keep changing my mind. I wanted to write about some reevaluations I had for Gatecrash. Then I had some idea for a general strategy article I wanted to explore. While these are all topics worthy of their own article, I remain distracted.
What is distracting me?
Cloudfin Raptor | Art by Peter Mohrbacher
Every time I see one in my draft pack I get excited. Every time I pass one, I feel like some mutant flying dinosaur thing somewhere just lost its wings.
I have decided that instead of writing about anything else, I'm just going to write about what's really on my mind with Gatecrash: Simic!
One thing I often stress when talking about Limited is the importance of a mana curve. The main concept of a mana curve is basically that you should have a reasonable distribution of mana cost for your spells in your Limited deck.
In English, this means you should have relatively few one-mana spells, many two-mana and three-mana spells, a few four-mana spells, and then it should taper off dramatically as you get to five- and six-mana spells. In most Draft formats, you need a really good reason to run a spell that costs seven or more mana.
When I draft, I am always wary of how my mana curve looks. In Gatecrash draft, for example, I am particularly aware of what I am doing at the two-mana slot. If I don't have meaningful spells to cast on turn two, I am worried and looking to remedy that situation. Just being aware of your mana curve is a good step toward improving the constancy and power of your Limited decks.
And boy, does Simic reward you for it. This is perhaps the most curve-centric archetype I have found in Limited. Since I am always in pursuit of that great curve, Simic and I get along just fine.
High-quality, one-mana creatures are scarce in Limited. Outside of the rare slot, we usually just don't see too many quality one-drops running around. That has been changing in recent years, and it's been a cool improvement to witness.
In Simic, we get two high-quality one-mana creatures:
These guys are the true all-stars of the deck. Access to powerful one-drops like these help set the deck apart. I prioritize these two creatures over basically anything else. Cloudfin Raptor is a common, so you will see it more often than Experiment One, but together they make up the foundation of a successful Simic deck.
They aren't without downside, however. Playing one of these guys late in the game is painful. Not only do they do very little on their own, you are reliant on drawing more creatures to get them up to a decent power level.
Which brings me to a key discovery regarding the Simic deck: commitment.
I often talk to people about drafting a deck, not just a pile of cards. This first starts with drafting like colors, but quickly you realize that in order to draft a really awesome deck, you have to approach each pick you make from a deck-level perspective. You need synergy—how your cards work together—in your deck. You also need a plan. A plan on how you will win the game and how you will not lose to certain cards or strategies.
Simic's plan is to play evolve creatures; to "curve out" (this means to play a card at the one-, two-, three-, and four-drop slot, in sequence); and to beat down our opponent with big, undercosted creatures.
This means we need a lot of creatures.
Like, twenty of them.
Climbing The Stairs
Evolve is a great mechanic. Flavorfully, it's interesting, and in game it's both challenging and rewarding to play. In Simic, you want as many evolve creatures as you can get your hands on. They take precedent over everything else.
There are some exceptions, of course.
Here is a breakdown of the important non-rare evolve creatures you'll see flapping around the draft table:
Besides the one-drops, these two seafood-sampler-sounding guys are the cores of the Simic deck. Shambleshark is the premier two-drop in the deck and is an important piece of the puzzle. The good news is that he isn't particularly good in other decks and costs , so you can get him late. I don't risk it, though; I just take them whenever I see them.
Other decks, though, do take Crocanura. Even as a 1/3 with reach for , he is fine. A Giant Spider for that cost is quite nice, and he doesn't stop growing there. Yes, the frogadile does a great job of halting would-be opponents who want to race, all while beating down nicely when the time is right.
Here we have two great three-drops for the deck. Elusive Krasis stops early beats from Boros and the like, while providing a source of unblockable damage later in the game.
On the surface, Simic Fluxmage has a seemingly underpowered ability. All you get to do is move one counter from it to another creature? Doesn't seem too exciting... until you use it.
The key with Simic Fluxmage is that it makes combat a nightmare for our opponent. Figuring out what to block while facing an active Fluxmage is problematic. The cool part about the card that isn't immediately obvious is that once you move that counter off, the next creature you cast will likely evolve the Fluxmage again, enabling the process to repeat. Powerful stuff.
