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Budget Magic: $12 Simic Kicker (Standard 2022)


Hyvää päivää, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! One of the most exciting parts of rotation is that old strategies that just weren't quite good enough in our last Standard format have another shot at glory. Today, we're playing a deck that is basically a Zendikar Rising–block deck, built around one of my all-time favorite mechanics, Simic Kicker! You might remember that we played a version of the deck a year ago, right after when Zendikar Rising was released, but things are a lot different today. The broken cards from Eldraine and Ikoria are leaving Standard, giving us a fresh slate to build on, which means it finally might be time to kick an opponent or two with cards like Roost of Drakes, Verazol, the Split Current, and more! The best part? The deck only costs $12 in paper and has just 14 rares on Magic Arena! Can kicker compete in Standard 2022? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Simic Kicker

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The Deck

Simic Kicker is a midrange deck built around getting value from kicker cards and kicker payoffs. It's basically a synergy-based deck. Very few of the cards are powerful in a vacuum, but together, they can generate an overwhelming amount of value!

The Payoffs

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By far the best and most important card in our deck is Roost of Drakes. The one-mana enchantment gives us a huge reward for playing a bunch of kicker cards, giving them each a...kicker...of making a 2/2 Drake token. If we get up to four mana, we can even kick Roost of Drakes and get a 2/2 flier immediately. At one mana, it's cheap enough to sneak into play early before our opponent gets their defenses set up. And then, Roost of Drakes offers a ton of bodies at no extra cost. In the early and mid-game, the Drakes give us a steady source of chump blockers to keep our life total high and let us set up for the late game. (If there's a downside to kicker, it's that kicking spells is expensive, which means we can get off to some slow starts on occasion.) In the late game, Roost of Drakes becomes our finisher. The most common way we kill our opponent is to eventually end up with multiple copies of Roost of Drakes on the battlefield, quickly build a big board of 2/2 fliers, and go on the offense, winning in just a couple of attacks.

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Payoff number two is Verazol, the Split Current, which basically is a Stonecoil Serpent that can remove two +1/+1 counters from itself to copy a kicked spell. (It is worded oddly for Commander purposes—even though its mana cost is XUG, it enters with a +1/+1 counter for each mana spent to cast it, not equal to the X that is paid, which means it can be a 2/2 for two by paying 0 for X, and it scales from there.) There are a couple of ways to play with Verazol, the Split Current. If we don't think our opponent has removal, we can dump all of our mana into it, have the biggest threat on the battlefield, and potentially copy a few kicked spells over the next couple of turns. On the other hand, if we're worried about removal, we can run Verazol, the Split Current out as a 2/2 for two and immediately use it to copy a kicked spell to make sure that we get some value from it before it dies. The combination of it being our biggest standalone threat and also being a great payoff for playing a deck full of kicker spells makes Verazol, the Split Current one of the most powerful cards in our deck.

Kicker Support

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We have two other non-land cards in our deck that don't have kicker themselves: Vine Gecko and Coralhelm Chronicler. Vine Gecko might look like a Grizzly Bears, but it's actually quite powerful, offering ramp for kicked spells (which is really important because kicking spells is so expensive) and also growing throughout the game as we kick things, often eventually ending up as the biggest threat on the battlefield if our opponent doesn't have removal. Just keep in mind that its ramp ability—giving a discount to kicked spells—only applies to the first kicked spell we play each turn, although we can power it up further by casting spells like Into the Roil on our opponent's turn after casting a sorcery-speed kicker spell during ours.

Meanwhile, Coralhelm Chronicler is a solid little value card, letting us grab a kicker spell from our top five when it comes into play and then looting when we cast a kicked spell. Its enters-the-battlefield trigger is often a way to dig for a Roost of Drakes if we don't already have one, although it can snag everything from ramp to card draw to removal. With 27 kicker spells in our deck, it's super unlikely that its enters-the-battlefield trigger will whiff, and most often, we have multiple kicker cards to choose from. Meanwhile, the looting ability mostly is just a way to improve our hand, although there are some sneaky synergies, like looting away lands that we tutor up with Reclaim the Wastes or discarding expensive kicker cards like Inscription of Insight or Vastwood Surge so we can get them back later once we have the mana to kick them with Murasa Sproutling.

Kicker Cards

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As far as actual kicker cards, we've got a bunch. Reclaim the Wastes and Vastwood Surge help to make sure we have enough mana to kick our spells while also having kicker to trigger Roost of Drakes, Vine Gecko, and Coralhelm Chronicler. Reclaim the Wastes basically is a kicker version of Attune with Aether. While one-mana spells that tutor a land to your hand aren't usually very strong, as we saw with the energy deck from Standards past, these cards can be very good when they come with an upside that supports your deck's theme. Reclaim the Wastes also allows us to trim back a bit on lands (we're only playing 22) and still (hopefully) hit our land drops consistently. Meanwhile, Vastwood Surge is actually pretty insane in our deck. On its face, it's just a four-mana ramp spell like Explosive Vegetation, but it does does two important things for Simic Kicker. First, it helps us get up to eight mana to cast huge Verazol, the Split Currents or Inscription of Insights. Second, in the late game, the ability to kick it and put two +1/+1 counters on all of our creatures works like a weird Overrun, in conjunction with all of our Roost of Drakes Drakes, turning them into 4/4s and often allowing us to one-shot kill our opponent!

