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February 1, 2013

21

Gatecrash: Simic Synthesis Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

Life- not unlike guild warfare in Gatecrash- is about the survival of the fittest, and the Simic have a new trick in their quest for biological perfection. Can they evolve past Sam’s Gruul Goliaths, or will the Gruul show who the real apex predator is?

Game One

I’m on the play for our opener, and lead with a Forest which Sam matches with a Mountain. She also has a one-drop in the Foundry Street Denizen, getting out in front early. Back to me, I play a second Forest and pass, while Sam adds a Skarrg Guildmage. This pumps the Denizen for +1/+0, and Sam dutifully turns it sideways for the first blood of the match.

Now turn 3, I’m punished for a greedy keep when I miss my third land drop, having counted on the decks being land-rich. Sam plays another Forest, then adds a Viashino Shanktail. Again the Denizen gets a boost, and again Sam sends it in on the attack. This time, it brings a friend in the Guildmage, and I end the turn at 14 life. Back to me, I catch a break as I draw an Island, then immediately use it to play a Kraken Hatchling. I then add a Forced Adaptation to it and end the turn. Sam attacks with the Viashino and Guldmage for 5. Knowing her deck to be full of tricks- indeed, that’s the Gruul’s modus operandi with bloodrush- I opt to let them through rather than risk the Hatchling before it’s even found its first counter. She then summons a Ghor-Clan Rampager and passes.

Now turn 5, I’m at 9 life and struggling to catch up. The Kraken gets a +1/+1 counter thanks to its aura, but I have no other play. Back to Sam, she sends in the army for lethal. I block her Viashino with my Kraken, and as expected she bloodrushes a Scab-Clan Charger for the kill. I respond with Hindervines, Fogging the whole attack. Chagrined, Sam adds a Verdant Haven to her Mountain and ends her turn.

Next turn, I add a second +1/+1 counter to the Kraken Hatchling, then play a Simic Keyrune. It’s not nearly enough, though, as Sam uses her Guildmage to animate one of her Forests into a 4/4 beater. She turns everything sideways, and I fall beneath the attacking wave.

Game Two

Sam and I trade opening land drops, though she also manages an opening Arbor Elf– not an encouraging sign. Still, it doesn’t open up any options for her next turn as we both play land and pass (her with a 1-point attack). It’s only on turn 3 that things start to become more interesting, as I bring out a Simic Keyrune while she powers out a Scab-Clan Charger.

Chronomaton

Chronomaton

Now turn 4, I play an Adaptive Snapjaw for a sizable threat, though Sam coolly responds with a Fire Elemental after attacking in with her Charger for 2. Back to me, I enchant the Snapjaw with Forced Adaptation, then play Unexpected Results. This lands me a  Frilled Oculus, triggering evolve on my Snapjaw to give it its first +1/+1 counter on the day. Sam’s not impressed, attacking in with the Fire Elemental. I let it through, and drop to 12. She then adds a Viashino Shanktail and ends her turn.

I have no play on turn 6, other than a land drop and the addition of another +1/+1 counter on the Snapjaw thanks to Forced Adaptation. Sam again comes at me with the Elemental, and this time I block it with the Snapjaw. I thwart the trade with Hindervines, preventing the Elemental’s damage, but Sam then kills off the Snapjaw anyway with a Ground Assault. Back to me, I simply play a Forest and pass, while Sam keeps the pressure up with a 5-point attack behind her Viashino and Charger. I pump my Frilled Oculus after using it to block the Shanktail, and Sam snaps off a bloodrush combat trick from a Skinbrand Goblin for the kill. I end the turn at 10 after Sam adds a Rubblehulk.

Now turn 8, I’m beginning to go on tilt from the relentless parade of land I keep finding atop my library, not for the first time uttering a silent but very profane curse to our Wizards overlords for going overboard on the land content of the decks this time around. I play the Island and pass. Sam sends her posse to put me out of my misery, a whopping 13 points of damage. I chump the Rubblehulk with my Keyrune, going down to 4. She then summons a Foundry Street Denizen. After drawing yet another land, I bow t the inevitable and concede.

Game Three

I open our final game with a Simic Guildgate, then next turn bring out a Cloudfin Raptor. A turn-3 Frilled Oculus evolves the Raptor, letting it attack in for first blood. After playing nothing but land, Sam then finds a Slaughterhorn to start things off.

