Merfolk (also known as Fish) is a U-based tempo deck with a strong aggro secondary element that is built around tribal synergies. Merfolk is a mostly fair, primarily linear and proactive deck that employs lots of cheap, efficient creatures along with Aether Vial and some catchall disruption in order to overwhelm its opponents. For a more thorough overview of the Merfolk deck, check out Merfolk Joe's Guide to Modern Merfolk video series.
Here are some reasons why you might consider Merfolk as the deck for you:
Versatility – oftentimes in Modern, a deck has to choose between being fast and aggressive or being able to disrupt its opponents. Not so for Merfolk – you can often do both at the same time, especially with an Aether Vial on the table. We can play the aggro game, we can focus on disrupting our opponent and being more of a tempo deck, or even build up into a big bomb that blows open a stagnant board state, midrange-style.
Competitiveness – in a format as wide-open as Modern, a deck that performs well against the field is potent. Merfolk has very few outright bad matchups (mostly decks like Affinity and Lantern Control), and plenty of matchups that are 50/50 or better. This makes it a strong choice for all-comers tournaments.
Nuance – you wouldn’t think that an aggressive deck that relies on creatures is all that difficult to pilot, but Merfolk has several different lines of play available to it. This is most often the case when you have to choose between allocating your resources toward disrupting your opponent's gameplan or committing to advancing your own.
Resilience – there are a lot of decks out there that require a certain type of hand in order to be successful, and have to mulligan if they don't have it. Merfolk obviously can’t overcome a total lack of lands and/or creatures, but the deck is pretty resistant to mulligans overall. Furthermore, the deck has proven to be capable of overcoming disruption, even disruption specifically tailored against it.
Here are a few links you can check out if you want more Merfolk content.
Nikachu's YouTube Channel – Nikachu is a very seasoned Merfolk player that has a deep repository of videos you can peruse to get up to speed on how to play Merfolk. Merfolk Joe's YouTube Channel – Merfolk_Joe is another seasoned Merfolk player, and he has some very polished and informative videos of Merfolk in Modern. The seer's YouTube Channel – Here is another channel with one of our fellow Merfolk players testing the deck against the field. MagicMaxe's YouTube Channel – This channel has videos of paper matches for Merfolk for both Modern and Legacy. FishMTG Subreddit – An entire subreddit community focusing on Merfolk decks. Some alternative discussion to be found here. Petr Sochurek's Merfolk primer – Petr is widely regarded as one of most influential voices in constructing Modern Merfolk as we know it, and he has recently released a 3-part primer series discussing the deck in great detail. ModernNexus' Merfolk primer – This primer (written by yours truly) takes an in-depth look at Modern Merfolk card choices, matchups, and some of the tips and tricks that can be employed as part of gameplay. Currently Under Construction Nicholas Bradley's Summary of Merfolk in the Meta – This is a seasoned Merfolk player's take on the deck and its matchups.
Note: Please post your decklist (including sideboard) when asking for advice on this thread. Help us help you.
02/11/2016 - Added Sea's Claim to the "land hate" category in the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 02/15/2016 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 02/17/2016 - Updated the description for Chalice of the Void in the Preferred Card Choices section. Updated Sample Decklists section. 02/22/2016 - Added Grafdigger's Cage to the Preferred Card Choices section and the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. Added MagicMaxe's YouTube channel to the Links section. 02/25/2016 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 02/29/2016 - Added Pithing Needle to the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 03/03/2016 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 03/16/2016 - Updated the Modern Merfolk Core Decklist and the Matchups and Sideboarding sections where appropriate. Added Dario Casati's list to the Sample Decklists section. 03/27/2016 - Added Essence Flux, Invasive Surgery, and Threads of Disloyalty to the Preferred Card Choices section and the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 04/05/2016 - Added Stonybrook Banneret to the Budget Options section. 04/11/2016 - Added Budget deck to the Sample Decklists section. 04/23/2016 - Updated the Sample Decklists section where appropriate. Added Sea Gate Wreckage to the Preferred Card Choices section and the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 04/26/2016 - Added MerfolkJoe's YouTube channel to the Links section. 04/29/2016 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 05/04/2016 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 05/10/2016 - Updated the Sample Decklists section where appropriate. 05/18/2016 - Updated the Sample Decklists section where appropriate. 05/22/2016 - Added Simon Slutsky's and Przemek Knocinski's Merfolk lists to the Sample Decklists section. 05/23/2016 - Edited the Links and Sample Decklists sections as appropriate. 06/08/2016 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 06/27/2016 - Updated the Sample Decklists section where appropriate. 06/29/2016 - Edited description for Remand in the Preferred Card Choices section. 07/08/2016 - Updated the Sample Decklists section where appropriate. 07/20/2016 - Updated the Preferred Card Choice section where appropriate. 07/26/2016 - Added Merfolk Joe's Guide to Modern Merfolk and Petr Sochurek's Merfolk primer to the Introduction and Links sections, respectively. 07/27/2016 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 07/28/2016 - Added the Experimental Card Choices section and updated the Modern Merfolk Core Decklist and Sample Decklists sections. 08/01/2016 - Updated the Sample Decklists section where appropriate. 08/14/2016 - Updated the Sample Decklists section where appropriate. 08/17/2016 - Edited Introduction and Why Merfolk? sections where appropriate. 09/08/2016 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 09/21/2016 - Edited the spelling of Aether Vial to accomodate the new printing. 09/27/2016 - Added Flashfreeze to the Experimental Card Choices section. 10/13/2016 - Updated Introduction section and Merfolk Joe's Merfolk list in the Sample Decklists section. 10/14/2016 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 10/30/2016 - Updated the To Splash, or Not to Splash? and Sample Decklists sections where appropriate. 11/09/2016 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 11/17/2016 - Added Skred Red to the Matchups and Sideboarding section. 11/22/2016 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate, and edited formatting. 11/23/2016 - Updated the GX Tron and Temur Midrange entries in the Matchups and Sideboarding section. 12/03/2016 - Updated rothgar13's Merfolk list in the Sample Decklists section. 12/05/2016 - Added Blossoming Defense and Fog to the To Splash, or not to Splash? section. 12/23/2016 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding and Sample Decklists sections. 12/28/2016 - Updated the primer in general. 01/17/2017 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding and Sample Decklists sections. 01/25/2017 - Updated rothgar13's Merfolk list in the Sample Decklists section. 01/30/2017 - Added Smuggler's Copter to the Experimental Card Choices section. 02/06/2017 - Updated rothgar13's Merfolk list in the Sample Decklists section. 02/07/2017 - Updated rothgar13's Budget Merfolk list in the Sample Decklists section. 02/14/2017 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section. 02/21/2017 - Added Vendilion Clique to the Preferred Card Choices section. 03/01/2017 - Added ModernNexus' Merfolk primer to the Links section. 03/15/2017 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section where appropriate. 03/19/2017 - Added Ceremonious Rejection to the Experimental Card Choices section and Vendilion Clique to the Matchups and Sideboarding section. 03/28/2017 - Updated rothgar13's Merfolk list in the Sample Decklists section. 03/31/2017 - Edited the Ad Nauseam entry in the Matchups and Sideboarding section. 04/01/2017 - Updated rothgar13's Merfolk list in the Sample Decklists section. 04/17/2017 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section and rothgar13's Merfolk list in the Sample Decklists section. 05/02/2017 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section. 05/26/2017 - Added the Merfolk List and Sideboarding Guide (by yours truly) to the Links section and updated rothgar13's Merfolk list in the Sample Decklists section. Also updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section. 06/06/2017 - Updated the Sample Decklists section. 06/26/2017 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding and Sample Decklists sections. 07/05/2017 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section. 07/29/2017 - Added Nicholas Bradley's Merfolk article to the Links section. 08/04/2017 - Updated the Matchups and Sideboarding section. Added Gemstone Caverns, Pongify/Rapid Hybridization, and Tideshaper Mystic to the Experimental Card Choices section. 08/11/2017 - Updated the Sample Decklists section. 10/12/2017 - Added Kopala, Warden of Waves to the Preferred Card Choices section. Added Sorcerous Spyglass to the Experimental Card Choices section. Updated the Sample Decklists section. 10/18/2017 - Updated the Preferred Card Choices, Experimental Card Choices, and To Splash, or Not to Splash? sections. 11/04/2017 - Added Watertrap Weaver to the Experimental Card Choices section. 12/08/2017 - Updated the Sample Decklists section. 01/10/2018 - Updated the primer in general. 04/25/2018 - Added Damping Sphere and Merfolk Trickster to the Recommended Card Choices section. Updated the Sample Decklists section. 04/30/2018 - Added Deprive to the Recommended Card Choices section. 05/16/2018 - Updated the Sample Decklists section. Added Coralhelm Commander to the Recommended Card Choices section.
These cards are the core of the Modern Merfolk deck:
Aether Vial – This is our tempo anchor. It gives you the ability to spit out creatures faster than you could otherwise cast them, and adds to your interaction ability by flashing your creatures in response to your opponent’s spells or even as a combat trick. They can be a bit of dead topdeck (which is why they tend to come out against decks with an attrition gameplan), but in general it is one of your most important cards. In fact, it's so important, that it gets its own section, as described below.
