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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Dec 09 2019 1:00pm
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 [NOTE: Most of this article was written between November 2018 and January 2019, but couldn't be completed back then, for reasons. We're bringing it back now, in all the glory of unnecessary time travel]

 KUMAGORO: All right, after we crashed and burned in Standard with Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, we’ll have to make amend by playing another four-mana legendary lady: Meren of Clan Nel Toth. And boy, she is powerful, especially in a tribal deck, as her ability recurs creatures from the graveyard, either into your hand or even directly onto the battlefield if you accumulate enough experience counters.

 GENERALISSIMO: Urrrgh... I agree that she’s very powerful but she’s also very expensive; despite the fact that she lost about 85% of her value recently [NOTE: Meren was worth 24 tix in September 2018, and was still sold at around 4 tix in November], every fibre of cheapness frugality in my being recoils at the idea of spending so much on a card that isn’t something that can go in lots of my decks like a good land or a piece of cheap interaction. I’ll try to choke back my gag reflex as I purchase some, but you’re going to have to do some convincing.

 KUMAGORO: All right, here's some convincing. First great thing about the experience counters: she doesn’t hold them, the player does. So the next copy of Meren you play after the first one is dealt with starts from where the last one left, which is kind of amazing, and allows, or even encourages, to play as many copies of Meren as possible. Other good traits: she doesn’t ask for any additional resource to do her reanimating trick, neither mana nor sacrifices; she starts working right away, from the very next end step (which also means the creatures she reanimates are immediately useful in defense) and she’s useful even with zero counters: it’ll just be a free Raise Dead rather than a free Zombify; finally, she comes with a solid, non-boltable body.

 GENERALISSIMO: OK, OK, we can play with Meren! I guess I do kind of owe you for leading us into that Jhoira disaster last time. I just need to buy some copies... just need to do it... just rip it off like a plaster: quick and painful... aaaaaargh! Phew, I own a trio of Merens now. This deck absolutely has to perform well, though.

 KUMAGORO: Restrictions and first-glance implications: she’s from Commander 2015, so that puts us in Legacy; she wants to see your creatures die, so that immediately suggests self-sacrificing dudes; she’s a Human Shaman, and both are large tribes with great lineups, but the second in particular seems a perfect fit for reasons we’re going to analyze in a bit. And she’s Golgari, which is of course a great milieu for graveyard-based shenanigans, and an excellent shell for Shamans. It’s also likely my favorite color pairing in the game, so, yes, we’ll absolutely have to smash all kind of faces this time!

 GENERALISSIMO: Well, on the subject of Shamans and sacrificing, I have a Birthing Pod deck that is in dire need of an update since Deathrite Shaman got itself banned, and I loooove Birthing Pod. Meren may not be the most traditional fit in Pod, having no actual enters- or leaves-the-battlefield abilities, but, if she just lives long enough to trigger once, she’s at least a weird Eternal Witness and the potential upsides are so high.

 KUMAGORO: I don't feel like playing a Pod deck with Shamans. Birthing Pod is one of my favorite cards ever, I wrote whole treatises about it, but in Tribal Wars you either find the right tribe where you can stay in-tribe and be satisfied (Zombie, Human), or you'll always be tempted to add great off-tribe ETB effects to Pod in, and then the tribe becomes an afterthought. Like, your build is about getting to Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and it'd be very unlikely we want to Pod in Meren at CMC 4 rather than an answer.

 GENERALISSIMO: I’m not sure I’d say that deck is about getting to Kiki-Jiki; that’s certainly one avenue of victory and a good one in a lot of situations, but the deck is quite capable of playing a grindy game too, which Meren would fit into nicely. I also don’t share any of your compunctions about the tribe not feeling sufficiently central to the deck; as long as it’s legal, I’m fine with it. Besides, Kiki-Jiki is a Shaman.

 KUMAGORO: And he would be a great centerpiece for a Shaman Pod list I promise we’ll build one day; but every deck with Kiki-Jiki is about Kiki-Jiki, there’s just no way around that. You don’t include a triple-red, five-mana creature just in the off-chance he’ll find something to copy. All Pod decks work toward a series of goals, with different priorities. And a Kiki-Jiki endgame is the highest priority. Kiki-Pod would include either Restoration Angel or Zealous Conscripts or both; it would include Murderous Redcap; it would Pod the Redcap in as soon as possible, so that you win the turn right after by going Conscripts, untap Pod, Kiki-Jiki, good game; you’d durdle only until you get to this point. Where would Meren fit in all this? She wouldn’t. She’d even be in the way of the Redcap at CMC 4. It surely won’t be a deck that wants to play more than one copy of her. Instead, I want to build a deck where she’s the centerpiece.

