Merfolk is something of a laughing stock among Modern decks. And honestly,
that’s not without reason. The deck has some powerful synergies, but for
the most part it’s an aggro deck with Aether Vial that isn’t half as
disruptive as Humans without being appreciably better at getting to the
battlefield or pressuring the opponent.
But it’s also a deck that has been around for so long that it’s rare to see
significant innovation in the archetype. The closest thing to it has been
the incorporation of Chalice of the Void in some lists, so why don’t we
take that idea further. The deck lacks disruption, and some of its
creatures, like Cursecatcher, are rather ineffective. It may seem
counterintuitive to cut creatures in a deck that is heavily invested in
lords, but the biggest payoff from those is the islandwalk to combo with
Spreading Seas and the devotion towards Master of Waves.
By cutting the weaker creatures, we gain room for plenty more disruption.
Dismember is the best removal spell available, although four may be
excessive. And Repeal can help against a variety of threats while the
cantrip provides the deck increased threat density despite reducing the raw
number of threats. If your metagame is more control or combo heavy,
maindeck counterspells could also be effective in these slots.
The other gain from this restructuring is Faerie Conclave. With fewer
one-drops, the tapped land isn’t a significant downside, and having plenty
of mana sinks is important in an Aether Vial deck, as the artifact provides
a significant amount of mana by itself.
Coralhelm Commander serves as yet another mana sink that gets significantly
better in the low creature list since you have more time to sink mana into
leveling it and you’d prefer to have threats that are individually
powerful, though this one can also function as another lord when your draw
is creature-heavy. Coralhelm Commander has been a significant part of
Merfolk lists in the past and perhaps we’ve been overlooking it recently.
I’m as guilty as anyone of denigrating Merfolk, but there are tons of
Modern decks that languish on the fringes, waiting for someone to make the
proper innovations before they can flourish. Mardu Pyromancer was just such
a deck until its recent ascension and now it’s a full-fledged deck to beat
in the format. Perhaps our fishy friends just need someone to believe in
them in order to shine.
- 4 Lord of Atlantis
- 4 Silvergill Adept
- 4 Coralhelm Commander
- 4 Master of the Pearl Trident
- 4 Master of Waves