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April 30, 2013

10

Dragon’s Maze: Simic Domination Review (Part 2 of 2)

by Dredd77

Next stop on our tour of the Intro Packs of Dragon’s Maze is the Simic Combine! With their new evolve mechanic they’re back for a second go, and standing in their way is the dark carnival of the Rakdos. Sam’s shuffled and ready to go, but which guild will come out on top?

Game One

I’m on the play for the opener, and Sam and I trade opening Guildgate drops to kick things off. Next turn I play an Island and pass, while Sam drops a Spike Jester that hits the ground running.

Down to 17, I plug the hole in my defenses with a Crocanura then pass. Sam sends in the Jester for 3 more, then follows with a Riot Piker. Whatever Sam has up her sleeve next, it’s likely upended as I then use Give to drop a trio of +1/+1 counters on the Crocanura, making it a 4/6. Back to Sam, she misses her first land drop, but still manages to place a Sinister Possession on my lone defender. She then attacks for 2 with the Piker (as she must), and my Crocanura gets a nice snack. Still, the Possession kicks in for 2, leaving me at 12 all the same. Sam then follows with a Gutter Skulk, then ends her turn.

Now turn 5, I play a Cloudfin Raptor and pass, after which Sam attacks in for 5 with the Skulk and Jester. I block and kill the Jester (taking another 2 from the aura), ending at 8. Sam then brings out a Rakdos Cluestone and passes. Over to me, I summon a Battering Krasis, which evolves the Raptor. A Phytoburst on the Raptor then lets it hammer in for 6, taking Sam to 14. Unfazed, Sam deploys an unleashed Spawn of Rix Maadi and passes.

Now turn 7, I swing for 5 with the Crocanura and Raptor. To my surprise, Sam trades her Spawn for my Crocanura, taking 1 off the Raptor to go to 13. Sam next sends the Skulk in for 2, and I accept the trade for my Krasis. She follows by unleashing another Spawn of Rix Maadi- trouble! Fortunately, I topdeck a Krasis Incubation, and use it to lock down the new Spawn. I nick another point with the Raptor, then end my turn. Over to Sam, she casts a lethal Toil // Trouble. This forces me to draw two cards and lose 2 life, putting me at 4- and with four cards in hand. Luckily, one of those cards is Mutant’s Prey, which I cast in response to Trouble to get it out of my hand. This lets me cling to life at 1, but sadly my only eligible combatant is the poor Cloudfin Raptor, which gets crushed by Jimi’s only remaining creature, the Spawn.

Now turn 9 with my back against the wall, I summon a Sapphire Drake after playing a second Guildgate. Sam plays a Mountain and passes. I then attack for 4 with the Drake to drop Sam to 6, then add a Centaur Courser to stay on defense. Alas, it’s all for naught. Sam rips a Morgue Burst, and takes the game.

Game Two

Again we’re off to a delayed start, and Sam’s turn-2 Riot Piker is the first drop of the game. I’m able to counter, though, with a next-turn Elusive Krasis. Sam attacks in with the Piker, and I block. She then follows with a Gutter Skulk and ends the turn.

Now turn 4, I double down with a second Elusive Krasis. Back to Sam, she attacks with the Piker (blocked), then plays a Slum Reaper. Nicely timed, she loses her useless Piker while I’m forced to kill off a Krasis- leaving a defender who can’t profitably block. Over to me, I simply add a Simic Cluestone and pass. Sam attacks for 6 with the Skulk and Reaper, blocking the Skulk but leaving 4 to come through. She then unleashes a Spawn of Rix Maadi.

Opal Lake Gatekeepers

Opal Lake Gatekeepers

A turn-6 Opal Lake Gatekeepers arrives with me only having played one Gate, but in need of the body. It evolves my Elusive Krasis, though, so it’s not a total sacrifice. Sam then swings for 10 with her ground troops. I block the Reaper with my Krasis, taking 6 to fall to 10. Back to me, I boost the Gatekeepers with Give, making them an impressive 5/7. Over to Sam, she plays a Spike Jester, sending it in along with the rest. I block and kill the Spawn with my Gatekeepers, and obstruct the Reaper with my Krasis. Still, that leaves 5 from the Jester and Skulk, and I fall to 5.

Now turn 8, I play a Cloudfin Raptor, then evolve it and the Krasis with a Centaur Courser. I counterattack for 7 with the Gatekeepers and Krasis, getting my first mark on Sam this game. Again, though, Sam manages to find a Morgue Burst, and with the fat in her graveyard she one-shots me out.

Game Three

This is fun- the first three drops of the game are Guildgates, after which Sam plays a Swamp and the trusty Riot Piker. This time I find a blocker in the form of Murmuring Phantasm. Sam attacks for 2, and I block.

Now turn 4, I summon an Elusive Krasis. Back to Sam, she attacks for 2 with the Piker and I block. She then deploys the Slum Reaper, popping her own Piker while forcing me to offer up the Phantasm. Next turn, I replace my loss with a Beetleform Mageevolving my Krasis. Still, things look grim when Sam plops down an unleashed Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch. She swings in for 8 with Exava and the Reaper, the altter of which gets blocked by my Krasis.

Down to 16, I play a second Beetleform Mage, again evolving the Krasis into a useful 2/6. Over to Sam, she then deploys a Carnage Gladiator and passes. I use the all-star Give to inflate my Krasis into a 5/9, leaving me well-stabilised. Sam unleashes a Rakdos Drake, which gives it haste thanks to Exava. It gets sent across, taking me to 14. At the end of the turn, though, I strike out with Mutant’s Prey, using my massive Elusive Krasis to crush Exava.

Now turn 8, I pump up a Beetleform Mage to a 4/4 flyer, and send it in with alongside the unblockable Krasis for 9. I then summon a Crowned Ceratok and pass. Back to Sam, she uses a Morgue Burst to kill a Beetleform Mage as she calls Exava back to service. She attacks for 2 with the Drake, and I’m left at 12. Next turn, I pump the remaining Mage and swing in for 13 with the Krasis and Ceratok. Sam’s forced to gang-block with the Gladiator and Reaper to stop the Krasis, but she’s broken and she knows it. After her next draw, I avoid the broom as she scoops.

Thoughts & Analysis

Thanks in large part to the very poor showing from such a promising mechanic in the last go-round, I was very keen to see how the deck performed this time around. I was encouraged too by Sam’s choice of opposition, having written up the Rakdos deck earlier and found a few flaws within it. Alas, Simic Domination flattered the Rakdos mightily.

Part of the problem was that the deck wasn’t aggressive enough. Although the Cloudfin Raptors did manage to make an appearance, the whole package of evolution didn’t come together quickly enough, and it often felt like I was playing a step or two behind Sam. She was getting full value and more from her creeps, thanks to unleash, while I struggled to chain enough of them together to make the earliest ones decent. Evolve also has a fairly unforgiving skill curve to it, as I found to my detriment in our friendly. Presented the option to play an unsexy but sturdy Centaur Courser and evolve my Cloudfin Raptor, I decided instead to wait a turn to cast it so I could instead play a second Raptor. This was a greedy line of play, as I hoped to evolve both off the Courser. Instead, it put my behind a turn and I never recovered- her higher-power creeps slipped right past my defenses.

By the same token, I felt almost powerless to affect the board in front of me. Removal in the deck is generally poor, so if you’re not on-curve with evolving you’re very likely to fall fatally behind. It seems curious that the deck’s MVP card seemed to be Give, whose trio of +1/+1 counters could finally make one of my creatures a force to be reckoned with. Using Take was never even considered- the mana and counters were simply too dear to lose fishing for more cards.

Overall, I know that the concept can work, but neither Intro Pack has given it the care and feeding it needs to evolve into a real threat. A pity!

Hits: Evolve is a great mechanic, and this deck has some clever ways to make the most of it

Misses: Deck a bit slow thanks to the preponderance of three-drops and few earlier plays to enable evolve; very poor removal package

OVERALL SCORE: 4.00/5.00

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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ruaranicus
    May 1 2013

    I don’t know what it is about the Simic…they just don’t appeal to me at all. Not the flavour, not the rules – although Evolve is a really sweet mechanic. This deck looks like a big improvement over the last one anyway. One of the guys in our group uses Synthesis quite regularly, and is regularly steamrolled by the rest of us…hopefully this will give him a boost.

    Reply
  2. May 1 2013

    I’m pretty sure you can’t cast a spell in between two halves of a fused spell – they both resolve at once, like two parts of a single card.

    Also, in game 1 did an unleashed Spawn block or did I misread it?

    Reply
    • May 1 2013

      Wow, a double No-Prize for you! It’s been awhile since we’ve had to give one out, and you nab a pair for spotting those play errors. You’ve got us dead to rights on the unleashed Spawn, I just reread the passage to Sam and she had the good grace to blush with embarrassment as it hit her, too. As for the fuse, I had to google that and sure enough, it’s played as a single spell. Thanks!!

      Reply
      • May 3 2013

        Double No-Prize? That’s almost as good as No Double-Prizes! Thanks so much!

        Reply
  3. A little disappointed. My Simic evolve deck was built around a very aggressive curve and performs pretty well. The all-stars in that deck go from the obvious, Experiment One and Cloudfin Raptor, to the less obvious, Rapid Hybridization. RH is great defensively to clear away an opponent’s troubling creature or offensively to trade one of my useless or about-to-die creatures for a 3/3 while potentially triggering evolve—all for a single blue mana. That sort of flexibility lets me keep my creature count high and the foot on the accelerator.

    Reply
    • Varo
      May 2 2013

      I also use the Experiment and the Raptor as evolve creatures in my Blue/Green tempo deck. Playing one of them, followed by a Young wolf that you Rapid hybridizate can leave you with an impressive army of a 3/3 or 3/4 flyer (ready to attack), a 2/2 and a 3/3 in turn two, with no card disadvantage!

      I hope Jay does again meddlings at GatheringMagic to see this deck improved upon.

      Reply
      • Michael Macks
        May 6 2013

        When you play Rapid Hybridization, the 3/3 enters the battlefield first, not the 2/2 Young Wolf. So the Raptor/Experiment One would only evolve twice (2/3 for the Raptor and 3/3 for the Experiment).

        Reply
        • Garryn Green
          Jun 10 2013

          Actually, the first evolve trigger from the Frog Lizard goes on the stack at the same time as the Undying trigger from Young Wolf, meaning you stack them as you want. So, Undying resolves first, putting another Evolve on the stack. Evolve for the 2/2 Wolf, then Evolve for the 3/3 Frog Lizard.

          Reply
  4. Limbonic_art
    May 1 2013

    Simic is a fun guild, but they are a little tricky to play. I find it disappointing that cards that have potential to acquire multiple +1/+1 counters are underwhelming when compared to ones that give a one-time boost with a drawback attached. The temporary boost over a promise of more gain over time seems like it should be the other way around instead. I still would find playing the deck fun and overall seems to be an improvement over Simic Synthesis from Gatecrash. What I think could have made the deck better is more 1-drops and 2-drops, especially small ones that can evolve like Shambleshark (on curve with power/toughness), Experiment one, and maybe an extra cloudfin raptor to get to three. Additional Murmuring Phantasms could have also helped the case, as your evolving army needs time and are usually unable to block early. A more balanced curve with at least 4 turn 1 creatures and 5 turn 2 creatures might have been a better balancing act overall.
    I am interested in doing a project involving all return to ravnica intro packs and changing them slightly(maybe 10 cards at most from each deck) including land removal and such and adding guild-marked cards from the avialable sets (Gatecrash intro packs for example, only containing gatecrash set or M13) and preferably only changing numbers of cards already represented, without adding rares. Similar to a meddling but focusing on balance between decks. Intro packs that dominate (like boros for example) could use this change to be given a break or to in favour of balance. If anyone has done something similar, I would love to get some feedback. The matches here on Ertai’s lament really give me a good idea of which decks need a boost and what cards could be added.I am trying to create a similar experience to the duel decks, where decks have no clear win/loss matchup or one that is close to fifty. Involving all 15 Return to Ravnica block intro packs can be a challenge but I believe it could be done!

    Reply
  5. Aniello
    May 18 2013

    I like evolve, but Green/Blue lack of some valid removal spells.

    Reply

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