Tag Archives: merfolk

Here Fishy Fishy: Developing Merfolk in the New Extended

Hello everyone, and let me start by apologizing for my lack of articles over the past few months. I’ve been grinding through both International Baccalaureate (IB) exams and my high school diploma exams, leaving precious little time to devote to Magic. However, I’m officially done high school and intend to play a ton of Magic over the summer, which hopefully means more articles here.

In case you haven’t heard, Wizards has implemented some radical changes to extended, giving us only 4 years worth of cards to work with instead of 7. I’m a huge fan of this change, although Extended was one of my favourite formats for the last few years. This change makes Extended a much more accessible format, as well as giving us a whole new format to dissect and discover.

For those who don’t know, my Extended season this year culminated with a 5-2 record at a PTQ with Merfolk. This deck has a special place near my heart and I’ve played it in standard, extended, and legacy over the last few years. It’s my pleasure today to outline an adaptation of Merfolk for the new extended, which uses cards from Time Spiral, Lorwyn, Alara, and Zendikar blocks, with Core Sets from 10th Edition to Magic 2011 inclusive.

To use as some sort of base, let’s take a look back at my Merfolk list from the last extended PTQ.

Here Fishy Fishy

The first thing we must decide is what colours we want to play. Without the aid of the Ravnica shocklands such as Hallowed Fountain, we can’t easily play white for Sejiri Merfolk. However, due to the nonexistance of Dark Depths in this format, the need for 4 maindeck Path to Exile is mitigated. Therefore I think we can make a first draft using only blue spells.

The only other loss from the above list is the always-awesome equipment Umezawas Jitte. This card was part of what made merfolk so great was that you would be able to have the edge on your opponents both in terms of creature power but as well as having a stream of removal for their chump-blockers.

So let’s go through the shell of the deck we want to use:

Lords
A part of every merfolk deck is its lords: creatures that give a global pump to all your other merfolk. There are 4 merfolk lords we can consider for this deck: Lord of Atlantis, Merrow Reejerey, Merfolk Sovereign and Coralhelm Commander. Lord of Atlantis is good because it’s cheap, and Merrow Reejerey is good because of the degenerate tapping/untapping shenanigans you can pull off with it. There’s an amazing synergy between the Sovereign and Wake Thrasher, but sovereign can be less than stellar if you have them in multiples. I tend to dislike the commander because each mana you spend on leveling him up is another mana you could leave up for a counterspell or some other merfolk that will have a more immediate effect of the game state. The 10 lord configuration has always worked well for me, so I think it’s fine for this deck as well.

Countermagic
Countermagic is essential in maintaining the aggro-control mixture that is the merfolk deck, and having a good suite of counterspells is critical to ensure that your army of fish can take out the enemy. This last week saw the spoiling of Mana Leak for Magic 2011. Prior to that, I was distraught as to what might take it’s place, contemplating Negate or Spell Pierce. However, with one of the most solid counters in recent memory in the new Core Set, playing a playset should be no question.

Of course, no mono-blue deck would be complete without the addition of Cryptic Command-The counterspell that does it all. I tend to play this card very aggressively, using the tapping ability to get in for some serious amounts of damage. However, the ideal play can be to counter an opponent’s spell and tap their guys on their turn, so always be questioning how you can most effectively play the command, not just considering your opponents turn, but how you’ll follow up on your net turn.

To give our deck a solid one-drop, we can add Cursecatcher. How many get played is very much a metagame-dependent decision, and with no tournament results for this new format, the number of instants and sorceries which get played cannot be determined. Even if more aggressive decks become the norm, I would not have a problem with playing some number in the mainboard because they’ll gain the bonuses from lords. We’ll try playing 4, but this is one of the most variable slots.

Support Merfolk
I don’t have words to describe cards like Silvergill Adept and Wake Thrasher except for “Awesome”. Drawing cards and making huge guys is always good, and they’re the grease that makes the giant merfolk machine run smoothly.

Support Spells
What’s a good blue deck these days without the aid of planeswalker Jace, the Mind Sculptor? Not only will Jace be able to bounce opposing blockers, but he will be able to net us more merfolk to keep up the pressure. He’s an awesome card that finds a welcome home in this deck.

