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By: stsung, Ren Stefanek
Jun 21 2016 8:13pm
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For my second article about EDH I decided to 'level up' so my deck would be more fit for the decks that I usually encountered when I was playing with Phelddagrif. I did not set myself any limits but I did not strive for something competitive. I just wanted to see where the deckbuilding would take me.

This time the general I chose is Meren of Clan Nel Toth. Back when the image of Meren was spoiled I really hoped that the creature would be good. I hoped the card would be something like Deathrite Shaman. When the Commander 2015 decklists were posted and I read Meren's ability for the first time and fell in love with her! It was one of the cards (after Containment Priest and True-Name Nemesis) I wanted to open in the Cube Prize packs some time ago but it eluded me (even though I can't complain since all the packs I opened were worth more than selling the pack itself).  The card is not blue (my favorite color) but she gives an insane card advantage and that is very hard to ignore. I said to myself that she would be my next general one day.

So what does this 13 tix beauty do?

This card recurs creatures. It either puts target creature into play (CMC less than or equal the number of Experience counters) or puts it into your hand.

When building this deck I had Aristocrats deck in mind (4c Rally) - a lot of cheap creatures that can do something and then drain my opponent. I was skeptical about the actual Type 2 version of this deck but I put it together and play with it online for a while. I was surprised by what the deck can do. Not only it was very fun to play but the deck was very powerful and there were countless ways how to win the game. I liked the original Aristocrats as well but the 4c Rally deck actually suited me more. All the creatures the deck plays can simply die just to be reused. The creatures can be brought back with Rally the Ancestors. Since Rally can be played at instant speed it can deal with many situations (if it doesn't kill the opponent right away) - for example the creatures can block and be sacrificed with Nantuko Husk while Zulaport Cutthroat is in play. Reflector Mage can bounce at instant speed, Elvish Visionary will draw another card, Arashin Cleric will gain you 3 more life etc. 

What deck can draw so many cards?

The Meren deck was supposed to be similar to 4c Rally. So what does the deck need? 

Since Meren costs 4 mana and that seemed too much for me I wanted to have her in play sooner if possible. For that the deck needs some mana dorks/ramp. Ideally those cards should cost 1 mana, but if they cost 2 it does not matter either since the spell we want to cast costs 4 mana. There are for example Birds of Paradise, Llanowar Elves, Elvish Mystic, Elves of Deep Shadow, Deathrite Shaman, Fyndhorn Elves etc. 

In order to recur the creatures I needed to find a way how to put the creatures in graveyard whenever I wanted myself. So I was looking for a sacrifice outlet that does not cost additional mana. The best way is to find a card with 'Sacrifice a creature' cost. In my case I chose the cheapest ones Carrion Feeder, Viscera Seer and Bloodthrone Vampire. One of the Dragons of Tarkir abilities is Exploit that also allows me to sacrifice my own creature. It was my favorite mechanic in FRF/DTK limited (the only reason I wanted to draft it). There is only few cards with Exploit and even less in black. The card with the best effect (Demonic Tutor) is certainly Sidisi, Undead Vizier, followed by Vulturous Aven that draws two cards (for loss of 2 life) and Minister of Pain that gets rid of small creatures. 

To actually draw these creatures I decided to include some card drawing creatures. I put Elvish Visionary, Wall of Blossoms, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Phyrexian Rager, Street Wraith, Smothering Abomination, Dark Confidant, Eternal Witness and Grim Haruspex in the deck. After a few games I found that creatures like Elvish Visionary/Phyrexian Rager/Wall of Blossoms are not necessary. Street Wraith, Smothering Abomination and Nissa are great though. 

Since some games can get long from time to time I might need a life gain effect. In my collection there was Nylea's Disciple and Obstinate Baloth. Ravenous Baloth might be a better choice though because it can sacrifice itself. I cut the Baloth in the end because I sold it and put Spike Feeder there instead. I like those Spike creatures very much and this one is not bad at all. It can gain 4 life but can also save some creatures in combat or against -X/-X effects. I like the versatility of the card (and it can kill itself!).

This deck certainly needs removal. Both spot removal and global. To deal with creatures there are Shriekmaw and Bone Shredder that cannot deal with black and artifact creatures though but can hit with Eldrazi. For other creatures or later in the game there is Shadowborn Demon that destroys any non-demon creature. The card ended up in the deck because I needed a bigger body in the deck. At first I wanted to put Grave Titan or Thragtusk there but after I read Shadowborn Demon's ability a bit more carefully I decided to go with this creature instead because it can also sacrifice my own creatures. The best way to deal with creatures is to force my opponent to sacrifice them - Fleshbag Marauder and (Merciless Marauder). As a last resort I put Toxic Deluge and Dismember in the deck that can be tutored or recurred with Eternal Witness. Against some decks Toxic Deluge is a must (Elves). 

