Deck Building is one of the quickest ways to tighten up your EDH game. There are a lot of facets to deckbuilding that as you master them you can brew stronger decks. As you brew stronger decks you will be in competition to win more. In the past, we have talked about your deck report and how it is important to build one for each deck before you ever sleeve up a card. Here is an example of building a deck from start to finish using the deck report process. Laying all the information out the article becomes quite intensive and long. We will break down the article into three parts.
- Part 1 The Skeletal Structure or Layout of the Deck
- Part 2 Fleshing out the Skeletal Structure and Selecting Cards
- Part 3 Cleaning up the Small Details and Mana Base
The previous articles we covered categorizing what the deck wants to do and card selection for the meat of your deck. Today we will clean up the small details of the decklist and build a mana base. It may seem like most of the work is done. However, The following steps are very critical. The deck is not yet complete and some ards may yet change. These final changes will help your deck function and increase its win viability. Without these changes, we will not give ourselves the best chance to successfully pilot or deck to a win.
At this point, before I go into the land base its time to take a quick look at the decklist and see if there are any glaring omissions from the deck. I am looking for cards that I may have forgotten about, I might not know of, or missed on gatherer. For this, I go to EDHREC. EDHREC gives me a snapshot into the thinking of what other commander players that have built their decks with the same commander. It helps us understand how other players value cards and can help reveal holes in our logic. We do not ever want a cookie-cutter commander deck. We want to brew our own. Still, there is wisdom from the EDHREC database that we should take advantage of.
I look up at Kumena as a commander and look at the most common played cards. All my cards do not all need to be on this list. I do want to see some overlap of cards though, as this means I have found some of the strongest cards for the deck archetype. If a lot of my cards are not on the list or are later in each category, then it means my deck is “more original”. People will not necessarily be expecting the card I am playing.
Twelve of the fourteen cards in the High Synergy Cards category are in the decklist. This is a good sign of having the cards needed to run the deck. The two cards I am missing means I have some other original choices in my decklist. Kopola, Warden of Waves barely missed the cut from my merfolk package. I will keep this card on a shortlist of possible changes and will look at its inclusion after playing the deck.
Sevan of the fourteen top cards listed by EDHREC are in the deck. Again it means my deck is more original that what some of the popular wisdom is for those building Kumena. With the larger number of cards missed, I want to pay more attention to what isn’t in the deck. Then ask myself if any should be added. Keep in mind, I have a deck goal and a package breakdown with a specific number of cards. These cards may not fit my goal or have a card slot available in the appropriate package. With each of the cards not on my list, I start by asking myself do any of these cards make my deck stronger with the goal I am trying to achieve?
Seahunter and his ability look to be a strong card worth inclusion although he is not merfolk. He is able to bring out merfolk from my deck and put it in play for three mana. Being able to cheat cards into play at a discount is a strong play in commander. Seahunter can cheat a couple of cards out from my deck for cheaper. This in and of itself is efficient enough to include in the deck. As a deck we are looking to flood the board with cheap merfolk. There will be times that we want one of the cheaper merfolk. In this scenario, Seahunter loses efficiency. The fact that we can tutor merfolk to find the card that best synergizes with our board state is what makes this card solid. This is despite possible mana inefficiencies. Seahunter’s ability is repeatable giving it additional value.
The question then becomes is there a card slot that is worth cutting to add Seahunter? We do not want to cut just any card but instead choose one from a package that Seahunter fits in. This means I need to replace a card in the synergy package or the card draw/quality package.
The synergy cards are real tight and they are so specific they should not be cut for Seahunter. Instead, we look at the card draw package. The nonmerfolk card draw are some of the strongest card draw cards in Simic colors. They are not worth cutting for the tutor unless absolutely necessary. When we look at the merfolk that draw cards two possible cuts reveal themselves. They are Tatyova, Benthicic Druid for five mana or Forerunner of the Heralds for four mana. Forerunner of the Heralds does similar to the Seahunter, but puts the card on the top of the deck so it is an easy substitution for Seahunter. Seahunter takes a turn to activate so we do not gain any speed from the change. We will gain card advantage because we do not have to draw the merfolk we tutored for.
We will lose the Herald’s ability to grow in strength by playing merfolk. If we can find a way to keep the card it’s worthwhile. We have a pair of cards that want powerful merfolk on the battlefield. Our deck synergizes with abilities more than it does with creating really powerful creatures. Next, I look at my merfolk package and ask myself if the Forerunner is better than my worst merfolk? Overtaker barely made the cut so I will compare the two cards.
Overtaker costs only two his ability costs four. I can gain control of a creature for a turn, but it will also cost me a card from my hand. Because it untaps a creature, Overtaker has the additional benefit of untapping a creature of mine. This gives it pseudo vigilance or allowing me to use a tap ability again. The mana cost is high to steal a card we can not keep. We do not have Sundial of the Infinite in the deck to keep the creature forever. It also is expensive to untap a creature of our own. It may only be beneficial late game to untap and still perform other merfolk shenanigans multiple times. Because of this, we will substitute Forerunner of the Heralds for this card.
Murkfiend Liege is tempting with the untap ability paired with the lord abilities for both blue and green cards. But it is on a creature and therefore easier to remove than our tribal enchantment. That untaps merfolk. Therefore, we will not switch these cards. It is not merfolk, therefore, we should not remove a Lord in the merfolk category for it. There are no other categories that the Murkfiend Liege can fit into so while it is a strong card we will not add it to our deck.
Other Cards Missing the Cut
EDHREC also has lists and breakdowns of all the card types and how often they are used in Kumina decks. There are other strong cards that can be used, but I would need to cut the Wizards Matter theme from the deck. At this point I am not ready to revise the deck and remove the sub-theme from it. We have value in the synergies we have built. After playtest if we discover that wizards matter does not add to its overall efficiency we can look at staples to add to the deck.
I really regret not having Seedborn Muse and Eternal Witness in the decklist. Eternal Witness makes most of my decklists while the Seedborn Muse is just outright strong with Kumena. Just like Murkfiend Liege the Muse is susceptible to removal. I don’t want to sub out Merrow Commerce and from my initial list, I do not want to lose a unique piece of Wizard synergy to add some redundancy in untapping permanents.
I have put Song of Freyalise on a shortlist of possible cards. It could switch out with Bounty of Luxa. Bounty of Luxa is primarily Ramp but it can draw some cards too. Song of Freyalise can lead to an explosive turn in a different way than Bounty of Luxa can provide. First to cast a bunch of merfolk. Then buff them for an explosive attack turn. I will watch Bounty of Luxa when I play it. If it draws me two or more cards and if it allows me to cast extra spells. If it does not Song of Freylise is worth switching in.
One card that was missed and is a must include for a tribal deck is Door to Destinies. With the number of Merfolk in this deck and the ability to cast several in a turn, the Door can add a huge buff to all my merfolk that can be game ending with islandwalk. Because I overlooked it, a card must be cut for it. This card can either be a synergy card or a bomb. I think I like the decks’ ability to win better if I cut a synergy card over a bomb card.
The synergy package is quite solid. The Wizards Matter theme did not quite materialize as there were stronger choices for some of those card slots. This makes it easier to change one more card in this card package. I want a little countermagic in the deck, however, Glen Elendra Archmage is the easiest cut from the synergy package. Her ability can only be repeated once and I have no way to return cards from the graveyard so her usefulness is limited in the current build of this deck.
But What About Alternate Win Conditions?
A strong deck has ways to win the game when their opponents shut down their primary win strategy. This deck should be no different. This deck seeks to win through a mix of control and merfolk swarm strategies. If someone is able to shut down the deck’s ability to attack the deck is shut down. While we did not outright build in an alternate win condition, it is the control package that provides the way around it. Galecaster Colossus, Cyclonic Rift, and Capsize all bounce permanents back to their owners’ hands. These answers will bounce back cards that prevent our win condition and allow us to swing in for the win.
These are temporary solutions where the owner of the offending card can just recast the card. Therefore timing is key. We should only bounce the card when we are ready to take out the owner of the troublesome card. This way the card leaves play for good. Merfolk is strong on card draw and if necessary we will use the card draw to dig through our deck to find the appropriate answer we need. This keeps the deck efficient and in theme.
The second version of an alternate win condition is possible with an infinite combo. Although I did not decide to pursue it. I wanted a deck that synergizes well with each other. Opponents may know the deck can get out of hand, but not realize just how fast things can explode. My opponents may know they need to deal with merfolk, but I want them to see other threats on the board first. I want them to spend their resources stopping my other opponents. Once an infinite combo is displayed. the deck becomes a more immediate threat. Politics at the table can take over to sabotage this deck. Merfolk is then far less likely to fly under the radar. This concept illustrates that deckbuilding does not happen in a vacuum. Politics and gameplay need to be considerations when you build a deck.
If I were to build a more definitive alternate win condition into the deck, then this is how I would do it. First, we remove the Craterhoof Behemoth for Tooth and Nail. Then we remove Sigil Tracer and Azami Lady Of Scrolls For Great Whale and Deadeye Navigator. Finally, we remove Sylvan Library for Blue Sun’s Zenith.
Tooth and Nail entwined will fetch out Deadeye Navigator and Great Whale onto the battlefield. When they enter the battlefield soulbond them. The Great Whale untaps seven of the nine lands you tapped for Tooth And Nail. Then you then retap the seven lands and spend a blue and one colorless mana to use the soulbond ability to blink the Whale and untap seven more lands. This creates an infinite mana loop.
With the infinite mana, you can then cast Blue Sun’s Zenith. to target the opponent shutting you down. Make him draw more cards than is in their library and kill them. The Blue Sun’s Zenith shuffles back into your deck. This then opens the way for your merfolk to attack and win. If you have Thrasios on the battlefield you can use his ability to draw Blue Sun’s Zenith multiple times. Then you can deck out all your opponents.
The Mana Base
As we start building the land base, we count the number of pips on each magic card. While we are doing this we notice that a lot of our merfolk are two blue in casting cost. Before we come up with the totals we observe that we will skew our mana base toward blue versus green. Our bombs are in green. They have at least two green pips but given we want to cast these spells late game we are OK with the blue skew. The other concern is ramp requiring a single green. We also want green mana early but not to be flooded with it. From counting the pips we have the following results.
- Blue 68
- Green 32
The ratio of pips is roughly two to one. We start with 36 lands so as we begin building our land base. We will start with 24 Islands and 12 forests. Then we want to replace basic lands for dual colored lands to help fix our mana base. Breeding Pool is a must include as it is fetchable with Farseek. For cards that can generate multiple colored mana, we will want to include six of them. We want to prioritize these lands coming into the battlefield untapped so that we can use it right away. Merfolk are cheap. If we draw a blue source of mana it is reasonable to be able to begin playing our merfolk turn one. Although more realistically we will be able to play cards turn two. Here is the list to choose from.
If you can afford a Tropical Island or own one you can add it into the mana base but because of the expense it is not included in this list. The same goes for Cavern of Souls. If you have the money to spend prioritize with Cavern of Souls as it makes your merfolk uncounterable.
- Breeding Pool
- Command Tower
- Path of Ancestry
- Opal Palace
- Unclaimed Territory
- Hinterland Harbor
- Temple of Mystery
- Botanical Sanctum
- Simic Growth Chamber
- Woodland Stream
- Thornwood Falls
- Simic Guildgate
I ordered this list by my preference. If you don’t own a land and want to substitute one on the list, then you can do so. The deck will not lose a whole lot of efficiency. We will remove basic lands using the 2-1 ratio of forests to islands. This builds up our blue sources so we can cast more of our merfolk. It’s tempting to just substitute all of them in for green mana only. However, the double green mana will be wanted for this deck and we will want some lands that will generate colorless mana later on so we will keep the 2-1 ratio.
