Death and Staxes

FireStorm4056's Competitive Meren Stax List

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If you find this Primer helpful or informative, please take a moment to Upvote it so others may share in the fun!


Hi all, this thread is intended to be a Primer for this flavor of Meren stax - you may have seen my Niv-Mizzet the Firemind Primer on MTG Salvation, and I hope to do something similar with this (albeit much darker) list.

I have been piloting (and keeping quiet) about this list for roughly 1.5 years now (see changelog below) and at this point, I am finally pleased with it enough to post here. I hope you enjoy this journey, and find excitement in this fresh take on Meren stax - though note, this list will be extremely unpopular at casual tables! I have spared no expense in its construction, as you will undoubtedly see.

You can expect regular updates from me in the coming weeks and months as I expand on this thread and ultimately flesh it out into a Primer-like state. Please let me know what you'd like to see!

Deck Background

The objectives of this build are simple:

  1. Lock the board down as quickly and consistently as humanly possible - using destroy, forced sacrifice, discard, and tax effects.
  2. Maintain relentless engines of card advantage and game control, preventing anyone from breaking the lock and enabling you to win quickly and efficiently (without compromising Goal #1)

In making my card choices, two items mattered above all else:

  • Keeping the curve low: In competitive games, lists are starting to go off by Turn 3. A stax deck that can't outrace them will not be successful.
  • Multiplicity of threats, stax elements, and engines: Maximizing the number of stax elements, recursion engines, and disruption tools to ensure the right options are available right from the beginning - and then continue to be available as you battle through the inevitable hate from the rest of the table.

Meren provides our primary (though not only) recursion engine, creatures provide our toolboxing and utility, and artifacts/enchantments provide (most) of our stax elements.


This is not a deck for making friends - being a tuned competitive stax build, it will not be well-liked at casual and carefree games. The gameplan of victory through oppression and out-valuing your opponents is, while very effective, also quite brutal and many players simply won't want to play against it. If you are looking to invest your hard-earned cash into a rewarding and competitive deck deck involving many decisions and lines of play, this is definitely one to consider! Just keep in mind who you are playing with and how such a list might be received, especially if you're coming from a much more casual circle - if you're unsure about it, I recommend proxying it up, goldfishing it for a while, and running some test games with your friends before you commit to buying the higher-dollar line items.

Analysis of the Commander

Meren of Clan Nel Toth

Colors: Meren's colors of Green & Black provide access to:

  • Sacrifice effects
  • Forced discard, often random
  • Ramp, with options in the form of both creatures & instants/sorceries
  • Robust graveyard interactions
  • Excellent suite of tutors & draw effects
  • Noncreature targeted removal (from green)

These give us practically everything we need - many ways to lock down the board, break symmetry, generate card advantage, and find tools / engine pieces.

Converted Mana Cost: At 4 CMC, Meren sits in a great sweetspot for early plays - dropping acceleration on Turn 1 or Turn 2 enables a Turn 3 Meren. While likely not quick enough to dodge the first round of removal, this gives us many options on our timing for casting her (waiting for removal to be used on someone else, for example). If she were much cheaper, her effect would need to be balanced down; more expensive, and she wouldn't be versatile enough.

Power/Toughness (P/T): At 3/4, the most important aspect of Meren's P/T is that she is a strong blocker. Competitive decks typically aren't winning through creature damage, but smaller creatures may swing anyway (to activate abilities, or get in small amounts of damage when possible). Stax plays the attrition game, so having a Commander that can reliably block and kill most other creatures that will see play is very important to our staying power... if she were 2/2, the whole board could simply attack and kill us. Additionally, she is strong enough to provide lethal Commander damage to one or more players - once the board clears, 3 power is actually not bad (especially when paired with another 2-3 creatures).

Experience Counters: Crucial because we don't lose them if Meren dies. Once she hits 3-4 counters, the only way to stop her activating each and every turn is to keep killing her - which much of the rest of the deck is designed to prevent.

Triggered Ability: Let's break this down a bit more:

  • ...At the beginning of your end step... - Even if Meren dies, her ability will trigger the turn we re-cast her, something which cannot be said for most triggered abilities (which occur at upkeep). If she returns a ramp creature, this means you'll continue to curve out and be able to cast her again even if she is killed again. This gives her fantastic staying power, which is necessary in a stax shell.
  • ...return it to the battlefield... - This one needs no introduction - free recursion directly to the battlefield is extremely potent, especially when paired with ETB or leaves-the-battlefield triggers.
  • ...Otherwise, put it into your hand... - Even if Meren has zero counters, we still have a card advantage engine. By building for a very low curve, we can cast, sacrifice/kill, and re-cast utility creatures to very quickly build up counters. Additionally, this provides us chaff for global discard effects. Though Meren typically gets to 3-4 counters quite quickly, this means we can drop discard effects very early without needing to wait to play out our hand.

Win Conditions

Living Plane & Minister of Pain

There is one major "lock" combo included in this decklist which typically results in a win shortly thereafter: Living Plane + Minister of Pain. Together, this combination destroys all of your opponents' lands, and the effect is repeatable through Meren's recursion. However, unlike the Necrotic Ooze and Mike + Trike combos, the Living Plane + Minister of Pain pieces are still extremely useful on their own, which was a key factor in my including this combo over the alternatives:

  • Living Plane is its own stax effect, causing lands to suffer from summoning sickness, be affected by far more targeted removal, and become vulnerable to boardwipes (making opponents less willing to wipe the board and destroy our own creatures)
  • Minister of Pain not only deals with low-toughness creature swarms, but also hits many of the best utility creatures in the format. I find Minister of Pain useful enough on his own to tutor for him frequently, even without the combo assembled.

Umezawa's Jitte & Creakwood Liege

The actual killing blow is dealt through combat damage, which is made much faster through Umezawa's Jitte, Creakwood Liege, and raw creature swarm (you won't one-shot people, but assembling 15+ attack power is quite easy and makes games swift). Once Living Plane + Minister of Pain has landed, you accumulate such an advantage that victory typically arrives very shortly thereafter.

Building & Playing: A Discussion of Powerful Stax in Practice

Before we dive into this list in detail, I want to make a few quick comments about constructing an effective stax list. I feel that a lot of players coming to Stax for the first time tend to romanticize the archetype, or misunderstand its purpose. So, a quick comment in general:

A powerful stax list seeks to control the game by always getting the most bang-for-your-buck. AKA the goal is NOT:

  • To get 5 counters on Smokestack with a bunch of token producers in play
  • To make your opponents sacrifice all of their permanents every game
  • To make everyone discard their hand every turn
  • To make your opponents' spells cost more
  • To do all of the above at once

These are all certainly powerful effects, and I'm not saying you won't achieve this from time to time with the list above; but these are extreme examples and shooting for them every game means you will sacrifice efficiency, speed, resilience, and ultimately, win-rate. The truth is, a Smokestack often only gets 1-2 counters - but combined with a huge density of other threats (discard, tap, tax), this is all you need to win the game. "Win-more" is a very real concept and something I see all the time - and while the games you do win tend to be bigger stomps, your win rate is usually much lower.

The point of stax is not to shut out our opponents entirely. Magic has been carefully designed - with good reason - such that achieving this tends to be extremely difficult and inconsistent. Rather, we want to utilize spells which efficiently exploit our opponents weaknesses, give us gamestate advantage, and put us in a winning position before they are able to stabilize.

Additionally: "Breaking parity" simply means you are coming out ahead of your opponents. It does not mean you are unaffected by your stax elements. It simply means that you play better under your imposed oppressive conditions.

Thus, just because you choose to run Smokestack doesn't mean you need token generators to counteract it. Consider that, (a) if there are other recursion engines built in, and (b) you inherently play a much higher density of permanents than your opponents, we will naturally come out ahead (often far ahead) of our opponents in the end - even if it means sacrificing a few permanents along the way. Yes, in a vacuum token generators reduce your losses to a Smokestack - but they do very little on their own! This tradeoff in deck consistency / reliability is simply not worth it to save a few low-value permanents - especially when you're nabbing key permanents off your opponents!

(Note: It's not bad for our spells to help us break stax parity. However, it's bad if that's largely all a card does, because that means it has little or no utility otherwise.)

High-Level Goals & Objectives

This stax build is intended to be a firm control list, but unlike Blue permission we rely on permanents to starve our opponents and keep our engines running. Speed and consistency are a major concern if we are to establish a board presence before our opponents get off the ground - but the threats we drop must also be significant enough that our opponents cannot afford to simply ignore them. The pace of the game is largely dictated by the first 10 cards you see - your opening hand & first three turns. Personally this is a good rule of thumb regardless, but it applies even moreso with Meren. If you can't begin to lock out your opponents with the first 10, you're too far behind for it to matter. Therefore, we only have 10 random cards (11 with Meren) with which to achieve everything we need.

Obviously, a low curve and quality ramp are important factors in applying pressure to our opponents straight from the get-go. Take note that there are a number of one-drop mana dorks in this list - although they don't synergize with Meren's recursion ability as land-fetching creatures (for example, Viridian Emissary), their speed is simply unmatched and they are the golden ticket to staying ahead of your opponents. Sidenote: Consider that Viridian Emissary costs more than a mana dork, is far slower, and does not have immediate payoff; in exchange you get greater potential return-on-investment if you can recur him multiple times.... in reality, this rarely happens. A Viridian Emissary usually fetches one land and is never seen again - so a mana dork is simply the faster and more efficient choice.

When building your deck, note that over-ramping can be a problem, as it means you'll run out of steam to actually control the game. Of the first 10 cards, ~3 will be lands - meaning we have ~7 slots to play with for ramp and disruption/stax. 1-2 high-quality ramp pieces leaves 5-6 slots of threats. However, if we run too many ramp sources and draw 3-4 ramp cards in the first 10 (dorks + rocks), our threat density is literally cut in half!

General Card Selection

The whole point of stax is to limit your opponents resources and eliminate their cards - whether in-hand or on the battlefield. I think everyone is familiar with the archetypal stax cards (Smokestack, etc), but in a value-dense, recursion-centric stax list, we can afford to build around a more subtle "stax" theme:

If your opponents are spending removal on you, it means they are consuming turns, resources, and cards. Forcing opponents to respond to you indirectly taxes and slows them!

In other words, simply having a massive density of threats and stax elements will achieve your goals one way or the other - either the stax elements will stick, OR your opponents will be forced to waste their time dealing with them. The key is simply to ensure that you can stay ahead of their removal. If you do, you win! Our many value and recursion engines let us come out on top of this tradeoff, and mean that most players simply won't be able to maintain pace, even if they are able to find answers to some of our threats.

When thinking about building a competitive deck, I recommend "forgetting" the concept of "late-game cards." Every card must be a powerful early-game card - dominance in the late game is achieved by utilizing powerful interactions between your strong early-game cards. This is a good ideal to strive for, because it will make your early game not only extremely potent, but also ridiculously consistent/reliable. Each selection on this list follows this rule.

When playing, the first objective is to slow the game down. Against Combo, this may mean a Sphere of Resistance or Null Rod; against creatures, this may mean Grave Pact, Minister of Pain, or Fleshbag Marauder. Whether you play Meren before or after your stax elements will vary depending on the situation you're in and the decks you're facing - if you're not afraid of removal, play her as quickly as possible as her engine is the core strength of the list. However, if your opponents are heavy on removal and counterspells it is important not to get overzealous. Casting her straight into removal results in a dead (and expensive) commander in a stax list, and your tempo grinds to a halt. Instead, force out removal & counters with other threats from the library. The threat density of this list is massive, and the creatures can ultimately be recovered later with Meren. Also, keep in mind that our list is constructed from the ground-up to play well from underneath stax effects - meaning even if Meren isn't on the battlefield, we are typically coming out ahead of our opponents.

