Arena Exploits: Adventures in Mythic/Simic
- Tobi Henke
Maintaining a Top 100 Mythic rank on MTG Arena's ladder is a tough grind, especially in today's Standard where all decks fight on plenty of axes and most matchups are fifty-fifty. How about a deck that's as broken as it gets, more consistent than many, and almost too much fun to play?
The State of Standard
This past decade, I have developed a strong preference for Limited, where every game is different and where you often have to make plans on the fly. However, when I do play Constructed, I gravitate toward the exact opposite, toward decks with a clear identity and an objective to attack the spectrum of available strategies from one of its ends: either be more aggressive than everyone else or go over the top of everybody's late game. For example, last summer, I had much success with the Golos/Field/Nexus monster. Then, after the rotation and the bannings, I did equally well with Rakdos Knights.
This current Standard environment has been a challenge because all decks run together in a blur that defies categorization. Reclamation and Fires certainly feature combo elements, but so do Cat and Cleave decks. Monored will sometimes enjoy more mana acceleration than the ramp decks, thanks to Runaway Steam-Kin, and will sometimes generate more extra draws via Light Up the Stage than those with Hydroid Krasis. Above all hovers a midrange cloud that you cannot escape, best illustrated by the example of Elspeth Conquers Death. It's impossible to build a deck that doesn't lose a crucial permanent to chapter I, or is able to ignore chapter II, and you definitely can't avoid stocking an opponent's graveyard with a selection for chapter III.
Usually, the player who develops their board faster wins. Often, this is about mana or creatures — sometimes about size, sometimes about number — but it can just as well be about planeswalkers or more obscure types. Another victory may go to the player who draws more cards. Then again, it's entirely possible to win on both board and cards and still lose the game to burn or drain, especially with all the shock lands. Of course, there are plenty of tools to recoup life too, often tacked onto some effect that scores points elsewhere; just as an overwhelming creature advantage can be undone by Shatter the Sky and a diversified permanent portfolio plays right into the hands of Casualties of War. The point is that all strategies fight on more than one axis, many are prepared to fight on all, and you better join 'em, because you can't beat 'em any other way.
With this many interaction points, it's really no wonder that the majority of matchups in today's Standard are fifty-fifty.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy the Adventure
So I resigned myself to the fate of having to battle on all fronts. I eventually found the ideal tool for the task in Simic Adventures. The decklist originated with one Kai Budde about whom you may have heard. Indeed, I have it filed on Arena under the name "Budde C(l)over" to this day. Other people whose input I noted but largely ignored are Andrea Mengucci, Baker Neenan, and Simon Nielsen. Here's what I've been playing for the past three weeks:
On first glance, this may look like a strictly worse version of the famous Clover deck with red. However, staying green-blue has a bunch of advantages to it: The mana is less painful, which is relevant in matchups against aggro as well as both Temur decks, and more reliable, which is relevant literally everywhere. The Adventure creatures are cheaper, which makes an active Edgewall Innkeeper or The Great Henge a lot stronger. As just one example, a common opening is to send Merfolk Secretkeeper on an adventure on turn one and draw a card off of Innkeeper on turn two.
It is hard to overstate the sum effect of these differences, as it is hard to explain them: the deck simply runs a bit more smoothly all around, while many of the format's top dogs can miss their third color, or draw too many Temples, or get stuck with too many 3-drops or 5-drops, or are forced into unfavorable trades because their lands claimed a fifth of their starting life total, or flood out because they're half mana. The generally higher consistency allows more targeted mulliganing too. I now mulligan basically every seven-card hand without Innkeeper, Lucky Clover, or Lovestruck Beast.
Then there's the interaction between Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Venture Deeper. On its own, neither half would be worth it. But because both work together, it's possible to reap rewards that go beyond an undercosted Titan. While the extra ramp and draw come in handy, the cost reduction on The Great Henge can be as, or more, important. Between Henge and dancing Uros, it's feasible to attain a life total so high that it almost becomes a victory condition itself. When you copy Petty Theft enough, other people's Uros, Hydroid Krasis, Cavalier of Thorns, Dream Trawler will often not be able to kill you before it's too late.
Too late, in this case, means before someone's library runs out. Because of Uro, the first and typically the second Venture Deeper too are locked into milling yourself. In fact, in most matchups and games, the alternative never presents itself at all. If in doubt, it's always better to churn through one's own library. This can go incredibly fast, what with all the card draw and Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and Lucky Clover allowing Venture Deeper to venture even deeper. Then Granted gets Jace, Wielder of Mysteries from the sideboard and you win. The exact endgame may require some gymnastics when there's opposition, possibly involving: Mass Manipulation to steal Teferi, Time Raveler; Negate or Disdainful Stroke against a counter or Frilled Mystic; Once and Future as insurance, sometimes explicitly without adamant, sometimes saved from Dovin's Veto via Aether Gust; also a threatening board position to force the opponent to tap low; or some combination thereof.
However, while still rare, I have found myself winning more and more games lately by pointing my Ventures the other way. The option comes up against Bant and Sultai, against White-Blue Control and that Esper deck with Nicol Bolas, against Temur Reclamation and surprisingly often against Temur Clover.
So this deck can outmana, outdraw, outgrow, outnumber, outlive, either outpace or outlast, and generally outvalue the opposition. It fights on each axis mentioned in the introduction — more, actually. It doesn't work all the time, of course, but it worked quite well for me, essentially without regard for matchup. After reaching Arena's Mythic level on March 8, I played another 117 best-of-three matches with the deck. At some point a 32-9 streak got me as high as #7, although the overall performance fell a little short of that. In total, I won just in excess of 70% of matches, which I learned secures a spot in the Top 100 ranks.
Plus, it is a lot of fun. If you're still looking for a Standard deck for the last days until Ikoria, give this one a try.
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