Deep Analysis – 40 Games with Blue-White Merfolk in Standard

The StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard Open Returns to Richmond!
Thursday, October 23rd – With the StarCityGames.com $5K Standard Open only days away, Richard Feldman brings us the results from an extensive testing session with Blue/White Merfolk. He throws it against some of the more popular strategies from the fledgling metagame, including Five-Color Control, Faeries, and Mono-Red.

Richmond is a good bit outside my driving range, but if I were attending the StarCityGames.com $5K Standard Open this weekend, I’d play the deck at the end of this article.

There will be time for deckbuilding discussion later, but for now, you’ve got a tournament to attend and I’ve got a deck to hook you up with. I’ve taken notes on 40 of the games I played to tune the list into what I have on the end of the article, so for this article I’ll focus on why I made the tweaks I did rather than delving into the underlying design decisions. For now, I’d recommend saving the “wtf, really?” questions for later and just check out how the list played out in the test games.

Here’s the rough draft.

UW Merfolk

4 Faerie Conclave
4 Adarkar Wastes
3 Mystic Gate
4 Wanderwine Hub
4 Mutavault
4 Island

2 Cursecatcher

4 Sygg, River Guide
4 Silvergill Adept
3 Stonybrook Banneret
2 Remove Soul
2 Negate

4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Wake Thrasher
3 Sage’s Dousing
2 Crib Swap

3 Sower of Temptation
4 Cryptic Command

The strategy is, essentially, to aim to beat Five-Color Control, Red, and Reveillark while holding steady against Faeries. White Weenie? Toss it. You can’t beat every deck, and sacrificing one matchup in order to succeed against the others is a great trade to make.

Let’s get to the games! The first matchup I tested was Faeries. Since LSV put out a Faeries list last week, I can expect it to become the default choice for a lot of Faeries players. Many of those that don’t play it will modify it, perhaps cashing in Jace for Esper Charms and a new manabase. At any rate, testing against LSV’s list itself definitely seems to make the most sense right now.

Game 1: Merfolk has Faerie Conclave, Mutavault, Island, Adarkar Wastes, Sygg, Stonybrook Banneret, Silvergill Adept. Keep. Fae keeps Secluded Glen, Sunken Ruins, Mutavault, Bitterblossom, Remove Soul, Spellstutter Sprite, Mistbind Clique.

I lay Sygg on turn 2, Banneret and Adept on turn 3, revealing the Reejerey I drew. The Reejerey is Thoughtseized, and I am down to just lands in hand, but have three manlands on-table along with Sygg and two Merfolk. I start beating down, and defending against Sygg quickly becomes very difficult. The opponent’s Bitterblossom is ineffective at stemming the bleeding against Sygg, and after a Remove Soul on a Mistbind Clique again empties my hand, I start pushing my Mutavaults in while keeping Sygg mana open to protect them from combat damage. The manlands take it home.

Game 2: Fae has Swamp, Mutavault, Thoughtseize, Bitterblossom, 2x Agony Warp, Cryptic Command. The problem with this hand is that if you topdeck a Blue source that is not Sunken Ruins, your only plays to back up Bitterblossom are two Agony Warps. Even if the topdeck is Sunken Ruins, Cryptic Command demands another topdecked Blue source, which implies that you’re still running mainly on the Agony Warps and Bitterblossom. If you don’t topdeck a Blue source, you’re just outright screwed. Doesn’t seem worth keeping; ship it back for Island, Mutavault, Remove Soul, Jace, Mistbind, Sower. Better – at least a topdecked Island activates Jace here. Merfolk keeps 2x Adarkar Wastes, Mutavault, Cursecatcher, Negate, Silvergill Adept, Cryptic Command.

Merfolk leads with Cursecatcher into Sygg. Remove Soul on Sygg is countered by Cursecatcher, but a topdecked Swamp means Agony Warp finishes him before he can get active. Crib Swap takes out a Sower of Temptation, then Vendilion Clique and Mistbind Clique are both countered. A second Mistbind is mainphased as a last-ditch effort to stop the impending near-lethal attack (only the Shapeshifter token is back to block, and it will be a chump-block), but the Clique is removed by Sower and the Merfolk attack becomes lethal.