The key strengths of this list are the sheer volume of threats it plays, its resilience to disruption, and its ability to maintain card advantage engines (continuously playing threats without running out of steam). Many of the deck's weaknesses are solved by simply playing through disruption: Meren herself has no evasion to dodge counterspells or removal, but rather than devoting undue slots to solving this issue, you simply cast a variety of other threats. Your opponents have two options: hold removal for Meren and allow you to scramble far ahead of them, or burn their removal on other permanents and provide an opening for Meren to stick on the battlefield. Either way we are happy and always moving towards establishing a dominant board position.

Ramp is an important aspect of the early/mid game. Because we are playing Stax, nonland ramp (mana dorks) are riskier vs. board wipes and do not accumulate additional advantage with repeated recursion cycles. However, the tempo they provide in return is MORE than worth it - mana dorks launch this deck out of the gates and enable explosive, powerful early-game moves. Additionally, they pair far better with Winter Orb.

The stax elements in the list are carefully chosen for their viability in a multiplayer environment. Low-CMC is highly preferred and key phrases here are, "each turn" and "each opponent." The exact stax package (and space it occupies) will vary from list to list, as the problems you'll need to answer may vary widely; however, a few overarching elements will almost universally appear:

  • Stax elements are both permanent-based (Bottomless Pit) and spell-based (Smallpox). This means we have access to fast one-time effects AND slower but accumulating effects.
  • Forced sacrifice effects, which serve as our primary removal and is both repeatable and symmetric (hits all opponents)
  • Tax and anti-untap elements, which seek to make spells grossly expensive and turn-consuming to cast. These will likely not lock opponents out singlehandedly, but are used to put you multiple turns ahead, the goal being to take advantage of Meren's amazing card advantage engines and establish...
  • Forced discard, which together with tax effects quickly puts opponents in topdeck mode. Forced discard is crucial to our gameplan as even with tax and sacrifice effects, opponents may still be able to play through; by forcing them into topdeck mode, our likelihood of winning increases substantially (many Tier-1 decks rely on multiple cards to solve major issues, rather than single topdecks).
  • Other silver bullets such as Null Rod and Contamination, which can singlehandedly lock out entire decks and/or secure our path to victory.

This is the goal of our stax package: tax, force sacrifice, force discard, and put opponents into topdeck mode while we are in card-advantage mode.

Outside of ramp and stax, almost every other card in the list is a card draw or card advantage engine. The decision to play stax is not one to be made lightly, and the pilot should be aware that in doing so, the entire table will likely turn its forces against you. Therefore, it is crucial that you have the card advantage to break stax parity, overcome your opponents' disruption/removal, and progress steadily and swiftly to victory. In short: Locking the game is necessary but not sufficient; you must generate enough steam to close out the game quickly and before your opponents manage to throw off their shackles.

Stax Engines & Effects: A Breakdown of Our Tools

Let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat:

Stax effects alone are not wincons. Stax effects are simply the tools that give us the time and space to win the game through combat damage.

With that in mind, let's jump right into our gameplan:

Goals of our Stax Package:

  1. Slow the Game Down
  2. Destroy our opponents' On-The-Battlefield (OTB) resources
  3. Destroy our opponents' not-OTB resources, AKA their hands

Keep this list in mind, as each Stax piece serves to fulfill one (or more) of these objectives. Additionally, know that you will need to accomplish all three of the above if you want to be competitive; achieving just one or two leaves opportunity for our opponents to run away with the game!

1. Slowing Down the Game: Tax, Tap, and Anti-Untap

Sphere of Resistance & Nether Void

The primary objective of tax effects is not necessarily to prevent opponents from playing spells entirely, but rather to force their tempo down to a more manageable level. In general, a tax of 1 has two crucial benefits:

  1. Low-CMC spells (which make up the majority of decks at competitive tables) cost 50-100% more to cast, and
  2. Higher-CMC spells are often pushed past the optimal "curve-out" point for their pilot's deck. What do I mean? Many lists are able to hit 3-4 lands quite reliably, but often the jump from 4 -> 5 and 5 -> 6 takes multiple turns. A tax of just 1 may set us back one turn, but set them back multiple turns as they wait to topdeck land.

Sphere of Resistance and Thorn of Amethyst are arguably the best two tax effects in the game, costing only 2 and hitting a wide range of spells (hitting early, and hitting hard). Unfortunately, many of the "best of the rest" are in white and therefore off limits, but we do have Nether Void - a card that often acts as a double Time Stretch for 3B.

Winter Orb & Tangle Wire

If you are not familiar with Winter Orb, Tangle Wire, and Root Maze, it is easy at first glance to fear their symmetry (as they slow down our own tempo in addition to our opponents'). However, time is perhaps the most important resource for us and these grant that. More importantly, a major focus of this list is Meren's recursion engine, which neatly sidesteps these restrictions by realizing powerful effects for zero cost. The recently-printed Manglehorn is pure gravy for us - providing another source of artifact removal and ETB-tap effect (very useful against Mana Vault, Grim Monolith, and unlimited-draw Sensei's Divining Top combos)

When playing Tax and Anti-Untap effects, know that while this list as many ways to break parity, it does not do so as gracefully and effectively as others, and these stax elements are not our wincon (compare this to Candelabra of Tawnos shenanigans in Teferi stax). While we are often able to circumvent the restrictions on these permanents, their primary purpose is to trap our opponents in quicksand so that other locks (discard, forced sacrifice) and card advantage engines can be setup. Do not be alarmed if at times your own Winter Orb slows your gameplan as well - the idea is that, even if our tempo is slower, the net effect puts us well ahead of the rest of the table. (Though, there are definitely times when dropping an Orb is just plain wrong!)

2. Solving Permanents: Removal, Sacrifice, and Resource Denial

Smallpox & Umezawa's Jitte

The importance of removal and disruption is obvious, and in this case, it comes in two varieties: one-time effects and repeatable effects. One-time effects allow us to eliminate the most important of our opponents' threats with precision, while repeatable effects prevent our opponents from gaining a foothold on the battlefield. There are many tools for eliminating On-The-Battlefield (OTB) permanents, but in general it is important to cover the following bases (examples of each included):

  1. Creature-Based Forced-Sacrifice: Fleshbag Marauder, Merciless Executioner
  2. Non-Creature Forced-Sacrifice: Grave Pact, Smallpox
  3. One-Time Removal: Maelstrom Pulse, Yahenni's Expertise, Nature's Claim
  4. Repeatable Removal: Umezawa's Jitte, Shriekmaw
  5. Instant-Speed Options: Interaction with the stack is important, so we play a mixture of highly efficient one-shot removal effects and repeatable, permanent-based effects. Note that some permanent-based effects can be accomplished at instant speed: Grave Pact paired with a sacrifice outlet is a prime example of what we're looking for; instant-speed, non-targeted removal. Meanwhile, spot removal rounds out or suite of tools for solving our enemies' most problematic permanents.

Null Rod & Contamination

"Resource Denial" tools make OTB permanents useless, even if they aren't destroyed. Null Rod and Contamination are the heavy-hitters here. Where Tax and Anti-Untap effectively slow the game down, this duo is capable of locking out certain lists entirely. In many cases these will be your most potent silver bullets to shut down the most threatening opponent(s) or secure your win condition. Sometimes dropping them early will provide you with fantastic tempo advantage (especially if you have creatures that can generate green, in the case of Contamination), while at other times it is worth holding one until the proper moment (blue player is tapped out, etc). At the beginning of each game you should consider what each of your opponents is playing and whether you should be spending early tutors seeking these out.

3. Catching Opponents Empty-Handed

Bottomless Pit & Liliana

Empty your opponents' hands. Then keep them empty. In a four-player game, an effect which causes each opponent to discard a card is basically equivalent to three-for-one removal - cards your opponents hold in-hand are often finishers or combo pieces, and most cards we discard can be retrieved in one way or another (so losing them temporarily is of little concern). The most powerful aspect of a discard engine is simply that virtually no lists are built to deal with one, especially one which is up-and-running very early into the game. A player can spend countless hours theorycrafting and fine-tuning their list to curve out perfectly in the first few turns - but typically this will all fall apart if you can simply stick an early tax effect combined with repeated forced-discard.

As the game progresses, the goal of discard is:

  • To reduce the rate of opponents' board progression by limiting their ability to combo powerful spells
  • Force opponents to play spells on the turn they are drawn, significantly reducing the likelihood of encountering countermagic or instant-speed removal
  • To limit opponents' options for dealing with the state of the board (often, overcoming our effects requires more than one spell)
  • Limit your opponents' abilities to plan plays and future turns. Knowing they cannot hold cards not only gives them fewer play options, but also means it is more difficult for them to plan against you.
  • Enable you to execute confident actions, knowing that your opponents have few (if any) options for responding to you. This is crucial! Playing against an opponent with 5 cards-in-hand is totally different than playing against one with a single card-in-hand.

Chains & Chalice

However, Forced-Discard is not the only tool at our disposal to attack our opponents' yet-to-be-played resources, and two in particular are worth mentioning... Chains of Mephistopheles and Chalice of the Void. Note that Chains of Mephistopheles is a very meta-specific card choice, and one which has weaved its way into and out-of my list many times... so although it may or may not appear in the decklist, it is worth discussing here:

  • Chains of Mephistopheles specifically targets combo and blue decks. Almost all blue lists are either running a plethora of Brainstorm and Frantic Search effects, or heavily draw through their decks to win the game... many do both. Reload effects like Timetwister are also common, and these provide fuel to opponents who otherwise would be stopped by our heavy discard suite. Chains is not only a silver bullet for many combo strategies, but also the nail-in-the-coffin for our discard, preventing our opponents from ever reloading their hands. This is extremely important to recognize! Once our discard engines are running and Chains is on the field, there are very few ways for our opponents to re-stabilize. The downside, however, is that it does not accelerate our own board position, and many decks simply don't care about this kind of effect. In general it may not be the most useful inclusion; but for the right meta, it can be a powerhouse.
  • Chalice of the Void is meant to almost always be cast for X=1. Why? At competitive tables, 1-cmc spells run rampant... whether removal (Swords to Plowshares), counterspells (Spell Pierce), tutors, etc.... Chalice protects Meren by blanking many of the most common removal spells and prevents many of the most common draw/tutor spells. While it does hit a few of our own spells, it is still highly assymmetric.

4. Selecting Stax: Creature or Non-Creature?

At some point in reading this you've probably asked yourself: in a Meren stax list, is creature stax (Liliana's Specter) or non-creature stax (Bottomless Pit) better? Ultimately, I have found that a healthy diversity between the two produces the best result. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Most creature effects trigger on ETB or LTB - while this synergizes well with Meren, you only get one trigger per turn and thus can only realize one stax effect at a time. Non-creature stax, while less resilient to removal, does not suffer from this restriction.
  • Diversity of permanent types is inherently stronger vs. opponents' removal
  • Creature-based stax is easier to get rid of if necessary (many sacrifice outlets), while non-creature stax typically dodges forced-sacrifice triggers. There are pros and cons to both, and times you will prefer one option over the other. For example, Magus of the Abyss is easy to get rid of when you need to (sac to itself), while The Abyss sticks around after a Wrath of God (you won't be forced to sac it to itself)

Diversifying away from a completely creature-focused list sacrifices a small bit of recursion potential, but gives you more options, dodges removal better, and makes you less prone to finding yourself on the receiving end of a top-deck blowout.

