Monday, 9 October 2017
Ug Fish (Merfolk)
I always like to try and build as many new cards into cube decks as possible after a release. Ixalan has mostly had filler cards in terms of the stuff I added into the main cube. While Seeker's Squire is great it is hardly a card you can build around! Typically the more interesting cards are those which don't make it into a drafting cube. The most obvious archetype in cube that I could see changing as a result of Ixalan cards is merfolk. Not only did the fish get some cute new tools, their own Kira and a token generator, but they also got the potential for a new colour!
Green was the only support colour that you didn't really look at for your merfolk deck. The other three all offered minor perks, the odd fish and some juicy removal. Green had least fish and no useful removal to offer. Now with Ixalan green now offers some very appealing merfolk. Some good value and tempo cheaper fish and critically the first good tempo one drop merfolk ever! While getting a single one drop may not sound like it would make that much difference to a deck when it is a tribal deck like this it really can. One of the biggest weakness of the fish is how few decent one drops and disposable two drops it has on offer. Splashing for one drops is normally a weak plan but given what the fish deck most needs it might well be worth it.
There are some issues with splashing green beyond those of consistency. It will also depower devotion cards and things that work with Island count such as Vedalken Shackles. It makes cards like Force of Will harder to pitch to. I have often used Grand Architect as another Lord in fish builds and he also gets less powerful as you include non-blue dorks. All in all Kumena's Speaker is going to have to do a lot of work to justify it with all the compromises you have to make to house it. One drops are the workhorses of decks and so it really could happen.
Adding green gives another psuedo Silvergil Adept in the form of Merfolk Branchwalker. It might only draw you a card a third of the time but it is a good value and tempo creature that once played is very disposable. Leading with a Lord is vulnerable to removal, leading with a dork like Branchwalker or Adept on turn two puts you in a great position. Cheap value merfolk are what you need for tribal empowering cards to shine. While not as big of a pull to green as Kumena's Speaker the Branchwalker is none the less a significant pull to green and far easier to house in the base blue build.
Ixalan also brings a pile of evasion dorks to the table in the form of River Sneak and Shaper Apprentice. These empower raid style cards and the Lords and can combine with older cards like Gaea's Skyfolk and Triton Shorestalker to afford a bit of a theme and a good deal of reach. This deck is very good at getting past blockers. While I haven't gone extreme on exploiting that you can easily do so with Edric or Bident of Thassa if you wish.
Kopala is a nice upgrade on Kiora even though functionally the card is weaker in many cases. The extra synergies from Kopala make up for that power difference with ease. The last of the new fish tools is the big one - Deeproot Waters. This card is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand it is exactly what you want as a fish deck to get the most out of your Lords and to give you a healthy ongoing supply of disposable bodies. On the other hand it is a three mana investment that does nothing on its own. Fish decks typically fall behind on turns one and two and then start to pull back as they amass lords and mana. Getting the Waters out may just set you back too much at a critical stage. If you hold off and make it a couple of turns down the line you will have missed out on a couple of free merfolk and greatly reduce the cards overall value. It is also a little awkward in that it has bad synergy with one of merfolks greatest assets - the Aether Vial. A turn one Vial would solve all your early tempo issues and allow you to pull off some extreme swings in turns 3 and 4. Using Vial on your dorks means you miss the trigger on Deeproot Waters. You probably could get away with running both as Vial is so good on turn one and fairly useless later in the game, especially if you have some of the filtering tools I have added into this list.
All in all merfolk got a lot of new tools to play with in Ixalan and while they offer a lot to the archetype none of them come without some cost. It is not just a case of inserting these new cards into the archetype as direct upgrades to older cards as is what usually happens when affinity, elves or goblins get a new toy. To use these new fish you will have to reconsider how you go about making your deck. Fish having several ways of building it in the first place makes this even more variable! Goblins has loads of builds but it is a fairly solved archetype in cube terms and so a new goblin will be pretty obvious if and where it fits. Fish decks have build options but being more of a tier two deck it is far less solved in the cube. New cards mean new potentials all over the place. At least Kopala is no fuss to add, she even makes it easier to play with equipment! The rest of our new toys however greatly complicate things!