In any highlander one needs to deal with artifacts (mainly) and some enchantments or other noncreature permanents. The official banlist does not have on it cards like Sol Ring, Mana Crypt or Mana Vault so more artifact hate is not a bad thing. That is why I have Caustic Caterpillar, Reclamation Sage, Acidic Slime in the deck and I could add more. Since there isn't other cheap removal for other types than artifact and enchantment I included Abrupt Decay and Maelstrom Pulse in the deck (avoiding cards like Woodfall Primus, Terastodon or World Breaker).

No deck should be without at least 1 graveyard hate card. For that I have Scavenging Ooze (and Green Sun's Zenith to look for it) and Puppeteer Clique. The Clique is a very good card and with Meren can become very unfair soon. 

Since I also wanted a way how to win the game 'instantly' I included Phyrexian Devourer, Necrotic Ooze, Triskelion and Buried Alive. The Devourer is bugged on modo so the combo does not work. Triggering the ability X times actually takes ages unless the opponent sets an auto-yield (even though in the past few days even that did not work). Anyway Triskelion is still a pretty cool card with Meren and Necrotic Ooze can have some strange abilities that lead to some interesting situations. Devourer is usually a dead card though (who wants a chump blocker for six mana that is also an artifact? If you don't want to play that, play Mikaeus, the Unhallowed).

One of the cards I also wanted to play is Evolutionary Leap. Ever since it was printed I wanted to play it somewhere but the card did not seem to be good enough to be played in formats I usually play (ehm Vintage). I thought I would have the chance to try some BG deck in Magic Duels but my card pool is dismal. But now brewing Meren I found an ideal home for this card! It allows me to sacrifice a creature and look for another creature. Finally I can play with the card and make a good use of it.

There is one more group of cards I did not mention earlier. I did that on purpose because at first I did not want to include them at all (the first draft of the deck was without them). There are creatures that allow me to control the game as they can 'discard' a card from my opponent's hand (Brain Maggot, Mesmeric Fiend, Ravenous Rats). I wanted to keep the deck relatively friendly but after my lands were destroyed while facing 13 power on the other side of the table I changed my mind.

There are other cards in the deck that seemed to fit and I did not mention them earlier - Liliana of the Veil, Catacomb Sifter, Sylvan Library, Survival of the Fittest, Skullclamp, Reanimate, Demonic Tutor. All these cards are different format staples (except Catacomb Sifter) and self-explanatory and I put these cards in the deck because of lack of imagination and I was too eager to try the deck out. I considered other cards as well - Pernicious Deed, Entomb, Diabolic Intent, Birthing Pod, Damnation, Grave Titan, Thought-Knot Seer, Phyrexian Tower, High Market etc - but as you can see they have something in common, they are format staples. When I run out of imagination I simply think of good cards and I wanted to avoid that in this case. But only a short thought about how the deck could actually look like made me shiver. This deck can actually be highly competitive, not just a fun deck.

This time my deckbuilding process was in two phases. In the first one I just found cards I wanted to play and put them in the deck. I added some lands I could think of and imported the deck so I could play few games with it to see what the deck can possibly do. After several matches the deck changed a bit to be more coherent and bit more resilient. I added discard and the combo. 

So what does the deck do? It does almost anything you can think of (not really but it does a lot). Ideally the deck wants 3 lands in hand with a mana dork and one creature it can possibly recur. This way Meren can be played on t3. But it does not necessarily need to happen since there are some creatures that are worth having in play before Meren shows up. After Meren is in play it is good to find a way how to sacrifice your creatures. Sometimes the creatures can block (but my opponents weren't usually that enthusiastic to attack me) and often attacking with them is also a good thing. Often those 1/1s won't get blocked and if they do you can just recur them.

What you do next is up to you. It should lead to victory but the beautiful thing about this deck is that you can do a lot of stuff and many of those routes no matter how strange lead to victory. If you are under pressure there will be less and less space to do crazy stuff and the deck can be pretty ruthless if piloted in order to simply win (so I would advise you not to do so if you want to actually play a game). From the first few matches I realized that this deck has even bigger potential than I thought. This deck can certainly be played at competitive level and if Tasigur, the Golden Fang gets banned this will most probably be the deck I would sleeve up next. 

