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26 Decks in a Year, Episode 13: Simic


So my friend Daniel has this deck he calls Ex-Men.

Experiment Kraj

I’ll let him explain it.

Ex-Men is the result of my desire to build a deck as much fun to play as it is competitive. Considering I can’t help but build competitive decks, however, that’s a lot of fun we’re talking about! Luckily, Experiment Kraj fit the bill.

The first step was to stack the deck with as many creatures with strong activated abilities as possible, so bombs such as Cytoplast Manipulator and Arcanis the Omnipotent were easy pickings. Once all these fun abilities were there, finding ways to untap Kraj to consistently take advantage of them was next. Having Seedborn Muse and Prophet of Kruphix is extremely powerful here; the more upkeeps the merrier. After these cards, I realized Kraj was a beast at counteracting the -1/-1 counter aspect of persist. Recycling Woodfall Primus? Yes, please!

Once I had a nice balance of strong creatures and untap abilities, I couldn’t help but throw in Omnibian, which compliments Curse of the Swine nicely. Although it’s a relatively funny card, if you happen to hit Kiora's Follower and Illusionist's Bracers, the joke is on your opponents, as you turn all their creatures into 3/3 Frogs as long as you please, not to mention the infinite mana, infinite +1/+1 counters, and infinite insert-activated-ability-here the combo can produce. Overall, Experiment Kraj is flat out fun to play. It doesn’t seem like the biggest threat compared to other options, but give it the time it needs with a few permission spells, and all of a sudden, it’s a powerhouse.

Thanks, Daniel! Here’s his decklist—and a cost on CoolStuffInc.

Total Cost: $185.31

Prophet of Kruphix
In light of last week’s Skullbriar article, I thought it would be fun to take a look at Daniel’s completely different take on +1/+1 counters. When building from someone else’s deck, however, I think it’s a good idea to look at the source first—and then make changes.

I’ve played against this deck several times, and as you can imagine, it plays like a combo deck—an amazing combo deck. It struggles against Wrath effects, but if it has the time to assemble one of its numerous combos, that’s it—he just wins. He also has some crazy interactions that lead to awesome board states and great plays. However, I think we can apply My Deck Tickled a Sliver and possibly shore up some of those weaknesses. We’re also going to have to replace several of the more expensive cards to drop below our $75 mark.

First of all, we’re going to up the land count to forty. There are a lot of activated abilities that cost mana, and we’re sometimes going to want to do them multiple times per turn, so the extra mana will come in handy. We’re also going to add some mana sinks to the deck. We’ve dropped some of the more expensive duals for several of our budget go-to’s such as Evolving Wilds and Thornwood Falls. We’ve added Peregrination and the fantastic Realm Seekers to the existing Kodama's Reach and Fertilid. Realm Seekers is great, and it can lead to situations in which we simply pull every basic land out of our library. We do have to lose Minamo, School at Water's Edge; if you have one, definitely run it.

Seer's Sundial
Drawing cards means more opportunities to assemble one of our combos. It also allows us to rebuild after a Wrath effect or some other disruption to our plans much more quickly. So we’ve added a bunch of draw in lieu of several of the more expensive or library manipulation cards like Ponder and Brainstorm (though we did keep Arcanis the Omnipotent). Prime Speaker Zegana can draw us a full grip if we time it right, and combined with Deadeye Navigator, it could give us our library. Mind Unbound makes its second series entry and remains just as silly. In addition, Treasure Trove, Azure Mage, and especially Sphinx of Magosi all draw us as many cards as we have mana—the Sphinx will even give us counters for our trouble. And Seer's Sundial is just a good card; normally, it’s not threatening enough to draw hate, but it quietly sits there and lets us fill our hand.

