Merfolk is something of a laughing stock among Modern decks. And honestly, that's not without reason. The deck has some powerful synergies, but for the most part it's an aggro deck with Aether Vial that isn't half as disruptive as Humans without being appreciably better at getting to the battlefield or pressuring the opponent.
But it's also a deck that has been around for so long that it's rare to see significant innovation in the archetype. The closest thing to it has been the incorporation of Chalice of the Void in some lists, so why don't we take that idea further. The deck lacks disruption, and some of its creatures, like Cursecatcher, are rather ineffective. It may seem counterintuitive to cut creatures in a deck that is heavily invested in lords, but the biggest payoff from those is the islandwalk to combo with Spreading Seas and the devotion towards Master of Waves.
By cutting the weaker creatures, we gain room for plenty more disruption. Dismember is the best removal spell available, although four may be excessive. And Repeal can help against a variety of threats while the cantrip provides the deck increased threat density despite reducing the raw number of threats. If your metagame is more control or combo heavy, maindeck counterspells could also be effective in these slots.
The other gain from this restructuring is Faerie Conclave. With fewer one-drops, the tapped land isn't a significant downside, and having plenty of mana sinks is important in an Aether Vial deck, as the artifact provides a significant amount of mana by itself.
Coralhelm Commander serves as yet another mana sink that gets significantly better in the low creature list since you have more time to sink mana into leveling it and you'd prefer to have threats that are individually powerful, though this one can also function as another lord when your draw is creature-heavy. Coralhelm Commander has been a significant part of Merfolk lists in the past and perhaps we've been overlooking it recently.
I'm as guilty as anyone of denigrating Merfolk, but there are tons of Modern decks that languish on the fringes, waiting for someone to make the proper innovations before they can flourish. Mardu Pyromancer was just such a deck until its recent ascension and now it's a full-fledged deck to beat in the format. Perhaps our fishy friends just need someone to believe in them in order to shine.
- 4 Coralhelm Commander
- 4 Lord of Atlantis
- 4 Master of the Pearl Trident
- 4 Master of Waves
- 4 Silvergill Adept