Recross the Paths - Building a Merfolk Deck with Kumena

[Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca | Art by Tyler Jacobson]

Don't Go With the Flow, Command the Waves!

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Recross the Paths, the series that gives commanders a typal twist.

Today's host is receiving a somewhat different makeover. In fact, Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca is known for being one of the go-to commanders for Merfolk strategies. It's the second most built Merfolk commander on EDHREC and its textbox straight up forces the builder to play kindred creatures. What kind of changes can be done to such a straightforward commander, then? Well, just wait and see.

Stage One: The Deck

Part One: Triton Royalty

Merfolk really shine at providing lord effects. In other words, we've reached a critical mass of Merfolk creatures that care for other Merfolk, providing either buffs to the stats or some other kind of useful abilities (or, in some lucky cases, both).

Starting from the simple Merfolk Mistbinder, we then get to the ol' reliables Lord of Atlantis and Master of the Pearl Trident. All of these creatures grant a flat +1/+1 buff to other Merfolk, with the latter two also giving them Islandwalk.

There are also some Merfolk that shine at providing defensive aids to fellow sea creatures. Kopala, Warden of Waves ensures our whole board is soft-protected from spells and abilities, while Swift Warden can come in clutch to save a central piece of our strategy from removals. Singer of Swift Rivers goes even a step further, granting both protection to a creature in play and flash to our other Merfolk.

We can also rely on some non-Merfolk ways to empower the creature type we structured our deck around. Coat of Arms is a favorite of mine, rewarding us for each additional creature we play. Raise the Palisade can both remove problematic creatures from our opponents' side of the field and open the way for our powerful attacks. Lastly, Reflections of Littjara makes sure we never run out of lords on our board (and we'll see in a second just how much we care about it).

Part Two: The More, The Merrier!

Why would we want to limit ourselves with the number of buffs granted to our creatures? Quick answer: we shouldn't.

For this reason, we run a number of clone effects, so that we can double up on buffs and stat bonuses. Among the huge pool available, we want our cards to be as efficient as possible. For this reason, we prioritize clones that cost either two or three mana.

In the first category we find cards such as the excellent Flesh Duplicate and Phantasmal Image, but also some more diverse takes on the same concept. For example, Imposter Mech is a way of obtaining an additional lord effect without exposing it to creature removal, while Mirror of the Forebears can become a temporary copy of our best creature at any given time.

As far as three-mana clones are concerned, Endless Evil will likely provide us with multiple additional copies of whatever creature we want, while Glasspool Mimic doubles up as a land if we need one. Lastly, Phyrexian Metamorph is another old-but-gold card that can perhaps copy a mana rock if we are desperate for mana.

Part Three: The True Innovation

Up until now, this is just a fair and square Merfolk deck. Sure, the clones are a new take on the archetype, but they don't really make for any kind of innovation. What's the point of all of this then? Why would we care about having this many buffing creatures? Well, that's because of the true innovation behind this deck: this is, actually, a Voltron list.

In fact, Kumena will be the one really taking advantage of all the additional stats and effects, empowered by as many lord effects as possible. Its first ability makes for a perfect general for this strategy. Just by tapping one of our creatures, we ensure it will deal huge damage to one of our opponents.

This is an all around Voltron deck, with a dedicated Equipment-and-Aura package. Commander's Plate, Vanishing and Alpha Authority all grant different kinds of protection. The first trades a part of the defensive effect for some offensive prowess; the second is a protective tool only and the third is a defensive Aura with some additional text that might come in handy at times.

Regarding the offensive department, we mix some new tools with some classics. Starting from the latter, Scourge gave us Alpha Status, a very peculiar card that seems made exactly for this kind of deck. In more recent times, we were granted Power Fist, an Equipment that starts a bit slow but can get out of hand in a blink of an eye. Staying within modern technology, Strong Back has quickly become a staple in Voltron deck, as it combines mana reduction and huge buffs.

I could spend quite some time explaining my choices in this area of the deck, but in the end it all comes down to personal taste and playstyle. When playing such all-in strategies, everyone has a peculiar way of managing aggression and defenses. Some might want to go all out and build the strongest glass cannon possible, while others might want to stack up on protective Auras before attacking. All in all, my selections both reflected my personal playstyle and aimed at representing both halves of the player base, but I strongly invite you to revise it to make it fit your preferences!