Selecting a Creature Package

Creatures are the meat and potatoes of this list and the fodder for Meren's recursion engine. Probably the most important aspect when selecting creatures for your list is ensuring that each creature you pick has a built-in two-for-one effect. This means it taps for mana, fetches a land, puts permanents into play, draws you cards, or recovers cards from the graveyard. Your creatures will die early and often - either at our own hand, or your opponents'... getting maximum value from them is the key to winning the game. If you have a choice, two-for-one effects based on the creature dying are preferred; not only are they often built-in methods for building Meren counters, but they also prevent difficult decisions (most of the deck is built around creatures dying, and effects which rely on creatures staying alive force you to choose between two suboptimal options rather than one synergistic path).

When selecting creatures for inclusion it is important to weigh both the creature's converted mana cost and the cost of any activated abilities attached to it. For example: Sylvok Replica and Viridian Zealot both cost a total of 4 CMC to cast and activate, but there are different tradeoffs between the two. The Zealot can be played or activated with only 2 mana up, while Replica requires 3 to be hard-cast. On the other hand, the Replica's color requirements are much less restrictive, and its ability ultimately costs less mana after repeated looping with Meren. There is not necessarily one right choice - but it is important to weigh these options when considering the other card choices in the list, as well as your style as a player. (I have Zealot in my list over Replica for a totally different reason - he doesn't get turned off by my own Null Rod)

This list wins the game through combat damage, and it is important to get combat damage in starting in the first few turns. This is because, although Stax plays like a control list, your opponents will still have some capacity to play through and it is important to win as swiftly as possible. The most important aspect of combat damage is the following: You should identify the opponent who is the greatest threat to your gameplan and exclusively attack that person until they are eliminated from the game. Some will say that this gameplan goes against the spirit of Commander, and they'd rather spread the damage around... to them I say, stop reading! This is not the deck for you. Spreading combat damage around not only paints a target on your back to all players, but also keeps more opponents at the table longer, thus greatly increasing the likelihood that they will be able to stop you from winning. If you are not willing to devote all attacks to eliminating one person, and then the next, and so on, know that you are willingly empowering the rest of the table (something a competitive build should be expressly designed - and piloted - not to do).

Regarding Protean Hulk

With the unbanning of Protean Hulk, many lists quickly adopted Hulk Combo as a wincon. While that strategy is undoubtedly strong, I've elected not to play it here for one simple reason - the combo elements largely do nothing unless all are assembled together. Even a single dead-draw in the early game can completely rock the boat of Stax Control, so we can't really afford to play these combos unless we're willing to give up consistency and resilience in our lock. I have moved for the Living Plane + Minister of Pain combo instead, the pieces of which are far more useful on their own!

Individual Card Selections & Notable Exclusions

Mana Dorks

Mana Dorks


  • Birds of Paradise - The best dork we run, as Birds grants access to B on Turn 2. As I mention in the "Lands" section, hitting colors in turns 1-4 is absolutely crucial - so birds is a MUST here.
  • Deathrite Shaman - Deathrite Shaman is arguably better than BOP as a mana dork. Crucially he is very easily cast (being B or G), and the ability to hate on graveyards is very useful against many archetypes. With the prevalence of fetchlands at competitive tables you should rarely have issues generating mana; this is one rare case where his power decreases in less competitive metas.
  • Elves of Deep Shadow - Our best tap-for-one-color dork. Why? Casting it means we already have G, so this guarantees access to BG.
  • Elvish Mystic, Fyndhorn Elves, Llanowar Elves - Tapping for only G hurts, but efficient acceleration is still efficient! It would be a major boon for Wizards to print a Golgari flavor of Noble Hierarch, because hitting B and BB is so important... but these do for now.
Notable Exclusions:
  • Arbor Elf - We play a good density of forests and fetches, but I still worry about the consistency of this creature. However, I'm actively looking for a place for it in the main list, possibly replacing Sakura-Tribe Elder.
  • Boreal Druid - Again, we are really starved for colors in our first few turns, so this just doesn't do it for us.
  • Bloom Tender, Devoted Druid - Some of the best mana dorks in history, but at 2cmc they're not what we're looking for. It's all about those explosive T1 plays and cheap-as-possible drops.
  • Deathcap Cultivator - Why oh why doesn't this just cost G like Noble Hierarch? Please Wizards, give us a 1cmc Golgari dork!
  • Lotus Cobra - Our land percentage is a little too low for him to be reliable... not to mention the 2cmc cost.
  • Rishkar, Peema Renegade - Rishkar is more at home in a midrange control list, but here he is simply too slow. He shines with Meren's recursion ability and a swarm of creatures, but it's a little too "cutesy" and just not fast enough.

Land Fetchers

Land Fetchers


  • Crop Rotation - This typically seeks out Gaea's Cradle, hence it's inclusion in this category. That said, in a pinch it can fetch for Phyrexian Tower or Bojuka Bog.
  • Sakura-Tribe Elder - Simply the most flexible, efficient, and versatile land-fetching creature we can play. It is very important that his sacrifice ability has no extra cost tacked on, and that it can be activated as needed; virtually all other land-fetching creatures either have extra costs, or lack control over timing. Still, Sakura-Tribe Elder may not stick around much longer, in favor of something like Arbor Elf.
Notable Exclusions:

The excluded land-fetchers largely all suffer from the same problem: the are simply not fast enough. In theorycraft land, repeatedly tutoring lands onto the battlefield is a strong ability. However, in reality, most of these creatures would only trigger once anyway, providing no more benefit than a standard dork - but without the incredible T1 speed.

Other Ramp

Other Ramp


Outside of mana dorks, we want the very best bang-for-the-buck rocks and nothing more. Adding a pinch of these strong effects keeps us on-pace with the rest of the table, but keeps us from being too vulnerable to our own Null Rod or an enemy Vandalblast.

  • Blood Funnel - Truly a hidden gem and one which is very powerful here. It is a more versatile and one-sided Arcane Melee effect for less than half the cost, with a built-in sacrifice outlet stapled onto it. The sacrifice effect may seem like a downside, but consider that: (a) the cost reduction typically enables you to cast another creature that turn, keeping you in the same place; and (b) we need good sacrifice outlets to trigger Meren, Grave Pact, etc. At the time of writing I haven't seen anyone else playing this card, which is strange to me!
  • Carpet of Flowers - A mainstay in competitive circles. If you (strangely) aren't playing against a lot of blue, don't bother running it - but in a given 3-4 player game it typically generates big mana very quickly.
  • Chrome Mox, Mana Crypt, Sol Ring - Crypt and Sol Ring are the best colorless rocks. Chrome Mox is here due to the large fraction of nonland cards we run.

Notable Exclusions:

  • Awakening Zone - Far too slow for our uses.
  • Earthcraft - Incredibly powerful, but with the transition to a bunch of mana dorks, this is less strong than it once was. It may still deserve a slot, but I'm not sure we need the extra mana this would produce (at least in this way).
  • Mana Vault, Grim Monolith - Colors are simply too important for these to really be worth the slot - usually we want to lead with G + dork, then follow up with a stax piece (typically costing B or BB). It hurt a bit to cut these, but it hurt more to have so much colorless mana and nothing to do with it!
  • Mox Diamond - I am actively looking for a slot to put this in; the only reason not to run it would be the relatively low land count we run. It is roughly equivalent to Chrome Mox in power and definitely worth finding space for.
  • Mox Opal - Our relatively low artifact count, combined with lack of artifact tutors/generators means this is not a great choice.
  • Perilous Forays - If Wizards somehow released this card at 3cmc (hint: they never will) it would be an auto-include. Unfortunately, 5 is just too far out of reach - the whole point of ramp is to get to ~5 CMC, not to push past it... so this is not a great fit.
  • Sylvan Scrying, Kodama's Reach, Cultivate, etc. - These just don't mesh with the goals of the deck - on T2 / T3 we want to be locking down the board, rather than ramping out to 5+. Spending time ramping this way means we're missing our window where we can actually shut down our opponents.

Tax & Stax

Tax & Stax


  • Bottomless Pit - Random discard is best discard, and this is the only repeatable random discard at this CMC.
  • Chalice of the Void - The vast majority of spells in cEDH sit at 0, 1, or 2 CMC; thus, most of the removal and enemy win conditions we need to worry about can be solved by a well-placed Chalice. It takes skill and expertise to place a Chalice at the right time and X value, but doing so can really hose fast combo.
  • Contamination - The classic resource denial stax piece, a fast Contamination can sometimes win the game on its own. All other times it serves as a major headache to slow the game and force responses from your opponents. Between our many mana dorks and Meren's recursion abilities, breaking parity is quite easy!
  • Fleshbag Marauder & Merciless Executioner - Removal (which dodges Hexproof) + Meren counters. They don't solve all of your problems, but serve as mini board-wipes and can cause trouble for lists running relatively few, but important, creatures. These are two of my most commonly-picked recursion targets with Meren.
  • Grave Pact - The CMC is high, but resolving Grave Pact means Commander-reliant decks will have a hard time staying relevant. While not a true finisher, Grave Pact provides an enormous amount of board control and allows you to deal with problematic creatures much more easily.
  • Liliana of the Veil - There's a reason she costs so much, and it's because she fulfills multiple roles here - forced discard and forced sacrifice on a 3cmc permanent.
  • Liliana's Specter - A flying blocker and one-sided discard for the whole field. At 3cmc this effect is quick enough to run, though similar options at 4cmc (Cackling Fiend) are a little too slow and expensive.
  • Manglehorn - I think every green stax player let out a collective cheer when this card was spoiled. Green already lacked cheap ETB artifact removal and Root Maze effects on creatures - getting both at 3cmc is a real boon.
  • Mindslicer - One of the most powerful tools available to us for stalling out combo and resetting any advantages our opponents have accumulated. Not only is our own hand fairly small to begin with (since we play out fairly quickly), but we also have recursion engines to reclaim the key pieces we need. Mindslicer doesn't end the game, but I would still put it in the "finishers" category.
  • Nether Void - Absolutely hoses storm and similar builds. The major downside is the cost, though once down it makes the game significantly more difficult for spell-slinging decks to play.
  • Null Rod - The shiniest silver bullet we pack vs. artifact combo or ramp. An early Null Rod blanks a large fraction of popular strategies, in particular Chain Veil Teferi.
  • Phyrexian Revoker - A fantastic, easily-tutored silver bullet against a variety of combo strategies. Shuts down Isochron Scepter shenanigans, Teferi, Temporal Archmage, Necrotic Ooze, and plenty of other smaller effects. It can be found off our multiple tutors and Survival of the Fittest effects, making it a potent answer to decks which rely on key activated abilities to win. If your meta is running strong permanent-based combo, this is probably worth including.
  • Smallpox - I'm still not sure whether Pox or Smallpox is the right call here, but they do everything we need with great efficiency; wiping creatures, lands, and hands.
  • Sphere of Resistance, Thorn of Amethyst, Trinisphere - The classic tax effects, these are bread-and-butter inclusions for a list like this. For tax effects, it's all about the tax percentage - these make most spell-slingers' cards 50%-100% more expensive, resulting in a massive tempo reduction for them.
  • Tangle Wire - A fantastic tool for stabilizing in turns 3-5. Dropping an early Tangle Wire gives us the time to make our land drops and get our engines online, while insulating us from fast combo insta-wins.
  • Winter Orb - One of the most iconic stax pieces, Winter Orb is yet another tool for slowing the game down. With our many mana dorks, Gaea's Cradle, Phyrexian Tower, and a few artifact rocks sprinkled in, we still power through a Winter Orb while many decks struggle to cope.

