Over these past couple weeks, with all the Ixalan hype running around, and all the tournaments and decklists and stupor that surround the release of a new set, a puzzle was beset of me. Modern merfolk has functioned well for so long, and standard merfolk was looking to come just around the corner. So this all begs the question for merfolk: Do we want green spells?
I would first like to say, strongly and firmly, that if a merfolk deck does see play in standard, it definitely will use the green spells. The best merfolk cards are in green for standard outside of Kopala, and blue offers the best four mana merfolk in the format, along with bonkers support spells in the form of spell pierce and unsummon. This deck leverages tempo better than any other strategy thus far seen in standard (outside of the most powerful draws, ala Winding Constrictor into Rishkar, Peema Renegade) and can push other decks out of the game before they have the chance to get up off the ground. Bottlenecking opponents on mana is a forgotten skill of the tempo deck, and is just as potent as ever. This is the list I am constructing for my standard U/G merfolk deck, updated since last time.
2x Spell Pierce
2x Spell Pierce
This list is a bit of a variation from the original for good reason. The main core of the deck remains the same: efficient merfolk keep the pressure up while cards like nissa and chart a course keep good relevant cards flowing to our hand so we can chain tempest caller and unsummons together while protecting our fish with spell pierce and blossoming defense, ultimately using this combination of spells to bottleneck our opponent on mana and pressure them early and often, killing them. Tempest caller makes this deck tick, and its inclusion is paramount for success with such a tempo deck. The sideboard overall makes its jack of all trades appearance: grave hate, artifact hate, wrath hate, and utility spells. Nothing you haven’t seen before out of a sideboard.
Now the more interesting question: Does green belong in modern merfolk? And what does it do to the deck overall?
Here is what I think you should do with Modern merfolk if you want to go blue-green.
Modern U/G merfolk
2x Unified Will
What does green do for merfolk in modern?
Well, not a whole lot, honestly. Lets go over the good first.
First off, with merfolk branchwalker, you can go and draw additional cards early and often with the explore mechanic. Along with this, master of waves no longer is a necessity for the deck, along with vapor snag, since green puts you firmly in collected company range, making your deck less of a tricky tempo deck, and more of a snowballing, mass-of-creatures deck much aking to G/W company.
Along with this, your sideboard gets significantly better, getting access to scavenging ooze and any other bevy of green cards you could possibly want. Creeping corrosion could solve the affinity issue entirely, but for now that has not been tested. But, all good things come at a cost, and going green here offers some significant drawbacks as well.
However, your mana is much worse. One of merfolk’s strongest arguments in the modern format is that it doesn’t take damage from its lands, and that makes the deck wonderful against other aggressive, greedy, three color decks. Here, you have to make the green splash work early and often, which not only causes you 2-5 points of damage a game, it also precludes the use of ghost quarter against eldrazi tron, since you have to use cavern of souls to make up for the green source along with using it for uncounterablility, since you don’t use aether vial in this deck.
And before I wrap up, I would like to offer one last rebuttal for the Kira vs. Kopala argument. Some would say that this choice is down to preference or playstyle, but in my opinion, this comes down to resource management. Essentially, when you go to select one of the three drops. I would ask you this question. What do you want your opponent to spend more of: mana, or cards? If I’m playing against deaths shadow, you probably want them to spend more mana since they’re so mana hungry and so they walk right into a spell pierce. Following this, if I am against something like Jund, Kira is better, since they more cards they spend, the lower the advantage they receive from things like dark confidant and Liliana.
So whats my ultimate conclusion?
Standard: absolutely use the green.
Modern: Honestly, I don’t think that the green cards are worth breaking up a proven, consistent shell.
Whats your opinion? Let me know! And as always, I’ll see you next week.