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I am going to be playing this weekend at the prerelease of Gatecrash, with the chosen guild of Simic. Now the core strategy of Simic is to grow relentlessly, using the Evolve mechanic (whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, if that creature has greater power or toughness than this creature, put a +1/+1 counter on this creature).

There are a couple of problems with this guild type:

  1. Its power level is inconsistent.
  2. Not many creatures in green and blue that have high toughness and power to make it evolve.

To mitigate the issues of running Simic I'm considering splashing red for Gruul might be the most optimum choice.

What other problems, strategy, or card combos should I watch out for when playing Simic?

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I don't see how you can see green doesn't have high toughness or power... Green has the most and biggest creatures of any color. In terms of 4+ pow or tgh, breakdown is blue and black with 11, white at 12, red with 14, and green with 15. Most of red's come from gruul, just as most of blue's come from simic. In terms of mono color, U and W are 5, B is 4, R is 6 and G is 7. Green IS the big creature color. So you slop down blue evolvers, and pump them up with cheap green fatties. Problem solved. –  corsiKa Jan 22 '13 at 21:48
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Since you say 'high toughness and power', I want to point out something that you may not have noticed: Evolve triggers off of the creature entering play having either a higher toughness or a higher power than the evolving creature. And as it happens, there are a number of creatures with either high power or high toughness for triggering evolve (for instance, even just a couple of Crocanura will turn your Cloudfin Raptor into a 2/3 flyer). –  Steven Stadnicki Jan 23 '13 at 3:54

5 Answers 5

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+100

In regards to GTC Simic in general, here's this humble magic players breakdown of the playables. The only cards included here are commons since you really can't ever rely on seeing even uncommons. There's about 80 uncommon cards a set, and you're going to see a total of 18. So maybe three or four of those will be simic, and maybe one of those will be playable. If they are great, but let's focus on the bread (no pun intended) and butter of your guild first.

If a card doesn't appear in this list, it's because I personally didn't think it would be a good fit for the "grow 'em" strategy, which is undoubtedly what simic will be playing. That doesn't necessarily mean it's bad (although it probably means I think it's bad in general), and I welcome challenges to anything present in or absent from the list. I am comfortable making the list because it's 1) objective based on certain criteria, 2) limited (only 34 cards of the 259 are eligible for the list) and 3) comprehensive (it's not just a list but the reasons why are included so someone could apply the same sorts of logic to other cards).

Green playables:

Creatures:

  • Crocanura - 3 toughness reach is decent - flying is huge in limited. Evolving will make it hit higher power quickly.
  • Crowned Ceratok - 4 power trample is great. Giving all your evolve trample is great too. Three toughness makes it weaker to red aggro cards like a 3/1 or 3/2, but it's still a great card.
  • Disciple of the Old Ways - He's a bear, which is usually playable anyway. His bonus is great if you're splashing red.
  • Greenside Watcher - If you have 3 or more gates, he's worth playing.
  • Ivy Lane Denizen - Every green guy gets a +1/+1 counter. Note that this +1/+1 counter happens in parallel with evolve, which is excellent!
  • Slaughterhorn - A 3/2 for 3 is probably playable anyway, but having bloodrush is simple excellent.
  • Spire Tracer - He's not a flier, but he acts like one. Green rarely gets fliers, so this is excellent news. Expect him to be targets of +1/+1 counters and bloodrushes.
  • Wasteland Viper - A 1/2 for 1 is rather lame considering last set gave us Dryad Militant (although that was uncommon). The bloodrush component of this is still excellent.

Spells:

  • Forced Adaptation - You risk being 2-for-1ed with this, but this will make your creature scale well with your turns. Combos well with Ceratok.
  • Pit Fight (R/G hybrid) - Cheap instant-speed removal at common. Between evolve, big green creatures, and Wasteland Viper, you've got a lot of viable fighters in your colors.
  • Verdant Haven - Everyone loves acceleration, but green traditionally has the best.

