Good Game: Relapse in San Diego



Good Game: Relapse in San Diego

Some of you may notice that this article is a week early (I usually write a bi-weekly article), but there are just too many events that I need to report on to do it once every other week. Last weekend, myself and two friends made the six hour sojourn to San Diego for one of the early PTQs of the season. My original intention was to go packing a Doran deck. I knew B/W Tokens would be popular, but I assumed the Blightning decks would be even more popular (as they are quite strong). The Doran deck has good game against Red and between the new Pulse and new Whammer, which I've heard called the Slammer, Doran has acceptable game against Tokens as well. Here's the decklist I was thinking of running:

My Doran AggroMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Land
4 Gilt-Leaf Palace
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Murmuring Bosk
1 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Treetop Village
4 Twilight Mire

Creatures
2 Birds of Paradise
3 Chameleon Colossus
4 Doran, the Siege Tower
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Putrid Leech
4 Wilt-Leaf Liege
4 Wren's Run Vanquisher

Spells
2 Behemoth Sledge
4 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Nameless Inversion
3 Profane Command



I only did a little testing with it, but the deck seemed pretty good. Pre-board against Blightning, I was over 50%, and that only went up post-board. Pre-board against B/W Tokens was right around 50%. And I already knew from the wrong end how good a turn two Doran was against Faeries. I felt like it was a solid metagame choice.

Then a friend offered me some crack, and an old habit kicked back up. That was a metaphor, by the way. I don't do crack. But Merfolk was a strong habit, one I managed to kick after my disappointing run in Kyoto. That was, until, my friend called me two days before the PTQ and said I should run Merfolk. Considering he was one of the biggest opponent's to me running the fish at the Pro Tour, this caught my attention and held it.

He had some interesting ideas for the deck, and good arguments on why I should run it (mostly that Faeries was on the decline because of the new stuff). Plus, as one of the worst matchups for the deck is practically dead altogether (Boat Brew), it did seem like a good metagame for the fish. I mean, if most of the decks in attendance were Blightning decks—which, oddly enough, is one of Merfolk's best matchups—than wouldn't this be a sick deck choice? Yes, it would, if most of the decks were Blightning...

But here's the deck list we came up with, running my friends tech that he had in Kithkin. He swore by the card, so I gave it a shot:

My U/W MerfolkMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Land
4 Adarkar Wastes
7 Island
4 Mutavault
4 Mystic Gate
2 Plains
4 Wanderwine Hub

Creatures
4 Meddling Mage
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Reveillark
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Sygg, River Guide
4 Wake Thrasher

Spells
4 Cryptic Command
2 Loxodon Warhammer
3 Redeem the Lost
2 Wrath of God




Looks like trash, which is what makes it so good.
The card? Redeem the Lost. It could serve as Sygg, River Guides five through seven (or eight, post-board), and it could save my Meddling Mages, who would most likely be holding off a mainboard Volcanic Fallout. There were a couple critical card choice errors, but I'll get to that at the end of the article.

Round One, Jund Blightning

I'm not sure why, but this seemed a more popular build at the PTQ than the regular Red/Black Blightning deck. I guess the allure of running Bloodbraid Elf was just too high.

I won the die roll and got to play first. My only real regret about Merfolk is that there are no turn one plays in it. I regret that because red decks get to open with a few of them, notably Figure of Destiny. But, I had a second turn Sygg, River Guide followed by a turn three Meddling Mage naming not Volcanic Fallout, which is usually the best choice against any deck with red in it, but naming Boggart Ram-Gang. If he played a Fallout, I could bounce back from that easily enough—I had a Reveillark in hand. If he started dropping 3/3 hastey Goblins, I'd be buried under his assault.

On my turn four, I dropped a Loxodon Warhammer. Sure enough, on his turn four, he hit the Fallout and dropped it. But, through Sygg and Mage hitting him, the Fallout, and a couple points off a painland, he was down to 7 life. Turn five, I dropped a Wake Thrasher, and had two mana up.

