Talen: We’re in Simic Territory, folks. When I heard about the Simic initially, I was over the moon; the idea of a guild of individuals who represented Green and Blue together was fascinating to me. The notion of a group of super-magical biologists – those who appreciated a flower for its beauty, and considered every perfectly arranged genetic helix as part of that beauty – was such a flavor kick for me, I was salivating in anticipation.
My initial assessment of Graft was “meh.” Then I went and saw it played, and suddenly, I’m a lot more impressed.
Today, we do Green and the Simic. Once again, for those who stopped paying attention, I’m Talen, and this is my lovely wife Fox. She’s the one with the Timmy Hat.
Talen: Okay, first, it looks gross.
Talen: I will be referring to it as Spoogespider from hereon in.
Please note: Fox’s “ewww” is not a girly “ewww, spiders, bugs, icky!” It’s an “ewwwww, that thing looks like it’s dripping with the viscous bodily fluid of some fell union” kind of “ewwww…”
Fox: Yeah, it’s the spooge factor. And, you know, the fact that it looks like is has gelatinous amorphous breasts on its arse.
Talen: That said… it’s a good little grizzly. He can come down on turn 2, hit for two, pump whatever creature you play on turn 3, and then lets them sit back on the defensive. I like him quite a bit – he’s a solid little beater, and common besides. I’m sure the Limited specialists are picking him high, though.
Fox: Yes, as a creature I can’t much complain. Nothing special to me, but I can recognize the value.
Talen: I look at this art, and all I can hear is, bellowing above the skyline… "Groooooonk!"
Fox: … See, this is another one with the bulging boobie-sacks. I mean, what the hell?
Talen: They’re gas-chambers!
Fox: Okay, I get that Blue is all into freaky sin-against-god experiments and all, but there are a few too many cards in this set that just look like big, blubbery sac-things – kinda like the more bizarre Kami in Kamigawa…
Talen: Joking aside, though, in the Guild Of +1/+1 counters, this guy is a house. He can curve out really nicely – if your first three turns are spent making Graft Dudes (like aforementioned Spider, the Initiate we see later, and maybe the Vedalken Grey Ogre later on), this guy can smack down onto the table on turn 4 as a 6/6. I hear that 6/6 flying tramplers are good, and I especially like them in budget decks. Up your bum, Kokusho!
Fox: Yeah, I’ll pay that.
Talen: Plus, unlike other such situational fellows in the days of yore… he’s still good on his own.
We’ve come a long way from being excited about 3/3s for four, but he’s big enough that his two abilities are relevant – he can roll over the deluge of weenie flying tokens you’ll see around, and he’ll bash hard enough that your opponent will want to stop him doing it.
Fox: … You know, I’m starting to expect that my worst fears will be confirmed, and I’ll like the U/G guild a lot more than I liked the R/G. Filthy, seductive Blue…
Talen: On the bright side, there are plenty of mono-green Grafters, including my pick for the best one.
Fox: Ugh, damn U/G… winning me over with their prettiness. Whores. Whores!
Talen: My mother told me that if I couldn’t say something nice about a card, I should avoid saying anything at all. So, wow, the Green-Blue border is pretty.
Now that my token politeness is out of the way, why in the world did Wizards see fit to remake Collective Unconscious? Why not something good, like Curiosity? I can understand the difficulty in designing good Blue-Green creatures, because what Green gives, the Blue should not be getting (size) and vice versa (flight). But… I dunno, this card bores me. Seven mana spells have stepped up a notch in recent years – this is just not good enough.
Talen: All together now…
Fox: I dunno… baldy snake-man and all, but he isn’t slimy or sprogging or vomiting baby heads. I’m just not that squicked.
Talen: It’s not as good as, nor should be considered a replacement for, Sakura-Tribe Elder. This guy will swing a Moldervine Cloak quite happily, though, and the little spurts of card-parity-chump-blocking he gives will keep me at least content. Though, when the Elder leaves Standard, I’m going to have to make this claim very clear to you people – we had it really good with Kamigawa. It’s going to hurt we budget players after we lose that common trifecta of manafixing (Elder, Leafcaller, and Reach).
Fox: … Okay, I forgive them for the Gruul.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go team this guy with Kurgadon, and pretend like it’s a playable card again. Wheeee!
