Last week we looked at Big Daddy B’s deck Sultai Seasons Past. It’s interesting because I was in the midst of building my Meren deck, but he and I haven’t had any conversations about the decks we were building. I guess it goes to show that great minds thinking alike!
So, I am sure that all of you know by now (if you’re a regular reader, that is) that I love toolbox decks and recursion. In fact, if my decks aren’t doing a bunch of “synergistic BS” on the field (and I am quoting someone I recently played) then I may be doing something wrong, or I’m not playing one of my decks.
I had previously built a Karador, Ghost Chieftain deck that was centered around using allies that had quite a bit in common with the Meren deck I just built. The problem I ran into with that build was the lack of allies in those colors that were good and fit the theme of the deck. Much like Ixalan’s dinosaurs, some of them weren’t really synergistic, and they really didn’t do much for what I was trying to accomplish. So, I got a few games out of that deck then turned it into a Hate Bears style deck. It was fun, but I ended up taking it apart to tweak other decks and to use some of the higher dollar cards as trade.
A few weeks back, a friend of mine reached out to me for some help with his Meren deck. As I was providing assistance to him, I realized that I wanted to build a Meren deck for myself. I was going to take a different route than him, however, since I tweaked his to be drastically themed with the Dredge mechanic. I should probably run the same mechanic, but for now, here is what I built:
Commander: Meren of Clan Nel Toth
Lord of Extinction
This deck is based on dumping creatures into the graveyard by sacrificing them or discarding them and recurring them with Meren. It’s also set up to drain all of my opponents’ life and clear their board of threats. There are quite a bit of toolbox effects in this deck that can be searched up based on certain situations.
Here I am going to delve more into the meat and potatoes of the deck and discuss its core engine and how to set it up.
Lotleth Troll, or sometimes referred to as “LOL Troll,” is a nice piece of this deck as he provides a way to get the cards from your hand out of your hand and into the ‘yard where they need to be. He also can become a huge threat very quickly that becomes rather hard to deal with. It’s not uncommon to see this guy swinging in at opponents for 6+ damage at a time.
Meren likes to throw her parties in the graveyard. To do so, we need to have an adequate guest list. These three cards are very good at fetching some of the other key-creatures to the deck, thus providing guests for Meren’s party.
While Entomb, Buried Alive, and Corpse Connoisseur are wonderful at getting cards, the real MVP of the deck is Survival of the Fittest. This card allows the deck to really take off and become a machine. Survival of the Fittest is an engine, and once you get it online, it can be very difficult to stop.
Since this is a huge party, Meren wants to make sure that everyone she invited can attend; being dead is not an excuse. Living Death is a card that you’ll usually be the one to get maximum value out of it when you cast it. There are many different routes you can take with your resurrections, but you’ll want to make sure that you have a sacrificial outlet at the ready when you do your shenanigans.
This deck wants to drain your opponents’ life totals. Grey Merchant and Kokusho work wonders at this. Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat can pick away at their life totals in the early game while you’re building up Experience Counters from Meren. In the late game, if you have Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat out, you’ll be recuring so many dudes and producing tokens that your opponents will have a difficult time not dying through the collateral damage.
Lord of Extinction and Jarad, Golgari Lichlord are two powerhouse cards that seem to find their way into almost every Golgari deck I make. Sometimes you need to have a huge bomb to wipe some stragglers off the table.
Viscera Seer is one of those cards that I always seem to underestimate. There are times when it always seems like an afterthought that I add it to a deck, but I always end up needing him. This “nommy boi” makes sure to eat creatures to fuel Meren and to make sure you get maximum use out of Living Death.
While there aren’t too many cards in the deck that bring extra dudes to the party, the ones we have are pretty efficient at what they do. And I know, Korozda Guildmage isn’t really fast at producing tokens, but he provides a sac outlet and some evasion to the dudes of the deck. Imagine sacrificing a Lord of Extinction to him and throwing a Hoof out next turn! Breh.
If your opponents are somehow surviving the incremental life loss strategy, throw some Overrun-style effects at them. Give them the old’ Razzle dazzle! Craterhoof can take a board full of 1/1s and turn them into a bunch of swole dudes! Triumph of the Hordes is a card that always seems to come out of nowhere and obliterates opponents. “Sure, you’re at over a hundred life, but can you take INFECT!” And finally, Mazirek is one of those cards that if left unchecked, it will get REDONKULOUS. Sometimes I don’t like to go with the Mazirek strategy because it ends up being a lot of dice to deal with on my cards.
Letting my opponents have creatures is overrated. There are a lot of Voltron-style strategies in my meta. Having a recurring sacrificial effect allows me to live nicely without being blown out by a single-shot creature. Merciless Executioner and Fleshbag Marauder, while effective on their own, also fuel Meren.
Since the deck is based on recursion, it is very important that we always have access to something in the graveyard. Meren is very efficient at getting things back, but we need quicker recursion in the late game. Victimize is good at providing a pseudo-sac outlet to fuel Meren while getting back to creatures, which will most likely have an ETB effect. Eternal Witness is a quintessential piece of recursion that is the mayor of Value Town. Regrowth is a piece of reassurance that I am going to get back what I need. And finally, we have Nim Deathmantle, which is one of my favorite artifacts. If you are looking for a way to reuse an ETB effect over and over and over again, then Nim Deathmantle is for you!
Tutors are a vital part of this deck as they allow you to get your engine set up. Demonic Tutor is a good piece for the early game since it’s so inexpensive to cast. Sidisi is a tutor-on-a-stick, and Razaketh is a sac outlet and tutor in one. He’s absolutely ridiculous!
Much akin to the forced sacrifice portion of this deck, I am not a fan of my opponents having nice things. Caustic Caterpillar is an efficient form of artifact and enchantment removal that fuels Meren. Shriekmaw is ridiculously synergistic removal on a body that fuels Meren. Duplicant likes to eat those pesky creatures that you don’t ever want to see coming back, and Terastodon likes to enter the field and stomp on their nice things.
There are definitely some tweaks and edits that can be made to this deck, but that will come through more playtesting. If you have an idea, let me know!