Cursecatcher – While it seems a bit unassuming at first, this card is a hugely important tempo piece against combo decks looking to go over the top on you early and attrition-based decks that are trying to kill your more dangerous Lords. Furthermore, it can serve as early pressure until it’s called upon. It's this kind of flexibility and disruptive capability that has set us apart from most other tribal decks, which are generally much less successful in Modern.
Harbinger of the Tides – One of the most potent Merfolk we have access to. Its bounce effect combined with a relevant body can be a huge tempo swing in our favor, and its flash option makes it even more flexible. Additionally, it has great synergy with Merrow Reejerey (tap an opponent’s creature on casting, bounce the creature with Harbinger's enters-the-battlefield ability).
Island – They help you cast your dudes and your spells. Boring, but effective.
Lord of Atlantis – One of the major reasons to play this deck. Global pump and evasion along with a 2/2 body are a heck of a deal for UU, and it gets only scarier in multiples. Just be careful when playing the mirror – he pumps your opponent’s guys, too.
Merrow Reejerey – Our third Lord, and while its effect isn’t as offensively potent as the 2-mana Lords, it’s a very versatile one. You can use it as pseudo-ramp by untapping your own lands or Aether Vials, as evasion by tapping your opponent’s creatures, or defensively by untapping your fish after an attack. A very flexible and useful card.
Mutavault – This useful little land gives us another body to project all of our tribal buffs onto (including that of Master of Waves), and it has the benefits of being cheap to activate, colorless (so it can dodge effects meant for U creatures, such as protection), and that it dodges sorcery-speed or nonland permanent removal spells. Another note is that you can sandbag its activation during the combat phase to try and dodge effects such as Cryptic Command, but beware of what you say when entering combat - otherwise, you may find yourself in situations like this one. The fact that it doesn't produce U can sometimes be a bit problematic, but it's a problem we're well-equipped to deal with thanks to Aether Vial. A staple in this deck, and for good reason.
Silvergill Adept – Card advantage on a stick, this guy gives us a nice body to project our pump effects on as well as another card. His drawback rarely comes up given our deck’s typical creature count, and it keeps the engine running smoothly. Essential.
Spreading Seas – One of our sneaky-good tempo pieces, this card fulfills multiple roles in our deck. It grants our creatures evasion when one of our 2-mana Lords is on the table, it can disrupt your opponent’s mana base, and it replaces itself to boot. Not necessary against most decks that already run U, but very potent elsewhere.
Preferred Card Choices:
This section will focus on cards that have been proven to be successful complements to the Merfolk core cards shown above. If it's not on this list, it's likely a budget alternative (see the section below), or it's just not that good in Merfolk. I'm also marking the choices with a tag that should clarify whether a card is generally thought to be mainboard or sideboard-playable (and in some rare cases, both).
Chalice of the Void – This is a very potent tool to bring in against opponents who rely heavily on 0-drops (such as Affinity, Cheeri0s, or Living End) or 1-drops (Bogles, Burn, Death's Shadow, Elves, Infect, GX Tron, and UR Prowess). Can be a bit awkward on the draw or as a topdeck, but its early game shutdown potential is worth it. Whether it's mainboard or sideboard depends on the metagame, but I consider it a worthy card to think about in Merfolk. Mainboard or Sideboard
Damping Sphere – If you expect to face big mana, Storm, or any other deck looking to slam multiple spells in a turn or cheat on mana production, this will be a very potent tool in your sideboard arsenal. While it won't lock your opponent out of the game, it will likely slow them down, and Vial ensures it likely will not do the same to us. Sideboard
Grafdigger's Cage – This handy little artifact puts a damper on everything from conventional graveyard reanimation decks to Snapcaster Mage triggers to cards like Chord of Calling and Collected Company. Not truly applicable enough to be featured in the mainboard, but it's a potent sideboard bullet that can really make some matchups (notably Abzan Company, Dredge, Elves, Griselbrand, Jeskai Nahiri, and Kiki Chord) less troublesome. Sideboard
Relic of Progenitus – Probably the best piece of graveyard hate for Merfolk. It’s cheap to cast, and it can either whittle away at the ‘yard to keep your opponent from mining it for value, or it can clean it out in response to a combo or any other dangerous play. And it cantrips on top of all of that. Highly recommended as a sideboard piece to bring against combo, control, and midrange decks, and in some metagames it's even mainboard-playable. Mainboard or Sideboard
Smuggler's Copter – While this card has power and toughness values, it's best to think of it as a utility boost to any one of your creatures - it can enable you to get damage in on board states where you otherwise wouldn't (for example, in a ground stall where you don't have islandwalk), and the flying can be valuable on the defensive end. Furthermore, the looting effect is quite handy at smoothing out some of our clunkier draws. A handy little card to have. Mainboard
Coralhelm Commander – While this card won't be winning any races, it provides several effects we crave in flying and the ability to pump the team. It makes for a quality mana sink, which is something many versions of Merfolk lack. It takes a particular kind of Merfolk 75 to make this good, but it's very good if you do have it. Mainboard
Kira, Great Glass-Spinner – One of the nicer tricks in the Merfolk toolbox, Kira helps keep your creatures safe against targeted removal in addition to providing an emergency flying attacker/blocker. Not being a Merfolk and costing 3 mana (including 2 U symbols) are real downsides, but it’s something that you can work around. Good in either the main or the side. Mainboard or Sideboard
Kopala, Warden of Waves – A handy little 3-drop that helps protect our team while benefiting from all of our tribal synergies. While a tax effect is generally not considered to be as powerful as outright countering a spell, it has very good synergy with Cursecatcher, and is unique among the protection effects we have available in that it can ward off Abrupt Decay (at least for a time). That combined with the fact that he can get pretty big in this deck have made him a welcome addition to the Merfolk toolbox. Mainboard or Sideboard
Master of Waves – This is the deck’s haymaker. Protection from R and CMC4 means it shrugs off a lot of common removal spells, and its enters-the-battlefield token-generating effect often creates insurmountable board states (or protects you from whatever your opponent has going on). Not the greatest against fast combo decks, but excellent otherwise, and highly recommended. Mainboard
Merfolk Trickster – Tapping a creature and removing its abilities is quality interaction, and getting a flash Merfolk body is just icing on the cake. This powerful catch-all creature is very powerful, and likely to become a part of Modern Merfolk's core in the near future. Mainboard
Phantasmal Image – This card can be very flexible in that you can either copy your own creatures to get more of an effect you wanted (be it pump, card draw, or whatever), or something cool that your opponent is doing (especially if you'd have a hard time responding to it otherwise). However, it is very fragile (it can die to something as innocuous as a pump spell or a tap effect). Moreover, most of our traditional ways to protect creatures (counterspells, Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, Spellskite) can’t save it. It's also worth noting that it's not a Merfolk while in your hand or being cast, so it interacts poorly with Cavern of Souls, Merrow Reejerey, Silvergill Adept, or Wanderwine Hub. It can be very powerful, but it has to be used judiciously. Mainboard
Tidebinder Mage – This card’s effect is narrow enough that it belongs in the sideboard in most metagames, but it makes for one heck of a sideboard card. Tapping your opponent’s creature down indefinitely is oftentimes as good as removing it (and sometimes it's even better), and you get a free body of a relevant type in the process. Sideboard
Vendilion Clique – While this card is not a Merfolk and is also a bit tricky in terms of mana cost, it fills a need by being a flier with an aggressive body and having a disruptive enter-the battlefield effect. Very potent if you're expecting all-in combo decks and sweepers. Mainboard or Sideboard
Watertrap Weaver – Don't be fooled by the somewhat unassuming base stats; this card is a beating against virtually any opposing creature deck by virtue of its ability, and the fact that it's a Merfolk means it can get pumped to the point where it is a threat. A recent addition to the toolbox, but an undeniably potent one. Mainboard
Sea's Claim – This card can combine with Spreading Seas to basically shut your opponent out of their lands if they’re not running U. Not terribly useful against U-based decks (though we’re typically favored against those anyway), but it can be devastating to any deck relying on a 3-color manabase or otherwise depend heavily on their lands (BGX, Burn, Death's Shadow, Eldrazi, Tron, and Zoo, for example). My recommendation for this card is to run it in the sideboard and bring it in where it can be most effective, but it has also been employed in the mainboard to good effect. Mainboard or Sideboard
Threads of Disloyalty – A bit off the beaten path, this nonetheless offers a powerful effect. Taking control of the likes of Death's Shadow, or Tarmogoyf, or other undercosted beater can really turn a game around, and if an opponent has no enchantment hate, they might be forced to remove their own creature, adding insult to injury (not to mention provide you with card advantage). Its range is narrow enough that I can't justify it in the mainboard, but it's a potent sideboard effect. Sideboard
Ceremonious Rejection – A very cheap and efficient tool with which to stymie the likes of Affinity, Eldrazi, and Tron decks. It's a bit narrow and can be shut off by the likes of Cavern of Souls, but it's crazy good if you manage to connect with it. I think that this card can be a viable substitute for Merfolk's more traditional land hate sideboard package, and thus should play a prominent role in the sideboards that choose to feature it. Sideboard
Deprive – While it is not always trivial to come up with the UU to cast this card, countering any spell with no conditions other than returning a land (which is typically irrelevant to us from the tempo perspective, thanks to Aether Vial and a low curve) is very powerful. A great catchall sideboard card. Sideboard
Dismember – Probably the best removal spell we have access to by default. It can be sometimes be painful to cast, but hard removal against most relevant creatures in Modern is worth the pain. Merfolk players have used this in both the mainboard and the sideboard, depending on what the metagame context dictates. Mainboard or Sideboard
Echoing Truth – A nice catchall bounce effect, its ability to bounce copies can come up big against tokens and other decks that like multiples of a same effect on the board (including the mirror match). A strong sideboard card, and it might even be worth including in the mainboard. Sideboard
Gut Shot – It doesn’t look like much at first glance, but this can provide you with a potent early tempo advantage by zapping small creatures (especially mana dorks) at the cost of a bit of life. Definitely playable in your sideboard, even if it's not the flashiest. Sideboard
