How to harden your scales Simic style?

This week’s article is about Hardened Scales, so a big part of the theme is +1/+1 counters. Who would’ve guessed? Hardened Scales is an enchantment that can come down as quickly as turn one and every time a counter is placed on a creature you control, it gets an extra counter. Pretty simple and not necessarily powerful, unless you build your deck around it. Let’s do it Simic style!

There are several paths to take here. Colours that work well with +1/+1 counters are green, white, and black can do some nice things with counters. Blue doesn’t really do things with counters (the +1/+1 kind, not the spells that counter spells, mind you), but in combination with green, you get a plethora of possibilities. The Simic guild from Ravnica has a main theme of placing, adding, multiplying, and redistributing of counters. That is exactly what I want to do with a deck playing Hardened Scales, so we’re in green and blue.

GU Cytoplast Evolve
4 Cloudfin Raptor
1 Experiment One
3 Wildwood Scourge
4 Skyrider Elf
2 Zameck Guildmage
1 Dream Stalker
3 Champion of Lambholt
3 Renegade Krasis
3 Cytoplast Root-Kin
2 Zegana, Utopian Speaker
4 Hardened Scales
3 Vapor Snag
4 Incubation//Incongruity

4 Breeding Pool
3 Hinterland Harbor
1 Flooded Grove
1 Misty Rainforest
8 Forest
6 Island

Cloudfin Raptor is my first go-to card: it is cheap, it has flying and starts accumulating counters quickly. Four go in.

Experiment One can also come down turn one and gets counters really easy. It doesn’t have evasion, but its second ability gives some resiliency. I could play four as well, but I only have one and I wanted to try out another creature that seems even more perfect for this deck in my eyes.

That creature is Wildwood Scourge. The Scourge fits anywhere in my mana curve, except turn one. It comes into play with at least one +1/+1 counter on it, but the best part is that it gets a counter when another creature gets one. This can go out of hand really quickly.

Skyrider Elf might look very innocuous, but it comes into play with two counters on it and like the Raptor it has flying, so more difficult to block. It doesn’t grow out of itself, but the rest of my creature suite should be able to help grow it anyways.

Renegade Krasis for example can make all my creatures with +1/+1 counters grow when it evolves. The Krasis is a little bit hard to evolve, since most of my creatures are smaller than the Krasis, but I have some tricks for that. And when it evolves, it floods my creatures with counters, especially when there is a Hardened Scales out. 

The first creature in the deck to be able to evolve the Krasis is Cytoplast Root-Kin. It is a 0/0 for four, but it has graft 4, so it comes into play as a 4/4. When it comes into play, it also gives all my creatures with a +1/+1 counter on it an extra counter and for two colorless mana I can transfer a counter from a creature to the Root-Kin. This works really nice with the Wildwood Scourge. The Scourge gets an extra counter when a creature I control gets one, so if I transfer a counter from the Scourge to the Root-Kin, the Scourge gets that counter back, because the Root-Kin is a non-hydra creature. With the Root-Kin you can also remove counters from Renegade Krasis, which makes the Krasis easier to evolve.

Picture this scenario: I have a Cloudfin Raptor, a Skyrider Elf and a Renegade Krasis. Only the Elf has two counters on it. Then I play Cytoplast Root-kin. It enters the battlefield with four counters and thus is bigger than both the Raptor and the Krasis. First I put the ability of the Root-Kin on the stack giving each creature with a counter an extra one. Then I first put the evolve-trigger of the Krasis on the stack and then of the Raptor. First the Raptor evolves to a 1/ 2 and after that the Krasis evolves to a 4/ 3. Because the Krasis evolves, it puts a counter on each other creature with a counter. The Raptor becomes 2/ 3, the Elf 3/ 3 and the Root-Kin 5/ 5. Then the ability of the Root-Kin resolves, making the Raptor 3/ 4, the Elf 4/4 and the Krasis 5/ 4.

I have one more trick to evolve the Krasis and that is one copy of Dream Stalker. The Stalker has a toughness of 5 and that is enough to evolve creatures most of the time. Just bounce itself back to your hand to repeat this and grow your creatures even further.

Big creatures are really nice, but most of them can easily be chump blocked and I didn’t collect all those counters for nothing. I need evasion and Champion of Lambholt is a good option for that. Creatures with a power lower than the Champion’s cannot block and the Champion grows with every creature you play! With all the tricks in the deck to grow the amount of counters, it can grow really quickly. And did I mention it works with Dream Stalker as well?

Next I play two copies of Zegana, Utopian Speaker. The card draw is nice, but it is mainly in the deck, because it gives creatures with a +1/+1 counter trample. That makes it a whole lot easier to punch through all that +1/+1 counter damage.

I have a lot of synergy going on, but I do want to draw all the different pieces. Two copies of Zameck Guildmage help me to transfer counters into new cards and late in the game, it can help ensure my newly played creatures enter the battlefield with an extra counter.

This deck is all about counters, so I definitely want an early Hardened Scales. As an enchantment it is not very easy to get rid of and it helps my creatures get even bigger with the extra counters.

In Incubation//Incongruity I get two very important things for the deck: creature selection and removal. I already described the importance of all my creatures, but I lack some interaction. The Incongruity half gives me the chance to deal with my opponent’s annoying creatures. The three copies of Vapor Snag are also supposed for that purpose and if necessary, I can even bounce one of my own creatures to save it from removal or to get extra triggers.

I went with 23 lands, because I want enough mana to make my early drops, but late in the game I want to be able to do multiple things (play a threat and remove opposing creatures or draw cards with Zameck Guildmage). 23 seems right for this.

It is quite a quirky deck and that is exactly why I love it. It is also pretty skill intensive with all the different triggers that can go off at the same time, but that makes it challenging to play and I like that. If you like that too, let me know. And I’m always open for suggestions that can make this deck even weirder.

See you at the next sixty!

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