Notable Exclusions:

  • The Abyss - One of my favorite cards of all time and one of the reasons I originally wanted to build this deck... but unfortunately it's just a little too narrow and slow for inclusion here. At 3 cmc I think it'd be worth it, but at 4 it's just a bit too pricey and slow. Additionally, killing creatures is just not that game-winning in cEDH, with so many spell-slinging decks running around - and we don't want devoting something at the top of our curve to a stax piece that isn't universally helpful and oppressive.
  • Cackling Fiend - The 3-4 cmc jump is a huge one for us; we don't want cards competing with Meren's slot, and if so, they need to have a pretty large global impact. Unfortunately Cackling Fiend is a bit overcosted - Liliana's Specter does the same thing for 1 cmc less, and Syphon Mind costs the same but draws you multiple cards.
  • Chains of Mephistopheles - Against certain decks and metas this should absolutely be included - so I encourage you to pay attention to your competition and consider whether this is a good pick. Long story short, this hoses heavy draw lists and draw-based combos, and there are simply no other cards that replace it nearly this cheaply.
  • Cunning Lethemancer - The key issue with Lethemancer is that he does nothing until the full turn after he comes into play. Necrogen Mists is better because it activates on each player's turn, thus turning on once you pass after playing it... but Lethemancer has no effect until you get back to your own turn.
  • Damping Matrix - Like Chains of Mephistopheles, this silver bullet completely shuts off many combos you may see in the meta. For a general list I don't include it, but if you are playing against decks with many activated abilities (especially combos that win - i.e. Necrotic Ooze combos), I encourage you to consider it.
  • Smokestack & Descent into Madness - These cards are simply too expensive and slow for what they do, taking a full turn to even begin turning on. If they were cheaper (2-3 cmc) the delay might be justified, but high cost AND the long delay before turning on means these just aren't worth it.
  • Desolation - This seems a bit too suicidal to me, though if your meta sees very few mana dorks it could be a great include. The major question is whether or not you run more nonland mana sources than your opponents - if so, this could be a great option, but heading into a blind meta it seems too risky to me.
  • Liliana, Heretical Healer  Flip - This second Liliana likewise serves two functions once she flips - forcing discard and acting as a second reanimation engine alongside Meren. Her frontside isn't very useful however, and she doesn't always flip immediately - so she isn't quite quick enough to make the cut.
  • Magus of the Abyss - See The Abyss above
  • Necrogen Mists - A powerful effect, but (a) it's a little bit too slow compared to the likes of Liliana's Specter, and (b) doesn't net the card advantage of Syphon Mind
  • Oppression - Unfortunately, this doesn't stop your opponent from casting their most important spells - it just tacks on a tax. I prefer effects that hurt our opponents' abilities to play their best options (such as Nether Void), rather than giving them the choice and option to still cast what they need to.
  • Painful Quandary - Very expensive and doesn't affect the boardstate. Additionally, like Oppression it doesn't actually prevent spells, it just makes them cost more.
  • Pox - Extremely strong and efficient; I'm having a hard time deciding whether this should be in the list over Smallpox.
  • Root Maze - very strong effect, I just can't find room for it. I hope it can come tacked onto a creature in the future, such as some variant of Manglehorn.
  • Static Orb - Perhaps one that should be included in the list, but I've been slightly underwhelmed with it in testing. This may make an entrance eventually, but for now I just can't find the right slot for it.
  • Words of Waste - We have enough tax effects already; giving up our own card draws seems like a losing proposition. Activating this ability means we don't see our draws AND can't get those cards into our graveyards, while our opponents still have the chance to draw and cast their cards before we get to our turn. At worst, our opponents accumulate cards in their graveyard for potential use later on. Either way, we get the short end of the stick.

Spot Removal

Spot Removal


Notable Exclusions:

  • Acidic Slime - Too expensive. Not much else to add!
  • Bone Shredder - Very similar to Shriekmaw, but slightly more expensive to cast initially. However, this card is one to consider if you run a Protean Hulk package as it consumes much less of the total CMC. Outside of Protean Hulk, however, Shriekmaw is the better choice.
  • Bone Splinters - A bit too narrow and restrictive; for almost all cases, Dismember is simply better
  • Krosan Grip - Split second is nice, but does not come for free - and Grip is just a bit too expensive and narrow for what we get out of it.
  • Putrefy - Not quite as strong as Maelstrom Pulse and Beast Within, and there just aren't slots for narrower removal such as this.
  • Sylvok Replica - A hot contender for Viridian Zealot's slot (total casting + activation cost is the same). I simply prefer the lower initial casting cost of Viridian Zealot. However, the more strict colors mean that Viridian Zealot may come out in favor of Sylvok Replica.

Tutor & Card Draw

Tutor & Card Draw


  • Birthing Pod, Entomb, Evolutionary Leap, Fauna Shaman, Survival of the Fittest, Worldly Tutor - Creature tutors, many of which are repeatable. Our main recursion engine revolves around creatures, we run a large variety of toolbox critters, and half of our main combo is a creature (Minister of Pain). Thus, creature tutors are crucial for accessing the right options down at the right times. Entomb can technically find anything, but almost always finds a utility creature.
  • Crop Rotation - See entry above in "Land Fetchers"
  • Dark Confidant, Necropotence, Phyrexian Arena - Standard suite of black draw permanents. We have relatively few other draw engines so cutting these would be a pretty big mistake.
  • Demonic Tutor, Diabolic Intent, deck:Imperial Seal, Vampiric Tutor - We play the full suite of the 1-2 cmc "find anything" tutors, enabling us to either (a) setup for the Living Plane combo, or (b) find the key answers we require in a time of need.
  • Grim Haruspex, Skullclamp - Card draw that triggers off our creatures dying. The most important part of these cards is that no extra cost needs to be paid to activate the card draw, unlike many alternative engines. Thus, we don't need to hold up mana to earn the draw - simply losing a creature does enough.
  • Sylvan Library - This card should require no introduction. The best draw permanent in green for a very reasonable cost.

Notable Exclusions:The cards listed below are primarily not in the list for two reasons: (a) they are too expensive for the effect (we already have similar effects for cheaper), and (b) we don't really have room or need for more of these effects, for risk of diluting our stax elements too far.

Utility, Boardwipe, & Combo

Tutor & Card Draw


  • Creakwood Liege - This card looks like it doesn't fit at first, but I have been incredibly pleased with it. More than any other card, the Liege generates both amazing attack power and a strong defensive wall vs. creature swarm. Without it, our clock is quite slow - even after landing our major combo. With it, achieving 15+ power on the board is quite easy and it allows for a swift win.
  • Eternal Witness
  • Living Plane, Minister of Pain - Our primary combo - while not a strict win condition, the game typically ends shortly after this lands.
  • Ophiomancer
  • Reanimate
  • Sensei's Divining Top
  • Syphon Mind
  • Toxic Deluge
  • Yahenni's Expertise - An underutilized card in EDH, this is a real house in Meren stax. It wipes the floor of almost all utility creatures your opponents will play (that is, most of the creatures in cEDH), and Meren just dodges dying to it. Casting a 3cmc spell for free at the same time? This is a fantastic gem.

Notable Exclusions:




Hitting colors is absolutely crucial in this list, so our selection of lands includes very few which tap for colorless - note the absence of Strip Mine, Wasteland, and other competitive staples. However, "hitting colors" is a very specific term for us - it almost always means: (a) landing T1 for a mana dork, and / on turns 2/3 respectively for our stax pieces. Thus, we play the full gamut of ETB-untapped duals and fetches, while excluding almost all lands that tap for colorless. Missing colors early-game means we don't hit our critical drops as needed and almost always guarantees a loss.

  • Ancient Tomb - One of the very few taps-for-colorless lands we play, due to the raw acceleration it offers. A dual land, mana dork, + Ancient Tomb in hand means Turn-2 Meren or stax piece, and no other land offers this level of acceleration.
  • Bayou, Overgrown Tomb - The best dual lands on offer, every Golgari list should be playing these.
  • Bloodstained Mire, Marsh Flats, Misty Rainforest, Polluted Delta, Verdant Catacombs, Windswept Heath, Wooded Foothills - The full complement of fetchlands to ensure we can access our dual lands or basics at the right time. If you are OK on colors, it might be a good idea to simply fetch a basic land, especially if you know there is nonbasic hate in your meta.
  • Bojuka Bog - The fact this ability is tacked onto a land is pretty incredible - but "ETB tapped" is a massive downside. I'm still not sure if this belongs in the list, or if it should be replaced with a basic land and I should just find a slot for Scavenging Ooze in the main list.
  • City of Brass, Mana Confluence - Included to further ensure we hit colors at the right times. I typically don't play these for fear of nonbasic land hate, and it is something to be aware of if you see a lot of Blood Moon effects in your meta. But, colors are simply too important here.
  • Command Tower, Llanowar Wastes, Tainted Wood, Twilight Mire, Woodland Cemetery - Rounding out our suite of taps-for-either-color are these three lands. There are others available to us, but all are a bit more restrictive, and also would further reduce our basic land count and expose us to Blood Moon effects.
  • Gaea's Cradle - We play enough creatures that this often taps for GG or GGG. However, be wary of Cradle in an opening hand, as it is often a dead card. Drawing it at T2-T3+ is fantastic, as is finding it with Crop Rotation... but in an opening hand, ensure you have other lands and acceleration to get you where you need to go. One other land + mana dork + Cradle is definitely doable and a strong opener, but only if you don't expect your dork to die - in which case removal 2-for-1's you.
  • Phyrexian Tower, High Market - The best sacrifice effects available to us, with Phyrexian Tower being the superior choice by far. EVERY Meren list that can afford it should be playing Phyrexian Tower since it does everything we need, providing a sac outlet and access to the crucial BB needed for many of our most potent spells.
  • Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth - Incredibly useful for hitting our many multi-B spells, and a common target with Crop Rotation. Even though it doesn't provide the acceleration of Gaea's Cradle, sometimes getting access to multi-B at instant speed is simply what you need.
  • Forest, Swamp - As mentioned a few times above, keeping a healthy count of basic lands reduces our vulnerability to nonbasic land hate. At this point the deck runs quite smoothly and only has trouble with colors in very rare cases. While I'm not 100% sure the final ratio is set in stone, I do believe it's very close to this.