Let’s not overcomplicate matters (as per usual). I think she’s powerful enough while doing her thing, so I want to build a nice and ruthless Golgari deck where we won’t be screwed by the mana base and won’t draw into stuff that doesn’t advance our position right away.

 GENERALISSIMO: I’ve found there are plenty of games where trying to combo with Kiki is a liability and you’re better off Podding for more value; the centrepiece of a Pod deck is Pod itself, not any of the individual pieces. That being said, your point still stands; Meren would just be another tool in the box, not the focus of the deck.

 KUMAGORO: Speaking of which, Golgari has an amazing suite of removal available in Legacy, arguably the best of any color. I want us to go to battle fully prepared this time, and in full Spike mode (well, let’s say 60% Spike mode), so let’s not pull any punches here. Especially since we currently have [NOTE: in late November 2018] Abrupt Decay at $0.65, Pernicious Deed (with the better art) at $0.86, and Maelstrom Pulse at $1.00 (it’s the Masterpiece Series version with the weird frame, though; I’d go for the Modern Masters Maelstrom Pulse at $1.36). Even Assassin’s Trophy, contrary to expectations, is not that unaffordable for such a powerful card, being currently sold at $3.50. But we have plenty of good removal anyway, so we don’t need to invest tix on a Standard rare, which I know you’ll be against. Also, if the deck goes where I suspect will go, we might not need a ton of dedicated removal.

 GENERALISSIMO: You’re absolutely right that I’d be against splurging on Assassin’s Trophies! I can’t very well be The Penniless Planeswalker and be playing a deck with both Meren and Assassin’s Trophy. In fact, I might be forced to dust myself in chimney soot and put on a Dickensian Cockney accent to counteract the effects of Meren alone.

Fatal Push would be my go-to removal ‒ it doesn’t get more efficient than here, as we’ll be building a deck that has easy access to revolt ‒ with a few of the more versatile ones to back it up.

  

 KUMAGORO: All right, end of digression, back to Meren. I was saying how she’s a Golgari Shaman who naturally likes self-sacrificing creatures. Well, two self-sacrificing Shamans in Golgari colors instantly come to mind: Vampire Hexmage and our old Snake pal Sakura-Tribe Elder. This seems like a perfect place to start building. The Elder ramps us up (in fact, it gives us a land and a chump-block per turn under Meren), and we know how versatile the Hexmage can be at both blocking and removing annoying stuff with counters on it, like those pesky planeswalkers. They could be our bread and butter on which to build on.

 GENERALISSIMO: Absolutely no arguments with the Elder; Meren on turn three sounds significantly better than Meren on turn four. I’m a lot more skeptical about the Hexmage, though; she can be useful but I don’t think planeswalkers are a particularly big concern in Tribal Wars, and a 2/1, even with first strike, becomes outclassed very quickly. It might well still be worth including, but I really don’t see her as a bread and butter creature.

 

 KUMAGORO: Both of them and Meren herself also naturally suggest a Grave Pact deck, which I’ve tried with some success in the past, and I’m always eager to revisit. The presence of Meren makes it into something potentially more explosive, though.

 GENERALISSIMO: I don’t think I’ve ever actually played with Grave Pact, surprisingly enough. My experience from facing it, however, is that it can range from completely game-dominating to a four mana do-nothing, so I’m wary of putting too many copies into the deck, particularly as it competes with Meren for space in the four-mana-cards-that-are-incredible-but-only-if-the-associated-sacrifice-synergies-come-together slot.

 KUMAGORO: Fair enough, I’m thinking two copies of Grave Pact myself, though as someone who ran it in Tribal Wars a few times, I struggle imagining a situation where it does nothing. But we can start from here (3 Merens, 4 Elders, some Vampire Hexmages, some Grave Pacts), and go over the other options. The full list of the Golgari Shamans in Legacy is [NOTE: at the moment of writing] this one. The difference between the Legacy pool and the Modern pool is actually minimal, with just nine cards missing – but of course one of those is Meren, so we don’t really have a choice. Let's peruse that list and take turns naming one other Shaman that could fit a Meren deck.

