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September 28, 2015

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Swimming with the Fishies

With only a week left until we see a massive standard rotation, I knew it was high time we took a close look at what one of my favorite tribes in Magic the Gathering has been up to since the release of Theros. For those of you who don’t know, I have a healthy obsession with Magic’s fishy friends, the Merfolk. Some of you have even piloted my deck on standard night if you showed up without one of your own.

Merfolk since Theros have had two major problems that can be seen in most of the deck to follow here. The first is that the vast majority of them have relatively expensive mana costs for their usefulness. The other is that they are all very squishy.

Both of these problems are showcased well in both my original paper version and my Magic Online deck. While I don’t have the original deck list for my first Merfolk deck, I can pull up my Magic Online deck list which was designed to be similar to my paper deck.

Squishy Fish – Brendan Butt

Fish: (16)
Wavecrash Triton
Triton Fortune Hunter
Nyxborn Triton
Triton Shorestalker
Dakra Mystic
Master of Waves

Fish Spells: (24)
Divination
Staff of the Mind Magus
Obelisk of Urd
Aqueous Form
Encrust
Dissipate
Taigam’s Scheming
Jace’s Ingenuity
Triton Tactics
Font of Fortunes

Fish Lands: (20)
11 Island
Island

This decks fatal flaw is that it was too slow. With absolutely no ramp in the deck, you were relying on turn 3 creatures and bestowing them on turn 5, or rarely getting out that Obelisk of Urd. A little bit of card draw helps the deck out slightly (a tweak from its paper original designed to speed up the deck) and Triton Shorestalker is a helpful part of deck for being both a cheap and unblockable creature. In fact the Triton Shorestalker will be the crux of all of the Merfolk decks I have built.

My next build was a little more steady. Realizing that Merfolk naturally paired with green, in the form of the Merfolk’s own Planeswalker, and its natural well… follower… you know, Kiora’s Follower. I made some tweaks of my deck again, and put together an UG list that seemed to fire some of the time.

Slightly Less Squishy Fish – Brendan Butt

Creatures: (13)
Master of Waves
Triton Shorestalker
Triton Fortune Hunter
Kiora’s Follower

Spells: (28)
Hunt the Weak
Ordeal of Thassa
Ordeal of Nylea
Taigam’s Scheming
Awaken the Bear
Dakra Mystic
Obelisk of Urd
Triton Tactics
Titanic Growth
Aqueous Form

Lands: (21)
13 Island
Forest
Thornwood Falls

The failing of the deck was simple, it was pulled in two different directions. On the one hand while it want to know the cards come up in the deck with the Taigam’s Scheming it also needed more land with the Ordeal of Nylea. It also failed in one other major way, the Hunt the Weak only left otherwise unblockable creatures in harm’s way. Its lack of the planeswalker Kiora was basically an issue of funds. I wanted to keep the deck as close to my paper version a possible and at the time was wasn’t running Kiora. Ultimately the Kiora’s Followers comboed with the Dakra Mystics were not enough card draw to pull an Obelisk of Urd before being forced to shuffle the deck.

My third build I pulled out all the stops. I started work on this only recently, and have now torn apart my deck to make this last build work. Finally, with the release of Magic Origins, putting 8 sets in standard, we get a deck that runs well.

Working Fishies – Brendan Butt

Creatures: (8)
Triton Fortune Hunter
Triton Shorestalker
Harbinger of the Tides

Planeswalkers: (1)
Kiora, the Crashing Wave

Spells: (34)
Hall of Triumph
Obelisk of Urd
Sword of the Animist
Triton Tactics
Titanic Growth
Aqueous Form
Ordeal of Thassa
Ordeal of Nylea
Feed the Clan
Negate
Cancel
Bident of Thassa

Lands: (20)
14 Island
Forest

Taking advantage of the natural card draw abilities Merfolk provide, and finally throwing in Kiora and her new found plaything the Bident of Thassa this deck is no longer the sluggish thing it used to be. Combo’d with an off theme artifact by way of the Sword of the Animist and the deck is never begging for mana. A few counterspells round out the new additions to the list, making the deck more interactive and making it reasonable for a good pilot to stay a turn behind the mana curve. Rounding the whole thing off are a pair of Harbinger of the Tides taking large creatures off the battlefield in the late game.

With spoiler season officially underway, and the spoiling of a new version of Kiora, it is hard not to get excited about the possible merfolk waiting for us in Zendikar. Until my next theme deck rotates out, thanks for reading.

– Brendan