Modern Musings: Post-Dominaria United Merfolk
Merfolk: Death will rise from the tides // hold my flippers to the skies
Modern Horizons left many Modern decks out to dry several years ago, and Merfolk is a deck that drifted far from the average player's consciousness. Focussing on using interactive creatures in unintuitive ways, fish players love to use their aether vials to get around additional casting costs. Of course, the power level of Modern has increased significantly over the past few years, and Merfolk players seem to have been forgotten.
Until, of course, the release of DMU brought with it a new lord. Here's a stock list:
Merfolk is an unassuming deck at first, rarely playing more than an Aether Vial and a single merfolk over the first few turns. Then suddenly, the tides shift, and before you know it, your Murktide Regent is back in your hand, and you're being assaulted by 3-4 large fish people.
Merfolk is a deck that loves to use their cards to maximum effect, waiting for the perfect moment to punish their opponents for tapping out. It also has multiple avenues of interaction, preferring to avoid opponent's counter magic, while simultaneously running their own creature-based counters.
This is a more tempo-based deck, slowly building up advantage while keeping your merfolk on the offensive, before flashing in a Lord of Atlantis and killing your opponent with your Islandwalking creatures. This is also a deck that rewards knowing the meta, as it's helpful to understand both how your opponents will be trying to kill your creatures, and how easy it is for you to stop their gameplan. Importantly, every fish matters, and while it may seem tempting to trade off your non-lord creatures at times, it's far better to set up an advantageous block that kills your opponent's creatures while preserving your own.
Aether Vial is one of the more important parts of the deck, as being able to threaten flashing in each creature is worth a ton of value. It'll usually sit at 2, but it's always nice to get extra value on a Tide Shaper or Cursecatcher on our way up. Harbinger of the Tides is an allstar that seems to have been slept on in recent times, as its bounce trigger is perfect against Murktide. Both this and Silvergill Adept are creatures that have (or can have) additional casting costs, but by vialing them onto the field, you can step around this entirely, netting you additional advantages. Lords are also good choices, as they can turn a negative block into a positive one, and will contribute to the board state in an exponential manner.
Once you have a board presence, Svyelun of Sea and Sky helps to close out the game, making your creatures more durable, and having a few tricks up her sleeve. I've watched countless opponents think they can Unholy Heat her, only to watch as a Mutavault becomes active. The list also runs Dismember, which makes large threats manageable, and allows you to trade favourably in situations that seem dire. Of note: as Ward is a triggered ability, Svyelun of Sea and Sky needs to be on the field before your opponents begin to target your creatures, so plan accordingly!
Much of our sideboard is tooled to deal with opposing game plans, rather than helping ours along, as we're a slightly slower deck. We need to bring opponents down to our speed, then beat them at that level – and things like Chalice of the Void, Subtlety, and more Harbingers do just that. If our opponents are trying to resolve spells that win them the game (Living End, Ad Nauseam, almost any combo deck) Then we're likely bringing in Flusterstorms and Mystical Disputes. And if we're in a good place already, we're happy to bring in more of what got us there in Game one – more Dismembers, more Harbingers, and perhaps an Unlicensed Hearse or two, depending on the opponent.
Overall, Merfolk is a deck that is positioned to make a rousing comeback – it's already posting results, and most meta decks don't have a gameplan for it yet. Give it a try!
Today's skill testing question: I animate my Mutavault, then flash in a Glasspool Mimic, copying the Mutavault. What is the power and toughness of my mimic? What card type is it? Let me know your answer @Melitius!