[Primer] Modern Merfolk

  • #1
    Modern Merfolk

    The basics of playing Merfolk in the Modern format.
    v1.0.0
    Updated 8/15/2011

    First off, I've never written a primer before so I apologize for anything this is lacking and would love constructive criticism. I intend to add Match-Up Analysis and some more fluff eventually, if anyone wants to help, let me know.

    Building the Deck:

    The Core:
    Lands:
    In legacy, Merfolk players were able to get away with about 20 lands.
    Due to the loss of the "free" spells (like Mental Misstep, Daze and Force of Will), about 22 lands are recommended in the Modern format.
    For Mono Blue builds your land base should look something like this.

    13-18 Island
    3-4 Mutavault - Potentially the best man-land in the format. It is all creature types including Merfolk and is often a 3/3 or 4/4 that can tap for 1.
    0-4 Ghost Quarter - Disrupts your opponent’s mana base. The drawback is they get to find a basic land while you lose a land.
    0-4 Tectonic Edge - Similar to Ghost Quarter but your opponent needs 4 lands to activate it and it has a 1 mana activation cost. It also only hits non-basic lands.

    The mana base for a UW build is a lot more varied and has a lot of personal preference. Cards to consider or include are:

    Mutavault - Same as before, all around great card.
    Ghost Quarter/Tectonic Edge- Same reasons as before. With fetches and shocklands, you can support more colorless mana.
    Hallowed Fountain - The UW shockland. It is necessary in the deck and can be fetched.
    Scalding Tarn/Misty Rainforest - Blue fetchlands from Zendikar. Can hit shock lands.
    Wanderwine Hub - UW dual land but you need to reveal a merfolk from your hand in order to have it enter play untapped. May or may not be needed.

    For UB Watery Grave is also used.

    Artifacts:
    Aether Vial is a must have for Merfolk.
    It allows players to build up an attack force, playing creatures at instant speed, while still leaving mana open for counters and removal.
    Four Aether Vials leaves room for 34 other cards.

    Creatures:
    In the transition from Legacy to Modern Merfolk lost most of its disruption, but its creature base was virtually unchanged.
    Four of each of the following creatures should be in any Merfolk Deck.




    This takes 16 of our 34 slots, leaving 18 openings.
    Most decks run anywhere between 20 and 26 creatures depending on how much control you want to include.
    This leaves between 14 and 8 slots open for disruption and removal.

    The Options:
    Creatures:
    Lords:



    Utility:
    Cursecatcher - Force Spike on a creature. Throws off decks playing the tempo game.
    Cosi's Trickster - With many decks running fetches and other shuffle effects, Cosi Trickster can get fairly large pretty quickly.
    Wake Thrasher - Another beater that can really pack a punch.
    Sygg, River Cutthroat - Opponent's Fetch + Shockland = Draw a card.

    Non Merfolk Options:
    Phantasmal Image - Another lord, 'Goyf' defense, Legendary removal... Unfortunately easy to get rid of.
    Phyrexian Metamorph - See above, harder to remove but costs more.
    Kira, Great Glass-Spinner - Provides protection for your lords from spot removal.
    Sower of Temptation - Used to steal threats you can't handle otherwise.
    Vendilion Clique - Possibly the best blue card remaining in the format. A 3/1 flyer for 3 that reveals your opponents hand and removes their wincon.

    Disruption:
    This is where Merfolk really took a hit. It was bad enough losing Force of Will and Daze, then they ban Mental Misstep?!

    Spell Disruption:
    Spell Pierce - Conditional counter.
    Mana Leak - Conditional counter.
    Rune Snag - Scaling conditional counter.
    Turn Aside - Provides protection for your lords from spot removal.
    Spell Snare - Usually better in the side board.
    Remand - Buys you a bit of time and replaces itself.
    Disrupting Shoal - Closest replacement for Force of Will in Modern.
    Cryptic Command - Very versitile. In my experience has been used more for tapping down opponents and drawing rather than countering.