Notable Exclusions:

  • Blooming Marsh - Just a little bit too restrictive to see play in our list.
  • Cabal Pit, Centaur Garden, Ifnir Deadlands, Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers, Shizo, Death's Storehouse - ETB untapped lands that tap for colors, but the effects they offer are just not useful often enough when considering the prevalence of nonbasic land hate. I prefer to just nab a few forests and swamps to ensure we don't auto-fold to Blood Moon.
  • Forbidden Orchard - With many Fleshbag Marauder effects in our list, the last thing we want to do is provide our opponents with fodder for sacrifice.
  • Grim Backwoods, Miren, the Moaning Well, Scavenger Grounds - Strong effects, but the lack of tapping for colors really kills these options. I grant that the effects ARE strong, just not universally useful to justify the lack of access to colors.
  • Rishadan Port, Strip Mine, Wasteland - Again, not tapping for colors is the major problem here, but there is a second issue with these cards - we sacrifice our own board position to hold down a single opponent, leaving the rest of the table unaffected. These cards are undoubtedly auto-includes in 1v1 Commander, but in multiplayer there just aren't many times where I want to 1-for-1 my own lands with a single enemy.
  • Volrath's Stronghold - A powerful card, yes, but even so, I don't believe it justifies the potential lack of access to colors in the early game. We have enough resilience that this effect is not needed in return for potentially losing the game off access to colors in our opening hand.




+1 Damping Matrix

-1 Sensei's Divining Top

In a bit of an unexpected change, this update sees the removal of Sensei's Divining Top from the list. Why? It just doesn't fit our tempo that well, and there aren't that many times it feels like the right choice. T1 we'd much rather be playing a dork, and T2-4 are typically already full with other control options. While a good sink for extra mana, it just doesn't feel like we ever have that mana to spare - and often 1 mana makes or breaks a turn.

The replacement card is a very meta-call for me, so it may not be the right choice for everyone. I play against a lot of artifact and creature-based combo, so stopping both of these combo lines is a major concern for me. Though, this could be a very dead card in some playgroups. I could easily see Drown in Sorrow, Putrefy, Pithing Needle, Scavenging Ooze, Loaming Shaman, etc. in this slot.


+1 for the description, damn. i can see the blood, sweat, and beers put into this deck. have you considered adding a similar description to this site?

August 31, 2017 7:31 p.m.

Profet93 says... #2


I just read your primer. +1 for your level of detail (although my head hurts, even after skipping some portions).

Question for you. You mention Chains of Mephistopheles in your primer but I don't see it here, why is that?

Moreover, Blood Funnel seems pretty weak (although it might be powerful in this build and I just can't see it). What has your experience with this card been?

Reassembling Skeleton can be useful with Contamination and Smokestack.

How do you deal with planeswalkers? You only have Beast Within and Maelstrom Pulse. Hero's Downfall or Never can help with that if you find that to be an issue (maybe people will play them more/less given the new legendary rule for planeswalkers).

Grim Tutor for more tutoring? I'm VERY SURPRISED to see no Yawgmoth's Will. With your low CMC, you could cast a lot of spells.

Rishadan Port or Strip Mine to tap down their lands like coffers and cradle?

September 1, 2017 1:21 a.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #3


I plan to make a more elaborate "Primer" here, but it will take some time to get the writing finished and everything formatted. It probably won't happen for a few weeks yet, but keep an eye out!


The primer text is in need of a major update - a lot of it was written a few months ago, before many of the more recent changes. So, my apologies that some of the references may not be up-to-date with the actual decklist!

Chains of Mephistopheles is strong against the right lists, but not universally so - it can be a good situational pick in the right metagame and nothing does the same job better. However, an early Chains doesn't accelerate your board position and typically doesn't universally impair your opponents the same way an early Sphere of Resistance would. The lack of my inclusion doesn't mean you shouldn't play it, just that it might not be the best choice when approaching a new and unknown meta.

I haven't come across Blood Funnel that many times in testing but I have actually been quite impressed with it so far. The "downside" of sacrificing a creature is actually often helpful since the list tends to be a bit low on sacrifice outlets, and making noncreature spells 2cmc cheaper really puts you ahead in T3+ (letting you play multiple spells per turn when otherwise you couldn't). It's not a guaranteed include but so far I've been decently surprised with it... and as far as I know I'm the only person running it in a Meren list and it's a definite hidden gem, I encourage you to give it a shot.

I don't run Smokestack anymore, it is just too slow to keep up, even with acceleration ( CMC AND waiting a full turn before any payout is just not acceptable). And, I find I often don't have trouble feeding Contamination, so I prefer to devote slots to utility creatures rather than creatures that don't have much utility outside of feeding the engine (which doesn't actually get online that often anyway).

Re: Planeswalkers - first, they just aren't that common at competitive tables, so devoting slots solely to that problem is not all that necessary. Additionally, this list tends to have more creatures than others, so planeswalkers can often be dealt with simply by attacking them!

Grim Tutor and Yawg's Will are both sort of in the same boat - the effects are very powerful, but there are rarely turns where we are lacking something to do and can afford to spend CMC like this. It's possible one or both may get in here eventually (I tend to make rather large/sweeping changes as you've seen!), but right now I'm pretty pleased without them and don't know where in the turn-tempo they would smoothly slot in.

Re: Lands - hitting your colors in turns 1-4 is simply so important that any lands which tap for colorless mana MUST have exemplary and oft-used effects. I used to run both Port and Strip Mine, but (a) the lack of color production can literally lose you the game in an opening hand, (b) I didn't actually use their utility effects very often, and (c) using them on another player requires making sacrifices of your own - the rest of the table nets advantage while two people (including yourself) fall behind.

September 1, 2017 2:31 a.m.

Profet93 says... #4

Very detailed response. Please inform me when you have an updated primer. I would love to take another look at your deck with a fresh eye. Love the deck and thought process that goes into it

September 1, 2017 5:23 p.m.

smiffdemon says... #5

How well do you find that Umezawa's Jitte works for you? I'm thinking about throwing it into my own Meren build, but I'm curious how your usage of it typically goes.

September 7, 2017 12:52 p.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #6


On luck-of-the-draw I actually haven't seen Umezawa's Jitte all that often, but the times I have it's been very good and I've been impressed with it. It basically does everything we need:

  • Spot removal (hits black creatures unlike Shriekmaw)
  • Incremental lifegain to counteract our many sources of pain ticks
  • Fast clock to end out the game once we've fully stabilized

In some sense it's the Cryptic Command of equipments and the versatility provided at such a cheap cost is what makes it so good. That said, it is not a card I will typically spend a tutor on (lockdown or the Living Plane combo is almost always the better find). Topdecked however, it is usually quite strong! I recommend giving it a try if you haven't already.


I've more or less migrated everything here, so go ahead and take a look! There are some sections I plan to add in the coming weeks, but the bulk of the material is now here.

September 7, 2017 2:58 p.m.

Could Ramunap Excavator or Life from the Loam be useful or are you looking to win before it would be relevant?

September 7, 2017 6:27 p.m.
September 7, 2017 6:29 p.m.

Permafrost says... #9

Minister of Pain seems not great here. Why not Viscera Seer? It's a cheap and free sac outlet that provides card advantage (sorta).

September 7, 2017 6:54 p.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #10


We don't really run any combos around Ramunap Excavator or Life from the Loam so we can't really max out their potential. Typically the creatures I'm trying to find room for are those that either accelerate us out of the gates (high-value mana dork), or offer some way to oppress our opponents more quickly/reliably (or in a new/different way). These do neither, so although I think they could be useful in a vacuum, I don't know how well they would actually help secure a win outside of some niche situations.

Good call on the Sylvan Safekeeper! It has been on my "Maybe's" list for a long time (though I didn't put it up here), but I haven't yet been convinced on it. It does protect Meren, but in many cases I'd rather her just die than sacrifice our own lands. Since we stall out the game pretty hard, opponents using removal (aka turns, under Winter Orb or the like) on Meren means (a) they aren't actively advancing their own win condition, and (b) we have more time to advance the rest of our boardstate. I'm hesitant to sacrifice lands to protect her since we operate quite well without her and lands are arguably even more important. Plus, with many mana dorks, stax effects, and tutorable Gaea's Cradle, we typically curve out faster than our opponents (we can't recast her indefinitely, but recasting her once or twice is much better than losing one or two lands and giving up the competitive edge).


Check out my section on "Win Conditions"! Minister of Pain combos with Living Plane for a powerful one-sided Armageddon. At other times, there are enough utility creatures running around (mana dorks, Dark Confidant, tokens, etc.) that he is still useful as a mini-boardwipe. I was unsure about the inclusion at first because -1/-1 seems subpar in theory. But in practice I have been surprised at his effectiveness, often tutoring him up even without the combo ready since the wipe is very useful. And, if the combo does land, that usually means it's Game Over.

Compare this to the popular Necrotic Ooze + Phyrexian Devourer + Triskelion combo that relies on cards with no real play value except the combo itself... they still see play despite being useless without the assembled trio! Minister of Pain is very useful on his own AND fits nicely with our combo, so he fits quite naturally in the list.

Viscera Seer is OK, but only once you have some sort of boardstate established. If we had a few extra slots then maybe it'd be here, not sure. But as it stands, I prefer to devote 1-cmc to mana dorks to accelerate hard, then 2-3 cmc to stax pieces to ensure our threat density is high enough to actually stop our opponents from winning immediately T3. Opening-hand Viscera Seer doesn't really do either of these for us!

September 7, 2017 9:56 p.m.

fhowe36 says... #11

I'm new to stax, and somewhat new to EDH, please don't think my suggestion is dumb... But would Pestilence be an acceptable inclusion to this list?

September 7, 2017 10:42 p.m.

smiffdemon says... #12

Well, you've convinced me to try out Jitte. I'll see how it works in my own playgroup!

September 7, 2017 11:36 p.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #13


Not a dumb suggestion at all! In fact I used to run Pestilence in this very list, but found it was a little too slow for what I needed (my Changelog is one of the few things I haven't had a chance to add to the main post quite yet). Ultimately, Yahenni's Expertise ended up taking that slot - I found that a very efficient one-time wipe with a free spell tacked on was so much faster and more efficient than having the option to continuously wipe the board. Also consider that the first wipe for -3/-3 ultimately costs 7 mana on Pestilence! So, I don't run it anymore, but you might give it a shot to see if you have similar experiences to me (test it out against things like Yahenni's Expertise and Infest to see what gives you the best results).


Best of luck :)

September 8, 2017 12:45 a.m.

x12721 says... #14

What about Cryptolith Rite? It turns all your creatures into rainbow dorks and is only two CMC. Also, why no Fatal Push or Tragic Slip? I would think that that would be very useful to this deck. Finally, what would you recommend about enemy Planeswalkers? My playgroup often uses them, and I'm only really seeing one possible answer to them.

September 8, 2017 9:27 a.m.

Paladin_11111 says... #15

All that ETB's and no Panharmonicon?

September 8, 2017 12:26 p.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #16


I recently cut Earthcraft which is, in most cases, a better Cryptolith Rite (Earthcraft effectively bypasses summoning sickness to all your creatures!). I've recently removed it, but I'm not sure yet whether I'll put it back. Two things I was considering at the time: (a) I run a lot more dorks than I used to, and for those creatures it offers no benefit since they already tap for mana; and (b) I was in need of additional fast spot removal. Earthcraft / Cryptolith Rite are very strong, just a bit slow, so I'm not sure yet on whether one will come back! I will make an update post if I do.

I'm running Dismember over Fatal Push and Tragic Slip for two reasons: (a) it's less restrictive on colors (usually we're tight on so conserving them where possible is helpful), and (b) a little more flexible on valid targets (permanents dying or leaving the battlefield can be restrictive, especially if trying to do this as a combat trick). These two are definitely in consideration! Just haven't decided whether I need more creature spot removal yet - my playgroup tends to run a lot of noncreature combo, so Abrupt Decay, Maelstrom Pulse, Beast Within, etc. are serving me well there. Don't forget that the board is typically wiped pretty clean between all the symmetric sacrifice effects (like Merciless Executioner) so spot removal is usually only needed for the most troublesome or worrisome creatures.

