With the focus on a handful of specific Creature types in the original Ixalan block, such as Pirates and Dinosaurs, it’s not surprising that multiple of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan spoilers are typal payoffs. This goes for both cards from the Commander decks as well as cards from the main set. The emphasis on typal synergies is part of what makes the Ixalan plane so unique.
While there are still plenty of spoilers that have yet to be revealed, one of these synergistic cards has already gotten our attention. This card is none other than Deeproot Pilgrimage.
Deeproot Pilgrimage has the capability of producing a great deal of Merfolk tokens with Hexproof, so long as you have enough Merfolk to support it. The key is finding the best ways to maximize the card, as well as finding the best Merfolk to use alongside it. Deeproot Pilgrimage has multi-format potential, but the place it seems destined to shine the most in is Commander. That is, so long as you put the right pieces around it.
“One or More”
Deeproot Pilgrimage is a cheap Enchantment that provides you with a flow of Merfolk tokens whenever non-token Merfolk you control become tapped. Clearly, you want to have a deck full of Merfolk to make use of this, and typically, you would simply want to be attacking to make use of an effect like this. The issue is that the ability on the Enchantment specifically states that you get a 1/1 Merfolk Creature token with Hexproof whenever one OR MORE Merfolk you control become tapped.
As a result, even if you attack with three Merfolk Creatures at once, you will only generate one token out of the deal. The same is true when utilizing something like the Convoke mechanic to cast a big spell. This may still be good enough at face value to see play in Constructed, but in order to actually abuse the card in Commander, we need to dig deeper.
Tapping Merfolk One by One
The absolute best way to abuse Deeproot Pilgrimage is by having ways to tap Merfolk one at a time. For that reason, Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca works exceptionally well as a Commander with the powerful Enchantment. Every turn cycle, you can tap every non-token Merfolk you control individually to Kumena’s first ability and get that many Merfolk tokens out of the deal. Even if Kumena has Summoning Sickness, you can still use its first ability to tap itself to get a token.
Beyond just Kumena, there are other ways to get extra value out of Deeproot Pilgrimage. For instance, Cryptolith Rite allows you to tap your Merfolk individually for mana. By producing a bunch of tokens in the process, you also thereby generate a ton of extra mana for your next turn once the tokens aren’t Summoning Sick. Throw in ways to untap your permanents, such as Seedborn Muse, and things get out of hand pretty quickly.
Deeproot Pilgrimage in Modern
Nikachu, one of MTG’s most renowned Merfolk personalities, has also talked about the card’s potential in Modern. I am certainly skeptical; especially given the high density of two-drops the deck has access to. However, there are some solid interactions that could earn Deeproot Pilgrimage a slot in Modern Merfolk in specific metagames. Where Deeproot Pilgrimage appears to shine best in Modern is in grindier matchups. After all, it can take a bit of time to get going, but the ability to create multiple Hexproof Merfolk bodies can be strong against opposing midrange decks.
One of the neatest interactions in Modern is to activate Mutavault, then tap it for mana, netting a 1/1 Hexproof token in the process. Cards like Rishadan Dockhand go up in value immensely with Deeproot Pilgrimage in play, too. Being able to stunt your opponent’s development while simultaneously building out your board to pressure them can be quite strong.
While each individual token is small, Modern Merfolk already plays Lord of Atlantis and Master of the Pearl Trident, providing a buff and potential evasion to your squad. Not to mention, having Hexproof helps protect your tokens against the likes of Wrenn and Six and Orcish Bowmasters. These tokens work well in conjunction with Vodalian Hexcatcher too, helping to counter otherwise problematic non-Creature spells such as Living End at minimal cost.
Deeproot Pilgrimage in Standard
Speaking of Vodalian Hexcatcher, this powerful Merfolk Lord is also legal in Standard. Up until this point, there simply haven’t been enough playable Merfolk for quite some time for the archetype to succeed in a Standard environment. Vodalian Hexcatcher and Deeproot Wayfinder are decent cards, but the Merfolk archetype needs some added redundancy and power to make waves in the format.
Luckily, we have already seen some decent cheap Merfolk spoiled that could help make both the Merfolk archetype and Deeproot Pilgrimage better. Cards like Jadelight Spelunker and Cenote Scout are efficient additions to the format. Cenote Scout, in particular, is solid because, as a one-drop, you can play Deeproot Pilgrimage turn two and get to attack on the same turn, gaining a 1/1 token. The addition of Cavern of Souls to Standard and Pioneer is also a huge boon for typal decks.
There are certainly less synergies to be had in Standard, but if there are enough solid Merfolk in Standard with the release of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, simply turning Merfolk sideways might be good enough. Deeproot Pilgrimage has a lot of potential, and it’s worth monitoring future spoilers to see if newer synergies arise.