Drafting Simic in RGD

Limited specialist Nick Eisel takes us through the many options presented when drafting the Simic guild in RGD. While conventional wisdom shows us that doing so leaves us with a lack of guild picks from one of the first two boosters, PT Prague proved that the Green and Blue guild delivers strength in depth. What are the cards you need to succeed? Which picks have now risen in value? All this, and more, just a click away…

Sean McKeown wrote an excellent article a couple of weeks ago, covering most of the basics of the new RGD format. Before you get involved in any of the stuff I’ll be writing in the new few weeks, I strongly suggest you reference his article. It was very well done, considering how little time he’d had (with the set just being released).

As I said last week, I plan on doing an article for each of the Dissension guilds to serve as a guide to some paths you can take in RGD draft, as well as covering cards that have gained value with the introduction of the new set. I will try not to double cover anything that Sean has already done in his article, but I may do so accidentally in an effort to be complete. While Sean started with the Ravnica guilds and worked forward in terms of options, I want to look at it from a different angle by taking a Dissension guild and seeing what directions you’d want to take to position yourself properly for the draft as a whole. I’m sure many of you agree that the Dissension pack is stronger overall than either of the first two sets, and this, combined with the fact that we already know a lot about Ravnica and Guildpact, makes it reasonable to approach the format with the idea of figuring out how Dissension fits into it all. The Dissension cards are all brand new, so not only do we have to figure out individual values for them, but we also have to find out how they fit in with the existing format.

Before I jump into Simic strategy, I do want to let a particular card out of the bag. You can all start trying it out now, rather than hearing it from someone else or waiting until I do my Azorius guide.

Palliation Accord
On the surface this looks like an overcosted Orim’s Prayer. I know there was another card that did the same thing as Prayer and cost 3WW, but the name of said card escapes me at the moment and I’m far too lazy to go and look it up [That’ll be Righteous Cause — Craig]. Anyway, my point is that Palliation Accord doesn’t look all that great on paper but I promise you if you try it you will fall in love. The card slows down most attacks your opponent will make if he can’t remove it from the table, and essentially stops him from attacking if you have Benevolent Ancestor or Drift of Phantasms in play, as he won’t be able to do any real kind of damage without a ton of men. When you add in the fact that you get counters on this just from using your Minister of Impediments, Ostiary Thrull, or forecast on Plumes of Peace, you have a real monster of a defensive card. This enchantment is best in the UBW control archetype and should be picked very highly.

General Simic Strategy
The first thing I want to do is to give an overview of the Dissension commons that fit into Simic archetypes, as well as to go over some cards that have changed in value with the introduction of Dissension.

A match made in heaven

Scatter the Seeds
This card is pretty close to being a bomb now in combination with Graft. Not only will you create three 2/2 creatures (or bigger if you have multiple Graft guys out), but you essentially get double for your money when you put damage on the stack and then Graft away all of counters onto the Saprolings before your Squirter dies. This card is usually going to be better than Bramble Elemental now, though I may still have to advise taking Civic Wayfinder over it. A lot of people are saying that Fists of the Ironwood isn’t as good now because you can’t Convoke as much, and they are simply wrong since Graft is much better than Convoke.

Ghor-Clan Savage
This one is pretty obvious, but still worth mentioning. The combination of Savage and Helium Squirter is quite obnoxious, and also near impossible to beat. This is also game over with Sporeback Troll and regeneration mana. As if Savage wasn’t already the 2nd best Green common in Guildpact, he is very desirable in any UG build.

Infiltrator’s Magemark
This card has always been great in Green since you just slap it on a big monster and go to town, but before Dissension, UG wasn’t the best of archetypes to draft. Now that the block is finally complete, it’s worth knowing that if you’re the Simic drafter, you should be picking up one or two if these in Guildpact to get your fatties through. The nice thing is that it’s not a huge deal if you don’t, since Cytospawn Shambler, Fists of the Ironwood, or Wildsize can get you through by providing Trample instead. The same goes for Flight of Fancy, which also has the bonus of being a card drawer.