He tried to kill the Thrasher, but Redeem the Lost saved him. My opponent had nothing left to deal with the Thrasher, who would swing for lethal on my turn, and conceded.

Game one: win

In from the board came Burrenton Forge-Tenders and the extra Redeem the Lost. Out came the Thrashers, as they are terrible against Mogg Fanatics. He opened with a turn two Goblin Outlander, and hit me with two Blightnings, one on turn four, and one on turn six. Other than that, he just played land. Oh, and a kill spell for my Meddling Mage. But I dropped a couple Reveillarks, and when I said he played just land, I meant it.

Game two: win

Match Results: 1-0-0

Round Two, Monowhite Control


I could see her easily dismantling single-color
strategies.
This was a homebrew deck composed largely of white enchantments meant to control the game. I won the roll, and came out with back-to-back Silvergill Adepts. Then I played a Meddling Mage naming Wrath of God. He spent his next turn Oblivion Ringing my Mage, so he could Wrath on the following turn. No worries, as I played a couple of Mutavaults, a third Adept, and a Sygg. He had no real answers to these, as the Runed Halo he played before the Wrath named Silvergill Adept.

Game one: win.

I boarded out the Wraths and the Whammers, in favor of the fourth Redeem and the three Jace Belerens. He opened with a turn two Greater Auramancy to protect his enchantments. I opened with a turn two Meddling Mage calling Oblivion Ring, and a turn three Mage calling Wrath. His only hope was the Story Circle he dropped, calling blue. I started to pile creatures onto the board. He played a Pariah on my Mage naming Wrath. On my turn, I played a Redeem on my Mage, naming white. Goodbye, Pariah. The game took a while, as he managed to keep as many lands out as I had creatures.

But, eventually I had two Cryptic Commands in my hand. At the end of his turn, I bounced the Auramancy. On my turn, I swung out, forcing him to tap out so he wouldn't die. Then on his turn, he had the tough choice—not so tough really—play the Auramancy and not have enough mana to survive behind the Story Circle, or do nothing and live for another turn. He went with the latter. At the end of his turn, I played the second Cryptic and bounced his Story Circle. He conceded.

Game two: win.

Match Results: 2-0-0

Off to a good start...

Round Three, B/W Tokens

I won the roll yet again, and came out okay, with a Silvergill Adept on two and a Sygg not long after. He did slow me down with a Kitchen Finks, and then turned the beats the other way with a Cloudgoat Ranger and a Murderous Redcap. But I got a Wake Thrasher down, and with Sygg on the board, both the Thrasher and Sygg got through unblocked for lethal.

Game one: win.


Still as annoying as ever.
As for boarding against this deck, my strategy was pretty bad. I didn't test against this deck with Merfolk at all (big mistake). My Doran deck had decent game against it, but then Doran maindecked the full four Maelstrom Pulses. I boarded in my extra Wraths and my Jaces, hoping to turn into the control deck for the matchup.

He dropped a turn two Bitterblossom. It's really hard to play control against that card. He kept all my guys off the board with a Murderous Redcap—also really good against control—and a pump spell or two later, I was dead.

Game two: loss.

Game three went pretty much the same way. He dropped his turn two Bitterblossom, and tokens got work done. And if you didn't know, Bitterblossom plus Zealous Persecution is really good. At least that game, I got him under 10 life...

Game three: loss.

Match Results: 2-1-0

There went my hopes of drawing the last two rounds to make top eight. By the way, Merfolk does not want to try and play control against B/W Tokens. That deck is much too resistant to board sweepers. Play your dudes, mess up their board development a little with Sage's Dousing and Path to Exile, and try to steal wins with Cryptic Command. Wrath hurts you more than them, I think.

Round Four, Five-Color

He won the roll, and kept a two-lander. Always risky when playing Five-Color, and here's why. He didn't draw a third land by turn five.