These last slots had me scouring gatherer for all the blue cards that will be legal in the new extended. Hot off it’s success in standard, Spreading Seas not only has the potential to slow an opponent’s mana base, but it will help our islandwalking merfolk get in unhindered. Again, these slots are very much a meta call depending on the colours and mana bases of the most popular decks. If decks like 5 colour control and Reveillark proliferate, this choice will be much better than if faeries and other decks just play islands anyway. As well, the addition of Spreading Seas gives us another 2-drop which draws us a card, giving us a high pro

Lands
The land base for this deck is pretty simple. Mutavault is a great attacker who only gets better as we play lords. A plethora of fetchlands will allow us to not only thin the deck (which is usually insignificant) but also shuffle away our dregs from Jace’s Brainstorm ability. Because we have 8 spells which gost 4 mana, I think that adding an extra land from the original list is warranted.

Without further ado, let me present the final list:

Here Fishy Fishy

I hope to test this deck out sometime soon, and will probably purchase it on Magic Online so I can put up some videos. As always, feel free to sound off in the comments, or contact me at zak -AT- power9pro.com, or contact me via twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

PTQ San Juan: Merfolk in Extended *10th*

Hello everyone, and I hope the students among you are enjoying Spring break as much as I am. Friday and Saturday were a whirlwind of Magic-related challenges, and now that I’m caught up on some sleep, I’m ready to recount the story.

We start off in Edmonton (my hometown) at 10:30 pm. One of my buddies swings around my place so that we can meet our other two friends on the other side of town for supper. However, Dave, the guy who is driving only came to the city about a year ago, and progresses further out of town in the opposite direction we need to go. Thus, we end up taking a roundabout trip to the restaurant that takes us almost an hour. When we get to the restaurant, I don’t recognize my friends at their table because they are sitting with 10 others whom I don’t know, and are dressed up like Japanese school girls. Long story short, after a few cell phone calls and facepalms, we sit down and enjoy general merriment until about midnight. When we finally go over to my friend’s place where we’re spending the night, we test for about an hour before attempting to go to bed. Of course our host’s roommate has also invited some other friends to spend the night, so Dave, Matt, and myself end up sleeping on the floor.

4 hours later, we get up and fill ourselves with coffee and hit the road for the 3-0hour drive to Calgary. While Dave drives and Matt sleeps in the shotgun, Brian and I test extended for a good hour and a half on top of spare binders on our laps. This is of course until the truck sputters to a stop in the middle of the highway. The three more academically inclined of us (Matt, Brian, and I) resign ourselves to the fact that we will miss the PTQ, while Dave points out that there is an abnormally strong smell of gas on the side of the highway. Looking down, we see an enormous pool of gas dripping from the bottom of the truck, and Dave is able to reconnect the dislodged gas line and set us back on our way, with enough time to spare.

On arrival at the tournament site, we find that WotC has donated a ton of product to the event, and that everyone will get six free boosters just for showing up. Seems awesome.

The time for handing in decklists comes, and this is what I submit.

Here Fishy Fishy

And here is the sideboard:

So as I said in my previous article, I didn’t think that Faerie Depths was a good decision for a metagame filled with Zoo. I came across Marshall Arthurs’ winning list about a week prior to the tournament, and I knew immediately that I would be playing merfolk. They’re a deck that I played in standard, and I’m very familiar with the archetype. Unlike Faerie Depths, I’m almost always playing ahead of my opponent, whereas Faeries needs to play catch up for most of the game.

I only made a few changes to Marshall’s list. The first, and most notable, is the removal of 2 Cursecatcher and a Mana Leak for 3 Sejiri Merfolk. I think that this was absolutely the right call, as I boarded out Cursecatchers a fair bit, and the Sejiri was able to totally turn games around. Seriously, this card is extremely good.

The other change is the inclusion of more basic lands. I knew there would be a fair few players piloting Kyle Bogemmes’ Blood Moon Zoo, as well as Gavin Verhey’s Ultimecia. I believe that the 10 basics and 3 fetches render that plan of attack effectively useless, except for that it shuts off Mutavault. Again we see that this deck is superior to Faerie Depths in its ability to deal with moon effects, whereas faeries would many times just scoop to the 3 mana enchantment or its magus.

