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Dungeons and Dragons and Dinosaurs

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The dust is hardly settled at this point, but I'm going to go ahead and call it anyway. The best card in Dungeons and Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms for Constructed (for Standard, at least) is this 2-drop:

Ranger Class

Ranger Class is a powerful new one-card toolbox for Mono-Green. It's contributing to a Mono-Green renaissance, in fact. Four mana in and it does a lot of what The Great Henge does only once you've committed nine mana and multiple cards. Ranger Class produces both a threat and a source of recurring advantage on the battlefield. You can lean into +1/+1 counters with lead-ins like Swarm Shambler, make blocking complicated with multiple attackers, or build a Werewolf Pack Leader large enough to Ophidian itself.

Four more mana in and you have an Experimental Frenzy. You have a very powerful Experimental Frenzy indeed, that does not prevent you from playing cards from your hand. Used at the highest frequency right now in Mono-Green, Ranger Class at Level 3 can still be bungled by inconvenient spells like Esika's Chariot, Primal Might, or even The Deck of Many Things.

Mono-Green is once again a strong contender in Standard thanks to this card (and 2-drop teammate, the aforementioned Werewolf Pack Leader)... It may in fact be best in that deck.

But that is not the archetype where it is having the greatest impact.

In Mono-Green, Ranger Class compresses many cards. As a source of value and +1/+1 counters (and a 2/2 body!) it is kinda sorta a Scavenging Ooze. As a source of card advantage, it has a little The Great Henge to it. As a quasi-4-drop it is Questing Beast, Esika's Chariot, and the dumb dumb versions of Stonecoil Serpent or Gemrazer. It saves space. But it doesn't change fundamentals.

... Not like it does in Simic Mutate.

Cutting to the chase, I'm currently at the north end of Platinum, having had to battle all the way from the bottom of Bronze over the weekend due to a stretch of Standard inactivity. I did most of that damage with this:


Simic Mutate was a deck that had completely fallen off the radar. I believe that it is once again a strong contender on the back of these two new additions:

Prosperous Innkeeper
Ranger Class

The Worst Kind of Deck

Simic Mutate is, in some ways, The Worst Kind of Deck. The Worst Kind of Deck is any deck that has to play specific cards in a particular order. You have a powerful high end, maybe, but the road to get there is a particular one.

You have to play a small creature - usually a 2-drop - and you have to hit lands, and you have to hit payoffs, sometimes themselves in a particular order down the line. If you do all those things you can draw your whole deck and attack for... Well, one.

True Story: It took me nearly three hours to complete the "Attack with 30 Creatures" daily goal on Saturday because my opponents kept conceding before I ever got a second attack in.

By contrast, this is The Best Kind of Deck:

You certainly have some draws that are outlier draws. If you draw six cards that deal three, exactly three lands, and your opponent is foolish enough to draw any combination of two fetch lands and / or Shock lands... Congratulations! You never even had to declare an attack.

But you don't have to. All your cards cost one mana for the most part and do about the same thing. You don't have to draw your cards in any particular order. And while mana flood is a bigger problem for a deck like this than some others, at least you have a bazillion Horizon Canopies to stem the bleeding.

People think The Best Kind of Deck is somehow easier to pilot because it's simpler in constitution. They're always the ones who are surprised when they lose to a weird angle or card iteration they didn't anticipate.

Anyway, the additions from Dungeons and Dragons: Adventures the Forgotten Realms dramatically mitigate the worst parts of being The Worst Kind of Deck. First of all, they give the archetype 2-drops that are worth playing!

Prosperous Innkeeper, all other things held equal, is the best 2-drop to play first. It is the 2-drop that is most likely to help pay you off for future plays. While you will gain a shockingly small amount of life in the early and middle turns for a deck that is casting 1+ creatures per turn, its little Treasure token will buy you a Migratory Greathorn in games where you might otherwise have been manascrewed. And in the long game? Gaining 40+ life in a single turn is very realistic.

