Updated: Jan 30, 2019
This deck list was brought to you by Dr. Manatee.
We knew when we started asking for deck list submissions that we'd eventually receive some that are questionable. Dr. Manatee, I'm sorry to say, but this particular deck of yours is just that. I don't mean to mince my words, we definitely appreciate you submitting it to us; however, the deck needs a lot of TLC. You are a good deck builder (your Mardu Midrange was really powerful), but I really struggled with this deck.
I have built a version of Fish that I'll have a write up on tomorrow, to really dive into how I would personally build it.
I want to first start by saying the following write up is not meant to sting, but instead, let's make it a learning experience. Let's dissect why I think this deck fell flat, and some potential changes to keep it a more powerful midrange deck. I want all of us to be the best deck builders we can be, and part of that is just calling a spade a spade. I have play tested the deck, and I will be basing my write up on the analytics of those matches.
The preface doesn't mean that there weren't redeeming qualities of the deck. There are some decent creatures packaged in here that can do some really impressive things. The four Deeproot Elite, Kumena's Speaker, Merfolk Mistbinder and the three Silvergill Adept and Merfolk Branchwalker are a great start to the creature package. Card advantage is important in any deck, but especially so in aggro decks where your hand becomes emptied very quickly. Merfolk Branchwalker and Silvergill Adept are great ways to draw cards and filter through your deck and fulfill this position wonderfully (although, I would still run a full play set of both.) Another option that could be good here is Jadelight Ranger should our mana be right.
Deeproot Elite, if left unchecked, is exceedingly powerful, pumping up your team whenever a new Merfolk enters the battlefield. I did have some fun instances of having a Deeproot Waters and a Deeproot Elite in play and casting a few Merfolk into it, pumping up your hexproof dorks. As far as pure aggression goes, Kumena's Speaker and Merfolk Mistbinder fit really well in that role, by making those our turn 1 and 2 plays, we'd be hitting for 3 on turn 2. Very aggressive.
While I'm sure Jade Bearer could be okay in limited, personally I find it too situational for Standard. Sure, it can have some really interesting plays with a Deeproot Elite in play, but I would much prefer to play a more impactful card in this slot.
I also really, really dislike Expel from Orazca. It is likely in the deck to help bounce a creature or planeswalker or something, but again, I never found an opportune time to leave up my mana to cast it. Most of the time it just sat in my hand, as I wished that I had a better, more permanent answer to creatures or enchantments.
Also, another card I was unable or unwilling to cast was Tempest Caller. This creature can be really amazing, but you need to be running enough lands to support it and with enough impactful creatures to use it as a way to get through a game winning attack. At most, you should be running 3 of it, and even then, I'd stick to 2 if I was aiming for more of a mid-range deck. And really, we may want to consider running the new Zegana, Utopian Speaker instead; she fits the same spot on the curve, affects our entire board by giving creatures we control with a +1/+1 counter on them trample, and she can draw us a card effectively replacing herself in our hand. Not only that, but she'll have a decent late game relevance by adapting into an 8/8 trampler.
The mana is also particularly bad. With the release of Ravnica Allegiance, we would be remiss not to run a play set of Breeding Pool. The list also is only running 3 Hinterland Harbor, which is an unfortunate oversight. There is 4 Unclaimed Territories, which is great, but with 14 total basics, I found it very difficult to find the colors of mana I needed, when I needed them. Not to mention, we are only running 21 lands. So, when our average converted mana cost is 2.10, we really should be running 22-23 lands. I often found myself off color or needing more mana to cast my spells.
Mist-Cloaked Herald is a great card in the right deck, and in my opinion that's Mono U tempo; it did alright for me here but I felt it was a bit lackluster. In my opinion, if you want to be running main deck Deeproot Waters and go more midrange, I think that running River Sneak for unblockable damage would just be better, considering River Sneak gets buffed whenever a Merfolk enters the battlefield.
Speaking of Deeproot Waters, I found it hit or miss. Sometimes it felt like it may win me the game, and other times it felt too slow to do anything. I think it is honestly a better sideboard card against control. It gives you a token on cast, and those tokens have hexproof. Talk about shut down.
Another card that I felt was a bit lackluster in this deck was Merfolk Trickster. A flash 2/2 can be great as an Ambush Viper, it also can tap down a big attacker before attacking, turn off troublesome abilities for a turn, or remove a blocker. However, with the mana base as it was, I often found them stuck in my hand and unplayable. The times I was able to cast them felt only okay. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. I will concede its decent against control, so maybe consider running it as a sideboard card.
Lastly, was Kumena himself. Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca is a weird card. All of its stats are decent: a 2/4 for 3 mana with a ton of abilities. The problem is, every ability wants you to be tapping down your Merfolk, effectively turning off your pressure from your opponent. In the 5 matches I played, I was only able to cast him and activate one of his abilities twice. He is a good card, but without cheap and effective ways of untapping our creatures, or by going Bant in order to run Radiant Destiny to give them all vigilance, then I think Kumena is just too slow. It is perfect for Commander, but I think too slow for Standard.
The Sideboard was okay. It wasn't great, but it wasn't horrible either. An extra Deeproot Waters is a fine answer to control. Disdainful Stroke is okay as well, I do like that it is 2 mana, so it keeps our curve down. I never once played Essence Scatter nor did I ever play Kopala, Warden of Waves. Kopala could have been okay, but I always had been struggling with mana, so having a 3 mana spell with double blue in its casting cost was asking for a lot. There were many games when I'd only have 1 or 2 mana by turn 4 or 5. Mistcaller is an okay answer against reanimation strategies, so if it is in you meta, the Mistcaller is fine. Personally, I'd run Crushing Canopy over the 2 Naturalize that are in the sideboard. Artifacts aren't really a thing at the moment but flyers and enchantments are. Personally, I think Seafloor Oracle just isn't great for Standard. It dies easily and costs a ton, effectively forcing you to become time walked if it was killed the turn you play it. If we want another 4 drop to draw us cards, let's consider an easier to cast card like Karn, Scion of Urza. He will draw through your deck, provide late game relevance and also avert our opponent's attention allowing us to do some interesting attacks and blocks. The 2 Shaper's Sanctuary is wonderful, I would heavily consider running more than 2, and I'd go as far as running a play set main. The 2 Spell Pierce are great here as well. I'd also consider running Admiral's Orders in this slot as well.
I did my best to play the best possible line every game. I played a total of 5 matches, winning 2 out of 10 games. We played against a vast variety of decks: UR Spell Drake, Esper Control, Orzhov Control, Boros Aggro, Mardu Multicolor Aggro. The only match we won was Orzhov Control by early concession from our opponent. So, overall, we went 1/5, which I personally would consider a failure (unless we were trying to pull of a janky combo or something). For aggro lists, I'd like to see a positive win ratio to call it a success. I often felt like I was losing when playing the deck, and that isn't where you ever want to be.
The deck really struggled in a couple of areas. I found that it did not have enough ways to draw cards, I often was in top deck mode during each game. We really struggled against flyers. We had no real answer to drakes or Lyra. In fact, the deck had virtually no removal at all except for 2 Expel from Orazca, which is more of a soft removal than anything. I was often in top deck mode and had very little abilities to draw cards or filter the top of my library, causing me to lose tempo. I was extremely confused by the mana base and often felt that my aggro deck wasn't feeling very aggressive. If we want to be more of a midrange deck, then lets remove more of our less impactful 1 and 2 drops for more powerful spells and adding a few more lands in order for us to be able to more easily cast them. I think we need to step back and refocus a bit on what we are trying to accomplish with the deck, and how we can better utilize some of the new cards from Ravnica Allegiance to better bolster our brews.
Again, Dr. Manatee, I hope this doesn't discourage you from submitting more in the future and I hope you take to heart my suggestions on how to improve the deck. Tomorrow, I will be posting my version of Fish, and we can use it as a compare and contrast metric to see what works and what doesn't.
Until next time,
Did I miss anything or get something wrong? Let me know in the comments below!