Talen: Why, people, are you trying to get cute with this fellow? What is the problem with tapping four lands, putting him on the stack, waiting for him to resolve, letting him hit the table with a dusty “thump,” and skulling your opponent with him? He’s a 4/4 for four who can give and take counters. He can allow for saucy plays like Initiate into Spider into Scatter the Seeds into this fellow – that gives you three 3/3s and a 4/4, on turn 4, without any acceleration. That’s a pretty heavy hitter, right there, and if you think he’s scary when he does that, he’s worse when he comes back into play. Otherworldly Journey loves this dude.
Talen: Hmmm… so it seems the secret weapon of the Simic Combine is frog snot. I’m strangely unsurprised by this revelation.
Anyway – with any graft creature, this lets you kill your opponent’s dudes. It also lets you double up on some good cumulative effects, too. Curiously, the only such creature that springs to mind that can do that is, in fact, Aurochs… I’m not really sure why that is.
Fox: In any case, I can already tell that I’m going to get bloody sick of “cyto<whatever>” crap in this guild. C’mon, it’s not like the names in this block don’t suck badly enough already! I think they’re just running out of good words for "big old blubbery smashy guy" and "things that interact with big old blubbery smashy guys."
Talen: I think that’s the last one, actually.
Fox: Or not.
Talen: Hmm. On the one hand, 6/6 trampler in the common slot. On the other, seven mana. On the one hand, rolling over the top of Dragons… on the other, costing more than all the playable Foxes put together. Still – big graft value, so you’ll be able to milk him for a good long while once he’s hit play. And it’s not like he’s not going to borrow a counter the moment he comes into play, making him a 7/7 for seven, I suppose.
Fox: I have to say, since I played Krozan Groundshakers without complaint, I probably have to give Big Old Blubbery Smashy Guy a passing mark. Actually, scratch that – being a common makes him pretty damn fine, as far as I’m concerned. In all practicality, this guy is freaking huge, and at least some of his damage is going to stick. Chump this, bitches!
Fox: Wow, this is one of the most complicated card-wordings I’ve seen in a while, in that it actually refers to "precombat main phase". Isn’t there a rule about cards with too many words?
Fox: … Yeah, okay. Recent cards, then.
Talen: It’s less wordy than Sakura-Tribe Springcaller.
Fox: But does Sakura-Tribe Springcaller have a still-living baby trying to claw its way back out of her?
Fox: This, on the other hand. Well. God damnit, why do all the pretty legends have to be in the arsehole guilds? Geez, if this thing didn’t look like a giant purple turd, I would want it to have my tiny mutant ooze babies.
Talen: A 4/6 body for six is a pretty decent allotment. Though there’s nothing he can do that’s that special as far as activated abilities go (oh, and I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong), he still breaks ground stalls by letting your evasive men accrue counters while your beefy dudes hold the ground. Like that 4/6 guy you’ve got lying around – heeeey…
Fox: You know what? I’m just generally a bit sick of shapeless blubbery legends. It’s a freaking legend! These are the only chances you guys at Wizards will have to prove that you put effort into making interesting characters. Stop wasting them on amorphous faeces monsters!
Talen: Righto. Moving on!
Talen: Supposedly designed as a Forecast hoser. Pretty solid, by the look of things, though I have two questions: First, why is it not an instant? Was Blood Oath totally broken? This does a lot less than Blood Oath, and even then, it does so slowly. Green wants some must-counter instants, not more sorceries. We already have sorcery-speed problems we want our opponents to deal with; they’re called creatures.
Second… what the hell is that thing doing to that guy’s head?
Fox: I’m rather surprised that the reminder text is really necessary there – it’s not like it’s a core set or anything. Surely we know the card types by now? On the other hand, if it uses up so much space that the flavor-text guys can’t throw in another offensively bad pun – reminder text for all!
Fox: Man. This should say "And every time a player mispronounces this card’s name as “foilage,” smack them in the face."
Talen: Wow, it’s like Curtain of Light. And it can even be used – with Graft creatures, pump, Wildsize, and other stuff about which we do not particularly care – to occasionally leave a Saproling living after the dust has settled. But the thing is… we didn’t play with Curtain of Light. Why would we play with this? ‘Tis poop! Which is a shame, because I love my utility cantrips… so I will almost assuredly be seen slinging this particular card, even despite my opinion on it.