Part Four: The Complete Decklist

Kumena Merfolk Voltron

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Commander (1)
Merfolk (18)
Typal (3)
"Merfolk" (9)
Voltron (21)
Protection (3)
Ramp (8)
Land (37)

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Stage Two: The Data Room

For this installment, I won't really dive into data , but rather I'll give a more textual explanation of the innovation in this deck.

The fact is, it wouldn't really make sense to go check the usage rate for the cards I included in today's list. In fact, the vast majority of Merfolk are pretty much auto-includes in any kindred strategy. In this regard, just know that Hakbal of the Surging Soul is the most popular Merfolk commander on EDHREC with 9,305 decks registered and Master of the Pearl Trident is in 96% of them, while Svyelun of Sea and Sky sits at about 95% inclusion rate.

The same goes for clone effects, where I chose the most efficient ones, which are also the most played. Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph are go-tos when someone is looking to copy some permanents on the board. On the same note, Flesh Duplicate is a newer inclusion in this circle, but it is quickly gaining popularity for a good reason.

As far as Equipment and Auras are concerned, I stick with what I mentioned before. These are all very subjective and everyone who wants to pick up this deck should also look at the Voltron package and change it according to their taste. Nonetheless, in this case as well I picked from already established staples, such as Blackblade Reforged, or newer printings that are more than likely to become such in the long run, for example Power Fist and Strong Back.

I've also personalized this part of the deck with some favorites of mine, with cards such as Eel Umbra, Snake Umbra and Bear Umbra representing my passion for Umbra Armor abilities, or Mithril Coat and Winged Boots signaling how much I value protection in Voltron strategies.

Hence, this deck is a krasis of these three worlds: Merfolk, clones and Voltron. While if we look at these categories independently we won't see any innovation, if we look at the whole picture of Kumena as a commander, we'll see how much of a new brew this is. This deck is a new take on Merfolk, as it doesn't aim at swarming the board and winning by going wide. Instead, this deck wants to go tall, using the huge amount of Merfolk-matters effects available to grant Kumena the power to take out players in one huge swing.

Takeaways From Today's Article

  • I've finally made it! I managed to build a Voltron typal deck! I've had this idea since the conception of this series but I just couldn't find the right deck to do it. Merfolk are perfect for this kind of build, as there are a ton of them granting stats or additional abilities. Obviously, they need some support from cloning effects, as we still aren't at a saturation point that allows a lords-only build of this creature type.
    Nonetheless, I'm very happy with where this deck has landed. It manages to both function as a full-fledged Voltron deck that wants its commander to take out players in one hit and makes multiple Merfolk creatures shine, making them pivotal to the strategy and not just some overshadowed supporting cast.
  • If we want to find a flaw in this tale, Merfolk are becoming pretty much one-dimensional. Their cohesion and synergy are for sure gigantic points in favor of this creature type, but the lack of innovation in their design is starting to become detrimental. They work perfectly together and are excellent for go-wide strategies, but they don't really interact with any other aspect of the game. Given their Simic identity, they could be an interesting Landfall-related creature type, with commanders such as Hakbal of the Surging Soul and Tatyova, Benthic Druid ready to shine in this archetype. Yet, they end up being a bit plain, although this doesn't by any means take away how well they function as a group.
  • I've never been a huge Voltron player, but man is this archetype getting all kinds of sweet toys to play with lately! I've already mentioned them twice in this article, but Power Fist and Strong Back just don't stop amazing me. Equipment have always been held back by the need to pay equip costs over and over again, and Auras just disappear with the creature if the latter gets removed. These problems result magnified in a multiplayer environment, in which there are even more people immediately targeting the creature that is at risk of getting out of hand. All of this to say I'm completely in favor of stretching the boundaries of Auras and Equipment, in order to compensate for the fragility and huge hidden costs that limit Voltron decks.

That’s all from me for the moment. I hope you enjoyed this deck tech, but now it’s onto you: What do you think of it? Would you have changed anything? Or there’s something you particularly liked? Most importantly, do you believe this was a true innovation? Let me know in the comments below!

Read more:

Singleton Shmingleton - Merfolk Looter

Wombo Combo - Best Simic EDH Combos

Jonathan is an Italy-based Magic enjoyer that has been playing, although with some pauses, ever since Mirrodin released. His passion for EDH bloomed in 2018 and, with it, the love for exotic and underrepresented builds. When he is not complaining about an “unfair” removal, you can find him fiercely defending his Delver of Secrets at a pauper table.

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