Last updated on November 11, 2021
Svyelun of Sea and Sky | Illustration by Howard Lyon
Magic has a lot of tribes. The most prominent ones are definitely goblins and elves. These tribes are pretty common archetypes you’ll see in a number of formats like Modern and Legacy.
Historic also features its fair share of goblin– and elf-centered decks, but they’re not the only tribes in the format. Today I’ll be going over one that’s been somewhat of an underdog: Simic Merfolk.
I’ve mostly played merfolk in Modern in the past, but the tribe is rising in popularity in Historic, especially since the Brainstorm ban. Even though the format is missing key cards like Aether Vial, it has a perfect replacement in Collected Company.
But is it good enough to shake up the Historic meta? Let’s find out!
Merfolk Trickster | Illustration by Jesper Ejsing
This deck aims to flood the board very early and quickly knock out your opponent. Collected Company usually wins games in the blink of an eye, but you shouldn’t sleep on the deck, as it can still easily win without it.
Master of the Pearl Trident, Merrow Reejerey, and Merfolk Mistbinder all give +1/+1 to each other merfolk in play. This deck runs a total of 12 lords, though the count can go up to 14 with the addition of Glasspool Mimic.
Each lord other than Mistbinder also has its own set of useful skills. The most important is probably Master of the Pearl Trident since giving your creatures unblockable against blue decks is usually a game-winner.
Reejerey doesn’t stay behind too much if you play it right. It can untap your lands every time you cast another merfolk to start chaining multiple spells in one turn. This happens more often than not since you run a bunch of cheap merfolk.
Scout is the more important of the two since it can “fix” hands that are low on lands by conjuring Tropical Island, the single best dual Simic land, to your hand in exchange for a merfolk or less-useful land.
While Speaker doesn’t provide any value on its own, it usually acts as big merfolk for that benefits from the lords you run.
The rest of the creatures act as your utility package. Silvergill Adept replaces itself and adds a body to the field. This effect has proven to be very good in multiple formats and other tribal archetypes, so it makes sense this is an auto-include in the deck.
Merfolk Trickster is another excellent addition to the deck. It can do everything from ambushing attackers to making pesky creatures useless. This effect is perfect against the likes of Dragon’s Rage Channeler, but it also prevents you from death since it can tap big attackers or remove annoying blockers.
But what would a tribe be without a god, right? Svyelun of Sea and Sky joins the party to provide its followers with pseudo-protection. It also gets indestructible as long as you control at least two other merfolk. Not to mention that it draws you a card every time you attack, so being devoted to Svyelun pays off.
Finally, Realmwalker fills the deck’s last creature. It’s the most replaceable one since its ability can be excellent but is less impactful than the other merfolk. It’s okay, but Realmwalker is the one to cut if you have a replacement in mind.
Denial is by far the most intriguing decision since its versatility is great in the current meta. Sure, leaving two mana up in an aggro deck is usually tricky, but it’s a trick that will definitely catch most of your opponents by surprise.
As far as CoCo goes, it’s already proven that this card is a force to be reckoned with on its own. Especially how you can mess with combats very quickly, usually by putting at least one lord on the battlefield.
If you count Glasspool Shore as a land, this deck runs a total of 21. Given that your curve stops at four, it’s safe to assume that land distribution is spot on since you don’t want to flood a ton in this kind of decks.
Barkchannel Pathway, Botanical Sanctum, Hinterland Harbor, and Breeding Pool fix your mana since you don’t run a single Forest. They’re essential to cast your splash cards, especially if you don’t have an early Shoreline Scout.
Silvergill Adept | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve
- Players tend to attack first before playing lands or spells. But Shoreline Scout requires you to play at least a land or another merfolk to get its +1/+0 pump. This is relevant in some scenarios, especially those involving Merfolk Trickster, since you can mess with your opponent’s math on blockers.
- Kumena’s Speaker only gets +1/+1 if you control an Island, so keep an eye on it if your initial hand only has Botanical Sanctum and Hinterland Harbor. It may be okay for you, but your Speaker isn’t going to get louder.
- It may be obvious, but you should play Silvergill Adept before other merfolk in your hand since it could get stuck in your hand if you don’t prioritize it. It could end up being a while before you get to cast it for its pricey cost with just 19 natural lands in the deck.
- Multiple Merrow Reejereys can lead you to cast several spells per turn since its ability triggers on casting rather than entering the battlefield. This is sometimes useful if you have two on the battlefield and are stuck on three lands with a Collected Company in-hand. The same logic applies to tapping your opponent’s permanents; Reejerey’s ability still goes on the stack even if your merfolk doesn’t resolve.
- You usually want to cast Merfolk Trickster before your opponent declares attackers. Some creatures could get some conditional buffs, though, like the previously mentioned Dragon’s Rage Channeler. Getting to debuff and eat them after they attack is a gratifying feeling. You can also use Trickster against lords to debuff entire teams, which makes its critical in mirror matchups.
Despite first appearances, Jund Sacrifice isn’t bad as a matchup. It doesn’t have tons of removal or hate cards like Thoughtseize in the main deck, and it also takes some time to assemble their combo.
You want to aim to pressure as early as you can and as much as you can because of this. Timely Collected Companys close the deal most of the time, but powerful attacks thanks to your multiple lords is key. Decisive Denial can be vital to protect your creatures or fight against your opponent’s toughest guy with Svyelun of Sea and Sky.
Jund will board in more removal post-sideboard so you need to go a bit wider than they do. Scavenging Ooze is crucial to annoy them. Cut your niche cards that don’t provide much value to slide the Ooze in.
You can also add in a third Decisive Denial for some protection. If you’re on the draw, though, side in Aether Gust instead to avoid an auto-Korvold, Fae-Cursed King win. Finally, Masked Vandal is good at dealing with Jund’s Witch’s Ovens.
This is a much harder matchup since Izzet Pheonix packs a full playset of Unholy Heat in the main deck. Master of the Pearl Trident gives you the upper hand in the matchup as an unblockable threat, though.
Izzet also doesn’t run any main deck counterspells other than Archmage’s Charm. If you spot them with less than three mana open, that’s the perfect chance to sneak in a Collected Company. Izzet Phoenix has access to Anger of the Gods in their sideboard, so approach with caution before you flood the board.
You don’t want to cut too many creatures while running Collected Company, so feel free to toy with your choices a bit. You could bring in Aether Gust instead of Mystical Dispute when you’re on the play, for example.
5-Color Niv-Mizzet Matchups
5-color Niv-Mizzet has recently risen in popularity post-bans, and its surprise factor is critical. This deck is packed with tons of removal, so timely interaction spells like Collected Company and Decisive Denial are crucial.
This is generally a grindy match, but you’ll be in good shape as long as they don’t outvalue you with Niv-Mizzet Reborn. Territorial Kavu may be threatening at first, but Merfolk Trickster can kill it on the spot since its domain ability will be nullified.
You want to add some copies of Aether Gust and Negate and trim copies of Shoreline Scout post-sideboard. Svyelun of Sea and Sky is key here since it goes under most of your opponent’s removal and gives you the upper hand in long games.
Also, fun fact: Niv is blue, so you can side in some copies of Mystical Dispute to snipe it. I wouldn’t, but the option is on the table.
Mono white aggro is a fun matchup since you’re both are racing each other with aggro beatdown. Mono white’s disruption package is better than yours, though. Skyclave Apparition and Brutal Cathar act as both creatures and removals. Elite Spellbinder also threatens to make your Collected Companys nearly uncast-able given your low land count.
- -1 Realmwalker
Savage Swipe has the upside that it can give your merfolk a slight boost to, but I’ve found that your merfolk are sometimes big enough that it doesn’t even trigger.
Toski, Bearer of Secrets card is perfect in a deck dedicated to attacking your opponent when you’re facing blue decks. More importantly, though, it can’t be countered and survives board wipes. There are very few ways actually to kill the king of squirrels.
The original merfolk lists on Modern ran Kira, Great Glass-Spinner and I’m surprised it’s not being played much anymore. I think it’s a great addition, especially in decks that run popular spot removal like Unholy Heat.
Realmwalker | Illustration by Zack Stella
How good is Simic Merfolk? Pretty good, in my opinion. I was able to go 5-0 run for the first half of diamond in my ladder run and the deck outperformed in troublesome matches like 5-color Niv.
What do you think? Does this build have what it takes to dominate the meta with a few additions? Was it good for you? What would you change to make it better? Please let me know in the comments! Oh, and don’t forget to grab Arena Tutor if you’re planning on testing it out in MTGA. It’s got Draftsim’s signature AI built right in, plus it’s free. What’s not to love?
Take care as always, and I’ll see you in the next one!