 GENERALISSIMO: OK, sure: (Plaguecrafter), the recently printed super-Fleshbag Marauder was conveniently made a Shaman. It’s board-control that handily puts itself (or another) straight into the grave to be recurred by Meren and doesn’t stop working if the opponent’s board is empty.

 KUMAGORO: Cool one, I’m voting for a full set of him and I raise you one (or more) Sangromancer. Things are going to die a lot on the opponent’s side (possibly also being discarded? I know you’ll suggest Cabal Therapy in a deck where we recur things), and we can use the lifegain and the flying damage.

 GENERALISSIMO: Well, I would have suggested Cabal Therapy if you didn’t just do it for me. I don’t think I’d want more than a couple of copies because it’s redundant in multiples but Nezumi Bone-Reader would be a useful tool to have access to.

 KUMAGORO: I tried the Bone-Reader before, didn’t like it much, it’s very awkward when you don’t have anything you want to sac, or when forcing a discard doesn’t do much, so you’re just casting a 1/1 for 2. Also, sorcery-speed is terrible. Maybe this is the right deck for it, though, I don’t know. Sure there’s a lot of competition for slots. Even things not directly linked to Meren. Like, wouldn’t we like to run a Master of the Wild Hunt?

 GENERALISSIMO: Meren and Grave Pact and Sangromancer and Master of the Wild Hunt would put an awful lot into the 4-drop slot. It might be possible but I’d definitely want some more ramp beyond just Sakura-Tribe Elders to support it: Beastcaller Savant or Bosk Banneret or Rattleclaw Mystic.

  

 KUMAGORO: Of course, it needs to be tested, I’m not suggesting full sets of anything at CMC 4. Remember Meren reanimates, so we might want to find ways to discard for profit all the things that we’ll potentially bring back later. But speaking of cost reduction, Herald of the Pantheon is kind of piquing my interest – it might well be a wrong path, but this Centaur lady could make our Grave Pacts cheaper, along with other useful stuff like Awakening Zone and/or Pernicious Deed.

 GENERALISSIMO: I thought about her too but I think we’d need to include way more enchantments than is plausible for Herald of the Pantheon to justify a slot. And I can’t believe we’ve both gone this far without mentioning either Eternal Witness or Elvish Visionary, both great cards to recur with Meren as well as great cards to just play even without her.

 

 KUMAGORO: In the meanwhile, I tested a kindred build in Modern Tribal. It wasn’t, of course, a Meren deck, but it was Golgari Shamans, so I can report on a few of them. I played against three textbook meta decks: Monored Goblins, Elves, and Knights with eight creatures protected from black (four of them from green too, the hateful Mirran Crusader). I did good (except in the last round, where I misplayed badly against an aggro Elf deck that didn’t allow much room for error), mostly by soft-locking the opponent out of creatures with the combination of Grave Pact and Awakening Zone (I was also running Bitterblossom, but it did very little). I agree that Herald of Pantheon wouldn’t make too much sense even in a deck with that many enchantments – just running Sakura-Tribe Elder accomplishes roughly the same acceleration, while also protecting you from an attack.

 Here’s the Shamans I played and how they performed:

  • Essence Warden: It was there to counterbalance Bitterblossom, but she's always great in Tribal Wars, the amount of life a single Warden is able to gain over just a few turns is amazing, especially against aggro; and it could make sense in a deck recurring creatures. I don't think we'll have room for a set, though, and they severely lose their effectiveness if dropped late.
  • Sakura-Tribe Elder: They do much more than just ramping, they stop terrors like Goblin Piledriver, they negate lifelink, and they trigger Grave Pact and Essence Warden.
  • Vampire Hexmage: I still like her a lot, even if she didn't get to kill anything this time (but I'm sure any planeswalker would be annoying enough to trigger a sacrifice in response). First strike on turn two matters, and self-killing matters for Grave Pact.
  • (Plaguecrafter): Did his job, wouldn't go beyond two copies though, there are many occasions where he doesn't play too profitably. This said, it's a must against things like Mirran Crusader.
  • Minister of Pain: This is a good one we haven't mentioned yet. Like Plaguecrafter, sometimes he's amazing, sometimes not too much, but always a good tool to have. I wish I could draw into him against Elves, for instance, but he remained elusive. He killed a few Goblins, though.
  • Vampire Nighthawk: This is another we should have named by now, but I think it was kind of implied. It doesn't serve the strategy, but it's just too strong a card not to consider.
  • Sangromancer: Did what was expected of her, gaining me a ton of life in a couple occasions. Running discard is not even needed for that to happen, things tend to naturally die when you play against Golgari. Plus her three damage in the air always connected.
  • (Golgari Findbroker): I knew this one from the Golgari deck I run on Arena. It's a surprisingly great card, he does most of what Eternal Witness would do, but unlike her he makes for a notable presence on the board. Though I guess in our deck Meren kind of does the same thing, better.
  • Master of the Wild Hunt: I never saw him. I kinda think he's too slow and clunky for the deck, I never found myself in a situation where I was wishing to draw into him.
  • Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief: Couldn't do much because she was always killed on sight. I consider her the only good top-end finisher in Shaman: she flies, she kills, and is potentially lethal in one swing. The only other Shaman with casting cost greater than four I don't dislike is Woodfall Primus, but it's way too expensive for this list (I briefly considered (Underrealm Lich), but it's just all-strategy, no real impact on the board).

  

 Shamans I consciously avoided playing:

  • Ulvenwald Tracker: It's a good card, but very slow, in the early turns it consumes resources that need to be devoted to board development instead. His ability is certainly excellent, particularly with Vampire Nighthawk in the deck, but not many other early Shamans actually want to fight.
  • Sapling of Colfenor: I want so much to like this card, but she's just not even remotely as good a five-drop as Drana.
  • (Izoni, Thousand-Eyed): Ditto, even more since she's a six-drop. They should have given her a better body.
  • Thrun, the Last Troll: Doesn't interact with anything in the list, is low-impact as a finisher, and anti-countermagic is sort of null in Tribal Wars.
  • The Treefolk Shamans, most notably Leaf-Crowned Elder (whose kinship also applies to Shamans): They seem more appropriate in a Treefolk deck somehow.
  • Savra, Queen of the Golgari: It's a trap! She does interact a lot with the deck, but she's a four-drop that literally does nothing (whereas dropping a Grave Pact means you can immediately chump-block and kill two).

  

 Shamans I might be interested in playing in Legacy:

  • Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest: From the same Commander 2015 deck Meren was the commander of. He's not amazing or anything, but he can turn into a scary evasive finisher kinda fast in our deck. Strictly one-of, in case. Not sure he'd do better than Drana in the five-mana slot, his ability implies a go-wide strategy that we won't have (I doubt we'll run Bitterblossom) and he starts very small for such a high cost, though if you drop him and then immediately sac something that triggers Grave Pact, he'll be a 4/4 right away. He might warrant some testing.

 GENERALISSIMO: Curiously, my experience playing Spirits in Modern didn't provide any useful insights into building this deck...
 My first thought is that running only two Vampire Nighthawks and two Sangromancers is just wrong. They both do pretty much the same job of lifegain and flying attacks but the Nighthawk is cheaper and more reliable and they both die equally to (Lighting Bolt). Admittedly, the Sangromancer has a much greater potential to heal you, but I think too often all you need is a little bit of an extra buffer, a lot of the lifegain becomes redundant and I would choose the consistency of Nighthawk every time.

 KUMAGORO: That's fine. Maybe you underestimate the 50% increase in clock of Sangromancer, and I don't think we'll need to rely on Nighthawk for removal. But one or the other, let's call it the same slot. I personally wouldn't go full Nighthawk to avoid cluttering the three-drop spot.

 GENERALISSIMO: I also don't like Golgari Findbroker over Eternal Witness. Yes, he provides a lot more of a board presence, but I don't think that is enough to justify the higher and significantly more restrictive cost and the fact that he can't recur Fatal Pushes.

 KUMAGORO: It wasn't meant as a replacement. But I think even Eternal Witness might not be severely needed in a deck with Meren.

 GENERALISSIMO: Useful but situational creatures like Minister of Pain and Vampire Hexmage make me want to run one-ofs of them, and Fauna Shaman. I'm not sure, however, because I basically always find Fauna to be worse than I expect, but she could also be useful to ditch late-game Tribe Elders and redundant Merens. I think she merits testing, at least.