Blue Playables:

Creatures:

  • Cloudfin Raptor - will probably swing for 1 on turn 2 as you'd expect with a typical flier.
  • Keymaster Rogue - This guy is great for triggering those +1/+1 counters all over the place.
  • Metropolis Sprite - he has the +1/-1 ability that Frostborn Wierd had in RTR, and that proved to be very effective. Putting it on only one color isn't as good, and having only two toughness is also not as good, but if you have ways to get counters on blue creatures, this is a good place for it. Otherwise leave this out of the game.
  • Leyline Phantom - good for triggering +1/+1 abilites, although it's late in the game, simic should be able to drag the game out to make him worth it. He's kind of like an expensive keymaster rogue.

Spells:

  • Hands of Binding - probably the best blue spell at common, this is a must play if you have good fliers or other evasion.
  • Last Thoughts - this is pretty expensive if you don't get a lot of uses out of the cipher component, but if it does work out for you it's excellent. If your opponent has a lot of removal, sideboard this out.
  • Spell Rupture - If you have the big green fatties of old, this is effectively a Cancel for 1U isntead of 1UU. That's a great thing.
  • Way of the Thief - Maro promised gates would mean more in this expansion than in RTR. The only real use of gate in RTR before was on a fairly crappy defender in black that really didn't fit the profile. This on the otherhand is a pretty good fit. +2/+2 and unblockable is good, but doing it for 4 is pretty expensive. On the other hand, if the unblockable creature has a couple ciphers on him, well now you're going to win the game. Congrats.

Simic Playables:

Creatures:

  • Drakewing Krasis - he's a 3/1 flample - since he's still green he combos well with Ivy Lane Denizen.
  • Shambleshark - 2/1 flash evolve for 2 - requires exactly UG so could be tough to drop on turn 2. But with flash, you can leave the mana open and your opponent may think he's safer for a turn longer than he really is. Great potential here.

Spells:

  • Bioshift - if someone kills your creature with a bunch of +1/+1 counters (see Forced Adaptation) you can save them quickly.
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"Exactly UG" on turn 2 isn't actually a challenge for a two-color (or two-color-plus-splash) deck: how likely are you to keep a hand that doesn't have at least one land of each of your deck's main colors in the first place? –  Alex P Jan 25 '13 at 0:35
    
If you have 3 green spells, 3 forests, and 1 UG spell, very likely. –  corsiKa Jan 25 '13 at 1:35
    
In my experience, those kinds of hands lead to you ending up dead with a hand full of unplayables more often than not. –  Alex P Jan 25 '13 at 4:01
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@AlexP Unfortunately, you can't always mulligan to hands with all your colors available. If I had three forests, three purely green (creature) spells and one GU spell, I'd keep that in a heartbeat; it's almost certainly better than a random 6 are going to be. –  Steven Stadnicki Jan 25 '13 at 19:45

I wouldn't pre-determine which guilds I would be playing at this point if I were you, even if you already know that you're getting a simic pack.

for all you know, you can open nothing but bad simic cards in your guild pack, yet open all the boros bombs in your other 5 regular booster packs.

And if you do go simic, you might get the good boros cards, or you might also get the good dimir cards to supplement your third color.

I'd also advise against worrying too much about what your "weaknesses" are. Just make sure you have good threats and/or answers. Think about whether you'll be able to keep pressure on your opponent, killing him quick or potentially forcing him into bad trades, or whether you'll need to be able to win a war of attrition.

remember bread

B – Bombs
R – Removal
E – Efficient Spells (or evasion, depending on who you talk to)
A – Aggro
D – Dregs

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In this case I think the E in BREAD depends on what you're playing. Simic needs efficient creature growth (where Dimir wants Evasion above all things). –  Tynam Jan 23 '13 at 20:20
    
From today's Latest Developments, which discusses the whole guild pack deal: "I can't guarantee that you will open five other rares to go with the guild-aligned one in your Prerelease kit, but no matter what guild you choose, your guild pack should give you the resources to play that guild and a strong enough pool to have a good time." –  Jefromi Jan 26 '13 at 3:42

Leyline Phantom looks like a good Simic roleplayer at common.

4U for a 5/5, return it to its owners hand if it deals combat damage.

The supposed drawback is actually an advantage on a card that really says "when this comes into play, evolve all your creatures", and may even do that job twice (or force your opponent to do some chump blocking they wouldn't otherwise).