Hibernation – A great hoser out of the sideboard, this card comes up huge against the likes of Aura Hexproof/Bogles, Elves, and Zoo, flipping tempo in your favor. However, it’s a bit up there in terms of mana cost, so it can be a bit awkward to cast at times. Sideboard
Hurkyl's Recall – A mass bounce effect for one of the permanent types that we need it most. It can be a life-saver against the likes of Affinity, 8-Rack, and Lantern Control out of the sideboard. Sideboard
Negate – A very effective and versatile counterspell, especially against big-mana decks like Tron and Valakut that can just pay the extra cost imposed by Mana Leak and Spell Pierce. A strong sideboard card. Sideboard
Remand – While it doesn’t get rid of whatever it targets permanently, the tempo boost you get from sending it back up to their hand makes it worth your while, especially given that you get to draw a card afterwards. I think that it fits in well with out primary gameplan, and can play an important role in either the main or the side. Mainboard or Sideboard
Spell Pierce – A great catchall counterspell for most things Merfolk doesn’t want to see resolved, it also has the benefit of being cheap and easy to sneak into a curve. Not the most individually potent card, but its flexibility and speed are major assets. Mainboard or Sideboard
Swan Song – The drawback might scare some people away, but it’s a pretty good catchall counterspell to bring in from the sideboard against the likes of combo decks. A 2/2 flier can’t outrace a Merfolk deck on its own, and shutting down their combo will give you the opportunity to race. Sideboard
Unified Will – As a creature-based tempo deck, Merfolk will often have more boots on the ground than its opponent, and that makes this a powerful hard counter to bring in out of your sideboard at a reasonable mana cost. At its best against combo or control decks, where there are important spells to counter and few bodies to interfere with its ability. Sideboard
Vapor Snag – Bouncing a creature is a nice tempo play, and tacking on a life loss effect on top of it makes it even nicer. You can even use it to save your own creatures in case of an emergency. I think it's an integral piece of our disruption package, and is thus mainboard-worthy. Mainboard
Cavern of Souls – Makes your Merfolk uncounterable, which is a nice perk to have against control and tempo decks. However, it has a notable downside in that it can’t be used to produce U for spells and creatures not of the chosen type, which can sometimes complicate the business of casting creatures while leaving mana up for interaction purposes, or casting creatures that aren't Merfolk. Because of this, most players only use 1 or 2, though that is a bit meta-dependent. Mainboard
Minamo, School at Water's Edge – It protects you from Boil, Choke, and the mirror match, and it can do a couple of tricks with Kira and and active Thassa. No reason to not have one other than budget, especially given that you only need one. Mainboard
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds – This is Boil/Choke/mirror protection, and it has a sneaky-good interaction with any of your C-producing lands when you're short on land drops, but really need U mana (tap Oboro for U, tap any other land for the 1 to bounce Oboro, replay Oboro and tap for U). Highly recommended as a mainboard 1-of. Mainboard
Tectonic Edge – This is one of Merfolk players' preferred pieces of land hate. It's uncounterable by virtue of being a land, hits a wide variety of targets (shocklands, manlands, Tron lands, Eldrazi Temple, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, etc.), and it's relatively inexpensive to use (plus it destroys lands at card parity). Bringing this card in from your sideboard can really ruin some opponents' days. Sideboard
Wanderwine Hub – This card gives you U while keeping you safe from the likes of Boil or Choke, and it even gives you W if you're into that sort of thing. The drawback is basically negligible in tribal, so there’s not much reason to skip out. Mainboard
Experimental Card Choices:
This is an addendum to the Preferred Card Choices section, and contains cards that haven't put up much in the way of concrete and notable results, but could be interesting additions to the deck. Try these out at your own risk, and be sure to report back on how they do!
Pithing Needle – While this card requires some knowledge of the inner workings of your opponent's deck to be of optimal use, it can be a cheap answer to a lot of problematic permanents that doesn't interfere with your curve. At its best when brought in from the sideboard once you know what you're playing against. Sideboard
Sentinel Totem – A similar card to Relic of Progenitus, except it downgrades the ability to replace itself to a scry 1 in exchange for not needing to hold up mana in order to wipe the graveyard. Should you feel that the mana needed to babysit Relic is holding you back in certain matchups, this could be a palatable alternative. Sideboard
Sorcerous Spyglass – Essentially Pithing Needle combined with Peek, this card can provide some useful shutdown potential against a lot of problematic permanents, and it plays nice with a Chalice of the Void set on 1. Not a slam dunk given that Chalice is a flex card in Modern, but potentially worth exploring. Sideboard
Skaab Ruinator – An interesting option in removal-heavy matchups, its large size and ability to self-recur are undeniable assets in a drawn-out game. It also can be Vialed in to remove its initial casting requirement. It's not a Merfolk and it doesn't help your team beyond being big (which are real strikes against it), but it still has some potential. Sideboard
Spellskite – This card is interesting in that it can be used both offensively as disruption to decks that rely on targeted effects (such as Aura Hexproof/Bogles, Burn, Infect, and UR Prowess), or defensively to soak up removal. It’s not much to look at in terms of pressure (I'd suggest looking at it as a noncreature spell when determining how many threats you carry), but it can help protect your pressure as it takes down your opponent. At its best as a sideboard bullet, where it can dodge artifact hate and only come in to ruin your opponent's day. However, the decks it is effective against are not as prominent as in years past, so its place in the deck is somewhat in question. Sideboard
Thassa, God of the Sea – Scrying every turn before you draw can be a potent advantage, and getting to devotion 5 lends you an extra beatstick. However, it’s a bit slow at 3 mana, and unblockability for 1U is not a particularly impressive effect for a deck that’s already pretty good at evading blockers. I consider it to be mostly a sideboard card that comes in during matchups where you expect to be topdecking, or where its 5/5 indestructible body could swing a game. An important thing to note is that indestructible does not save this creature from dying to Dismember or Path to Exile when active, so do not side it against decks who play those cards. Sideboard
Tideshaper Mystic – While it doesn't quite disable lands the way Spreading Seas can, having a creature that can switch on islandwalk and help you force damage through when needed is still a pretty handy thing to have. An interesting experimental option. Mainboard
Deeproot Waters – While this card is very slow (as it does not affect the board when it enters the battlefield) and somewhat at odds with Aether Vial (as it requires that you actually cast your Merfolk), it has some potential as a substitute for the Vial in attrition matchups. Flooding the board with hexproof Merfolk can really be a thorn in the side of midrange and control decks, particularly when they have some Lord effects to back them up. A card to consider. Sideboard
Monastery Siege – This card is pretty versatile, but it’s a bit on the slow side. Both of the modes can help you against attrition-based decks (and the Dragons mode is pretty good against the likes of BGX, Grixis, and Burn), but it's a very awkward play in a hand where you don’t draw Aether Vial. It could be helpful, but the extent of how much is somewhat questionable. I think it's strictly a sideboard card. Sideboard
Deprive – This card's drawback is typically not a major impediment for a low-curve deck like Merfolk, and an unconditional counterspell is definitely a powerful effect. The UU mana cost may be occasionally tricky to come up with, but this card seems at least worth testing.
Disdainful Stroke – If you're looking to defend against cards like Primeval Titan, Collected Company, and pretty much anything in Eldrazi or Tron, this card is a strong option. It will also catch some of the more expensive sweepers. Worth some consideration. Sideboard
Disrupting Shoal – While certainly unorthodox, this counterspell has some potential in Merfolk, given that this is a mono-colored deck with cards at a variety of different mana costs to pitch to it (especially for x=2, which is a popular mana cost for opponent's spells) and it also helps free up your mana to develop your board and still keep shields up. It's unproven, but it could be very powerful. Mainboard
Mana Leak – A decent counterspell. Its "tax" effect combined with its 2 CMC works against it a bit, since Merfolk usually wants to develop its board first and hold up countermagic later (at which point Leak tends to be less effective). Because of that, I’m not as bullish on it as I would be for other decks. Strictly sideboard. Sideboard
Pongify/Rapid Hybridization – Unconditional removal is a pretty good thing to have, and while this card leaves behind a 3/3 token, that's often something Merfolk can beat (especially with something like Harbinger or Tidebinder). It requires a bit of effort to use effectively, but it might be useful. Mainboard
Thassa's Rebuff – While a bit on the win-more end (this only becomes a potent counterspell once you've established a board state), this can potentially serve an important purpose in Merfolk, which is as a catch-all to ensure your opponent does not mount a comeback once you are ahead. I can see the upsides and downsides to it, but it's hard to tell which outweighs the other without more testing. Sideboard
Unsubstantiate – A very flexible spell, this card is basically half a Remand stapled to an Unsummon, with the bonus of that it can hit uncounterable spells such as Abrupt Decay, Volcanic Fallout, and Supreme Verdict. However, the fact that it is purely a tempo play makes its upside questionable. It has potential, but how much of it translates into power remains to be seen. Mainboard
Faerie Conclave – Not the first thing that springs to mind when you think "Merfolk", but it's a land that produces U (check) and can turn into a flying blocker (double check). It will likely require some curve concessions in order to use effectively, but it could potentially be worth considering. Mainboard
Gemstone Caverns – This land is an interesting option for tempo-intensive matchups. It can allow you to essentially be on the play at the same time as your opponent in terms of mana development, which can be very important if you don't have a Vial in hand, or are looking to slam something like a Chalice of the Void as soon as possible. Might be worth a test. Mainboard
Sea Gate Wreckage – While this card is unlikely to make a dent if your aggressive strategy proceeds according to plan, there are matchups that generally don't go that way, and the incremental card advantage it provides can be quite powerful there. Could be a powerful tool for virtually no opportunity cost. Sideboard
This section is dedicated to finding somewhat cheaper alternatives to some popular cards, as the likes of Aether Vial, Cursecatcher, and Cavern of Souls can be pretty expensive from the real-world point of view.