Doubling Season
BDM already spoiled this one on MagictheGathering.com, so I won’t get too into detail about it. What you need to know is that this card has went from being rarely playable to a pretty high pick now that the block is complete. There are plenty of mono-Green guys with Graft, and also you still have Bloodthirst and token generation to abuse with it, so I’d recommend you move this one up on your pick order quite a bit.

Moving on to the actual Dissension commons, there are plenty that are self-explanatory. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Minister of Impediments is the best common you can open for any UG deck in Dissension, or that Assault Zeppelid is the 2nd best common. I’m also not going to tell you that Silkwing Scout and Helium Squirter are both amazing. Unfortunately for me, in my attempt to not cover the obvious things, I went ahead and covered them by accident.

Coiling Oracle
This guy is strong. And no, I’m not covering the obvious thing again. By that, I mean that even though he is a good card, I believe that he is being highly overrated in draft right now. The problem with him is that you want to cast him on turn 2 to get maximum effectiveness out of him, and most of the UG decks I’ve drafted just don’t have the manabase to reliably do that. I still play him most of the time, but I believe most of the writers doing set reviews are overrating him for Limited because of the mana issue. It’s almost guaranteed you are three colors in this format, and four colors is also good if you have bouncelands to support it, and it’s just too hard for this guy to come down when he needs to.

Vigean Hydropon
Now here’s a card I can get behind. The format is slow enough that you can play this guy on turn 3 and not worry about the consequences of missing a drop. He is also a one-two punch that makes Scatter the Seeds completely insane (he convokes too), and you will usually win after each of your next five creatures comes into play bigger than it usually would. Overall, this is a great card that I’m always happy to run two of and pick highly.

Vigean Graftmage
This is at its best in UGR of course, where you can untap anything from a Vedalken Entrancer to Viashino Fangtail. This is one of my pet cards in Dissension and it has been great for me every time I’ve had it in play.

Simic Ragworm
Obvious combos include Hypervolt Grasp and Ocular Halo. And either combo will win you the game quickly if it is not stopped, which is saying quite a lot. Unlike his predecessor, the Horseshoe Crab, the Ragworm is also a good attacker at Hill Giant stats. Don’t forget he can also simply untap to play defense, or evade Minister Impediments or Plumes of Peace.

Aquastrand Spider
This guy doesn’t look like much, but he is actually an awesome creature. After getting in for a few hits, he can spread off his counters, or let a bigger guy become a Giant Spider at will to stop opposing fliers. I would always play this card if I was Green and wouldn’t be unhappy to play multiples.

With the Pro Tour now over and done, and a bunch of drafts under my belt, I can say with a large amount of confidence that this color combination is the best overall one in the entire block. Sure, UBR, UBW, BRW, and a few select others are going to be strong, but this combination simply offers the best options available.

The obvious intertwining of Graft and Bloodthirst is nice, as well as the fact that the archetype packs a ton of bounce and removal. Usually when I end up in this color combination, most of my cards are much stronger than normal and tend to be in the form of aggro-control rather than being on either end of the spectrum.

The reason why this combination is so powerful is that you have plenty of choices in Ravnica for solid cards despite the fact that you don’t even get a guild in your colors. Scatter the Seeds, Fists of the Ironwood, Civic Wayfinder, Vedalken Dismisser, Bramble Elemental, Viashino Fangtail, Galvanic Arc, Compulsive Research, Flight of Fancy, and tons more are all excellent cards for the archetype and all mono-colored. I strongly recommend picking Compulsive Research over any other common in Ravnica if I intended on drafting this archetype. After Ravnica, you get the best overall guild in Guildpact in Izzet. I shouldn’t have to explain why these guys are so good, but I do want to mention that Izzet Chronarch has gotten a lot better with the addition of Dissension. There are plenty of occasions where I would take this guy over Steamcore Weird, and possibly even Ogre Savant (and yes, Savant is generally better than Weird in the archetype because of the tempo). On top of all of the Izzet goodness, you also get to take Streetbreaker Wurms, Wildsize, Ghor-Clan Savage, and Burning-Tree Bloodscales, which are all amazing for what we are trying to accomplish. Finally, in Dissension, you get the Simic who are also arguably the best guild in the set. You also get to take Seal of Fire and Cackling Flames in addition to the Simic cards, so you’re getting the best of both Simic and Rakdos in that sense too.