While Simic Mutate may or may not be a higher EV deck than Mono-Green, Ranger Class is better in Simic Mutate than anywhere else.

You may have noticed I switched Companion allegiance from the traditional Umori, the Collector to Jegantha, the Wellspring. That's because Mutate is no longer a mono-creatures deck. While Ranger class makes a 2/2 Wolf it is not itself a 2/2 Wolf. That's okay! Ranger Class is the only non-creature spell type in the deck, meaning in the Level 3 portion of games you can just keep going and going based on how much land you have. The reason I was first to attracted to this archetype was just that: Getting cheap Pollywog Symbiotes and cheaper Mutates off the top would allow a linear creature deck to play almost like a late-1990s High Tide: Many games your entire deck is on the battlefield! You are a powerful mage indeed!

In late games, Ranger Class synergizes well with Parcelbeast and Temple of Mystery. Parcelbeast is a very cheap Mutate off the top that you can combine with a non-summoning sick creature, or it can help you clear lands to just keep going. Temple of Mystery does the same... In a more traditional sense.

Let's not forget this deck's other two-mana spells:

Pollywog Symbiote
Tangled Florahedron // Tangled Vale

I said earlier that Prosperous Innkeeper is the best two-mana play in the abstract. That is not the case if the opponent plays any kind of a Mountain on turn one, certainly a Snow-Covered Mountain. In one of those cases the preferred 2-drop is Pollywog Symbiote.

Simply: Pollywog Symbiote lives through Stomp // Bonecrusher Giant. On the play, you will be able to Mutate the Symbiote before the opponent has the third Snow for Frost Bite. This card is extremely punishing to play poorly, and even though I've logged hundreds of games, I think I still slip up a decent amount. Do you want it? Yes. Do you want to play it first? Specifically, against anything Red? I don't like it. Presumably it doesn't like me. If we want to crack Mythic with Simic, though, we're going to have to work together.

Only play Tangled Florahedron as your 2-drop if you have to. Like, I can see some weird spots like getting and going to Level 2 on a Ranger Class on turn three... But you don't even get to attack. It's weird. I do think that Tangled Florahedron was one of the important innovations to my build. The Simic deck only "really" wants 20 lands, so this one is kind of backup that can cosplay as a 2-drop. It gave me the space to run a Mountain and more Islands than I could have on 20. Cheap in Level 3 and what you want on turn one... Can't complain.

Let's Talk About the Mana Base

This is my current:

This is what I was playing much of my run so far:

Even earlier I had a Castle Garenbrig and a couple of Castle Vantress. In the world of Ranger Class, Castle Vantress was never - and I mean never - getting tapped for anything but u. Those cards were both liabilities.

I'm really of two minds on Fabled Passage. On turn one they can be very good. On turn four... Again outstanding. They even support the Mountain! But they're bad in three ways:

  • Turn two or turn three - I am sure I've lost games because Fabled Passage was either my second or third land. Hence, the biggest reason they're not currently in the build.
  • Rogues - It is stunning how much Rogues can disrupt your mana base. Taking Forest, Island... even the one Mountain while leaving you Fabled Passage is almost as frustrating as being paired against Rogues to begin with.
  • Your own long game - I've said a couple of times you get your whole deck out... Or at least a meaningful chunk of your whole deck out on a consistent basis. At some point it's just better to have four more basics for Migratory Greathorn triggers than a small amount of fixing early. You just get four bigger! Strong arm flexing emoji!

Final note: Just because it was the simplest click, I had one Snow-Covered Mountain before making it just a basic Mountain. I nearly lost a game to Reidane, God of the Worthy // Valkmira, Protector's Shield because of that! Straight into the Deck Editor before my next match!

Don't play Snow-Covered lands. This deck doesn't need them; they're therefore a needless liability.

