Testing for the Mythic Championship is always tough, and this one was no exception. Our team was somewhat reluctant to play Mono-Blue, as hate like Kraul Harpooner seemed to be gaining in popularity. Sultai was the backup deck for many, but not one that people were excited to play as public enemy number one. Azorius Aggro seemed interesting, but being bad against Sultai seemed risky. I spent most of my time working on Nexus of Fate decks, which had a number of different potential approaches.
The first day of live testing, we were looking for a place to grab breakfast. I quickly turned to Yelp, and found a 4-star market less than a half mile away. As we walked, we passed by a diner. My teammates aren’t always the biggest on walks, and there was encouragement to audible to it. We were only a few blocks away from the market, and it had four stars, so I encouraged us to press on. When we got to where the market was supposed to be, we were right in front of a Marriott. Was it the hotel restaurant?
When we went inside the Marriott, we immediately saw the market. It was their convenience store. And that is why you always check how many reviews things have on Yelp. The 4-star “market” had exactly one review.
Here’s the core of Simic Nexus decks as I see it:
- 4 Opt
- 4 Growth Spiral
- 3 Search for Azcanta
- 4 Wilderness Reclamation
- 4 Chemister’s Insight
- 4 Nexus of Fate
- 4 Root Snare
- 24+ lands
Beyond these cards, you need some win conditions, which usually eats 4ish slots. Most people play some Blinks and counterspells. Many people also play the 4th Azcanta. It’s annoying to draw two copies of it, but it is insane in the deck. Additional card draw like Precognitive Perception is also a common add.
Given that core, in many ways the most important thing to figure out how you win. When looking for win conditions for a combo deck, I always look for sleek options. In this deck, cheap spells that cycle are ideal, so Depose // Deploy felt like a good option to consider. It buys a bit of time against Mono-White, and can sometimes even kill a Curious Obsession against Mono-Blue. I was willing to accept that it was sometimes hard to cycle against Esper and the mirror. The bigger problem here was that it wasn’t quite reliable enough. Esper could sometimes leave up a few counters or Mono-Blue some counters and flying blockers, and beat you even when you took infinite turns. It’s worth noting that the more counterspells you play yourself the less of an issue this is.
Most Simic Nexus decks play Hydroid Krasis as their win condition. I don’t think Krasis is horrible, but I’m not its biggest fan. It isn’t a very efficient card draw spell—it is a sorcery so it doesn’t work with Reclamation, and the body isn’t that relevant as it often turns on enemy removal.
Expansion // Explosion is pretty bad against Mono-White, but it impressed in most other matchups. It can defend Reclamation from a counterspell, copy a card draw spell, and it is incredibly reliable. Overall, we decided that it was the best win condition, and I still believe that to be the case.
I generally thought that most Simic lists were short on lands. There is a lot of value in having extra lands with Growth Spiral, and between Chemister’s Insight and Memorials you have a lot of flood protection. We played 26 at the Mythic Championship, and I’d be inclined to play at least 25 going forward.
Sinister Sabotage is my favorite of the counterspell options. Surveiling is extra powerful in a combo deck. In addition, this deck has a lot of even-costed cards, so having something odd-costed is nice. A spell is also nice for Azcanta, both because it’s more likely to go to the graveyard and because you can take it off an activation.
Simic Nexus is the best game 1 deck in the format, but has a lot of trouble sideboarding. Kraul Harpooner relieves a lot of pressure against Mono-Blue, and helps answer Thief of Sanity against Esper. Negate is good against Esper and the mirror. Having some sort of creature package when people board in Negates and Duresses makes sense. Beyond that, there isn’t much you’re interested in.
With all that in mind, here’s the list Paulo and I played:
4 Breeding Pool 4 Hinterland Harbor 4 Memorial to Genius 4 Forest 7 Island 3 Stomping Ground 4 Growth Spiral 2 Blink of an Eye 4 Chemister's Insight 3 Expansion/Explosion 4 Nexus of Fate - Foil - Buy-a-Box Promo 4 Root Snare 3 Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin 2 Sinister Sabotage 4 Wilderness Reclamation 4 Opt Sideboard 2 Biogenic Ooze 1 Crushing Canopy 2 Hydroid Krasis 3 Jadelight Ranger 4 Kraul Harpooner 3 Negate
Tips and Tricks
- When comboing off, always play Nexus before playing any other card draw so that you have max Nexuses shuffled in.