Game one: win.

I boarded out my Wraths and Whammer, put in the extra Redeem and the Jaces. Jaces may have really helped with this matchup, but I don't know for certain. I never saw them. I opened with an Adept, then a Meddling Mage naming Volcanic Fallout. He eventually got the Path off to get rid of the Mage, then swept the board with a Fallout. I didn't manage to mount an offensive again, as he played Cruel Ultimatum, Wydwen, the Biting Gale, and another Ultimatum. Ouchy.

Game two: loss.


I never dreamed this card could cause me such
headaches.
I opened with a turn two Mage calling Fallout, and got there for so, so much with him. But my hand didn't have too many dudes in it—mostly Redeem the Losts. But he dropped Wydwen, which slowed me down a little. Actually, it slowed me down a lot. Then he played a Cruel Ultimatum. Sigh. I got in there with my man-land and a Lark, while he dropped a Broodmate Dragon, then played a second Ultimatum.

Actually, what happened here was that he hit me for 8 with the dragons, then showed me the Ultimatum and a Fallout (I was at 7 life and tapped out). I thought about it for a second, got a resigned look on my face, and said, "Let's play it out." He played the Ultimatum first. I sacrificed my Reveillark, and he let the trigger resolve, so I brought back a Wake Thrasher (who was discarded to the first Ultimatum) and my Meddling Mage, naming Fallout. Whoops.

He played a Mulldrifter for full cost as a chump blocker, then passed turn. I was hoping to draw something good. I forgot that I had a Reveillark on top—I knew it from a recent clash—but hope wasn't gone yet. I evoked the Lark, resurrecting two Silvergill Adepts. I was desperately hoping to draw a Path to Exile. I drew a Mutavault and a Merrow Reejerey. Sad. I swung out, hoping he'd forget to block. He didn't. Double dragon killed me on his turn.

Game three: loss.

Match Results: 2-2-0

Well, there went hopes of top eight, even. That sucked. Especially since it was against Five-Color, which is a decent matchup for me. All I need to win is to see dudes to play, but my Merfolk deck was a little too spell heavy.

Round Five, Jund Something

My opponent was playing some kind of Jund deck here, but he never played a Blightning. He did play a number of Kitchen Finks though. I won the roll, and came out decently fast. He hit me with a Fallout, then got down a Finks. No worries as I rebuilt my board (the glory of drawing dudes) and hit him with Reveillark, Sygg, and double Reejerey. He never mounted a counter attack, and I overwhelmed him.

Game one: win.


I loved him once. I still do.
Burrenton Forge-Tenders came in. I think Wraths came out. I know I didn't yank the Thrashers, as by this point it was dawning on me that I would win games so long as I saw Merfolk. We both ended up mulling once, and I had a turn one Forge-Tender. He got a Finks down, and I played a Thrasher to battle it. He did manage to mount a small offensive with something that, in my notes, I abbreviated "GT". It did 3 damage to me the first time it hit, and the next time, I was hit by two of them for 6 damage. But I cannot for the life of me figure out what GT was. If you have any ideas, post it in the forums!

Either way, my Thrasher pounded through the Finks, and then ran into zero opposition (GT couldn't block?). It took three swings to bring him from 23 life to 4 life, and he conceded on my next turn.

Game two: win.

Match Results: 3-2-0

I suppose there was a super-duper-slim chance that 5-2-0 could make top eight, but when that happens, it's usually the guy who went 5-1-0 and then lost his last match. There were always packs to be playing for, though.

Round Six, G/B Elves


Why did this ever fall off the radar?
This deck is pretty cool. Probably not good enough to compete at the top tables with B/W Tokens, but it's fast and has black for fun tricks. He won the roll and came out with a turn one Nettle Sentinel, turn two Bramblewood Paragon, turn three Civic Wayfinder. His creatures quickly outclassed mine and beat me down.

Game one: loss.

I boarded in my Wraths and my Paths, again planning on playing the control deck. Again, not having dudes probably hurt me more than not. He came out slow, with a turn one Treetop Village into a turn two Village and a Llanowar Elves. His board kind of exploded from there, but I had a Wrath of God in hand, and swept it clean. Except for the Treetop Villages. I was trying to outrace him with my Wake Thrasher, but he hit a Civic Wayfinder and got enough land to activated both Villages. Turns out Treetop Village is really good.

Game two: loss.

Match Results: 3-3-0

Wow, now I'm not sure I can even play for packs. But, one of my friends was 4-2-0, and was playing for that slim chance at top eight (and prize, of course), so I stayed in. May as well get the practice in, right?

Round Seven, Five-Color Again


I can fight through this if I see fish.
I won the roll. And this time, I saw dudes. I came out of the gates fast—well, as fast as Merfolk does without a Stonybrook Banneret—with an Adept on turn two, and a second one on turn three. Then I played Sygg on turn four. I didn't care about Fallout, as I had a Lark in hand. He didn't have it anyway. He went for an Ultimatum, and it resolved, but it didn't matter. My board was strong enough that I pounded through it. Cruel Ultimatum only kills one creature, and the 5 life doesn't mean much if I still have a ton of dudes down.

Game one: win.

I came out quick again, using a Reejerey and a Mutavault to get most of my work done (he Fallouted my first two plays). Eventually, I had a Sygg and a Lark down, too, and he just didn't have anything to deal with my board.

Game two: win.

It turns out, oddly, that Five-Color actually has a hard time dealing with lots of creatures...go figure.

Match Results: 4-3-0

I finished 26th out of 88 players. I didn't get any prize, either. But what I did gain was a much better understanding of the new metagame, and how Merfolk operates within it. B/W Tokens is seeming like the most popular deck—it certainly was in San Diego—which means that Boat Brew and its Mogg Fanatic recursion is out. Faeries also seems to be on the decline, as Zealous Persecution and Anathemancer are topping the popularity charts. Faeries and Boat Brew were some of the hardest matchups for the fish, which means that it may make a great metagame choice.

The other thing I learned, though, is that in order for Merfolk to do well, it needs to play actual Merfolk. Not running the Stonybrook Banneret was a mistake. It took away any potential to drop a turn three or four fish bomb. Also, though the Redeem did snag me a few game wins, a Sage's Dousing would have done the same, plus a Dousing could have countered other nuisances, like Murderous Redcap. As for Wrath...the deck I figured I'd need it the most for is actually quite resistant to it. Here's the newer, updated list I'm looking at for Regionals:

My Newer U/W MerfolkMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Land
4 Adarkar Wastes
4 Island
4 Mutavault
4 Mystic Gate
4 Wanderwine Hub
4 Windbrisk Heights

Creatures
3 Meddling Mage
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Silvergill Adept
3 Sower of Temptation
4 Stonybrook Banneret
4 Sygg, River Guide
3 Wake Thrasher

Spells
4 Cryptic Command
3 Path to Exile
4 Sage's Dousing



Sower of Temptation is now included because...well, because it always should have been. There is just no real reason not to play this, especially if I can play it on turn three. The Path to Exile got promoted to maindeck because of B/W Tokens. A Murderous Redcap that resolves can cause quite a few problems. Plus, it gives me extra defense against other aggro strategies (Elves, Blightning) without hurting my board. I've tested this a bit against B/W Tokens, and it does pretty well (at least 50% pre-board so far, perhaps better post-board). Of course, all these numbers are based on a small sample size, and could be way off.

The one thing I need to remember while running this deck is: a five card hand with Merfolk in it (especially an Adept) is 1000% better than a seven card hand with none (even if it has other creatures). All I need to beat most decks, including Tokens, is a board presence. Once I have that, my blue spells will usually carry the rest of the game.

This summer may well see the return of the Merfolk. I'll tell you more after Regionals...

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