    Removal:
    Dismember - Handles creatures too big for the fish.

    Mana Disruption:
    Since the current front-runner as far as control decks are concerned is 12post, messing with opponents lands can be devestating.
    Spreading Seas - Turns a Cloudpost or Dual into an Island and replaces itself.
    Planeswalkers:
    Jace Belerin - Draw engine.

    Splashing:
    It's funny 'cuz they are fish.
    White Splash:
    Sejiri Merfolk - Another option for a beater.
    Sygg, River Guide - Islandwalk and allows you to give your lords protection from removal.
    Path to Exile - Probably the best creature removal in the format, helps handle threats from decks like Zoo.
    Mana Tithe - White force spike, can really be an unpleasant surprise for your opponents.

    Black Splash:
    Dark Confidant - Generates card advantage at the cost of life.
    Thoughtseize - Handles opponents threat before they can be cast.
    Inquisition of Kozilek - Budget version or 5-8 of Thoughtseize.
    Go for the Throat - Creature removal.
    Doomblade - Creature removal.

    Sideboard:
    Common sideboard choices based on the current meta are the following.
    Hurkyl's Recall - Used against artifact heavy decks like Modern Affinity.
    Meddling Mage - Used in decks with white splash.
    Bribery - Used to steal opponents threats in decks like 12post.
    Relic of Progenitus - Graveyard hate.
    Threads of Disloyalty - Creature steal, hits Goyf and Bob.

    Sample Lists:

    Don't forget to feed your fish!

    Crumbum has stated that he is starting school back up and won't be able to give this primer due attention. I'm looking for volunteers to get me a new primer with updated with current lists and matchup analysis that conforms to the new Primer standard. t_c
    Last edited by the_cardfather: 9/10/2011 11:45:27 AM
    Click Here For Trades!

    I live in Ann Arbor during the school year and Grosse Pointe during the summer and I'm always looking for people to draft with!

    Currently Playing:
    Legacy
    R Mono Red Goblins R
    UW Charitable Donations WU
    U Merfolk U

    Commander
    G Verdeloth Token G
    RGW Uril, the Mist Stalker WGR

  • #2
    Seems to me that for this deck to be viable starting off, you are going to need to plan for a heavily aggro meta. Merfolk always had a terrible matchup against zoo in legacy, but that said, i think its still possible to build around that now, since the absolute dedication to aggro and combo disruption that legacy builds ran can be sacrificed to an extent. IMO this deck does the best now if you run solid control cards that are good at shutting aggro off.

    I think that Cryptic Command (especially for its pseudo fog effect) will really shine in this deck now, as will Spell Snare, which I think should be main boarded, possibly as much as a 4-of. Spell Snare stops many of what we have to assume are the biggest threats in this format...namely Goyf and Dark Confidant, but others as well. I also think that some of the staples and all-stars of legacy merfolk, such as Aether Vial, are going to be not quite as good in a zoo-heavy format.

    Its even possible that a splash-black list might run Damnation...either main board or sideboard.
  • #3
    @BurntChomsky - I agree with a lot of what you said, I could definitely see main boarding spell snare with Goyf and Bob being two major threats. As for the Zoo match-up, I was doing a lot better against it with my legacy Merfolk Deck using the Phantasmal Images to copy Goyfs and whatnot at instant speed with vial. I disagree with the idea of adding Damnation in a black variant though. Merfolk is a variation on an aggro deck. It wins with team play like creatures feeding off of the effects of other creatures. This doesn't work well with board wipes.
    Click Here For Trades!

    I live in Ann Arbor during the school year and Grosse Pointe during the summer and I'm always looking for people to draft with!

    Currently Playing:
    Legacy
    R Mono Red Goblins R
    UW Charitable Donations WU
    U Merfolk U

    Commander
    G Verdeloth Token G
    RGW Uril, the Mist Stalker WGR

  • #4
    I believe that the U/W version might be the only way to beat Zoo. I'm not entirely sure, but, there is something missing with the mono U version.

