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By: Arctic_Ghost, Arctic_Ghost
May 16 2023 11:25am
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There are many Tribes in magic. Goblins, Elves, Slivers and plenty more. However, when it comes to the color blue, we must visit the lost city of Atlantis and trust in the Merfolk which reside there. Counter spells, many Lord creatures and Aether Vial are just some of the reasons people love Merfolk.

The list we will be talking about today won the Modern challenge that was held on 4/28/2023 and was piloted by the player ht991122. Alright I won’t waste any more time as I am sure there are Merfolk loyalists rejoicing and as well you should be! Let’s Rock!

 

MistcallerLiving End is a very popular archetype and that is what really makes this card standout. However, there are plenty of other functions for it such as Creativity or Dredge to name a few. The main issue is that it is only for 1 turn and you need to sacrifice it, so against a deck like Yawgmoth Combo, it isn’t going to do as much as you want it to sadly.

Tide Shaper – Cards like Spreading Seas have always been a favorite in the Merfolk archetype not only because it helps give your creatures Islandwalk for Lord of Atlantis, but also because it can mana screw your opponent a bit. This card is either a 2 power creature for 1 mana, or for 2 mana with its Kicker cost, it can turn off lands such as Bounce lands, Tri-Lands, Cavern of Souls and plenty more. Sometimes you can randomly win games just based on messing with your opponents manabase. Where Spreading Seas draws a card, this creature can attack and win the game.

Lord of Atlantis – The first Lord we see and its the oldest one. Giving Islandwalk is also extremely powerful but be careful as it doesn’t just give your Merfolk Islandwalk.

Master of the Pearl Trident – Here is our second Lord and has the correct wording that Lord of Atlantis does not.

Merfolk Trickster – This can turn off a problem creature for a turn and it can tap a blocker as well. It also has Flash making it a great to play at the end of turn and get some power on the board.

Vodalian Hexcatcher – Another Lord creature and it has Flash! The best part of this Lord is that it gives you the ability to Force Spike noncreature spells. The cost is a little steep because you have to sacrifice a Merfolk to do so, but if you are winning the game it should not be too much of a problem.

Svyelun of Sea and Sky – Svyelun is quite the creature. With 2 other creatures out, she has Indestructible so she can attack at free will and she draws you a card when you attack which gives you some card advantage. She also gives your other Merfolk (make sure you remember its other, not her) Ward 1, which will make it a bit annoying for your opponents to use removal spells like Lightning Bolt. 4 Might seem like a lot, but she is public enemy number 1 and you want to get her early and on the board quickly.

Aether Vial – The glue that binds this deck and plenty of other archetypes together. Vial allows you to put multiple creatures on the board at instant speed without casting them. This turns your creatures into combat tricks, gets around counter magic and plenty of other situations. Going Vial on turn 1 is just a horrible feeling for any opponent.

Spell Pierce – You only ever need 1 copy and it does its job well.

Dismember – One problem with Merfolk is that being mono blue, you don’t have any options in the way of actual removal. Dismember helps that tremendously, just be weary of how much life you are paying to use it as it is not cheap.

Force of Negation – Moderns version of Force of Will. This is a fantastic card in the format but I am happy to see only 3 copies as you don’t want multiples of them clogging your hand doing nothing.

Spreading Seas – One copy just to have a 5th way of getting Islandwalk or screwing over your next Tron opponent.

The Manabase

Cavern of Souls – This helps make your most important Merfolk plays unable to be countered.

Fiery Islet – Either can be used as a land or be used to dig a card deeper later in the game. I like it as a 1 of but I can see playing 2 of them.

Minamo, School at Water’s Edge – This helps give your Svyelun Vigilance basically.

Mutavault – The perfect creatureland for a deck like this.

Otawara, Soaring City – Besides being a pet land of mine at this point, this is just a fantastic card. Being able to bounce something and not being able to counter it by normal means is just so powerful.

The Sideboard

Chalice of the Void – Besides just being an extremely versatile card, Chalice has a lot of functions in this deck. It is amazing against the Living End and Rhino decks. It can be great against decks like Burn on the play and since you have Aether Vial/Cavern of Souls, you have ways to play through it so that it doesn’t effect you. The reason I believe it isn’t necessary game 1 is because you just want to win quickly then adjust after sideboard.

Grafdigger's Cage – Graveyard hate as well as certain types of Tutor hate. Also helps if Collected Company becomes prevalent. The main annoying deck this helps against is Yawgmoth Combo.

Harbinger of the Tides – Harbinger can be good against heavier creature decks.

Silvergill Adept – I am sure when looking through the main deck, most of you probably wondered where this creature was and honestly I am not surprised to see it in the sideboard. I know it draws a card, but that is all it does. It isn’t a Lord so it does not pump your team, it doesn’t have graveyard hate like Mistcaller does, it doesn’t tap a creature to remove a blocker like Trickster does and I could go on. In slower matchups or where creatures aren’t prevalent, this creature is great, but currently it isn’t a good main deck card in my opinion in this format.

Spreading Seas – More land hate.

Subtlety – I am not usually a huge fan of this card, but in this archetype I like it as keeping your opponents board clear of blockers is a very good thing for progress.

Verdict and Conclusion


Merfolk is one those loyalist decks that will never die. It isn’t a bad deck either. It is fast, has a lot of Lord creatures, a manland, uses Aether Vial to the fullest extent it can and much more. The deck really shines when the format is trying to be combo heavy or control heavy as you can usually get under your opponent. However, it depends on which decks you are talking about. These are just my opinions, I could easily be wrong.

Now here is where I won’t lie. I personally do not like Merfolk in Modern today. I am not taking away that it won a challenge, but I am sure it was also the correct deck choice for that days meta while the person piloting it both played well and god paired against the matchups they built this list to beat. If you look at the other decks in the top 8, they all seem like either combo or slow card advantage decks and that could be an indication of what the meta was that day. The lone Jund deck in the top 8 was actually beat by the Merfolk pilot, so I am sure Merfolk is powerful enough to beat almost anything, but without watching the match myself I cannot comment much further.

I feel like Merfolk is easily handled. There is a ton of good removal, plenty of creatures that do more powerful things and honestly, Merfolk is just too honest for my Modern take. Another issue I have with Merfolk is my issue with Slivers in Pauper. Together, Slivers (or Merfolk) are quite powerful, but individually, they aren’t spectacular and easily dealt with. Again, these are my opinions. I also think that Izzet Murktide is a not so great matchup and that is quite a popular deck. I also feel most decks you may have good matchups against (such as Living End) can still beat you handily.

Do I think you should play this deck? I think Merfolk is a good deck despite my personal feelings, but I don’t think it is well positioned in a blind meta and I don’t think it will do well consistently. I would be more than happy to eat my words. I feel like Merfolk is just your basic run of the mill deck and doesn’t do enough powerful things, but sometimes being basic and consistent is what you need to win your next tournament.

However, with all this being said, as always, do remember my words are not gospel. I will always encourage you to try a deck that I bring you despite my personal feelings. Remember that results will vary and always remember to practice!

Would you like to compete in a free Pauper tournament with some great prizes? Head on over to Gatherling.com on Tuesday nights at 8pm EDT and play in our weekly Pauper Classic Tuesday's event! Join the chat #PCT to chat with us and feel free to find most of the competitors on Discord!

Thank you so much for reading. Best of luck to you in your next tournament and I’ll catch you all next time!