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Guild Wars – Crafting the Graft
By Matteo Orsini Jones

1 July 2006

Well when Chris introduced the idea of 10 of us making casual deck following one guild and one guild only, I was a little reluctant to take on the challenge. ‘What no dual lands? These decks are supposed to bad? Wow how fun… I hate casual.’. But, giving into peer pressure (as is always the case), I signed myself up for simic, hoping that as it’s a fun and powerful guild in limited, it should serve me well in limited’s closest friend (in power level at least), casual magic.

The first question I asked myself was which way to go with my deck: There were three options I could think of straight away:
1. controlly-type, with steal cards like dream leash and copy enchantment to stop them playing anything (copy would steal the dreaded simic sky swallower as well, though he is bound to me so I wouldn’t be having problems with him anyway.
2. Graft abuse – well simic is the guild of graft, and this being a casual guildwars I might as well abuse this.
3. Cloudstone curio abuse - this might be fun, with cards like fists of ironwood, flight of fantasy, coiling oracle, dismisser etc.

After much umming and ahhing I came to my decision: option 1 would probably include voidslime which is a no-no in the ‘no money rares’ rule of this league, and simic sky swallower might also fall into this category. Also control decks aren’t so fun in casual wars, so I discarded the control option. Option three was also discarded, as I know other members of the guild wars expressed interest in curio abuse, and ideally I’d want another colour, such as white to have herald/ hussar or red to have savant/ steamcore. Therefore the winning option was graft – momir vig’s artificial but equally beneficial invaluable invention to the city of guilds.

When it came to the deck, there were a few cards that were obviously going to be included, and didn’t fall into the ‘money rares’ slot: plaxcasters, kudzus and rootkins. These all abuse +1+1 counters, kudzu becoming huge through the course of the game, rootkin pumping your other grafters and plaxcaster stopping them from being frazzled. From this I built on the theme of counters and tokens, with a few extra cards such as coiling oracle to give me card advantage/ mana acceleration.

Here’s the deck I came up with:

Creatures (24)

4 x Cytoplast Rootkin
4 x Vinelasher Kudzu
4 x Plaxcaster frogling
4 x Aquastrand Spider
4 x Simic initiate
4 x Simic guildmage

Spells (14)

4 x Fists of ironwood
4 x Scatter the seeds
4 x Remand
2 x Leafdrake roost

lands (22)

9 x forest
7 x island
4 x simic growth chamber
2 x novijen, heart of progress

I tested a few games with this deck, and noticed one key factor that was pulling it back from being both a good and fun deck. This factor was that it’s a bad deck. Okay, this is casual, but this deck is both bad and boring, and at least casual should be fun. I thought about it a bit more, and realised how foolish I had been in leaving out the one card that unlocks the ultimate graft abuse, and that is one of the most casual rares ever: the almighty doubling season. Rootkins come into play as 8/8s, each time you graft it adds 2 counters, not 1, the same applying to moving them back onto rootkin or moving them around with simic guildmage (giving infinite +1+1 counters to fling around like they’re going out of fashion).

More umming and ahhing, and the chaff sorted out (such as initiate which just doesn’t do anything and scatter which is particularly slow in an aggro deck when fists does roughly the same job without having to hold back convokers). Here’s my new, most casual, most fun, most unstoppable ultimate simic mechanic abuser you ever did see

For your delectation.

(the following content may not be suitable for players with DCI ratings over 1900).

“The Final Counterdown” - designed by Matteo “defender of casual magic” Orsini Jones

Casual Watch - Approximate deck price £30 from a leading supplier

Creatures (25)

4 x Cytoplast Rootkin
4 x Vinelasher Kudzu
4 x Plaxcaster frogling
4 x Patagia Viper
4 x Aquastrand spider
3 x Simic Guildmage
2 x Vigean hydropon

Spells (13)

4 x Doubling season
4 x Utopia Sprawl
3 x Fists of ironwood
2 x Leafdrake roost

Lands (22)

9 x Forest
7 x Island
4 x simic growth chamber
2 x Novijen heart of progress

Here are some of the changes I’ve made from the first version:

1. Coiling oracles have become sprawls – ok sprawls don’t work too well with bounce lands, so don’t play it turn 1 if you want to bounce turn two… The pros do outweigh the benefits – I’d rather be playing kudzu or spider turn two to get the counters rolling, and sprawl allows a turn two kudzu and land, or accelerates out fatties, such as plaxcaster or rootkin
2. Initiates have come out – these basically read ‘seal of graft’ G – sacrifice ~ to put a +1+1 counter on target creature, play this ability only when you play a creature. Worth playing? Don’t think so.
3. Scatter the seeds have come out – I want to attack with my creatures, not keep them back for convoke, and fists does roughly the same job while also giving trample to a kudzu that will later become huge.
4. Doubling season has come in – in later testing this was Amazing (note the capital A). Drop it turn 4 off a sprawl with viper/ fists in hand and a grafter to make them all huge and you’ve basically won.
5. Hydropon has come in – I wasn’t sure about including this – but it means that all of the creatures you get off a viper with doubling season get pumped, and it comes in with 10 counters when doubled!!!
6. Remand has been remanded to the world of competitive magic [/pun]. It wasn’t doing much, and I want to play fun graft creatures, not hold mana back to draw a card…

Now that the deck is built, the one key question arises when building any deck – any suggestions? No it’s not whether the mana base is fine, because it is. No it’s not that either... Oh nevermind: the question is ‘Is the deck any good?’ Well, to find out the answer to this question, I tested it against Richard Bland, harnessing the frigid but fiery power of izzet (though I won’t reveal anything incase he wants it to be secret tech until he publishes his guildwars article). He won the first game as I got off to a bad start, and he got off to a rather annoyingly good one. By about turn 6 it was over and I was starting to consider whether it was time to change my plan and go control or curio, but I grit my teeth and played another game - turn 4 and turn 5 doubling seasons meant on turn 6 I dropped an 8/8 spider and a patagia viper, grafting onto each one of his snakey friends, meaning I had 8 5/5s hitting the table. Sadly the pingy power of gelectrodes (Damn I revealed a card in his deck… O well.) couldn’t keep up with an army of snakes the size of Jeremy Clarkson’s ego, and we moved on to game three. The graft abuse off doubling season continued, this time with leafdrake roost and novijen churning out 2 4/4s a turn, and the doubling continued in games 4 and 5. Results after testing: 4-1 to me, and I’m confident that my deck will plough its way through opposition in the graft wars playoffs (should they ever happen).

Things I have learnt from this experience: Not much really.

I stuck to the rather strict rules set by grand arbiter harrold I, staying away from any rares with a value above £3, and not even mentioning rare lands. Well I did a bit at the beginning, and again just then, but apart from that I was obedient.

Wait, I forgot the sideboard. Meh, who cares, it’s casual, sideboards aren’t important right?

Signing off,

Yours Sincerely,