    So, here's the list I'm going to start testing out:

    x4 Coralhelm Commander
    x4 Silvergill Adept
    x4 Cursecatcher
    x4 Lord of Atlantis
    x4 Merrow Reejery
    x2 Adaptive Automaton
    x2 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner

    x4 Aether Vial
    x4 Path to Exile
    x4 Disrupting Shoal
    x2 Mana Tithe

    x4 Hallowed Fountain
    x4 Seachrome Coast
    x4 Glacial Fortress
    x4 Island
    x4 Ghost Quarter
    x2 Tectonic Edge

    Sideboard

    x3 Seijiri Merfolk
    x4 Spell Pierce
    x2 Spreading Seas
    x4 Meddling Mage
    x2 Wrath of God

    Choices:

    Path to Exile in the main deck really gives an advantage against creature-based strategies, namely Zoo. Having spot removal for even the biggest threats Zoo has to offer helps Merfolk go a long way.

    Adaptive Automaton is included for the same reason as before, except now, I'm only running six colorless lands. I think that Automaton is a good Lord. Is he better than Merfolk Sovereign? I don't know. But, I keep comparing him to Mutavault, but, I see Automaton as a one-time activation of 3 colorless, as opposed of a once-a-turn activation of 1 colorless.

    Seijiri Merfolk in the sideboard gives a nice option against Punishing Fire decks. When pair with a main deck Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, I think that Merfolk does great against Punishing decks.

    Spreading Seas helps fight 12post, 'Tron, and Zoo. It cantrips, and it allows a clear path for the Fish as long as you have a Lord of Atlantis out.

    Meddling Mage stops some combos cold. If a deck doesn't have a way to deal with Meddling Mage, then it can become a nuisance to the worst degree.

    And finally, Wrath of God. Another card to help fight off creature-based strategies, including, yep, you guessed it, Zoo. But, Wrath of God also helps fight G/x Elves, any type of Junk-based deck, and a host of others. Sure, you might hit a couple of your own Fish, but, you have Aether Vial to keep sending them in. (Note, Wrath of God is much better with Mutavault, which I'm currently testing in place of the x2 Automatons).
    Last edited by Brandon Brawlers: 8/16/2011 2:10:26 PM
    "Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein
  • #5
    Quote from Chrumbum
    @BurntChomsky - I agree with a lot of what you said, I could definitely see main boarding spell snare with Goyf and Bob being two major threats. As for the Zoo match-up, I was doing a lot better against it with my legacy Merfolk Deck using the Phantasmal Images to copy Goyfs and whatnot at instant speed with vial. I disagree with the idea of adding Damnation in a black variant though. Merfolk is a variation on an aggro deck. It wins with team play like creatures feeding off of the effects of other creatures. This doesn't work well with board wipes.


    Yeah you might be right about damnation. I was kind of thinking about how fairies used to use it in extended, but I also was just mentioning it to show how drastic I think you need to compensate for the meta.

    Another card I think many lists will want to mainboard is dismember.
    Last edited by BurntChomsky: 8/16/2011 2:10:46 PM
  • #6
    Quote from Chrumbum
    @BurntChomsky - I agree with a lot of what you said, I could definitely see main boarding spell snare with Goyf and Bob being two major threats. As for the Zoo match-up, I was doing a lot better against it with my legacy Merfolk Deck using the Phantasmal Images to copy Goyfs and whatnot at instant speed with vial. I disagree with the idea of adding Damnation in a black variant though. Merfolk is a variation on an aggro deck. It wins with team play like creatures feeding off of the effects of other creatures. This doesn't work well with board wipes.



    Honestly he is kind of on with the damnations. This is an aggro/control deck. Against Zoo you are the control deck. Playing it as such will help you win the matchup a bit more.
    In life all we can do is try to make things better. Sitting lost in old ways and fearing change only makes us outdated and ignorant.


    Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.
    Albert Einstein


    Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.

