I’ve made a Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca Commander deck, and it has met with some success. He can be very explosive and steal some games quickly. However, I wanted to make the deck be able to grind a little bit more and take advantage of the consistant card draw and become less of a glass cannon. I looked at some articles about Merfolk and their playstyle and it turns out they’re less of an aggro style tribe, but work their best in a control shell.
I wanted to be able to counter things and flash merfolk in, keeping my options open. I’m not going full counter control, but at least be able to stop combos and board wipes. Counters are difficult to play because you really need to know when to stop things, and when to keep counters up. Also, having a 100 card deck means I need a lot of counters to consistantly have at least one.
Counterspells do work well with Lullmage Mentor and he does create some kind of endgame where you can counter most of the things, while building up the board. Outside of him, there are other counters to concider:
Counterspell – The original. It will stop most things.
Negate – While it doesn’t hit creatures, it’ll stop most things we’re worried about, like board wipes, or some non-creature permanents we need to take care off, like nasty equipments or enchantments, and it’ll break up at least some of the combos.
Forbid – With the extra draw from Kumena, and other card draw effects, the buyback is less problematic, so it’s like having a counterspell forever.
Swan Song – Another conditional counter. The great thing is that you only need to keep open to stop people from wrathing or comboing out.
Muddle the Mixture – While the countering is limited to instants and sorceries, these are the most common sources of boardwipes. It is nice to have the option to exchange it for one of the merfolk lords, or a Merrow Commerce though. It even can fetch a Biomass Mutation, but since transmuting can only be done as a sorcery, and costs this might be the most telegraphed combat trick ever.
Now, let’s talk about Arcane Denial. This is often concidered a bad Counterspell because of the inherent card disatvantage. This is generally true in 1v1 games, but less so in multiplayer games.
In multiplayer games most Counterspells are card disadvantage. You play a card to stop a card, which is a one-for-one trade with one player, but you’ll get behind on the other players. Arcane Denial is different, in that it replaces itself. Sure, the player you countered the spell off will gain an extra card, but in a 3 player game, it’s the same as any other counter, card advantage wise. With 4 or more players, it’s actually better.
As an added bonus, it’s less feel-bad than just countering a spell for the opponent, because they will get something in return, which also makes them more threatening in the long run. So, it’s politically advantagious as well.
Also, Arcane Denial allows you to counter your own spell, technically cycling it and going up a card. For the two cards spend, you get to draw three and while you won’t often go for this line of play, but it’s nice to have the option.
All in all, don’t dismiss Arcane Denial as a counterspell in multiplayer. Sometimes things have to be stopped now, and having a splash-friendly hard counter is always a welcome sight in such situations.