful of what creatures you decide to have an Encore.
What Strategies Work Best with Araumi of the Dead Tide?
The most competitive builds of Araumi of the Dead Tide in Commander take on two particular themes, sacrificing and milling. Commander Legends offered two cards to further this pairing of strategies, a creature in Demon’s Disciple and an Enchantment in Court of Cunning (which I will also discuss in a separate review). Demon’s Disciple forces everyone to sacrifice a creature when he comes into play, and is an absolute blowout in a multiplayer game when he’s brought back with Encore. Other creatures that further the sacrifice theme include Plaguecrafter (which can also force discards), Fleshbag Marauder, and Merciless Executioner.
Court of Cunning is a particularly powerful Enchantment for two reasons. First off, it allows you to mill cards from your own deck, giving you Encore targets on a consistent basis. But, the second and perhaps most potent thing about this card is that you choose who gets to mill the cards. Once you become the monarch, which this card allows you to do when it enters play, it mills ten cards instead of two. That means you can choose to put your opponents on a deck-out clock, while only milling your own library whenever it suits you.
However, there is a trick to this card, because of the whole “monarch” ability. The monarch ability was created in the Conspiracy: Take the Crown expansion. While that particular format never took off with either its premier or Take the Crown expansion set, cards that give you added effects when you are the monarch are quite popular in Commander. Since then, there have been cards printed exclusively in Commander products that also give you this title. When you are the monarch, not only do you get benefits from certain cards, you also draw a card at the beginning of your end step.
But, staying the monarch can be tricky, as whenever a creature deals combat damage to you, that creature’s controller becomes the monarch. This means that the “monarch” title can bounce around the table, which honestly makes things pretty interesting. That means with a card like Court of Cunning in play, you need to pick and choose how to use it, as some of the time, you won’t get that ability to mill 10 at once.
How Do You Make an Araumi of the Dead Tide Commander Deck Consistent?
The biggest trick to a successful Araumi of the Dead Tide Commander deck is making sure you have Encore targets every turn that you can. Fortunately, there are plenty of creatures that work well with the self-mill strategy, such as Stitcher’s Supplier and Deranged Assistant, plus noncreature spells such as Millikin and Perpetual Timepiece. Altar of Dementia also allows you to sacrifice a creature to mill a target player as many cards as that sacrificed creature’s power Then, you also have Gyruda, Doom of Depths, which not only mills four cards for all players, but lets you choose the best creature with an even mana cost among those milled cards on the battlefield under your control.
One particularly neat trick that you can do with Araumi of the Dead Tide is using the artifact Sundial of the Infinite to end the turn before you must sacrifice the tokens made with Encore. The Sundial is useful in a wide variety of decks that involve powerful effects that involve the end step. In the case of Encore, those tokens no longer have to be sacrificed at the end step, which allows you to keep them in play. Not bad for a 2 mana artifact that costs only 1 mana to activate. While the Sundial can only be used on your turn, it’s a powerful enough effect that could win you games, especially with the ability to Encore larger creatures like Grave Titan.
As the years progress, it will be fascinating to see how Araumi of the Dead Tide Commander decks evolve. This will be a Legendary Creature to watch for the foreseeable future. As an uncommon in an extremely popular set in Commander Legends, it’s an extremely accessible card, as well. Plus, the strategies that work best with Araumi are possible to build on a low budget, making it perfect for casual and competitive players alike to test out. Araumi is without a doubt a five-star Commander to build around, especially for competitive EDH (cEDH).