Cosi's Trickster – Likely the most aggressive 1-drop we have access to as Merfolk, this one can take advantage of your opponent using effects like fetchlands, or shuffles forced by your own effects (Ghost Quarter, for example) to grow pretty big. More importantly for the purposes of this section, it's a heck of a lot less expensive than Cursecatcher. Mainboard
Ghost Quarter – If you can't afford Mutavaults, this is a handy little disruptive land that can punish big-mana decks and eat up manlands, and it can also target one of your lands if you happen to be starved for U. You can do worse. Mainboard
Mausoleum Wanderer – If you're looking for Cursecatcher's effect and you don't mind dipping outside the Merfolk creature type to get it, this little guy offers flight (which is something most Merfolk decks lack access to) and has some conditional upside when Kira, Great Glass-Spinner comes down. Useful little 1-drop to have. Mainboard
Merfolk Sovereign – In the event that you're finding some of the creatures on the higher end of the curve hard to come by, this can offer you a bit of extra pump and an unblockability effect in case you're having trouble evading blockers. Mainboard
Mothdust Changeling – This guy is interesting because it provides an ability Merfolk otherwise lacks (flying). Unfortunately, you have to tap a creature to get it, which can be a tricky proposition at times. Still, it makes for a decent 1-drop if you can't afford Cursecatcher. Mainboard
Steel Sabotage – While it doesn't have the same potency as a Hurkyl's Recall, it does have some perks in that it's cheap and can act as hard removal by countering spells coming in. A pretty decent substitute. Sideboard Mainboard
1. Use Aether Vial for early pressure. A T1 Vial can help you put a lot of boots on the ground quickly, and that can overwhelm an opponent that's not equipped to deal with multiple creatures hitting the table in rapid succession. This will get you a lot of free wins.
2. Aether Vial helps your creatures dodge counterspells and removal. Remember that the Vial's effect can be used any time you could play an instant – this means you can flash creatures in as a combat trick (for example, using a Harbinger of the Tides to erase an attack or a Lord to mess up your opponent's combat math). You can also bring your creatures in on your opponent's end step in order to dodge sorcery-speed removal (this is especially important against sweepers like Supreme Verdict).
Another note is that because the creatures are being put into play via the Vial's activated ability, they are not being cast. That means that opposing counterspells do not work. On the bad side, it also means they won't trigger the likes of Merrow Reejerey.
3. Aether Vial's charge counter effect is optional. That means you don't have to tick it up if you don't want to. This is especially relevant in Merfolk, because the deck is crawling with useful 2-drops that you'll want to get on the battlefield as quickly as possible. As such, I would recommend you think long and hard before you tick up your Vial from 2 charge counters.
4. Aether Vial can help you be aggressive and interactive at the same time. While I did mention that being aggressive with Vial can get you free wins, there are decks that strategy doesn't work against, namely fast combo decks. In that case, you can use your Vial to keep steady pressure on your opponent while you hold up some form of disruption (usually bounce or counterspell effects) to stuff whatever they're up to.
To Splash, or Not to Splash?
One of the major decisions a Merfolk player has to make when creating his or her deck is to decide whether to splash for a second color. Most Modern decks are multiple colors, in large part because the versatility provided by the larger toolbox is necessary in order for the deck to function competitively.
This is NOT the case for Merfolk – the mono-U build has time and again proven itself as the most competitive variant, and the reason why is consistency in the mana base thanks to only needing U mana for spells, and (to a lesser extent) the lack of self-inflicted damage by opting to stay away from fetchlands and shocklands. Because of this, the general answer to the question posited at the start of the section is NOT TO SPLASH. For more, check out Nikachu_'s informative video on why the W splash isn't worth it.
However, there is one potential splash that stands above the others, and that is UG Merfolk (aka Tropical Fish, hat tip to Reddit). The reason why this variant stands above the rest is because it features a significant amount of quality creatures with the Merfolk type, thanks to Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan. If you are dead-set on splashing a color in your Merfolk deck, I strongly recommend that it be G in order to take advantage of this creature selection. Here are some of the options available to a pilot that does so:
UG Merfolk/Tropical Fish:
Botanical Sanctum – You need access to G without compromising your U source count, and this is the best option available that doesn't cost you life. Essential to making this splash work. Mainboard
Breeding Pool – About as good a source of U and G as you’re going to find in Modern. Mainboard
Heroic Intervention – While this is a somewhat clunky card, it is a way to protect your entire team from sweepers such as Supreme Verdict, which is something few cards in the Merfolk toolbox are capable of doing. Worth considering. Sideboard
Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca – While this card runs somewhat at odds with Merfolk's aggressive gameplan, its effects combined with its resilient body make it at least worth experimenting with. Mainboard or Sideboard
Kumena's Speaker – If you want to streamline your deck and make it more aggressive, this is a quality 1-drop with the right creature type. Mainboard
Jungleborn Pioneer – 2 bodies for 3 mana is a pretty solid rate, and the fact that one of them has hexproof is also pretty interesting. Worth considering. Mainboard
Merfolk Branchwalker – A card that is somewhat analogous to Silvergill Adept. A source of potential card advantage attached to a cheap Merfolk body is a very useful card to have, and one of the major reasons to consider the G splash. Mainboard
Merfolk Mistbinder – Another 2-mana Lord effect is a major incentive for splashing G, and it allows you to lower the deck's curve in a significant manner. I consider this an essential component of the Tropical Fish variant. Mainboard
Flooded Strand/Misty Rainforest/Polluted Delta/Scalding Tarn – Because Merfolk is a U-based deck, and I do not recommend that you play any basic land other than Islands, it does not matter which fetchland you use - all of them can find your shocks, and thus all of them are helpful at making sure your mana is as clean as it can be. Mainboard
For completeness' sake, I am also including some card options in other colors below:
Blessed Alliance – This can be a powerful tool against decks that like to come in with pump spells and large attackers (Bogles, Death's Shadow, Eldrazi, Infect, UR Prowess), and of course is handy against Burn. A pretty good card to have. Sideboard
Disenchant – Not a fancy effect, but a useful one. U doesn’t really have many ways to blow up permanents once they hit play, and this card fixes that problem. Strictly a sideboard card, though. Sideboard
Hallowed Fountain – It’s not as smooth as some of the other W sources we have access to, but it’s fetchable and thus does the job. Mainboard
Harm's Way – This is a sneaky little trick to unleash on your opponent. Shifting damage around is a great way to turn a combat situation around, and it oftentimes turns a Lightning Bolt played as a removal spell into a removal spell for you. A bit tricky because you have to hold up W until the right moment, but the payout is well worth it. Could be run in either the main or side. Mainboard or Sideboard
Kataki, War's Wage – A potent way to severely damage Affinity decks while not really damaging your own hopes. His only weakness is his 2/1 body, which is quite easy to remove. Quality sideboard material. Sideboard
Path to Exile – One of the best removal spells in the format. Exiling deals with most problem creatures permanently, and the tempo gained from a land can be close to irrelevant if your opponent can’t respond to your pressure. Arguably the reason to splash W, and definitely something to consider mainboard instead of bounce or counter effects. Mainboard
Rest in Peace – Arguably the most potent piece of graveyard hate available to you, it being on the field can basically win you the game against a deck that’s dependent on the ‘yard. It's narrow enough that it should come in off the sideboard, though. Sideboard
Seachrome Coast – Painless source of W that doesn’t compromise your U source count? Sign me up! Mainboard
Stony Silence – This usually stops Affinity cold when it hits the board, but it should be noted that it doesn’t play nice with our Aether Vial. Still, anything that houses our worst matchup is worth including in your sideboard, and it does double duty against Tron. Sideboard
Sygg, River Guide – A bit on the slow side, but on-demand protection for your creatures is a juicy carrot. However, the mana-intensiveness of the effect means that you probably won’t get to use it as often as you’d like. This probably comes out of your flex slots. Mainboard
Worship – This card is a haymaker against creature-based aggro decks with limited ability to interact with non-creature permanents, and can sometimes just win you games outright. It’s on the heavy side, though, so casting it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. I would consider this a sideboard card, but a good one. Sideboard
Collective Brutality – While Merfolk isn't exactly the kind of deck that likes pitching cards from its own hand, this effect can be quite handy at shutting down fast decks that rely on a combination of creatures and spells to kill you quickly (Abzan Company, Burn, Elves, and Infect being the major examples). Worth considering. Sideboard
Darkslick Shores – If you’re going to splash B, a painless source of it is invaluable. Mainboard
Fatal Push – Quality removal for most creatures you care about. One of the main reasons to consider the splash. Mainboard
Inquisition of Kozilek – Early game disruption can make for a potent T1 play, and it has tons of relevant targets in Modern. Its only flaw is that it requires us to splash. It probably takes the place of some of the counterspells that some decks favor in their sideboards. Sideboard
Thoughtseize – One of the greatest T1 plays you could have, its only flaw is that it requires B. The life loss can also sting when you’re already damaging yourself to be able to cast it in the first place. It mostly serves as a counterspell-substitute. Sideboard
Watery Grave – Probably your most reliable source of B while not neglecting U. Plays nice with fetches, so you’ll need it. Mainboard
Blood Moon – This card synergizes with Merfolk's innate land hate plan in order to lock most opponents out of the game. Can be a potent maindeck hate piece in certain metagames, but overall it's likely at its best coming in off the board as a shutdown piece for decks soft to it. Mainboard or Sideboard
Electrickery – A potent sideboard bullet in weenie-based decks, this can blow up board states that have gone too wide for you to deal with otherwise, and it'll do so for cheap. Useful against a variety of decks. Sideboard
Izzet Charm – This is basically the Deluxe Edition of Spell Pierce. It costs more mana, but it adds 2 potential modes, so it's never a dead card in hand. Worth considering. Mainboard or Sideboard
Izzet Staticaster – This card offers repeatable elimination of swarms of creatures, provided they have the same name. As that heavily implies, it's at its best when handling tokens, which is something that Merfolk can have trouble with on the occasions we can't just islandwalk past them. It's a nice backup plan if you expect to see lots of tokens. Sideboard
Lightning Bolt – The workhorse burn spell of Modern. We've felt its wrath many a time, so we know how good it can be to clear blockers, remove attackers, disrupt combos, or just finish off wounded opponents. You won't need much more bounce or removal if you're packing this. Mainboard
Steam Vents – This is about as good a source of R as you'll find. Pack it and figure the rest out later. Mainboard
Spirebluff Canal – While fastlands can be inconvenient if they're your 4th land drop, a painless source of U and R is critical in order to pull this splash off. Mainboard
This section will describe some of the more common named decks in the current Modern metagame, and how Merfolk matches up against them. It will also contain suggestions on good cards to sideboard in or out during the match. All of the recommendations will be made with mono-U Merfolk in mind, as that is the most competitive deck. You can find the most up-to-date tier information here.