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The really great part about the Phantom "drawback" is there aren't many creature slots on the high end of your mana curve (maybe 4-5 at most). Having a 5/5 that's re-castable will help those later drawn low-end evolve creatures become real threats. –  ghoppe Jan 22 '13 at 23:00

Good interactions posted so far. Here's a couple Cipher cards that make me giddy when I think about interaction with evolve.

Voidwalk – Exile a fatty. He makes your guys bigger for free.

Stolen Identity – If copying a big obvious fatty isn't available yet, make a small evolve creature that will become a real threat later.

Last Thoughts – Card advantage helps evolve. Draw more creatures.

As I mentioned in a comment to another answer, one trick with evolve will be cheating the mana curve. You need fatties to trigger evolve, but there's not much room in the deck.

One way to cheat is by playing creatures like Leyline Phantom and Keymaster Rogue that allow you to cast those large power/toughness creatures multiple times.

Another way to cheat is to play mid-range cards like Scab-Clan Charger and Slaughterhorn on the low end of the curve, casting them with Bloodrush to apply pressure if you are fully evolved or can't spare the mana.

PS. Sometime, somewhere, I am going to cast Shambleshark in response to an opponent's ciphered Last Thoughts. Then I shall smile.

PPS. Burning-Tree Emissary has potential for broken early plays.

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I have somewhat different evaluations than corsiKa does, so I feel like I should run down the list myself. To my mind Simic will play very much as classic blue/green tempo decks like the old Madness decks did, with undercosted midrange creatures (rather than weenies per se) and especially at the prerelease, generous amounts of card draw (as facilitated by Fathom Seer). Here are the cards I feel are particularly noteworthy, either because I think they're excellent or disagree with corsiKa:

Creatures:

Adaptive Snapjaw: don't sell this one short. 6/2 is awkward but means it'll trigger everyone else's evolve... but if you can get it to 8/4 this will almost always be a 2-for-1. I'm not sure what to make of it yet, but I'm curious. Also excellent, of course, for getting the 4th +1/+1 counter on your Cloudfin Raptor.

Clinging Anemones: 4 toughness means that this is a surprisingly effective Evolve enabler and not just as an evolve guy itself; it's great for Snapjaw of course, but especially for...

Cloudfin Raptor: one of the best common creatures in the set. A terrible late draw and surprisingly awkward in multiples, but any time you get to pay one mana for what can easily be a 3/4 flyer in the midgame you have to consider it a bargain.

Drakewing Krasis: awkward against opposing Crocanuras, of course, but 3-power flyers for 3 are always strong picks. This is another guy I'll take and play very highly; I expect a lot of games to end via these guys coming through the air while a Crocanura holds the ground. Handy for being a high-power guy in a world of high-toughness, low-power evolve guys.

Forced Adaptation: unlike corsiKa, I'll be sad if this ever makes my deck; not only is the 2-for-1 potential real, but it's almost never going to be any faster than just playing out another guy. Maybe if there were dense ground stalls (think Selesnya-on-Selesnya) this would be a better card, but with the sheer volumes of evasion (and pseudo-evasion like Extort), this really doesn't feel like a ground-stall set to me. My first guess is honestly something closer to Zendikar than to RTR.

Frilled Oculus: don't sell this short. At first I thought it was 1G for +2/-2 and I might still play it occasionally then. As a 2-mana 1/3 that always has the potential to go 3/5, it's a surprisingly good attacker and will do an excellent job of holding the ground.

Ivy Lane Denizen: It's hard to tell whether this is better with Fathom Seer or with Drakewing Krasis, but either way it's pure value. Absurdly good, and only its stats keep it from being an easy first-pick; at 3/3 I'd be windmilling him out of most packs. Note, as I think corsiKa missed, that this can put the counter anywhere, not just on the guy coming into play. It also doesn't work quite as well with evolve as you'd think, but that's a more complicated issue and I'll come back to it later.

Keymaster Rogue: the cost on this is actually surprisingly awkward when you only have Evolve guys to return (you never really want to curve, say, Cloudfin into Crocanura into Rogue), but a 3-power unblockable guy at 4 is always going to be viable, and the removal is lighter than normal this set. Another great target for Ivy Lane Denizen's counters.

Metropolis Sprite: Unfortunately, this is no Frostburn Weird any way you slice it. A 1/2 flyer for 2 isn't playable straight up, and having to burn the mana to make it a 2/1 is a pain in a color-pair that looks like it ideally wants to curve 1->2->3->4 most games. I might play this but I'll never be that happy to.

