Dissension: Simic Mutology Review (Part 2 of 2)
Having come full circle, Sam and I prepared to do battle with the final matchup of the Dissension set reviews: Simic Mutology versus Azorius Ascendant. The Simic certainly have a stronger fleet of creatures, but would they be fast enough to prevent the defenses of the Azorius from becoming too entrenched to cross? We shuffled the decks and prepared to find out. Here are our match notes.
I’m on the play, and we both spend our first turn laying land as neither deck is blessed with a raft of one-drops. Things pick up right away the very next turn, though, as I drop a Coiling Oracle (netting a Silkwing Scout), while Sam deploys an Azorius First-Wing.
I use turn 3 to invest in the future- a Vigean Hydropon– while Sam plays Halcyon Glaze and swings in with her First-Wing, drawing first blood. When turn 4 arrives, my Grafting is ready. After swinging back for 1, I play a Simic Initiate, grafting him with a +1/+1 counter from the Hydropon. Then I play the Silkwing Scout I’d drawn in turn 2, adding two +1/+1 counters to it (one from the Hydropon, one from the Initiate). Just like that, I have a 4/3 flyer. Grafting is fun!
Sam’s turn 4 is a virtual blank (she drops an Azorius Chancery). Turn 5 arrives, and I swing in with the buffed Scout for 4 before playing a Simic Ragworm. I graft another pair of counters onto the Ragworm, killing my Initiate in the process, but it’s a fair trade for a 5/5 beater.
And the vaunted Azorius defense? All Sam has is a Palliation Accord, swinging in for 2 more with the First-Wing. Sam’s at 15 life, I’m at 16.
Turn 6, and I cast Thrive, buffing each of my creatures with an additional +1/+1 counter. Swinging in with all three creatures for 13, Sam takes 10 as she burns the counters from the Accord immediately to prevent some of the damage.
But the damage is done, and Sam won’t recover. A turn 6 Plumes of Peace lands on the Silkwing Scout (the only sensible choice), and she passes. I swing in for 8 with the Ragworm and 2/2 Oracle. Sam chump-blocks her way to one more draw (I play a Surveilling Sprite after combat and graft it from the Hydropon), doesn’t like what she gets and scoops.
Anothr quiet first round, and Sam gets a slight early edge with a turn 2 Mistral Charger and turn 3 Soulsworn Jury. My first creature is the Vigean Hydropon, and my second on turn 4 is another Hydropon. Sam gets in some early damage with the Charger, but I’m in great position to take full advantage of graft. Sam’s turn 4 play is to put an Ocular Halo on the Jury, and now we have ourselves a proper race!
Sam swings in again on turn 5, and I’m at 14 life. Meanwhile, I drop my first ‘real’ creature, a Helium Squirter, which immediately gets a pair of Hydropon graft counters. As she’ll do for almost the rest of the game, Sam uses the Halo’d Jury to draw a card at the end of my turn.
Isperia the Inscrutable comes down on turn 6, after taking me down to 12 with the Charger (I’d tapped out to pay the Squirter and couldn’t inflate him too). I delve into more grafting shenanigans, starting with a Simic Initiate (grafted twice), then a Vigean Graftmage (grafted three times!). Sam swings in with Isperia the next turn, and I use the Squirter to inflate the Graftmage to block (I don’t dare risk the Squirter, which is critical to victory against the high-flying, ground-choking Azorius). Sam then drops a second Soulsworn Jury followed by a Benevolent Ancestor.
Taking advantage of the weakness in her air defense, I inflate both the Squirter and the Graftmage, and cut Sam in half.
Sam comes in again with Isperia and the Charger on turn 8. With Sam drawing two cards for my every one, I know that at some point she’s going to be able to outlast me, even if it means chumping to stall for awhile. Seeing the opportunity to kill a potential chump blocker, even if it means taking some damage and a dash of risk, I use the Graftmage to untap himself and inflate him to block/kill the Charger. That means letting Isperia through for 3 (taking me to 9), and giving Sam a look at my hand after guessing a card. She guesses wrong, but notes that I have Experiment Kraj in hand so it’s hardly a loss.
Needing to go in hard to try and finish her off, I nevertheless make a terrible misplay once it’s my turn. I have the opportunity to finish Sam off- she’s at 10 life, and I have 10 power of creatures at the table. She might try shenanigans, which I can prevent with the Thrive in my hand, but if I use it I won’t have enough mana left over to optimally protect myself. I break my own cardinal rule here- when you can kill them, take the chance.
So instead, I send them in for 10, and facepalm when she taps the Benevolent Ancestor to prevent 1 point of damage. Curses! Still, I can finish her off the rest of the way next turn, right?
