Tuvasa the Sunlit | Illustration by Eric Deschamps
Merfolk are present on many of the different planes in Magic. While they don’t always look the same and have slightly differing abilities, there are usually certain aspects you can expect from a merfolk card. A lot of merfolk share common traits and abilities, so they’re an easy creature type to build a tribal deck around.
When it comes to Commander you have a good number of legendary merfolk creatures to choose from. Some are great commanders for a merfolk tribal deck, while others have unique abilities that lead to different types of builds. Some merfolk commanders are very powerful, but even the lesser used ones can be fun to build around.
Let’s look at all the legendary merfolk in Magic and see which ones are the best commanders, and the types of decks you can build around them. Remember, just because a card is lower down on the list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build it; it just means it’s a less popular or potentially less powerful option than the ones at the top.
Grab your gills, let’s dive right in!
What Are Merfolk Commanders in MTG?
Talrand, Sky Summoner | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov
A merfolk commander is a legendary creature card with the “merfolk” subtype. While some merfolk tribal decks use non-merfolk commanders like Chulane, Teller of Tales, this list specifically focuses on commanders that are themselves merfolk.
Honorable Mention: Fluros of Myra’s Marvel
If you’re looking to build a creative and unique Commander deck, Fluros of Myra's Marvel is a very fun choice. Instead of building around a specific card type or strategy your deck is built around a specific number. This forces you to look at all your cards in a very different way and likely creates a very different type of deck.
There are also a lot of possibilities for variation based on the number you choose. Unfortunately, Fluros isn’t technically legal since it has the acorn stamp from Unfinity, though some playgroups are probably fine with you using it.
#27. Kopala, Warden of Waves
Kopala, Warden of Waves makes for a pretty good merfolk tribal commander. Many merfolk already have evasion, meaning your opponents are more reliant on removal to take care of your creatures. By making it more difficult for your opponents to target your creatures, you increase the natural advantage merfolk have.
The main downside to Kopala is that it’s a mono-blue card, you can’t include any of the great Simic () merfolk.
#26. Ambassador Laquatus
Ambassador Laquatus is a merfolk commander that focuses on milling your opponents. Mono-blue has a good amount of mill support with cards like Drowned Secrets and Bruvac the Grandiloquent.
Laquatus’s activated ability can easily be abused if you include a combo that creates infinite mana. This allows you to mill all your opponents and likely win.
#25. Zegana, Utopian Speaker
While Zegana, Utopian Speaker can be used as a merfolk tribal commander, I think it works better when you focus on giving creatures +1/+1 counters. Simic is a good color pair for ramping into big creatures and for giving your creatures counters.
Zegana can help you do more damage by giving creatures trample, and you can also include Simic Ascendancy as an alternate win con.
#24. Zareth San, the Trickster
Zareth San, the Trickster is often built to be a rogue tribal commander. Unfortunately, its ninjutsu-like ability doesn’t work from the command zone, which takes away a good chunk of its appeal to me.
That said, Zareth San’s combat damage trigger can be very powerful, so it’s an appealing commander if you build in ways to give it evasion.
#23. Empress Galina
Empress Galina can be a frustrating commander to play against because it’ll easily steal your opponents’ commanders. You can build around the theme of stealing your opponents’ creatures with cards like Blue Sun's Twilight or Corrupted Conscience.
You’ll probably want to have a Rule 0 discussion about running this commander because some players aren’t a big fan of their opponent playing with their cards.
#22. Thada Adel, Acquisitor
Thada Adel, Acquisitor has a similar theft theme as Empress Galina. I think the extra steps you have to go through and limited types of cards you can steal makes it a slightly less contentious choice if you want to build a deck in that direction.
You’ll want to include cards like Aquitect's Will and Quicksilver Fountain to make Thada Adel’s Islandwalk ability work against your opponents who aren’t playing blue.
#21. Prime Speaker Zegana + Tishana, Voice of Thunder
Prime Speaker Zegana is a pretty expensive commander, but you’ll get a lot of value out of its ETB effects if you have powerful creatures on the field. You can also get additional activations with the help of clone spells or cards like Deadeye Navigator, which more than makes up for the initial high price of casting Zegana.
Tishana, Voice of Thunder has a lot of similar benefits to Prime Speaker Zegana. I think Tishana is the slightly better option in some instances since it’ll likely be stronger. Having no maximum hand size is also a huge benefit when you’re drawing a lot of cards. But if you’re going for a +1/+1 counter theme, Zegana may be better.
#20. Sygg, River Guide
Sygg, River Guide can be a good merfolk tribal commander. You lose out on some good options by not having access to green, but there are some great white and Azorius merfolk you’ll have access to. Sygg’s activated ability can both keep your creatures alive.
You can also activate the ability multiple times and grant a creature protection from multiple colors, as long as you don’t start with white or blue, which can make your creatures difficult for opponents to block.
#19. Emperor Mihail II
Emperor Mihail II has a few great abilities that make it a great choice for a merfolk tribal deck. Being able to cast merfolk off the top of your library gives you extra resources to use each turn and works with any merfolk tribal spells like Merrow Commerce.
A single extra mana on each spell to add a token creature is also a good deal and works well with merfolk anthems like Master of the Pearl Trident.
#18. Jori En, Ruin Diver
Jori En, Ruin Diver is a pretty good spellslinger commander. You’ll likely be looking to cast multiple cheap spells each turn, and it’s important to keep your hand full of options when you’re frequently playing things from it.
This card is also cheap to play so you can start benefiting from it early. While Jori En will be far from the best card in your deck, it’s a good way to draw them more reliably.
#17. Alandra, Sky Dreamer
Alandra, Sky Dreamer’s abilities work really well together and give you a clear roadmap of how to build a deck, which is always a great quality in a commander.
You’ll want to include lots of ways to draw extra cards, and wheels are particularly good in this deck. You’ll probably also want some ways to remove hand size restrictions so that you aren’t having to discard as often.
#16. Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders
If you’re looking for a good equipment commander outside of the typical Boros () or Mardu () color schemes, Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders is a great choice. Dalakos makes it easier for you to cast and equip your artifacts, but you’ll also get a good buff to all your equipped creatures.
Blue also gives you access to some great artifact support like Emry, Lurker of the Loch.
#15. Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator
My first impression of Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator was pretty negative, but over time I learned to appreciate just how good this commander really is. Dimir () is a great color combination for a reanimator deck because there are lots of ways to fill your own graveyard.
If you run spells in your 99 that can reanimate creatures, you can cheat out big creatures. Having Vohar at your disposal means that even if you mill those spells, you can cast them from the graveyard at a relatively inexpensive price. This gives you access to lots of extra resources, but your deck is susceptible to graveyard hate.
#14. Tatyova, Steward of Tides
Simic decks have lots of ways to turn lands into creatures, and Tatyova, Steward of Tides is a great way to make land creatures even more dangerous. You’ll want to include cards like Heroic Intervention and Nissa, Who Shakes the World that can keep your land creatures safe because a board wipe can be extra devastating when your lands are also creatures.
Cards like Titania, Protector of Argoth are also good options because at least some of your land creatures are likely to end up in the graveyard at some point.
#13. Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper
Tatyova is good, but I think Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper is an even better land creature commander. If you run lots of cheap spells, you can easily build up a big army of land creatures or consistently buff one with Noyan Dar’s ability. White also has access to cards like Terra Eternal and Planar Outburst that work really well with land creature decks.
#12. Sygg, River Cutthroat
Sygg, River Cutthroat is a very cheap commander, making it easy to keep on the board. It’s a great tool for a rogue tribal deck because rogues have plenty of ways to avoid being blocked. You’ll likely be drawing extra cards thanks to Sygg as a result. While not the splashiest commander, Sygg can help provide you a more consistent game since you’ll have access to extra cards.
#11. Vorel of the Hull Clade
Vorel of the Hull Clade works really well as a +1/+1 counter commander. You’ll be able to you’re your creatures more quickly, and you can easily outpace your opponents if you stack its effect with other counter doublers like Doubling Season.
This is another great deck to try and make Simic Ascendancy work because you can quickly distribute 20 counters. You’ll also want cards like The Ozolith to stop your counters from going to waste if your creatures die.
#10. Svyelun of Sea and Sky
In my opinion, if you want to build a mono-blue merfolk tribal deck, Svyelun of Sea and Sky is your best option for a commander. Svyelun can both keep itself safe and to a lesser extent protect your other merfolk. It’s also a good source of card draw since it’ll likely be indestructible most of the time.
#9. Kenessos, Priest of Thassa
Kenessos, Priest of Thassa makes it very easy for you to cheat out big powerful creatures. You’ll want ways to scry and cards like Realmwalker that allow you to look at the top card of your library.
Even if you don’t have a creature to cheat out on top of your deck, you can use extra mana to activate Kenessos’s ability and help ensure you’re not getting a dead draw. You’ll also want a lot of big creatures that work with Kenessos’s ability like Breaching Leviathan.
#8. Emry, Lurker of the Loch
There are plenty of good mono-blue artifact commanders to choose from, but I’ve always enjoyed how easily Emry, Lurker of the Loch makes it to get your destroyed or milled artifacts back. This means you can self-mill as a cheaper form of card draw, or you can sacrifice artifacts to cards like Kuldotha Forgemaster and still get them back.
#7. Tatyova, Benthic Druid
Tatyova, Benthic Druid is one of the better landfall commanders in Simic colors. Being able to replace every land you play with a new card is a very powerful effect, and there are lots of good cards to pair it with. Azusa, Lost but Seeking lets you draw up to three cards a turn, and Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait can double up your draw effect while also letting you play more lands.
Any ramp spell like Skyshroud Claim or Cultivate also allows you to draw a card. This adds lots of value to all your spells and gives you a lot of cards to play with.
#6. Thrasios, Triton Hero
Thrasios, Triton Hero is one of the best partner commanders available. It’s super cheap to play, so you can get it on the field very quickly and start using its ability early. That ability uses generic mana, so you can use mana rocks like Sol Ring or Mana Crypt to activate it, making it easier to draw extra cards or ramp. This also means that infinite mana combos can be used to draw through your entire deck.
Since Thrasios has partner, you have a lot of different options for how to build around it.
#5. Talrand, Sky Summoner
Talrand, Sky Summoner is a great commander for any deck looking to cast lots of spells. Cheap spells and cantrips work really well with Talrand as a cheap way to make more creatures. Talrand is also a good commander for a counterspell theme because you won’t have to choose between casting a counter or a creature.
This deck can drop lots of token creatures very quickly and it might be hard for your opponents to get enough blockers that also have flying. This deck a good choice for cards like Reconnaissance Mission.
#4. Araumi of the Dead Tide
Araumi of the Dead Tide allows you to reanimate creatures from your graveyard and get multiple copies. Since they won’t stick around, you’ll want to build around creatures with good ETB effects like Massacre Wurm or Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
You can also use self-mill to fill your graveyard with cards, giving yourself lots of options to choose from.
#3. Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
My top choice for a merfolk tribal commander on this list is Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca. Because it’s in Simic, you have access to most of the best merfolk cards. To get the most out of Kumena’s abilities, you’ll want to include some cards that make merfolk tokens like Deeproot Waters and Emperor Mihail II.
#2. Tuvasa the Sunlit
Tuvasa the Sunlit can be a very powerful enchantment-matters commander. If you focus on using auras, you can buff Tuvasa up a lot and easily take out opponents using commander damage.
While Tuvasa isn’t the best merfolk tribal commander, this is the only merfolk commander in Bant (), which gives you a chance to include great white and Azorius () merfolk like Sygg, River Guide or Vodalian Wave-Knight.
#1. Adrix and Nev, Twincasters
Token doublers are always a huge benefit to a token deck, and since Adrix and Nev, Twincasters is a token doubler that can be your commander, it’s a natural choice for this deck archetype. Clone spells that make token clones like Volo, Guide to Monsters are another good inclusion for this deck.
As a bonus, Adrix and Nev is a little harder to remove thanks to ward, meaning you’ll usually get more use out of this commander before your opponents can kill it.
Best Merfolk Commander Payoffs
Merfolk anthems are a good inclusion for any merfolk deck. Cards like Lord of Atlantis and Master of the Pearl Trident also give all your merfolk Islandwalk, which can help you take out opponents who play blue. These cards make Quicksilver Fountain another good payoff for merfolk decks, since together you can attack all your opponents unblocked. Making your opponents’ lands Islands is generally a good move because lots of merfolk naturally have Islandwalk.
Evasion is something that merfolk do really well, so combat damage triggers are another great payoff for merfolk decks. Cards like Reconnaissance Mission are a good option, and a lot of the Mirran swords like Sword of Feast and Famine work well.
Evasive creatures also pair nicely with buffs from cards like Craterhoof Behemoth, or cards that grant infect like Triumph of the Hordes.
Are Merfolk Tribal Decks Good?
Merfolk tribal decks can be very good in Commander. There are enough merfolk to fill a deck with just that creature type, which is always important for fielding a strong tribal deck. A lot of merfolk decks are in Simic, which is also a particularly powerful Commander color pair. Merfolk also synergize well together, with a combination of buffing one another and being naturally evasive.
Merfolk tribal isn’t as good as it used to be in other formats, but there’s always room for that to change. With The Lost Caverns of Ixalan coming up the tribe could work well in a future Standard rotation, or could get the boost it needs to become competitive in eternal formats again.
Are Merfolk Good in Commander?
Even if you aren’t running merfolk tribal, there are plenty of great merfolk creatures that are good for your Commander decks. Adrix and Nev, Twincasters and Thrasios, Triton Hero are great examples of powerful merfolk that work without being part of a tribal deck.
Lord of Atlantis (Secret Lair) | Illustration by Gabor Szikszai
There are plenty of interesting and powerful merfolk commanders to build a deck around in Magic. Whether you’re looking to build merfolk tribal or just build around a powerful commander, merfolk commanders have options for you. I’d love to know your thoughts on which of these are your favorite or hear about decks you may have built around them!
Which non-merfolk commander would you use for a merfolk tribal deck? Which of these commanders are you most interested in trying out? Let me know in the comments, or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you in the next one!
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