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A Guide to the Guide to Monsters


One of my best friends has this Vorel of the Hull Clade deck. For a while at my table, it was target number one; he doesn't play it all that often anymore, but when he does, I still know I'm in for a challenging game. He puts counters on everything, and they double all the time. It makes tons of mana, it draws approximately a million cards every turn, and it makes huge creatures. It does it all consistently and efficiently.

Because of that, I have this connection in my mind between Simic - aka gu - and +1/+1 counters. They go together in my head, and in a number of decks, like peanut butter and jelly. I feel like every set we get at least one overpowered Simic Commander with a counter theme.

But because I like to do things a bit differently around here, I thought it'd be fun to take a look at another side of Simic. After all, there's more to the colors of creative living than counters! In fact, to start out, let's take a look at a card which cares about counters so little it never even mentions them:

Volo, Guide to Monsters

This looks like fun. We have a reasonably-priced Commander who makes copies of cool creatures, albeit with the fairly severe limit of not allowing us to double up on our creature types. I suspect we can make a pretty great deck out of this, which is swingy and fun and tugs at our Timmy/Tammy heartstrings.

And I know I normally do ascending budgets, but let's skip it for this round, shall we? Just for fun.

We're going to be playing some pretty big spells, and leaving up mana for interaction is always a good idea, plus Volo lets us copy every time we play a creature as long as it meets the criteria, so if we can play more than one creature a turn, that's a good thing. Therefore, mana is good. Let's use our normal 40 lands, and let Green do one of the things it does best: ramp. Mostly, our lands help fix our colors, but Castle Vantress is a great inclusion in any deck running Blue (a great way to use that extra mana!) and Rogue's Passage is pretty wonderful no matter what. Endless Sands is particularly interesting because it allows us to Exile a creature; this is important because occasionally a creature we have might share a type with a creature we want to copy, and Exiling our own thing makes it so we can get our copy, and we can always get our Exiled creature back with the Sands. Alchemist's Refuge is another great one for when we have enough mana; suddenly a copied fatty can be a combat trick.

Much of our ramp is of the Rampant Growth/Cultivate variety, but we do have Burnished Hart (our only Elk!), Wayfarer's Bauble, and Sword of the Animist to help us along. Often, I'm a fan of the more expensive ramp spells, but in this case we really want to play our Commander on turn four, so having ramp which costs less than four is pretty key.

Drawing cards in this color combination, especially in a creature-heavy deck, is pretty easy. We have stuff that cares about Creatures entering the 'field, like Soul of the Harvest, Elemental Bond, and Guardian Project. Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner also draws us cards, and Seer's Sundial is a reliable way to keep cards flowing in a deck which runs enough lands. Beast Whisperer costs us, because it's an Elf and a Druid, but it's worth it considering we're likely to cast a Creature spell this turn. Keruga, the Macrosage similarly takes two creature types, but in this case it's Dinosaur and Hippo, which we care about less. And since it's not our Companion, we can still run some cheaper cards. Mulldrifter is great, but make sure you get it Exiled before you cast Soul of the Harvest, since they're both Elementals. Primordial Sage is our only Spirit, so it should always be X2, and should keep the cards moving nicely into our hands.

One fun thing about a deck like this is we present an aggressive board state kind of all the time. What's better than one Thorn Mammoth? Two Thorn Mammoths! We only double up on creature types occasionally, and we have a few ways to get around that. Sweet-Gum Recluse is a funny one, our only Spider, and great if we can cast it after we've cast another spell we've copied this turn. Reef Worm should make some people laugh, and it's our only Worm. We've got one Beast, Rampaging Baloths, which loves all our ramp, and two Serpents, Junk Winder (which will often be cheap because of the amount of tokens we'll make) and Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait. And note our one Turtle, Colossal Skyturtle (which is possibly the best Magic name ever) isn't there to be Channeled, but you always can if you really need the effect.

We have answers in cards like Acidic Slime (Ooze!) and Reclamation Sage (one of two Elves), but also Aetherize and Perplexing Test. Note that Amphin Mutineer (our only Salamander and our only Pirate) is removal, as is Pongify.

Finally, we've got some fun stuff. Twinning Staff, you make me giggle, because what this deck needs is more copies of things. Combine Chrysalis puts all our tokens in the air - especially funny when it's a Myr Battlesphere token and there are eight little Myr sitting there - and Second Harvest will make another copy of each token we control. Double Major lets us copy any creature we have, and Progenitor Mimic lets us make more tokens of what we've got. Again, particularly funny if it's copying Myr Battlesphere. It's also pretty great on Diluvian Primordial. Cemetery Prowler lets us Exile stuff from our own Graveyard to allow us to make more copies. This is particularly important if, say, Aesi and Junk Winder is in our 'yard. Along those lines, Temur Sabertooth allows us to return a creature to our hand, which can both save it from death and get it off the 'field if we need it back in our hand. Selesnya Eulogist gets stuff out of our 'yard for us, giving us more tokens along the way.

Volo Guide to Monsters | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

It's worth pointing out this deck is designed for fun, not optimization. Rather than get the most out of every single Reclamation Sage casting, we're not going to worry about it; Beast Whisperer is worth running, as is Rec Sage, and if we only have one of one of them, it's not the end of the world. We have a couple ways of dealing with it, but let's have fun rather than try to make everything perfect. No matter what, the deck should have some splashy plays and move the game along.

If I found I was having trouble at every table because people freaked out about my copied creatures and needed to beef up the deck, I'd run Strionic Resonator and Lithoform Engine; we'd get some extra tokens for not that much mana. I'd also consider something like Wurmcoil Engine, which both doesn't share any existing card types and would be bonkers in this deck. Night Soil might be good for graveyard hate and exiling our own cards, or maybe a Delve spell like Treasure Cruise. A few counterspells might not be a bad idea to protect some of our stuff, or at least something like Heroic Intervention. Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots could be good to protect our commander. Sun Quan, Lord of Wu and Archetype of Imagination would give your opponents chills, and, of course, Doubling Season/Parallel Lives could get really stupid here.

The thing is, I look at Volo and I see a fun, wild game with Battlecruiser plays and hilarious interactions. If you want to turn it into a make-a-bunch-of-creatures-and-double-Craterhoof-Behemoth, go for it! That's fine. I want a deck which makes people laugh and figure out how to deal with it, rather than just runs everyone over every time.

The gameplan should work the same every game, even though each one will be different. Play a little ramp. Play Volo. Start playing big creatures and swing like crazy, drawing lots of cards and doing damage along the way. Rinse and repeat.

What would you include in Volo? And what's your favorite non-counter-based Simic deck? Please sign off in the comments!

Thanks for reading.

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