Turn 9 sees Sam play a Halcyon Glaze, then a Stoic Ephemera. Back to me, I now play the Thrive to take both my beaters out of Ephemera kill range, giving each a +1/+1 counter. I then swing in for 12, and Sam chumps with the Ephemera. The other attacker gets blocked by Isperia, with the Benevolent Ancestor preventing that last lethal point.
Next turn, Sam drops an Azorius Guildmage, taps the Soulsworn Jury with the Ocular Halo for a free card, then drops the Sky Hussar which resets her board. Smart play, and one that keeps her alive. This does have the side-effect of animating her Halcyon Glaze, which she sends in. I have enough to untap and inflate my Graftmage, and kill her Glaze.
I swing in for 12 again. The Sky Hussar takes one for the team, and the Isperia/Ancestor combo stops the other. Sam’s double card draw is killing me, and she plays an Azorius First-Wing the turn following, buying another turn. Desperate, I play a Silkwing Scout, which Sam counters with the unenchanted Soulsworn Jury. Declaring my attack, Sam engages the Azorius Guildmage to tap them both, compelling me to play a Plaxmanta to stop that from happening. It hardly matters- the First-Wing dies, and- like Sam- Isperia lives.
And so it goes. Sam replaces her losses, and I keep killing them. Next turn it’s a Beacon Hawk, and another Benevolent Ancestor. Figuring there was no way I was going to be allowed to play Experiment Kraj, and not willing to try and wait forever to see if Sam would tap out (unlikely at this stage of the game), I go ahead and use him as a trap. Sure enough, Sam taps her Soulsworn Jury one last time for a card, then sacs it to counter Kraj. Still, Kraj has performed a huge service, taking away Sam’s card-draw engine. Would it be enough?
Turn 14, and Sam’s not slowing down. This time it’s a Wakestone Gargoyle and a Zephyr Spirit. I get in another Vigean Graftmage, though, and graft him to a 5/5. As it happens, it’s just enough. Three attackers, two defenders, and I have enough man to untap them should Sam try and lock them down with her Guildmage. The Azorius collapse, but it was a very stern reminder of what can happen when you give them both time and space.
San has the hand-in-a-hundred here, and starts off with a turn 2 Mistral Charger. I reply with a Coiling Oracle, revealing a Vigean Hydropon. Next turn, she pulls out a Beacon Hawk, then plays an Azorius Chancery (returning a tapped Plains to her hand). Naturally, I go for the Hydropon, which has been so crucial in the past.
On turn 4, though, Sam plays a second Beacon Hawk and an Azorius First-Wing. The only castable cards in my hand are a second Hydropon and a Vigean Graftmage. I now have two Simic Basilisks, too expensive to cast. The Azorius speed in assembling its air force is a true “shock and awe” moment for me. I play my second Hydropon, not quite sure what I’ll be able to do with it but hopeful it will come in handy if I draw a flyer. Next turn, Sam comes in for 6, taking me to 9. I manage the Graftmage (with two +/1+1 counters cheerfully donated by the Hydropons), but it’s all I can do.
Sam swings for 6 more, drops a Soulsworn Jury and a Stoic Ephemera, and I scoop.
Thoughts & Analysis
It looks like the Rakdos are the least of the three, for while playing the Azorius was personally more fun (due to my own admitted prejudices), Simic Mutology is a blast!
Of course, this is easy to say in a game against a removal-light foe, for Graft certainly has some vulnerability to card disadvantage, but by the same token the mechanic almost feels Red in its all-in, power-now impression. The third game aside, I had little problem ramping up early with bigger bruisers than I might otherwise have afforded, thanks to a variety of graft critters ready to greet each new arrival with a welcome present. It did feel, though, that the deck has a somewhat limited replay value and would quickly become less interesting once the novelty of graft wore off.
What really made graft lethal while playing, though, was the presence of Blue. Grafting on the ground is one thing, but being able to pile the counters onto your evasive flyers is even more dangerous. Even (relative) junk like the Surveilling Sprite or Silkwing Scout could become real threats if you’d established your board, and the Vigean Hydropons were perfect for this.
Of course, the deck is somewhat self-contained in its reach, as the deck begs for removal (as Green/Blue would)- even an Unsummon or two would have been very solid, and even synergistic (resetting your Hydropons, for instance). Overall, though, crafting insta-fatties was enough fun that I hardly noticed.
Hits: Graft is another successful Ravnica-block guild mechanic, combining fun and flavour; evasive creatures very solid here; some room for shenanigans with different activated abilities with the creatures (and the guild ‘champion,’ Experiment Kraj)
Misses: Lack of removal apparent; not a lot of noncreature options made the game flow somewhat predictably; Graft can leave you open to card disadvantage
FINAL GRADE: 4.1/5.0