TOP SECRET EYES ONLY
TO: XXXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXX, and XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
FROM: ANTHONY ALONGI
RE: FIVE GRAFT SPECIALISTS
As requested, I have completed my initial research on the five unusual subjects you requested intelligence on. I have assembled basic statistics, field observations, and recommendations for strategic deployment. Please see the attached briefs for details.
You will note that all five subjects are recently discovered. While they may have allies (or even genesis) in well-known species found on many tropical islands, this report had well-defined parameters based in the formal Simic Combine. No conclusions regarding the author's preference for older subjects should be drawn from this restricted analysis.
Not all known associates are listed for each case. This does not mean they have not received consideration. You need not contact me with further "intelligence" in this regard.
I recommend caution in conducting further operations with these subjects. Some may not react well to conventional environments, of the sort found at local card shop tournaments. As per our initial arrangement, I cannot be held responsible for any negative results arising from the improper and/or unlawful use of any of these.
BRIEF #1: VIGEAN HYDROPON
OBSERVED: Several games, one evening
DANGER: Indirect, through strengthening other subjects
KNOWN ASSOCIATES: Five-mana creatures (e.g., Kodama of the North Tree)
RECOMMENDED DEPLOYMENT: Emperor format (see below)
ADDITIONAL NOTES: In addition to direct observation, I have reports from several reliable sources that this creature is only effective in a very few environments. However, in situations where the controller does not have to worry about engaging in combat, the Hydropon can be extremely useful.
The best use of the Hydropon is in the hands of an emperor who uses the Hydropon to enhance her lieutenants' creatures as they come into play.
Theoretically, it could also be used with other graft creatures, such as Cytoplast Manipulator, to boost their longevity and power.
It should last quite a while itself, since it does not present a direct threat and many opponents will be better off killing the creatures it attempts to help.
BRIEF #2: PLAXCASTER FROGLING
OBSERVED: Multiple games, multiple evenings
DANGER: Indirect, through misdirection and trickery
KNOWN ASSOCIATES: Four-mana graft enablers (e.g., Forgotten Ancient)
RECOMMENDED DEPLOYMENT: Multiple environments, with special emphasis on two-headed formats.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: While adaptable in most environments, the Frogling works particularly well in deck deployments where a 3/3 for three mana is decent, and protection for up to two fellow creatures is even better.
The two-mana requirement means that the controller should probably have a teammate, so that one player can continue to operate while the Frogling maintains the ability to stop targeted removal.
That said, the Frogling is efficient enough to be a viable choice in just about any format. It can turn already solid "finishing" creatures (e.g., Psychatog) into unstoppable powerhouses.
In general, controllers should make an effort to use the Frogling as a 3/3 in early combat, and then reduce its role to a 1/1 as it protects larger allies.
BRIEF #3: PATAGIA VIPER
OBSERVED: Limited direct observation, substantial written source material
DANGER: Moderate and direct, through direct engagement
KNOWN ASSOCIATES: Opposition, Coat of Arms
RECOMMENDED DEPLOYMENT: Chaos (a.k.a. free-for-all)
ADDITIONAL NOTES: The Viper provides its controller with three cheap creatures on turn 4, including a flyer. This is generally enough to stop any early bleeding. Beatdown decks will have other, easier places to go.
While the Viper and its consort snakes are difficult for targeted removal, they are vulnerable to even the lightest of mass removal (e.g., Pyroclasm). Controllers should not expect them to survive long past the mid-game, without help.
BRIEF #4: PROTEAN HULK
OBSERVED: Once, and in considerable theoretical deck design experiments
KNOWN ASSOCIATES: Various teams, including Man-o'-War and Raven Familiar; Plaxcaster Frogling and True Believer; an infinite number of Shield Spheres; and occasionally three Watchwolves. Also, Reincarnation.
RECOMMENDED DEPLOYMENT: Specialized creature-based formats.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: Because it depends on intelligent deck design, deployment of the Protean Hulk is best reserved for those situations when the owner wishes to take the time to answer questions like, "which combination of creatures will best break this format?" As long as that combination can be sought out and put in play in increments of 6 or less, the Hulk is an excellent enabling device (and a finisher in its own right).
BRIEF #5: TIDESPOUT TYRANT
OBSERVED: Rumor only
KNOWN ASSOCIATES: Tooth of Chiss-Goria, Mystic Snake, Flametongue Kavu, Nekrataal, Faith's Fetters, Mind's Desire, Isochron Scepter, etc. etc.
RECOMMENDED DEPLOYMENT: Anywhere
ADDITIONAL NOTES: Despite its high cost, the Tyrant is a card begging for experimentation and abuse in any format imaginable. Its ability is simple and does not cost any mana beyond that used for the spell (if any was used for the spell at all).
While its potential for abusive combos suggests extreme caution, lest karma (or an opponent) beat on you mercilessly, the Tyrant may cost too much for too many players to use ad nauseum. Researchers hope against hope that Tyrants will not run amok across the Magic landscape – it would be a true travesty of nature.
APPENDIX: CLOSING THOUGHTS
The Simic Combine has many more cards to offer those interested in deeper exploration. The author does recommend two assets for interested scientists: caution and creativity. First, caution. The combination of Forests and Islands can solve many problems; but there are counterstrategies that can be powerful. Efficient swarm decks, and/or consistent control decks, can often overwhelm a Blue/Green deck's resources.
Second, creativity. The author has noticed a significant increase in Blue/Green combo decks over the past few years – cards like Eye of the Storm and the re-printing of Early Harvest have contributed to this ugly phenomenon. Deckbuilders would be well-advised to avoid well-worn paths, and find the rewards in doing new things. Experimentation is, after all, what the Simic Combine is all about.
Anthony Alongi has been spying out cards for various Magic formats for eight years, and has been writing for much longer than that. His latest book, JENNIFER SCALES AND THE MESSENGER OF LIGHT, was co-written with wife MaryJanice Davidson and comes out this June.