These Aren’t the Merfolk You’re Looking For

Tishana, Voice of Thunder
Last week, I said I would take a look at a Tishana, Voice of Thunder deck, and while this owes in part to me not coming up with anything I was happy with in time, I also liked the idea I had last week of trying to see if anything unfair things Legacy players do would translate to Commander. I’m glad I waited, because part of what hung me up so much last week is I focused too much on building a Tribal deck to get some power from tribal synergy. It was only by abandoning that idea that I found my way to where I ended up. I’ll explain.

Merfolk aren’t great in Commander. I know that’s not an easy pill for some to swallow, but it’s how I feel. Merfolk have a lot of Lords, but the small mana costs that make them attractive in fast formats like Legacy, where you can deal 20 damage on turn four pretty easily, make them pretty underwhelming late-game draws in Commander. When you have one Silvergill Adept instead of three or four and you’re forced to jam merfolk that are just OK like Fallowsage and Cosi’s Trickster, you start to worry that you can’t compete in combat unless you manage to stick quite a few Lords. I’ve seen some pretty dirty tricks with Surgespanner and Sigil Tracer and Wizards decks have made cards like Wanderwine Prophets and Sage of Fables relevant again; but, all in all, I’m not excited to sleeve up Merfolk in Commander.

Lullmage Mentor
I abandoned the idea of building Merfolk tribal around Tishana. Merfolk can take over the board with tokens with cards like Lullmage Mentor or Stonybrook Schoolmaster, but we don’t even have access to the White spells in Tishana and I’m not sure we want to be jamming Benthicore in a deck and then claim it’s 75%. Tishana not only doesn’t grant any bonsues to our Merfolk, Tishana doesn’t even really scale well with the things Merfolk are good at doing. Sure Tishana is a Merfolk and we have some new Green Merfolk in Ixalan to join the Gaea’s Skyfolk and Thrasios, Triton Hero we had before, but I didn’t want to build a bad or boring deck. 70% of the people building Tishana decks on EDHREC are building Merfolk tribal, but that doesn’t mean I have to follow in those (basic) footsteps. This is the 75% project! We’re about breaking new ground, not retreading the same deck everyone else is making. With that, I basically abandoned making the deck tribal and set out to find a Simic goodstuff build I was happy with. It didn’t go well.

Building a Simic goodstuff deck with Tishana at the helm is a real exercise in futility. You can get 75% of the way there (see what I did there? You’ll get it later) and then you get to ask yourself the question “How is this better than the deck would be if I built around Prime Speaker Zegana?” and the answer for me was always “It’s not” and I’d have to give up and start over. I wasn’t finding a goodstuff approach that wasn’t just better served by building with a different commander. I was getting really frustrated. My deadline looming, I switched gears and gave you an article last week that I’m really happy with and look forward to doing more of. I was starting to sweat a little because I said I’d talk about Tishana this week.

Gilt-Leaf Archdruid
Douglas “DJ, and it’s OK to call me DJ Johnson because the DJ doesn’t actually stand for Douglas Johnson because my middle initial is also J” Johnson of Tcg Player and Brainstorm Brewery fame had a good idea for me. Instead of abandoning the tribal theme entirely, I should take a look at a tribe that actually complimented what Tishana was all about. Tishana gets very large and rewards you for having lots of creatures. Tishana wants to be blinked if possible or recast if not possible. This means you want a lot of mana to go with your lots of creatures. If we have Green ramp, Blue counterspells/support cards like Kindred Discovery and a tribe that rewards us for casting a lot of spells, we can take advantage of what Tishana does well better than a Merfolk build. One tribe that fits the bill? Druids.

Druids generate a ton of mana. Not all of them, but a lot of the best mana generators in an elf build are also druids which means we get a lot of the benefits of elf decks but with access to additional very good druids such as Gilt-Leaf Archdruid. We can modify a traditional Seton, Krosan Protector deck to incorporate some Blue cards and do some of the things Seton decks were doing even better than Seton was. Cards like Temur Sabertooth and Cloudstone Curio are in there to make the most of Primordial Sage and Glimpse of Nature and we’re fine adding Tishana to that existing infrastructure considering all of the value we get out of Tishana. We even have access to Deadeye Navigator now, which isn’t great with the other nonsense but is great with Tishana. I don’t even hate playing Equilibrium, a card no one else seems that jazzed about.

There isn’t a ton of space to play around since the average Seton deck is pretty packed. How do we decide what to cut? For reference, my starting point was the average Seton deck, generated using EDHREC.

This isn’t exactly a playable deck as much as it is a representation of the median deck, but it’s actually not that terrible. The cuts are going to largely be from redundancy and cards that don’t serve our strategy of using Tishana to keep our hands fully stocked and beat them in the face with a big commander. We should have some redundancy to not having a max hand size in case we can’t re-buy Tishana right away so we don’t have to dump our entire mitt and we should steal some of their stuff if we can. My Tishana Druid deck would look a little something like this.

Growing Rites of Itlimoc
I have more non-Druid creatures than I initially wanted, but I’m actually not all that concerned. I like the inclusion of an Eldrazi to not deck myself (I almost added Kozilek, but I think I am drawing enough cards) pairs nicely with the From Beyond, for example, so most of the non-Druids I included are in for a reason. The deck still has plenty of druids and being mostly creatures means we’ll get a lot of druids out either way. I didn’t include a ton of non-creature spells and I think a lot of that owes to trying to reconcile a creature-heavy list with all of the Blue creatures I wanted to add. I made room for a lot of spells, but some of what I added was Green, meaning I don’t know if I have enough Blue.

To offset not having a ton of Blue pips, I think Nykthos is an all star in the deck. I have Gaea’s Cradle, Growing Rites of Itlimoc, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx meaning druids that untap lands are more valuable than ones that tap for mana late in the game. I have both, which means I can cut cards like Cultivate (I think? I can do that, right?) in favor of mana druids which serve a lot of our different strategies.

I think the deck mostly speaks for itself — it has some Paradox Engine comboes, it has a lot of ways to use the mana it generates, and it can go big on top of going wide. Here are some things I might change depending on what you like to do.

Decimator of the Provinces
Do you want more token stuff? I might cut some of the druid cuteness and add Awakening Zone, Phyrexian Altar, and maybe Triumph of the Hordes. For a while there, Craterhoof Behemoth wasn’t available to people with budget concerns and Decimator of the Provinces is a nice inclusion. You can even run typical Overrun effects.

Do you want more Druidy action? There are plenty of creatures in the original Seton list on top of cards like Staff of Domination and Thousand-Year Elixir. We can add Seedborn Muse, Nature’s Will, and other cards to make sure we can get untap triggers all the time. This makes our mana elves and land untappers even more potent than they already are with Paradox Engine and Intruder Alarm. With tons of mana, we can play and replay Tishana, draw a ton of cards and find more creatures to play, hopefully drawing more cards until we find some way to kill them on the spot. This is a lot less resilient to interruption than my Kydele and Thrasios deck (which I hated) and instead of making it more consistent, I added more different ways to win. I think there are a lot of druids like Kamahl, Fist of Krosa and Baru, Fist of Krosa that have a spot in the deck.

Do you want more Blue? There are no obvious cuts to me, but I bet if you dialed back on the druid stuff and added some more countermagic or card draw you can play early in the game, you can do your typical Blue mage stuff that you like so much. Personally, I wanted this to feel more creature-driven, and that lends itself to being more Green than Blue.

What do we think? Did I miss something obvious? Include something terrible? Should I have built elves or rogues or some other tribe? Let me know in the comments section. Until next time!

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