- When you have five cards in the graveyard, you should usually play an instant with the Search for Azcanta trigger on the stack. This isn’t as worth it in control, but in this deck I find it usually is.
- Activate Azcanta main phase if you have enough to cast a Reclamation.
- Against Sultai, try not to expose your enchantments. Either save Reclamation until you can cast Nexus in the same turn, or play end step Nexus so you have back-to-back turns.
- When you have Ooze and Reclamation out, make sure to stack the triggers so that you get extra mana to make more Oozes before they get pumped.
- Growth Spiral is mana neutral if you have a Reclamation out, so feel free to cast it early.
- Even if you have enough mana to use it, it is better to float mana with Memorial and then untap it with Reclamation before sacrificing it.
- Expansion cheap cantrips like Opt and Spiral pretty aggressively early on.
- Sometimes when you upkeep Root Snare, your opponent will forget to attack with their Curious Obsessioned creature. Got ’em!
The game 1 Sultai matchup is very good. They don’t apply much pressure, so you can play things pretty patiently. Ideally, you can buy enough time to go end step Nexus on 7, and then play Search and Reclamation without having them exposed to Vivien Reid. Even if you are forced to expose those cards, you can often still grind through a Vivien.
This matchup gets a lot tougher after board, as they can have more pressure with Harpooners and more disruption with Duress and Negate. Boarding in seven creatures helps you zig when they zag. Jadelight Ranger in particular has been impressive as a form of card advantage that can relieve pressure.
This certainly isn’t the easiest matchup, but I think it’s a bit overblown how bad it is. In game 1, they only have around 7 counterspells. Try to set up Reclamation with Expansion backup on 6 mana. If they have a pressure light draw, end step Nexus can also be great here.
Out on the Play
In on the Play
Out on the Draw
In on the Draw
This matchup gets tougher post-board as they now have a high density of counterspells. That said, Harpooner can destroy a number of their draws, and their counterspell-heavy draws sometimes lack pressure, which you can punish with cards like Chemister’s Insight and Search for Azcanta.
Expansion // Explosion is a big win in this matchup. They have six max counters main, and you have way too many threats for them to handle. End step Nexus is unsurprisingly great here. Mortify is annoying, but they have very few ways to apply pressure, so you can just play around most of the disruption.
Post-board they have a huge way to apply pressure with Thief of Sanity. Thief backed by discard and counterspells can steal a lot of games, so you want all of your Harpooners, Canopies, and Krasis to answer. The good news is that if you can keep Thief in check, then you are favored going long against the rest of their deck.
While Mono-Blue may be perceived as the hardest matchup, this is the deck I’m most scared to face. They have tremendous pressure, and back it up with enchantment removal and counterspells in the sideboard. You generally can’t afford to play around the exile effects, so just jam your Reclamations and Searches, and hope for the best.This is also the matchup where Expansion is at its worst.
Out on the Draw
In on the Draw
Out on the Play
In on the Play
On the play Jadelight is a decent roadblock, but on the draw it’s too slow so I’d rather use Harpooner to buy time. Again, playing into disruption and crossing your fingers is going to be your best bet unless they have a very disruption heavy draw.
The mirror is a tricky matchup. Expansion is better than Krasis so you should have an edge, but when to go for it is a tough call. Often, the first to act gets punished as the opponent can counter your attempt and then go off themselves. Keep in mind that whoever plays Nexus last will get the first extra turn, so if you play an end step Nexus into your opponent’s 7 mana you are running the risk of never getting a turn again.
The post-board games are pretty similar to the pre-board games, except that you are even more likely to get punished for trying to combo off.
Nexus is a sweet deck with tremendous power and a lot of tough decisions. Give it a try at your next tournament! Until next time, good luck taking all the turns.