Tribal Fun in Modern #4: Merfolk Under the Sea

master of the pearl trident art

Welcome back to Tribal Fun in Modern! This week we have even more of an aggro deck than last week. We are going to be looking at the increasingly popular mono-blue merfolk. Lets look at the list:

[d title=”Merfolk (Modern)”]

2 Cavern of Souls
4 Mutavault
1 Tectonic Edge
14 Island

4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
2 Merrow Reejerey
4 Cursecatcher
4 Silvergill Adept
2 Master of Waves
2 Phantasmal Image
1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
2 Spellskite

Instants and Sorceries
4 Spreading Seas
2 Dismember
3 Vapor Snag
1 Spell Pierce

4 Æther Vial

3 Tidebinder Mage
1 Swan Song
1 Spell pierce
3 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Mana Leek
2 Stubborn Denial
2 Echoing Truth
1 Relic of Progenitus [/d]

Following tradition, I will go over the card choices, strategy, play style, matchup and sideboarding guide, and some different versions of the deck.


The lands are fairly basic. Since we are mono colored there isn’t much to talk about. As I have said earlier, [c]Cavern of Souls[/c] is great in tribal and really there is no need to be cut. In some very rare situations you may get a hand of [c]Mutavault[/c], [c]Cavern of Souls[/c], and [c]Spreading Seas[/c] but I never got that so it isn’t much of a hindrance.

The [c]Mutavault[/c]s are great because not only do they generate mana, but they become 2/2 merfolk.

The one [c]Tectonic Edge[/c] is for the Tron matchup.

silvergill adept art


The [c]Lord of Atlantis[/c] and [c]Master of the Pearl Trident[/c]s are a must have 4-of a piece. Not only do they pump your merfolk but also make them unblockable in tons of games, either because your opponent is playing blue already or because you cast [c]Spreading Seas[/c]. The [c]Merrow Reejerey[/c] on the other hand is not quite as impressive. He is definitely good, but not nearly as good as the other two lords. Sticking with the negatives, he costs three mana, which is high on the curve, and only provides one devotion. One the other hand, he synergizes well with [c]Aether Vial[/c]s and the tap/untap ability is useful, but he is not quite as good as the other lords. Despite this, his effects still warrants his inclusion.

Although some are opposed to him, I find [c]Cursecatcher[/c] is a great card. Not only is he a body, but if he is on the table it basically [c]Time Walk[/c]s your opponent (or at least stops them from playing anything that important for another turn). Even better he can be [c]Aether Vial[/c]ed in and act as a [c]Counterspell[/c] in that situation.

[c]Silvergill Adept[/c] is an automatic four-of. Not only is the extra cost clause easy to fulfill with so many merfolk in the deck, but also it acts as the [c]Mulldrifter[/c] of the deck. Although he may not seem great, pure value makes it so that he definitely needs to be a 4-of.

[c]Master of Waves[/c] is a fairly new inclusion to the deck but he is probably the biggest bomb in the whole deck. Considering that even by just turn 4 you can rack up a lot of devotion, not only will he create a ton of 2/1s, but also he can be a body himself with all of the buffs from lords.

[c]Phantasmal Image[/c] is an amazing and cheap [c]Clone[/c]. He is pretty self-explanatory. Copy an opponent’s best creature, copy your own creature, or [c]Aether Vial[/c] him in to respond to something, he is a cheap [c]Clone[/c].

[c]Kira, Great Glass-Spinner[/c] is a good way to protect your threats. She obviously makes it very hard to remove or even target any of your cards, which is an amazing ability, especially considering that she can be [c]Aether Vial[/c]ed in to respond to something. It is worth noting, of course, that she is not a merfolk.

To finish out our creatures we have 2 [c]Spellskite[/c]s. Of course they are an answer to Twin, but also they help against burn and are great blockers. I think their inclusion is fairly self-explanatory, considering that they are live basically every single matchup, even though they are also not merfolk.


[c]Spreading Seas[/c] is a staple in this deck. Not only does it help a lot in the Tron matchups and against other greedy decks that need a lot of mana requirements, but it also turns on islandwalk, which many times means that all of our creatures are unblockable (and this likely means you win the game very quickly). On top of all of that, it draws you a card when you play it.

[c]Dismember[/c] is the only removal in the deck. Since the deck is so aggressive, the removal is very light, but this can get the job done.

[c]Vapor Snag[/c] and [c]Spell Pierce[/c] are the control package. [c]Vapor Snag[/c] is a great tempo play and can answer a threat (temporarily). [c]Spell Pierce[/c] is the only counter in this whole mono blue deck, but again it can usually be used as a hard counter or at least a tempo play.

Finally, there is [c]Aether Vial[/c]. It is pretty obvious why this card is so good (and who at R&D put this at uncommon in Darksteel). Not only does this act like lands 22-25, but it allows basically all of the creatures to be flashed in. This is not only a way to be efficient with your mana, but also adds some control elements to the deck as well. Finally, it synergizes very well with [c]Merrow Reejerey[/c], being able to dump out your whole hand very quickly.

So, after praising [c]Cryptic Command[/c] last week, you may wonder why it isn’t included, not even 1, this week. This is not a mistake. No merfolk decks run [c]Cryptic Command[/c] because it is to slow for the deck and the deck doesn’t need/want its abilities. Some other cards I choose not to include were [c]Cosi’s Trickster[/c] as it only really triggers on fetches, [c]Coralhelm Commander[/c] as I felt it was to slow, and [c]Thassa, God of the Sea[/c] because I couldn’t find room for her (even though her power level is definitely on par) and I didn’t want another non-merfolk creature.

gtyb art


The strategy, as I earlier mention, is very aggressive. You want to try to get as much damage in as quickly as possible. Since there is so little of a control element to the deck, it is very easy to play. Generally you are removing, bouncing, or countering the first opposition to try to push as much damage through as possible. Generally I keep my [c]Aether Vial[/c]s at two counters because most of my creatures are at two. I’ll let it go up to three when I really need to.

The deck plays a lot like a red or Boros aggro minus the burn. In general, the burn is replaced with effective burn that allows you to push through extra damage ([c]Spreading Seas[/c], bouncing, countermagic, and removal). If you like a deck like UR Aggro or even just RDW or Boros Aggro, then you will likely like merfolk just as much.

The deck’s matchups are somewhat similar to that of an aggro deck. It does pretty well against most traditional control decks, such as Tron and UW Midrange, has more of a 50%/50% matchup against Abzan (it can really depend on the build), RDW and Boros Aggro, and Infect and generally has poor matchups against Twin, [c]Scapeshift[/c], and other quick combos (it is hard for us to interact with these).


The [c]Tidebinder Mage[/c]s obviously come in against anything red or green (Abzan, RDW, etc.).

The [c]Swan Song[/c] comes in against Twin, Aggro (haven’t quite decided if this is the right choice yet), Control, and anything else relevant.

The extra [c]Spell Pierce[/c] comes in against Aggro, Tron, Scapeshift, Infect, and other non-aggro matchups where you can afford to slow down.

The [c]Hurkyl’s Recall[/c]s come in against Affinity, obviously.

Again the [c]Mana Leak[/c]s come in against decks where you can usually afford to slow down a bit (Abzan, Control, etc.) and Twin usually.

[c]Stubborn Denial[/c]s come in against aggro, twin, and other racing matchups.

[c]Echoing Truth[/c] is usually a catchall, for Twin, Abzan, Aggro, basically anything to fill up the space of a dead card.

Finally there is [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c] for graveyard decks and for [c]Tarmogoyf[/c].

In hindsight I put a lot of spaces for Aggro when I could have filled them up with something more relevant for the even worse matchups, but I can fine-tune the sideboard as I continue to test.

More thoughts

So the big thing I choose not to do with this deck is splash white. A few fetches, shocks, and a playset of [c]Wanderwine Hub[/c] opens up [c]Path to Exile[/c], [c]Harm’s Way[/c], and many sideboard options.

Of course the numbers can be changed too. Even splashing black could be viable. Some specific cards that I decided not to include that could definitely still be good in the deck and in your meta are [c]Thassa, God of the Sea[/c], [c]Coralhelm Commander[/c], and [c]Cosi’s Trickster[/c] (likely in the sideboard). The control and removal packages have some slight wiggle room. I wouldn’t go with more than 11 cards for both removal and control and the deck isn’t a control deck, it is an aggro deck.

There are many sideboard options. As my main resource for sideboards (since I am not very good at it myself) I usually use the compare feature of (it is a great website for netdecking and seeing the metagame, most the time at least). That shows you many more options for sideaboards, basically all of which I think are viable, depending on your meta.

There it is, my take on the ever-popular Modern Merfolk deck. If you have any suggestions at all feel free to talk about them in the comments (I do usually respond). Thanks for sticking with me, as today’s article was a little long again, but hopefully interesting.


– Dylan