Limited Lessons – Merfolk in Lorwyn

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So, you’ve scrubbed out at States and hit the side events… what now? It’s draft time! So far, We’ve touched on drafting with Elves, Goblins, and Faeries… today, Nick touches base with the nominally strongest tribe on offer in Lorwyn: Merfolk. Sure, we all know that Silvergill Douser is a first-pick bomb, and that this deck tends to play the control role. However, there are more intricate choices and decisions to be made when piloting our fishy friends. Let Nick lead the way!

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I came so close to qualifying again this weekend that I could taste it. My sealed pool at the PTQ in Pittsburgh was average, but I managed to go undefeated nevertheless. I drafted a solid Merfolk deck in the Top 8 but it wasn’t to be as I lost to Aaron Cutler in a blowout game 3 in the semis.

One thing I can say for sure is that I’ve had a good amount of experience with the format in both Sealed and Draft, and things are really starting to make sense. Because of all this extra practice, I feel fully confident in my understanding of the Merfolk archetype in particular, and I want to share some of my thoughts on that subject this week. This archetype usually ends up being U/W, but sometimes can be near mono-Blue with a splash for some removal or a bomb.

I’ve talked about a lot of the key commons in this archetype in my first two articles on Lorwyn. Because of this I am going to focus less time on those cards and instead highlight the tricky parts of this deck. I hope it’s safe to assume that everyone has realized the power of Silvergill Douser, and that it is the best card you can open for this archetype.

Streambed Aquitects
I believe I talked about this guy some in a past article, but I really cannot stress enough how important he is to the Merfolk tribe. He’s a 3/4 blocker, pumps any of your guys, disrupts mana, enables Islandwalk, gives Islandwalk, and may even cook you a hamburger if you’re lucky. At any rate, this guy is awesome and you should be picking him very high if you plan to go this route.

Inkfathom Divers
This would be fine just as a 3/3 Merfolk with the Sage Aven ability, but it somehow also has Islandwalk. If having Islandwalk doesn’t seem like a huge deal to you, then my guess is that you haven’t drafted this archetype enough yet to fully comprehend. Allow me to introduce you to…

Aquitect’s Will
Unplayable, you say?

Not in this deck.

If you study the Merfolk tribe as a whole you’ll notice that a good number of them have Islandwalk or can give it to other Merfolk. Most people will write this off initially as an ability that will only be relevant in Blue-on-Blue matchups and won’t impact the value of the card as a whole. If you’re one of those people you need to change your ways, because things are different in Lorwyn.

There are other ways to create Islands, such as Tidewater Mystic, which is very desirable because it fixes mana at the same time. The beauty of Aquitect’s Will is that you can virtually guarantee that you will have one in your deck if it is opened because the rest of the world considers it unplayable, even in Merfolk. If it didn’t cantrip then I’d be inclined to agree with them, but this card really turns on the archetype if you end up with enough Islandwalkers, and you can even tutor it up with Merrow Harbinger. All of this is without considering the potential color-screw that this card can inflict for the low price of one mana.

I’m certainly not claiming this card is a bomb, or even that it is vital to the archetype, but in most cases I think you would benefit from playing a copy of this in your Merfolk decks provided you have some Islandwalkers (not a huge assumption to make).

Deeptread Merrow
Coral Merfolk with an ability would be quite marginal if we weren’t drafting with Islandwalk in mind. Nobody takes this card, and as this tends to be a control archetype this guy can often go the distance when powered through by a Mystic or Aquitect’s Will. “Stabilize the board and then sneak through” is the overall goal of this archetype.

Broken Ambitions / Faerie Trickery
In the past, countermagic has been okay at best in Draft. This time around it’s significantly better than usual, and both of these cards make my maindeck regularly. I tend to prefer the Ambitions because it’s sleeker, has Clash, and can be cast on turn 2 to keep your opponent’s tempo off. Faerie Trickery is, of course, better in the late game, and I’d play it if I didn’t have an Ambitions. Countermagic is excellent in the Merfolk archetype, since the general plan is to stall the board with Streambed Aquitects and Silvergill Dousers and eventually win with Flying or Islandwalk.

Zephyr Net
Here is another card that is generally considered unplayable or mediocre at best, but it gains some value in this particular archetype. Islandwalkers don’t particularly care about Flying Defenders, and there are other ways to win, which we’ll get to later on in the Uncommons and Rares. I would plan on getting this late and almost always play it in this deck. I’ve played multiples before and been satisfied with them.

Stonybrook Angler
If, of course, you need to attack past a guy holding a Zephyr Net, the Angler can help you with that. Lorwyn’s version of Puppeteer can also allow for multiple uses, such as untapping Silvergill Douser for another go or “going off” with Judge of Currents. For 1U you can gain a life whenever you want and still have him available to tap down an attacker. My initial impression of this guy was that he was cumbersome but his ability is good enough to make him a high pick, and he has some excellent combos with the other commons available.

Wellgabber Apothecary
This is one of my pet cards in the set, and for good reason. Since I was just talking about the Stonybrook Angler, I’ll mention that you can block with two Merfolk and tap your own Merfolk down and prevent all damage dealt to both of them. This makes it very hard for your opponent to attack and often he will not see this trick and will cast a burn spell only to see you tap your own guy and protect it. The main reason I like this card is because it allows you to block with Silvergill Douser or Kithkin Healer, use their ability, and stave off an attacker. Finally, you can attack with a bunch of guys without worry of any of them dying.

So yes, it is a five mana 2/3, but its ability is very synergistic with the rest of the tribe, and it tends to completely lock down the board if you untap with it in play.

Judge of Currents
I talked about this but it’s really good, and nobody else can really take it from you. If you’ll notice, I’m saying that about a lot of cards in this tribe, which is a bonus for drafting the archetype. The cards work extremely well together, and nobody will be snagging them off of you, like Tarfire or Warren Pilferers in the Goblin deck.

Sentinels of Glen Elendra
You’re right… this isn’t a Merfolk. It is, however, great in the archetype, and good when you have multiple counterspells in your build. I almost always have 1-2 of these guys in my Merfolk decks, but I wouldn’t pick them over some of the better tribal cards like Judge or Streambed Aquitects.

Whirlpool Whelm
On the whole, I like this card a lot. Lorwyn is proving to be a very tempo-oriented format, and nothing sets a guy back like Unsummon with the potential to be Repel for two mana. It also has Clash, which is never a bad thing since opponents make mistakes when given the option to Scry 1. With that being said, Merfolk is almost always a control archetype that uses utility men to bring the board to a screeching halt and then wins at some point down the road. The tempo the Whelm provides then is not as valuable, since they are just going to recast their guy again next turn. I’d much rather have this card in a Kithkin deck, or something else that was aggressive, and looking to punish tempo. It also has a place in Faeries because you can bounce a guy that got out accidentally and counter it on the way back down. I wouldn’t pick this high in Merfolk unless you had a more aggro version, but I would sideboard it in to deal with troublesome Auras like Epic Proportions.

Like I said earlier, I wanted to highlight some of the less obvious cards that are available in the Merfolk tribe. The main reason to draft the deck is still Silvergill Douser, and there are plenty of other commons that are excellent in the archetype that I didn’t single out here as they aren’t specific to Merfolk. Avian Changeling is a very high pick, Amoeboid Changeling is excellent as usual, and there are other non-Merfolk commons that work well in the archetype.

One thing worth mentioning is that I would take Silvergill Douser over Oblivion Ring if I knew I was drafting Merfolk or Faeries. If I were unsure then I’d probably go with the Ring since it’s splashable in any archetype. Neck Snap is usually fine in this deck, since you are playing control and are keeping mana up for counters or Sentinels sometimes anyway, but don’t go out of your way to pick Snap early. I’d much rather have a strong Merfolk than a run of the mill removal spell like Neck Snap.

Uncommons and Rares
If the commons weren’t exciting enough then there are definitely some cards in this section that should make you want to draft the archetype.

Merrow Reejerey
This is probably my favorite lord in the set because it lets you get draws where your opponent is so far behind before he knows what’s happened. If you’re not tapping down key blockers then you can use the ability to generate mana and hopefully play more Merfolk. Definitely a bomb.

Summon the School
Probably the best card you can open in this archetype. This will start going nuts easily, and also combos with Judge of Currents. If this is allowed to get online then you shouldn’t have much trouble winning.

Drowner of Secrets
As I was saying earlier, there are other ways to win in this tribe and this is another card that nobody else is taking from you. I think people are still underestimating just how insane this card is. It turns on lots of other abilities in the tribe and allows you to win pretty quickly without even attacking. Remember when I was talking about Wellgabber Apothecary? Good luck attacking.

Harpoon Sniper
While it may seem that this is one of the better cards in the list, I’m not as impressed as I am with Drowner of Secrets. The ability is definitely good here, but I feel that the Drowner is a much more desirable card based on what else is available in the tribe. Merfolk like to be tapped, and they like to have Islands on the opposing side. Embrace those concepts and draft around them and you will reap the rewards.

Ethereal Whiskergill
So yeah, we’re playing Aquitects Will, Streambed Aquitects, and Tideshaper Mystic in our deck? I guess this guy can attack then, huh? Phantom Monster never looked so good, and if he can’t attack then he will surely trade for an Axegrinder Giant or hold off a bunch of dorks. A very strong card, and it has all the makings of a Merfolk even if the actual creature type is Elemental.

Fallowsage & Veteran of the Depths
Remember what I said about liking to be tapped? Yeah. Attacking will probably do the trick but it’s so much sexier to tap these with Drowner or Stonybrook Angler and watch as your opponent sits helplessly.

This is okay. Most of the guys who make tokens are unreal, like the Cloudgoat Ranger for instance. This guy is only okay because he costs so much and his ability really isn’t that special. However, there is a catch.

His ability allows you to tap Merfolk, which in and of itself is desirable. When you combine that with the fact that he makes more Merfolk to power your other mechanics you should be taking this and playing it even if it looks like a small child card.

Sygg, River Guide
Bombay, enough said.

Open it, go into Merfolk, win the draft, move on with your life.

Again, they love to be tapped. This one is better at attacking and your opponent had better not catch himself with only one guy in play or he could easily become soft-locked by this card.

I want to share two decklists this week on the archetype: first, my Top 4 deck from the PTQ last Saturday:

2 Tarfire
Ghostly Changeling
Warren Pilferers
Sentinels of Glen Elendra
Footbottom Feast
Wings of Velis Vel
2 Silvergill Adept
Inkfathom Divers
Quill-Slinger Boggart
Broken Ambitions
Faerie Trickery
Dreamspoiler Witches
Tideshaper Mystic
2 Stonybrook Angler
Moonglove Extract
Cairn Wanderer
2 Silvergill Douser
Streambed Aquitects
8 Island
6 Swamp
Vivid Creek
Shimmering Grotto

This deck was different from the normal archetype (obviously), because I was U/B and splashing for the Tarfires. I had two Zephyr Nets I was planning on playing until the deck shaped into one that didn’t really have a lot of evasion and was going to need to attack on the ground. The Nets just didn’t fit here.

The next deck is a better example of the archetype I’ve been describing in this strategy guide.

2 Silvergill Douser
Wellgabber Apothecary
3 Judge of Currents
Drowner of Secrets
Merrow Reejerey
Summon the School
2 Streambed Aquitects
Deeptread Merrow
Inkfathom Divers
Aquitects Will
Veteran of the Depths
Broken Ambitions
Zephyr Net
Stonybrook Angler
Oblivion Ring
Tideshaper Mystic
Amoeboid Changeling
Avian Changeling
Ethereal Whiskergill
9 Island
8 Plains

I don’t think I need to really explain how easy it was to go 3-0 with this deck. I ended one game at 96 life, with three Judges in play, by decking my opponent.

I hope this guide has proven to be as helpful as my Goblin guide, and perhaps I will do another for next week unless there is interest in a different type of article. I hope you enjoy drafting Merfolk, as I consider it to be one of the best tribes available in the new format.

Nick Eisel
Soooooo on MTGO
[email protected]

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