 KUMAGORO: Yeah, I like Fauna Shaman, we can test her. Problem I always have with her is running just one or two becomes a matter of drawing her at the right time, whereas if you run four, you better have a great plan for her, otherwise you just diluted the impact of your deck, as Fauna is bad on the battlefield without something to discard. This said, we'll run creatures that can prove unnecessary later, and we kind of look like a Survival of the Fittest deck already – redemption from the last time?

 GENERALISSIMO: How confident are you in Awakening Zone? It always seems amazing with Grave Pact and incredibly unimpressive without it.

 KUMAGORO: I like it a lot. It's such an underrated card. The only issue is finding the right turn to drop it, but then you'll have one free creature (and ETB effect) per turn, which is one extra mana, but also one protection-proof chump-blocker. How do you think I survived Mirran Crusader? Against most aggro decks, it's sort of implicit removal, since their best ground creature is nullified (lifelink included).

 GENERALISSIMO: All right, I've thrown together a list to start testing with.

 

 KUMAGORO: Let's test this, but I'm already not fully convinced by this list. I think it has a flaw I'm learning to detect in some of your builds, which is the fact that it's a deck that takes forever to win with. With the current focus on Fauna Shaman, and with Meren that should be able to quickly accumulate experience counters, we should have at least one creature with power higher than two as a finisher.

SOME TESTING LATER...

 [Kuma piloting]
 vs. Slivers: 0-2
 vs. Aggro Cats: 1-2
 vs. Metalcraft Soldiers: 1-2

 [Generalissimo piloting]
 vs. Mono-green Treefolk: 2-1
 vs. Arcades Plants: 0-2

 GENERALISSIMO: Kind of seems like the deck might be an underdog versus aggro.

 KUMAGORO: You've been using pretty severe forms of aggro, but yeah. The Plaguecrafter routine of casting him, then saccing him so Meren can bring it back (or Eternal Witness will, or you'll fetch another via Fauna Shaman), that's all good against decks that have one big guy to take care of, but otherwise, at the very least it might be too time-consuming, and it's definitely too slow to stop aggro. The deck is good against midrange, although, against my Assault Formation Plants, in one game you had the control of the board, but took so long to seal the deal that you end up losing.

 GENERALISSIMO: Yeah, definitely seems like the deck could do with one good finisher.

 KUMAGORO: My main suggestion remains Drana. She's also incidental removal. And the more I think about it, the more this seems like a deck for Mazirek, because once you have the Meren engine going, or even just Awakening Zone, he'll put counters on all the team so even the little Elvish Visionaries become a threat. And he works with fetch lands, too.
 Also, I know I spoke against off-tribe inclusions earlier, but there's no reason for all 28 creatures in this list to be Shamans. Why not put some Ravenous Chupacabra in there? And maybe Viscera Seer in place of Nezumi Bone-Reader?
 Here's what I want to try:

  • -1 Nezumi Bone-Reader, +1 Viscera Seer. This way we can use the Seer as sort of protection against exile. And the free activation is important. In one of the testing games, I could fetch Bone-Reader via Fauna Shaman with an active Grave Pact, but I didn't have the mana to sacrifice everything and decimate the opposite side. Also, scry might be more important for us than forcing a discard.
  • -1 Ulvenwald Tracker, +1 Essence Warden. I think the Tracker is bad here. He's clunky, mana intensive, we don't have many good targets on our side for his ability. Essence Warden plays similarly as a one-drop, in that we'll probably be forced to chump with her vs. fast aggro, but she gives incidental life, and is something we want to bring back or fetch later when Meren has taken over but we might be too behind in life total to stop the opponent's clock without some lifegain.
  • -1 (Plaguecrafter), +1 Fulminator Mage. Yeah, I bought a Fulminator Mage! [NOTE: It was about 4 tix at the time]
  • -1 Vampire Nighthawk, +1 Bone Shredder. It's slightly conditional, but it's cheaper than the Chupacabra. And it sacrifices itself, so at some point Meren will keep bringing it back while it'll keep dying every turn.
  • +1 Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief, +1 Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest. I don't know what to take out to make room for them. Maybe we can just go up to 62 cards? Or they can replace one or both Maelstrom Pulses. Midrange removal like the Pulses might not be stricly necessary.
  • -1 Marsh Flats, +1 Westvale Abbey. I think it's just too good a wincon in this deck to pass. We might want to replace a Swamp with Urborg, though. I don't think we really need ten basics anyway. Eight plus Urborg and the fourth Bayou?