When it comes to the five-mana slot in the deck, there are a lot of options. Adaptive Snapjaw is a fine choice, as it will evolve every creature that has the ability. It's also just a lot of power to lay down for five mana. Often, it's able to attack for 7 the turn after it has arrived. "Old Snappy" combos well with Sapphire Drake and Crowned Ceratok, too.
Other five-drops include Rust Scarab, Mindeye Drake, and Leyline Phantom. I prefer Leyline Phantom, although I only want one in the deck. Being able to continuously evolve my team while attacking for a bunch is a great deal in this deck.
I like Rust Scarab as a solid five-drop and will play Mindeye Drake against the right deck.
Last, but Least
There is one more evolve creature that we haven't covered. Poor Clinging Anemones. While not unplayable, I do not want any copies of this in my Simic deck. It has its place in Gatecrash, but its place is not in the lush landscape of the Simic.
If those are all of the evolve creatures, what else makes this deck tick?
Let's take a look.
I mentioned earlier that I was always aware of my two-drop slot in Gatecrash draft. This is even more the case if I am drafting Simic. Frilled Oculus and Zameck Guildmage are the preferred ways to pump up my Raptors and 'sharks. Zameck Guildmage is actually not the powerhouse it seems to be in this deck, but it's a welcome addition and never gets cut. Frilled Oculus is a powerful creature that essentially never gets blocked and can hold off some pretty powerful creatures in the middle part of the game.
Disciple of the Old Ways is a fine two-drop, even if you can't activate its ability. Not particularly exciting, but necessary nonetheless. Same goes for Greenside Watcher. Metropolis Sprite is pretty good in the deck, although it often doesn't evolve much outside of a turn-one Cloudfin Raptor or Experiment One.
All three of these are excellent three-drops for the Simic deck. It's close between Slaughterhorn and Drakewing Krasis. On the battlefield, Drakewing Krasis is stronger. But the versatility of Slaughterhorn can push it over the top.
Bloodrush fits well in the evolve deck. I usually run between eighteen and twenty-one creatures in the deck. This ensures that my evolve creatures will be growing as often as possible. But this doesn't leave much room for spells. Bloodrush allows Slaughterhorn to be an evolve-triggering creature or a key pump spell. In this type of deck, that's brilliant.
Sage's Row Denizen is a solid 2/3 for three mana. It often will evolve some creatures, and it's a serviceable body after that.
Ivy Lane Denizen is sort of the evolve guy without evolve. It's a powerful creature at a reasonable cost and usually makes the cut in the deck. Since many of the deck's creatures are green anyway, it can go a long way.
Keymaster Rogue is a different story. Sometimes it can have a big impact if you play it, get a bunch of evolve triggers, return it to your hand, then do the same again the next turn. Other times it's awkward because you don't want to return your evolve creatures to your hand, erasing the hard work put in on getting the counters on them. Usually, I bench him, but I will start him on occasion if needed.
Scab-Clan Charger is great in this deck for the reasons I stated above, but also because he has 4 toughness. This is often enough to evolve your Raptor and Shambleshark. I think the Charger is underrated right now, as it's a great combat trick too.
I love Nimbus Swimmer. I didn't love it when I first saw it, as it's never a particularly efficient creature. But being able to slot this guy into different parts of your curve is a big advantage. Also, he is a sweet topdeck late in the game if you have flooded out a bit.
Reunited and it feels so good. These two are just powerhouses in this deck. Crowned Ceratok is one of the only creatures I will take over a Cloudfin Raptor if I am drafting Simic. Ceratok enables your evolved creatures to beat in for more damage thanks to trample. Beyond that, he is just a great creature on his own.
Sapphire Drake isn't in the same class, but it can be a game-ending curve-topper if you have enough evolve creatures (or Ivy Lane Denizens). Often, you just play the Drake then attack for lethal with your flying team of huge creatures.
If we run twenty creatures in this deck, what does that leave room for? Very few spells, it turns out. We have to be extra picky about which ones we run.
Being that the deck is made of green and blue spells, we won't have access to any hard removal. That's okay, though, as our creatures will outclass basically anything our opponents can put up. This brings the focus to two main things:
- 1. Getting our creatures through for damage.
- 2. Not losing to bombs.
If a spell efficiently accomplishes either of these goals, it's likely to make the cut.
Simic Charm is amazing. It is in many ways my dream Limited card. The brute force of Giant Growth, the tempo swing of Unsummon, and the ability to protect my creatures from removal, all in one package. Amazing card, and particularly amazing in this deck. I will take this over almost anything else.
Hands of Binding and Gridlock both get our opponents' creatures out of the way so we can attack and also prevent them from killing us if we are racing. They do it in different ways, but both accomplish similar goals. I have found them both quite good in the deck. Even though I normally don't love Gridlock, I'm happy to have one in my Simic deck.
Rapid Hybridization is interesting in this deck because if you use it on your opponent's bomb, you often have bigger threats than the 3/3 Frog Lizard it leaves behind. If you use it on one of your guys early, you will often get an upgrade on the creature and also trigger some evolve. Not bad for one blue mana.
Spell Rupture is a card I would normally not play, but in this deck I actively want one. It's a reliable way to disrupt our opponent's plan and can be the answer we need to opposing bombs. That said, I only want one of these and would play most creatures over it.
Totally Lost is fine; if you have no other way to interact with the opponent's board, you'll run it. It's pretty much that simple.
This makes me sad. I love these next two spells, but the Spike in me knows it's usually incorrect to run them.
Both are powerful.
And I have ran both in my Simic decks before.
But I knew deep down that they didn't belong. The fact is, you need to curve out, and that means creatures. Playing Urban Evolution instead of an Adaptive Snapjaw at five mana means that you may not get to attack that turn, and the momentum can slip away quickly.
Mystic Genesis is even worse, as you just have to pray they cast something worth countering. When it does go well, Mystic Genesis is insane in the deck, but it's just too inconsistent to be worth it. Also, after the first time we play it, it's pretty easy to play around for our opponent.
Hydroform looks cool, and it's all Simic-y and stuff when you see it in the pack, but it's sadly unplayable. I can think of niche cases where I may sideboard it in, but they aren't relevant and this card is just one that is destined for the sidelines, unfortunately.
Tips and Tricks
Play about twenty creatures. Play as many good evolve creatures as you can get your fins on.
Do not splash for any extra colors. Don't do it. Just don't splash unless you absolutely have to.
I have seen people throw in a Ghor-Clan Rampager or a Zhur-Taa Swine and some Mountains. Don't do it! Turn-one Cloudfin Raptor into turn-two Shambleshark is hard enough with just two colors. I have won five 8–4 drafts on Magic Online with Simic over the past week, and none of those decks had any colors other than blue and green in them.
Prioritize getting evolve triggered. Even if you have to play a creature off-curve, make sure you are getting your evolve triggers going. Once they start rolling, your creatures will outclass theirs and you can start the beatdown.
The rares and mythic rare rares are mostly very good in Simic.
Gyre Sage, Master Biomancer, Prime Speaker Zegana, and Simic Manipulator are all easy first picks.
Fathom Mage looks great, but it is much closer to a trap card than a bomb. I will take a Cloudfin Raptor over a Fathom Mage. The fact is that it doesn't evolve your team and it's a 1/1 for four mana. Even though the long-game potential is great, it just doesn't fit well in the deck. I won't cut it, and I am happy to have one, but it's not a priority and it's not a bomb.
Unexpected Results yields very expected results, unfortunately. The card is unplayable and I won't run it in my Simic deck.
A card I will run is Ooze Flux. It is a true engine in this deck.
The trick is to have two early evolve creatures with a few counters on them. You can pay the cost for Ooze Flux, remove two counters, make a 2/2, and then evolve them back again so you can repeat the process.
The game doesn't go too long when you can make 2/2s for as many times as you can pay for it. Super fun card, and powerful too.
I hope you get a chance to draft this awesome deck in Gatecrash. With any luck, you will evolve your creatures as much as your Limited skill set.
Marshall Sutcliffe hosts the Limited Resources podcast, does Pro Tour and Grand Prix video coverage, writes articles, and produces strategy videos. Marshall came back to Magic after discovering Limited following a long hiatus from the game, but he enjoys all forms of the game. He lives in Seattle, WA.