Re: Planeswalkers - I mention it in an above comment, but in short, combat damage. We keep field wiped pretty clean of enemy creatures so simply attacking into planeswalkers is the easy way to go and I've never found myself needing PW-specific removal. Planeswalkers are also pretty uncommon in CEDH in general so it's not something I pay a lot of specific attention to. If your opponent has planeswalkers and lots of defenders out, then something went wrong earlier in the game and that's where you should direct your attention/tuning (as opposed to putting in PW removal).


I only run ~8 ETB effects! There are lots of creatures but not many are actually triggered on ETB. Panharmonicon is fairly slow & high-CMC, but most of all, it relies on other cards to have any effect at all - which is a big risk to take when our goal is to take over the game by T3 (and therefore can't afford to draw any duds in opening hand). I think it might have a better place if we were running a lot of degenerate creature combos here, but for the same cost we could just cast 1-2 other spells and have a guaranteed immediate effect instead! So in summary, it's less what Panharmonicon can do for us, and more about what we have to give up for that card slot and 4 mana.

September 8, 2017 11:03 p.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #18


Long story short, that's because this deck is alarmingly different from the herd and that is the whole reason I've gone about writing this primer :)

Virtually every other Meren primer is some blend of midrange / goodstuff with most of what you've listed. I've tested and tried out all of those options and I just don't think this is the strongest way to build her... it results in a slow and slogging list without much potential to tango with fast combo. But, Meren can be so much faster and more potent if you are willing to step out of the comfort zone of "normal" and try this list out!

In regards to the recommendations - most of those options are just not fast enough. Turns 1-4 are where CEDH games are largely set, and focusing on accelerating hard, locking down those turns, and transitioning reliably out of them, is what I've found to win games - much more than goodstuff. The "standard" Meren staples (Bane of Progress, Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, Sidisi, Undead Vizier, etc) are strong in theory but they just don't land quickly enough and you simply lose a lot of games because of it. Even The Abyss falls into this category - it hurt me to unsleeve it, but at this point the CEDH format and the rest of this list outpaces it so much that it's just not worth the 4cmc and long payoff period. Regarding Damnation specifically, it isn't there because Yahenni's Expertise is often the more efficient choice vs. the lists I see (i.e. Yisan swarm, etc).

Typical Meren lists are lucky to break an average 3.5 CMC, or 3.0 if they're lucky. Compare this to fast combo in CEDH which often hovers right around 2.0 or even lower - it's no wonder conventional Meren lists have a hard time keeping up! With the list in this Primer we're hovering right around 2.2, which means we're actually fast enough to keep pace with combo but still have the card quality and value engines to give us great control in the mid to late game.

It looks different because it is, I encourage you to give it a shot!

September 9, 2017 3:57 a.m.

So you're saying a turn 2 marit lage isnt fast? I play meren stax with the above cards as well as most of thia list, and my meren deck is very fast, not to mention, the creatures may be 5+ cmc but the entire point of meren is to cast them for FREE. Its very easy to get 9 loyalty counters before turn 9 and reanimate a sheoldred, damnation is 100x better than black sun, and you're missing the "fastest" combo in the deck.

Turn 1 Dark Depths

Turn 2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Vampire Hexmage, marit lage.

You say the cards are slow but meren has never cared about creature cmc since he gets them for free, and you're missing most of the "fast" combos

Stax isnt fast. The entire point of stax is group slug and slowing the game down by denying your opponents.

If you want to build him different thats fine, but i dont really see any wincon just removal and mana dorks, and what a primer is is a guide on how to play the deck as its intended, so running a "different" build automatically negates the point of a primer.

You can build it any way you want, but if you want to tag it as a primer it needs to be built the way it is supposed to, if the build isnt 100% optimal or maximized, calling it a primer is false advertising. So i would recommend changing the name because this is not even close to a primer :/

Build it strictly worse than its potential if you like, just don't advertise a primer if you dont understand how to use his ability, when you have 15 loyalty counters by like turn 6, reanimating a 1-3 cmc creature is extremely weak when you could be reanimating a Blightsteel Colossus or Sheoldred, Whispering One for free, but its a stax list, being fast is absolute lowest on your priority list.

Best of luck.

September 9, 2017 8:56 a.m.

I came here looking for ideas on my stax list, and the only one i found is Living Plane, for a budgetless primer thats relatively disappointing :/

September 9, 2017 9:23 a.m.

But if your meta is turn 2 combo based i guess i can see why they're too slow, i feel like you can easily get enough loyalty to cast the creatures for free before midgame, but you do have to make it that far in the first place, That much is True

Jeez my playgroup must be slow as hell if i can run those effectively than -.-

September 9, 2017 9:33 a.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #22


Think you're going a little overboard here, I'm not trying to offend you if you play Meren differently, it just looks like there are a few things we disagree on is all.

This is a "Primer" specifically because no one else builds Meren this way, and thus it deserves some extended discussion on construction and play. The whole point of making this a Primer is to show why it is different than the norm - not to do more of the same! If I were running largely the same build as everyone else, there would be no reason to make a Primer, there are enough of those already for midrange Meren. But since this is more or less completely different, I've taken the time to explain and share it with everyone.

Beyond that, the best way to judge the list is via actual playtesting - I've played plenty of games with "standard" Meren and plenty with the list here. If you (or anyone else) is on the fence about which to pick, theorycrafting is not the way to go. Proxy & sleeve up both versions and see for yourself which you like better!

On Speed: Stax may not win quickly, but it must still be fast. You need to start locking the game at T2-T3, and then consistently be causing more oppression in the subsequent turns if you don't want your opponents to just play through it and win anyway. There isn't time to durdle around placing a bunch of counters on Meren and not locking the game - if you do this, someone will just win in the meantime. Consider even your Vampire Hexmage + Dark Depths combo - in a 4 player game, that's a 6-turn clock at best to deal 120 damage - assuming no chump blockers, no exile removal, no bounce, etc. (and 6 turns is an eternity). So even though the combo "lands" quickly, even at its best it (a) doesn't actually win the game quickly, (b) doesn't accelerate your boardstate, and (c) doesn't lock the other players out. That's why I'm not playing it! In my meta, if you are not interacting, then there is almost a guaranteed combo win T2-T5 (unless there's an atypically unlucky draw). Such is the pace of CEDH combo and there is no room for 6+ cmc fatties in an opening hand if you want to remain relevant.

As to the rest, all I can say is that I think you should try the list before you criticize it how you have. I think you will find that it's much stronger and more oppressive than the "norm" you are referring to! Good luck!

September 9, 2017 1:12 p.m.

Thanks, and sorry if I was rude

Yea, I think i disagreed/misunderstood because of a different playgroup, I did get a bit ahead of myself there. I only have 2 or 3 opponents and its not always tier 1 games, and I am aware that stax needs to pull ahead before it can start group slug or it will suffer from it as much as the rest of the table

Thanks for the patience and logical explanations of your reasoning, ill use this as reference for upgrading my deck.


September 9, 2017 1:26 p.m.

Paladin_11111 says... #24

FireStorm4056 would you consider Smokestack? Love the deck man!

September 9, 2017 4:24 p.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #25

Thanks for the kind words Paladin_11111 :)

I used to run Smokestack, but took it out - I discuss it a bit in my "Individual Card Selections & Notable Exclusions" section under the "Stax" heading, but long story short waiting a full turn cycle for it to turn on PLUS costing 4 is what drove me away. I think if it cost 2-3 with the wait clause, or cost 4 but started immediately with a counter, it would probably be here, since it would be quick enough to really be running smoothly. I'm not totally convinced yet that cutting it was the right choice considering how much acceleration we have (so it can land T3 pretty regularly), but so far I haven't been missing it too much and it's made for a lot less clunky early hands!

...Fingers crossed they someday unban Braids, Cabal Minion (at least in the 99), since it's exactly what we'd want from Smokestack... starts working immediately (instead of waiting a full turn), very tutorable as a creature, and easily recycled with Meren!

September 9, 2017 4:55 p.m.

Paladin_11111 says... #26

FireStorm4056 would you check my ATRAXA deck out? Peace.

September 9, 2017 6:34 p.m.

Pygmyrhino990 says... #27

Winding Constrictor would be perfect in this deck

September 11, 2017 12:52 a.m.

99ghosts says... #28

I love stax and hate making friends!!I run a mono white stax hokuri deck so I'm def used to putting down my commander and people saying I don't wanna play against that.

September 13, 2017 7:13 p.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #29


I will take a look! I do not really have experience building Atraxa however, so not sure how helpful I will be.


It does at first! However since we're running so lean, it turns out that we only need 2-3 counters anyway for Meren to "turn on" for us. Which means, she gets there pretty quickly anyway! So I think it might be a stronger advantage to focus that slot on ramp or lockdown.


Good luck my friend, if you like Hokori then I suspect you'll like this! Hope you enjoy it :)

September 15, 2017 12:46 p.m.

golgariizzet says... #30

how come no Blood Artist, Black Market, Bontu the Glorified, Lotleth Troll, Spore Frog, Mesmeric Orb, Pox, Deadbridge Chant, Deathreap Ritual and Westvale Abbey  Flip all of these are cheap and super strong in meren with the exception of 2 deadbridge and black market are both really good though.

September 15, 2017 7:48 p.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #31


Of those, Pox is the one on my "Maybe's" list, and I'm seriously looking for a way to fit it in because it's just so good! As for the rest, they generally fall into the following categories:

Too slow and/or too expensive: Blood Artist (no combo in the deck, doesn't affect the battlefield at all), Black Market, Bontu the Glorified (tries to do too many things, but does none of them very well), Lotleth Troll, Deadbridge Chant, Deathreap Ritual

Not proactive / assertive for our gameplan: Spore Frog, Mesmeric Orb

Re: Westvale Abbey  Flip - colors are too important the first few turns, so we can't really afford any colorless lands unless their activation rate is extremely high or utility is essential to deck function. The distinction is NOT whether a land is good, but rather whether it's necessary to win. I've lost a lot of games being stuck on colorless lands that were "good" but only that.

September 15, 2017 8:47 p.m.

Hey FireStorm4056. I gotta say, I really appreciate the time and effort that has been put into this primer! It's so great to see a fresh, different approach to Meren (meaning not seeing the "typical" Lord of Extinction + Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord combo, Sheoldred, Whispering One etc....).

I was hoping that you would take a look at my Meren deck Graveyard Shenanigans (sorry, it doesn't want to link) and help me with thinning out the deck. It's extremely creature heavy, my thought process has been to control the board with creatures until I can set up a win with something unconventional like Dance of Shadows. I'm finding that it is entirely too slow, or I just can't slog through all the creatures to get what I want. I'd love your eyes on it, I feel like I have a fun different shell and want to figure out a way to make it work. I really liked your explanation on Minister of Pain. I had seen him in other builds, but had never thought about his one-sided use with Meren. I actually was just wrecked by a Yisan deck the other night, and really could have used the Minister to shut him down. He's exactly what I needed, and I didn't even know it.

For any suggestions you may have on my deck, please keep in mind that I'm on a budget. I do not currently have the funds for expensive shit.

