Saturday, January 12, 2013

An Update on Merfolk in Modern OR: Fishing for Compliments

I've been getting a fair bit of testing in with Modern Merfolk. Not nearly as much as I'd like, and almost none in paper, but I'd like to think I'm getting somewhere. I'm still trying to figure out a specific matchup analysis, but I'm going to need to play a lot more games to do that.

For now, let's talk basics. I've realized that it's been quite a while since I really worked on an aggressive deck, and that I've improved a lot as a Magic player since that time.

This is an aggro deck. Straight up, no nonsense. It's purely beatdown, and we want to run a LOT of creatures. Removal exists, and we need to keep the beats coming, instead of worrying much about stopping our opponents' plans.

Now, the countermagic in Modern is far more diverse [read: situational] than any other constructed format. In Standard, your options are limited, and you really only want Dissipate, a Counterflux here and there, and the occasional Dispel in the board. In Legacy, Force of Will exists. Daze is better in some situations, and sometimes you need Counterspell, but that's it.

In Modern, we have four widely-played counters: Remand, Spell Snare, Spell Pierce, and Mana Leak. Izzet Charm and Dispel also see play. My first instinct, as somebody who generally plays Tempo, Aggro, or Aggro-control, was to get a little of everything in there. After all, there are a lot of different threats in a such a diverse metagame, we'd need a lot of different ways to deal with various threats!

Except, no.

We're not drawing cards. We're cantripping, but that's not drawing cards. That's maintaining cards.

When I began my first attempts of competitive, optimal deckbuilding, I learned a simple rule: you can play up to four of any card, so pick the best one and play four of it! Of course there are a lot of exceptions to this rule. I eventually learned it only really applied to aggro. Then I stopped playing aggro, learned more about the decks that keep the games long enough to draw your one-ofs and two-ofs, and forgot about what it was like to kill people before they got a chance to do that.

So how does this all apply to Fish? If you're going to play a counter (or any card), play three or four of them. Pick the best one, and jam as many in there as you can. If you feel like you need two unique cards, well you're going to have to dedicate nine or ten slots. I don't think that's the right move, so I picked the best one: Spell Pierce.

As I said in my last article, one mana is where you want to be in a deck with mostly two-drops. We don't always have a Vial or Cursecatcher, and we're playing a two-drop on turn quite often.

I also talked up Spell Snare a lot last week; it stops a lot of problematic cards in the format. But that was all theory, and no practice. I saw UW midrange decks playing four copies. They do this because it comes out early, and stays relevant through the long game, stopping their threats and their disruption. But what are we, as The Beatdown, really worried about? Our plan. Stop them from killing our dudes, and stop them from killing us. Spell Pierce does that a LOT better than Spell Snare. Tarmogoyf comes out on turn two. If we're so off-curve that we have a blue open on turn one or two (depending on being on the play or the draw), we're in a bad place. So we rely on Path to Exile to stop the really problematic creatures, and other than that we worry about ourselves.

It may be worth it to jam Mana Leak or Remand in. Remand is probably better; we'd rather that we keep cards in our hand, even if it's at the cost of keeping cards in their hand. But our creature count is very important. I'd rather play a creature a turn earlier instead of drawing into it the turn before with a Remand. The fact is, we can't really afford to play much combo disruption in the mainboard, so we need a fast clock against the combo decks. Spell Pierce (and often Path to Exile) keep us alive just long enough to beat their faces in.

I feel much better about my list now. It's tight and consistent. It just looks better. I don't know what the hell that means. You can decide that for yourself.

Right, so:

Modern Merfolk

Artifacts (4):
4 Æther Vial

Creatures (25):
2 Coralhelm Commander
4 Cursecatcher
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
3 Merrow Reejerey
4 Phantasmal Image
4 Silvergill Adept

Enchantments (4):
4 Spreading Seas

Instants (7):
4 Path to Exile
3 Spell Pierce

Lands (20):
1 Hallowed Fountain
7 Island
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Mutavault
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Wanderwine Hub

Sideboard (15):
3 Ethersworn Canonist
3 Spellskite
2 Leyline of Sanctity
2 Rest in Peace
3 Stony Silence
2 Dismember

(On a personal note, I'm one Ethersworn Canonist away from having this deck completely built in Paper, which I'm pretty excited about!)

Okay, I lied, there are a few two-ofs in the 75. This mostly due to size restrictions. The other lords are better than Coralhelm Commander, so there's only room for two. He's also obviously a lot better when you have mana to spare, so it's nice to draw him more in longer games.

The sideboard is very generic. If you're taking this to a tournament, know your meta! Figure out what you're expecting to play against, and adjust the numbers accordingly.

That's all I've got this week, besides for some quick plugs.

My Twitter is very bare-bones, but I'll be announcing all of my new articles there (and more importantly I won't spam your feed with random nonsense!). So follow me at @abraPW. Or don't. I won't be offended. More importantly than that, though, don't be afraid to post in the comments or shoot me a tweet. Let me know if you guys take this list anywhere, and how you do! I'd love to hear other people's experiences with the deck.

I'm out :O

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