On Tuesday Sam and Seb teamed up to bring you a look at the two posterchild tribes of Ixalan. While Pirates and Dinosaurs might be new and exciting, we would be remised if we didn’t show some love for the other inhabitants of the plane. So today we will journey to Azcanta for a look at Blue/Green Merfolk, before heading across the sea to join the Church of Dusk with White/Black Vampires.
Merfolk have had a long and celebrated history in the worlds of Magic the Gathering. Whether they are causing havoc on Lorwyn, battling Eldrazi on Zendikar, or worshipping Thassa on Theros, these fishmen have given Blue players everywhere a chance to flex their combat muscles and out tempo their opponents. Although the Merfolk of Ixalan are aligned with Blue and Green mana they play out in much the same way as their interplanar cousins. With a focus on +1/+1 counter synergies, there are many ways one could incorporate these river denizens in pre-existing decks. Having played a few games of Standard on MTGO last week, I have already seen Deeproot Champion and Herald of Secret Streams making friends with Winding Constrictor. But you didn’t come here to see old decks revamped, did you? So, let’s have a look at a truly tribal deck that will allow you to swim to victory.
The game plan is simple. Fill the board with lots of Merfolk, give them lots of +1/+1 counters, then swing in uncontested for the win. The first creature we will want in the deck is the honorary Merfolk in the form of Metallic Mimic. With a Mimic out, every time a Merfolk enters the battlefield it automatically gains a +1/+1 counter, which will be very important as the game goes on. We will pair the Mimic up with three copies of Deeproot Waters, so that each time we play a buffed-up Merfolk they will bring along a 1/1 Hexproof friend which also gets the Mimic bonus.
Next, we take full advantage of these tribal synergies with full playsets of Kumena’s Speaker, River Sneak and Merfolk Branchwalker, as well as pairs of Vineshaper Mystic and Shapers of Nature for more +1/+1 counter shenanigans. Two copies of Kopala, Warden of Waves will help slow down our opponent’s target removal, while Verdurous Gearhulk buffs the team. The final piece of the puzzles comes in the form of the above-mentioned Herald of Secret Streams. Working as a Standard version of Spreading Seas, this guy will give our super swollen army of fishmen an unblockable path to victory. We round out the mainboard with full playsets of Unsummon and Savage Stomp to work as our sources of removal. For sideboard options we include Blossoming Defense and Heroic Intervention as a means of protecting our key Merfolk from removal and board wipes. Spell Pierce and Disallow for the control match up, with Perilous Voyage and Appetite for the Unnatural as a way to handle those pesky Enchantments and Artifacts.
4x Kumena’s Speaker
4x River Sneak
4x Merfolk Branchwalker
4x Metallic Mimic
2x Vineshaper Mystic
2x Kopala, Warden of Waves
2x Shapers of Nature
3x Herald of Secret Streams
2x Verdurous Gearhulk
And there you have it. A super fun, super synergistic Merfolk list for you to terrorise Standard with. This however is not the only way to utilise these new Merfolk. As a stated above some players have already found homes for these river denizens in Winding Constrictor lists, with a few people even trying out Deeproot Champion in Temur Prowess brews. I could spend a whole article covering these fishmen, and sometime in the future I will have to revisit them. But for now, let’s leave the rivers of Ixalan and go on a Blood Fast.
Drain and Gain
One of the most popular tribes in all of magic, Vampires have permeated all formats of play. With Edgar Markov unleashed on Commander tables, and creatures like Bloodghast battling it out in Modern, Vampires always find a way to stay relevant. The vampires of Ixalan are unique in the fact that a good portion of them are aligned with White mana. Not splashing White like Sorin, Lord of Innistrad or Drana’s Emissary, but full blown White vampire creatures such as Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle.
As with Merfolk, there are a bunch of ways you can include these bloodsuckers in your games of Standard. I went backward and forwards trying to work out the best way to build this tribe. But after some testing I decided to go for a token brew, one that doesn’t even have to hit our opponent to be lethal. Confused? Don’t be, all shall be revealed.
The strategy of this deck involves building up and army of 1/1 lifelinking tokens, then draining our opponent of their precious life total. Our token generation comes from three copies of Legion’s Landing//Adanto, The First Fort, as well as full playsets of Queen’s Commission and Call to the Feast. We will also include two copies of Anointed Procession to quickly amass even more tokens, as well as a playset of Anointer Priest. With decks like Ramunap Red showing no signs of letting up any time soon, the ability at gain incidental amounts of life as we play out our legion of the undead will help keep us in the game. A playset of Vicious Conquistador will help provide early game pressure, while our old friend Metallic Mimic will buff up our bloodsuckers.
Our win conditions come in the form of a playset of Sanctum Seeker and three copies of Bishop of the Bloodstained. Once we have a sizeable portion of Vampire Tokens we can play out a Bishop or two to drain our opponent’s life total, or go for an all-out attack with a Seeker on the field for a similar effect (see, I told you we didn’t have to hit our opponent to win). We finish our deck with a full playset of Fatal Push to remove early game threats, and a single copy of Vona, Butcher of Magan to handle anything else.
For our sideboard we will include a playset of Gifted Aetherborn to fight of early aggression. Vraska’s Contempt helps handle larger creatures and Planewalkers, while Duress works wonders against control. Settle the Wreckage is and effective one-sided wrath, and Ashes of the Abhorrent battles against graveyard tactics. Finally, Fragmentize handles any Enchantments and Artifacts we might face.
Well that is about going to do it for today’s article. As you can see, there is far more to Ixalan than just giant reptiles and seafaring bandits. While it is early days for this new Standard format, Ixalan has brought more than a few new toys to the party for budding brew such as myself. Over the next few weeks we will be working on some new lists for Standard and beyond, so check back soon to see the fruits of our labours. If you have enjoyed todays article and want to read more then please subscribe, as well as like and share on social media. It really does us help grow the site. But until next time remember, Good Luck and Have Fun.