Drowned Secrets and Arclight Phoenix have always been pet cards of ours. We brewed a ton with Drowned Secrets back when Guilds of Ravnica was first released, and had plenty of fun playing a Standard version of a deck that resembles dredge combo decks in older formats. Well, we finally realized how much Merfolk Secretkeeper adds to this strategy, and we're quite excited about this list.
4 Merfolk Secretkeeper/Venture Deeper 4 Unsummon 4 Opt 4 Drowned Secrets 4 Discovery/Dispersal 4 Mission Briefing 4 Radical Idea 1 Maximize Altitude 2 Selective Snare 4 Arclight Phoenix 4 Watery Grave 17 Island (335) 4 Creeping Chill
Standard Dredge with Merfolk Secretkeeper (Arena Formatted Decklist) 4 Discovery // Dispersal (GRN) 223 3 Mystical Dispute (ELD) 58
4 Arclight Phoenix (GRN) 91
4 Creeping Chill (GRN) 66
4 Drowned Secrets (GRN) 39
4 Opt (XLN) 65
17 Island (XLN) 265
4 Mission Briefing (GRN) 44
1 Maximize Altitude (GRN) 43
4 Radical Idea (GRN) 52
4 Watery Grave (GRN) 259
4 Unsummon (M20) 78
4 Merfolk Secretkeeper (ELD) 53
2 Selective Snare (GRN) 53
3 Disdainful Stroke (GRN) 37
3 Ashiok, Dream Render (WAR) 228
1 Negate (RIX) 44
3 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries (WAR) 54
2 Aether Gust (M20) 42
4 Discovery // Dispersal (GRN) 223
3 Mystical Dispute (ELD) 58
Drowned Secrets is by far the most important card in this deck. You'll be extremely happy the 40% of the time that you see it in your opening 7. When you don't have it, you'll strongly consider mulliganing any hand that doesn't have a nice curve involving multiple 1-mana spells. This deck certainly takes advantage of the new mulligan rule, getting to look at a fresh seven cards each time even if you mulligan to five.
Merfolk Secretkeeper may be the only card from Throne of Eldraine in this entire list, but it carries the weight of the entire set! This card is perfect for this deck – it's two cheap blue spells to trigger Drowned Secrets, it's a 1-mana Sorcery to help trigger Arclight Phoenix more quickly, and it gives you a realistic plan to start the self-mill engines if you haven't found Drowned Secrets yet. The body even serves as a great blocker, letting you stay alive long enough to race your opponent.
Unsummon is a card that we did not have access to in our first version of this deck that we built with Guilds of Ravnica, and it is an extremely welcome addition now. This deck craves spells that cost a single mana, and Unsummon is a real playable spell at this cost. It can serve as a tempo play when you are trying to set up your gameplan against aggro, and against a slower deck or just any game where you have time, you can use it to bounce Merfolk Secretkeeper to your hand, essentially drawing an extra copy of Venture Deeper. This combination makes it quite easy to cast several spells in one turn while also milling very deep.
We might as well mention the payoffs now, as without them we wouldn't have a deck. Arclight Phoenix has proven itself as an all star in multiple formats, and we're very willing to build our deck with cheap instants and sorceries in mind. Creeping Chill is a perfect supplement for the hasty recurring bird, as it both keeps us alive and gets the opponent in chunks of 3. In this deck, your opponent essentially starts the game at 11 life and you at 29, so you only need to poke in with Arclight Phoenix a few times to close the game. One thing to note with this deck is that to play it properly you must master the ability to use Arclight Phoenix as a blocker. This deck is remarkably good at getting the Phoenix back turn after turn, so you have to balance the chipping in of damage with simply staying alive. Any time you are able to trade off your Phoenix for a real creature out of your opponent (or at least a removal spell), you're gaining an advantage. But if you know you are able to survive another turn, it's often surprising just how fast you can find lethal.
Mission Briefing is at its absolute best in this deck. It contributes to the self-mill plan, and can bring back Arclight Phoenix singlehandedly for five mana. You can chain one Mission Briefing into another, ending the chain with either Opt or Unsummon. Note that it's usually best to play Mission Briefing on your own upkeep so that you can take full advantage of the surveil effect. With Drowned Secrets in play it can be awkward to try and keep any good cards off of surveil, and often you'll want more information up front about your draw step so that you can plan your turn accordingly. In addition to all of the tricky options for card selection, Mission Briefing gives us access to a ton of copies of Unsummon every game, so we'll certainly be able to clear the skies for our Phoenix.
Selective Snare might raise some eyebrows, but we included it in the year-old version of the deck just as an additional option for a 1-mana blue spell for Phoenix and it's much better now. It's definitely possible to bounce an army of knights or a pack of Wolves (or even just two copies of whatever random creature your opponent happened to draw), but having an abundance of this type of effect is very nice when we're very happy to bounce one or more copies of our favorite Merfolk Wizard.
Radical Idea isn't anyone's favorite card, but it's absolutely essential glue to make this deck work. You hope to mill these rather than draw them, though obviously it's just fine as a filler on your way to a Phoenix turn. This card lets you get any drawn copies of Arclight Phoenix where they need to be, and ensures that you have enough gas to continue recurring them turn after turn. Maximize Altitude is basically a card with no text that just lets us mill a discard outlet that only costs a single mana. Having just this single copy in our deck can often be the difference between winning and losing, since we go through almost our entire deck in every single game and mana is often very tight in the early and middle turns of the game.
Opt and Discovery round out the deck as our options for best cantrips. Opt is obviously vital due to its mana cost, and Discovery is best at putting cards in the graveyard while also smoothing out your draws. Cantrips like Anticipate and Shimmer of Possibility are worth considering, but ultimately don't make the cut as they can be awkward when you are forced to put your payoff cards on the bottom of the deck.
We're running four copies of Watery Grave to supplement our Island manabase. We've definitely won some games due to the ability to cast Dispersal, but more importantly it lets us cast any copies of Creeping Chill that we may have ended up drawing over the course of the game. We also considered running copies of Steam Vents to be able to cast Arclight Phoenix, but ultimately found that running 8 shocklands was losing us more games against aggro than it was winning us elsewhere. Arclight Phoenix still gets value when we draw it since discarding it is actually good, but to get the reach of Creeping Chill we want the ability to cast it.
Hope you enjoy the deck! We've been enjoying a nice winrate with it and hope to record a video to show here very soon!