The Merfolk tribe doesn’t boast the most individually powerful cards, but their ability to both synergize and go wide make them a force to be reckoned with in Standard.
Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca is effectively your best individual card, although it still doesn’t do anything without plenty of other Merfolk in your deck. With enough cheap creatures and token producers, you can make Kumena into an unbelievable powerhouse. A 2/4 creature for 3 mana is relatively unimpressive, although it demands revolt from Fatal Push, extra energy from Harnessed Lightning, and gets around Magma Spray, Abrade, and Lightning Strike. Giving Kumena unblockable is a nice start as you can give your freshly cast Merfolk “haste” by tapping them to get in a bit of damage. But Kumena’s other abilities are what dominate. Converting three untapped Merfolk into an extra card is a breeze in this deck, and means that you should be able to start drawing cards immediately on turn 3 (and potentially multiple cards per turn after that). With a reasonable board presence, you can start to grow your entire team. Kumena does it all.
Kumena’s Speaker will be a 2/2 for 1 on turn in almost every single game. Mist-Cloaked Herald gives you another impossible-to-block threat, and you even have a Jade Bearer to pump your better aggressive creatures and have another cheap creature to make sure that Kumena is always effective.
Silvergill Adept gives the Merfolk staying power. A 2-power 2-drop is fine, but that extra card makes sure that you can continue adding a board presence while finding your key cards. Merfolk Branchwalker gives you yet another card advantage 2-drop by drawing extra lands or digging closer to Kumena and your other most important cards.
Deeproot Waters gives the Merfolk both a late-game plan and a way to flood the board out early. Tokens play well with Merfolk lords, and this card can get out of hand with Kumena.
When it comes to card advantage, a creature like Seafloor Oracle at the top of your curve means that you’ll always be cooking with gas. You have cheap creatures, token producers, and unblockable threats. Seafloor Oracle cashes all of that in for a steady stream of cards. Even if you’re throwing away 1-2 creatures in combat to deal some extra damage, you get to immediately replace those cards to keep up the pressure.
Deeproot Elite isn’t technically a lord, but it may as well be. This is one of the few creatures that you really want to get down early, unlike other lords that can pump your team late or draw extra cards like Kumena. Deeproot Elite rewards you for getting it down early by spreading the wealth of counters among your many creatures.
Merfolk Mistbinder doesn’t ask for any help. You’re getting a 2/2 Merfolk for 2, which is already not the worst. Pumping every single creature you have in play is amazing and we’ve seen the power of Merfolk lords in Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage for many years.
While lords, +1/+1 counters, and unblockable creatures will often make racing go heavily in your favor, you have additional trumps to make sure. Baral’s Expertise can bounce your opponent’s board to make sure you’re getting in clean attacks for heaps of damage. You can even bounce your own creatures, like Silvergill Adept or Merfolk Branchwalker, to draw additional cards. Getting a free spell, such as a Seafloor Oracle, onto the battlefield makes this an incredible tempo play. It’s a bit on the expensive side, so you’re also going with a single copy of Unsummon to help keep the coast clear or save your own creatures.
Merfolk is one of the most powerful tribes in Magic’s history and having a competitive Standard version is a lot of fun!