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Much Abrew: No Fury = Merfolk Good Now? (Modern)

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of Much Abrew About Nothing! As you probably know, we had some huge bannings in Modern last week, including Fury meeting its end in the format. Part of Fury's problem was the dominance of Rakdos Scam, but the other problem with Fury is that it pushed decks built around smaller creatures from the format. How do we know if Modern is fixed now that Fury is banned? Try to win some games with Merfolk, of course! If Merfolk can actually keep up in Modern, then creature decks are probably in a decent place. Plus, Merfolk got a couple of big new additions lately in Tishana's Tidebinder and Deeproot Pilgrimage—a card I trashed during spoiler season that Merfolk players seem to love—which I really want to try out! Is Modern fixed? Are Merfolk competitive? Let's find out on today's Much Abrew About Nothing!

Much Abrew: Merfolk

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  • Record-wise, we finished 4-3 with Merfolk through a league and a part of another league, which is a solid, if unspectacular, performance. The deck felt playable for sure—not having to deal with Fury is a huge deal—although some removal-heavy decks out there can still be an issue. It turns out that if our opponent can kill our Merfolk every turn, our deck doesn't do much of anything since it's so reliant on stacking up lords on the battlefield.
  • Speaking of lords, they are the reason to play Merfolk in Modern. Out of all the tribes in Magic, Merfolk has by far the best lords, to the point where the OG Lord of Atlantis is actually getting cut now thanks to the plethora of options (and because you can accidentally kill yourself with it, as I found out...). In a perfect world, Merfolk stacks up multiple lords, including at least one that gives islandwalk, gives the opponent an Island with Tide Shaper, and wins in a couple of big attacks. 
  • Outside of our lords, our best and most important Merfolk is Svyelun of Sea and Sky, which is an absurdly powerful card, giving us a massive, usually indestructible threat that also generates card advantage and protects our other Merfolk. 
  • One of the deck's most interesting aspects is that it has a weird mana-denial sub-theme thanks to Rishadan Dockhand and Tide Shaper. While we won't fully Blood Moon lock an opponent out of the game, the combination of turning some lands into Islands and using Rishadan Dockhand to tap down others can really slow down some opponents and buy us an extra turn or two to finish out the game.
  • The deck has two huge new Lost Caverns of Ixalan additions. First is Tishana's Tidebinder, which was even better than expected. Being able to Stifle a trigger is nice, giving us a way to answer The One Ring or annoy our opponent by fizzling a fetch land. But the card's real power is the ability to shut down the card it Stifles for as long as it sticks on the battlefield, making it a semi-permanent answer to planeswalkers, The One Ring, and more.
  • The second big addition is Deeproot Pilgrimage—a card I trashed during spoiler season but Merfolk players seem to love. After playing a bunch of games with the enchantment, I'm still not sure who is right. We got to see some games where Deeproot Pilgrimage won more or less by itself by snowballing into a massive board as we attacked with Merfolk or used Rishadan Dockhand to tap down our opponent's lands. We also had games where Deeproot Pilgrimage felt like the worst card in our deck by a mile, either because we couldn't find time to get it on the battlefield or because we took a turn off to play it only for our opponent to kill our other Merfolk to keep it from triggering. Overall, Deeproot Pilgrimage felt like a high-ceiling, low-floor card. Basically, it wasn't consistent at all, and doubly so considering the card we cut for it is Silvergill Adept, a consistent low-ceiling, high-floor option. While this might just be my bias against the enchantment, my current feeling is that it might be better suited as a sideboard option that comes in against removal-heavy decks where the hexproof Merfolk it makes shine, because it felt clunky and slow in other matchups. 
  • So, should you play Merfolk in Modern? Maybe. They are certainly better than they were a month ago thanks to the Fury banning and the addition of Tishana's Tidebinder, but the deck felt fairly inconsistent. My guess is that it's a legit second-tier option now, but I'd be surprised to see it rise to the top of the meta and end up tier one. Still, if you are a fan of the fish, it's a great time to take them out for a spin—they can win a lot of games. (Just bring back Silvergill Adept!) 


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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