Yesterday, I reviewed a Fish deck that needed a little bit of work. I promised that today I would post the list on how I would build Fish in #MTGRNA Standard, and I think what I came up with is quite aggressive. I gutted the original deck of most of its 3 and 4 drops, and instead decided to focus heavily on low to the ground, impactful creatures that will race our opponent. I also upped the amount of card advantage we can see in the deck, and added some powerful new removal.
I think the only way fish can be viable as a mainstay strategy is to move it away from midrange and instead focus on hardcore aggro, like we have here. So, let's break down the various strategies and see how this deck will work.
I left in the best part of the aggro creature package from yesterday's deck. We have a full play set of Kumena's Speaker, a great one drop that can swing as hard as 3 damage on turn two. Additionally, we are still running 4 Merfolk Mistbinder as well; the lord is extremely important to the Merfolk tribe, and it contributes dramatically to it's win percentage. We are also running a full play set of Deeproot Elite. Being able to continually pump up your Merfolk with +1/+1 counters is a fantastic way for this deck to push past the other aggro decks and to quickly beat down control. The other great thing about Deeproot Elite is that it is a lightning rod for removal. Having this out means they will consistently kill it instead of your giant 5/5. Deeproot Elite is good.
This is where we severely deviate from yesterday's deck list. I opted to run a lot more card advantage/card filter in this list than what was there previously. We are now running full play sets of both Merfolk Branchwalker and Silvergill Adept. (yesterday's deck was only running 3 of each). We are running only 20 lands so we need to cycle through as much of our deck as we can, so these two drops are there to draw us cards or to filter the top card of our library to find our answers. I also opted to drop Kumena all together and instead am running Jadelight Ranger as my only 3 drop creature. It can filter 2 or draw us 2 lands off the top of the deck with its double explore ability. It also quickly becomes our largest creature on the field as a 3 mana 4/3. I also opted to remove Jade Bearer, and instead I put in Benthic Biomancer. This new 1 drop is really amazing. It can potentially swing in for 2 on turn two using it's Adapt 1 ability for 1U. But it also has the added ability of being able to loot (draw/discard) whenever a counter is placed on it. So, pairing this with Deeproot Elite, we can easily continually pump up our 1 drop only to be able to draw into more action and discard away our 5th+ land. It also makes for a great turn 3 play when paired with Deeproot Elite. If Deeproot Elite is already on the field, we can cast this, and when it enters the battlefield triggering Deeproot Elite's ability to place a counter on a Merfolk we control, we can then adapt Benthic Biomancer in response, loot, then get the counter from Deeproot Elite and loot again.
I am also running 12 one mana noncreature card advantage; this package is cheap and is designed to filter through the deck to find needed creatures, lands, or to punish our opponent's for killing our creatures. I am taking a lesson learned from This Land is Your Land. I am running a full play set of Shaper's Sanctuary; with Izzet, Rakdos, and Grixis so much on the rise, running these main is such a headache for our opponents. They'll be forced to make a decision to let us keep our aggro or to waste a resource to allow us to refill our hand with yet even more aggro. The way it forces our opponents to overthink is a game winning strategy and it helped me freak out my opponents when I played This Land. I'm of the mindset that if you have the ability to cast this turn 1, you almost always should. The inevitable card advantage from it is glorious.
I am also running another This Land staple with four Adventurous Impulse. By running so few lands, Impulse allows us to dig 3 deep to find a cheap creature to cast or the next land for us to play. Don't over estimate the importance of this card. Being able to grab us lands will help smooth out our low land count early in the game, and can help us power past lands in the late game as we attempt to find our needed creatures. Being only 1 mana allows us to do really great plays too. For instance, let's say we have a board full of creatures but we cannot seem to power past our opponent. Casting this for 1 mana digging deep to find a Mistbinder to play for 2 could allow us some significant blow out potential.
Lastly, we are running a full play set of Incubation // Incongruity. Incubation can almost always be cast early and can dig 5 deep for Elites, Jadelight Rangers, etc. It is great early filter to find our most impactful creatures. We also have a great exile effect for 1GU as the other half of the card. That was one of my biggest issues with yesterday's deck was the it was missing enough removal (and permanent removal) to feel like we were in control of our games. Sure Incongruity will leave behind a 3/3, but it is likely to be better than whatever it was you exiled.
I like the mana base a lot more in this deck in comparison to yesterday's. We've got a full play set of Breeding Pool for turn 1 fixing. A full set of Hinterland Harbor has made its way into the deck as well (yesterday's deck only had 3). In my opinion, when running a dual color deck like this, if you have access to the shock lands and their respective buddy lands, you should be playing their full sets. I woud only deviate from this if you aren't paying 2 color, and instead are focusing on a 3 color wedge or greater as you typically won't want to run full play sets of the shocks in those decks as that will end up being too painful or too slow. I am still running 4 Unclaimed Territory, its just a great multi-color answer to tribal decks like Merfolk. I am also running 3 Islands and 3 Forests. For utility lands, I'm running a single Field of Ruin and a single Memorial to Unity. Field of Ruin lets us remove those troublesome flip lands like Azcanta or Adanto. Memorial to Unity is another way to dig 5 deep for another creature, tacked onto a land. I'm not running more Field of Ruin as we are already at 5 colorless lands for our noncreature spells and we need the colors. I am also only running 1 Memorial as it can slow us down too much as we have lands like Hinterland Harbor that can enter tapped if we have no support for them.
For our sideboard, we are running 2 Crushing Canopy. The flexibility of this spell is great as it can deal with either troublesome flyers like Lyra, Aurelia, or the Hellkite, but it can also destroy things like Ixalan's Binding, Search for Azcanta, and Conclave Tribunal. The flexibility is what really makes it great here. For Control decks we are also running 3 Deeproot Waters and 3 Spell Pierce. Deeproot Waters is fantastic against the counter control match up as it triggers your Merfolk token on cast, not on enter the battlefield. Not to mention how devastating it is for targeted removal decks to forfeit their ability to target your tokens. For aggro decks, we are also running 3 Titanic Brawl. This card is great for our deck as a lot of our creatures can inevitably have a +1/+1 counter on it, giving us a 1 mana instant speed fight effect. It is a great way for us to trade in one of our 1 drops to freely swing in with our more impactful creatures.
For decks that like to gum up the ground, like Saprolings or Golgari, we are running 2 Hadana's Climb. Hadana's Climb also combos very nicely with Benthic Biomancer, giving us a free loot every turn, at least until it flips. Then, being able to give a creature +x,+x and flying until end of turn can be game winning against control decks and allows us to leave up blockers against a ground assault. It also allows us to play around Settle the Wreckage as well. For more control over control and removal (even super friends) we also have 3 Spell Pierce. Taxing out opponent's noncreature spells by two mana is a great way to stop a player that consistently plays on curve or is overly eager to kill our board with Kaya's Wrath or other wipes. Lastly, I am running an additional Forest and Island. A lot of our sideboard are 3 mana, so if we happen to need to run them, we may need to cut some of our dig spells for a bit more land.
Depending on your meta, I would consider running Repudiate // Replicate. If you are in a Teferi or Vraska heavy meta, Repudiate gives you a way to Stifle for U/G U/G their ultimates. Repudiate is also great for stopping activated abilities like Azcanta's dig or Wilderness Reclamation's untap all land's ability. You could also be sneaky with Nexus of Fate and counter its ability to shuffle back into your opponent's library once it hits the graveyard, effectively leaving it there permanently.
Replicate becomes fantastic when you have a board of creatures or a lord. For 1GU we can then copy a creature we control. Using that to copy our Deeproot Elite or Merfolk Mistbinder is hilarious, and copying a Silvergill Adept or explore Merfolk can allow you to dig even further into your deck.
For more of a tempo play, you could try Warrant. For U/W U/W, we could get an effect to remove an attacking or blocking creature and putting it on top of our opponent's library. This effect is great if we need to clear the board for an attack or time walk our opponent. Being that it is a hybrid mana card, we can cast it for UU. It could be a good way of dealing with high value flyers that we may not otherwise have an answer too, but would take your opponent off of a turn in order to recast them. I'm not sure its better than other pieces of removal, and I don't like that it is strictly UU, but it could be a decent answer to consider.
I also think a decent card we could run would be Find // Finality. While we won't be splashing for black, we could still use the Find side to get some rather decent card advantage mid to late game. Because we can cast Find for GG, we'd be able to get back our best creatures that had died to removal or combat. I could see running 1 or 2 of these main, but I'd still prioritize Adventurous Impulse a bit more, as Find will only be good after a few creatures have been placed in the yard.
Find also does fall into the same trap as Warrant, being that it is harder to cast early; however, with that said, Find could be one of the few pieces of real card advantage in the deck, where most of it is filter or card replacement. It will require more testing but I think it could be a good inclusion.
If we go Bant, we could also try running Unbreakable Formation. For 2W we'd get an instant that gives our creatures indestructible until end of turn, and if we cast it on our main phase, we'd get to give our creatures a +1/+1 counter and give the vigilance. Because our deck synergizes so well with counters and can fail to board wipes, it may be a worthy addition to splash for.
I like aggro decks. I love Merfolk. I think I have been able to merge the two into a strong, fairly competitive Standard list. With a few tweaks given your meta, I suggest you try it out. Within a game you'll see most of the cards in your deck and with the fast nature of our Aggro, it can be very difficult for heavy control match ups to deal with us. In the limited testing I've done, I had the same feeling I did with This Land. I never really felt behind. I didn't feel like I'd lose the game; whereas, the Fish deck yesterday left me feeling behind most games, and I think my win/loss record shows it. This deck is relatively cheap for a Standard deck at about $150 all in, give it a try and let us know what you think.