Cook’s Kitchen – Merfolk
Merfolk has recently come back into trends thanks to Adam Boyd at the Star City Games Indianapolis Invitational. The list below belongs to him. It has become trendy again because the sea creatures slaughter these “Island based” combo decks – Sneak and Show/Reanimator. When looking down the list there’s not a whole lot in my opinion to be impressed with. Nine total counterspell effects, with five of them being conditional, and another four effects from Cursecatcher. What has been extremely successful about the new Merfolk has been four Phantasmal Image. Emphasis goes on the four. The card either Draws a card, Lords (+1/+1), or kills Emrakul/Griselbrand. How busted. Automatic four of! It’s actually probably the best card in the list. In a field full of Reanimator and Sneak and Show, I can see why Adam did so well.
While I like Adam’s innovation of running four Image, what I really can’t wrap my head around is Spellstutter Sprite. That card has no home in Merfolk, I’m sorry. I want to talk to Adam and ask him how that card was, because I’m sure it was awful. I would rather see it as a second Umezawa’s Jitte and Daze every time. Spellstutter lacks synergy with the entire deck for a weak Mental Misstep effect, in theory it could counter a two-drop due to Mutavaults but even so. There’s a reason Spell Snare isn’t seeing any play at the moment.
Adam opted to not splash black for Perish and/or Virtue’s Ruin like a couple of the other Merfolk decks at the invitational. Which may have been a good metagame call, because I didn’t see any Maverick decks there. The field was loaded with combo and RUG. A Stifle and Wasteland proof manabase must have been pretty outstanding. With the invitational metagame being slightly different than the larger metagame, the list above worries me a bit with its bad match-ups.
Merfolk has a rough time with plenty of things, which is why it fell out of favor right before New Phyrexia. At that time problems stemmed from Mental Misstep and Batterskull in UW Stoneblade as well as practically every card in RUG (Lightning Bolt, Tarmogoyf, and REB). When Mental Misstep was banned Batterskull stayed around harming Merfolk with its friend Snapcaster Mage. Swords to Plowshares became an eight-of thanks to Snapcaster in Stoneblade. With Snapcaster came Delver of Secrets. A turn one Delver of Secrets is incredible against Merfolk because they literally cannot deal with it. Then there’s Maverick, that deck destroys Merfolk. Larger creatures that interact with Merfolk in many different ways that Merfolk can’t swing through due to the lack of islands. On top of being larger, Mother of Ruins is a nightmare for Merfolk since it slows the fish down to a halt. There are simply too many must counters in Maverick for Merfolk to have the match-up come around. Although, things may be changing soon enough!
Eh, a better Lord of Atlantis? Master of the Pearl Trident is slightly better than Lord of Atlantis because it says “you control”. This is pretty exciting for the Merfolk archetype! Having that many additional Lord effects will certainly be an improvement to the deck’s core. Where I don’t think it will be an improvement is in the deck’s already bad match-ups. Merfolk still can’t answer a turn one Delver of Secrets which is a huge hassle for the deck or a Batterskull that is in play. Master of the Pearl Trident is simply, sadly, just another Lord of Atlantis. There will be times where the additional lord effect or islandwalk will be helpful, don’t misunderstand me there, but it’s just not what the deck needs. Merfolk needs a better answer to creatures like Delver of Secrets, Tarmogoyf, Knight of the Reliquary, and Batterskull. Anything larger than a 4/4 poses a serious threat to the fish. The best thing Merfolk can do is either run into that wall repeatedly or wait until it draws enough lords to become larger. Not exactly optimal.
Keep in mind that in order to beat these problematic creatures that Merfolk can’t stop being good against Reanimator and Sneak & Show. It can’t lose its strong elements with countermagic and Phantasmal Images. When looking down the list at the weakest slots in the deck I only see a couple, while people may not agree, they’re more relics than relevant.
- Coralhelm Commander
- Merrow Reejerey
- Spellstutter Sprite
- Umezawa’s Jitte
Corelhelm Commander is an excellent card for Merfolk! Being evasive and able to eventually block Delver of Secrets is something the deck does need. However, it’s a card that isn’t very mana efficient. It’s a six mana card to make the creature fully effective, because of this I’m suggesting that the number becomes three. It’s not unreasonable, but drawing multiples of the card in the early game is just painful.
Merrow Reejery, the usefulness of the ability to untap or tap can’t be overlooked but at three mana it’s often a wait in the opening hand. Like Corelhelm, I’m suggesting the shaving off a couple. At least until Reanimator and Sneak & Show fall out of favor and it’s possible to cut a couple of the Phantasmal Image. With Reejerey going down to two, it now makes Aether Vial better since it can stay on two longer.
Spellstutter Sprite, I said my feelings above. This card needs to be cut as soon as possible to make room for Master of the Pearl Trident.
Umezawa’s Jitte! Not because it’s bad, but because it’s a one-of in the main deck. Either add another one to the main deck or push it to the sideboard and add a second copy while you’re at it. It’s not a one-of type card in decks that can’t tutor for it.
Below is what I currently have in mind for Merfolk after M13:
Glancing down the new list there’s a couple of things different that I haven’t mentioned yet such as three Daze and two Spell Pierce. I wanted another sideboard counterspell that wasn’t awkward, Daze certainly doesn’t fit the bill there. Daze is more of a main deck card than anything else, because of that I opted to swap the numbers and add the forth Pierce to the sideboard. Then after the counter magic there’s a difference in the manabase from Adam’s original list. With the additional UU added to the deck in the form of Master of the Pearl Trident, I swapped out a Mutavault for another basic land. It’s irritating becoming color screwed in a mono colored deck.
Out of the sideboard I chose Relic of Progenitus over Tormod’s Crypt. I understand that Relic has the possibility of being Dazed, but the upsides are much greater. Being able to slowly remove the graveyard can be effective against Dredge and Reanimator. Then the bonus of being able to draw a card when ready is what really does it for me. In most decks there’s a reason not to run Relic over Crypt due to running their own Knight of the Reliquary or Tarmogoyf. Not in Merfolk! Draw that extra card! While we’re on the topic of graveyard hate, the free hate I prefer is Surgical Extraction over Faerie Macabre because removing all of the Griselbrands seems better to me than being uncounterable. It’s really just a preference, but Surgical is definitely better against a deck like Dredge.
While I do think Master of the Pearl Trident is an improvement to the deck, I’m unsure if it will help in the deck’s bad match-ups. In order to do that the deck really needs removal, I don’t believe two Umezawa’s Jitte and a pair of Dismember are all it needs. But those will do in the current metagame where creature strategies are being hated out by huge creatures.
Well that’s all for this week, come back again next week! Until then, keep storming!
Bryant Cook on MTGthesource