Game 3: Merfolk mulls a one-lander, then keeps an underwhelming Wanderwine Hub, Mutavault, Cursecatcher, Sage’s Dousing, Sower of Temptation, Cryptic. Fae keeps 2x Underground River, Bitterblossom, Vendilion Clique, Scion, 2x Cryptic Command.

Faeries gets stuck on two land this game, and doesn’t put up much of a fight.

Game 4: Merfolk keeps Faerie Conclave, Island, Mutavault, Sygg, Silvergill Adept, Wake Thrasher, Crib Swap. Fae keeps Island, Sunken Ruins, 2x Bitterblossom, Agony Warp, Spellstutter Sprite, Sower of Temptation.

Faeries plays out the two Bitterblossoms and backs them up with Spellstutter Sprites. Merfolk is quickly overwhelmed.

Game 5: Merfolk mulls Remove Soul, Negate, two Cryptics, and lands. Need some pressure to go with that backup. The next hand is five lands and Silvergill Adept; the five-card hand is a pathetic keeper: Faerie Conclave, two Islands, Sage’s Dousing, and Cryptic Command. Fae keeps Faerie Conclave, Sunken Ruins, Island, Bitterblossom, Remove Soul, Jace, and Mistbind Clique.

To the surprise of no one, this is a huge blowout for Faeries. Merfolk mainly just sits and draws lands while getting run over.

Game 6: Fae keeps Faerie Conclave, Underground River, Mutavault, Thoughtseize, Bitterblossom, Scion, Mistbind. Merfolk keeps Conclave, Wanderwine Hub, Silvergill Adept, Sygg, 2x Negate, Sower of Temptation.

We have a very close battle. Faeries has two Bitterblossoms down, but I am very aggressive and get them into the single digits with a Sower playing defense and a Sygg threatening to push across lethal damage in two turns. Then Fae abruptly draws Scion and alpha strikes for the win.

The two Negates sat in my hand the entire game, and were a major drain. I thought they would be good against Bitterblossom, but Merfolk always wants to make a turn 2 play in the main phase rather than holding open mana for Negate; they are starting to feel more narrow than I thought they would be. I may later replace them with a third Crib Swap and possibly a fourth Sage’s Dousing.

Game 7: Merfolk keeps Conclave, Mutavault, Island, Adarkar Wastes, Remove Soul, 2x Wake Thrasher. Fae mulls a four-land, Jace, Mistbind, Sower hand into Conclave, Mutavault, Secluded Glen, Swamp, Spellstutter Sprite, Scion. This is one of those times where it’s a lame six, but five is most likely to be worse, so it’s best to keep it.

My third-turn Wake Thrasher is hit by Agony Warp. My fourth-turn copy resolves, then Fae plays Scion on end step and Sower on the following turn. I need two removal spells to recover from that, and do not have them. Game over.

Game 8: Fae mulligans four lands, Thoughtseize, Remove Soul, Sower into 2x Secluded Glen, Island, Swamp, Spellstutter Sprite, Sower. A strictly-worse draw, this is about the caliber of hand you can expect from five cards, only with a bonus land. Better than mulling. Merfolk keeps Island, 2x Mystic Gate, Cursecatcher, Sygg, Reejerey, Cryptic.

This is an utter rout. Merfolk curves out with Cursecatcher, then Sygg, then Reejerey, then a fourth land with two Cryptics in hand. Faeries only resolves a single spell before dying, and it is a Sower of Temptation that is canceled out with a Sower from Merfolk.

Game 9: Merfolk mulls five lands, Reejerey, Sower, into Island, Mutavault, Silvergill Adept, Sygg, Wake Thrasher, Sage’s Dousing. Faeries mulls a one-lander into Secluded Glen, Underground River, Agony Warp, Spellstutter Sprite, 2x Cryptic. For the third consecutive game, this is marginally better than going to five. Ugh.

Faeries gets stuck on two land again, and its only plays are to Agony Warp Sygg and Remove Soul Wake Thrasher.

Game 10: Fae keeps Swamp, Secluded Glen, Island, Remove Soul, Spellstutter Sprite, Scion, Mistbind. Merfolk keeps Faerie Conclave, Wanderwine Hub, Silvergill Adept, Stonybrook Banneret, Remove Soul, and 2x Reejerey.

We both filled up our graveyards pretty quickly with trades, but I had a couple of cantrips and a few extra manlands that put me on top in the end. Once again, Negate was useless.