September 16, 2017 3:59 p.m.

jeannieboef says... #33

I concure with your thoughts on Blood Artist, Black Market and Bontu the Glorified. However, Spor Frog is and has been awesome in my list. It is something my table has to deal with and they do waste a lot of mana effort and turns getting rid of that little one green mana card. Eitherway I come out far ahead. I do agree that if they leave him be, they have potential to develope faster in the early game than I, but the rest of the game plan is either ramp or stax anyway right?

I am thrilled to see an alt wincon combo! Can Living Plane do work before you draw into / tutor Minister of Pain, or is it a dead card?

September 17, 2017 3:11 a.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #34


I think the question with Spore Frog is: what is the problem we encounter that this seeks to solve, and is it worth spending our Meren triggers bringing this tool back over the alternatives? By spending resources recurring Spore Frog, it means we aren't utilizing a Reclamation Sage, Fleshbag Marauder, etc. so we should be sure it's the right choice.

Spore Frog seems to shine best as an anti-aggro strategy against a single aggro deck (since he can't protect you from multiple). The price paid is your Meren trigger each turn. If your meta is such that this gives you the space to win the game, I think there is nothing wrong with the choice - but keep in mind that Spore Frog doesn't deal with problems permanently and requires a continuous stream of resources (Meren triggers) to maintain. So, it is worth examining whether Spore Frog handles the problem better or worse than simply adding more removal (either that which is already in the list above, or alternatives like Infest, Drown in Sorrow, Fatal Push, Snuff Out, Go for the Throat, etc)

Yes! Living Plane has benefits outside of the combo. Off the top of my head:

  • (a) It gives all lands summoning sickness so helps with our goal of slowing down the game (works ESPECIALLY well vs. fetchlands!)
  • (b) It makes lands vulnerable to Grave Pact, Fleshbag Marauder, and other similar effects which we run quite a few of (I'm heavily considering Pox since this makes it even better than it already is)
  • (c) It goes pretty wild with Gaea's Cradle

September 20, 2017 1:30 a.m.

davester00123 says... #35

I run a more traditional mid range Meren. I've been torn on liliana Heretical healer. You yourself said you don't run that many sac outlets and I am concerned about the consistency of flipping her. How have you found this card?

September 20, 2017 10:10 p.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #36


Liliana, Heretical Healer  Flip is on my watch list and at or near the top of my potential options for being cut. From luck of the draw I unfortunately just haven't seen her that much in my games so my sample size with her is pretty small so far (hence my lack of a good, straightforward answer). She's objectively slower than I'd like, though I'm torn because of the strength of her flip side. However I'd say that she is one of the cards most likely to be cut in a future revision due to her tempo - just waiting on a few data points to confirm this. Good catch!

September 20, 2017 11:07 p.m.

davester00123 says... #37

Yeah, liliana, heretical Healer is SO close to being really really good.

Here are a couple cards I use in Meren that aren't on typical lists you might find interesting.

Helm of Possession - I fully understand that this card is not suited for CEDH, But i find it a very good utility card that is very underplayed.

Withering Boon - being able to counter a commander or important creature can come out of the blue and be very effective. This card has tension within the deck though because Meren doesn't typically like to leave mana open. You want to be curving out and spending all your mana on your turns to put pressure on the board, however I still find theupside worthwhile.

September 21, 2017 10:10 a.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #38


Agreed! I will be testing Phyrexian Revoker in place of Lili #2 for now - I think this provides us with a powerful new tool to answer combo, and one which is easily tutored, casted, and recovered. Good suggestion!

September 22, 2017 1:22 a.m.

x12721 says... #39

I just played 2 games with this deck against this one: Super Cascading Engine and lost both times, due to Ramos, Dragon Engine resolving and getting a massive buff from Maelstrom Archangel. Also, early game you lost many of your best creatures to Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver's +2. How would you counter that in this deck?

September 22, 2017 8:47 a.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #40


In full disclosure I've never played against that list or one quite like it - but typically the crux of Meren's power is how you choose to mulligan and which lines of play you seek out in your first few turns. In other words, a generic "good hand" and luck of the draw will often not serve you well, as opposed to thinking very critically about your opponents' weaknesses and proactively seeking out the best ways to address their individual strategies.

For example, some games against certain lists I ignore all else and look for Null Rod ASAP, because the disproportionate advantage it provides vs. artifact combo / ramp (i.e. Rashmi, Eternities Crafter combo) is simply so strong that every other line of play is just not worth it in comparison. On the other hand, against something like Yisan, the Wanderer Bard it is usually crucial to find removal or a boardwipe as soon as possible. So, your opening hand / mulligans / early tutors should reflect the line of play you believe is most likely to win you the game (again, a generic "good" hand will usually be the incorrect choice - it needs to be "good" for the specific matchup)

Initial impressions looking at the Ramos list:

  • Our average CMC is far lower, our 0 and 1 drop count is far higher, and we run many more mana dorks than the opponent. Thus, the problem is probably not speed - we should accelerate much harder out of turns 1-3 than Ramos by virtue of this alone. Therefore, the problem must lie with the line of play after the opening turns (as opposed to playing against some combo lists, where matching speed with speed is the crux of the issue)
  • Ramos' average CMC is high and creature count is relatively low. Its nonland mana source count is also relatively low. This tells me that Winter Orb, Tangle Wire, Nether Void, and Thorn of Amethyst are high-value early game plays. These drops are absolutely priority number one against high-CMC decks as they single-handedly destroy their tempo.
  • Being 5 colors and lacking much artifact and creature mana production, a fast Contamination lock would be very problematic for that pilot and may possibly simply win us the game. If you have Meren out and a tutor up, it's probably safe to just go for this right away, given the lack of spot removal in Ramos.
  • Ramos packs a lot of planeswalkers and fairly little creature removal. Planeswalkers tend to be over-costed if you can activate them only once... this, combined with the lack of creature removal means we are probably safe to swarm out with creatures and simply attack / destroy them ASAP. Therefore, we can overextend a bit in order to keep the opponent's board presence from blowing up too much. Assuming we have tax effects in play as well, it should be possible to more than keep up with the opponent's rate of dropping threats.
  • Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is not something I would spend deck slots to address. Losing a few cards off the top doesn't affect our board, doesn't limit our draws, etc. and your opponent should only get 1-2 activations off before this dies. The likelihood it exiles exactly the right silver bullet at exactly the right time is small enough that I'm not worried about it from game to game - especially if you are playing multiplayer.
  • Ramos seems to play high-value enchantments to accelerate hard and enable high-value plays. Therefore, flexible spot removal or creatures with "destroy-enchantment" effects are going to have increased value here. Tax effects still take preference in the early turns, since locking your opponent out BEFORE he drops enchantments is prefereable. But, given there are 10 high-value enchantments in the list, it's worthwhile to pack at least one answer to enchantments (using Survival of the Fittest, Worldly Tutor, etc).
  • On the other hand, creature removal is OK but probably not the right play to seek out ASAP as many of Ramos' creatures have ETB effects or haste so we can't address them quickly enough - and it doesn't slow down their gameplan enough. That said, as you reach the mid-game a Grave Pact with instant-speed sac outlets gives you great power to address Ramos as he hits the battlefield (but, at this point you should already be ahead).

In summary, we are much faster than this list and it at least appears to me that bogging him down in the opening turns of the game would give us plenty of time to setup a lock or establish fantastic board advantage.

Was this a 1v1 game or multiplayer? If multiplayer, did the rest of the table not use any removal?

September 22, 2017 1:03 p.m.

x12721 says... #41

Thank you for your detailed response! I probably didn't pilot this deck as well as I should have, so I'm going to blame the first two losses on that :) I was playing a 1v1 game against the deck, and since then I've played again, netting a solid few wins following your advice. I had managed to get the Living Plane + Minister of Pain combo out and the games ended fairly quickly after that, for all intents and purposes. The last part of this is a question regarding the new Sorcerous Spyglass out. Would you consider that over Pithing Needle or no? I personally like the hand peek built in, but the needle is a possible T1. What would you say?

September 26, 2017 5:27 p.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #42


Welcome back! Glad to hear you've been having some success with it!! :)

Re: Sorcerous Spyglass vs. Pithing Needle - Full disclosure, I have no experience yet with the Spyglass yet, so I can only offer some theorycrafting on how to choose between the two... hopefully it is helpful!

In my mind, it all comes down to how much information you have vs. how much information you need. If you have the information you need, Needle is better; if you don't, Spyglass is better.

  • For threats on-the-board, Pithing Needle is obviously better choice since all the information you need is already available (on the battlefield)
  • Threats in hand are either (a) those you know about, or (b) those you don't. Pithing Needle is the better choice if you already know what you need to answer before it is played or even seen. For example, if you know your opponent's deck ahead of time and are aware of a "crux" on all their combo paths (i.e. Isochron Scepter), you can simply play it proactively to shut them down ahead of time (you can often make inferences about their plans by paying attention to their plays/drops, tutors, etc). In these cases, you might not actually need to see your opponent's hand to answer their biggest threats, so Needle seems the better choice. However...
  • Sorcerous Spyglass is the better choice if you don't feel you have enough information to answer threats-in-hand proactively. This might happen if you are playing against unknown decks (i.e. if you play new opponents at your LGS a lot), OR if your opponents have a variety of combos that don't share pieces between them. In these cases, you need the extra information to make the right play
  • Consider, however, that if you're already paying for Spyglass and you don't know ahead of time what you want to name, it might be worth considering a more general/versatile answer such as Cursed Totem or Damping Matrix. A Pithing Needle effect is a killer precision strike against a key activated ability; but if you don't need that absolute precision, it might be better adopting a more general answer at slightly greater cost.

September 27, 2017 12:02 a.m.

jeannieboef says... #43

Deckbuilding and Playing1) What does slot selection look like for tutors vs. draw utility?2) What are your per turn aims for your game, e.g. on turn 1 I try to do this, and on turn 2 this, and on turn 3 this...?

September 29, 2017 11:51 a.m.

spectrevr4 says... #44

Firestorm4056 I really like what you have done here with your decklist to make Meren Stacks competitive. I run a much more casual version of Meren Stacks which is here I am finding that in my meta most players just build their boardstate until around turn 5-8 which is when things really start happening however there are some competitive players that are now running some crazy turn 3-4 mill combo decks that will obliterate a player's library and take them out of the game early, as well as a couple tron decks that are now doing turn 4 and 5 my question is how can I speed this deck up? I love the flavor of Meren and would like to take her more zombie themed but I have already invested almost $600 in this deck and don't want to have to start over to be more competitive. I would however like to make some changes to speed things up as it takes a while for this deck to really get going.

