Upgrading the River Heralds

Posted: April 05, 2018

In this article, we’ll look at another one of the starter decks provided with each new Magic: the Gathering Arena account and look into ways we could reasonably, quickly and cheaply upgrade it. In this one, we’ll focus on the nomadic merfolk - the River Heralds. For reference, this is the starter Decklist:

Deck: The River Heralds {u}{g}
11Forest 1Chart a Course {1}{U}2Forerunner of the Heralds {3}{G}
11Island 1Deeproot Waters {2}{U}1Herald of Secret Streams {3}{U}
2Woodland Stream 2Dive Down {U}1Jade Bearer {G}
1Hadana's Climb {1}{G}{U}2Jade Guardian {3}{G}
2One With the Wind {1}{U}1Jungle Delver {G}
2River Heralds' Boon {1}{G}1Kopala, Warden of Waves {1}{U}{U}
1Kumena's Speaker {G}
1Merfolk Branchwalker {1}{G}
1Merfolk Mistbinder {G}{U}
2Mist-Cloaked Herald {U}
2River Sneak {1}{U}
1Seafloor Oracle {2}{U}{U}
1Shapers of Nature {1}{G}{U}
1Silvergill Adept {1}{U}
1Swift Warden {1}{G}{G}
1Tempest Caller {2}{U}{U}
2Tishana's Wayfinder {2}{G}
1Tishana, Voice of Thunder {5}{G}{U}
2Vineshaper Mystic {2}{G}
1Waker of the Wilds {2}{G}{G}
1Wind Strider {4}{U}
 Display deck statistics
As the merfolk, we’re looking to aggressively build our board up and cleverly strike at our opponent with both a numbers’ and power advantage, keeping a few sly tricks up our sleeve for when necessary.

The first cuts and additions

As such, we’d like to remove some of the slower cards that don’t offer much to this playstyle like Forerunner of the Heralds, Jade Guardian or even the powerful Tishana, Voice of Thunder. As for our landbase, we want to get rid of the two Woodland Streams, as drawing them can stop us from curving out and, consequently, falling behind on board, which, more often than not, means death for the fishfolk. We can replace them with either of the basics and/or with the one copy of Unclaimed territory we are provided through one of the other starter decks - alternatively, we can simply just cut them and play with 22 lands, which is a favourable number in the Arena’s bo1 format due to the way starting hands are generated - for more info, read up here.

In their place, we can add a copy or two (one we already own) of Unsummon, which, when combined with our low cost creatures allows for superior tempo plays and can serve as a combat trick or a way to push for lethal in a pinch.

We’ll want to max out on our Merfolk Mistbinders as soon as possible, as the ‘lords’, as they are often called, make all of our early drops into serious threats and have to be dealt with immediately. At common, we can throw in a copy of Spell Pierce to serve as a tool that ensures we’ll have enough time to set up our board without having to deal with pesky boardclears like Golden Demise or early removal for our Mistbinders like Moment of Craving. Since a lot of the stuff we’ll ideally want is at uncommon, we can also turn a few of our Common cards into some of the more powerful cheap spells such as more Mist-Cloaked Heralds, which provide us with the very important one drops and provide targets for our Boons, Hadana’s Climb etc., and some Jungleborn Pioneers which synergize well with our Mistbinders. As for our other crafts, we can invest our early Wildcards into Merfolk Branchwalkers Rangers quite safely as they are extremely playable in just about anything that runs green or into Deeproot Elites as they are a serious powerhouse coupled with all the body generating effects and cheap creatures.