Threats in this deck are kind of funny; more often than not, we’ll simply create a board state so absurd for our opponents we won’t actually have to win—they’ll just scoop because they know they’ll eventually lose. However, there are a few ways to victory all on their own here—Sphinx of Magosi, again, shows up as a possible route to winning in the red zone. Constructed powerhouse Aetherling was the control player’s win con for a reason; it can sometimes run away with games. Get it and Kraj on the ’field at the same time, and a lot of beating down will occur. The primary threat is probably Triskelion though. With Kiora's Follower, Illusionist's Bracers, and Experiment Kraj on the board, we can make infinite +1/+1 counters on Triskelion and just shoot everyone to death—equip the Follower with the Bracers, tap her to untap Kraj and herself, and then repeat. (It works with Pili-Pala and Argothian Elder as well, but there’s an extra step. With both those cards and Kraj on the ’field, tap Kraj to untap two lands. Use those two lands to pay for Pili-Pala’s ability and untap Kraj to make u. Repeat for infinite u, or g, or both. Then, use that mana to pay Pili-Pala’s ability, instead tapping Kraj to put a counter on Triskelion each time.)

We’ve gone deeper on the counter suite. The two in Daniel’s deck has increased to six—because we’re a combo deck, we want to protect our combo. Counters, especially in combination with a ton of mana, let us do that. Someone destroys something in response to our starting a combo, and we counter it. Someone Wraths when we’re a turn away from locking up the game, and we counter it. Someone is a jerk and plays Doubling Season, and we counter it. Hold on to those counters for when we need to protect a win or keep ourselves alive. The blue kind-of Wraths are here as well—Evacuation and Whelming Wave—to join Curse of the Swine (and, sadly, replace Cyclonic Rift. Rift is mean, though, so keep that in mind when it’s left out of the ninety-nine). Wickerbough Elder gives us a way to destroy problem enchantments or artifacts, and with Devoted Druid, we can tap Kraj for g and then untap him by putting a -1/-1 counter on him. Then, use the g to remove the counter and destroy an artifact or enchantment. Rinse and repeat.

Adding Pili-Pala and Argothian Elder doubles up on at least one of our infinite combos of Kiora's Follower and Illusionist's Bracers. Retraction Helix plus Follower and Bracers means returning all opposing creatures to their owners’ hands. Spike Weaver can make it so no one else can win in the red zone. Ulvenwald Tracker lets us pick off creatures as we’re able. Horseshoe Crab and Simic Ragworm together with Kraj read, “u: Add a +1/+1 counter to target creature,” which seems good all by themselves. Combined with, say, Arcanis, we’re suddenly drawing 3 × X cards, where X is the number of times we can produce u. The addition of Deadeye Navigator gives us shenanigans with enters-the-battlefield effects, too; Eternal Witness joins the Prime Speaker as amazing targets, but we can also reset a graft creature or save a creature from removal with the Navigator.

(Editor's Note: This list above is short seven creatures, and will be updated accordingly as soon as possible.)

There are more interactions in this deck. Pretty much each time you play it, you’re likely to see a new combination, just because there is so much synergy. Just remember to hold your counters to protect your combo or your ability to stay in the game—otherwise, let it happen. (Though I suppose if someone is going to Condemn Kraj, that’s worth countering.)

Woodfall Primus
Take a look at Daniel’s list if you have some extra scratch to drop. Woodfall Primus was probably my saddest cut because that card is just great, but Daniel has a number of cards out of our budget. Some of my choices were less about raw power and more about synergy than his; cards like Kruphix, God of Horizons and Edric, Spymaster of Trest are Commander powerhouses and require answers, but they stand on their own rather than making interactions. However, his selections aren’t worse than mine, just different. Kruphix is an amazing card and would be good here, so if you want to alter the list to lean more toward power, go for it. There will still be combos a-plenty.

Prodigal Sorcerer almost made the cut, but while the interaction is cute—with the combo of Kiora's Follower and Illusionist's Bracers, we deal infinite damage—it was too narrow.

How did you feel about today’s article? Did you like my starting with a source deck? Or would you rather see a deck built out of scratch each time? Please let me know in the comments!

Decks like this are really fun and complicated to play; they create wild board states with insane interactions. If you or your playgroup loves making combos and breaking cards, give the Ex-Men a try!

Total Cost: $71.33

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