Potential mainboard cuts:Cursecatcher (low-impact card in the matchup), Master of Waves (can be too slow), Spell Pierce (it doesn't have many targets, and it can be difficult to catch cards coming in because the deck is so fast).
Potential mainboard cuts:Dismember (cards that cost you life are bad against Burn), Merrow Reejerey (on the slow side, and the extra pump tends to be unnecessary), Vapor Snag (not always relevant against creatures with haste).
This combo deck looks to cast bunches of spells in a single turn while generating large amounts of mana and drawing lots of cards, then finish you off with a Grapeshot or an Empty Warrens. In order to grease the wheels, it uses Baral, Chief of Complaince and Goblin Electromancer to make its spells cheaper, Past in Flames to wring extra value out of each spell cast, and Gifts Ungiven to search up any pieces it may need. Your options here are to try and aggro-rush your opponent, or to try and hold up disruption as you pressure them. Both are reasonably effective, though disruption tends to be more so given how fast they can goldfish a kill.
This is a grindy midrange/tempo hybrid that seeks to couple lots of cheap discard and spot removal with cantrips and undercosted threats such as Death's Shadow, Gurmag Angler, and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. The key to this matchup is to get ahead and stay ahead on tempo while ensuring that you draw a steady stream of gas to survive their discard and removal blitzes. Master of Waves can be very potent here, given how hard it can be to remove, as can islandwalk Lords, since your opponent will provide the unblockability on their own. Your goal here should usually be to weather their early disruption while developing your board, then closing the game out by going wide or islandwalking past your opponent's blockers.
This deck’s Plan A is one of several creature-based combo loops (Devoted Druid + Vizier of Remedies for infinite G, Viscera Seer + Vizier of Remedies + Kitchen Finks for infinite life or damage, occasionally Knight of the Reliquary + Retreat to Coralhelm for an arbitrarily large number of tap/untap triggers and a huge creature), whereas Plan B is value-based creature-centric aggro featuring Gavony Township. Focus your efforts on stopping their Plan A - their aggro game pales in comparison to yours, so as long as you're not under threat of an instant loss, this will usually go smoothly. To do so, focus on your counterspells and graveyard hate (their combos are graveyard-based). Next, secure your evasion via a Seas effect (they're pretty good at putting up blockers), and attack away.
This deck features some of the best removal the WUR colors have to offer in Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, and Path to Exile, and they’ll try to use it along with some counterspells (Cryptic Command, Logic Knot, and Spell Snare) to keep the runway clear for Geist of Saint Traft to clock you. It also employs Spell Queller as a dual-threat creature + counterspell, and Celestial Colonnade + Snapcaster Mage to generate value. Your goal here is to start fast and weather their initial disruption storm – unlike its control sibling, this deck does not play maindeck sweepers, so go ahead and vomit your hand onto the battlefield to keep them on the back foot (that said, be wary of hardcasting creatures into Queller mana, as that can be a blowout). Avoid blowouts, deploy consistently, and pack lots of countermagic postboard, and you should be fine.
This entry encompasses land-based combo decks that use ramp spells and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to kill their opponents. Their finishers include Primeval Titan and a choice of either Scapeshift or Through the Breach. They supplement that plan with a bit of disruption (typically Anger of the Gods and Lightning Bolt, though Chalice of the Void is also played). Your goal here is to employ a classic tempo approach - develop your board early as they focus on ramping, then counter their removal spells or their payoff cards to disrupt their gameplan. Seas effects on their G sources and on the Valakuts themselves can also be helpful. This matchup is sometimes challenging due to their ability to threaten to kill you quickly, but a hand with disruption and even marginal pressure stands a very good chance of winning.
Potential mainboard cuts:Aether Vial (bad topdeck, and vulnerable to removal), Dismember (their creatures often get too big for this to be effective), Spell Pierce (counterspells are mediocre against attrition decks).
The slower of the BGX midrange variants, though it is functionally very similar to its Jund cousin (it looks to get you to topdeck mode via discard and removal, then play powerful threats you can't beat). The main threats this one presents us are Grim Flayer, Siege Rhino, and Tarmogoyf, along with their spot removal suite (Lingering Souls is much less of a threat for us than it is for other decks, thanks to Spreading Seas and islandwalk). Master of Waves is huge for surging ahead once we've established some modicum of board presence, but the true key to victory in this matchup is to pressure them early and often and grind them out.
Potential mainboard cuts:Aether Vial (bad topdeck, and vulnerable to their removal), Spell Pierce (counterspells tend to get stuck in hand against attrition decks), Vapor Snag (tempo plays tend to not be impactful enough in grind-it-out games).
Potential mainboard cuts:Dismember (costs life, and removal tends to be bad against Dredge), Merrow Reejerey (can be a bit clunky at times).
Eldrazi & Taxes
This is a WB tempo deck with a significant C component that seeks to combine disruptive creatures such as Flickerwisp, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Leonin Arbiter, and Tidehollow Sculler with powerful Eldrazi such as Eldrazi Displacer, Thought-Knot Seer, and Wasteland Strangler. How you approach this matchup revolves around whether they have an early Aether Vial - if they do, be prepared for a long, grindy game where your initial assault is blunted by removal and other combat tricks, and where Master of Waves and Merrow Reejerey will be your saving grace. If they don't, go at them fast and hard - disrupting their manabase and putting large creatures on the table might be enough to take them down before they get going. Fortunately for us, their small-creature disruption plan does little to affect a creature-based deck that has Aether Vial and doesn't have fetchlands, so focus your attentions on defeating the larger and scarier Eldrazi-based half of the deck.
Potential mainboard cuts:Cursecatcher (weak body, and the effect is close to irrelevant), lands (dead topdecks in grindy games, and they will ramp you via Path to Exile), Spell Pierce (very few relevant targets), Vapor Snag (effects that only bounce creatures can be hit-or-miss here).
This is a big-mana combo deck that's looking to put 3 specific lands together (Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Tower) via a variety of card-drawing and library searching tools, then using the surplus of mana to play powerful spells like Karn Liberated, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, or Wurmcoil Engine. It also features some spot removal in either Fatal Push, Lightning Bolt, or Path to Exile, depending on whether they are splashing for B, R, or W. From our perspective, the matchup is quite simply a race: you're trying to deal enough damage to finish them off before they find their 3 Urza lands and start dropping bombs. Spreading Seas is gold here because of its ability to slow down their ramp engine, and bounce effects are some of the best ways to deal with a rampaging Wurmcoil Engine. Remember to play around sweepers if the game reaches the midway point, as the deck typically features Oblivion Stone to clean the board (note that this card will also remove any Seas effects).
Potential mainboard cuts:Dismember (the opponent pressures your life total), Merrow Reejerey (somewhat slow-developing card).
