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How Does Simic Win the Game?

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Readers!

Last week we looked to the past to find some decks that would be improved by new cards and that a was a lot of fun. Ultimate Masters got me thinking about upgrading and this week I decided to do the same thing to a future deck I haven’t even built yet and quickly realized that’s impossible. Or is it? I have a few decks I am toying around with that I basically stopped playing because one of them seems all that good at… how do I put succinctly what it struggles with? Winning. It’s good at getting ahead very quickly, great at making sure no one else can do their thing, but when it comes time to win the game, it’s tough to make it happen. The other has the opposite problem - if it develops an overwhelming board presence it can end the game in one attack but it’s hard to get there with people viewing every big dumb creature as a threat. The deck that can win if you let it is Vorel of The Hull Clade which can KO people with one hydra swing but durdles considerably in the early game and the other is my Tatyova, Benthic Druid deck which is good at everything except killing them. With Ravnica Allegiance giving us two new Legendary Simic creatures (probably) and some new cards, one or two of which might become 75% staples on the level of Voidslime or Plasm Capture, I want to look at how you make a Simic deck better so we don’t make another deck that needs a lot of work when it’s time to build around a Ravnica Allegiance commander, something I am going to do whether I want to or not. So how does Simic win games and how can we make it do more of that?

First up, let’s make a deck that’s slow to set up get there faster.

Vorel of the Hull Clade | Commander | Jason


Doesn’t this even look slow on paper?

I yanked out a lot of the slower cards and worked on adding some more streamlined cards. In general, this deck struggled to do a lot early and the high number of 5 and 6 cost spells that were powerful but a little “cute” needed to go to make room for more efficient spells, probably some more removal and permission and the cards printed that should go in the deck since the last time I tinkered with this deck, which was basically when I put a Hangarback Walker in it.

This wins with big hydras attacking for a lot of damage but it also actually wins because your creatures are unblockable a lot of the time. This means I can attack with 5/5 Hydras rather than waiting for them to be 20/20 hydras. The good creatures in the deck grow on their own and let me keep permission up because I expand the board by letting my creatures get bigger rather than having to play a bunch of creatures all the time. By taking out the mediocre creatures AND the clumsy infrastructure designed to get them going, I could make the early game better by being able to play a few, small, self-sufficient creatures and then play something with counterspell backup to make the “hydras” (I am using the term “hydra” to refer to anything that grows, really. I have KO’d someone with a Lorescale Coatl that I play on turn two”) unblockable or too big to stop and win the game that way. I won’t have to rely on a big alpha strike, I can attack much earlier if I can avoid combat.

OUT

Death's Presence, Darksteel Ingot, Pentavus, Sphinx of Magosi, Bioshift, Dragon Blood, Ivy Lane Denizen, Spin Into Myth, Temple of the False God, Primeval Bounty, Simic Fluxmage, Silklash Spider, Strength of the Tajuru, Prophet of Kruphix (I took that out and replaced it with Seedborn Muse when the ban happened but I cribbed this list from an old article), Phyrexian Ingester, Arbor Colossus, Fertilid, Asceticism.

That’s a lot of cuts. Some of them were a little controversial. I cut Primeval Bounty because it’s mostly good for getting a creature started on growing and I cut a lot of the creatures that can’t grow on their own. Six mana is a lot for an enchantment and with the deck moving more to an aggro-control style (more turn one birds, turn two troll, turn three Jitte, equip, have counters up for their Wrath on four) I wanted self-sufficient creatures. This is a win-more a lot of the time and when you’re not winning, you want lose-less cards, not win-more cards. Death's Presence is in the same, incredibly slow boat. Asceticism is out because it’s basically obsolete. Counters and Plaxcaster activations do a lot of the work its passive ability was doing and its active ability is great unless your creatures all get exiled, which is increasingly becoming a popular Wrath feature.

Finding stuff to add back in was pretty easy. I cut a land so I need one more land and I cut a lot of creatures but I wasn’t going to replace all of them with creatures. I wanted to make sure my stuff stuck around, the deck had a lower curve (I cut Fertilid because it does NOT help you early, when I need it) and I could make sure my stuff stuck around. This means more removal and countermagic, countermagic being something my stance has softened on considerably especially if it’s used judiciously.

IN

Darksteel Reactor, Herald of Secret Streams, Inexorable Tide, Pir, Imaginative Rascal, Toothy, Imaginary Friend, Hadana's Climb, Contagion Engine, Deepglow Skate, Loyal Guardian, Beast Within, Arcane Denial, Fuel for the Cause, Unwind, Disallow, Rogue's Passage, Pemmin's Aura, New Horizons, Pentad Prism

I like these changes a lot. Some of the durdlier creatures were replaced with creatures like Pir and Herald of Secret Streams, which are redundant copies of some of our best cards in the deck, and we cut creatures like Sphinx of Magosi which were cutesy and mana-intensive. We also have more permission to keep our stuff from getting wrecked. The creatures we kept mostly grow on their own but we added a few more ways to proliferate to keep that happening and we even added a new win condition in the form of Darksteel Reactor which is an alternate path to victory.

Similarly, a deck that struggles less because it’s so good early but which still could use some help is my Tatyova deck which sometimes takes a 5 minute turn where I don’t win the game at the end. I need more win conditions, and I need them fast! No one likes watching me play Solitaire Magic and not winning at the end of a 5 minute turn is annoying and embarrassing. If we can curb that a bit, I might be more inclined to play the deck, because I like it, and it might give us some insight into how to build a Simic deck with Ravnica Allegiance Simic commanders that could be powerful but don’t win the game. I don’t want to make your eyes glaze over so this will be a pretty brief deck tech but it’s worth doing.

Tatyova, Benthic Druid | Commander | Jason


OUT

Budoka Gardener, Harrow, Master Thief, Biovisionary, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Aethersnatch, Rites of Flourishing, Ranger's Path, Creeping Corrosion, Nissa's Pilgrimage

IN

Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle, Psychosis Crawler, Mana Breach, Soratami Savant, Elixir of Immortality, Thespian's Stage, Memorial to Genius, Wasteland, 1 Island, 1 Forest

I think Psychosis Crawler is the biggest addition here. I couldn’t get Biovisionary to work as reliably as I wanted to without devoting a ton of cards to it and those long turns where I durdled a lot. Crawler likely would have won me the game. I can’t rely on it in case I draw it too late in the game to have enough cards left to draw so I included Elixir of Immortality to ensure I can loop enough stuff. I also found I didn’t have quite enough lands, so I added some more, including Stage so I can make the most of Arixmethes, which is hilarious. The deck still has the capacity to pick up every land and dump them back out but without a way to kill them, you’re just digging for one or two cards, which is annoying. Luckily, there is no infinite loop in the deck, otherwise you may as well play Labortory Maniac, something I am trying to avoid, hence the Elixir. I like Psychosis Crawler a lot more and I hope this is enough.

With Simic cards mere weeks away from beginning to be previewed (The set will be out at the end of January, tempus fugit) we’ll see if we can take anything we learned here and apply it. As always, thanks for sticking with me while I try to predict the future based on the past. Until next time!