Matchups

Very Bad: Rogues

Rogues is very, very bad. I put us on 25% if I'm feeling generous. You know how Mono-Red just demolishes all the tiny creatures in Rogues? How no one is impressed with the third toughness on Ruin Crab who has ever cast a Frost Bite? How the Rogues creatures aren't actually very good at fighting? How if they're pulling off their game plan sometimes that just means you pop out a 3/3 flyer or God forbid an Ox?

Well in this matchup their guys are super cheap and some of them have deathtouch. Rogues messes up your mana base or can severely limit your ability to topdeck the specific Mutate you need to keep going (see also: The Worst Kind of Deck). Your only real creature interaction is Pouncing Shoreshark, and their worst guy has both deathtouch and flash. For one. Math.

You win... Sometimes. Like I said, maybe 25%? I think half the time I've won I got to Ranger Class Level 3 and they were so clunky at executing I had the mana to do whatever I wanted.

Bad: Winota

Winota is not horrendous, but it's legitimately on the wrong side of 50%. A decent percentage of your wins come from the fact that they sometimes just brick on Wintota triggers; or, like you, that they are also The Worst Kind of Deck.

When you win, it's usually because you're Rogues to their Simic Mutate; you bounce their Winota before attackers tap, steal a turn, and sometimes even draw a second Pouncing Shoreshark. You're very likely to win that game, BTW. You get a ton of resources going sideways and prevent them from getting you with one of their two home run 4-drops because their unfair mana engine is balanced on the head of a pin and they operate at sorcery speed.

Winota is bad at disrupting your game plan but not completely incompetent. Your ceiling is very much higher than theirs, but theirs is admittedly faster. Both your decks are potentially rewarded by particular draw combinations [again: The Worst Kind of Deck]. Man, oh, man: Pollywog Symbiote into Pouncing Shoreshark? And again? And then an Auspicious Starrix? GG.

Medium: Mono-Green, Mono-Red

I think both these matchups are pretty good. That is, I would rather be on the Simic side... Especially against Mono-Red.

Mono-Red has a fast outlier draw, especially on the play, where you can't do anything to disrupt them and they just get Embercleave-into-Torbran, Thane of Red Fell. You can actually still win those; but you can't disrupt them. I lost convincingly to a a Mono-Red player who made a first play on turn three, but ran Shock and Slaying Fire in addition to the usual burn. Slaying Fire taught me quickly that I was not going to ride Migratory Greathorn to an easy win.

Both Mono-Red and Mono-Green revolve around turns three and four. If the opponent can un-hitch your two-drop-into-Mutate sequence the first time, you're often dead. Mono-Green can do this with a Blizzard Brawl or Primal Might. This will set you back at least a turn, maybe two. Which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if they weren't beatdown decks that can paint you into a corner before you recover.

One thing I've found really refreshing about the Mono-Red matchup is that sometimes I just don't block. I ask myself what the worst thing that can happen is, figure out where they'll put an Embercleave if I don't block, and then figure out what I'm going to do from there. My win rate against Mono-Red is well above 50% but is becoming decisive since I've stopped looking for blowout blocks. You see, it is very seductive to block. Pollywog Symbiote in front of almost any 1- or 2-drop is attractive. Prosperous Innkeeper is a value block, even when it trades. But Mono-Red with a Rimrock Knight or certainly an Embercleave can punish the wrong blocks (or any block at all). Losing a creature at the wrong time is lethal in the Mono-Red matchup because stabilizing in the mid-game usually involves having something to Mutate a Shoreshark or Gemrazer onto; then living long enough to upgrade into a 6/6.

I will say Mono-Red is the one matchup where basic Mountain really shines. Hard-cast that Apex of Wishes. Pocket a rare Stage 2 Innkeeper trigger. Still don't block (probably).

Good: Control decks, Yorion decks

I realized how good the Yorion matchups were the first time I beat a resolved Emergent Ultimatum. "Just don't give him the Epiphany". I didn't give him the Epiphany. "Seeing as you're tapped out, what exactly do you plan to do with that Tibalt?" Nothing, it seemed. I lost some guys. Oh well. He lost Tibalt while I had all that Level 3 to work with.