Talen: Because I am a jackass.
Fox: … Yeah, I’m thinking it’s way too pricey for something so specific.
Talen: Well, it can intercept fliers – so for no card investment, you can go “Hiya!” and mug a 2/1 flier in the skies.
Fox: Hmm, flying ninja Saprolings? Okay, it’s not totally crap. But still.
Honestly, this guy’s not even that good for the decks I play, but he is a big awesome dinosaur thing, and I want one.
Talen: I’ve often loved utility creatures with solid bodies. I like Loam Dweller more than Sakura-Tribe Elder – and if the former could even vaguely compete with the latter, I’d be using the loamy bear. The guildmages, because they bring good bodies for their mana costs in addition to their extra effects, are the same. The Stomphowler gives you a decent body for what you want. You need to pay three over a Naturalize, and in exchange, you get a fat body.
However… this does make it harder to sneak it in against counter decks. That’s a problem.
Talen: Someone, in R&D, is laughing his ass off at this, the punch line to some truly amazing joke that’s taken years to come to its fruition. That said… I don’t get it. I can’t see any use for this thing in Constructed.
Talen: Hahey! Another Ninja Friend! Provides chumpy bodies, likes coming back into play to help out his pajama-clad buddies, and he’s only an uncommon. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not totally insane, he’s just good.
Fox: Well, I have to admit to a certain level of appreciation for what appears to be the bastard offspring of a snake and a flying squirrel. My real only objection to this guy is the buddies, who feel a bit random to me. I mean, did they just figure they couldn’t actually make a mono-Green flier whose power equaled his mana cost, and come up with a different way of supplying power? If not, why does he make them at all?
Fox: … That has got to be the most thoroughly stoned frog I have ever seen.
Talen: You gotta love the stoner hair, too. That said – woah! A 3/3 for 3. So, that’s an efficient body. Graft – solid ability right there. Smacking for three, then giving a four-drop a bit of a boost is not a bad thing at all. But the ability – in this world of pinpoint removal (with all but one Black guild packing a fantastic one-spot creature killer), that’s just going to hold the ground marvelously. Oh, sure, the creature needs a counter. Y’know what? I don’t see that being a problem.
Fox: Damn the Simic for having all the abilities I ever wanted in mono-Green. Damn them!
Talen: And on that subject…
It’s a combat trick! It’s a bear! And it’s a slobbering pile of goo!
Fox: … As much as I hate these bloody "weird science" names, that’s a pretty neat looking pile of goo.
Talen: Still, don’t kill your tempo by holding back this guy – he’s a 2/2. Don’t fall into the Kavu Titan Trap, and, if you’ve no better play (and doing nothing is not a better play), drop him on turn 2, then start swinging for the fences.
Fox: Hmm. Well.
Talen: We learned from Mirrodin block that “it costs 6” stopped being a decent reason to disregard a card, and dozens of people who laughed at Tooth and Nail in set reviews felt sheepish for the better part of two years. Wizards are pushing up the risk/reward aspect of expensive cards, what with countermagic being less of a defining part of the game, which means that fellows like spoogeyback here are going to have a really good chance at being, scandalously good.
So what of this guy? Well, he can go and get… what? That’s what you have to answer. He can go and get six one-drops, but Proclamation of Rebirth already showed exactly how little that really matters. The easiest comparison to make with this fellow is Tooth and Nail… and this guy can go for, what, Kiki-Jiki and a one-drop. Huz-zah. He can go and fetch a Dragon. He can go and fetch a Ghost Dad and a Dark Confidant, a combination good enough for Chord of Calling to go and fetch. A Hierarch and a Selesnya Guildmage. But my current favorite play with this fellow is to go get Gleancrawler.
People are going to Mortify and Putrefy your Gleany in the end of turn step. It’s really quite inevitable. But in the matchups where they don’t, or they can’t… well, he’ll die anyway. Because while six is the new seven, creatures who protect themselves with something other than color are what we really want these days. And Gleany doesn’t do that.