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For removal, we have a few options. Bubble Snare technically can deal with anything by tapping it down. Into the Roil has the upside of drawing us a card if we can kick it for four mana. But the biggest payoff here is Inscription of Insight, which is pretty insane, especially if we can copy it with Verazol, the Split Current. In general, we try to wait until we get up to eight mana so we can kick Inscription of Insight, which is a lot of mana, but the payoff is worth it. For our eight-mana investment, we get a Maro token, a Behold the Multiverse, and an Undo, by refilling our hand, making a massive body, and bouncing our opponent's best threats. If we can copy it with Verazol, it often wins us the game by bouncing our opponent's board, drawing us a bunch more kicker cards, and making two massive 7/7 or 8/8 tokens! In a pinch, we can also cast it for four mana to help us stabilize and stay alive because we do have a way to get it back from the graveyard later in the game...

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Last but not least, we have Murasa Sproutling—our kicker Eternal Witness. For five mana, we get a 3/3 body and also get to return our best kicker card from our graveyard to our hand. In the late game, this often means we can do things like kick an Inscription of Insight to bounce our opponent's board and then, on the next turn, get back Inscription of Insight with Murasa Sproutling to do it again. Since we don't have much hard removal and are instead relying on bounce spells to keep our opponent's board in check, being able to reuse our bounce spells often is essential to staying alive. 

The Mana

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In general, our mana is pretty straightforward: Islands, Forests, and Quandrix Campus as a dual land. But Throne of Makindi deserves a mention because it's really important to the deck. Throne of Makindi basically allows us to store up mana for future kicker spells. (We pay one to add a counter to it and then later can remove a counter to have it add two mana.) Getting up to eight mana to kick things like Inscription of Insight and Vastwood Surge can be tough, but it gets much, much easier when we have a land that taps for multiple mana. Throne of Makindi also allows us to kick Roost of Drakes on Turn 3, which is a very powerful start. Try to build up counters on Throne of Makindi in the early game, if possible, and then cash them in later to jump the curve and cast some of the biggest and best kicker spells.

Playing the Deck

As I mentioned earlier, Roost of Drakes is the most important card in our deck, and we really want a copy in our opening hand. While we don't need to mulligan super aggressively to find one, it's usually best to ship back a mediocre hand without a Roost of Drakes in the hopes of something better. Beyond Roost of Drakes, we also really want ramp or mana fixing in the early game. By far the biggest drawback of Simic Kicker is that it's really mana hungry. Because all of our payoffs only trigger when we kick a spell, we don't really get much value in casting cards like Into the Roil, Bubble Snare, and Inscription of Insight without paying their kicker. Hands with Vine Gecko or Throne of Makindi are especially powerful since they allow us to kick Roost of Drakes, Bubble Snare, or Into the Roil on Turn 3.

Don't be afraid to chump block aggressively with the Drake tokens from Roost of Drakes. Our deck has a really strong late-game plan; the challenge is staying alive long enough to execute it. Having a bunch of free, disposable Drakes to throw in front of attackers is one of the best ways to stay alive long enough to start kicking things like Inscription of Insight or Vastwood Surge to put away the game.

Wrap-Up

Record-wise, we played nine games with Simic Kicker and ended up going 5-4, which is a pretty solid record for a $12 deck. Heading into our matches, I was a bit worried about how we'd perform against aggro since we don't have a sweeper or even much hard removal, but we managed to beat Mono-White Aggro multiple times. It seems that making a bunch of Drakes and bouncing things are enough. Meanwhile, against control, Roost of Drakes is very close to unbeatable for a lot of decks. No matter how many times our opponent wraths our board, there are always more Drakes to pressure their life total. 

On the other hand, there is some bad news, which is that most of our losses came from having mana issues. A couple of the games were just variance, where we never managed to draw our second or third land, which is just something that happens. On the other hand, because our deck needs so much mana to perform optimally, we also occasionally have games where we have four or five lands and that's still not enough to do everything we want, which is just a drawback of the kicker archetype.

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, I wouldn't change a single card. In fact, other than improving the mana base, I'm not even sure there's much to add to the non-budget build of the deck. Kicker is one of those archetypes that just happens to be super cheap, even in optimal form.

So, should you play Simic Kicker in Standard 2022? I think the answer is yes. I find the deck super fun to play, it's incredibly cheap, and, as a bonus, it even felt pretty competitive! If you like weird synergy-based tempo decks or are just looking for something very different to play as we wait for Innistrad: Midnight Hunt to be released, Simic Kicker seems like a solid budget option for the Standard 2022 format.

Ultra-Budget and Non-Budget Simic Kicker

No ultra-budget list this week. At $12, Simic Kicker is already one of the cheapest decks we've ever played in paper. On Magic Arena, all of the 14 rares in the deck seem necessary for the deck's success. Verazol, the Split Current and Inscription of Insight are two of our best payoffs, while Throne of Makindi and Coralhelm Chronicler are two of our best support cards. If you are really desperate to make the deck cheaper, you could probably trim a copy of Verazol, the Split Current and a couple of Coralhelm Chroniclers for another kicker card (whatever you do, don't cut Throne of Makindi—the deck needs it to function), although I wouldn't recommend it.

Oddly, the same is mostly true of the non-budget build of Simic Kicker: there just really aren't many upgrades. Barkchannel Pathway is an upgrade on Quandrix Campus, but otherwise, we already have all of the best blue and green kicker cards in the deck. One interesting possibility would be moving into a third color. Thanks to Reclaim the Wastes and Vastwood Surge, we could make it work. The question is whether another color would improve the deck, and I'm honestly not sure. Moving into black would offer hard removal in Bloodchief's Thirst and Inscription of Ruin, but after beating up on aggro with the Simic build, I'm not sure we need hard removal (although it becomes more worthwhile in best-of-three, to help fill our the sideboard). Red mostly is the same, giving us Cinderclasm and Roil Eruption, both of which could help against aggro. My plan is to keep playing the deck as-is and keep the idea of going into a third color in mind, in case the aggro matchup becomes a problem. But so far, it hasn't been, which makes the consistency of being two colors a nice bonus.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. 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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