Last updated on May 16, 2022
Prime Speaker Zegana | Illustration by Willian Murai
Merfolk are creatures that have shown up on various planes throughout Magic’s history. They’ve been the main tribe for several sets, usually in blue, and in green with the release of Ixalan. While the number of quality blue merfolk still outweigh the other colors, including some colors that don’t have any merfolk yet, there are still powerful merfolk in colors outside of just blue.
But which are the best merfolk in Magic? Let’s find out!
What are Merfolk in MTG?
Tatyova, Benthic Druid | Illustration by Mathias Kollros
So, what are counted as merfolk for this list? I’m counting creatures that have the “merfolk” creature type and are always creatures that keep said type. The cards also had to have been printed in either a Commander product or through a non-silver bordered set releases to qualify for this list.
Best Blue Merfolk
#13. Harbinger of the Tides
One of the more versatile merfolk, Harbinger of the Tides acts as an Unsummon for tapped creatures your opponent controls but can also be played at instant speed for more mana. One of the more common sideboard options for merfolk decks, this is another value inclusion in blue devotion decks and decks that want to leverage their creatures having useful ETB abilities.
#12. Lord of Atlantis
Lord of Atlantis is a Master of the Pearl Trident that pumps opposing merfolk as well as your own and gives them islandwalk. They’re otherwise just the same card with templating reflecting their respective time of printing.
#11. True-Name Nemesis
True-Name Nemesis was a once-untouchable threat in Legacy that’s since found difficulty resolving in a world where 1-drop creatures and free spells are now a dominant part of the format. While objectively one of the more powerful merfolk ever printed, it doesn’t fit into current shells. And the places for this card to dominate are limited since it’s only legal in Legacy, Vintage, and EDH.
#10. Augur of Bolas
A Standard staple, Augur of Bolas is still a premier value card in EDH for decks that play an abundance of instants and sorceries. the Augur is a card that finds most play outside of the merfolk archetype and even has a home in the same style of decks as Talrand, Sky Summoner.
#9. Merrow Reejerey
Merrow Reejerey has been a long-time Modern merfolk staple very similar to Master of the Pearl Trident. The benefit of this card comes from tapping opposing blockers or untapping your Aether Vial or lands to chain merfolk into play. Suffering from the same fate as Master of the Pearl Trident, you won’t see this card outside of merfolk-specific decks.
#8. Master of the Pearl Trident
One of the iconic merfolk lords of Modern, Master of the Pearl Trident pumps all your other merfolk and gives them islandwalk. While islandwalk may not seem that impressive, you can suddenly give all merfolk unblockable in conjunction with Spreading Seas-type effects.
Master of the Pearl Trident is a long-time staple of merfolk decks but doesn’t get much value in any other type of decks.
#7. Master of Waves
Master of Waves is one of the foundational cards that put mono-blue devotion on the map in Standard, and one of the best cards as a top-end for mono-blue decks. Especially against red decks.
While the mono-blue deck hasn’t translated well into other formats, the Master can give enough ETB triggers to take over the game in formats like EDH, especially when paired with Risen Reef. These mono-blue elementals decks splashing for green have seen some play in Pioneer and use this merfolk as both an engine and payoff to end the game.
#6. Herold of Secret Streams
One of the subthemes of Ixalan merfolk were +1/+1 counters through explore and other means. Herald of Secret Streams is the big payoff card to that subtheme, making all your creatures with +1/+1 counters on them unblockable.
Herald serves as a finisher and can win games on the spot if your opponent taps out when paired with various green strategies. While not as playable as other merfolk lords in non-EDH formats, this card is still a powerful payoff card for any +1/+1 counter strategy.
One of the Narset, Parter of Veil-style lock pieces, Hullbreacher can instantly end a game if you cast it in response to a draw spells just like Notion Thief before it. While not as punishing as the Thief in some ways, ramping your mana and still denying the card draw out of decks is a huge advantage. So much so that this merfolk had to be banned in EDH thanks to its effect on the game in conjunction with Wheel of Fortune effects.
#4. Thieving Skydiver
A seemingly innocuous merfolk, Thieving Skydiver earned praise in Vintage Cube stealing Moxen and other mana rocks before finding a niche home in Vintage for the same reason. A powerful value card that gets exponentially better the more cheap artifacts are around, this is a must-include in any blue deck in EDH. Especially in pods where mana accelerants are acceptable.
#3. Emry, Lurker of the Loch
Emry, Lurker of the Loch has seen intermittent play since it’s printing. It’s one of the best enablers for artifact-based value or combo decks, whether that’s in builds featuring Underworld Breach, Urza, Lord High Artificer, or Mishra’s Bauble.
While bannings have hampered this card’s prevalence it’s always lurking, waiting for the next card that pushes it back over the top.
#2. Talrand, Sky Summoner
One of the strongest merfolk commanders, Talrand, Sky Summoner pairs well with any spell-based deck. Generally an Izzet () card when not played as a commander, Talrand can generate a huge board state seemingly at will in decks that chain heavy spell turns. While not played in merfolk tribal decks, it’s a powerful card that’s kill-on-sight in any deck running it.
#1. Thassa’s Oracle
A powerful alternative win condition, Thassa’s Oracle has helped combo decks win in several formats. From Underworld Breach to Doomsday and Inverter of Truth, this merfolk has ended more games of Magic since its printing than almost any other card.
Best Black Merfolk
There are only three mono black merfolk, but only one of them has seen some play in several decks during its time in Standard and is well above the quality of the other two cards.
#1. Mire Triton
Mire Triton was an early staple of decks trying to leverage the power of escape cards like Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and could help ensure you reached the mid to late game by gaining life and trading off with early creatures. While almost entirely secluded to Standard play that still gives this card the edge over the other two black merfolk.
Best Green Merfolk
With the release of Ixalan merfolk branched out of blue and into green. Including some of the most played staples of their respective Standard format, there are far more powerful green merfolk than any color outside of blue.
With 18 mono-green merfolk we have a much deeper pool to look at for ranking these merfolk.
#6. Merfolk Branchwalker
The 2-drop version of Jadelight Ranger that joined the aforementioned Golgari () midrange deck at the top tables of Ixalan Standard, Merfolk Branchwalker helps to smooth out early turns and set up better draws in the mid- to late-game. The power of exploring once versus exploring twice leaves this card noticeably below the Ranger since neither card particularly cares about being a merfolk. The power level difference is the main factor here.
#5. Waker of the Wilds
A powerhouse card in Limited and EDH, Waker of the Wilds lets you turn your excess mana into hasty lands with x +1/+1 counters on them. A powerful top-deck in the late game, this merfolk can help close games for ramp decks and aggressive decks alike. Especially in decks where the curve stops with Waker of the Wilds.
#4. Jadelight Ranger
Part of the 2-part combo that shut down aggressive decks in Ixalan blockStandard, Jadelight Ranger was the premier explore card from Rivals of Ixalan and helped push Golgari midrange towards the top of the metagame. Especially when paired with Wildgrowth Walker and Vraska, Golgari Queen.
Another example of a value card that doesn’t particularly care about being a merfolk but can help merfolk decks make sure they control their draws a little better.
#3. Forerunner of the Heralds
Forerunner of the Heralds is part of a cycle where each major tribe of Ixalan got an uncommon that tutored a creature to the top of the library for that tribe. This cycle also has an ETB trigger whenever a creature of that tribe enters the battlefield.
While Forerunner’s second ability isn’t particularly powerful in most settings. But having a creature that can tutor for whatever merfolk you need is an incredibly powerful effect that most tribes only dream of having access to.
#2. Deeproot Elite
A staple of the Simic () merfolk deck of Standard, Deeproot Elite helps to grow your entire board every time a new merfolk enters the battlefield. Pairing well with merfolk token generators or blink effects, this merfolk can quickly pump the size of your board and your unblockable creatures for easy kills.
#1. World Shaper
World Shaper is a card that saw no play in Standard but is a powerful effect in EDH. It can help that portion of your plan or help you ramp several lands into play from the graveyard in decks that want to self-mill.
You can combine self-mill with sacrifice effects and reanimation effects to turbo out an excess of free lands. While not used for its status as a merfolk this card is still the most powerful and commonly played green merfolk.
Best Multicolored Merfolk
#7. Jori En, Ruin Diver
One of the best Izzet merfolk ever printed, Jori En, Ruin Diver pairs beautifully with the other spell-based merfolk like Talrand, Sky Summoner as you draw extra cards whenever you play your second spell each turn. I can’t imagine any Izzet-based spell deck in EDH wouldn’t want to run a copy of this card, and you could even play it as your commander.
#6. Prime Speaker Zegana
Another powerful multicolor merfolk commander, Prime Speaker Zegana allows you to refill your hand by playing large creatures, something most green decks love to do. The multicolored merfolk all fill in as strong green commanders, but none so far really synergize with other merfolk cards. Especially given most merfolk are naturally smaller, but you can use Zegana as a top-end card in merfolk EDH decks with the various +1/+1 lords in merfolk.
#5. Adrix and Nev, Twincasters
Adrix and Nev, Twincasters is another merfolk commander that also doubles the number of tokens you create. While this is a powerful effect it doesn’t synergize with the other merfolk tribal cards. It’s a strong stand-alone ability in any deck that creates tokens, and the ward makes it more likely to survive than other doubling effects.
Adrix and Nev is certainly strong in token decks, but it just doesn’t quite stand up to the level of some of the better merfolk commanders above it.
#4. Cold-Eyed Selkie
One of the original mono-green devotion value cards, Cold-Eyed Selkie can quickly get out of hand if left unchecked. It has an easy time connecting and fueling your hand with extra cards, and it’s a great target for enchantments and +1/+1 counters. Especially in EDH.
While somewhat fragile, this is a card that’s tremendously bolstered by enchantments and effects that can directly protect it.
#3. Thrasios, Triton Hero
Thrasios, Triton Hero is one of the strongest merfolk commanders out there. At only two mana it’s very easy to replay in the midgame and you can pair it with a larger creature to pay off the ramp that it provides through its ability with the partner ability.
The scry ability also pairs well in ramp decks to make sure you don’t flood and can find your payoffs. This merfolk is incredibly powerful but it leans into the ramp archetype more than the merfolk archetype.
#2. Kiora’s Follower
Playing best in the same style of decks as Tatyova, Benthic Druid, Kiora’s Follower is a nice ramp card that can pair with cards like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or other powerful permanents to accelerate much faster than most mana creatures can. Especially in formats like EDH where you have plenty of lands like Ancient Tomb, cards like Sol Ring, and more, untapping a permanent can be worth much more than one mana like other mana dorks produce.
#1. Tatyova, Benthic Druid
One of the strongest merfolk commanders in Magic, Tatyova, Benthic Druid generates value just for playing lands. You’re able to gain life and draw extra cards seemingly at will in decks that can ramp quickly.
While another instance of being played mostly outside of merfolk tribal, that’s a strong indicator of the card’s overall power level rather than requiring synergy to function.
Best Merfolk Payoffs
The various merfolk lords mentioned above that all give boost in power and toughness for merfolk are traditionally the best payoffs for the merfolk archetype:
- Merfolk Mistbinder
- Lord of Atlantis
- Master of the Pearl Trident
- Merrow Reejerey
- Deeproot Elite
- Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
What’s the Best Merfolk Commander?
Thrasios, Triton Hero lets you set up the top of your deck to ramp or find payoffs while being a very cheap early commander. Tatyova, Benthic Druid is a little more costly to play but can immediately help you fill your hand and pad your life total by ramping, digging you to your threats, and making sure you live long enough to cast them.
You can’t really go wrong with either of these merfolk commanders.
How Do You Get Merfolk Tokens?
There are seven cards that create Merfolk tokens:
- Aquatic Incursion
- Deeproot Waters
- Jungleborn Pioneer
- Lullmage Mentor
- Stonybrook Schoolmaster
- Summon the School
Is There a Merfolk Planeswalker?
While not listed as a merfolk since that’s a creature type and she’s only ever been printed as a planeswalker, Kiora is Magic’s merfolk planeswalker. She debuted with Born of the Gods’ Kiora, the Crashing Wave and has since had three other printings: Kiora, Master of the Depths, Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner, and Kiora, the Tide’s Fury.
Is Thassa a Merfolk?
While Thassa has similar features to merfolk, she’s a god without any additional creature types or story acknowledgements as a merfolk herself. But the triton merfolk worship her on the plane of Theros where she’s the God of the Sea, ancient knowledge, murmurs, introspection, vast distances, long voyages, gradual change, and far-ranging searches.
Is Kiora a Merfolk?
Yes, Kiora is a merfolk.
Is Empress Galina a Merfolk?
Emry, Lurker of the Loch | Illustration by Livia Prima
One of the premier blue and now green tribes in Magic, merfolk have become denizens of several planes across Magic and we’ve seen various styles of merfolk through different mechanics.
While it’s been a long time since merfolk were the menace they once were in Modern, I’m glad we’re seeing more merfolk support in places like Alchemy and EDH. Merfolk will always be one of my favorite tribes in Magic and hopefully one day they’ll return as a main feature of a set like they were in Ixalan.
Which do you think are the best merfolk in Magic’s history? What do you want to see printed to bring merfolk back into the competitive landscape? Let me know in the comments below or join the discussion in the Draftsim Discord.
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