This was 6-4 Merfolk, but it felt highly bogus. Faeries had far more awful hands than I am used to seeing from that deck, and slightly fewer Bitterblossoms. I want some further study.

While I’m at it, I want to try a few experiments here. I definitely want to cut Negate, and I definitely want a third Crib Swap to help against those Sowers. Hell, I may even want a fourth Crib Swap; that may be overkill, but I’ll have to try it to find out. My rule against Sower-powered Faeries has always been to include at least 7-8 removal spells or Sowers of my own, but I skimped here because I thought I could compensate with counters. I couldn’t.

I also want to try going down to 22 lands, as I tended to have more than I needed. I’ll add a fourth Stonybrook Banneret – like Crib Swap, it’s another card I’ve been happy to have every time I’ve seen it, but am not sure how it fares in multiples – and cut an Island, and see how those changes work out.

Back to the games.

Game 11: Merfolk keeps Island, Wanderwine Hub, 2x Cursecatcher, Banneret, Reejerey, Cryptic. Fae mulls a six-land, Bitterblossom hand into four lands, Remove Soul, Agony Warp (man, what is it with these garbage six-card hands?) into Underground River, Sunken Ruins, Spellstutter Sprite, Sower, Mistbind.

Merfolk has a busted curve-out and Faeries is ill-equipped to keep up with that five-card hand. Reejerey and Friends are soon attacking for far too much, and when Fae doesn’t hit Sower mana in time, it’s over.

Game 12: Fae mulls a two-lander with no plays before turn three into Sunken Ruins, Underground River, 2x Mutavault, Bitterblossom, Agony Warp. You know the drill by now…better than five, and all that. Merfolk mulls a one-lander (with no Bannerets in it, in case you were wondering if that 23rd land would have helped) into Wanderwine Hub, Mutavault, 2x Banneret, Silvergill Adept, Remove Soul.

Fae gets this one on tempo, landing Bitterblossom followed by Agony Warp on Reejerey and Remove Soul on Banneret, while beating down with tokens and two Mutavaults. Merfolk doesn’t assemble a counterassault in time. Had one of the two Bannerets been a land here, I still think I would have lost, but it would have been closer.

Game 13: Merfolk keeps Island, 2x Adarkar Wastes, Cursecatcher, Sygg, Wake Thrasher, Sower. Fae mulls a two-Mutavault-only hand into Faerie Conclave, Mutavault, Bitterblossom, Sower of Temptation, 2x Cryptic Command. Again, this is very borderline… if Faeries topdecks a Black source, it is in reasonably good shape, but otherwise, it is in very poor shape. Are those odds better than the odds of a five-card hand getting there? I believe so, yes.

Wake Thrasher connects for six on turn 4. That about sums this one up.

Game 14: Fae keeps Island, Sunken Ruins, Thoughtseize, Bitterblossom, Spellstutter Sprite, Remove Soul, Cryptic Command. Merfolk keeps 2x Wanderwine Hub, Mutavault, Sygg, Wake Thrasher, Reejerey, Crib Swap.

This game goes right down to the wire. It is basically my Sygg plus Wake Thrasher against his two Bitterblossoms. He needs to stop my Wake Thrasher from connecting three times; the first time he does it by cycling Cryptic Command to tap the Thrasher (I don’t have the counter). The second time he chumps with Mutavault, which is colorless. I am all set to come in for lethal next turn when he topdecks a second Mutavault, and my Cryptic Command to deal with it is countered by Spellstutter Sprite. I lose the race by a turn.

Game 15: Merfolk keeps Conclave, Mystic Gate, Banneret, Wake Thrasher, Reejerey, Sage’s Dousing, Cryptic. Fae mulls three lands, Scion, Mistbind, 2x Cryptic into Island, Mutavault, Spellstutter, Agony Warp, Scion, Mistbind.

Another rout. Merfolk starts bashing right away for huge chunks of Wake Thrasher damage, until Fae draws a Swamp for Agony Warp. Then Reejerey joins the Banneret and two Faerie Conclaves already on the table, with Sage’s Dousing in hand.

Game 16: Fae has Swamp, Underground River, Bitterblossom, Scion, Jace, Cryptic Command, Sower. Score! Merfolk has to mulligan a Mutavault-and-Mystic-Gate-Only hand into Faerie Conclave, 2x Adarkar Wastes, Stonybrook Banneret, Silvergill Adept, Sower of Temptation.