Now turn 4, I send in the Raptor to peck away another point of damage. Sam counterattacks for 3, then adds a Ghor-Clan Rampager. Back to me, I next play a Shambleshark, evolving the Raptor once more. I turn it sideways, taking Sam down to 16, then Encrust her freshly-summoned Rampager. Back to Sam, she attacks again with the Slaughterhorn, then adds a Primal Huntbeast.

A turn-6 Drakewing Krasis evolves both my Shambleshark and Raptor, and I leave the former at home while attacking in for 3 with the latter. Down to 13 life, Sam sits pat, but adds a Ripscale Predator to her field. Back to me, I then trot out a Sapphire Drakeevolving my board once more. Pouncing at the opportunity, I then attack with the Shambleshark, Krasis, and Raptor for 11, dealing Sam a crippling blow. Still, summoning her inner Gruul Sam declines to hang back on defense, and instead smashes back for a brutal 14 points of damage behind all four of her beaters. I chump-block her Slaughterhorn with the Oculus, and eat her Huntbeast with my Drake. Still, I take a whopping 10 and drop to 4.

Now turn 8, I draw- what else- a land, then watch in horror as Sam calmly refills her life bar with an 11-point Predator’s Rapport, thanks to the Ripscale Predator. Still, I have enough on-board to get the job done- barely- and I narrowly avoid the sweep thanks to my evolved beaters.

Thoughts & Analysis

One of the strongest intro decks we’ve ever played with is The Adventurers, from Zendikar. This deck was jam-packed with Allies, and contained a powerful and synergistic rare card in the Kazuul Warlord. It seemed effortless to string together a chain of Allies one after the other, each pumping up their predecessors in some fashion before turning sideways for serious impact. In fairness, the deck would whiff sometimes, getting off to a promising start before going nowhere, usually behind those Allies that granted temporary or conditional rather than permanent bonuses such as the Highland Berserker or Tajuru Archer. But a solid core of Allies all gained +1/+1 counters (see: Oran-Rief Survivalist), and these could pick up momentum like a snowball rolling downhill.

When we tested Ethan Fleischer’s Tooth and Claw Intro Pack mockup for the Great Designer Search 2 articles on Quiet Speculation, we found a not dissimilar consistency and power level. As I wrote then:

We began with six tests against Kor Armory (adding an extra three due to Ethan’s preference for the matchup), and if these matches are anything to go by, I’d say the cavemen and their flint-tipped spears are in for a rough go of things. The Potbreaker Bull smashed its fair share of equipment, while the Kor flyers were easy pickings for the Leaping Ornitholestes. Nor could the Kor consistently compete on size or numbers. An optimal sequence for Tooth and Claw often ran something like this: Turn 1 Eohippus gets evolved by a turn 2 Potbreaker Bull and swings for 2. Next turn land a Hulking Sailback (after swinging for 4), which gets evolved by a turn 4 Fecund Maiasaur (swing for 6). Follow that up with a turn 5 Bellowing Tarbosaurus (an early high-power critter cut in the last iteration of the deck) which evolves the whole table and swing for the win. Of course, the Kor didn’t go down quite so easily, but the aggression is clearly evident. Tooth and Claw went 4-2 against the Kor, and the decks felt relatively balanced.

It’s important to remember that the early version of evolve looked only at power rather than at power or toughness, as in the finished model. All the same, it gave us high hopes for a strong showing from the Simic, with dreams of seeing a similar evolutionary curve lead the guild to glory.

What a letdown. Simic Synthesis proved to be little like its evolutionary forebear. For one thing, the tight focus on building up an aggressive head of steam by stringing together evolve triggers was wholly absent. Instead, this felt more like a midrange deck that was happy to evolve a couple of times, but otherwise couldn’t be bothered. Sure I was able to chain together evolutions on three successive turns in the last match, which helped me win the game, but there was a sincle occurrence in game two, and none in either the first game or the friendly. In short, it seemed incidental rather than central, and that was highly disappointing for such a fun mechanic.

Drakewing Krasis

Drakewing Krasis

Sadly for the deck, it also suffered from some poor card choices. Unexpected Results seemed a complete waste of a rare slot in actual practice. It’s a fun card, but it’s a build-around-me type of card in a very unbuilt-around-it kind of deck. It really wants to have a deck with ridiculously-expensive cards in it that can be had for a relative bargain. Instead, what you get is a card that makes you overpay the majority of the time, in exchange for the prospect of hitting a free land approximately 40% of the time.

Actually, with the land increase this time around, it’s slightly higher, and in this match I was acutely aware of it. I was hitting drops each turn deeper into the games, and by the end drawing yet another land frankly started to really frustrate. I get what Wizards is trying to do and longtime readers know we are supportive of efforts build in to Intro Packs to gently encourage deckbuilding, but this seems a step too far. It’s probably true that mana screw is more frustrating than mana flood, since at least you can play more things in the latter case, but 24-25 lands as a matter of course seems appropriate. More than that seems almost ridiculous. Hopefully, we’ll see this flood recede come the next set.

Hits: The evolve mechanic is a blast to play; deck makes clever use of asymmetrical power/toughness creatures to improve chances of evolving

Misses: Very poor removal; deck is a bit tooclever for its own good, with a high number of cards that are only conditionally useful; evolve mechanic doesn’t get a fair shake with this inconsistent package

OVERALL SCORE: 3.95/5.00

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21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lee
    Feb 1 2013

    Seems a shame that the deck doesn’t take better advantage of evolve (and almost wastes a rare slot!). Is the deck i’m most looking forward to and looks lile it could use some serious tinkering

    Reply
  2. TheB00kah
    Feb 1 2013

    As much fun it is to play Unexpected Results they still should have replaced the card. A better fit would have been Miming Slime

    Reply
  3. Zack
    Feb 1 2013

    Well, on the bright side, Drakewing Krasis and Chronomaton are both really nice pieces of art. I’m looking forward to you “meddling” Simic Synthesis, because I think this guild has a lot of untapped potential.

    I’m also really looking forward to your review of the Gruul deck – it looks like a true powerhouse.

    Reply
  4. The evolve mechanic is incredible. It’s a shame that the intro deck doesn’t present it as well as some of the others. Bloodrush is pretty powerful but can be taken down by a good simic deck.

    Reply
  5. Varo
    Feb 1 2013

    Well, i was expecting a poor performance from this precon. What really interests me is the meddling you’re going to do with it, i’d love to see evolve doing good. On Unexpected results, it doesn’t fit the deck too much, i’d have preferred Biomass mutation for that slot.

    Reply
  6. Feb 1 2013

    Wish they’d put in Ooze Flux rather than Unexpected Results. Much more entertaining and very synergistic.

    Reply
  7. Chris X
    Feb 1 2013

    Interested to see a simic meddle, evolve just seems really underpowered to me maybe you can unlock its true potential!

    Reply
  8. Naïveté
    Feb 1 2013

    Please meddle this! I can’t afford to let Simic be sub-par. I will experience severe psychological repercusions!

    Reply
  9. Feb 1 2013

    When I saw your opponent was Gruul, I had a feeling you’d be in for a rough time…Simic needs land drops and a perfect curve to make huge guys. Gruul just needs land drops.

    It’s a shame there weren’t enough evolve guys to let the +1/+1 counters theme really shine. Graft was my favorite mechanic from original Ravnica because of this.

    Reply
  10. nightwyrm
    Feb 1 2013

    I played Simic during the pre-release and a good Simic evolve deck really, really wants to hit every creature on curve. This deck wants way more cloudfin raptors and experimental ones and other good 2 or 3 drops instead of the odd, seemingly random assortment of creatures in this intro deck. Like others have said, this deck is up for some severe meddling.

    Reply
  11. Feb 1 2013

    Shame, evolve is one of my favorite mechanics of the set. Too bad it sucked.

    I played Simic at the prerelease and found a similar problem with evolve that this deck seems to have. Evolve really wants to have consistency that’s hard to find in sealed or preconstructed. You want to be playing those 1 and 2 drop evolve guys and watching them evolve into major threats as the game goes on. And this deck just doesn’t have the resources to do that.

    How sad, especially with how good Ethan’s deck was for the designer search.

    The relatively good showing from Gruul though gives me hope that not all of the intro packs for Gatecrash were a bust, although I imagine that, besides Simic, at least the Orzhov one is not going to fare well under scrutiny. The Dimir one I haven’t really looked at much, but from what Dimir likes to do, I could see that one going either way. Cipher could give it more consistency, and Consuming Aberration was a monster at the prerelease, but it seems like it could also be just as poorly implemented as evolve was in this intro pack.

    Ok, rant over.

    Reply
  12. Feb 2 2013

    I’m a little disappointed. Usually I’d buy the precon to meddle with it but I think in this case it’d actually be easier to just start from scratch. I’m sure if built around properly evolve will be quite the scary mechanic

    Reply
  13. Jon S
    Feb 2 2013

    looking at the deck list again, it seems that there isn’t enough evolve creatures that plus 26 lands led to the let down. That is a shame as it can leave a bad taste in one’s mouth after playing it.