So he’s big, he’s fat, he does cute things, and he’s going to make you keep your eye out for Cute Tricks from hereon in. But he doesn’t do anything on his own that’s remarkable, beyond run into things. Sometimes, the thing he runs into is going to be your opponent, and when he does, woo! But that doesn’t change the fact that this isn’t the kind of thing you want to tap seven for, unless you have something that will stone-cold win you the game in short order tucked up your sleeve.
To casual gamers everywhere, I want to remind you, Karmic Guide doesn’t work.
Fox: I guess this thing is technically good, since he replaces himself when he dies. But… ugh. As a vanilla creature that costs more than his P/T, he becomes just another creature who has to die before you get his special effect. Yeah yeah, 6/6 and all that, but that’s just not as big as it used to be – there are far better options for this much mana, and plenty of them. This guy just isn’t very special.
By the way, Borby, if you really think it’d be a good idea to eat those radioactive spooge-eggs, be my guest. Hey, if you grow a second head, you might get binocular vision!
Talen: Well, the price in cards is right. The mana cost is about what I’d expect to pay for the effect, and it’s got the added bonus of synergizing with the Guildmage. Thumbs up, I guess. I’ll be popping this onto Kitsune Mystics at the earliest opportunity.
Fox: Yeah, I’ll pay this one. Albeit with much ranting about Simic getting things that could easily be mono-Green.
Talen: That is, in fact, the point of hybrid cards, dear.
Fox: Or perhaps I might be suggesting that it shouldn’t be mono-Blue, dear. Don’t take that condescending tone with me.
Talen: Smurfette finally has someone else who can talk to her about the trials and travails of having blue boobs.
Fox: … over her eyes.
Talen: I’m always a sucker for 2/1 dudes for 3. For some reason, it’s one of the power/toughness/mana ratios that really gets me expecting an awesome set of abilities. Ghost-Lit Raider, for example, did the trick just fine, with Azorius Herald scratching that itch as well. This… is not that bad. She’s a way of yielding card advantage if your opponent attempts to kill her, she swings with equipment just fine, and you can curve into her, then into a Moldervine Cloak, with the mana up to activate her.
Fox: Hmm. This is probably the first grafty creature who looks like it has grafts, rather than… no, he still looks like he has tiny translucent boobs on his head. But he still manages to look like a fairly cool, fairly stompy mutant lizard, which is exactly what I want out of a basilisk. As for his ability – meh. I doubt I’d pay that much for a 3/3, even is he can share the stone gaze.
Fox: I have to say, the creature’s design does nothing for me, but I can’t argue with the execution. It amuses me greatly that this bloke actually looks elven despite being half-mecha, as opposed to the hairy beefcake we often get in other sets.
Talen: … Iiiinteresting. It can let you plonk Fetters or the like onto creatures that actively stop you from doing it – like… well, he’s coming up later, but there’s at least one creature who you’re really going to want that trick to work with. He works with Bramble Elemental decently – for one mana more than a flipped Autumn-Tail costs, and access to better auras, you can do some of same tricks that Autumn-Tail could do, with only really the “put your fetters on your stuff” trick missing.
Talen: Heh heh heh. Goldfish jokes. Heh heh heh.
The things that make a juvenile like me laugh, eh?
I can’t help it. When I looked at this guy, all I could notice was that strategically-placed windchime.
Talen: Waaaait… he’s a worm. Not a wurm.
Effing creature types…
Simic Sky Swallower
Okay – my obligatory complaint about this guy is that his coloration (or rather, that of the art in general) doesn’t adequately suggest his colors.
The rest is all good. Oh yes.
Talen: And this is what seven mana can get you, Protean Hulk. This is a big, big problem for any deck. Green-Blue can now pack this guy, and Giant Solifuge, and have eight cards that tell control decks “Wrath me now, or lose.” For non-control decks, Odds / Ends is probably the best way to get rid of this guy… and even then, that’s pricey in the extreme for a beatdown deck. Note that Hit / Run can also tag him, which could be rather bad. I recommend using signets with this guy, just to run as Hit protection.
Fox: Wow! Since when did trolls in Magic look like cool scary guys rather than big fat doofs? Dan Scott, I’ve no idea who you are, but I salute you.