Another close game, this time Merfolk pulls it out even after Fae resolves three Sowers to Merfolk’s one. Sygg is about to seal the deal when Fae forces a tap-out and Agony Warps Him. However, this leaves Fae with only three untapped lands, so Merfolk can Cryptic Command to tap the team and bounce the Mutavault to enable a lethal alpha strike while Fae does not have enough mana open to Cryptic back.

Game 17: Merfolk mulligans Cursecatcher, Sower, 2x Cryptic, and three lands – it’s got nice goodies, but it’s too slow. The keeper is Faerie Conclave, Wanderwine Hub, 2x Silvergill Adept, 2x Cryptic Command. Fae mulls a one-lander into five lands and Spellstutter Sprite, into Secluded Glen, Bitterblossom, Spellstutter, Vendilion Clique, Mistbind Clique.

Another total rout. Merfolk spews guys all over the table while Fae is stuck on two lands and has only Bitterblossom.

Game 18: Fae keeps a very borderline hand of Swamp, Underground River, Mutavault, Thoughtseize, Spellstutter, Sower, and Cryptic Command. Merfolk mulls a one-lander into Wanderwine Hub, Adarkar Wastes, Banneret, Adept, Wake Thrasher, Crib Swap.

We have a long, grueling fight. By the end of the game, my Wake Thrashers are winning the race against his two Bitterblossoms, but Jace draws him five cards (and me two) in the midgame, three of which are Cryptic Commands. I see no Cryptics of my own this game, and cannot keep up with that in a race.

Game 19: Merfolk mulls a no-lander into Adarkar Wastes, Mystic Gate, Mutavault, Cursecatcher, Banneret, Adept. Fae has all-Sunken-Ruins-and-Mutavaults, and mulls that into Conclave, Glen, Agony Warp, Scion, Cryptic, Sower.

I get a quick assault up and running, while Faeries is backpedaling trying to keep up. I finish the job with two Conclaves before the Fae can recover.

Game 20: Fae mulls a one-lander into Secluded Glen, Underground River, Swamp, Mutavault, Scion, Vendilion Clique. Merfolk mulls a one-lander into 2x Conclave, Mystic Gate, Mutavault, Crib Swap. Both six-card hands are poor, but seem better than going to five.

Vendilion Clique takes Wake Thrasher, neutering my hand. When Faeries then topdecks Bitterblossom and then a second one, I think I am done for, but I work my math out and use Sygg to position myself for a kill unless he topdecks a removal spell or a blocker on his final turn. He topdecks Cryptic Command and I lose.

5-5 on the second set. Fae’s mulligans seemed a lot more reasonable this time around, and several of the games were very, very close.

As for the build, 22 land didn’t seem to make a difference. The one time I drew two Crib Swaps, it nearly won me the game, and there were several other times when I wished I would draw a second one. It can stay as a four-of. I can’t say the same for the Banneret. True, I was generally happy to have one, but I was always dreading a second one because it would basically be Merfolk of the Pearl Trident for two mana. I just never had enough Wake Thrashers, Sowers, Crib Swaps, and Sage’s Dousings in hand at the same time to get any kind of useful discount out of reducing my costs by two. So far, neither the Faerie Conclaves nor the Mystic Gates have been a problem; I’m fine with both of those counts.

That Banneret cut leaves me with an extra slot to fill. My options are to go up to 3 Cursecatcher or 3 Remove Soul main (I’m afraid of doing either, as both cards are situational to the point of being potentially disastrous draws in multiples), to add a fourth Sower of Temptation (probably not a good idea against Five-Color Control), to add a fourth Sage’s Dousing, or a maindeck one-of like Oona.

The problem with Oona is that this deck is so aggressive and so concerned with curving out, I think the drawback of a clogged early hand is much greater here than it would have been with one of the polychromatic Chameleon Colossus Merfolk decks from Block. It’s looking like the Sage’s Dousing will get the nod.

Next up: the Five-Color Control matchup. I tested against Patrick’s list last week, so I’ll use Gerry’s this week. Here we go!

Game 1: Merfolk keeps Wanderwine Hub, Adarkar Wastes, Cursecatcher, Silvergill Adept, Wake Thrasher, Sage’s Dousing, Cryptic Command. Basically, the nuts. Five-Color Control keeps Reflecting Pool, Adarkar Wastes, Mulldrifter, Kitchen Finks, Bant Charm, 2x Cryptic Command.

Merfolk plays Cursecatcher, Silvergill Adept, and Stonybrook Banneret. It then proceeds to counter Bant Charm, Firespout, Kitchen Finks, and Cryptic Command, to take the game. Good ol’ Counter Sliver!

Game 2: Five-Color Control mulls a one-lander into Island, Mystic Gate, Mulldrifter, Story Circle, Firespout, Cryptic. Seems better than five, at any rate. Merfolk keeps Adarkar Wastes, 2x Mystic Gate, Sygg, Wake Thrasher, Crib Swap, Cryptic Command.

Five-Color Control draws its third land on turn 4, but it is a Vivid land and comes in tapped. By the time Firespout is online to deal with Wake Thrasher and Sygg, so are Merfolk’s two copies of Sage’s Dousing. Wake Thrasher kills in three attack steps.

Game 3: Merfolk mulls a one-lander and keeps 2x Faerie Conclave, Adarkar Wastes, Mystic Gate, Cursecatcher, Wake Thrasher. Five-Color Control keeps Vivid Creek, Adarkar Wastes, Mystic Gate, Mulldrifter, Esper Charm, Firespout, Wrath of God.

This one is all about the manlands. Five-Color Control successfully dispatches Cursecatcher, Wake Thrasher, two Syggs, and a Silvergill Adept, but cannot handle three Faerie Conclaves on top of all that.

Game 4: Both decks mull two-landers with too few early plays. Five-Color Control then keeps Vivid Marsh, Adarkar Wastes, 2x Reflecting Pool, Mulldrifter, Bant Charm, while Merfolk mulls a Mutavault-and-Mystic-Gate hand into Adarkar Wastes, Mutavault, Sygg, Crib Swap, Remove Soul.

Merfolk does not draw a third land for seven turns. What a massacre.

Game 5: Merfolk mulls a one-lander into a one-lander into a no-lander into Faerie Conclave, Wanderwine Hub, Reejerey, and Cryptic Command. Five-Color Control keeps Vivid Creek, Cascade Bluffs, Sunken Ruins, Underground River, Remove Soul, Cryptic Command, Wrath.

Merfolk’s four-card special does not get there. Not even close.

Game 6: Again both decks mull two-landers with no early action. Five-Color Control then keeps Reflecting Pool, Vivid Meadow, 2x Vivid Creek, and 2x Exper Charm, while Merfolk mulls a no-lander into another no-lander into another no-lander and keeps a three-card, zero-land hand.

Merfolk finds a second land on turn 10.

Game 7: Merfolk mulls a one-lander into 2x Wanderwine Hub, Faerie Conclave, Adarkar Wastes, Reejerey, Crib Swap. A poor six, but better than five. Five-Color keeps Vivid Creek, Cascade Bluffs, Island, Mulldrifter, Story Circle, Wrath of God, Cryptic.

Five-Color Control has an early Story Circle on Blue this game, but only Vivids for White sources, which neuters it enough to get in with some creatures (which are promptly Wrathed) and Faerie Conclaves and knock Five-Color Control down to 2. Firespout takes down the latest reinforcements, with four mana left over to bounce the incoming, lethal Mutavault. Main phase Cursecatcher thwarts that; bouncing the Mutavault in response leaves Five-Color Control tapped out and vulnerable to Faerie Conclave despite Story Circle on Blue in play.

Game 8: Five-Color Control mulls a one-lander into a one-lander into Cascade Bluffs, Firespout, 2x Esper Charm, Bant Charm. It’s yet another one-lander, but in a deck with that many lands, I like my chances better than four cards. Merfolk mulls a five-land, Sower, Cryptic hand into Faerie Conclave, 2x Adarkar Wastes, Wake Thrasher, 2x Cryptic Command.

I’ll save you the suspense: Wake Thrasher is in play and Cryptic Command mana is open before Five-Color Control finds the third land for Firespout.

Game 9: Merfolk mulls a one-lander into Conclave, Mutavault, Hub, Remove Soul, Reejerey, Cryptic. Poor, but better than five. Five-Color mulls a five-lander with Finks and Wrath into Vivid Creek, Adarkar Wastes, Vivid Meadow, Sunken Ruins, Bant Charm, Wrath. Better than five.

Five-Color Control gets down a Story Circle on Blue and defends it from my two Cryptic Command attempts with Cryptics of its own. With lots of White mana on-table and having dealt with two of my Mutavaults, it’s pretty academic from there.

Game 10: Five-Color Control keeps Island, Vivid Meadow, Cascade Bluffs, Remove Soul, Mulldrifter, 2x Cryptic. Merfolk mulls a no-lander into a one-lander into Island, Banneret, Sygg, Reejerey, Cryptic.

Again, Merfolk does not draw a second land until it is far too late.

Wow. What a worthless set. Merfolk took seventeen mulligans across ten games. Sure, it ended up 5-5, but in only one of the five Five-Color Control victories was Merfolk not horrendously manascrewed. On the other hand, in all but one of the five Merfolk victories, Merfolk was completely in the driver’s seat and Five-Color Control did not come close to stabilizing. Despite the on-paper result indicating an even matchup, I believe GerryT on this one: I’d peg Merfolk as a heavy favorite in this matchup.

This epic mulligan experience, coupled with the observation that Merfolk is pretty good at putting its late-game lands to work activating Manlands, makes me think I may have been right about 23 lands after all. I’ll cut the Sage’s Dousing count back to three again, and put back in the fourth Island.

Oblivion Ring was one of the cards I absolutely assumed I would want in the sideboard, but having now tried out the matchups against Faeries and Five-Color Control, I’m leaning towards giving it a spot in the maindeck. My reflex was to choose Crib Swap because it kills Mistbind Clique and Scion at instant speed (plus it interacts well with Silvergill Adept, Wanderwine Hub, and Banneret), but that really did not come up all that often in the games against Faeries.

With nine pieces of countermagic, I’d often just counter the upkeep (or just-before-blockers) Clique, and some of the rest of the time Faeries had to play it on my end step or on their own mainphase, when it couldn’t do nearly as much damage. The other situation where Instant speed is relevant is against Demigod of Revenge, but I have plenty of counters with which to stop him instead if I actually have mana open on the opponent’s turn.

The upside of being able to kill Bitterblossom and Story Circle (the latter of which I was not used to playing against prior to this set) in the maindeck definitely outweighs the loss of Instant speed and a lower Merfolk count now that I’ve seen firsthand how inconsequential the Instant speed is for this list.

Game 1: Merfolk’s opener has only 2x Mystic Gate for lands, and must send it back. The next one is five lands and Oblivion Ring, which then goes back for Adarkar Wastes, Cursecatcher, Sygg, 2x Sage’s Dousing. Red keeps 2x Mountain, Ghitu Encampment, 2x Mogg Fanatic, Ashenmoor Gouger, Demigod of Revenge.

Merfolk never draws a second land before it dies.

Game 2: Red mulls a one-lander into Ghitu Encampment, 2x Mountain, Incinerate, Ashenmoor Gouger, Hell’s Thunder. Merfolk mulls four lands, Wake Thrasher x2, and Sage’s Dousing into a one-lander into Adarkar Wastes, Mutavault, Silvergill Adept, Stonybrook Banneret, Reejerey.

Red gets stuck on three lands for most of this game, and ends the game with two Vexing Shushers left in hand to Merfolk’s Sygg and Silvergill Adepts in hand. Cryptic Command is key to winning this race, allowing Silvergill Adept and three manlands to come across for a lethal attack from 2 life.

Game 3: Merfolk mulls four lands, 2x Wake Thrasher, Sage’s Dousing and keeps Conclave, Mystic Gate, Silvergill Adept, Sygg, Banneret, Oblivion Ring. Red keeps 2x Mountain, Figure of Destiny, Magma Spray, 2x Vexing Shusher, Hell’s Thunder.

This one is not close. Everything I play is either instantly burned away or too small to make a difference. I am on my heels the entire game and am quickly dispatched.

Game 4: Red keeps Mountain, Ghitu Encampment, Magma Spray, Incinerate, Vexing Shusher, Hell’s Thunder, Ashenmoor Gouger. Merfolk keeps Wanderwine Hub, Mystic Gate, Adarkar Wastes, Reejerey, 2x Wake Thrasher, Oblivion Ring.

Red gets me all the way down to 4, but resolving two Sowers really turns the game around. At that point I have countermagic mana open and two Sage’s Dousing plus a Cryptic Command with which to defend myself, and Red doesn’t find enough burn to overcome those defenses.

Game 5: Merfolk keeps Conclave, Mystic Gate, Adarkar Wastes, Silvergill Adept, Wake Thrasher, Oblivion Ring, Cryptic Command. Red keeps 3x Mountain, Karplusan Forest, Figure of Destiny, Mogg Fanatic, Hell’s Thunder.

Merfolk has too many high-cost spells and is unable to empty its hand before being overwhelmed by Incinerates to the dome.

Game 6: Red keeps 2x Mountain, Fire-Lit Thicket, Mogg Fanatic, Incinerate, Hell’s Thunder, Demigod. Merfolk keeps a shaky Conclave, Wanderwine Hub, Island, Mutavault, Banneret, Sower, Cryptic.

Once again, this game is very close. Red starts off by killing off a Banneret with Mogg Fanatic, then hits with two copies of Hell’s Thunder, stalling on lands just shy of Demigod mana. Two Flame Javelins go to the dome, in order to make any topdecked Incinerate, land, or Hell’s Thunder lethal in conjunction with the Incinerate already in-hand. Instead, it’s a Magma Spray and Merfolk gets there with plenty of damage to spare.

Game 7: Merfolk mulls a no-lander and keeps Faerie Conclave, Adarkar Wastes, Sygg, 2x Reejerey, Cryptic. Red keeps Ghitu Encampment, 2x Mountain, Mogg Fanatic, Shusher, Hell’s Thunder, Demigod.

This one is not close. Figure of Destiny gets upgraded all the way, and joins Demigod. Cryptic Command creates a Hail Mary situation in which a topdecked second Cryptic could lead to a win if Red did not draw an appropriate answer, but the needed Cryptic was not on top.

Game 8: Red keeps 2x Mountain, Fire-Lit Thicket, Mogg Fanatic, Shusher, Gouger, Demigod. Merfolk keeps Conclave, Adarkar Wastes, Banneret, 2x Sygg, Wake Thrasher, Oblivion Ring.

Down under five life, Merfolk is beating down desperately with manlands when Red draws a Demigod that would have ended the game in spectacular fashion if not for Remove Soul.

Game 9: Merfolk mulls a one-lander into Island, Adarkar Wastes, Mystic Gate, Reejerey, Oblivion Ring, Wake Thrasher. Better than five. Red mulls three lands with no plays before turn 3 into Ghitu Encampment, Fire-Lit Thicket, Mogg Fanatic, Figure of Destiny, Incinerate, Demigod.

A slaughter. Merfolk plays one blocker per turn, while Red kills one blocker per turn. Meanwhile Red’s early drops are beating down, and quickly put Merfolk in burn range.

Game 10: Red mulls two lands with no creatures before turn 3 into Ghitu Encampment, Mountain, 2x Figure, Magma Spray, Gouger. Merfolk mulls a five-lander into Adarkar Wastes, Mystic Gate, Mutavault, Silvergill Adept, 2x Sygg.

Merfolk’s men are all tiny, while Red’s men are all gigantic. 4/4 Figures and Ashenmoor Gougers on the other side of the table, and Grizzly Bears on mine. Total mismatch.

An end result of 4-6 for Merfolk. This is about what I expected: being down a bit in game 1 and swinging the match through superior sideboard options.

At any rate, it’s time for some more changes. I’m running through sideboarding plans against these three decks and White Weenie in my head, and I’m always boarding out Cursecatchers except against Five-Color Control. Those guys need to hit the board. I also think that while 2 Sygg is not enough, 4 is overkill on the Legend Rule. He just doesn’t die enough; I’d prefer three. Finally, Stonybrook Banneret is awful in multiples, to the point at which I want to avoid that scenario so much that I want to take him down to two. This was especially relevant against Red; every time I drew two, I felt like I could not win. I really want to drop to two copies.

That frees up exactly four slots while leaving 13 Merfolk in the deck – enough, I’d say, to support Silvergill Adept and Wanderwine Hub. So what to do with the remaining four slots?

