An Introduction to Krark and Sakashima in cEDH

Ken Baumann • January 5, 2024

Meet Krark Sakashima Storm, the goofiest tournament-viable deck in cEDH.

Goofiness is fundamental to Magic: The Gathering. From Chaos Orb to the Foglios, irreverence is as important to the game as the stone-faced, card-flicking tournament grinder. The good news is that these two qualities--goofiness and competitiveness--are not contradictory. Krark Sakashima Storm merges these qualities with each coin flipped and spell copied.

If you're looking for a deck whose power foregrounds surprise and comedy, keep on reading.

How Do Krark and Sakashima Work?

Krark Sakashima is an Izzet Storm deck. What makes it unique among other Storm decks? Krark, the Thumbless's flavor text answers that question: "Double or nothing." Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery, you flip a coin. Win: you get two of 'em. Lose: receive the privilege of having paid mana to put that spell right back in your hand. Superficially, this is too high-risk to be consistent enough for cEDH's standards. Who wants to spend mana to do nothing? But let's reconsider Krark's gambit probabilistically: on average, you get two of any given instant or sorcery by paying for it twice. So with Krark's help, every instant and sorcery in your hand is magically duplicated.

In other words, Krark provides virtual additional copies of each instant and sorcery in your deck. Luckily, mad Izzet mages have cooked up many good instants and sorceries with which to pack our deck.

But it gets weirder.

When you clone Krark with Sakashima--or when you control Krark and Harmonic Prodigy, Veyran, Voice of Duality, and/or Roaming Throne--you change the odds of each bet. Why? Because the more coins you flip, the greater the probability of meeting both outcomes: copying a spell and putting it back into your hand. Using a mechanic from Magic's past, the more Krark triggers you can produce, the more likely you are to staple Buyback 0 to your instants and sorceries. By continually adding more copies of Krark (or sources of more triggers, like Roaming Throne), you can eventually reach a state in which you are mathematically guaranteed to deal an arbitrary amount of damage with a spell like Lightning Bolt.

We can see this rising probability in this handy chart:

Before climbing this curve, let's quickly review the deck's most common win conditions.

How Do Krark and Sakashima Actually Win?

#1 Dualcaster Mage Combos

Dualcaster Mage + Twinflame/Heat Shimmer = infinite 2/2s with haste.

#2 Underworld Breach Combos

Underworld Breach + Lion's Eye Diamond/Lotus Petal/Storm-Kiln Artist + Brain Freeze/Wheel of Fortune = draw your deck and/or mill opponents out.

#3 Good Ol' Fashioned Grapeshot

Casting Grapeshot, Lightning Bolt, or Gut Shot enough to reduce opponents' life totals to 0.

#4 Krark and Sakashima Shenanigans

Disclaimer: not a real win condition

Building a legal version of How to Keep an Izzet Mage Busy.

As alluded to by #4, one needn't go infinite to win. Imagine adding Buyback 0 to spells like Jeska's Will, Frantic Search, Mind's Desire, Fierce Guardianship, Deflecting Swat, Grapeshot, and even Gitaxian Probe. Now you've rigged the dice to fall in your favor. With enough Krarks, you are the house, and the house always wins.

Win enough coin flips and you might even win a Timetwister!

But What if I Lose My Flips?

The Reports channel of the Krark Discord server reads like a forum for gamblers sharing their bad beats.

  • "I lost seven flips in a row..."
  • "All I needed was to win one flip for Jeska's Will and I would've had enough mana to win."
  • "For us to not lose to Thoracle, I needed my Force of Will to copy, but Krark said no."

Replace Krark with the deck, the dice, the ball, or fate, and you get the picture.

This is the price we pay for playing a deck with higher variance than usual, yet it's worth noting that high variance strategies pay off in the long run. For every bad beat, there's a tale of someone copying Jeska's Will on Turn 2 and spinning those impulse draws and that red mana into an easy win. The deck recreates the thrill of the roulette wheel or blackjack table. You only win big if you're willing to lose big.

