Kumena's Speaker | Ixalan | Art by Johann Bodin
10, Jun, 24

Unexpected Typal Tyrant Could be the New Best Deck!

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Article at a Glance

Seeing a brand-new deck take down a major event is one of the most exciting things that can happen in the world of MTG. It’s every player’s fantasy: that the pet deck they spent hours developing and tweaking actually has the stuff to succeed in the real world. This weekend, Nikachu got to live that fantasy. Their Simic Merfolk deck, a new and unprecedented brew, took first place in an MTG Pioneer Challenge. In a meta that was quickly growing stale, this is a breath of fresh air.

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The Deck Itself

Nikachu’s Pioneer Simic Merfolk list is largely what you’d expect from a typal deck in MTG. A low mana curve, lots of on-type creatures, and some tempo tricks thrown in for good measure. The deck starts down at one with Kumena’s Speaker and Cenote Scout, both of which can easily swing as 2/2s on turn two. Or perhaps 3/3s, if you follow them up with Vodalian Hexcatcher. This is the only traditional ‘Lord’ effect in the list, and one of the deck’s most powerful cards.

With Hexcatcher out, you can use your other Merfolk as zero mana Force Spikes. In a combo-heavy format like Pioneer, This often comes in clutch, as we’ll get into later. Hexcatcher also has Flash, so you can do all of that at instant speed.

Beyond some efficient Explore Merfolk in Jadelight Spelunker and Sentinel of the Nameless City, the only other big Merfolk in the deck is Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca. This is a legendary Swiss Army knife, letting you draw cards, buff your board, or sneak through for damage. It’s one of the better typal payoff cards we’ve ever seen, and a great capstone for the deck’s curve.

In addition to the core suite of Merfolk, Nikachu also included a full set of Smuggler’s Copter. A powerful evasive threat and looter, and one that’s easy to crew in this deck due to the high volume of small Merfolk lying around. Some of which will, undoubtedly, be generated by Deeproot Pilgrimage.

This innocuous enchantment gives you a 1/1 Hexproof Merfolk whenever one of your Merfolk becomes tapped. Naturally, this will trigger when you attack, but it also plays very nicely with Kumena, too, to potentially generate a full shoal of Merfolk each turn.

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Secrets Of The Shoal

So far, Nikachu’s Pioneer Simic Merfolk deck seems pretty par for the MTG course. However, the player themselves took to Twitter after their first-place finish, to discuss some of the finer nuances of the brew and its matchups. Overall, the deck went 9-1 in the event, dropping just one match to Amalia Combo. Nikachu did admit that this was the decks’ worst matchup, and the numbers reflect that.

In fact, a lot of the deck’s tech slots are devoted to beating Amalia. Six total ‘Frog’ effects, four copies of Witness Protection and two Eaten by Pirahnas in the sideboard are, by Nikachu’s own admission, concessions to that matchup. Hexcatcher can slow them down too, but Lively Dirge and Return to the Ranks can often push through countermagic alone.

Outside of Amalia, however, the deck was favored against every other deck in the tournament. It went undefeated against Waste Not and Azorius Control, and only dropped a couple of games to Rakdos Vampires and Niv to Light. Nikachu notes that the deck is quite tricky to play, given all the decision points with Kumena and the Explore cards. That said, it brings an aggressive edge to the table that clearly cuts deep in the current Pioneer metagame.

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A New Contender?

Simic-Merfolk-Pioneer-MTG-Good-Matchups

Of course, there’s an inevitable question whenever a new deck breaks out like this at an event. Is this a flash in the pan, or a new pillar of the metagame? Magic history is dotted with forgotten one-hit wonders, after all. Right now it’s probably too early to tell, but we can look at the rest of the Pioneer metagame and make some predictions.

As we covered above, the deck has favorable matches against Rakdos Vampires, Niv to Light, and Waste Not. That’s three of the top five decks covered. Unfortunately, the other two are trickier prospects. Amalia Combo we’ve talked about. It was Nikachu’s only loss at the event, and a major meta player overall. The other is Izzet Phoenix, the current top dog in Pioneer.

While Nikachu never crossed path with this list during the event, they did mention in the comments of their Twitter thread that it was a difficult matchup. Phoenix can play exceptionally well out of the graveyard, and tends to win in explosive fashion, leaving few openings for the kind of disruption Simic Merfolk is packing.

That said, the deck clearly has a tonne of potential. Straightforward creature Aggro is very well-positioned in Pioneer right now. On top of that, the deck is very affordable to build. Lands aside, of course. Nikachu’s success could well create a new force in the Pioneer metagame, and for my money I hope that it does. More varied formats are only ever a good thing for Magic, from both a player and spectator perspective.

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