This aggro-combo deck's strategy is to combine creatures with the infect ability (such as Blighted Agent and Glistener Elf) with pump spells and effects (everything from Noble Hierarch and Pendelhaven to Become Immense and Might of Old Krosa) to finish opponents quickly. While this deck is fast and aggressive and has plenty of "win-out-of-nowhere" capability that has to be accounted for, it's a deck that usually runs U and can be disrupted by bounce, counterspells, and removal, so we have the ability to throw off their gameplan. Just remember to strongly favor hands with disruption in them - they're faster than we are, so we have to slow them down in order to win the race. Harbinger of the Tides and Cursecatcher are often the best cards in this matchup, and Spreading Seas can either limit their access to G or effectively kill off an Inkmoth Nexus.
This deck relies on grinding you out of options with either removal or discard effects, then sticking a win condition that you will struggle to answer on an empty board, such as Scavenging Ooze, Tarmogoyf, Goblin Rabblemaster, or Raging Ravine. Dark Confidant and Liliana of the Veil are generally their means of surging ahead However, our creature count is usually high enough to weather the storm and keep the pressure on. Your trump cards here are Master of Waves (which they find difficult to kill) and Spreading Seas (which cuts them off colors and doubles as evasion). A point to keep in mind during the match is to keep them on the back foot (so that they can't transition into threatening our life total) whenever possible, and to think long and hard before you mulligan – when fighting a deck that's trying to run you out of resources, every card counts. It's not a trivial matchup to win, but proper play and some relevant sideboarding will see you through.
Potential mainboard cuts:Aether Vial (bad topdeck, and vulnerable to their removal), Spell Pierce (counterspells tend to get stuck in hand against attrition decks), Vapor Snag (tempo plays tend to not be impactful enough in grind-it-out games).
This is an artifact-based deck that looks to assemble a set of pieces (Lantern of Insight, either Codex Shredder or Ghoulcaller's Bell, and Ensnaring Bridge) to lock you out of the game (by ensuring you never draw something that can break the board state deadlock), and a host of support pieces to remove your creatures or protect their lock, all of which can be fetched by Whir of Invention. This matchup is very challenging to face, as a resolved Bridge is often a "game over" for us. However, it usually takes them a few turns to set up their lock, so try and get as much damage in as possible while they do. Also put a premium on hands that have disruption in them already, as that will give you one or two outs to deal lots of damage with once you manage to interrupt the lock.
As should be readily apparent, the mirror match is a very luck-dependent matchup. Because of Merfolk's ability to evade blockers via islandwalk, the game often plays out as a straight race to the finish. On the strategy front, remember that Lord of Atlantis affects ALL Merfolk, so try to delay his arrival on your side of the battlefield as much as possible. Creature disruption is also at a premium here.
This deck is a UR combo-control deck that tries to slow opponents down using spot removal, counterspells, and Blood Moon, then finish them off by cheating in an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn using Through the Breach (some variants include Deceiver Exarch/Pestermite + Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker or Madcap Experiment + Platinum Emperion as complementary or alternative win conditions). Land-disruption tricks don't really work that well on us, so go ahead and pressure them early - they don't have enough removal to stem the tide of Merfolk, and their few blockers will struggle to contain our islandwalking creatures. A resolved Master of Waves is also very difficult for them to beat. You should feel very confident in your ability to prevail in this matchup, provided that you get off to a fast start.
This is a mono-B discard-based deck that uses lots of targeted discard effects to slow opponents down, recurring discard effects (like Raven's Crime and Liliana of the Veil) to strip their hands bare, then recurring damage effects (Shrieking Affliction and The Rack) to finish the job. It also commonly employs Ensnaring Bridge to stop creature decks cold. Your goal here is to race - start fast and aggressive, deal as much damage as you can, and try to find some disruption if they manage to slip on a lock. Try to mulligan as little as possible - each card you pitch away makes their job easier.
Potential mainboard cuts:Harbinger of the Tides (few relevant targets), Dismember/Vapor Snag (few relevant targets). Ad Nauseam
This is a pretty straightforward combo deck that seeks to ramp into an Ad Nauseam + Angel's Grace/Phyrexian Unlife combination in order to draw their entire deck, which will then lead into either a Lightning Storm (cast via exiling several Simian Spirit Guides) or a Laboratory Maniac + Serum Visions to win the game on the spot. Pressure them early, hold up some mana for disruption, and this feels eminently winnable. Remember to focus on disruption that works on non-creature spells, because this deck typically does not use creatures other than the aforementioned Maniac (and going at them once they've drawn their whole deck runs you right into Pact of Negation). You may find yourself tempted to side out Spreading Seas because of their lack of creatures to block you and the fact that Ad Nauseam relies heavily on U already, but you should resist the temptation - they often sideboard in Boseiju, Who Shelters All against decks with countermagic, and this is devastating if left unanswered. Additionally, hands light on artifact ramp can occasionally be taken off the requisite colors to go off (W and BB). Lastly, Seas digs you one card further, which can be useful for finding the countermagic you need to stymie your opponent.
This deck relies on beefing up cheap hexproof creatures (such as Gladecover Scout and Slippery Bogle) with a variety of enchantment-based pump effects, which range from Rancor to Spider Umbra to Ethereal Armor. Because of this, anything that can interact with the creatures in a non-targeted way (or the enchantments themselves) are the way to go. Alternatively, if your opponent doesn't have any lifegain effects (such as Daybreak Coronet, Spirit Link, or Unflinching Courage) up, you could use your Aether Vial to spit out a bunch of creatures and race them. An early Spreading Seas can also disrupt what is at times a fragile manabase. This can be a challenging matchup, but a winnable one with a bit of luck and the right disruption.
Death & Taxes
This entry encompasses various W-based tempo decks that are geared to attack their opponents' gameplan via cheap, disruptive creatures like Flickerwisp, Leonin Arbiter (which combines with Ghost Quarter), and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, as well as some value-generating effects involving creatures with enters-the-battlefield effects (such as Restoration Angel and Blade Splicer). Some variants add extra colors for anything from Voice of Resurgence to Spell Queller to Magus of the Moon. Fortunately, most of these tricks do little to affect Merfolk's aggressive gameplan, and most of their creatures can't go blow for blow with a suite of Lords and Master of Waves. As long as you can keep the pressure up and your guys are bigger than theirs (or can islandwalk past them), this matchups is pretty straightforward.
Potential mainboard cuts:Cursecatcher (weak body, and effect is close to irrelevant), lands (dead topdecks in grindy games, and they will ramp you via Path to Exile), Spell Pierce (very few relevant targets), Vapor Snag (effects that only bounce creatures can be hit-or-miss here).
GW Company/Value Town
This Collected Company deck differs somewhat from its cousins in that it’s not necessarily looking to assemble a combo finish, but instead put creatures that generate value onto the battlefield and grind its opponent out with the incremental advantages that they accrue. The main aspect of these value plays revolve around lands, with cards like Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Courser of Kruphix, Knight of the Reliquary, and Ramunap Excavator all interacting with them in some way. The arsenal is then rounded out by mana dorks and Eternal Witnesses to buy back Companies or whatever they may need at the time. The key in this matchup is to secure evasion – this deck features little removal, so they are vulnerable if their blockers are taken out of the equation. Many of their cards rely on the graveyard, so be sure to attack that postboard.
This is a combo deck centered around the interaction between Retreat to Coralhelm and Knight of the Reliquary. If the Knight is allowed to untap, it will fetch all of the deck's lands, followed by an evasive swing for lethal damage fueled by either Rogue's Passage or Kessig Wolf Run. Alternatively, the deck can present a value-based midrange gameplan as a backup. Disrupting the combo should be your utmost priority, as the rest of the deck shapes up to be a strategy you can race. Beware of Spell Queller snatching up your spells, a Qasali Pridemage blowing up your Vial, or a Dromoka's Command slamming one of your Lords into a beefed-up Knight. However, you should be favored, given that they run U sources and are vulnerable to your disruption package.
Potential mainboard cuts:Aether Vial (bad topdeck, and vulnerable to removal), Harbinger of the Tides (few relevant targets), Dismember/Vapor Snag (1-for-1 removal is questionable against a deck looking to go wide).
This ramp-focused deck is looking to land early accelerants such as Arbor Elf, Birds of Paradise, and Utopia Sprawl, then slam land destruction spells such as Stone Rain or Molten Rain to buy itself time to cast big fatties like Inferno Titan and take over the game. Alternatively, it has a few midrange threats (Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Bloodbraid Elf, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, and Tireless Tracker) to help stabilize in the midgame. Starting with a Vial is very helpful here, as it helps invalidate the land hate aspect of their plan. A Spreading Seas can be a devastating blow if they are short on G because of a Blood Moon or have cast a [cardUtopia Sprawl[/card], and powering out a massive board state can often put them too far behind for them to recover. This should be a fine matchup for you provided that you don’t stumble in your board development.
As Foretold Living End
A close cousin of the all-in combo deck relying on the same namesake card, this deck exchanges the raw speed of classic Living End for a bit more control over the board and the stack. It features a deep suite of countermagic (Cryptic Command, Remand, and usually Mana Leak), and only runs cyclers that can be pitched for U or no mana. It also features As Foretold as its means to freecast Living End along with Ancestral Vision, not to mention other cards if the enchantment sticks long enough. Your goal here is similar to what it is against the classic deck – put pressure on them, disrupt their spells, and sandbag forces to bring in after the sweeper with your Aether Vial. Given that they feature few creatures they can hardcast efficiently and the ones that do can be invalidated as blockers via islandwalk, this should be a very tractable matchup for you.