October 13, 2017 12:24 a.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #45


Not to worry! There are a lot of ways to speed things up. Looking at your list, here are a few things that I recommend:

  1. 1-drop mana dorks. Enough to be consistent with them in the early game. This is the surest way to speed up your clock and put you ahead of the table. Note that cards like Farhaven Elf are repeatable... but how often do you find yourself actually doing so? In my experience the tempo off a T1 Llanowar Elves is so much better than potentially getting a second land off Farhaven Elf. Most of the 1-drop dorks are quite cheap ($$), with Birds of Paradise topping things out at $4-ish. These will not only provide you with acceleration, but also can potentially replace higher-costed slots currently in your decklist (such as Into the Wilds, which has good long-term potential, but often you've already lost by that time). Even better, on later turns, dorks are cheap enough that you can still play them AND do something else useful - whereas if you play a Farhaven Elf, chances are that's all you're doing for the turn.
  2. Carefully evaluate engines that don't give you immediate return on investment. Black Market has big payoff potential but it doesn't do anything the turn it hits... there might be some other ways to build the deck that give you similar ramp but play out much quicker. Be creative, as it doesn't need to be a direct replacement. For example, Earthcraft and Cryptolith Rite are alternatives you might consider. They each cost 3 cmc less (so can be played earlier and don't take up a full mid-game turn) and make all your creatures IMMEDIATELY tap for mana (so no buildup required). With Meren + one non-dork on the board an Earthcraft is effectively free since they can immediately tap to generate two more mana. Again, the payout potential might not be as high as Black Market, but they hit a lot faster and (initially) harder.
  3. Don't rely on creatures for all of your removal. In my experience, Acidic Slime was almost always just a Nature's Claim for 5x the price... and it's a dead card for quite a long time due to its high cost. You should definitely still pack creatures with removal on them, but it's worth considering the best noncreature removal too (Abrupt Decay, etc). This is especially important when you are facing combo decks - often a single well-placed removal spell throws a wrench in all of their plans.
  4. How do the combo decks in your group win? Most of the mill combos I'm aware of rely heavily on artifacts, not only for the combo, but for ramping and card advantage. These types of combo decks are really, really weak to silver bullets like Null Rod, Damping Matrix, Pithing Needle, and Phyrexian Revoker. Paired with a few tutors you can land them reliably and often save the game without even having to think about much else. You already run some of the best tutors too so no real issues there! If decks are consistently winning on T3-4, then in most cases their plan is fragile to targeted removal or silver bullets. If you are running both then you will have a lot more ways to deal with these issues!
  5. Answering tron is tough if you restrict yourself to engine-based creature removal. My list has actually shifted away from most of the popular "kill" engines - note that I don't have The Abyss, Magus of the Abyss, Dictate of Erebos, etc. For the most part I pack a lot of targeted removal and Fleshbag Marauder effects to solve these problems... For example, I find the efficiency of a one-time Dismember is usually far better than hassling around with getting an Attrition engine setup - you might try a similar approach! My best reasoning is the following - you'll already have enough to do with creatures and Meren (it's not like you're lacking targets), so playing spell-based removal means you can do more per turn rather than have to decide on a single choice for your Meren trigger.
  6. Since we're playing stax/control, you have to take a long, hard look at every card that doesn't provide a strong boardstate advantage (card advantage, tempo, resource generation, etc) or hinder our opponents somehow. Verdurous Gearhulk stands out to me as something that doesn't really fit a "niche" - it is "good" but doesn't really play towards any plan of ours. So I question whether it is worth including. Compare him to something like Creakwood Liege, who can offer a similar boost to P/T on the board, but costs less and can generate a strong 3/3 critter each turn (to be used for combat, finisher, or sacrifice fodder).
  7. I'm not a huge fan of Death Cloud personally, it's just so expensive a price to pay for a symmetric effect. Pox and Smallpox are already in your list and very cost-effective - Death Cloud has always seemed to me like it cost just too much for what it offers.
  8. Clearly you are running Bitter Ordeal for a reason, and I would guess it's to answer the combos you've been facing :) I tend to prefer silver bullets like Null Rod (since they are widely useful regardless of opponent)... but if exiling combo pieces is the goal, might I suggest Sadistic Sacrament instead (sorry, card tags aren't working on this one for some reason)? It may not be the most efficient spell... but it is wicked fun to land against a combo player at the right time and a little more consistent than Bitter Ordeal :)


This is something I plan to address, but haven't had the time to write up quite yet. Some of the answers you're looking for are in the replies I've made in the comments - I will add a section like this soon enough.

October 13, 2017 3:45 a.m.

spectrevr4 says... #46

Thank you for such a detailed description as well as the speed of your reply.... There are some things in here I will surely play test with thanks to your suggestions. As far as how opponents are setting up mill so fast is a very interesting and frighteningly consistent design. The key pieces they are using are all about making a ton of mana and throwing it into cards like Mind Grind, and Increasing Confusion while supporting them with other cards like Brain Freeze, Traumatize, Mind Funeral, Mind Sculpt, and a bunch of Tutors and graveyard recursion for these spells. Setup usually has some sort of mana ramp such as Cabal Coffers + Crypt Ghast + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth or can use some basic mana rocks like Gilded Lotus, Mana Vault, Mana Crypt, Thran Dynamo. By roughly turn 4 or 5 these decks are producing around 8-10 mana....and 10 mana thrown into a Mind Grind is a bad day. Most of the time they don't even worry about getting their commanders out but I have seem use of Dralnu, Lich Lord, and Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker in the most potent versions. These reasons are why I have Bitter Ordeal currently as nothing kills combo faster than removing it's pieces. Once I slow them down its a better fight but still one I haven't been able to win. I really like your idea of Sphere of Resistance and Thorn of Amethyst for this situation. I had thought about the thorn before but when the time came I put in tanglewire instead. Your comments have gave me a lot to think about as well as to playtest with and for that I have to say thank you. I will have to keep you informed on my changes and how well they fare!

October 13, 2017 6:09 a.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #47


A faster clock should help solve a lot of your problems! And based on what you said, I think you'll be well on your way to outpacing them per the suggestions above.

Spell-based mill like this usually falls flat without big mana, and big mana is usually very weak to one-off targeted removal (because it leans on mana doublers, big mana rocks, etc). A few well-placed removal spells (Nature's Claim, Abrupt Decay) paired with Null Rod and Phyrexian Revoker (naming a key mana-producing piece so they can't tap for mana) could really put them off their game. These kind of decks usually rely on momentum to win so if you can crush a key piece of the plan, it should put you in good waters. Looking at the example you gave - Crypt Ghast + Cabal Coffers + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth are fantastic if they can all be assembled together, but that usually requires a number of turns and a lot of investment (tutors) on your opponent's part. Then, if you can snipe the Crypt Ghast with a single 1-cmc Dismember, that really shuts down a huge part of their mana production (CC + Urborg alone don't make huge mana until the land counts get higher)

Personally I think that if you can get your speed/tempo up and increase your density of targeted removal, you will solve a lot of problems before they actually become problems. So, you don't have to deal with the Mind Grind directly - you can just gut their ramp strategy to make the Mind Grind a non-viable play in the first place.

Since it's easy to miss, note that Null Rod completely shuts off mana rocks, because they have "Tap" as an activation cost. So landing a fast Null Rod can totally blow out entire mana ramp strategies. I spend my first fast tutor on Null Rod in probably 30-50% of my games just because it's so strong at shutting down artifact-based ramp and combo. Then, if you can land a Winter Orb shortly thereafter (with mana dorks on the board), you're well on your way to locking everything down.

Keep us updated on how things go!

October 13, 2017 4:35 p.m.

spectrevr4 says... #48

So to give you an update I did run a small 3 way game tonight with some changes done to my Meren deck against Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith and Phenax, God of Deception It came down to what I feel was a bad call where Nazahn was equipted with a bunch of equipment at the same time and I missed being able to activate my Icy Manipulator to keep it from attacking for 22 points of commander damage with Myriad which won the game. The person playing it had equipped Swiftfoot Boots as part of it's equiptment along with 4 other pieces of equiptment at the same time so it had Shroud and I couldn't tap it. Normally I would have been able to tap it in response to the equipment being equipped but due to a timing snafu and how the payer equipped everything at once I just let it go but I gotta admint I'm a little salty about it..Phenax on the other hand was completely shut out and was just collecting mana and watching the battle between me and Nazahn. The deck definately plays a lot different than it use to with the changes I made however I am still missing some of the key pieces I want to have in it to make it really speed up. I didn't get a single mana dork as a drop or Cryptolith Rite and found that the biggest amount of damage I was doing was by using Entomb + Eternal Witness + Phyrexian Altar and was constantly pulling things into my graveyard to pull them back with Meren. I was constantly running some sort of - counters to kill indestructible creatures this way which kept things at a stalemate for roughly 4 hours...for 1 match..I was just getting things really under control and could have pulled ahead within the next few rounds as I started cycling Army of the Damned + Dictate of Erebos + Phyrexian Altar and was keeping the board whiped clean...In fact I was going to tron myslef with Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger who was in my graveyard and would have been put into the battlefield on my next turn. Instead of being a tool about it though I just told the other player that next time they equip a bunch of things all a once they should instead equip them one at a time and ask if they resolve or if there are responses at each stage as a courtesy. But anyhow that was tonight's showing and I will have to continue with the changes and let you know how it evolves....I gotta say though it still seems a little clunky to me...and like it's always fighting from behind against faster decks...but maybe its just that I'm not playing it right or that it just needs more streamlining from where it is now...Here is the current list.

October 14, 2017 4:59 a.m.

FireStorm4056 says... #49


It will probably take some time to find the right balance. For what it's worth, looking at my (offline) changelog my current Meren decklist is on its 30th iteration. Some of those changes were small (a card or two) and some were large (10-15+ cards), but in stax/control it's all about how they work together and it can take some time to get the recipe right!

Re: Icy Manipulator - it's always seemed a little expensive up-front to me. Do you usually use it against creatures? What about something like Meekstone or Ensnaring Bridge instead? Unfortunately Bridge is creeping up in price (hopefully it will be reprinted in the next Masters set). Meekstone doesn't stop attacks but dropping one at the right time (creatures already tapped) can be great for protecting you until you can solve / lock out the board, then destroy it yourself and swing in for the win. Alternatively there are more removal options like Lignify which solve Commanders extremely well (effectively removal which doesn't even let them be recasted)

Also, keep in mind that there are just some games you can't do anything about - so always try to get a few games in before you draw any major conclusions. For example, if you don't see mana dorks in a single game, it may just be luck of the draw - but if you're consistently not seeing them early enough across many games, chances are you might need to up your dork count to hit the consistency you're looking for.

October 14, 2017 5:35 p.m.

spectrevr4 says... #50

I agree that this iteration I am currently playing is going to take a little bit to get use to as it plays quite different. I also agree that luck of the draw and different match-ups will play quite differently from time to time and it is just going to take me a little bit to get use to this variant. It is however playing better and I see a potential in it that is quite exciting. I am going to make a few more changes by adding in a few more mana dorks to get better odds of setting up that mana base early. As far as Icy Manipulator I have found it quite invaluable. Especially if you get it to combo off as in Icy Manipulator + Winter Orb Tapping your own Winter orb with it on your opponents end step right before your turn is completely devastating to them as it tempos the rest of the playing field except for you. Icy Manipulator + Winter Orb was always a big thing back in the day when I was playing 4th edition but I guess it went away for a while...with the version of winter orb in eternal masters however it's text as well as it's oracle text on the gatherer says "As long as Winter Orb is untapped, players can't untap more than one land during their untap steps." and they even use an example of tapping it with Glare of Subdual so it must be legal again.

October 20, 2017 12:02 a.m.

Tyr_W says... #51


November 4, 2017 5:11 p.m.

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30% Casual

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Date added 6 months
Last updated 1 month

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 2.28
Tokens 3/3 Beast, 1/1 Worm, Experience
Folders cEDH, EDH, Helpful Decks, Meren of Clan Nel Toth, maybe edhs, Commander Ideas, EDH, cEDH deck refs, Competitive EDH , Intresse, See all 34
Top rank #1 on 2017-09-16
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Revision 4 See all

1 month ago)

-1 Sensei's Divining Top main
+1 Damping Matrix main