Looking at a Random Card: Merfolk of the Pearl Trident
(What am I doing here? Read here!)
Merfolk of the Pearl Trident: Creatures leading 17-2 now. I’ve decided to get to 20 entries fast, and then decide if I’m going to do something about this seemingly unbalance in the random card feature of Gatherer.
What to say about this merfolk? First thing that comes to my mind is the creative issue with this race overall, which had already caused them to be banished from the game before they finally returned in Time Spiral: How are Merfolk supposed to fight for you on land? Well, let me put it simply: It doesn’t matter! A game of Magic doesn’t exactly make sense in real world terms anyway, and there are any number of possible explanations which work in a fantasy context (as Wizards realized themselves). Merfolk are a fantasy staple race with excellent flavor, and that Wizards brought them back was probably not only due to popular demand, but because there was simply no good replacement for them.
Then again, how much flavor can a 1/1 vanilla creature have? Wizards say they’re important for beginning players, allowing them to cast a simple spell on their first turn. I can only say that, when I was teaching Magic, it was never a problem if the new player cast his first spell on his second turn (Grizzly Bears, of course), or if his first spell was a Suntail Hawk, a Lay of the Land or even a Sleight of Hand. I really can not recommend teaching Magic to players using cards they might very soon identify as useless – maybe it makes the game a tiny little bit easier for them to understand, but there’s also a chance that it makes their first playing experience less enjoyable. You do not want to overburden them with options, but if they realize that the right way to use a creature is to neither attack nor block with it most of the time, they might get frustrated. You want to show them that Magic is a game about meaningful choices. I’ve never met a player who didn’t immediately understand the concept of flying, so I found it always to be a great idea to put Suntail Hawk instead of Eager Cadets in the decks I used to teach the game. (And there’s also nothing wrong with using Elite Vanguard as a 1-drop.)
So I have established now that merfolk have a place in Magic, but 1/1 vanilla creatures aren’t really needed. There’s not much more to say about Merfolk of the Pearl Trident. All the simplicity in the world cannot make up for the fact that they have no play value, not even in limited environments. Caller of Gales or Tidal Warrior are better, generic options sharing the merfolk creature type (and each adding another useful type), if you want this kind of card for your cube. My verdict: E.