All Things Simic Flash For Core Set 2020 Standard

Creatures at instant speed? Sign Patrick Chapin up! With the printing of Nightpack Ambusher, “The Innovator” has his eye on Simic Flash, and he’s ready to make the most of this opportunity!

It was love at first sight.

Nightpack Ambusher is the flagship of the archetype Faeries should have been. From the moment I saw it, I was hooked. It speaks to the exact parts of the Flash deck experience I wish we saw more of, and it looks priced to move.

First of all, a 4/4 flash creature for four isn’t exactly far off.

Yeva, Nature’s Herald being a legend wasn’t exactly upside at that time, but Yeva was still a solid tournament card. Giving your green creatures flash isn’t trivial, but Nightpack Ambusher potentially making a 2/2 token every turn is way better. As if that wasn’t enough, the +1/+1 ability is absolutely huge. It’s not just that you’re effectively making the tokens 3/3s. If you cast a Nightpack Ambusher on Turns 4 and 5, that’s eighteen damage right there (since they pump each other up, not just their tokens).

Nightpack Ambusher is everything Pack Guardian ever dreamed of and so much more. The Pack Guardian was barely fringe, but a 4/4 is a lot bigger than a 4/3, and the ability is better in like four ways.

Nightpack Ambusher isn’t just a lone wolf, however. Core Set 2020 appears to have something of a flash sub-theme supported, rather than just some flash cards and some instants. Obviously, Nightpack Ambusher gives you a huge reward for being able to play completely at instant speed, but that’s not all.

Brineborn Cutthroat is relatively unassuming on the surface. After all, a 2/1 flash for two is below rate, and even if you play another spell on your opponent’s turn, it’s not like a 3/2 is all that crazy.

Brineborn Cutthroat is actually kind of a sick Quirion Dryad, if you think about it. And, yeah, the game has moved on from Quirion Dryad. Not only are there a lot fewer cantrips and pitch spells, the rate on the best creatures is better than it was fifteen years ago. Deeproot Champion has been fringe at best thus far.

Brineborn Cutthroat starts off as a 2/1, rather than a 1/1. It’s also got flash, while costing the same as Essence Scatter or Negate. What’s more, it grows from not only your noncreature spells (presumably all instants in a deck like this), but also from your creatures with flash. While there are plenty of possible formats you could drop this card into where it wouldn’t shine, there is no shortage of amazing flash creatures available to us now.

Spectral Sailor was obviously just the perfect card for Mono-Blue Aggro, but it’s also great here. For one mana, you can pump your Brineborn by surprise. It’s also perfect for ensuring that if you hold up four mana, you aren’t necessarily tipping your hand about having a Nightpack Ambusher. Besides, even if you don’t have the Ambusher, they’ve got to fear the Frilled Mystic, but if they refuse to play into the Mystic, you can draw an extra card from the Sailor and advance your position.

Frilled Mystic is such a perfect way to fork opponents on Turn 4. If they play into you, you can Frilled Mystic and beat their play with substantial value. If they don’t play into you, you can flash down Nightpack Ambusher (or just draw an extra card with the Sailor), advancing your position anyway. Once you get ahead of your opponent, they may have no choice but to walk face-first into you, which can lead to quickly tempoing them out.

Kevin Jones’s 24th-place list is a pretty good example of the original form of the archetype:

Essence Scatter, Syncopate, Sinister Sabotage … there are a lot of good options for permission, depending on how you want to slant your list.

Once card I absolutely love here is Unsummon.

Yeah, the one damage from Vapor Snag was nice, but Unsummon can actually be put to great use on our own creatures here, saving them from removal, retriggering enters-the-battlefield abilities, or even just untapping a key creature to make a surprise blocker while effectively putting two counters on a Brineborn Cutthroat. There are a lot of two-cost options, but this strategy really leverages the mana efficiency of the old-school one-cost version.