    Reply
  14. Matt
    Feb 2 2013

    It seems like there’s a consistent problem with too many lands in the new intro packs from a playability standpoint. However, I think makes it a bit easier for new deck builders, making first cuts is a lot easier when you have 2-4 lands extra to cut. After watching my friend try to tinker with his first deck it does make sense.

    I just wish they’d included a more useful second rare, unexpected results is fun in theory but rarely in practice.

    Reply
  15. Icehawk
    Feb 2 2013

    You know all this Gatecrash talk made me remember the hats released with RtR. Where are the Gatecrash hats? Wouldn’t mind picking up a Boros one.

    Reply
  16. Morten Dall
    Feb 4 2013

    I really hope you’ll play Boros vs. Gruul for the Gruul review – that’ll be a really interesting match. I fear that Simic might be a little too slow to be a match for Gruul, similarly to how Boros outpaced Orzhov in the first match. A shame that it had so many problems, I really like the Evolve mechanic.

    Reply
  17. mcc1701
    Feb 7 2013

    My guess is that they have some sort of guidelines they have to follow for each deck. X amount of keyword cards, X lands, X uncommons, etc. The rare is pretty bad, and honestly they should have just gone with some urban evolutions and bigger creatures, leaving the small drops to carry evolve.

    Reply
  18. Limbonic_art
    Feb 7 2013

    What a dissapointment with these matchups. The decklist itself didn’t look bad as compared to sealed pools from the rerelease it had many of the “bombs” from the set like Saphire Drake and Elusive Krasis. However, looking beyond this superficiality, there is not much evolve to be found in the deck. only 1 Cloudfin Raptor is bad, and many of the other evolve cards don’t land early enough to really make it worth it. Evolve needs many evolvers as well as cards to trigger them; luckily many evolve cards are already synergistic with each other. The curve of the deck seems healthy, but there seems to be too much filler present, along with too many singletons.
    This deck was a huge dissapointment, the previous simic deck from dissension performed much better.

    Reply
  19. Feb 10 2013

    I played Simic at the prerelease, and despite my wildest fantasies, evolve felt like a dud. A lot of the evolve cards shine when drawn in the right order, but when you’re topdecking a four-mana 1/1, it can largely be a disappointment. Perhaps this was just a fault of my prerelease pool, but I had a very hard time evolving my creatures at all. Sure, I had Gyre Sage, Simic Manipulator, and Fathom Mage, but most of my creatures had 3 power or less – Drakewing Krasis had one of the highest powers in my deck, and my top end consisted of a lone 4/2 for six. Overall, my deck felt much like the midrange that you described, with evolve managing to hit maybe two or three times a game.

    That being said, evolve may work better with an unrestricted card pool. I’m currently building a B/G/U Mimeoplasm EDH deck that looks to synthesize the graveyard shenanigans of Golgari with the +1/+1 counters of Simic, and it’s a very fun deck; scavenging onto Fathom Mage or Simic Manipulator with a Corpsejack Menace in play is a blast.

    Reply
  20. outhouseinferno
    Feb 10 2013

    It sort of feels like both the simic precons we have encourage tinkering, the mechanics build upon each other and we’re not given quite enough for the first go.

    Reply
  21. Caelosum1308
    Feb 15 2013

    The precon Simic deck was on the weaker side, but all that needs to be done is adding in a few bigger hitters and the deck works miracles.
    My first game was tough, especially since I was pulling small cards with low toughness like Shamble Shark and Drakewing Krasis, and too much land was getting in the way.
    When I went back to reformat the deck however, all I did was take out a couple cards (Chronomaton and a Drakewing) and added a Shamble Shark, a Sapphire Drake, Nimbus Swimmer, and an Alpha Tyrranax (because I like that card).
    Bam. Now I win at least 3/4 of the games I play every day. I can run with almost any hand I get. I even held out for 20 minutes against my friend’s Orzhov deck, which had Deathpact Angel, Obzedat, and four High Priests of Penance.
    The extra Shamble shark widens the base for more creatures to evolve early on. Kraken Hatchling’s touhness can evolve almost every other creature, and the Tyrranax can make even big creatures grow, as does the Nimbus Swimmer, which works well with the extra land.
    The land really supports bigger creatures, and Zamek Guildmage, Urban Evolution, and Fathom Mage allow you to draw past any land pockets.
    The precon deck may not have been the best,
    But Simic works just fine.

    Reply

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