Alex Borteh has surprised the entire Worlds field with a version of an Opposition deck that may have been the least popular in testing, but has undoubtedly been the most successful here at Toronto. The trick? Instead of taps with saps, swish with fish!
Merfolk of the Pearl Trident was never supposed to get anyone anywhere in the Standard environment, even before Manta Riders came out in Tempest. But a startling blend of this and other creatures considered by convention to be mediocre (including Darting Merfolk and Vodalian Merchant) turn out to be a cheaper, faster vehicle for powering the Opposition/Static Orb engine that the deck uses for lockdown.
When combined with the traditional king of Merfolk decks - Lord of Atlantis - Borteh's "OppoFishin'" deck gains considerable power in a near-mirror with a Saproling-based deck. All of his creatures not only grow, but become unblockable, which forces his opponent to worry less about locking Borteh's lands down and more about avoiding a mad rush of crusading attackers.
Against many decks, the Darting Merfolk in Opposition-Orb goes from solid to excellent: with their play-tap-return-repeat capability, even Fires champions like Blastoderm and Spiritmonger have a tough time.
As this article was being written, Tom Van de Logt claimed semifinals victory over Antoine Ruel. Van de Logt's red-black which uses Plague Spitter, burn, and hand disruption to give his beef the opportunity to win, poses some challenges and opportunities for Borteh's monoblue strategy:
- Urza's Rage is still a incredibly powerful card against blue, but is slightly less impressive with fewer than twelve untapped lands;
- A small but fast creature rush can make a slow Plague Spitter grind-down (or Phyrexian Arenas from the sideboard) unappetizing for Van de Logt;
- Plague Spitters are nevertheless a nightmare for Merfolk with no Lord;
- A Static Orb will be essential for Borteh, given how hungry the red-black deck is for mana and its beatdown nature;
- Crypt Angels will likely make way for a Pyroclasm, and either an Addle or a third Flametongue Kavu from the board; and
- Cheap black removal (Vendetta, Terminate), which often gets boarded out against Saproling Opposition, will continue to be good in this matchup.
With two Misdirections and a Rushing River in his sideboard, Borteh does have some options in the later games. But when you stack up Van de Logt's mass weenie removal, hand disruption, and uncounterable finisher, it amounts to a bit of a nightmare for the American. Whatever the result, the match-up promises to be exciting competition between two very different creature-based strategies.