Temple of Mystery is actually a surprisingly controversial inclusion for a powerful multicolor land in a two-color deck. I’ve seen every number from zero to four getting played, as players seem to debate the power level of the card compared to just how important every bit of tempo is in a deck like this. Personally, I would prefer three or four. I think the card is just great, and I’m guessing drawing two is a much bigger issue than drawing the first one. Whenever that’s the case, it’s generally a good spot to consider three copies. That number best maximizes the chances of drawing one, while minimizing the chances of drawing two.

Mu Yanling is a powerful new planeswalker that is particularly attractive in a format with two-power fliers. One of my favorite uses of the card is from the sideboard against decks that might sideboard in Thief of Sanity, but otherwise may be short on targets for removal. If you’re facing Esper and they have a Thief of Sanity, Yanling is a fantastic response; however, if they don’t draw the Thief, she is still a good threat.

All that said, I don’t love her here. At the end of the day, she’s still just a main-phase spell, and between the Ambusher and the Cutthroat, we really do have so much incentive to play completely at instant speed.

The highest-finishing Simic Flash deck of this past weekend was that piloted by Brandon Dempsey, finishing thirteenth at SCG Worcester, removing Yanling for more permission.

In Brandon’s list that follows, he has replaced the Yanlings with two maindeck Negates and the fourth Unsummon:

First and foremost, Shifting Ceratops is absolutely awesome in the sideboard here.

The ability to switch gears and play main phase while still avoiding permission is huge. Shifting Ceratops is also just excellent for combating planeswalkers, particularly those named Teferi.

I appreciate the desire to switch gears and play a durable beatdown game after sideboard rather than the tempo-based tricky maindeck; however, I don’t think I can get behind Growth-Chamber Guardian here instead of Aether Gust.

Aether Gust (and all the Core Set 2020 color hosers, for that matter) is excellent. It’s just very flexible and mana-efficient in a lot of matchups. Thrashing Brontodon has some of the anti-red value while potentially offering extra points against decks like Nexus of Fate.

Cerulean Drake is obviously a stone-cold killer against red aggro, doing everything Sea Sprite could do and more.

It’s not just the ability to counter a burn spell, making it sort of a Sea Sprite / Hydroblast combo. The sacrifice ability can be used to counter any spell that targets you, regardless of color.

I do like Brandon’s Entrancing Melodies, though. It’s a great card anyway, and the ability to steal one- and two-drops or Hydroid Krasis is still good.

While there are lots of interesting sideboard decisions to be made, I don’t think the maindeck is locked down at all. For instance, Matt Stone’s 33rd-place list really interested me with his use of two copies of Opt.

Only in recent times have players finally come around to the possibility of playing two or three Opts instead of making it an all-or-nothing affair. Besides, that’s even assuming the tempo hit is big enough that you don’t want more. After all, it does power up your Cutthroat quite efficiently.

The use of 24 lands and two Opts is interesting to me, as other folks play between 23 and 24, even without Opt. My first guess is that we’d want just 23 here, and I’m not even sure we couldn’t play 22 if we could actually get away with four Opts (though they are competing with Temple of Mystery to some degree). Everything else being equal, though, I’d prefer to start with 23 there anyway to reduce the need to main-phase Opt to hit our land drops.

Alex Hon pushes the Opt package to the limit, running not only the full playset of Opts (rather than any Negate), but also a full playset of Temple of Mysteries:

Similarly, cha21 finished third in this past weekend’s MOCS with a build of Simic Flash using four Opts. They made the room by shaving two copies of Spectral Sailor (and just playing the two Negate). A lot of people have been shaving a copy of Spectral Sailor and Opt is just about the best reason to cut down on them, but I’m still not sure I could see cutting them. If we did end up wanting to cut one, I could believe it, but I’m really skeptical of going down to two.

Check out that sideboard, though.

A full playset of Veil of Summer to go with the playset of Shifting Ceratops is the mark of someone who knows what they want in life. A playset of Aether Gusts, too? Impressive, if someone risky, focus.

Once you’ve got Opts to help fix your mana, there is the question of whether you can afford to be greedy and replace some of the Essence Scatters with Essence Captures, as we see from Liam Carlton:

My first inclination is that this is too greedy for too little payoff, but if it’s wrong, it might not be wrong by much. It would also not surprise me to find out it’s eventually better, but if I wanted to test the card, my first inclination would be to try one copy of Essence Capture to learn some things and keep the rest of the Essence Scatters as a baseline. Besides, drawing a split is less risky anyway.