At this point, our deck should look something like this:

Deck: Early days Merfolk {u}{g}
11Forest 1Chart a Course {1}{U}2Deeproot Elite {1}{G}
11Island 1Deeproot Waters {2}{U}1Jade Bearer {G}
1Dive Down {U}3Jungleborn Pioneer {2}{G}
1Hadana's Climb {1}{G}{U}1Kopala, Warden of Waves {1}{U}{U}
2One With the Wind {1}{U}1Kumena's Speaker {G}
2River Heralds' Boon {1}{G}4Merfolk Branchwalker {1}{G}
1Spell Pierce {U}4Merfolk Mistbinder {G}{U}
4Mist-Cloaked Herald {U}
2River Sneak {1}{U}
1Seafloor Oracle {2}{U}{U}
1Shapers of Nature {1}{G}{U}
1Silvergill Adept {1}{U}
1Swift Warden {1}{G}{G}
1Tempest Caller {2}{U}{U}
2Vineshaper Mystic {2}{G}
 Display deck statistics

Cards to look out for

Of course, the path to upgrading a deck isn’t set in stone and in your packs you might open something that will empower the Heralds greatly. Here are some of the cards you’d be happy to see in a pack:

  • Curious Obsession is a powerhouse combined with some of our more slippery fish such as the Mist-Cloaked Heralds, serving as a powerful tool to get in a lot more chip damage while refilling our hand.
  • Cartouche of Knowledge, while not quite nearly as tempting as the abovementioned Obsession can replace some of the starter enchantments such as River Heralds’ Boon or One With the Wind.
  • Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca is a super powerful creature, giving us a myriad of options on how to utilize our merfolk. Thanks to him, we can gain card advantage, slowly chip in for damage in situations where we couldn’t or we can eventually simply outpower our opponent’s board and go for the alpha strike. He utilizes cards such as Deeproot Waters or Jungleborn Pioneer very well, so, if you’ve got Kumena, watch out for those as well! Also, as a side note, be aware that you can use Kumena’s ability to tap even the Merfolk that came into play that very turn.
  • Seafloor Oracle lets our evasive dorks turn into powerful threats generating a ton of card draw if not dealt with immediately, giving us access to many more merfolk as we try to fish for ways to finish the game off.
  • Deeproot Elite is a simple 2-drop that snowballs like crazy if not dealt with. Again, much like Kumena, it likes when a lot of merfolk hit the board, so watch out for Deeproot Waters and Pioneers as well!
  • Vineshaper Mystics, while not exactly excellent, are still a decent inclusion as a way to capitalize on our early drops, providing immediate board impact as we curve out.
  • Jade Bearers are simple 1-drops that can pump up our evasive creatures, allowing us to chip in for more damage a turn.
  • River Sneak is maybe not fully ideal, but that doesn’t mean he’s not worth running in more copies- especially if you don’t have a complete deck. Every turn he can grow once or twice and then over time get in for serious damage - and every bit counts.
  • Swift Wardens are amazing, at a very respectable 3/3 body they can be cast at flash speed and they provide us with a very powerful way to deal with whatever removal our opponent might have for some of our merfolk worth protecting (and there are many).
  • Unsummons and Expel from Orazca are powerful tools - as we explained above.
  • Deeproot Waters provide us with small bodies that, however, can be extremely powerful when coupled with Deeproot Elites, Kumena, Mistbinders - or even on their own, you might just drown your opponent in fish with the numbers this provides.
  • Jadelight Ranger are seriously powerful and can, just like Branchwalkers, slot in just about anything that runs green.
  • Silvergill Adept and Kumena’s Speakers are both more-than-amazing early drops that you’ll love to see in a pack.

Ultimately, a list similar to this one is what we’re looking to build over time:
Deck: UG Merfolk {u}{g}
8Forest 4Deeproot Waters {2}{U}3Deeproot Elite {1}{G}
3Hashep Oasis 1Hadana's Climb {1}{G}{U}2Jade Bearer {G}
8Island 1Spell Pierce {U}3Jungleborn Pioneer {2}{G}
3Unclaimed Territory 3Unsummon {U}4Kumena's Speaker {G}
3Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca {1}{G}{U}
3Merfolk Branchwalker {1}{G}
4Merfolk Mistbinder {G}{U}
2Seafloor Oracle {2}{U}{U}
4Silvergill Adept {1}{U}
1Swift Warden {1}{G}{G}
 Display deck statistics

I hope you enjoyed reading our quick guide on where to go with your merfolk Starter Deck. May all your games go swimmingly!


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