Basically, it's a question of how many copies of Binding the Old Gods they draw, and what they do with them. If you get to Level 3 with an unmolested Ranger Class you almost always win. It takes forever! These people can be good at killing creatures. They have expensive spells at the high end. You'll likely have to wade through a Time Walk or a big Planeswalker. If they don't have the right Binding the Old Gods, don't worry. Prosperous Innkeeper will keep you in it until at some point they're wondering why you have so many more cards than they do.

I think I'd rather play against Yorion than Goldspan Dragon decks, but it's not like Izzet has such an easy time getting rid of a 6/6.

Don't look!

What creature type is this:

APPARENTLY IT'S NOT "DRAGON". Come on! Maybe if I had different card art I would have registered "Oh, it's a Beast Elemental DINOSAUR" but I was literally thinking "Whatever he can't even kill it with Draconic Intervention."

I think you know how that went.

Anyway, you have some interesting play. I won a game last night where my opponent discarded to make a Treasure on turn two, so I just played Gemrazer on Bilbo to mess with them. Gemrazer, by the way, also blocks Galazeth Prismari.

At this stage, I think I'd rather play against Mono-Red than ur, but still have them grouped respectively because Mono-Red is much better at pressure. Tapping out for Goldspan Dragon is just embarrassing against Pouncing Shoreshark with another Mutate.

Very Good: Most creature decks (tokens, Adventures, etc.), most weird decks

They get a mild advantage. You get a mild advantage. They get a mild advantage. You draw 20 cards and gain 60 life.

Sometimes you have to thread a very specific needle. Playing against Bastion of Remembrance and the Lolth, Spider Queen can be tricky. They don't care if their creatures die. At some point you're letting tokens in because it's less-bad than actually killing them. Bastion is one matchup where you have to be very aware of your life total. If you can live long enough to get to your Stage 3 (whether or not that is Level 3) you will likely win. But unlike many other creature decks, Tokens has a better midgame than you.

Can't Lose: White Weenie

LITERALLY CAN'T LOSE.

This is a strategy - whether Angels, life gain Heliod, enchantments based, pure aggro - that can do literally nothing to disrupt your game plan and can win only by attacking. They have no burn, they have no novel sources of reach, and most of their card advantage is bundled up in life gain or small visits to the Dream-Den.

If there is a deck that you want to play against all day every day, it is any version of White Weenie. Gemrazer is unbeatable for some versions, and Pouncing Shoreshark is simply humiliating. The first time your opponent misses on a Skyclave Apparition, you tell 'em MichaelJ sent you.

It doesn't matter how much life they have. At some point - which you will get to because your guys all have infinite toughness and they have no removal - you are just going to bounce their entire team and attack for 200. Or you would if they didn't hit concede first; so instead it will take you three hours to attack with 30 creatures.

So, Should You Sleeve Simic Up for FNM this Week?

I wouldn't.

I played in my first physical Magic: The Gathering tournament in 17 months last week! I went 2-1. It was weird how much I was annoyed at a single casual Prerelease loss, when no one win or loss means very much in the hundreds you log on Arena.

But it didn't occur to me until I started to work on this how much bookkeeping this deck is! You have turns with literally dozens of triggers sometimes, between Auspicious Starrix and Prosperous Innkeeper; and sometimes Starrix is flipping Innkeeper... Wow that's a mess for FNM.

I played my first few games on my phone, and lost matches - plural, because I was stupid enough to try again - because the sheer number of permanents crashed the Arena client. Not like I could see anyway, the screen is very small for handling upward of 30 permanents. And counters! There are also a lot of +1/+1 counters and Treasures an all that flying around.

But would I try to grind to Mythic with it?

Like I said... Got to Platinum 1 or thereabouts over the weekend. Hope to get to the full-on Promised Land in the next week or so. Wish me luck!

LOVE

MIKE

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