There we go!

That’s the piece of tech I’ve been waiting on. Swift Warden has always been a card I’ve been interested in, but the Merfolk have generally been all about the tap-out decks, whereas Swift Warden is a flash/tempo card.

Merfolk Trickster and Brineborn Cutthroat aren’t the most Merfolk ever, but at least they are the two-drops, so they curve right into Swift Warden mana. Swift Wardens can also look out for each other, and it’s not like a 3/3 flash for three is actually a bad stat line anyway.

Joshua Satterfield made the Top 16 with a Swift Warden build, helping ease the burden on the three-spot on the curve by trimming a Sinister Sabotage for Spell Pierce.

I appreciate what Faerie Duelist is trying to do against 1/1s and 2/1s, but I guess I’m not sure it’s high impact enough compared to the color hosers we could be playing.

At least it’s on-plan, though. By contrast, Transmogrifying Wand is kind of off-message, even if it’s a sideboard card I’m always on the lookout for spots for. It’s a very main-phase kind of card, and I don’t know what problem it’s really solving that Aether Gust isn’t better at.

Okay, Unwind is definitely on plan, but it’s not clear to me that we get enough out of the untap to justify the extra mana over Negate. That said, if you’ve got access to four Spell Pierces, it really does spike the value of Unwind a fair bit.

It does seem pretty easy to use Spell Pierce to protect your Unwind in key matchups, and then really capitalize on the mana on their end step. It’s also a really good way to not get stuck tapping out on your own turn if someone else tries to fight on your end step.

See, I’d actually be kind of interested in a Lookout’s Dispersal or two if I were playing Swift Warden. It might seem a little odd, to be interested in a Pirate call-out because of a Merfolk, but Lookout’s Dispersal does a pretty respectable Sinister Sabotage impression as a three-mana counterspell while also taking pressure off the three-slot in your curve because of how frequently you can play it as a two-cost counterspell (thanks to Spectral Sailor and Brineborn Cutthroat both being Pirates). Besides, having some permission that costs 2U instead of 1UU can give us some extra options for when we hold up Swift Warden mana (whether we have it or not).

Jonathan Hobbs and Austin Collins finished 48th and 66th respectively with a list trading one of the Sinister Sabotages for a Lookout’s Dispersal:

Finally, one last piece of tech to consider from this weekend’s Simic Flash decks comes to us by way of AUTGernot’s 5-0 League list featuring one copy of this bad boy right here:

Okay, that’s a pretty intense wildcard.

First of all, yeah, definitely on theme. It’s an instant and pretty impressive for racing. You can cast it for five and then untap and swing, or you can cast it for six and use it as a haste threat. That said, it’s quite the blunt instrument. I kind of imagine there are too many cards making stats not matter that much right now, whether black removal spells, Unsummons, Fogs, sweepers, or whatever.

I like where their heart is, but I don’t believe it’s time. Still, here’s their sweet list that’s probably above-average fun, even for this archetype:

I gotta say, I’m a big Cerulean Drake guy, and the combination of a playset of them and a playset of Thrashing Brontodon without access to any Aether Gusts is something I’m interested in (even if it looks a little off the beaten path).

All this talk of Swift Warden makes me wonder if there’s any possibility of making Silvergill Adept work. It’s probably still not enough, and these are some Merfolk that you’re not necessarily looking to show your opponent, but the card is so good, I can’t help but wonder.

I think there are lots of solid decks at the moment, and that the metagame is just barely getting started, but for me, I’m definitely focused on Simic Flash. I don’t think things have settled down enough for a true control deck, particularly with how many hostile angles of attack there are out there. Besides, I think this deck looks excellent, and with room to improve. I’m particularly interested in trying a version that prioritizes one- and two-ofs when possible, as I can kind of imagine this deck being one that makes things really hard for people trying to play around our tricks.

Here’s how I would play Simic Flash this weekend: