Ixalan Merfolk and Opt in Modern

The journey that will take me to the next Modern Pro Tour in February is a long and tedious one. I succeed in formats that I know deeply, and now that I have months to prepare, I’m making the most of it. I’ve actually been enjoying the format a ton these last few months. I’ve tried many different decks to familiarize myself with everything, and the format is as healthy as it can get.

In fact, I’ve enjoyed it so much that it’s been jeopardizing my preparation for Nationals and the Pro Tour, since all I want to do is play Modern when I need to prepare for Standard.

With that said, I’m still going to do what I shouldn’t—prioritize Modern, for the love of the community.

Let’s see which Ixalan cards could make their way into Modern decks.

Deeproot Champion

This is a fake Merfolk. He doesn’t hang around other Merfolk, so I’m going to start with him.

Quirion Dryad never saw play in Modern, and that’s not surprising since Tarmogoyf, Delver of Secrets, and delve creatures exist. Is Deeproot Champion that much different? Not really. Your green noncreature spells will now pump it, but other creatures you play such as Snapcaster Mage and Delver of Secrets will not, making it essentially the same card with exchanged upsides and downsides. That is not to mention the departure of Gitaxian Probe, which would be fantastic here.

I can think of a nonblue configuration where you play cards like Temur Battle Rage, Become Immense, and maybe even Tainted Strike, but that sounds worse than Jund Death’s Shadow.

With removal like Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push in the format I’m off the idea of Deeproot Champion being playable.

Kumena’s Speaker

Merfolk is one of the only Modern decks that I have never played. Despite owning the whole deck and lending it to others multiple times, I have never registered it for an event.

Whenever I look at a deck list, I always wonder how much the deck would change with another good 1-drop. Cosi’s Trickster has always been an option, but against a high percentage of Modern decks it stays a 1/1.

Kumena’s Speaker could bring the next evolution of Merfolk, and when I think of green and creatures, Collected Company springs to mind. If you integrate Collected Company in Merfolk, there are concessions to be made in some already established slots. Aether Vial, Spreading Seas, Dismember, Vapor Snag, and Master of Waves in some number would need to be removed to have functional Collected Companys.

My first instinct is to cut Aether Vial since I’m adding another 1-drop, but that may be crazy and I will definitely not advocate for doing that with zero games under my belt. I will, however, try it.

Adding green to the mana base, on the other hand, is easy—Botanical Sanctum, Breeding Pool, a few fetches, and there you go. That lets you play cards like Creeping Corrosion and/or Natural State in the sideboard for the Affinity matchup, which is known to be terrible.

Kopala, Warden of Waves

Kira, Great Glass-Spinner sees play here and there, so this has to be a consideration. My gut tells me that having your opponent pay an extra 2 mana in a format where the most played removal costs 1 isn’t as good as making them have two removal spells in a turn.

On the other hand, it is a Merfolk and Kira is not, which in some spots will mean that it’s a 4/4 and won’t die to burn spells. Kopala also plays a lot better with Cursecatcher’s ability than Kira does.

I would absolutely try it if I had Kira in my list in the first place, but I don’t think it’s so much better that you should start playing it if you didn’t think Kira was ever worth a slot.


I couldn’t fail to talk about what is potentially the most impactful Modern card since Fatal Push.

Modern control decks always had the issue where the good cantrips were sorceries. To compete with the consistency of other  aggro, combo, and midrange decks, and to be able to dig for the right answers, control had to play Serum Visions, despite it not functioning at instant speed like the rest of the deck.

I’m optimistic that this little instant-speed cantrip will slowly replace Serum Visions in some number, because it is that much better with Snapcaster Mage when you have Mana Leak, Logic Knot, and Cryptic Command in your decks.

We’ve already seen the card make a splash in Storm as a way to replace a number of Remand and Peer Through Depths. I’m unsure if that’s correct, but in any case, it’s pretty telling when the first deck you hear playing it doesn’t even care that it’s an instant.

With all the excitement I have for Opt, I couldn’t leave you without a list, so here’s the deck I’ve been working on the most these last few weeks, and that I am absolutely in love with.

Jeskai Breach

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