Hi everyone! Today, we’re going to be discussing one of the new preconstructed Commander decks to release with Lost Caverns of Ixalan: Explorers of the Deep. Right off the cuff, this deck is honestly a really solid release. It’s Simic (Blue/Green) in colors and has a primary focus of Merfolk Typal, with subthemes of Exploring (and thus, +1/+1 counters) as well as some lands-matter synergies thrown in. Helmed by the brand new Hakbal of the Surging Soul, this deck doesn’t beat around the bush at what you want to do: build a big board of Merfolk, grow them turn by turn, and watch your foes crumble under your superior board presence and mana advantage. With some key upgrades, we can double down on this strategy as well as fill some of the gaps left in the base decklist. Don’t be fooled by the amount of cuts I made: this plays really nicely right out of the box, but we can give it some love and see it really flourish.
Key Cards from the Precon:
There are some fun toys we have to work with out of the gate. The advantages of playing Merfolk is that that while they tend to lean into creatures that are smaller at face value, they have evasion, draw, and other tapping/untapping tricks. Being able to grow the board constantly and fix your draws means we can have a really consistent and aggressive tempo deck, so we want to keep around some cards that aid in that department. Benthic Biomancer is a sweet turn one play that will gain solid value the longer we can keep it around. Deeproot Historian gives some much needed recursion and gives another use for those lands we have sitting around from explore triggers. Zegana squared are both solid value engines as well, with one giving some much needed trample access for the late game. Singer of Swift Rivers lets us play at instant speed and gives some spot protection on the fly. There are too many other great things to list, so we’ll get into the stuff that’s…maybe not so great.
For cuts, we mostly are looking at removing cards that either have lackluster synergy or can be easily replaced by something more focused towards our goals with the deck. We have 20 total cuts, which may seem high, but a good chunk of them are manabase related or cards that don’t have as much synergy as we want.
- Explore, Commander’s Sphere, and Simic Signet all are less synergistic options for us, as land ramp tends to be more valuable than artifacts here, and Explore is a bit worse than what we’ll replace it with.
- Commit//Memory is a bit overpriced for removal, and while the graveyard hate is nice, we don’t want to be dumping that much mana into it.
- Quandrix Command is versatile, but all of the effects are either niche or not super necessary.
- Merfolk Skydiver isn’t my favorite. If you’re paying 5 to proliferate, you’re probably in a pickle.
- Tishana, Voice of Thunder and Vorel of the Hull Clade are two cards that feel too slow for a deck that wants to come out swinging to grow bigger. Vorel is a card I personally have quite a bit of experience with in Ezuri, Claw of Progress, and while he’s useful he really takes a bit to get good value if you aren’t already quite ahead. Tishana is fine, but I find her a bit pricy.
- Surgespanner is just something we don’t make use of well enough for the cost/stats ratio.
- Coralhelm Commander, also a lot of mana for an anthem in a deck that has a lot of anthems.
- Thassa, God of the Sea and Xolatoyac, the Smiling Flood are both super neat cards, but they don’t really fit our theme or strategies well.
- Ruinous Intrusion is very meh.
- Sage of Fables is neat, but we have better draw options and not enough Wizards to warrant it.
- Bygone Marvels is a sweeeet card, but we don’t have any graveyard synergy besides exploring, which I don’t think is enough to cover this being worth it.
- A few lands that are replace-worthy: Myriad Landscape, Llanowar Reborn, Temple of the False God, Mosswort Bridge.
- Rogue’s Passage is normally one I like, but we have enough ways to give creatures evasion.
I wanted to comment on these due to me wanting to cut them, but deciding they were worth leaving in for one reason or another. Merfolk Cave-Diver is decent, but could probably be replaced for something better quickly if you had more interest in upgrades. Wave Goodbye is super meta dependent, and while it can seriously be brutal on some tables it can be useless at others. Its power ceiling is high enough that I left it in for now. Simic Ascendancy is genuinely a good backup win condition, but I hate the design of the card personally and many groups will know to beat you up as soon as it hits the board. I can’t cut it just on my own bias since it’s objectively great in the deck, but if this was my deck I’d throw it off a bridge.
As per my usual forte, I tend to lean towards keeping things budget friendly. While I stretched the budget quite thin, I think the deck came out to a reasonable price of $20 USD over the base value. While not everyone will sell everything they cut, it’s a reasonable set of cards to grab while you buy the deck without breaking the bank.
- Rampant Growth. Remember when I mentioned a replacement for Explore? This fits better for a few reasons, but primarily it’s because Hakbal can put lands from our hand into play for free, and while we usually have plenty of lands in hand from ‘explores’ triggers, this helps minimize the chance of Explore being a dead draw or missing a trigger on Hakbal.
- Cultivate and Farseek are other, more synergistic ramp replacements. Farseek can grab some dual lands too, which is solid.
- Counterspell, can’t go wrong with a classic for protecting your board.
- Vodalian Hexcatcher is pricy, but a very worthwhile upgrade. We rely heavily on keeping a board up and having momentum, so sacrificing one card to protect yourself can be huge.
- Over the Edge is a new, very synergistic removal piece. Krosan Grip is also in here, although you can substitute it for Return to Nature if you want more graveyard hate for your local metagame.
- While we don’t always need finishers if we can get a large enough board, sometimes getting an extra push can help win the game before someone cleans up the board. Tempest Caller is a great finishing tool for knocking a player out of the game that has a scary board.
- Speaking of finishers, Biomass Mutation is a personal budget favorite of mine as a late game pump spell. Since our creatures are typically below 2/2 of stats, pushing their base P/T up lets them keep all the bonuses from counters but get some really scary stats for a turn. With any evasion, this can help end a game in the blink of an eye.
- Simic Charm is nice flexible protection. If budget isn’t as much of a concern or you have a copy, Heroic Intervention is great here.
- Return of the Wildspeaker is flexible card draw and finishing power in a pinch.
- Distant Melody is a really good way to refill your hand in the mid-late game.
- Vanquisher’s Banner is another good typal support tool, and while I do think it is a bit expensive, it provides some really nice value in a single package. I’d say this slot is flexible if you have another card you want to throw in.
- We add a few lands to go up to 37. While none of these are absolutely necessary, they’ll help smooth out your mana curve really well.
- Lastly, I dropped an Island and added a Forest to better suit our mana curve and ramp package.
There you have it! Let me know if you gave it a go, and I hope you enjoyed!