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Commander & Change — Sygg, Roil Shaper

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In this series, we’re going to continue to explore multiple ways to look at something. So far, we’ve leveraged Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper to make a bunch of protected, animated lands, and we’ve built a “Handgun from IKEA,” as commenter Chris called it: an absurd combo designed to just win the game. A few people have suggested the next version should be a tribal deck.

Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper
Noyan Dar gives us a couple of choices. Allies are great, but there are problems. First, though less important, is we’ve fairly recently built an Ally-themed deck with Karona, False God. Second, and far more important, is Allies are really only viable in five-colored decks or maybe with three colors, but blue is weak for Allies, and a W/U Ally deck would have a hard time fighting at any table. Sure, we could build a strong W/U deck, but Allies would just be a sad attempt at a weird win con and would weaken the rest of the strategy.

The other option is Merfolk. Merfolk are great. Legacy and Modern both prove a school of fish, and especially when cheated into play by Aether Vial and boosted by a bunch of lords, they can be quite effective. But we run into a few more problems. Aether Vial is expensive, and we couldn’t run more than one anyway, and aggressive 2-drops are a lot less useful in multiplayer anyway. Also, since we can’t run multiple lords (some of those are too expensive, too), the boost we gain is rarely that great—a couple of 3/3s pumped by another 3/3 don’t win a game of Commander without a lot of help. Finally, Noyan Dar is a Merfolk, but that’s all—he doesn’t help our fish people at all. But we can use him as part of the ninety-nine, perhaps with a more useful piece of sushi at the helm.

Sygg, River Guide

Sygg is cheap and aggressive and can both protect and push through all our guys. Noyan Dar can lurk somewhere in the pile, and when he comes out, he can help us a bit by rebuilding a board or just being a larger creature.

Homeward Path
We’re going to want to hit our land drops, but we’ll be drawing a lot of cards, and the curve isn’t too high, so we have forty lands, and that’s it. We want to be deploying threats starting pretty early in the game; we’ll be able to refill fairly quickly following a Wrath of God effect; and applying pressure to our opponents will keep the table off balance and force hasty action while we push toward some sort of win condition. A bunch of dual lands will help us fix—we have a lot more u than w—and because we’re only in two colors, we can afford some utility in our mana base. Rogue's Passage will push yet another fishy through, which can be really important, and we have a couple of ways to destroy opposing troublesome lands. The criminally underplayed Homeward Path is only omitted from most of this series’ offerings because of cost, but it makes an appearance here. It sure makes the Chainer, Dementia Master player sad, and it holds off any attempt at Insurrection. We also have a Darksteel Citadel, just in case we happen to hit Noyan Dar and want a nice little indestructible threat.

One thing Merfolk are good at is drawing cards. From something as simple as Scroll Thief to the old-school Curiosity, we have plenty of ways to draw based on getting our dudes through. We even have some extra random stuff—take a look at Hobble. We lock down an opposing creature while it replaces itself. Righteous Authority is a straight-up bomb, and Ophidian Eye works great in combination with Sygg’s ability as long as we’re not giving protection from blue. Military Intelligence commands us to push with our guys and move the game along. Unquestioned Authority and Aqueous Form are both worth their weight in gold, though it’s worth it to hold at least one for a specific creature. Deepchannel Mentor makes a nice hole in any net opponents may cast to thwart us.

One of the issues with tribal in multiplayer is it can be difficult to gain a critical mass of sufficiently threatening creatures. Goblin decks cheat by making a ton of tokens, so a card isn’t necessary for every creature. Zombie decks do the same, and something like Beast decks can make a bunch of huge things. However, we can use our little guys to run interference as we work toward one of our two major threats: Wake Thrasher and Wanderwine Prophets.