Cloudstone Curio
I know, it’s rare. It’s also the absolute nuts in this archetype.

Think about it, you have Wayfinder, Dismisser, 187 Enchantments, Chronarch, Weird, Savant, and now you get to add Coiling Oracle, Patagia Viper, and Graft creatures? Moving a counter off of a Graft guy and then bouncing it is pretty strong, and it helps that all of the Izzet cards are completely insane with Curio. If you have any inclination to draft this archetype, you should be first-picking the Curio.

If you haven’t also figured it out, Peel from Reality is probably at its best in this archetype as well, and an absolutely amazing card now that we have all of the 187 abilities and Graft.

Fiery Conclusion
This is an excellent removal spell that you’ll want to pick in the middle of the pack. This should do the job of killing just about anything, and the cost of doing so is very low since you can stack damage. This is exactly what the UGR deck needs to have a save all for any kind of huge monster, like Golgari Rotwurm or Streetbreaker Wurm.

Here’s a solid list I drafted at FNM last week that exhibits some of the qualities of the archetype that I’ve been describing.

The emperor in training

Sparkmage Apprentice
This card has gone up in value with the release of Dissension for a couple of reasons. Those reasons are Rakdos Ickspitter and Minister of Impediments, and they are both large pains in the you-know-what. Of course, this guy has always done a fine job of killing Shrieking Grotesque and other X/1 flying dorks, but now he has the unenviable task of killing the annoying utility creatures. Remember that when you’re passing him around the table 10th pick and take him instead.

Dowsing Shaman
This guy has also increased in value with the reintroduction of Seal of Fire and Seal of Doom. He can also get back Fists, Arc, or even something like Leafdrake Roost. The fact that if you get him and a single Seal of Fire in your deck that you have a serious game-winning combo is enough to make him a higher pick than normal. I’d also just splash the fourth color and run Seal of Doom if I had it in combination with him. The nice thing about the Seals and Shaman in comparison to something like Galvanic Arc is that they don’t have to wait around to see if he’s going to show up or not since you have to sacrifice them to use them. With Arc you were always torn about whether to put it on your opponent’s guy and let it go to the graveyard, or use it for First Strike on one of your guys, and this could cause you to make a mistake if you pick the wrong option at the time. At least with the Seals you always have them in the bin if you draw Shaman later in the game.

Overall, this archetype is full of powerful interactions and is not only my favorite archetype so far, but also what I believe to be the best draft archetype available.

This archetype is completely different from the UGR one I just talked about. The deck has the problem that you are giving up a guild in pack two rather than pack one, and unless you get some Wildsizes or Ghor-Clan Savages, your deck could be in big trouble. You do also get to pick up off-color Torch Drakes, Repeal, and Ghost Wardens, but the real strength of this deck is that you get to double up on two powerful guilds in pack three.

Veteran Armorer
This guy is of worthy mention because of the fact that he will keep your Graft creatures alive even after they’ve spent all of their counters. This is especially effective with Helium Squirter, Aquastrand Spider, and Sporeback Troll, as they will be hanging around to use their abilities on your whole team rather than just themselves. The best-case scenario, of course, is the Sporeback Troll, because an 0/1 regenerator is still very good at stopping non-Trampling attackers. [Of course, with no counters left, it can only use the ability on its counter-packing pals… but the point is still relevant. – Craig.]

Vigean Hydropon
I know I talked about this guy earlier, but he bears a second mention for this archetype as it is best suited to his needs. Not only do you get the mono-Green token generators to abuse him with, but you also get Selesnya Evangel to pump out 2/2 guys. The other reason he is so good is that you get both of the Convoke colors working, and you can use the Hydropon to crack out an early 4/4 Flying Conclave Equenaut, which is akin to playing Air Elemental.

Guardian of the Guildpact
This guy is completely nuts in this format. While his 4/2 counterpart is a sideboard card at best, this guy evades most of the removal in the format and is also surprisingly difficult to block even with all of the multicolored creatures running around. He can play two roles, and is very good at both of them: evading and defending.

This card is being overrated at the moment, as it is only marginally playable, and many people are giving it credit for much more. I’d rather not run it if possible, but I would sideboard it against a bomb or something. The problem with this card is that anyone with a clue can easily play around it, since it costs so much to even make it into a Mana Leak.

Plumes of Peace
Great removal spell and stops things like Minister or Ickspitter. In this deck you will probably use the Forecast more than you will actually cast the card, as you want to be able to tap their best guy every turn and swing through for damage.

The overall plan with this deck is to dump a bunch of guys into play with Convoke, or via token generation, and to use Graft to pump them up. After that, you have some good fliers and some removal to clear the way. Bathe in Light is obviously good in this archetype as a Falter effect, and most of the GW stuff from Ravnica that was good before will translate over to being good in this deck.

I’ve seen people try to draft this in RRG on MTGO lately, and I really wonder what they are thinking. By sacrificing the Guildpact booster in that format, you are essentially conceding the draft. In full block draft though, I imagine that this deck will be okay, if for no other reason than it plays Blue and has access to the Simic guild.

Shambling Shell
Boy, has this guy gone up in value in the archetype! The counters he provides are perfect for the Graft mechanic, and he also does a nice job of dredging Eidolons into the graveyard and then also happens to dig them up when you cast him! If you’re playing this color combination, I’d guess that more often than not the Shell will be a big reason for doing so.

Mausoleum Turnkey
Since we’re talking about synergy with Graft, how about recurring an Aquastrand Spider after it’s dispensed off its counters? Seems like a good deal to me, and the main problem with this guy was always that you would have to play him without returning something. In this deck you don’t have to worry about that, with Shell and plenty of Graft men at your disposal.

Tattered Drake
Most decks have a big problem dealing with this guy. He is another reason I’d want to be in this archetype, and he can hold off most of the creatures you will face and is also a reasonable attacker on his own.

I’d have to say that Dimir doesn’t mesh as well as I’d like it to with the other two guilds in this deck, but the deck still manages to come out okay despite the fact that you are also sacrificing the Guildpact booster here. My main problem is that you are doubling up on guilds in pack one, where I think it is the worst place to do so since there are so many good mono-colored cards to choose from in Ravnica anyway. Doubling up in pack two or three seems to be the best option in the format, but I haven’t managed to draft a UGB deck yet so someone could go and prove me wrong. I guess more testing will tell if these theories hold true.

Four Colors
More often than not, you will probably end up with two colors and two splashes, or three colors and a small splash. Simic is probably the best guild equipped to handle this strategy, as there is tons of manafixing in the form of Farseek, Wayfinder, Starfletcher, and Utopia Sprawl. While each four-color deck will be a completely different entity, I do suggest that if you plan on doing something like this that you pick bouncelands even higher than normal to ensure a quality manabase. When you’re playing four colors anyway, you should have plenty of picks to grab strong cards, and you should instead focus on aggressive bounceland drafting. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t do so in normal decks as well, but bouncelands make four-color decks tick.

Hopefully this guide has given you some things to think about when evaluating cards in a draft if you are planning ahead to be in Simic. A lot of the card values have changed as usual, and it’s up to you to make sure you’re aware of card interactions that can come up, and make picks that best suit them.

Next week, Rakdos.

Nick Eisel
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