  

 GENERALISSIMO: Going above 60 cards with more than 20 tribal creatures is wrong.

 KUMAGORO: Okay, let's cut the Pulses entirely then, we might not need any slow removal after all.

 GENERALISSIMO: I don't like how little there is for the deck to do with one mana. I think it's part of the problem the deck is having against aggro; if you're not doing anything on turn one, particularly on the draw, it's really easy to fall behind, and the deck doesn't have any Damnation or the like to catch back up. I'm inclined to make room for an Inquisition of Kozilek/Cabal Therapy package to give the deck a more proactive early game-plan.
 I'm still entirely unconvinced about Awakening Zone. It's good with Mazirek and Grave Pact, but I just don't think it does enough on its own to justify its place; we don't have that much use for the mana it produces and, although it can produce a stream of chump-blockers, taking an entire turn to get going makes it slow against aggro, which is where I'd most want that effect.

 Similarly, I'm not a fan of Vampire Hexmage. Without something to combo her with, she seems way too narrow; and you played her against Ajanis out of my Cat deck and even then she didn't do enough. The only planeswalkers I'm really scared of are the Karns and Ugins out of the Cloupost decks, and I don't exactly think Hexmage is going to save that match-up.

 KUMAGORO: All right, I can get behind the Inquisition of Kozilek plan. We can take the Awakening Zones out – I think it's a great card, and could lead to wins by itself, and I would definitely play it if this was my exclusive build (I played three copies last week and won against heavy aggro decks partially because of it), but I want this to be as competitive as possible, and you can usually detect the weak, Johnny-based links in our builds better than me.

 GENERALISSIMO: Well, now I just feel like you're setting things up to be my fault when things go south.

 KUMAGORO: I will definitely blame your irrational hostility against my favorite cards! Anyway, I want to streamline it further. Just like in our Survival build, I think there's a lot of “what ifs” in there, things that we might want to have access to in very special cases, but overall make the deck feel too fragmented. I'm thinking Viscera Seer, for instance – I proposed it, but now I think that one can go. And let's rethink Fulminator Mage for a moment. How is it gonna save us from Post decks? Are we hoping to draw into our only copy by turn three? Because if we rely on Fauna Shaman to tutor it up, that's going to be way too late, and killing one Post at that point won't matter much.

 GENERALISSIMO: Agreed. I think Post is going to be a horrible matchup and making it better is going to take more than one or two slots. For similar, silver-bullet-esque reasons, do we still want Minister of Pain in the deck? It can be back-breaking against a bunch of x/1s but does very little otherwise.

 KUMAGORO: I'm not too into the Minister myself, it's okay to go. But we shouldn't get below a certain threshold of self-sacrificing creatures, or the whole plan collapses. I'd change it for Vampire Hexmage or Plaguecrafter. And yes, we're completely in disagreement about Vampire Hexmage. I believe you're looking at her from the wrong point of view. She does three things, the first of which is just being a first striker on turn two. That proved invaluable against Goblins in my Modern list. If anything, having four of them would be a better guarantee to stop their attacks until they decide to waste a bolt on her, which is something we wouldn't mind. The second thing she does is enabling Grave Pact and Meren. And then she also kills planeswalkers and the likes, but that's just a bonus. If we look at her only as a silver bullet, then of course we shouldn't care to include such a narrow one – but she's not just that.

 Anyway, my last-minute motion is: -2 Awakening Zone, -1 Fulminator Mage, -1 Viscera Seer, +4 Inquisition of Kozilek.

 

 GENERALISSIMO: I still want a couple of Cabal Therapies; I just love playing with the card too much. Just +3 Inquisitions, +2 Cabal Therapy and -1 Minister of Pain?

 KUMAGORO: I can't play Cabal Therapy because I can look at the lists, remember? You play it, I'll use Inquisition instead.

 

 GENERALISSIMO: What about Shriekmaw instead of Bone Shredder? It's harder to actually reanimate with Meren but provides an immediate trigger and a target for her, and costs less.