Wake Thrasher
Wanderwine Prophets

Wake Thrasher can grow really big; remember to tap down all our lands before we start our turn so we trigger all those untaps. We can also go infinite with it with several different permanents—check out Basalt Monolith. Tap it for 3, and use that 3 to untap it. Repeat for a really massive Wake Thrasher, and then give it protection from all colors with Sygg and kill someone. Aphetto Alchemist, Ith, High Arcanist, and Tidewater Minion all work the same way: They can all tap to untap themselves. Meanwhile, Wanderwine Prophets just needs a way to get in there and enough dudes to sacrifice, and we are able to take the rest of the turns. Sygg is cheap enough we can even use our commander a few times—untap on the next turn, recast Sygg, and sac him for the Prophets again—plus, we can keep drawing cards, giving us more creatures. Summon the School can also work for us, especially if we have enough mana to cast it twice per turn. We can also go Voltron with Sygg: Throw a couple of enchantments on him (or a Quietus Spike) and give him some protection, and he could just get there, especially with something like Righteous Authority. We have Sun Titan in here—turns out he’s pretty good with a bunch of permanents that cost 3 or less—and he can occasionally just steal a game. He certainly needs to be dealt with.

Capsize
A nice thing about having an editor who plays the game and likes this process is he adds a second mind to the deck-building process. It’s similar to a testing partner when trying out a deck for a tournament: Fresh ideas and a different perspective help you work outside your own box. In this case, my editor offered a bunch of suggestions for answer cards, and he often comes up with ideas I wouldn’t have. Two Wrath effects—Supreme Verdict and Day of Judgment—are both cheap ways to keep the board clear. Curse of the Swine can make a much fairer board state for our swimming friends. Rebuke seems pretty solid—hold it till we’re being attacked, and no one will see it coming. Spear of Heliod is a nice rattlesnake—or maybe water moccasin. Swords to Plowshares is a classic that is cheap enough to get in here. Altar's Light and Kor Sanctifiers both handle problematic enchantments and artifacts, while Capsize lets us manage anything else over and over. Nothing feels better than resetting a Kiora, the Crashing Wave about to go ultimate with a bought-back Capsize.

We run enough Auras here that Crystal Chimes seemed worth the spot. Druidic Satchel and Crystal Ball both help with extra cards, as does Bident of Thassa. Nim Deathmantle lets us use a bit of graveyard with our scaled friends, and Mimic Vat is solid value. Empress Galina threatens other commanders, which can force some difficult plays from opponents. We’re not running any counters, but Lullmage Mentor might wind up getting there, which can be really annoying for opponents. Spreading Seas and Aquitect's Will are land-fighters three and four—they won’t stop an awakened land, but they will kill someone else’s Temple of the False God or whatever. They also turn on all our Islandwalkers. We don’t have a bunch, but there are enough it can help. Rest in Peace absolutely hoses any sort of graveyard deck—they’re often black and will struggle to deal with the enchantment—and really doesn’t hurt us much. Seahunter and Merrow Harbinger are both ways to search for one of our two win conditions—choose based on what else is in hand, because Stonybrook Schoolmaster means Wanderwine Prophets and Aphetto Alchemist means Wake Thrasher, or they can look for something else necessary to stay alive or solve a problem.

Wanderwine Hub
The saddest card cut from this list was Wanderwine Hub. At $12, it’s just too much for a dual land with this budget, but it’s so thematic and really wants to be here. Coralhelm Commander, Lord of Atlantis, and Master of the Pearl Trident are all pricey, but they’d probably be good, if for no other reason than to bait a kill spell so it isn’t pointed at Wanderwine Prophets. Reality Shift isn’t pricey, but it might be good if the metagame needs more exiling removal. Bruna, Light of Alabaster is off-theme, but she would certainly work well with all the Auras in the deck.

Pressure is key to piloting a deck like this. Start landing threats and drawing cards. Keep a full grip, and scare opponents into believing you have a bunch of answers while simultaneously keeping opponents on their back feet with attacks. A deck like this can take advantage of players who assume they’ll have a bunch of turns to set up before affecting the board state. Meanwhile, we’re looking for one of our ways to win.

Anyone out there have a successful Merfolk Commander deck? How does it differ? Is Noyan Dar a reasonable inclusion in a deck like this?

Play the Merfolk, swing for the reefs, and keep that hand loaded with cards. Put enough pressure, and—I’m sorry about this before I even type it—you’ll have your opponents swimmin’ with the fishes.

Total cost: $74.97


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