We want to mana fix a little more, so we will add two fetch lands. If you own a Misty Rainforest, then you can include it. Otherwise a budget option of Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse work. We will remove a Forest and an Island for each. We also will be drawing a lot of cards so Reliquary Tower is a must. Temple of the False God ramps us and Nykthos Shrine to Nyx ramps hard as well. If you can afford a Strip Mine it is a good piece of control to add. The ability to remove an opponent’s Nykthos or Cabal Coffers or any other troublesome land is an advantage. Our forests are getting thin so we will use a one to one basic land replacement strategy for these cards. You can find the final mana base on Archidekt where the entire deck is listed.
Lands That Miss the Cut
It is tempting to add in Maze of Ith but the deck should have blockers so it is not necessary. Rogue’s Passage makes a creature unblockable, but with Islandwalk and the ability to make lands an island, it is not necessary. Also, we will look to swarm our opponent and remove threats in our way. The unblockable ability will not be necessary often. Alchemist’s Refuge is tempting. Flash is a great ability. If the Seedborn Muse eventually makes the decklist it should then be included to maximize our mana. But for now, we want to sink our extra mana into our creature abilities as opposed to flash in merfolk at the last second. Ancient Tomb ramps as well but at the cost of one life we will pass. We do not need colorless mana as much as blue mana sources.
At this point, we are done with the decklist. You can find the deck listed on Archidekt here.
Curse of Swine is an X mana cost spell. its converted mana cost is two but realistically it will not be cast at two mana. The actual game casting of Curse Of Swine begins to be efficient at five mana. This is the point where exiling three creatures for five mana is a value. The card is then a three for one and our opponents have invested much more than five mana into these creatures. It’s sorcery speed so we will not be holding mana up for it. We expect to spend a lot of mana on the spell. For this reason, when calculating mana curve we will use five as the CMC for this card.
Cyclonic Rift will only in the direst of situations ever be cast for two mana. Most situations will see the spell cast for its overload cost of seven mana. For this reason the card is counted as seven for the mana curve.
Capsize has a buyback cost of three. Just like with Cyclonic Rift we can cast the spell for three mana in a tight situation. Realistically, we want to hold off casting the spell until we can pay for the buyback ability gaining value on the card. For this reason, we will count Capsize as a six mana cost spell.
The total of mana costs of all spells is the following…
- 1: 7
- 2: 12
- 3: 16
- 4: 13
- 5: 8
- 6: 4
- 7+: 5
It is a little difficult to visualize the mana curve. So we graph it to get a better feel for the curve. The following link is the visual mana curve in graph form.
The deck really is skewed to have four mana cost spells or less. We should have at least one quantity of two CMC cards or less in our opening hand with this curve. The graph also shows we should have a starting hand with several castable cards turn three or less. This indicates we should get off to a fast start. Low mana curves are not bad it means we will want to play a tempo game.
The following are notes I have on my deck report. From time to time I will review the report and think about the games I played with the deck. This will help me revise the deck if it is necessary. Normally decks will change over time not only are stronger cards printed and upgrade the deck, but also you the player and your preferences change over time. As your opinions of cards and card preferences change you will change out some cards to tighten the deck to your current mindset. This is why notes are critical.
- Potential deck inclusion Kopola Warden of Waves
- Monitor how effective Bounty of Luxa is
- Drum Hunter is weak are people removing it or just letting it stay on the battlefield?
- Potential mana ramp add Song of Freyalise
- Seedborn Muse? Are there any weak cards I can remove for it?
- Staples that missed the cut: Sol Ring, Eternal WItness
This is how I utilize the Deck Report System to build a commander deck. By using this system it helps me focus on the creative process. It also allows me not to cut too many cards for staples or even add to many of any one card function that will hinder my decks’ planned strategy to win. Magic The Gathering is first and foremost a strategy game and the most basic of strategy is how you build your deck. If you are weak in this area you will be able to advance only so far in MTG through gameplay only. Good Luck and Strategic Deck Building!
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