Dragon’s Maze: Simic Domination Review (Part 2 of 2)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 Mage, evolving 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