Playing Krark Sakashima invites you to enjoy your own bad luck. Hence the deck's fundamental goofiness: sometimes you take all the right game actions and still fail spectacularly, flipping coins into a fountain of oblivion. Krark encourages a zen equanimity to fate favoring literally anyone else. The deck teaches you how to be a better loser.

Or, to quote pilots Zenhu, Nomad, and Kyle Hill respectively (from the Krark Discord):

  • "I've achieved inner Krark peace by abandoning all logic. My agency in the outcome of cEDH games is indistinguishable from zero."
  • "Krark plays the deck, I'm just there to watch."
  • "nerds"

What Are The Best Cards in Krark and Sakashima?

After nearly 250 tracked games, I have the deck's 10 best cards (in order) as:

  1. Jeska's Will
  2. Rhystic Study
  3. Dockside Extortionist
  4. Mystic Remora
  5. Storm-Kiln Artist
  6. Tavern Scoundrel
  7. Harmonic Prodigy
  8. Heat Shimmer
  9. Phyrexian Metamorph
  10. Snap

We can deduce some play patterns from this list.

Jeska's Will provides cards and mana, so giving it Buyback 0--or just doubling it up--is often enough to win the game. This is the instant or sorcery I tutor for most often. Since much of the deck's mana production (via Treasure tokens) is in red, Jeska's Will often flips into cards like Tavern Scoundrel or even Strike It Rich along with a source of card draw. The spell is a synecdoche for the deck as a whole: make mana, draw cards, and do it again. Ideally Jeska's Will is cast with ≥ 2 Krark triggers, but the move affectionately referred to in the Thumbless Discord as a "YOLO J. Will" can, with a bit of luck, flip you into a winning position.

Storm-Kiln Artist and Tavern Scoundrel let us cast instants and sorceries more often. While Scoundrel is lower to the ground, Storm-Kiln + Krark guarantee that all ≤ 1-mana instants and sorceries go mana positive. Abundant mana production hedges the risk of lost-flips, and these freaks let you go big.

Lastly, by using Heat Shimmer (or Twinflame) to target a source of additional Krark triggers (e.g. Sakashima-as-Krark or Harmonic Prodigy), and by using its copies to target a mana source (e.g., Dockside Extortionist or Tavern Scoundrel), you can alternate back and forth to create more and more Krark triggers while netting mana, thereby increasing the chance that you can "go infinite" and attack with an arbitrary amount of creatures with haste. Once you reach eight Krark triggers, your opponents can very safely start cleaning up (though in practice, they'll usually start packing it up quite a bit earlier).

Krark Sakashima is an exercise in "more is better." A rule of thumb (pun intended) for Storm decks: the more game actions you take, the likelier you are to win.

Krark and Sakashima Weaknesses

Lastly but importantly, let's cover this deck's main weaknesses.

  • When you're in a pod with two or more stax decks, you will struggle to storm off. An early Drannith Magistrate or Rule of Law effect is a pain.
  • This deck averages Turn 5 wins with a modal winning turn of 4, so it's at least a turn or two slower than high-color Turbo decks like Rograkh Silas.
  • Some players hate the piece of cardboard titled Krark, the Thumbless and hate the play patterns the deck produces. It's difficult to convince those players not to hard target you.
  • The deck requires you to flip coins, so it adds an extra time-consuming activity to a regular game of Magic. You need to move fast and manage the stack precisely in order to play in an efficient fashion.

These weaknesses are compensated for by the deck's strong inevitability if its engines are left unattended. Other decks have to put their counterspells in the graveyard after they resolve once; luckily, this is not Krark Sakashima's cross to bear, and if you're completely shut off of the Krark gameplan, you can always do a modest impression of an Izzet control deck while you wait to finish the game with one of the commander-agnostic combos.

The Full Krarkashima Primer and Further Resources

If this all adds up to an appealing gamble, you can read the full primer here and give it a spin. And if you've got an Android device, make your life a bit easier and download the Krarkulator, an app designed specifically for thumbless goblins. Watch the coin tumble often enough and you might soon see the wisdom of the motto: Live by the coin, die by the coin.

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Ken Baumann is responsible for some silly TV, twenty-two books, a handful of Magic decks, and a few good ideas. More info: