Modern Legacy: A Fish Out of Its Pond

There is a deck in Legacy, which has every one of its creatures and most of its lands within the Modern cardpool, really  losing only 12 cards when we take it out of the Legacy pool. That deck is Merfolk, a favorite of many Legacy players, possibly one of the most common Legacy decks there is. The deck’s strength lies in its synergy within its creatures, along with the massive tempo gains afforded by Force of Will, Daze, and Mental Misstep. Could such a deck exist in Modern? We’ll follow along in my efforts to build and strengthen a Modern Merfolk deck.

First: an explanation. I was supposed to talk about Legacy today, but that got postponed, because I had a conflict with my personal life, preventing me from going to a Legacy tournament. So instead, you get this article. (It’s a good one, I promise.) The Legacy article will happen next week. Okay, back on topic.

Let us look at a fairly stock Merfolk deck in Legacy.

Merfolk

Lands: 21
12 Island
1 Mishra’s Factory
4 Mutavault
4 Wasteland
 
Artifacts: 4
4 AEther Vial
 
Creatures: 21
4 Cursecatcher
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Coralhelm Commander
2 Merfolk Sovereign
1 Sower of Temptation
 
Instants: 14
4 Force of Will
4 Mental Misstep
4 Daze
 
Sideboard: 15
4 Relic of Progenitus
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
3 Energy Flux
2 Llawan, Cephalid Empress
3 Spell Pierce
1 Sower of Temptation
 

This is primarily a tempo deck. It hopes to keep its opponents from developing strong board position, while going aggressive with Mer Lords, buffing each other. If left unopposed, this deck can win very quickly, because the strength of Merfolk is exponential. With more fish, the stronger they get. The glue that holds this deck together is these two cards:

AEther Vial’s role is as a way to cheat on mana, allowing you to play twice the number of lords that you could play normally. Luckily for us, it survives to Modern. We can make use of the Vial more in Modern, because we cannot tap out entirely without fear now. The Vial allows us to hold up mana for our counterspells (of which we may not even have in hand).

Force of Will’s role is incredibly important in this deck, because it allows us to trade cards for a significant gain in tempo. We can tap out on our turns, to pump out lords, and still be able to counter their plays on their turn. It is a loss for Modern Merfolk. To replace this, I found a little-known card that bears an uncanny resemblance to Force of Will.

That card is Disrupting Shoal. Let us examine the difference between these two cards. Force of Will allows you to pitch any blue card to counter any spell. The Shoal is more restricted, in that you have to pitch a card of the same cost as the card you want to counter. This may seem like a fatal drawback, but it’s not. Why? It is because you need to look at the roles of the Shoal and Force. Both of them serve to throw off your opponent from developing his board, while you increase your board postition. Most of the things you will want to counter in this regard will cost 2 or 3 mana, because Modern has a decent low curve. Merfolk’s creatures fall in this group. Yes, the drawback of not being able to counter a late-game winning bomb is significant. To address this, we turn to an interesting alternative. We bring in Blue’s color-pie-ally, Black. What does Black give us?

It gives us Dark Confidant, the best 2-drop of all time (an honor that Stoneforge Mystic is currently competing for), and it gives us Thoughtseize, the best one-cost discard spell available. Dark Confidant is very useful because it makes sure we keep on drawing merfolk, increasing the pressure exerted on the opponent on a constant basis. It also makes sure we draw enough blue spells to be able to pay for the cost of the Shoal when it is important to do so. Thoughtseize is very important, allowing us to see their hand, formulate their future plans, and to strip the otherwise uncounterable late game bombs from their hand.

To replace Daze, we turn to Spell Pierce, a pretty good one-cost counterspell. The reason for this is that within the bombs, the most fearsome cards in the format happen to be noncreature spells. You are able to deal with creatures, using the Shoal and your own creatures. Spell Pierce is also easy on you because you’ll be able to leave 1 blue mana up, while casting your creatures, without much inconvenience.

Another very important card in Legacy Merfolk is Wasteland. This is due to the frequency of important nonbasic lands. Unfortunately for us, there are no decent and reasonable alternative to WastelandTectonic Edge may seem like a decent replacement, but it does not serve the same utility that Wasteland would, so I cannot justify the risk of colorscrewing ourselves. In Modern, there are several nonbasic heavy decks, true, but we aim to win before these decks come online.

Here’s my decklist for Modern Merfolk.

BobFolk

Land: 20
4 Island
4 Mutavault
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Watery Grave
 
Artifact: 4
4 AEther Vial
 
Creature: 24
4 Dark Confidant
Cursecatcher
Silvergill Adept
Merrow Reejerey
Lord of Atlantis
Coralhelm Commander
1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
 
Instant: 9
3 Spell Pierce
3 Disrupting Shoal
3 Mental Misstep
 
Sorcery: 3
3 Thoughtseize
 
Sideboard: 15
4 Relic of Progenitus
2 Sower of Temptation
4 Echoing Truth
4 Chalice of the Void
1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
 
Kira is a really good one-of to have in your maindeck. It exists for two reasons: to protect your merfolk from unwanted removal, and to increase the amount of three-cost things able to be pitched to Disrupting Shoal, which comes up pretty often.

The difficult matchups for you with this deck are with both Zoo and Sligh style decks. This is because we hurt ourselves a LOT with our fetchlands, shockduals, Dark Confidants, and Thoughtseizes. Zoo and Sligh can deal with our merfolk, with Pyroclasm and bigger threats, and close the game out faster than we can. Where we excel in are in the control matches and the combo matches, much like in Legacy.

When Modern becomes a format, combo decks such as Hypergenesis will run rampant, and aggressive decks would be not such a large representative of the metagame, so this deck is a very good choice to run. It’s a solid deck that beats other well-constructed decks, and takes apart janky decks with frightening ease.

I’ll end this article with a couple of tips for when you are running this deck: most of the time, you do not want to drop more than one Dark Confidant at once. You can live with one, but two takes your life down very fast. If you are low enough on life, Dark Confidant becomes a virtually unblockable 2/1. The worst amount of damage you can take from Dark Confidant is 3, at the most, which is pretty low. In piloting this deck, your life total becomes a resource to be carefully managed. Predicting your opponent’s moves is key here. You need to be able to predict how hard they are able to hit you, so you know how much leeway you have with your life total. Always remember it’s only the last life point that matters. Also, the first Watery Grave is all you need. Any more fetchlands used while you already have a Watery Grave should be used to fetch an Island.

You have to keep in the forefront of your mind that you simply lose if the game is allowed to go on too long, because you have no answers to late game topdecked bombs. The game you’re playing is to keep your opponent off balance long enough to just win before he can set up his gameplan. Do not counter everything you can, just the things that would specifically prevent you from winning.

See you next week.

-ando

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Posted on June 13, 2011, in Articles, Modern Legacy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. What about Darkslick Shores? Thoughtseizing on turn 1 takes 5 life most of the time. Replacing some fetches with Darkslick Shores well reduce the amount of life you lose.

  2. That’s very true. I’m in the process of testing the Darkslick Shores. You’re right about it being painful to Thoughtseize on turn 1.

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