 KUMAGORO: Shriekmaw doesn't entirely combo with Meren, though – unlike Shredder, if Meren brings Shriekmaw back, it won't die on its own. And I also think our two-drop section is crowded enough.

The two lists were entered into Tribal Apocalypse 420 on January 26, 2019.
Here's Generalissimo's video commentary of the event.

AFTER THE DISASTER...

 KUMAGORO: My round 1 went terribly, against super-efficient Humans (ironically, mostly Golgari). Then in round 2 I got paired against Cloudpost, and that just went as well as expected. And then I ended with a BYE. Man, this might have been my worst event ever.
 I think ultimately the concept of the deck got too diluted. We should have made sure to have Grave Pact and/or Meren around more often, maximizing our battleplan instead of worrying about all the possible things we could face at the other side of the table.

 

 I feel like we're making this mistake frequently, we build elaborate decks with solid game plans, but then we lose track of what they're supposed to be doing. The way it was conceptualized, this is a deck that should win on the back of Meren's recursion and Grave Pact's board dominance. Were we able to consistently pull off this plan, we wouldn't need to worry about finding solutions to every specific problem. And if we still felt the need to buy time, we should have done it in radical ways. Like, sure, disruption, but also Damnation, especially with a new Meren ready to drop. We were control-combo, but it's like we didn't believe enough that we were.
 Maybe I'm just being too negative, though. I ended with a 0-4 score games-wise, but you went 3-3 instead (well, 4-6 if we count the extra match), which is much more encouraging.

 GENERALISSIMO: We did get some unfortunate pairings; two BYEs and two Cloudpost variants between us were not the best opponents to let the deck shine. It sounds like I had a much better time of it than you, though. I do agree with you about the deck ending up somewhat lacking in focus; personally, I blame Fauna Shaman. As I said when I first suggested the card, "I basically always find it to be worse than I expect", and maybe next time I'll take that to heart and resist the urge to put her in a deck. The deck should be better at effectively locking an opponent out of the game when Meren gets going; I got Plaguecrafter doing that in the video by clearing the board and then attacking the opponent's hand, but recurring Fulminator Mage or maybe even the addition of Smokestackld provide ways to keep the opponent from recovering while the deck slowly chips away at their life.

ONE YEAR LATER...

 We're now in December 2019, Meren is priced at 68 cents (the irony!), and the following new Golgari Shamans have been added to the Legacy pool (not many, since the Golgari guild was already featured in Guilds of Ravnica, while War of the Spark had no Shamans at all).

   

 Neither of us ever played Meren again, and maybe we should, especially now that our worst enemy, Cloudpost, got considerably nerfed in Tribal Apocalypse, and particularly lost access to Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.

Original art by Mark Winters.

 Anyway, that's it for Meren and her lost Shamans, finally here after being delayed for nearly one year. Better late than never!


 BUILDING LAB ARCHIVES

  1. The Human Snacks – Modern Mardu Humans feat. Falkenrath Aristocrat
  2. Why Did It Have to be Snakes? – Legacy Underdog Simic Snakes feat. Primeval Bounty
  3. Artificial Flavors – Standard Jeskai Artificers feat. (Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain) 
  4. Surviving Nightmares – Vintage Abzan Spirits and Humans feat. Survival of the Fittest and Recurring Nightmare 

3 Comments

Shamans are always going to by Paul Leicht at Mon, 12/09/2019 - 19:42
Paul Leicht's picture
5

Shamans are always going to be combo-centric and as such it is just a matter of deciding which combos work best with which pieces. I used to run shamans every now and then when I could manage to be awake at the time of the apocalypse with varying degrees of success (no event wins but some 2-1/3-0s I think.)

I appreciate the work you fellows put into this series. Thank you and keep it coming. :D

Ahh, pre-nerf post decks. Fun by AJ_Impy at Mon, 12/09/2019 - 22:15
AJ_Impy's picture

Ahh, pre-nerf post decks. Fun times, but the nerfs have done their job. Priest of forgotten gods might be fun to pair with Meren.

It didn't come up in the by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 12/10/2019 - 06:49
Kumagoro42's picture

It didn't come up in the article, but Meren's pet in the art is her clan's signature undead dragon Scourge of Nel Toth, which could have been interesting in the deck, especially with Fauna Shaman fetching it into the graveyard.