Merfolk are one of several factions represented in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. Ever since the very first set of Magic, Merfolk have had a lot of support and Caverns only continues that. The blue and green deck Explorers of the Deep is a Merfolk typal deck with explore and +1/+1 counters sub-themes. Let’s take a look at the commanders and some of the new cards.
A Very Solid Looking Commander
Wow, this card is straight up good! Hackbal of the Surging Soul does something right away and generates both value and synergy. While there is no shortage of +1/+1 decks for Commander, this one is easily very thematic and does allow you to make some different choices. For example, the deck includes both Merfolk Skydiver and Evolution Sage because proliferate is obviously great with +1/+1 counters. However, Sage is an Elf, not a Merfolk unlike Skydiver, so there are decisions to be had. Will you build it into a proliferate deck or continue to play mostly Merfolk? Hakbal, though, really wants you play as many Merfolk as possible so that’s the route most will likely take.
The other alternative commander Xolatoyac, the Smiling Flood is certainly different. Slapping a Wilderness Reclamation on a 6/6 body that takes a considerable amount of time to work does not seem very strong, especially for this deck. Sure, you have Master of the Pearl Trident to give all your creatures Islandwalk but you also have Herald of Secret Streams among other, easier, ways to be unblockable. Furthermore there are plenty of other legendary commanders you could use in the deck itself but Hackbal seems untouchable for how the deck is structured.
Commander Staples and new Staple Like Cards
The last couple of years have shown that Wizards has improved the formula for pre-cons. If you look at the deck list for Explorers of the Deep there are eight super staple cards in the EDHRec top 100. On top of that, the land base has been continually improving for pre-cons with better dual lands like Hinterland Harbor. Furthermore, you get a nice reprint in Kindred Discovery which doubles everything you are doing Merfolk wise while also getting double counters from another excellent and valuable re-print Branching Evolution! Doubling is a powerful strategy no matter how you do it.
On top of that, newer pre-cons always feature board wipes, board wipe protection and at least one wipe that is one sided. Wave Goodbye is the one sided wipe in this deck and it’s clearly very good. Damning Verdict is seeing a fair amount of play, costs five mana, and is a little easier to dodge so Goodbye is just way better.
More is Better
Once you have a couple of Merfolk in play alongside Hakbal, Nicanzil is your next best draw. Not only is it going to be a huge creature almost instantly, it will also ramp you considerably. All this for only two mana is too good in this deck and is an invaluable piece of the deck’s engine.
Even More is even Better
Of course with Hakbal and Nicanzil in play you’ll really want to have Topography Tracker. Having double explore and free land drops together is criminally powerful and this deck is built with these combinations in mind. You also have Merfolk Cave-Diver that can deliver one huge, unblockable, knock out punch once you explore enough. The Merfolk will quite literally stream out of your deck once you assemble this value engine. But do you need to fear board wipes if you over commit? Nope!
Wipe Protection with a Massive, Unintentional Upside
The next piece of the puzzle is Ripples of Potential which is an incredibly powerful protection spell that offers you wipe protection, single target removal disruption and also an end of turn pump up effect all in one card for only two mana. This card combos with a gazillion things! Forget merely saving your creatures, this will become a new staple in Super Friends decks. Protecting all your walkers for just two mana while also getting an extra loyalty counter is crazy powerful. This is nowhere near the end of how useful this card is, though, and we’re going to see it in a lot of decks in the future.
Power on top of Power
Ever felt the need to do even more damage, and fly? Mist Dancer has you covered. But the real ability is the fact this card has Encore. Giving all your other Merfolk +3/+0 and flying for a final attack is definitely going to be enough to win a lot of games. As is, the card is a little expensive on the mana side, but as a finisher from beyond the grave it’s just right.
It is a Blue Deck After all…
We all know blue likes to sit there with mana open, threatening counter magic or a response. With Singer of Swift Rivers you can play the deck exactly like that. A save spell that also gives all your Merfolk flash for only three mana, this is a very decent include. Additionally, it leans into the proliferate angle of the deck because you can get a pile of shield counters on what you want to protect the most.
…but also Green!
As far as large green monsters goes, this deck does not really do that. However, Tributary Instructor is one of your larger bodies that will help grow someone else. It also greatly improves your odds of rebuilding if your board does happen to get reset and is worth a slot in the deck as is.
Some Interesting Recursion
Alongside another new card, Byegone Marvels, Deeproot Historian gives you easy recursion for any Merfolk or Druid. It’s an interesting card to include and the cost is a bit high, but it will allow you to get back all of your best creatures by discarding a land. Useful, but maybe not necessary.
The same can be said for Byegone Marvels. It’s a very interesting card for a different deck, but here, it seems like spending two mana to get back up to three Merfolk is not where this card will be best utilized. However, as a triple strength [toolrips]Regrowth[/tooltips] effect, it will surely see play in other decks to make combos happen.
Doing a quick search, you find three different Merfolk that explore with Jadelight Ranger being the strongest of them. Why is it missing from Explorers of the Deep? The mana base for the deck is reasonable, so a double green costed three drop should not be too hard to cast. I can understand both Tishana’s Wayfinder and [/tooltips]Merfolk Branchwalker[/tooltips] simply doing too little, but a double explore trigger seems too worthwhile to not include. This is a bit perplexing of a non-include to be honest.
Many others will likely comment on Wildgrowth Walker being absent from the deck. Sure, it will get big really quickly in this deck and does have nice synergy as an alternate win condition but, at the end of the day, it’s not a Merfolk, and it won’t be unblockable. The deck does include Zegana, Utopian Speaker, so you could have a supersized Walker with trample fairly easily.
I think Abundance will be a very powerful card for the deck because it will enable you to improve your explore odds throughout the course of a game. Sure, explore is not a draw trigger, but many of the cards in the deck are, and there is obvious big synergy to be had here.
On a relatively obvious note, there are plenty of Merfolk lords that could have been included. The thing is not as many work with the +1/+1 or explore theme so being left out does make some sense. Many players will simply modify their deck though.
A Very Decent Looking Deck
Found above are 89 of the 90 reprints for the MTG Explorers of the Deep deck. Merfolk Cave-diver, a new Explorers of Ixalan card from the main set, rounds out the missing card. All four of the Commander preconstructed decks this time around have some fantastic reprints.
On the surface it looks like Explorers has a decent mana curve, a good commander, and a very synergistic game plan. The deck includes the common Commander staples you would expect it to have to function on its own and to interact with other decks. There is plenty of value in reprints from Branching Evolution, Kindred Discovery and even Metallic Mimic. At around $40 as a pre-order, this is an easy purchase if you’re looking for a deck with Merfolk or proliferate synergy.