A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to achieve what has essentially been a dream of mine since I began playing competitive Magic – preview a Merfolk card. I was able to show Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca off to the world, and I knew reading the card it would be good. But I had no idea just how good it would turn out to be.
Of course, the context to any Merfolk hype is that the boogeyman of Standard – Temur Energy – still existed. As it turns out, somewhat surprisingly, Ramunap Red was actually the boogeyman of Standard, boasting a format-wide 60% winrate. Temur, meanwhile, wasn't all that great against the rest of the field, but it was solid against everything and good against Red, leading to the stale format of the past few months.
But yesterday's bannings changed all that, and just like that Standard Merfolk had fins again. Which brings us back to Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca, and what may be my favorite sequence of new Standard. It's turn four, and I have Kumena and two small Merfolk in play, while my opponent has Adanto Vanguard suited up with Cartouche of Ambition and an Ammit Eternal. With just an extra Kumena in my hand, things are a bit grim for me. But I tapped three to draw with Kumena, finding a fifth land. I drew for my turn – Silvergill Adept. I cast Silvergill Adept, hitting another Silvergill Adept. That Adept draws Kumena's Speaker, and just like that I've taken a mediocre board state into a dominating one as I tapped five fish to grow the entire team.
Welcome to new Standard. Fear the Fish.
I based this list in part on the one 5-0 Merfolk decklist from Magic Online leagues in the last few days, and after some testing the main deck feels great. It strikes a great balance between being very aggressive – we have seven one-drops and 16 two-drops – with enough tricks and late-game power to grind out board stalls with the best of them. Silvergill Adept has always been the best card in Modern Merfolk, and now with the addition of Merfolk Branchwalker and Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca, the deck can draw card and set up draw steps effortlessly all while still beating down the opponent. Deeproot Elite isn't quite Thalia's Lieutenant, but it's a mighty fine card all on its own, and it can set up some pretty crazy starts, especially in conjunction with Jungleborn Pioneer and Merfolk Mistbinder.
The deck also has plenty of ways to tempo out opponents. Unsummon of course makes an appearance, but Crashing Tide is also a really great spell that even gets a Merfolk benefit. Spell Pierce is just as good here as it is in Modern at preventing key removal spells, and catching a Settle the Wreckage or Fumigate is absolutely a game-stealing play, all for one mana. And if you do need another way to break a board stall, Hashep Oasis targeting Kumena will get the job done, as will slamming Tempest Caller and turning the team sideways.
The deck can surely be cleaned up from here with further testing – the split between Jungleborn Pioneer, Kopala, Warden of Waves, Jadelight Ranger and maybe even Vineshaper Mystic still needs to be ironed out, but everything I've seen from the core of this deck makes me believe it will absolutely be a player in our unexplored new Standard format. Green and blue offer a wide swath of sideboard options to combat whatever rises to the top of the metagame, and the entire package is enough to make me confident in saying that Standard Merfolk is here to stay.
Thanks for reading,