Potential mainboard cuts:Cursecatcher (weak body, and its effect is close to irrelevant), Vapor Snag (can be problematic against enter-the-battlefield effects).
Facing this tribal tempo deck will feel a whole lot like the mirror - they rely on a core of disruptive creatures, backed up with some disruption (Path to Exile in their case) and a way to cheat on deployment (Collected Company). There's also not much blocking done on either side, as it's our islandwalking creatures against their flying forces. However, their ability to pump the team pales in comparison to ours, so we can outmuscle them pretty reproducibly. Be as aggressive as possible, play around Spell Queller by using your Aether Vial, and beware of flashed-in blockers - Rattlechains lets the whole deck play at instant speed.
BG Rock Midrange
This midrange deck is highly similar to Jund and Abzan, except that it trades in the expanded interaction toolbox granted by a third color in for additional manabase consistency and the ability to field tools such as Field of Ruin. However, their gameplan is the same - they want to trade resources using discard (Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize) and removal (Abrupt Decay, Fatal Push, Liliana of the Veil, and Thoughtseize) until their superior individual card quality (Grim Flayer, Scavenging Ooze, Tarmogoyf) can be brought to bear. You should thus respond by continuously developing your board and keeping them on the back foot by pressuring their lifetotal. Their manabase will the most challenging of the BGX midrange decks to disrupt, but doing so will yield great reward. As long as you can keep drawing a steady stream of threats and putting the onus on your opponent, you should emerge victorious.
Potential mainboard cuts:Aether Vial (bad topdeck, and vulnerable to their removal), Spell Pierce (counterspells tend to get stuck in hand against attrition decks), Vapor Snag (tempo plays tend to not be impactful enough in grind-it-out games).
CoCo Zoo/Naya Company
This is a deck that's pretty close to Merfolk in terms of philosophy. Both are creature-based decks that pack a broadly applicable disruption suite. However, Zoo is still considered to be more of an aggro deck, as their mainboard disruption is pretty much just creature removal, and their creatures tend to be less interactive overall. In terms of the matchup, they have several weaknesses that we can pick at. First is their dependency on 3 colors of mana (and in the case of cards like Wild Nacatl, 3 different land types), which we can disrupt with Spreading Seas (8-Seas versions of Merfolk are particularly rough on Zoo). Furthermore, a straight race with some bounce and counterspells for cards like Collected Company to slow them down tends to favor us, because they will almost always take some damage from their lands. Thirdly, just playing defense and landing a Master of Waves with a solid board state up also tends to do well. Sprinkle in some sideboard answers to cards like Collected Company, Lightning Bolt, and Path to Exile, and you can easily take them down.
Potential mainboard cuts:Dismember (spells that cost life to cast are bad against decks this aggressive), Merrow Reejerey (slow-developing card), Spell Pierce (very few relevant targets), Spreading Seas (opponent is very aggressive and has smaller creatures than ours).
Potential mainboard cuts:Spreading Seas (opponent already has Islands), lands (sometimes a dead topdeck in grindy games).
This is a combo deck built around its namesake enchantment (Jeskai Ascendancy), a giant pile of cantrips, and a creature that can tap and untap in Fatestitcher. The deck's goal is to get the Fatestitcher into the graveyard while Jeskai Ascendancy is on the battlefield, Unearth it, then use a procession of cantrips (and untap triggers for your lands) to get a huge creature, then tap the opponent's creatures and swing for lethal. Your goal here is to disrupt them while you race - prize hands with counterspells and/or Aether Vial, try your best to ensure that Jeskai Ascendancy never enters the battlefield, and put a clock on them. A Vapor Snag or a Vialed-in Harbinger of the Tides can be a devastating blow to a Fatestitcher that is in the process of going off as well.
This is a creature-based combo deck centered around Restoration Angel and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker, which is functionally pretty similar to the now-banned Deceiver Exarch/Pestermite + Splinter Twin combo, albeit a turn slower. However, this deck features mana dorks to speed it up, as well as Chord of Calling to fetch the relevant creatures. It also can get some pretty great value out of Eternal Witness, by either blinking it, cloning it, or simply using the likes of Chord of Calling to fetch it. It also often features Fiery Justice as creature control. My recommendation is to establish as much of a board state as you can early, then keep disruption up in the midgame as you try to tempo them out. Countering the aforementioned instants tends to be a backbreaking blow tempo-wise.
Potential mainboard cuts:Merrow Reejerey (slow-developing card), Spell Pierce (opponent can ramp past this), Vapor Snag (bounce effects can be bad against enters-the-battlefield effects).
This graveyard-based combo deck relies on spells with the cascade keyword to fetch out Living End, which wipes out your board and fills their with a bunch of creatures they cycled or sacrificed into their graveyard. Steady pressure will sometimes get to them before they can go off (especially if you disrupt them once or twice), but it behooves you to have a post-boardwipe strategy. If you're not going to kill them in time to stop a Living End, pressure them while you keep some creatures in hand, then use your Aether Vial to refill the board. You should have enough damage and evasion between the initial pressure and the new wave to finish them off. Another point is that cascade triggers on casting, so countering the cascade spell won't do anything – if you want to stop them, counter Living End directly. Emptying their graveyard is also huge, but you need to pair it with pressure.
This is a mono-W midrange deck that seeks to exploit the effect of Martyr of Sands by using Proclamation of Rebirth to reuse it. Once the deck has assembled a huge life total, it then goes on the offensive with the likes of Serra Ascendant and Sun Titan. Because the deck is capable of reviving its creatures, it's not above wiping the board with a Wrath of God. It also employs defensive measures such as Ghostly Prison, Gideon Jura, and Kami of False Hope. The key here is to disrupt and pressure them early - once their value engine gets going, chances are you'll have a hard time stopping it. Prioritize hands that wil let you spit out tons of creatures early, and pressure them hard.
Potential mainboard cuts:Master of Waves (can be slow, and is vulnerable to board wipes), Spreading Seas (opponent has stable manabase and won't block much).
A creature-centric aggro deck that employs lots of mana dorks and lands such as Ancient Ziggurat, Gemstone Mine, Mana Confluence, and Pillar of the Paruns to ensure it has access to mana of any color, Rainbow Aggro is looking to use some the best multicolored creatures at any given mana cost, which includes everything from Voice of Resurgence to Mantis Rider to Siege Rhino. However, as is clearly implied above, their mana base is very fragile, so attacking it will be devastating. Furthermore, they have little in the way of noncreature spells, which means that our synergies will often be able to be built up with next to no interference. That bodes ill for creatures that don't pump each other, and you should thus be looking to disrupt their manabase as your Merfolk get huge and swarm the opponent.
RW Lockdown/Sun and Moon
This is a prison-style control deck that looks to use spot removal like Lightning Helix and Oblivion Ring along with land hate (such as Stone Rain) and lock pieces such as Chalice of the Void, Ensnaring Bridge, and Ghostly Prison to keep its opponents under control. It then transitions into winning the game using ultimates from either Ajani Vengeant or Nahiri, the Harbinger. The key here is to start as fast as possible before the lock pieces have time to hit the board, then grind out whatever damage you need to finish the game. If your hand is not the heavy-hitting type, you could employ more of a tempo plan with counterspells to ensure their soft lock pieces don't hit the table. Despite being a bad topdeck in a battle that will more than likely have its fair share of topdecking, Aether Vial is very important here, as it enables both of the gameplans I mentioned above to be executed more smoothly.
This deck is a mainly URG combo-control deck that looks to disrupt you with counterspells and sweepers as it assembles 8 lands and then drops a Scapeshift on you for lethal (by fetching 6 Mountains and 2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, which results in 36 damage). Focus on your aggro gameplan early, play through Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial, and hold up counterspells in the midgame. Some versions of the deck feature Bring to Light as a way to fetch sweepers (or Scapeshift itself), or Prismatic Omen in order to speed up their clock (this card makes them only need 6 lands to deal 30 or more damage with a Scapeshift). What version you're up against shouldn't change your sideboarding much - at its heart, it's a U-based control deck with a ramp engine and a combo finish, so plan accordingly.
As the name implies, this is a grindy midrange deck built around leveraging Smallpox to maximum effect. To do so, it employs a classic removal + discard spell package along with creatures, lands, and other cards that mitigate the friendly-fire aspects of its namesake spell (such as Bloodghast, Flagstones of Trokair, and Lingering Souls). It's usually trying to win the game by sticking one or more of its powerful planeswalkers (Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Liliana of the Veil, and Sorin, Solemn Visitor are the ones in its lineup) and overwhelm its opponent with card advantage. In order to win, you need to go as wide as possible while slipping past their blockers to threaten their life total. As such, hands with Vials and Seas effects are very strong here, and you want as many Lords as you can get your hands on. A timely Cursecatcher can also be a way to buy time for your larger creatures to hit the table on curve. As long as you can keep putting boots on the ground and put pressure on them to answer every threat, you should be able to outlast them.
This is a lifegain-based weenie aggro deck that is centered around cards like Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant. They can either fuel big beaters like Ajani's Pridemate, get tons of value off a card like Spectral Procession, or bring in a Plan B consisting of Martyr of Sands, a hand full of W spells, and Serra Ascendant as a huge beater. Disrupt them by taking the Sisters off the table (either temporarily or permanently), and rush them to keep their life total under pressure. Their creatures are usually much smaller than yours, so they can rarely block profitably (and not at all, once a Spreading Seas is up).