    Thomas Jefferson

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  • #7
    I understand what you're saying, and I understand the point that you play the control deck when playing against Zoo, I just don't know that Damnation, or any mass creature removal is the right way to go about it. I agree more with the idea of MB Dismembers, Fish can handle lots of little guys, that's what they are good at, they need spot removal for the ones they can't.
    Click Here For Trades!

    I live in Ann Arbor during the school year and Grosse Pointe during the summer and I'm always looking for people to draft with!

    Currently Playing:
    Legacy
    R Mono Red Goblins R
    UW Charitable Donations WU
    U Merfolk U

    Commander
    G Verdeloth Token G
    RGW Uril, the Mist Stalker WGR

  • #8
    Quote from Chrumbum
    I understand what you're saying, and I understand the point that you play the control deck when playing against Zoo, I just don't know that Damnation, or any mass creature removal is the right way to go about it. I agree more with the idea of MB Dismembers, Fish can handle lots of little guys, that's what they are good at, they need spot removal for the ones they can't.


    I don't think throwing your life down the drain is a good idea. Zoos creatures are better and they also run 3-4 path 4 lightning bolt, 4 lightning helix. Also some even run punishing fire.
    In life all we can do is try to make things better. Sitting lost in old ways and fearing change only makes us outdated and ignorant.


    Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.
    Albert Einstein


    Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.

    Thomas Jefferson

    League of Legends on MTGS
  • #9
    Brandon: why would you ever run Automaton when Sovereign does the *exact same thing* but also gets a big guy across with evasion?

    there's no question which one's better. one has an ability, the other's just a pump dude.
    Quote from xChaospherex

    Take your monoblack deck, then set aside 14 swamps. Add 4 Creeping Tar Pits, 4 Darkslick Shores, 4 Drowned Catacombs, and 2 Jwar isle Refuge and add 4 Jace, the Mindsculptors. Your monoblack deck is instantly better. Better yet, drop those refuges, throw in some islands and some mana leaks, and lo and behold, you're now playing a real deck. Congratulations. Welcome to the world of competitive M:TG.
  • #10
    Again, with the amount of colorless lands, I thought that Automaton could be the right answer, instead of investing in another UU creature.
    "Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein
  • #11
    Ya I could see Automaton in there for the UW version to avoid another UU creature with your mana base, I just don't know if I agree with the 4 Ghost Quarter + 2 Tectonic Edge, seems excessive.
    Click Here For Trades!

    I live in Ann Arbor during the school year and Grosse Pointe during the summer and I'm always looking for people to draft with!

    Currently Playing:
    Legacy
    R Mono Red Goblins R
    UW Charitable Donations WU
    U Merfolk U

    Commander
    G Verdeloth Token G
    RGW Uril, the Mist Stalker WGR

  • #12
    Kevin Nash's DeckMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
    Creatures
    4 Cursecatcher
    4 Silvergill Adept
    4 Lord of Atlantis
    4 Coralhelm Commander
    2 Sygg, River Guide
    4 Merrow Reejeery

    Spells
    4 Aether Vial
    4 Path to Exile
    2 Spell Snare
    4 Spreading Seas
    4 Remand

    Land
    4 Hallowed Fountain
    4 Misty Rainforest
    4 Scalding Tarn
    4 Mutavault
    4 Island



    I'm a big fan of white because it closes a lot of the wholes that might otherwise be present and offers some nice sideboard options. I stole the sideboard from some of the zoo decks in the format. Pithing Needle and O-Ring seem like good utility options. I like the meddling mage ability for combo.

    As for the maindeck Spreading Seas seems like the best land disruption for blue because it cantrips and doubles islandwalk. The creature suite is standard but Sygg is added. We might even be able to cut a couple land since we have 8 cantrips and Aether Vial. I ran 20 here just to be safe. White also offers Path. Maybe we should put Ghost Quarter in the sideboard as well.
  • #13
    How do you guys feel about the card pongify? True, it leaves them with a free 3/3 beasty, and I can understand that early in the game it can wreak some havoc against our fishies, but it is a blue kill spell. Also, a 3/3 is not as bad as having other crazy critters running around: goyf, bob, etc.


