Desperately Seeking Simic
- Sancho Napora
A lot of cube builders seem to consider Simic, the Blue-Green guild, as somewhat of a problem child when it comes to selecting archetypes for the various color pairs in their cube. They may end up just grafting together random good stuff and hope to watch it proliferate, but as we examine in this installment of Cubes for Squares there actually are various possibilities to be explored for those who want to create a more fit mutation that can adapt and survive in a limited environment.
Cards on the table: Blue and Green side-by-side in Magic has always seemed, to me, on the one hand very odd, and on the other, strangely attractive. I remember one of my early favorite decks having Unstable Mutations giving Rabid Wombats +5/+5 for just a single blue mana and that was perhaps an important part of why I traded early on to get my Tropical Islands, which of course also turned out to be a good trade in the long run (not least since it was most likely cards such as Righteousness, Veteran Bodyguard and Personal Incarnation I had to part with to get them back then). But while the Tropical Islands were a good trade and while there indeed have been many good strategies and decks based on the blue and green mana they provide, it seems like Simic (the Blue/Green guild) has had a more troubled time coming of age and developing strong signature archetypes in the world of cubes. In the following we will be exploring some possible path to go down when choosing archetypes for the cyan band on the mana spectrum.
Merfolk have always been Blue creatures, since the days of the Merfolk of the Pearl Trident in Alpha and their Lord of Atlantis – which wasn't a Merfolk himself until Time Spiral. They wouldn't remain blue, however, with recent Merfolk coming from all over the color pie, although blue has remained their primary coloring. They lacked something though, despite their reach all over the color pie – a secondary color. Famous Merfolk have counted the Blue-White Sygg, River Guide, Black-Blue Sygg, River Cutthroat, Blue-Red Jori En, Ruin Diver and Blue-Green Kiora's Follower. Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan changed this however, finally establishing Green as the secondary Merfolk color and it also gave cube builders enough new Green and Blue/Green Merfolk cards to at least consider building a tribal Merfolk archetype within the Simic colors.
At the time of writing, you have 147 merfolk cards to choose from in Blue when building your cube, and when Green is included, the number rises to 179. Of course, not everything is usable, and you probably won't include such cards as Vodalian Soldier unless your aim is to create a particularly low-powered cube. One good place to start when implementing a Simic Merfolk tribal archetype in your cube would be to look at Blue-Green decks from the new online Magic game Arena before the beta test environment expanded its card pool beyond Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan. Here, Merfolk Mistbinder is a given. The two-mana lord signals to drafters that Merfolk is a way to go, and the card is also nicely priced with foiled versions being available on Cardmarket for less than two euros. If you played the Beta version of Arena before the expanded card pool, you probably also know to include River Sneak, Jade Bearer, Deeproot Waters and Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca.
Lending support to other color pairs and archetypes Talrand, Sky Summoner will go into both a Merfolk deck and an Izzet (Blue/Red) spells matter/Wizard Tribal deck. Merfolk Trickster can find a home in an Azorius (Blue/White) blink deck, and Augur of Bolas may work in either. Furthermore Cold-Eye Selkie will work well in either Merfolk or a more general unblockable Simic archetype which we will take a closer look at shortly, and Tatyova, Benthic Druid can add value in longer games if you choose a more control style archetype for the two colors in question.
You Can't Catch Me
The definition of fun varies from playgroup to playgroup and from player to player and not all are fond of the more insidious ways to win games in Magic. But sneaky stuff is an acquired taste and as long as your friends are content win and loose with almost the same enthusiasm, you may want to introduce them to the tangier sides of Magic by serving a spicy archetype brewed on the principles of the Bogles decks. Slippery Bogles are often played in a Green/White deck but you can also find the cards to make it work nicely in Simic. The main point of this archetype is to let the player cast hexproof creatures and then make them unblockable or vice versa (cast unblockable creatures and make them hexproof) and then pump their power in various ways.
Aqueous Form is one way to make a creature unblockable and there are of course a whole host of other auras that pump your creatures. Hexproof should do a lot to avoid two-for-ones (as in a player loosing both a creature and an aura to a single removal spell cast by their opponent) and replacing auras with equipment makes such scenarios even less likely. When choosing auras to enchant the creatures you can furthermore consider other factors such as going with Rancor above something like Unstable Mutation. Both Green and Blue offer a variety of ways to pump with +1/+1 counters, and while we are at it, there is also the possibility of choosing Simic creatures with infect such as Blighted Agent, Blight Mamba and Viridian Corrupter (See my earlier article on parasitic archetypes for a discussion of this option).
Again, this archetype is for the mature audience and should be used with caution if your cube may be drafted by players who easily get frustrated and salty about losing games. Invisible Stalker, an obvious choice since it is both unblockable and hexproof is to say the least a contentious card in limited environments.
Coming Out on Top
Yet another direction to take for the Simic segment of your cube is to exploit the many cards that care about the top of your library combined with cards that give you the ability to manipulate what is on top. Green and Blue give you quite a wide selection when it comes to both effects. The top of your library can be repeatedly manipulated with for example Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Ancestral Knowledge and Sylvan Library or you can include one-off effects like Brainstorm and Ponder. The payoffs can be anything from ramp and value generated by Courser of Kruphix and Skill Borrower to Temporal Mastery played at its Miracle cost – or even using instant speed manipulation of the top of the library to counter anything the opponent casts with Counterbalance. I have not yet fully examined how this archetype will work in a cube, but I am sure that there are many interesting interactions to be discovered here.
Well, as with my previous archetype explorations this has just been a brief scouting mission into a grand territory. I hope that you will help your fellow readers and cube builders with additional inspiration by leaving a comment below with your own ideas and experiences of building a fun and functioning archetype in Blue/Green. Have you ventured into control or self-mill, or is there a Merfolk lurking in a long-forgotten expansion, that is a must include? Thank you for sharing!
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