Scab-Clan Charger: The Bloodrush ability is unexciting but highly useful (and will push your flyers past spiders very well), but a 4-mana 2/4 is actually exactly what the deck wants to hold the ground and put another counter (or maybe two, with Denizen in play!) on a Cloudfin in the process.

Shambleshark: Fish Crab!

Slaughterhorn: see Scab-Clan Charger, but I actually think that's a better creature than this for the Simic deck, and sometimes even a better spell (though spending 1G instead of G on it is kind of awkward).

Spire Tracer: I suspect this will be okay, but probably the worst of the evasive options available. Certainly he's good with Denizen or Burst or counter-shifting, but so is every other flyer or flyer-like creature, and the others are all better on their own.

Spells:

Burst of Strength: +1/+1 means it's not the best of combat tricks, but one mana is still fine, and untapping a guy means that your opponents will have to respect the ambush potential.

Pit Fight: yay removal. As corsiKa notes, the high-toughness evolve guys (Croc keeps coming up, doesn't he?) make this really nice.

Verdant Haven: IMHO this isn't as good as it looks. Going from 3 to 5 isn't that good in a deck that has several good plays on three mana, several on four, and very few on 5. The color fixing is really nice, of course, but I actually think this is much better for Gruul than Simic.

Notable uncommons, either good or bad:

Elusive Krasis: I have a feeling he's not going to be quite as good as he looks. The problem is that the natural Simic 'evasive guys plus ground-holders' strategy wants a lot of high-toughness, low-power guys to hold the ground... who are exactly the ones that don't trigger Krasis's evolve. It'll be easy to get a counter onto him and two should be common, but a 2/6 unblockable creature is fine but nothing-exciting because the extra toughness just doesn't matter much.

Hindervines: Hopefully, this will be a blowout; realistically, it's probably something like Safe Passage: occasionally blows out a combat step but surprisingly often underperforms.

Nimbus Swimmer: I expect X to be 3 or 4 most of the time. At 1 or 2 it's just not a great mana investment, and having 7 mana or more won't happen most games... though getting a dragon or bigger is always worthwhile. Maybe the best argument for mana acceleration.

Sapphire Drake: It's just a shame that so many games will just be over as soon as this guy gets cast. 'Evolve my two Crocanura, jump them, swing for eight in the air?'

Simic Fluxmage: This actually feels like a trap to me. Having this available means opponents will seldom have good blocks or attacks, but having to spend mana on it really stunts your development.

Urban Evolution: You really don't need me to tell you why 'draw three cards' is good, right?

Wasteland Viper: Weirdly awkward; the combination of higher toughness and deathtouch is really what you want on a blocker, not an attacker.

Ivy Lane Denizen and Evolve:

The gotcha I mentioned above is that even if you do put your Denizen's +1/+1 counter on a creature coming into play, that counter will never count towards evolving something else; for instance, if you have an unevolved Crocanura (1/3) and an Ivy Lane Denizen in play and then play a new Crocanura (1/3), you can put the +1/+1 counter from the Denizen on the new Crocanura but the 2/4 Croc won't let you evolve your 1/3 one (i.e., you can't end up with two 2/4 Crocs). The reason for this is twofold: (a) Ivy League Denizen's ability is a triggered ability, so it doesn't go on the stack until the creature is in play (the creature enters play as its 'normal' self, not with any +1/+1 counters), and (b) even if you stack the triggers so that Evolve goes on the stack first and resolves last, the condition for evolve (that either power or toughness is higher) is checked when you try to put the triggered ability on the stack as well as when it resolves - and if the condition is never met, the ability never triggers. (this is, roughly, rule 603.2 in the Comprehensive Rules.)

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Frilled Oculus is srs bsns. It's a better Frostburn Weird. –  Alex P Jan 25 '13 at 23:25
    
If I could stick two bounties onto this, I would. I really like your answer. –  Alex P Jan 29 '13 at 15:57
    
@AlexP Thank you! It's much appreciated. I just had the misfortune of being late to the party. :-) –  Steven Stadnicki Jan 29 '13 at 21:03
    
Oh, hey, turns out I can! –  Alex P Jan 29 '13 at 22:56

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