    Standard: Rakdos Aggro
    Modern: U/W Merfolk
    EDH: Kaalia and Friends, Naya tokens featuring Rith the Awakener, Jarad's Golgari Guild, and Double Riku
  • #14
    your white splash list doesnt have any white mana sources?

    Personally I am trying for a counterspell-lite version of U/W merfolk. More spot removal less counters. Looking to use sygg to protect from removal and counters for "big threats" and sweepers.

    Cosi's trickster + PtE is good value. I've done it in the attack step and seen people decline to search for a land just to take less damage with multiple tricksters out.

    Merfolk can swarm the board easily so some otherwise terrible counters arent too bad (the one that counts creatures on board comes to mind but i cant recall the name.) and sages dousing is not too terrible in a merfolk deck.

    That plains matters merfolk is terrible however. I tried to make him work and its just not good.

    I've got a list but sitting at work and can't even remember some card names.
    Last edited by NastySasquatch: 8/16/2011 5:36:11 PM
  • #15
    @NastySasquatch - I do like the synergy between Cosi's Trickster and Path to Exile.

    @Kevin Nash - I forgot about Threads of Disloyalty, I may try mainboarding it since it hits both Bob and Goyf.

    @WarAngel - I don't know that Pongify is the best option there, in an aggro deck giving your opponent a 3/3 isn't in your best interest. You are better off running more counters to try and prevent their creature from hitting the board, or splashing white and running PtE.
    Click Here For Trades!

    I live in Ann Arbor during the school year and Grosse Pointe during the summer and I'm always looking for people to draft with!

    Currently Playing:
    Legacy
    R Mono Red Goblins R
    UW Charitable Donations WU
    U Merfolk U

    Commander
    G Verdeloth Token G
    RGW Uril, the Mist Stalker WGR

  • #16
    Well i was trying a merfolk list and its really painful to not have a good answer to zoo. Disrupting Shoal is ok but pitching a cursecatcher or cosi's trickster to stop a wild nactl feels bad. keeping goyf off the field is pretty crucial though. all-in-all zoo is a very very bad matchup.
  • #17
    Zoo was always a bad matchup in Legacy too and honestly not much happened to Zoo and Merfolk lost FoW, Daze, and Misstep. I think Spellsnare might be okay, but splashing white for PtE is probably the best option.
    Click Here For Trades!

    I live in Ann Arbor during the school year and Grosse Pointe during the summer and I'm always looking for people to draft with!

    Currently Playing:
    Legacy
    R Mono Red Goblins R
    UW Charitable Donations WU
    U Merfolk U

    Commander
    G Verdeloth Token G
    RGW Uril, the Mist Stalker WGR

  • #18
    T2 illusion decks run treasure mage, grand architect, wurmcoil engine, and contagion engine in the sideboard for fast aggro decks. It solves the problem nicely.

    Although 10 sideboard slots may seem drastic, there really are no other bad match ups.
    Lycanthropy Awareness Day.
    Hoping for a cure, or at least an outbreak.
  • #19
    What do yall think about running Delay or Spell Syphon as other possible counters? Delay is a 2 cost that gets rid of a spell for 3 turns which could give time to be ready for it or win and syphon would just scale according to the amount of merfolk we have out so it would be better late game.

    Also, for zoo, what about running Sea's Claim or Echoing Truth? Claim would work like spreading sea to depower their creatures and disrupt their manabase and also provides a 1 cost to pitch to shoal. Echoing truth seems like it would be good for dealing with zoo's tendency to get multiples of the same creature out. Flashfreeze might also be good for the zoo matchup.