I’m looking through my options, and the one card I really want to try is Knight of Meadowgrain. The replacement card has to be a two-drop; a lot of my mulligans came due to lack of turn 2 plays, and all four of the cards I’m removing cost one or two. I want something good against Red and Faeries, and Meadowgrain should be phenomenal against either one if he sticks. He’s a downgrade against Five-Color Control, but is a nice, aggressive First Striker for that matchup nonetheless, and will hardly be an awful draw there.

The obvious problem is that I don’t currently have the White sources to make WW on turn 2. What if I replace three of my Islands with a Mystic Gates and two Plains? That would give me 14 White sources, which should suffice for turn 2 Meadowgrain.

Put all that together, and you get:

So how does this list attack the goal of beating Five-Color Control, Red, and Reveillark while holding strong against Faeries?

Game 1 against Five-Color Control seems to be very strong, and Gerry’s assertion last week that Five-Color Control should consider itself lucky to win a match against Cursecatcher-fueled Merfolk lends credence to the post-board matchup after Catchers come in.

The Red matchup seems to slightly favor Red in game 1, but post-board I am bringing in ten cards, eight of which should be absolutely nuts in the matchup. I haven’t seen anything in Red sideboards that is comparably good against Merfolk.

As for Faeries, game 1 seemed even before I put in Meadowgrain and O-Rings for Cursecatchers, the third Banneret, the fourth Sygg, and Crib Swaps, and I could see those upgrades putting Merfolk over the top.

If I didn’t have a deadline to make, I’d finish off a 50-game set with ten games against Lark. Instead, I’ll look at what Lark builders have been saying about it. The gist of what I’m reading is that Reveillark decks used to have a lot of trouble with Merfolk. They’ll have less to fear now that Lord of Atlantis is gone, but then again, more to fear thanks to maindeck Remove Soul and Wake Thrasher.


+2 Wispmare
-2 Remove Soul

I often like Remove Soul better than Sage’s Dousing, but the fact that Dousing can counter Cryptic Command makes me tentatively give it the nudge. At any rate, I certainly don’t want to cut any removal, Cryptics, or Meadowgrains to make room for Wispmare.

Five-Color Control:
+3 Cursecatcher
-2 Remove Soul
-1 Knight of Meadowgrain

Why Remove Soul? Stopping guys like Kitchen Finks before they can do their damage is all well and good, but Cursecatcher has to take priority. Of the three anti-creature measures in this list, I prefer to keep in the one that is also a threat: Sower of Temptation.

+4 Condemn
+4 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
+1 Sower of Temptation
+1 Oona, Queen of the Fae
-4 Silvergill Adept
-4 Wake Thrasher
-2 Stonybrook Banneret

Wake Thrasher and Banneret are just terrible in this matchup. Silvergill Adept is not, but after removing eight Merfolk from the deck, I can’t seriously expect him to cost two anymore. What I’m bringing in should be clear except for the Oona. The Queen fits this matchup for the same reason she did in Block Constructed: no single burn spell can take her out, and if you untap with her in play, you probably win. The fact that she can deter Hell’s Thunder flashbacks is just gravy.


Honestly, no changes. I don’t see a need to make room for something as narrow as Faerie Macabre in the board just yet, and Cursecatcher is very low on targets. None of the rest of the board makes much sense against Lark, so I’d just as soon leave well enough alone here.

White Weenie:
+4 Condemn
+1 Sower of Temptation
-3 Sage’s Dousing
-2 Remove Soul

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about playing against White Weenie, it’s that the way to beat them is to kill all their dudes. The fewer men they have hanging around to trigger Windbrisk Heights and get pumped up by Lords, the better your chances of survival. Maxing out on reliable removal spells (as opposed to situational counters) is the first step towards doing that, and that’s what this plan goes for.

Doran, Elves, and other midrange decks:
+1 Sower of Temptation
+1 Oona, Queen of the Fae
-2 Knight of Meadowgrain

The general idea here is pretty simple: Meadowgrain’s talents are not much help against a midrange deck, but Sower and Oona can break a game wide open.

So there you have it! I know you won’t all have time to test this list before the $5K, but hopefully the fact that I’ve laid out 40 games worth of testing along the way to tuning it up will help you get a feel for it.

For those of you competing this weekend, best of luck!

Richard Feldman
Team :S
[email protected]