The deck as I have it now shows a price tag of 337tix but no worries the deck can pretty much cost less than 20 tix (while 13 tix being the price of the general). This deck has one huge advantage. It can be very cheap and efficient. It can also be a bit more expensive (compared to my 337tix) and be a highly competitive deck. In terms of deckbuilding it means that there are many cards you can choose from and it is up to you to choose them. All you need to keep in mind are the roles of those cards (removal, card advantage, acceleration, sac outlet). Also you need a win condition. I like cards like Evolutionary Leap or Blood Artist but the cards don't need to be present at all (Blood Artists trigger targets, very annoying on modo). As for the mana base this deck is not very demanding so basic lands are rather fine and there are land cards that are cheap and can produce black or green mana (Tainted Wood, Woodland Cemetery, Temple of Malady, Llanowar Wastes). I would advise against CIPT lands except Temple of Malady or a creatureland. If you would be considering buying a more expensive land rather buy Phyrexian Tower or High Market.

I wanted to keep the deck on low CMC in order to be able to use Meren fast but the deck can produce enough mana to play high CMC creatures. Making it a bit slower won't really hurt the deck much (considering the Magic Online field of the past few days). Just keep in mind that this deck requires a set up that takes a few turns. The deck is not completely powerless without Meren so if the general is destroyed too many times do not worry and just play your creatures (sometimes it is a better strategy - because you can lose tempo by playing a general that gets countered or destroyed). It requires a bit of creativity but that's what the deck is about. 

If you want to make the deck cheaper here are few examples of cards you can possibly include in your deck. 

Cards more expensive than 2 tix Aprox. Price Possible replacement
Meren of Clan Nel Toth 13 none
Nissa, Vastwood Seer 9 Yavimaya Elder
Deathrite Shaman 3 Arbor Elf, Devoted Druid, Boreal Druid
Dark Confidant 10 Carnage Altar, Corpse Augur
Scavenging Ooze 8 Loaming Shaman
Obstinate Baloth 4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Ravenous Baloth
Abrupt Decay 5 Golgari Charm, Nature's Claim
Demonic Tutor 5 (it goes against my conviction) Vampiric Tutor/Sylvan Tutor
Liliana of the Veil 90 cut/Profane Command, Wretched Confluence
Dismember 4 Go for the Throat
Maelstrom Pulse 3 Putrefy
Toxic Deluge 10 cut/Life's Finale
Bayou 6 Tainted Wood


No matter how cheap version of this deck you will play, bear in mind that Meren is really powerful general. Give your opponent some space if he can't catch up, don't kill him before he gets to play his cards, let him show you what his deck does. If you die, you still have two other games to win. If you encounter someone with a competitive deck just show him the beauty of your own deck. The deck does not contain any fast mana in a form of mana rocks, so those decks that use it will get far ahead. In such games the deck has difficulties to catch up but it can still win some of those games. The biggest weakness of this deck is that it cannot deal with planeswalkers well. Early planeswalker card advantage is way too much to handle for Meren.

If you want to play different game each time and you like to have many options this might be the right kind of deck for you so don't be afraid to try it out. You can play according to the level of your opponent which is nice about this deck and it is certainly fun deck to play.  

Here is the decklist in a text form.

Meren and co.
by S'Tsung, 337tix
1 Acidic Slime
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Bloodthrone Vampire
1 Bone Shredder
1 Blood Artist
1 Brain Maggot
1 Carrion Feeder
1 Catacomb Sifter
1 Caustic Caterpillar
1 Dark Confidant
1 Deathrite Shaman
1 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Elvish Mystic
1 Elvish Visionary
1 Eternal Witness
1 Fleshbag Marauder
1 Fyndhorn Elves
1 Grim Haruspex
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Merciless Executioner
1 Minister of Pain
1 Mesmeric Fiend
1 Necrotic Ooze
Cretures cont.
1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Phyrexian Devourer
1 Phyrexian Rager
1 Puppeteer Clique
1 Ravenous Rats
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Satyr Wayfinder
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Shadowborn Demon
1 Shriekmaw
1 Sidisi, Undead Vizier
1 Smothering Abomination
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Spike Feeder
1 Street Wraith
1 Triskelion
1 Viscera Seer
1 Vulturous Aven
1 Wall of Blossoms
1 Wood Elves
1 Zulaport Cutthroat
47 cards
Other Spells
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Buried Alive
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Dismember
1 Evolutionary Leap
1 Green Sun's Zenith
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Necromancy
1 Reanimate
1 Skullclamp
1 Sylvan Library
1 Toxic Deluge
13 cards
1 Bayou
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Command Tower
10 Forest
1 Grim Backwoods
1 Hissing Quagmire
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Marsh Flats
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Polluted Delta
10 Swamp
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Treetop Village
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Wasteland
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Woodland Cemetery
39 cards

Here are some videos.

Here is a video showing what can happen if your opponent has way too much mana early in the game.

Meren vs Chromium

Meren vs Merieke Ri Berit