    I'm not going to claim to be a great deckbuilder, so I may have made some stupid suggestions, if so just explain to me why so I can hopefully get better at building decks, there's always room to improve.
  • #20
    @ThisIsNotMyName - That's an interesting idea, but its risky not having room in a board for other match ups. Even if Merfolk doesn't have bad match ups verse other decks, giving yourself a bit more of an edge through fine tuning is the difference between winning and losing game 3.

    @Deadneck - I'd say no on Spell Syphon because the majority of the time it will be strictly worse than Mana Leak. Delay could be good in some match ups but I think I'd rather be running one of the other counters that have been mentioned. In an aggro/control deck with no spells that draw cards directly, it depends on the cards to replace themselves which is why Spreading Seas, Remand and Cryptic are all good cards.
    Click Here For Trades!

    I live in Ann Arbor during the school year and Grosse Pointe during the summer and I'm always looking for people to draft with!

    Currently Playing:
    Legacy
    R Mono Red Goblins R
    UW Charitable Donations WU
    U Merfolk U

    Commander
    G Verdeloth Token G
    RGW Uril, the Mist Stalker WGR

  • #21
    Soooo, I have never played Merfolk before but looking over this primer I realized i was sitting on most of the stuff to make deck. But I assume there is a lot of room for improvement for this list but its my first attempt. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Nelle Kozera's DeckMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
    Dudes: 21
    4x Lord of Atlantis
    4x Merrow Reejerey
    4x Coralhelm Commander
    4x Silvergill Adept
    3x Merfolk Sovereign
    2x Sygg, River Guide

    Artifacts: 4
    4x Aether Vial

    Spells: 13
    4x Path to Exile
    3x Rune Snag
    3x Mana Tithe
    3x Disrupting Shoal

    Lands: 22
    4x Wanderwine Hub
    4x Seachrome Coast
    4x Mystic Gate
    4x Mutavault
    6x Island

    Currently playing:
    Standard:
    WUBEsper ControlBUW

    Quote from gregorys
    My jaw literally dropped when I first saw this card. This was so sick, when my girlfriend walked in on me I had to switch to porn.
  • #22
    I thinkcounterbalance would be an ideal counter for merfolk vs. Zoo. It allows you to build extra pressure for them to deal with and in general with most decks.
    Special thanks to Heroes of the Plane Studios (.torrent, DarkNightCavalier, XenoNinja) or the awesome sig. Murder, murder, mermaid murder!:D

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  • #23
    After some testing against Zoo, I have to say, Threads of Disloyalty is an all-star in the sideboard. Zoo doesn't really have an answer for it, and once you take a Tarmogoyf, it nullifies one of theirs, because of the +1 defense.

    Also, I'm going to try out x2 Wurmcoil Engine in the sideboard, because that also seems like it would be good. I'm not sure if Zoo has an answer to a Wurmcoil, but, we'll see.
    "Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein
  • #24
    Quote from Nelle Kozera
    Soooo, I have never played Merfolk before but looking over this primer I realized i was sitting on most of the stuff to make deck. But I assume there is a lot of room for improvement for this list but its my first attempt. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Brandon Brawlers's DeckMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
    Dudes: 21
    4x Lord of Atlantis
    4x Merrow Reejerey
    4x Coralhelm Commander
    4x Silvergill Adept
    3x Merfolk Sovereign
    2x Sygg, River Guide

    Artifacts: 4
    4x Aether Vial

    Spells: 13
    4x Path to Exile
    3x Rune Snag
    3x Mana Tithe
    3x Disrupting Shoal

    Lands: 22
    4x Wanderwine Hub
    4x Seachrome Coast
    4x Mystic Gate
    4x Mutavault
    6x Island



    I would play Cursecatcher over Merfolk Sovereign or Sygg, River Guide any day of the week. Cursecatcher is just insane. He's a counterspell when you need him to be, and he's a 1cmc dude at worst.
    "Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein
  • #25
    I think white is necessary for dealing with zoo. Merfolk will lose the aggro game. They can play small guys like that become scary, before your lords kick in.

    White spot removal is the key to establishing early game tempo.
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