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Against the Odds: Simic Ascendancy (Standard, Magic Online)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 174 of Against the Odds. This week, we're kick off Ravnica Allegiance Standard season with a special episode! When it comes to Against the Odds, "you win the game" cards are the backbone of the series, which means we're kicking off the exploration of our new Standard format with Simic Ascendancy! While it takes a bit of work, if we can get 20 counters on Simic Ascendancy (by getting 20 counters on creatures we control), the enchantment lets us win the game on our upkeep. What are the odds of winning with Simic Ascendancy in Standard? What are the best ways to build around the enchantment? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Simic Ascendancy (Standard)

The Deck

While there are a bunch of good Against the Odds cards from Ravnica Allegiance (see: this week's poll at the end of the article), there was little doubt that Simic Ascendancy would be the choice for the first episode. Winning with alternate win conditions is the foundation of the series, and Simic Ascendancy is a sweet "you win the game" card. So while I knew right away what card we would be playing, actually building a Simic Ascendancy deck was a lot harder than it looked. 

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The biggest challenge with winning with Simic Ascendancy is that if we manage to get 20 counters on creatures you control (and thereby 20 growth counters on Simic Ascendancy), there's a pretty good chance that we'll have already won the game with our random creatures. While there are matches where the board gets bogged down with blockers and we sort of accidentally win with Simic Ascendancy, we need some sort of combo to really make the card work. While there isn't a direct "you win the game" combo piece with Simic Ascendancy in Standard, we do have one card that comes close.

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Galloping Lizrog is—by far—the best way of suddenly going up to 20 counters on Simic Ascendancy and winning with the enchantment. While it does require support in the form of other creatures on the battlefield with +1/+1 counters, it essentially doubles the number of counters we have on the battlefield by stealing them from all of our other creatures (while also turning into a massive trampling creature). With just a single Galloping Lizrog and a bunch of +1/+1 counters on various creatures, we can typically get close to 20 counters on Simic Ascendancy, and the second copy of Galloping Lizrog (stealing and doubling all of the counters from the first Galloping Lizrog) almost always gets us to at least 20 growth counters on Simic Ascendancy, to win the game on our next upkeep. 

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The rest of our deck is focused on two things: creatures that get +1/+1 counters and ramp to support our +1/+1 counter creatures. Cards like Hungering Hydra and Hydroid Krasis do two important things for our deck. First, they help support our Galloping Lizrog combo by putting a bunch of counters on the battlefield for the Lizrog to steal and double. Second, they give us a pathway to winning with Galloping Lizrog, since if we can stick a Simic Ascendancy on Turn 2, we'll naturally add counters to the enchantment with just about every creature we play. While it takes a while to get to 20 fairly (without Galloping Lizrog), it will happen eventually. As for the cards themselves, Hydroid Krasis works well with our ramp plan, drawing us cards to find our important combo pieces and gaining us some life to stay alive, while Hungering Hydra is our fastest non-Galloping Lizrog way to add counters to Simic Ascendancy

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In the three-drop slot are Knight of Autumn and Jadelight Ranger, both of which can get two +1/+1 counters when they enter the battlefield to support Simic Ascendancy, but both have additional utility as well. Knight of Autumn is amazingly good in Ravnica Allegiance Standard, since it seems like just about every deck in the format is ether aggressive and has a ton of reach, making the lifegain relevant, or playing a powerful artifact or enchantment like Wilderness Reclamation, making the ability to blow up an artifact or enchantment key. Otherwise, it's an on-curve 4/3 with a couple of counters for Galloping Lizrog to steal. Meanwhile, Jadelight Ranger keeps us exploring through our deck, ensuring we hit our land drops and digging to find our Simic Ascendancy and +1/+1 counter payoffs.

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Zegana, Utopian Speaker and Shalai, Voice of Plenty give us a backup plan for winning the game that also works well with our primary Simic Ascendancy plan. Zegana, Utopian Speaker can end up an 8/8 with four counters, and giving all of our creatures with +1/+1 counters (which is pretty much every creature in our deck) trample can allow us to win by attacking through our opponent's blockers, if something goes wrong with our Simic Ascendancy plan. Meanwhile, Shalai, Voice of Plenty protects our other +1/+1 counter creatures to make sure they stay alive for our Galloping Lizrog combo, and if we get enough mana, we can even use the Angel to put a +1/+1 counter on our team, making it a good way to grow our Simic Ascendancy.

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Finally, we have our ramp package. Incubation Druid is a great ramp card in its own but even better with New Horizons, putting a +1/+1 counter on it for free on Turn 3. The combination of these two cards makes it easy to ramp into huge Hungering Hydras and Hydroid Krasises to get a bunch of counters on Simic Ascendancy. They also allow us to activate Simic Ascendancy's "put a counter on a creature" ability a bunch of times, which is a fine backup plan for getting to 20 growth counters and can really mess with combat from our opponent's perspective. Plus, both cards work with Simic Ascendancy by putting +1/+1 counters on creatures we control. Meanwhile, Llanowar Elves just speeds up the deck and gives us something to do on Turn 1.

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Lastly, we have a single copy of Emergency Powers, which probably shouldn't be in the deck. The idea is that with all of our fast mana, we can dump our hand, Emergency Powers to draw seven new cards, put something like Simic Ascendancy or Galloping Lizrog into play for free, and then proceed to win the game with Simic Ascendancy, but in practice, we never really cast it and often sideboarded it out against more aggressive decks.

The Matchups

The main concern for Simic Ascendancy matchup-wise is whether or not our opponent has main-deck ways to deal with Simic Ascendancy itself. Thanks to Wilderness Reclamation, cards like Mortify and Knight of Autumn are showing up in a lot of main decks. This doesn't even include Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, various Vraskas, Vivien Reid, and other random cards like Blink of an Eye. Putting a bunch of work into getting Simic Ascendancy to 20 counters only to have the opponent deal with it for just a couple of mana is brutal. Otherwise, fast aggro can be a concern. In theory, Knight of Autumn's lifegain helps, and we can just go over the top if we get a fast ramp hand, but we'd much rather fight through slower midrange and control decks than try to race a deck with 12 Lightning Strikes. 

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches with Simic Ascendancy and won four, good for a 66.7% match win percentage, along with winning nine our of 13 games, giving us a 69% game win percentage, making Simic Ascendancy solidly above average for an Against the Odds deck. As for Simic Ascendancy itself, we won three games directly with the enchantment, although even when Simic Ascendancy didn't win us the game (most often because our opponent could kill it), it still did a good job of pressuring our opponent in a unique way. One of the biggest upsides of Simic Ascendancy is that it makes our opponent worry about an enchantment. Just answering our creatures isn't enough to win the game, because sooner or later, we'll end up with 20 counters and steal the win. The pressure makes our opponent play different, so even in games where Simic Ascendancy fell just short of getting us the win, it was still helpful.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Ravnica Allegiance is here! Now that we've played our new "you win the game" card, which sweet Ravnica Allegiance card should we play next? Let us know by voting below!

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Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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