Given how many of the more exotic and powerful non-merfolk cards seemed to have some lame interactions with the newer offerings I made this deck a very pure list. Rather than rely on Jitte or Shackles this list is very direct. It is one of the highest actual merfolk count fish deck I have done in cube. It doesn't bother much with removal or countermagic, the aim is simply to amass fish and kill them. It is probably most alike to a white weenie deck running mostly fliers like Suntail Hawk! This list has a bit more interaction and trickery up its sleeve than most white decks and it also has a bunch of value tools as well. This list will goldfish pretty well but may struggle a bit more in practice.
Master of Pearl Trident
Lord of Atlantis
Harbinger of Tides
Chart a Course
Kopala, Warden of Waves
Jace, Cunning Castaway
Master of Waves
There is quite a lot of room to alter this list. Jace and Chart a course are nice value cards but I mostly put them in as they are new. Bident or Edric may well simply be better ways to get value in this highly evasive and creature heavy deck. There are plenty of merfolk you can shave as well if you wanted a higher individual card power level and more interaction at some cost to the power of your synergies. The evasive two drops are all OK but they are not powerful or exciting, just on theme and suitable. Green potentially gives you so many playable two drops that you really don't need them all! I am not used to having more cheap merfolk than I need and defaulted to playing everything and a little bit more!
Hierarch seems like a reasonable fit in the deck as the only non-fish. If I am splashing one drop green merfolk I can get away with ramp dorks as well. It is my Aethervial replacement in some ways. I don't think you want to go overboard on the one drop ramp however as it doesn't work amazingly with your curve. Mox is a far better ramp card as you want to skip the one drop rather than the two drops. There are only a couple of three drop cards you want to lead with compared to loads at two. If more decent one drop merfolk saw print I would replace green ramp with them for sure.
Opposition has always been a way to go with fish decks in cube. Part of the reason for doing so was that it was a good way to disrupt and interact with creatures as a mono blue deck. Typically the Ux fish decks just used spot removal instead. The issue with Opposition in earlier fish decks is that they had relatively low creature counts and relied on keeping some in play. When you are powering up your Opposition with cards like Wall of Omens and Eternal Witness you are pulling ahead if they are controlling your dorks. If you are going to use Lord of Atlantis to empower your Opposition you are in way more trouble when they kill it. Anyway, with this build being so creature heavy and having a token generator and still having the problems of the mono blue builds and their lack of creature removal the Opposition seemed like a great fit.
Jitte would probably be fantastic in this list as a better or additional way of controlling creatures. Hexproof or equivalent dorks go fantastically with Jitte as do evasion dorks. Kopala also helping out a lot. Kopala's ability helps your equipment avoid tempo blowouts which is obviously good. As Kopala takes the slot of Kira, Great Glass Spinner it is an even bigger jump in power as Kira had negative synergy with equips. Not only would it need double the mana to get something equipped it also gave your opponents a window to get in removal past Kira. The only reason I didn't run the Jitte in this list is that I knwo how good the card is and what it does. I want to see hoe the deck performs without that crutch. While the same is somewhat true of Opposition in that I know how it works I can at least more easily compare how it works in this list compared to older versions of fish I have tried. Opposition is a card that is much more build dependent than Jitte.
Beyond the cards covered this list includes all the merfolk classics and auto includes. All the lords, or all the good ones at least. All the actually powerful merfolk at 3 and 4 mana and all the playable ones at 1 and 2 mana. Aquitecht's Will I guess doesn't fall into any of these categories and has pretty much become a staple. It does a lot for a cheap cycler that empowers island walk, adds to devotion and now also triggers Deeproot Waters! I look forward to seeing how merfolk decks evolve and put the new tools to work.