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The Deck and It’s Leader
Experiment Kraj is one of the leading examples of what the blue-green color combination wants to achieve. It has the ability to make any creature grow larger while investing in stealing the abilities of everything else that has +1/+1 counters on it. Whether its stealing their abilities or pairing itself with cards that can do things like steal creatures and draw cards, it has a lot of versatility. While the deck has many shades, I think one of the best focuses for the deck is the utilization of creature abilities to net advantage while building up an army of incredibly large creatures at the same time. The deck wants to have a strong creature presence and resiliency behind it to keep pressure off, while stoking the flame every turn to gain more and more advantage with every creature you put on the battlefield. This deck has a lot of control aspects that pairs nicely with a slightly aggressive backbone.
The Mechanics Involved
Graft and Evolve are the two main abilities that make this deck as strong as it is. Graft makes a creature enter the battlefield with an amount of +1/+1 counters equal to the number printed after the keyword, but it also has the ability to move those counters onto any creature that enters the battlefield while its still on the battlefield. Evolve is similar but almost reversed. Where graft enters with the counters, evolve gets the counters when something bigger than the evolve creature enters the battlefield under your control. Alone those mechanics don’t grow very quickly, but amassing an army with those mechanics can get staggering quickly if you’re netting some kind of advantage by means of mana ramp or card draw. The great part of those mechanics is that every creature with either ability have some kind of ability that activates or can be activated when those triggers go off.
Shining Stars and Powerful Plays
Sage of Hours: He gets you an extra turn for each five counters he removes, making the ability to take four or five extra turns in one go a completely viable move. Pair him with a Primordial Hydra or a Heroes’ Bane, doubled or growing with cards like Doubling Season , Hardened Scales, or Solidarity of Heroes, and you can easily take just one extra turn with a Bioshift or a Simic Guildmage ability to gain another turn to keep the extra turns flowing, and with incremental gain each turn, you can use that time to set up a much stronger board and clean up the game without much effort. Another perfect pair with him is Forgotten Ancient because it grows very large, very fast, and it doesn’t require Bioshift.
Ordeal of Nylea/Ordeal of Thassa: These two enchantments give a lot of advantage for a low mana cost, and since they trigger when a creature has three +1/+1 counters on them, they will almost always activate as soon as you cast them, while possibly growing a creature in the process. These early game cards can get you the edge you need right out of the gate or offer a strong comeback later in the game.
Gyre Sage: For two mana, she is the most powerful mana producer in the deck. Her evolve ability gets her started but with cards that add a few more counters here and there, the mana production can go through the roof, especially if you pair her with cards like Kiora’s Follower, Vigean Graftmage, or Freed From the Real.
Fathom Mage: Where Gyre Sage is the most efficient way to gain mana, Fathom Mage is the most efficient way to draw cards. Multiple graft triggers, a Hardened Scales, or even just evolving her can turn a hand of zero back to seven very easily, and usually resolving her can result in two or three draws right off the bat.
Master Biomancer: A card that needs to be invested in and doesn’t at the same time. Choose to make him bigger, and the coming threats get exponentially bigger as well, keep him just as a small engine, and the deck works well after the fact too, a solid four mana investment that keeps your deck running smoothly.
Cauldron of Souls: A powerful way to keep creatures coming back from the dead. Because Cauldron of Souls gives your creatures persist your creatures can be easily recurred because we can just replace counters on them (or they naturally enter with counters, canceling out the persist -1/-1 counter given).
Problems and Solutions
The biggest stretch with this deck is the low land count, topping at twenty-nine. Since the deck has a low initial curve and tops out at six mana, this usually isn’t a problem, especially playing green, but one of the things to watch out for is mana, and making sure you can consistently make relevant plays and land drops. Another concern this deck has is the dependency on creatures and how quickly you can be shut down by board clears so a recommended strategy is always holding back a few creatures and cards in hand just in case you need to rebuild.
Playing With The New Stuff
With every set, this deck gets a little better, bringing new flavor and new ways to spice up game play. Here are some of the more recent additions to the deck that are worth mentioning.
- Inspiring Call/Armorcraft Judge: Two gladly welcomed additions to the deck. Both cards do exactly what the deck wants, capitalize on creatures with counters, and draw a bunch of cards, which both do well.
- Verdurous Gearhulk: A bomb that the deck needed. The deck uses cards like Archetype of Imagination and Champion of Lambholt to ensure an unblockable alpha strike, but has always seemed to be just a little too lacking in the damage department, and with Verdurous Gearhulk, the deck now has dependable way to make sure that you’re closing the game with one attack.
- Undergrowth Champion: A card that didn’t spark me as necessary, until I realized that it’s essentially indestructible in this deck, and one that can only get better with each land drop.
- Altered Ego: The perfect clone for this deck. Most of the time you never have to pay any amount of X for it’s cost because it will come in with a few counters anyway, and in scenarios where you need a creature’s ability but can’t cast Experiment Kraj, he stands out among the crowd.
- Hardened Scales: A baby Doubling Season in that it only adds one additional counter each time one would be placed, which is perfect for this deck because it does it so often, and that one converted mana cost makes it an auto-include from Khans of Tarkir.
Tell us what you think and what you would add in the comments below!