This is a goodstuff midrange deck that combines powerful creatures such as Tarmogoyf and Huntmaster of the Fells with effective control tools like Lightning Bolt, Mana Leak, and Cryptic Command. Some versions also feature an infinite value loop using Aether Vial, Eternal Witness, and any spell that involves returning the Eternal Witness to its owner's hand (such as Cryptic Command or Familiar's Ruse). This is the sort of deck that will be rather durdly and reactive in the early game, so our goal here is to start fast and get ahead before they can mount a meaningful offensive. Their U-heavy mana base is a point in our favor, as is Aether Vial to dodge their counterspells. Lastly, getting your creatures out of Bolt range ensures they will have a hard time killing them. This is a matchup you should easily find a way to victory in.
UR Prowess/Suicide Bloo
A very aggressive aggro-combo hybrid, this deck's goal is to pump a Kiln Fiend or Monastery Swiftspear up to gigantic proportions via cheap card draw spells and Mutagenic Growth, then swing for lethal damage, using a Temur Battle Rage to speed the process along. Failing that, it plans to flip a Thing in the Ice and either beat down with it or attempt another combo kill. The key for us here is early interaction - their creatures are quite vulnerable to bounce effects, and while they do employ Apostle's Blessing to protect them, it's still a fight that's in our favor.
This combo-control deck has a rather different gameplan from its more popular GX cousin. It seeks to stall in the early game using bounce and counterspells, then transition into disruptive cards like Sundering Titan and Wurmcoil Engine, and finish you off with either big creature beatdown, or a Mindslaver + Academy Ruins loop. Fortunately for us, its focus on reactive play using countermagic and bounce means it runs U and is on the slow side, which in turn means that Merfolk preys on it by circumventing their counterspells and playing more guys than their bounce effects can deal with. As long as you don't get tagged by the likes of Oblivion Stone and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, you should be fine.
This oddball combo-control deck is looking to stall in the early game with cards like Gigadrowse, Remand, Exhaustion, and Cryptic Command so that it can string together extra-turn effects such as Time Warp and Temporal Mastery combined with extra draw engines like Howling Mine and Dictate of Kruphix to generate an incredible advantage. They typically finish opponents off with Awakened Elementals from Part the Waterveil, Thing in the Ice, or even Inkmoth Nexus. They also sometimes feature a second color, mainly for access to spot removal. Your goal here is to hit them fast and hard - the late game is their domain, so rush them down and finish the game as quickly as possible. Cursecatcher is perhaps your most important creature in this matchup - it can often buy you a full turn to continue attacking while providing pressure. As long as you can get around their first piece of disruption, you stand a very good chance of winning.
Potential mainboard cuts:Aether Vial (poor topdeck in an attrition matchup), Cursecatcher (low-impact card in the matchup).
This grindy midrange deck combines hand disruption and removal spells with the ability to flood the field with token-generating spells in order to both attack and defend itself, plus a touch of pump and lifegain to make the process somoother. You throw a big wrench into the defensive aspect of their gameplan by dodging blockers thanks to islandwalk, which is provided by Spreading Seas. Your goal here is to weather their early disruption and keep the pressure on, as the deck's clock pales in comparison to yours and they have trouble dealing with threats that are both plentiful and larger than theirs.
Potential mainboard cuts:Aether Vial (can be a bad topdeck against heavy discard), Master of Waves (can be somewhat slow in the matchup), Vapor Snag (1-for-1 tempo plays are pretty bad against decks that go wide).
Looks very good so far. Two things I'd want to add is that Cursecatcher is probably part of the core of the deck (or at least should not be mentioned in the same breath as Sygg Cuthroat), and I'd like to see a paragraph on why not to splash a color in merfolk, as it is still the most succesful version of the deck and may new players or veterans from other decks feel like it's almost a necessity to play at least two colors in a format like Modern where the landbase is so powerful.
Are the terms "fast" and "aggro" appropriate? Yes, we are faster than some "fair" decks and can create builds that are a bit faster than others, but we are most certainly NOT Burn, Zoo, etc.
I can't help but feel like the description ought to mention the deck's versatility with mid-range/tempo/disruption style. I always associate the term "aggro" with the way decks were built 1-2 years ago when this deck was tier 2-3 and was justifiably niche.
Given that the deck is capable of T4 kills, I'd consider it to be pretty fast. Its gameplan is to beat face and win, and most of the time it's trying to do so as fast as possible. Merfolk only looks to slow the pace down against decks that are even faster than it is. I can definitely rejigger the opening description to focus more on versatility, though.
Quote from Delverofthemany »
@theseer I see you play 4x chalice of the void in the sideboard. I love the card but also love playing spell pierce, dispel, and swan song against combo decks. Do you ever miss being able to sideboard in 1 mana counterspells or has chalice been enough for you?
Quote from Bearscape
My own list runs 3x Chalice in the side, 2x Negate in the side and 2x Spell Pierce main. You generally do not need Chalice on 1 against most combo decks. You don't need them versus twin, scapeshift or GoryoShoal, and against Ad Nauseam, Living End and Amulet you want it on 0. It can be a bit of a bother versus Infect and Bogles though, against which you both want Spell Pierce and Chalice on 1, but it does not often come up as those decks generally just roll over and die once chalice on 1 resolves
Like Bearscape i only run 3 chalice in the sb. I proberbly should had gone over the decklist before i started to play. I play 2 Spell Pierce main and 1 in the side and two more negates in the side aswell. I love the card chalice and i rarely go too town without it, it shuts down soo many decks. That said, it doesnt mean i dont run more counters, dispel could be good in some metas and you can make an argument for even more, soo its not a question about either, you should run chalice and other counters.
I uploaded the last two rounds from the Daily, in the last match i played against AmuletBloom which showcase how hard this deck can be sometimes to pilot, i make several mistakes but hopefully thats a good thing and maybe we can learn something from it.
Please, for the love of god don't copy the formatting of the old Primer! it is straining, overloaded and simply unpractical. Just listing everything and adding 1-2 sentences helps no one. We wouldn't need a new Primer leaving it like that :/
Just because I do not remember if I have ever seen it mentioned here, but anyone running a WU version with Rest in Peace should be aware that it shuts of Arcbound Ravager's ability to move counters onto another creature.
Please, for the love of god don't copy the formatting of the old Primer! it is straining, overloaded and simply unpractical. Just listing everything and adding 1-2 sentences helps no one. We wouldn't need a new Primer leaving it like that :/
Could you clarify what you mean by this? I think a list of the available options is one of the first steps in making a new primer. Of course, I'm adding some stuff in addition to that (see the Matchup and Sideboarding guide, which has all of Tier 1 and will hopefully have Tier 2 soon), but I don't see much of an alternative to stuff being in there. I tried to add a bit more depth by color-coding and saying how many copies of a card should be run, but at the end of the day there are only so many ways to skin this cat.
It's been pretty straightforward for me. It always tends to be a tight match, but Merfolk win more often than not. That's backed up by some MTGGoldfish data (which is unfortunately no longer available, but is summarized here). As with Burn, a resolved Master of Waves tends to be game over. Decks that rely on 1-for-1s tend to struggle against decks that present more threats than they have removal, and that's certainly the case for Merfolk vs. Jund.
I think it's slightly favorable overall, but it gets a LOT worse when we have to mulligan because cards ARE VERY important in this matchup. I found I have won most of my games vs them by grinding them out.
Controversial viewpoint: I often elect to go on the draw vs Jund because of how important cards are. You usually don't have a t1 play so the Inquisition will get your best card on either turn, but the difference is you have one more card. This strategy has worked for me for the most part and I've put in a lot of reps vs Jund. I'm the only one I know that does this so if anyone has tried this to some success, please let me know.
Jund is very favorable with an appropriate sideboard, and probably 50-55 depending on player skill without.
As for the primary, I think some of the card explanation is too ramble-y, you don't need to specifically mention how many people should play, etc, and focus more on the pros/cons of the cards in question, how you might shape your deck for them (especially things like cosi's trickster) budget options might be better spoken about in a seperate section, as no one would consider judge's familiar over catcher if they had sets of both, etc.
Personally I dislike your use of color here, but whatever floats your boar.
As for drawing against jund, thats quite interesting. I have not tried it, but now that you mention it, I would like to. It certainly sounds reasonable, but it does make it quite difficult to just blow them out of the water quickly.
I should also note that it feels much less appetizing when we don't have vials but do have several counters (ie, unified will + spell pierce). Nonetheless, I will have to try it.
Being on the draw against Jund is clever. I'll have to try that out myself as well.
Thanks for the feedback, Cody_X. I'll try to edit the entries to more specifically mention how to fit certain cards into the deck. I'll also tackle budget options in a separate section, but I'm frankly somewhat inexperienced in the topic. I've always proxied and built a "full-strength" deck over running a budget version of it. I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts on building budget Merfolk.
Vapor snags could be dismembers, and tricksters can be any 1 drop of choice.
I did not include a sideboard, but a vast majority of sideboard options are relatively cheap.
The maindeck is less than 100 (or atleast very close to 100), which is pretty good for a tier 1 deck, and it has most of the pieces one would want for a completed list.