Talen: They’re trying to make regeneration matter more, which is nice – only Putrefy and Last Gasp in this block really do a number on this fellow. It’s kinda weird to me, thinking about it, that White is the best color for putting a hurt on its Green with removal. Oh well, whatever. Anyway, four mana is one mana more than I’m willing to pay for a 2/2, so while I’ll certainly be giving him a shot or two, but I still would really rather spending my four mana on Assault Zeppelid (henceforth Sir Gronksalot).
Stomp and Howl
Talen: I can’t see this as anything but a sideboard card, unfortunately, and even then I don’t see it being too likely. I remember theorizing about a card that was like this, except modular, with entwine of a G. Because it mandates both targets, it’s going to be generally inferior to the more pinpoint removal spells. Most “card advantage” cards like this are limited in that very way.
Fox: Hehehe. While it may be a very unsubtle reference to the Indrik, this card is still enough to make me giggle. Very effective artwork, too – that a static shot works so well for an "action" card is very cool.
Fox: Ooh, nice shadowing and lighting again here. Not that it’s terribly surprising – once again, Kev Walker – but it’s certainly effective. And as a bonus, the shadows mean nobody had to try and draw a face – and nobody can tell whether or not it’s female, let alone scantily-clad. Big points!
Fox: Ooh! GOANNA!
Talen: And another nice mana sink for Green to use in the late game… if it can keep a large number of bodies on the table. Still, even a Thrive for three or more, on turn 4, is going to be very useful, and it can pretend it’s a Cytoplast Root-Kin if it has to (in the early game).
Still, Thrive wasn’t very good in Masques, and I don’t expect it to be amazing now – but I’m still going to give it a shot to see if the problem with Masques was that nobody could interact with it worth a damn, or if it was just a poor spell.
Fox: Seriously – for those of you who don’t know, these guys are real – they climb trees and could probably swallow your leg if the mood took them. Another magnificent creature from the bizarre separatist state of evolution that is Australia. Come to think of it, the Simic would probably love this country.
Fox: … You’d think a lion taped onto a manta would have a hard time not being cool… but sorry beatsie dude, you look like a doof.
Talen: There’s some subtle cues on this guy that I like a lot. Often, in an aggro deck, turn 4 is the pants-wetting turn, when your opponent makes a Jitte, equips a Jitte, and hits you with a Jitte, summarily melting a bear of yours out of existence. Then, you’re behind the 8-ball while you can’t keep a guy on the board, and your opponent is steadily building up their board presence while you try and get rid of their Jitte. And all the while, you’re thinking “Crap, all my answers to that creature have a toughness of 2…”
Few people save up counters on their Jittes, except versus control. Against Simic aggro-control, the advice is going to be to do so – otherwise, this guy might come down, have a toughness too great for the Jitte to deal with, and then proceed to eat that Jitte on his next turn. And he will keep doing that, making life a lot harder. All for only three mana.
I may overly fear the Jitte. But I still see it as a little hidden reasoning behind that toughness of 3. Perhaps I’m just conspiracy theorizing and Wizards are already quite happy with the Jitte countermeasures in the environment.
Fox: Why isn’t she – wait, she is naked!
Fox: … Okay, I don’t know what we’re looking at here, but it looks cool.
Talen: Combos with Mark of Eviction and Sinstriker’s Will. Really, I like this card – it does what it does with the Graft mechanic really nicely, being a tappable source of +1/+1 counters that doesn’t make you go “Eh, but I was hoping to use the guy who’s not summoning sick to beat down…” He can be tapped for convoke, and bulks up the dudes who get convoked, and he likes it when you make a bunch of tokens at instant speed.
So, at the end of all that, what do we know? Well, right now, the Timmiest card in the set is easily Simic Sky Swallower – and what a beating he is. In the uncommon slot, my gut lurches towards Trygon Predator over Plaxcaster Frogling, but that’s because I like independence over interdependence, though, again, it’s a real knife-fight in the uncommon slot these days. Lots of good stuff here, including Plaxmanta and the Guildmage. In the common slot, I’m a little less torn – it’s only Assault Zeppelid and Coiling Oracle fighting here. Ultimately, I don’t like the Oracle a whole bunch. He’s cute, and he’ll be replacing the Caryatids in my Serow deck, but he’s not anything to compare to the Elder.
Talen and Fox