The board is almost completely different from Marshall’s. I added Threads of Disloyalty to assist me in the Zoo matchup, and Damping Matrix to hurt Thopter Depths. Wrath of God is a way for me to deal with Elves, fast Zoo, and maybe a resolved Hypergenesis or Living End. Finally, Leyline of Singularity was my ace in the hole against Thopter Foundry decks, as well as Elves and Dredge.
Round 1: vs Arvin (Uw Merfolk)

Arvin is last year’s regional champion from Calgary, and I greet him as such when we sit down. He seems a little flattered that someone who he doesn’t know knows his name, and we make small talk while shuffling our decks. Imagine my surprise when he plays a turn one Island followed by Cursecatcher. My mindset immediately changes into how I can beat the mirror, and I identify Lord of Atlantis as a game changer immediately. I realize that I must use it as an Overrun style finisher, rather than as a source of continual damage. He casts Silvergill Adept on turn 2, and than I respond with Sejiri Merfolk. This is where he becomes aware of the situation as I have known it for 2 turns, and we both have a little chuckle at the unexpected mirror match.

He casts an Umezawas Jitte on turn 3, which I kill with a Jitte of my own. The first strike on my Sejiri Merfolk is holding the fort, but I become worried when he resolves another Jitte on the next turn. After equipping it to his 3/2 Silvergill Adept he pauses and asks me: “Does [Sejiri Merfolk] have first strike?” I reply in the affirmative, and then he does something which defies rational explanation. He attacks with his Jitte-wielding adept while he’s tapped out. I block, and I stop him when he tries to put counters on the Jitte, informing him that his guy died before it dealt combat damage. He realizes the extent of his misplay, and then I play a Jitte to kill his, and overwhelm him in the next few turns.

I board out 3 Lord of Atlantis and 2 Cursecatcher In favour of 2 Threads of Disloyalty and 3 Temporal Isolation. In game 2, I make a mistake early on when I cast Threads on his Wake Thrasher. Shortly after, I realize my mistake and explain to the judge the situation. He gives us both a warning, and our game goes on. It turns out that Arvin didn’t board out Lord of Atlantis, and my Wake Thrasher in able to go all the way with islandwalk.

1 – 0

Round 2: vs Mike (Hypergenesis)

We’re chatting while we shuffle and we discuss which, if any, decks would actually want to draw in this format. I say that the Hypergenesis builds which run Gemstone Caverns might want to and he replies that his deck might also draw sometimes. When he plays a turn 1 Gemstone Mines, I’m not surprised, and I drop a Sejiri Merfolk on turn 2. However, this is where all hell breaks loose, as he exiles a Simian Spirit Guide and casts Violent Outburst during my end step. He brings out Bogardan Hellkite and Progenitus, and I bring in 4 Merfolk Lords and a Wake Thrasher. Then my opponent misplays, choosing to kill off one of my lords with the hellkite damage, rather than hit me and swing for game next turn. He doesn’t realize this until I’ve drawn a Path to Exile for his Hellkite and my team swings in for the win.

I board in Ethersworn Canonist and Wrath of God. I have a turn 2 Sejiri Merfolk again, and he combos off on turn two…again. He brings down Angel of Despair, killing a lord I bring down, and a Progenitus. I have the Path to Exile for his angel, and so it’s a battle of merfolk vs Progenitus. I go to 2 after two successive hydra swings thanks to my lifegaining merfolk, and I try and stabilize on the back of a Lord of Atlantis, Mutavault and the aforementioned Sejiri Merfolk. I draw a Cryptic Command to tap his 10/10 and draw a card, giving me one more swing. On my draw step, a draw another Cryptic, which clinches the game for me while a 10/10 hydra was staring me down.

2 – 0

Round 3: vs Jared (Tribal Zoo)

I lose the roll and find him to have a very fast start consisting of Noble Hierarch, Qasali Pridemage, Wild Nacatl and Knight of the Reliquary. I assume he’s playing some GW aggro deck, and I attempt to stabilize with a 3/2 Sejiri merfolk wearing an Umezawas Jitte. However, he eventually beats me down with sheer numbers and I move to game 2.

I mulligan in the second game, after seeing a hand with double Mutavault and little else[/card]. I only saw Naya colours in the first game, so imagine my surprise when he cracks a fetchland for Watery Grave. In addition to his faster start, which I fend off for the most part, he has double Tribal Flames for 5, which just burn me out.

2 – 1

Round 4: vs Lorenzo (Blood Moon Zoo)

Normally, I’d be apprehensive about facing Lorenzo, as he’s one of the best players in the province. However, I know what he’s playing, and I spent a good hour testing this exact matchup on the ride home with Brian, so I know I’m favoured to win. I play 3 lords on turns 3, 4 and 5, and he resolves Bloodbraid Elf into a Blood Moon. This screws him out of green, while the high number of basics in my deck pay off, and double Merrow Reejerey takes him down.

Game 2 is all about the Wake Thrashers. I play 3 over the course of the game, and he can’t remove them all. This forces him to make a ton of chump blocks, and he draws a fair bit of land near the end of the game which seals the match.

3 – 1

Round 5: vs Shaun (Thopter Depths)

Finally, the match which matters the most. Testing has indicated that its 50/50 pre-board, and a slight edge to me post-board, and Shaun is one of the best players around, having been on the pro tour in the past. In game 1 he has a Vampire Hexmage to stop my Cursecatcher and Silvergill Adept, and a turn 3 Dark Depths wins it for him, as I don’t draw a Path to Exile

In game 2, He gets the Thopter Foundry combo online, but it’s too late, as I have the deadly duo of Wake Thrasher and Merfolk Sovereign, which crash in for upwards of 10 damage a turn.

Game 3 I have no chance. He has a turn 1 Thopter Foundry off a Chrome Mox, a turn 2 Sword of the Meek and a turn 3 Marit Lage which dies to path. However, I get overrun by thopters and the lifegain makes it impossible for me to race him.

Round 6: vs Lowell (Red Deck Wins)

This matchup is actually much harder than I had envisioned, but the plethora of lord effects I have become the deciding factor. He can’t afford to leave a Wake Thrasher unburnt, so I have enough firepower (and life) to stay alive and decimate him. My notes have me winning this game at a precarious one life.

In game 2, I resolve an early Sejiri Merfolk, which renders all his Hellspark Elementals useless. I gain 8 life off the one merfolk, and 3 lords end up being the deciding factor in this very one-sided game.

4 – 2

Round 7: vs Colin (Thopter Depths)

Within the first 2 turns, he casts triple Thoughtseize, nabbing a Lord of Atlantis and 2 Wake Thrashers. He attempts to make a Dark Depths token which is me by a Path to Exile. Eventually, my islandwalking army of merfolk overwhelm him, aided by the 6 damage he dealt to himself of the bat.

Game 2 is the perfect draw for me. I play a turn zero Leyline of Singularity, which causes everyone in the top tables around me to look. Colin is dumbfounded by the fact that one of his combos is severely neutered, and when he struggles to get a Marit Lage, I casually cast Path to Exile. I bring in an army consisting of Silvergill Adept, Lord of Atlantis, Merrow Reejerey, and Merfolk Sovereign. His ability to only make a single thopter does him in, and I find myself with a potential spot in top 8.

5 – 2

Unfortunately, I miss the top 8 on breakers and get 10th overall. This is my best finish at a PTQ yet, and come May, I have every intention of winning the ticket to Amsterdam on home soil in Edmonton.

I think that this deck was an excellent meta choice, and not enough people give this deck the respect it deserves. The Sejiri Merfolks were an amazing addition, as was the increased number of basic lands.

The only thing I would change about the above decklist would be to cut a single Temporal Isolation from the sideboard, and add in a Spell Snare, because most of the time I didn’t want to dilute my merfolk count too much, and with 4 path maindeck, it seemed excessive to have 3.

It’s now time to focus on Rise of the Eldrazi, and its impact on standard. Join me and the rest of the Power 9 Pro team with a set review, tales from prerelease and launch parties, and more in the coming weeks.

As always, feel free to sound off in the comments, or contact me via email at zak -AT- power9pro.com, or through my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan. Until next time,

Cheers,

Zak

New Directions for Standard Post M10

—Authour’s Note–

I wrote this last Monday, but changed and edited it into the below version. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my graphics just the way I wanted, but any later and this article might become irrelevant.  Enjoy!

As I write this, I’m in the car coming back from a camping trip with my family to the Rocky Mountains, so I’m sorry If I haven’t returned anyone’s emails, comments, or twitter updates, and I promise that I will get to them as soon as I possibly can. Also, I have not seen any decklists for post-M10 lists, so forgive me if I miss some crazy new deck.

Well, M10 has been released for about a week and a half at the time of writing, I’m eager to start playing some more standard, in preparation for Magic Game Day in August. I really wanted to play a new deck that was made possible after Magic: 2010. I developed a list of decks that I thought would be tournament viable. In no particular order, here they are:

Suicide Black
Uw Merfolk
GB(w?) The Rock
Rg Aggro
W Soldiers

I thought that M10 would make a nice stage for Suicide Black to make its return. For those of you who don’t know, Suicide Black is a deck that was originally bent on a turn one Dark Ritual into a Hypnotic Specter. This almost immediately demands an answer from the opponent, lest they risk losing their most important cards. Obviously, a turn-one specter is not a possibility in modern Standard, but the concept of attacking the opponents hand and board position simultaneously is still possible of winning games. I’ve been testing a deck like this that uses a playset of Thoughtseize, Duress, Bitterblossom, Black Knight, and Hypnotic Specter to apply early pressure on the opponent, and provide minimal opportunities for answers. I also use Child of Night and Tendrils of Corruption to mitigate the life loss. Unfortunately, the deck lacks an answer to a Chameleon Colossus, aside from a few Mutavaults and Gargoyle Castles, which can be trouble.

Magic 2010 sees the resurgence of new tribal “lords” which give pump effects to their specific tribes. The one that I’m mostly happy about is Merfolk Soverign, which makes Uw Fish a viable archetype. Although it’s no Lord of Atlantis, it still makes your Silvergill Adepts stronger, which is really what merfolk is all about. This combined with my new favourite card Sleep make for a deadly onslaught of merfolk. Backed up by proper countermagic, even a few merfolk should be able to win the game with the eight tap effects that the deck should run (Cryptic Command and Sleep). After playtesting Merfolk for a bit, it seems like a solid archetype that would definitely be powerful enough to take on a PTQ. It also has great sideboard potential, able to play Flashfreeze, Meddling Mage, Pithing Needle, and Safe Passage based on the deck it’s facing. The deck’s tribal interactions are just icing on the cake, so I highly reccommend playing a Merfolk deck at your next standard tournament.

One card that I’m a huge fan of from M10 is Cudgel Troll. It provides an excellent beater, and now Terror and Incinerate have been ousted from standard in favour of Lightning Bolt and Doom Blade, which allow for the possibly of regeneration. Thus, I believe that a creature that pretty much only dies to Path to Exile is a valuable asset, assuming you have enough green mana. Black Knight is also a card that provides a distinct advantage against many decks, and coupled with Great Sable Stag, this deck just pumps out threats that are hard to deal with. This is another deck that will make use of the newly-reprinted Duress, and although an overall slower deck, I think that it will prove to be quite viable.

With the reprints of both Ball Lightning and Lightning Bolt, red decks have a lot to smile about these days. I envision a red-green build that only splashes green for cards like Bloodbraid Elf, which promise to result on more damage being produced. Just the thought of cascading an elf into a Ball Lightning for 9 points of damage got my inner red mage excited. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot more than that happening with this deck, as the quality of fast burn isn’t enough to support the deck. I haven’t tested this deck at all though, nor do I have a full List for it, so I would peruse Gatherer a bit more before calling it completely out of contention. Due to the red decks inherent low land count, it demands a large quantity of spells, and if a deck is forced into playing either more land than warranted, or sub-par spells, it will not be powerful enough to be a mainstream contender. That, and the fact that the whole deck does to Burrenton Forge-Tender makes it the deck that I’m least sure of in the post-M10 Standard.

If an aggressive red deck is what I’m least certain of, then I’m putting most of my money on a mono-white soldiers build to dominate the top tables at tournaments. I’ve found that the building of this deck in particular is extremely similar to the building of Faeries. This is because there are some cards that are automatic four-ofs, while others are extremely debatable. However, although many slots can differ, the decks may have a very similar play experience. Cards like Captain of the Watch will be played, because of the sheer power they have to change the game. The new white sorcery Harms Way has a great place in this deck, easily mitigating the potential devastation caused by Volcanic Fallout. The plethora of pump effects make it a more stable tokens build, as making all your guys X/3 is not that difficult.

Without the presence of wrath of god, your army becomes near-impossible to deal with once 3 toughness is reached. Thus, your opponent becomes forced into either wasting spot removal or making unfavourable combat decisions in order to get rid of your threats. Unlike current Kithkin decks, your main pump effects (Honor of the Pure and Veteran Armorsmith) don’t die to a board sweeper before turn 5, so that your tokens will continue to be powerful as the game progresses. The funny thing about this deck is that the longer your opponent staves you off, the stronger your army becomes. Between multiple pump effects and activations of Ajani Goldmane, it’s not uncommon to have 4/4 tokens coming out of Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Captain of the Watch. Eventually, it just proves to be too much for any deck to handle.

I’ve already built 2 of these decks, and next week I’d like to give you some testing results from their matchups. As always, any questions or concerns can be emailed to me at zak -at- power9pro.com, or through my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak