War of the Spark was incredibly kind to Simic Nexus. We got additional finishers, additional utility, additional sideboard options, and Tamiyo, Collector of Tales. Tamiyo in particular is an incredible engine piece that people started out with small numbers of and quickly went to 3-4 copies in the maindeck. Tamiyo’s power comes from her ability to very quickly slim your deck down to a critical mass where it becomes nearly impossible or factually impossible to fizzle out. Her ability to rebuy Root Snares, engine pieces that were removed, and countermagic is also not to be undersold, and that rebuy effect is what lets us get away with singleton win conditions since we can return and recast them as many times as is necessary.
The goal of this deck is to reach a game state where we are casting Nexus of Fate every turn, taking all of the turns, and then using Tamiyo in a combination of her +1 and -3 to rebuy whichever win condition we have and any Blink of an Eye effects or Blast Zones we have in order to remove the opposing side of the board and kill the opponent without giving them any outs.
Early versions of the deck used Commence the Endgame as a finisher that was also a draw spell to replace Hydroid Krasis, but the GAM discord hivemind very quickly stumbled onto the innocuous Callous Dismissal as a “finisher” card that was also a sorcery speed unsummon effect to interact early on and set up your endgame scenario. Others have tried to go still leaner and use Mobilized District as the win condition, though this does necessitate maindeck countermagic so that you don’t lose to Vraska’s Contempt (Blink of an Eye can NOT target Mobilized District, even as a creature). As a note, if your only win condition does get exiled in game one, you don’t actually lose! Depending on your opponents deck you may be able to do the following:
- Take many extra turns with Tamiyo ticking up (I recommend naming Relentless Advance, since you’re going to draw nexus every turn anyway as it’s the only card in your deck)
- Use Tamiyo and more extra turns to rebuy Root Snares, any remaining bounce effects, blast zones, and countermagic you may have. If you play Bond of Flourishing, this is where you go to infinite life as well.
- Pass any necessary extra turns discarding nexus to hand size (but still ticking up tamiyo)
- Root Snare on their turn, protecting yourself/tamiyo as necessary
- Repeat this sequence until your opponent decks out, countering any Teferis or blinking them in response to their -3 (if they’re not on nexus)
This is not a particularly pleasant way to win the game but it is one that is very possible in the face of Direfleet Daredevil otherwise ruining your fun. Just remember to keep your life total above the number of shocks/strikes you cannot counter in one turn where possible, since this line of play necessitates them drawing their deck. DO NOT TAKE THIS AS AN EXCUSE TO CUT YOUR LAST WIN CONDITION. This line of play is very much beatable, and you give your opponent their whole deck to beat you with.
Now that I’ve laid out the premise of the deck, let’s get into the nitty gritty of my own 75:
A lot of this list is stock by this point. 25 lands, full playsets of Growth Spiral, Opt, Nexus of Fate, Wilderness Reclamation, Root Snare, and Chemister’s Insight make up the core of the deck that should not be cut without exceedingly good reason. While common consensus is to play three each of Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and Search for Azcanta, I think these pieces are too crucial to our gameplan so powerful as engine pieces that I want all four of each. Tamiyo is the highest velocity card in the deck, ensuring that we reach past the point of failure by digging for the pieces we need and constantly shrinking our library so that a larger and larger percentage of our library is Nexus of Fate. Search for Azcanta is the card we most want to play on turn 2 behind growth spiral, and it too accelerates our gameplan and mitigates failrate, especially with Wilderness Reclamation in play. Tamiyo works to flip Search incredibly fast, often the turn after both cards are in play, which gives you more mana to work with and the ability to see upwards of 9 cards a turn. The win condition I have chosen is Callous Dismissal, because I wanted to be able to have two blast zones in the manabase, and did not want the third colorless land for consisstency reasons. Of the non-land win conditions, I think Callous Dismissal is the option that has the most utility in getting you to survive to your endgame, which is far and away my most important metric. Commence the Endgame costs a prohibitive amount of mana, and when the engine is so consistent with four Search and four Tamiyo, your primary goal is surviving until that engine is up and running. For the lands themselves, I am not running Biogenic Ooze, so I don’t need to fit in the guildgate, and I am up to 6 forests to make sure we can consistently cast Growth Spiral on 2 and have the ability to cast Arboreal Grazer early with regularity. I’m only playing three memorials because while they are very good at helping you “go off” with few resources, tapped lands are a cost that does add up.
Matchups and Sideboarding
The part you’re all here for, let’s be honest. While this will have a traditional looking in/out sideboard guide, I encourage you to read the accompanying text, where I will include play advice for the matchup, key mixups to consider, and additional options should you be playing with a different 75.
Out: 1 Opt, 4 Root Snare
In: 1 Spell Pierce, 2 Negate, 2 Crushing Canopy
Tamiyo has changed how these mirrors play out. Creatures like Biogenic Ooze no longer perform particularly well, as they take too many turn cycles to actually threaten a kill on your opponent. In my experience the goal is a careful race to taking all the turns, holding up countermagic and not allowing your opponent to have a nexus of fate with your shields down. Tamiyo can rebuy countered or destroyed reclamations, countermagic, bounce effects, and Blast Zone. Blast Zone can play an important role here as well, threatening to blow up search or threatening to sit at 4 counters and blow your opponents engine pieces up. Mana advantage matters a lot here, and spell pierce is incredibly powerful at pushing through your threats and your Nexus of Fates. Many people have been tempted by Narset’s Reversal here, but it not being able to deny opposing engine pieces is not worth the potential to copy a Nexus. If you want a hammer for the mirror, Spell Pierce is it. Narset is also a reasonable option, as there’s a lot of draw-go and she can come down early or with countermagic still up while denying Chemister’s Insights to pull ahead. Kefnet is tempting, but like Biogenic Ooze is too slow to kill, and is largely less flexible than being able to reset opposing engine pieces with Blink of an Eye or Callous Dismissal.
Mono Red Aggro
Out: 1 Opt, 1 Blink of an Eye, 1 Callous Dismissal, 1 Negate, 1 Search for Azcanta, 1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales, 1 Nexus of Fate
In: 3 Arboreal Grazer, 2 God-Eternal Kefnet, 2 Bond of Flourishing
This matchup is still a rough one, but War of the Spark gave us a pair of solid sideboard cards in Aboreal Grazer and Bond of Flourishing. Grazer buys us a lot of time while also skipping us ahead in a critical resource: lands in play. This gives us more opportunities play engine pieces or Kefnet on turn three, which is one of our best paths to victory. Because this is the play pattern we’re looking for, this is one of the aggro matchups where we don’t trim a land. We need the land count to remain high to consistently enable both Grazer and Growth Spiral. Bond of Flourishing can help us dig and hit land drops while giving us a life buffer that Root Snare cannot supply in this matchup, and being able to return and recast it easily with Tamiyo means we can dig out of burn range when we can chain Root Snares but not Nexus of Fate. After some dedicated postboard testing of this matchup, this package was the option I found that gave us the best odds with the fewest narrow sideboard slots. This is one of the aggro matchups where Grazer is significantly better than Augur of Bolas despite there being no fliers involved. The velocity is simply that important, as monored is not a deck you can safely chain Root Snares against, and you need to get to “go mode” as soon as possible. You may be tempted to bring in Murmuring Mystic, but unlike Kefnet Mystic cannot race and mystic does not stop your opponent repeatedly attacking around it for little or no punishment.
Out: 1 Opt, 1 Negate, 1 Search for Azcanta, 1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales, 1 Nexus of Fate, 1 Memorial to Genius
In: 3 Arboreal Grazer, 2 God-Eternal Kefnet, 1 Murmuring Mystic
This matchup, however, drastically improved with the addition of Tamiyo. Previously, white aggro opponents could simply present a lethal board every turn, and wait until you failed to find Root Snare or Nexus of Fate for even one turn. Tamiyo gives you so many more looks to find it and recycles previously used Root Snares to more consistently lock them out of combat damage, their only way to beat you. While Azorius versions now have Dovin’s Veto, that actually doesn’t affect this matchup. Without our own countermagic, Veto is the same as Negate. They can still definitely combine pressure and countermagic in a lethal way, but Callous Dismissal is actually quite powerful against their creatures and their enchantment based removal, and bouncing a Conclave Tribunal that had Tamiyo underneath immediately allows you rebuy the bounce effect to unlock anything else under an enchantment and give you safety if they try to Tribunal Tamiyo again. Don’t feel too pressured to go for full nexus chains here, as Root Snare is almost as good as Nexus of Fate in this matchup, especially before they board in countermagic. Lastly, Blast Zone is incredible here. They do have a variety of casting costs, but against their fastest draws Blast Zone allows you to destroy their board and their clock for a mere 4 mana. If you have Augur of Bolas, it’s incredible here, since it may whiff but it blocks quite well and digs us to Root Snares fantastically. Bond of Flourishing is skipped here because they tend to have an overwhelming amount of damage on board and Flourish doesn’t change the math.
Side Note:I have not played against Heroic strategies yet, but I would use the same sideboard plan as I do here against white aggro
Mono Blue Aggro
Out: 2 Opt, 1 Blink of an Eye, 1 Callous Dismissal 1 Negate, 2 Root Snare, 1 Search for Azcanta, 1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales, 1 Nexus of Fate, 1 Memorial to Genius
In: 3 Arboreal Grazer, 2 Kraul Harpooner, 2 God-Eternal Kefnet, 1 Murmuring Mystic, 1 Spell Pierce, 2 Crushing Canopy
Mono Blue has largely disappeared from the metagame, but is still a very frustrating matchup. They simply are far leaner of a deck than you, and pack a significant amount of countermagic against you. Arboreal Grazer can thankfully buy some time against their 1/1s wearing Curious Obsession, but I don’t expect people to take too long to figure out that they’re just supposed to suit up Merfolk Trickster or Mist-Cloaked Herald against us. Kefnet is thankfully a giant blocker that doesn’t get Negated or Spell Pierced, but is still susceptible to Wizard’s Retort and Disdainful Stroke, and will stay in the graveyard if countered. If you are playing Augur of Bolas, this is one of the matchups where I think it suffers, and I would not bring it in. The miss rate is too high and it simply cannot block their creatures.
Out: 2 Opt, 1 Callous Dismissal
In: 2 God-Eternal Kefnet, 1 Negate
While dwindling in popularity, Sultai Midrange remains a very favorable matchup for us. Their creatures cannot easily contest a Tamiyo, and Root Snare is nearly as good as Nexus of Fate here as well. Outside of Disdainful Stroke they cannot answer Kefnet, and while they can pack discard and countermagic, their clock is usually too slow to kill you before you find more engine pieces and overpower them. Callous Dismissal comes out instead of Blink of an Eye because instant speed means we can reset their creatures for a larger span of time and hold up more options on their turn. Beware of Davriel, as he can cause us to discard a lot of cards before we get Tamiyo into play to protect our hand, especially when powered out by Llanowar Elf. Biogenic Ooze can be very powerful here as a threat they can’t duress, and it’s one of the ways to abuse Reclamation that can’t be negated.
Out: 1 Opt, 4 Growth Spiral, 4 Root Snare
In: 2 Arboreal Grazer, 2 Kraul harpooner, 2 God-Eternal Kefnet, 2 Negate, 1 Crushing Canopy
I want to talk about this matchup and how to play it, because a lot of people have been asking how this can possibly be a favorable matchup when Esper has countermagic, Thought Erasure, and Teferis. The real secret here is that they only have five or six counterspells in the maindeck, and they’re never allowed to counter Nexus of Fate. You play more cantrips than they do, and should be able to get more lands into play than them. Once you get to 7 mana you get to heavily tax their mana, because any time they tap you, you cast Nexus of Fate and take a free turn with no resistance, which often means you win when you have that much mana in play. You can push their mana in another way by casting Nexus of Fate on their end step for a brutal catch-22. If they counter Nexus, you untap and take a turn with them tapped out. If they don’t you have two entire turns with at least seven mana and you should be able to force through an engine piece by sheer brute force. If they pass with five mana, they can at most counter two cards. If you have three spells you can play, they simply cannot keep up. When you play it well, you can even make sure that Tamiyo is the last piece down, and you can return and recast Wilderness Reclamation to just completely bury them. Even if they have Teferi, Time Raveler in game one, you can simply mainphase all your Growth Spirals, Chemister’s Insights, and even Nexus of Fate until you’ve amassed a mana advantage and assembled the torrent of spells you’d like to overwhelm them with, then bounce Teferi (or destroy him with Blast Zone) and you’re all set. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria looks scary on the opposing board, but realistically we don’t care about this Teferi until he’s about to ultimate. Regardless of how many cards they draw, our goal is still to pressure their mana and the very limited number of counterspells they run total. Postboard can be a more difficult matchup, but I’ve found that Arboreal Grazer can be a very powerful way to get under Duress and get around Negate to answer Thief of Sanity proactively, as the only removal left in their deck is Mortify, and if they spend Mortify on Grazer you can often leverage that and squeeze their counterspells even harder. If your opponent does bring in enchantments beyond the usual two Search for Azcanta (like Ixalan’s Binding), you can bring in the second Crushing Canopy and Spell Pierce instead of the two Arboreal Grazers. Dovin’s Veto can seem really brutal, but Negate is often to deny their spells, and our goal is to resolve one of our own spells by overwhelming their mana. Don’t be afraid to tick Blast Zone up to three ahead of time, we are rarely destroying their Search with it, we have no permanents of our own at three mana, and Teferi, Time Reveler, Narset, Parter of Veils, and Thief of Sanity all cost three mana and are our biggest headaches. Biogenic Ooze can be potent here since they will be low on spot removal and the token(s) can stick around to take out planeswalkers.
Out: 1 Opt, 4 Growth Spiral, 4 Root Snare
In: 2 Kraul Harpooner, 2 God-Eternal Kefnet, 1 Spell Pierce, 2 Negate, 2 Crushing Canopy
UB control plays Kefnet, so Grazer is worse and Crushing Canopy is more powerful despite the lack of additional enchantments. You can employ the same general game plan as against Esper Control, but it’s even easier without having to worry about Mortify, Despark, and Teferi, Time Raveler. Without Dovin’s Veto involved you’re also able to negate to push threats through, and they cannot destroy a resolved Reclamation without Blast Zone at 4 or an Ugin, the Ineffable.
Esper Midrange/Esper Hero
Out: 2 Opt, 1 Negate, 4 Root Snare, 1 Nexus of Fate
In: 3 Arboreal Grazer, 2 Kraul Harpooner, 2 God-Eternal Kefnet, 1 Murmuring Mystic
Unlike Esper Control, these decks can actually back their disruption up with a clock, and they maindeck Thief of Sanity. Root Snare and countermagic are a lot less exciting, and it’s more about developing a competing board and backing that up with engine pieces after. Grazer is still solid here, and you really want to jump out a 4 drop if possible. We don’t bring in negates for the same reason that Dovin’s Veto is annoying but not backbreaking: negate is to stop their threats, not push through ours. Negate doesn’t stop threats in this matchup, and we can’t win counter wars through Dovin’s Veto. If you’re playing Biogenic Ooze it can shine here, but beware Deputy of Detention and Hostage Taker.
Gruul Warriors/Stompy Decks
Out: 1 Negate, 1 Search for Azcanta, 1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
In: 2 God-Eternal Kefnet, 1 Murmuring Mystic
Our base gameplan is solid here, they can’t really interact with fogs and their main plan is to put a lot of power into play and threaten lethal every turn the way white aggro decks can, but they’re slower to assemble that critical mass and far more open to Blink of an Eye and Callous Dismissal. Gruul Spellbreaker is the exception here as it has hexproof on their turn and can be hasted in to maintain a clock. This is one of the matchups where God-Eternal Kefnet really shines. The 4/5 statline is bigger than almost everything they have and is nearly impossible for them to remove outside of Collision//Colossus. Murmuring Mystic is less good into their trample threats and Steel Leaf Champion, but it can hold off Nullhide Ferox and Rekindling Phoenix while you set up and that’s a powerful option. Take the early turns to set up and try and bounce their 4/5 mana plays, check the math to make sure they can’t kill you with a God-Eternal Rhonas or Domri, Anarch of Bolas if you’re trying to bounce a threat and hold onto a Root Snare for later. Cindervines and Thrashing Brontodon are their most potent pieces of interaction against you, but you can still set up to play through them or force them to sacrifice their clock or risk getting Nexus’d. Blast Zone isn’t at its best here, but they have a heavy density of threats at two and at three cmc and you can buy a lot of time if you catch two or three threats with it.
Out: 2 Opt, 1 Callous Dismissal, 4 Root Snare
In: 2 God-Eternal Kefnet, 1 Spell Pierce, 2 Negate, 2 Crushing Canopy
Temur Reclamation is the other deck capable of producing an absurd quantity of mana with Wilderness Reclamation, but their outlet is Expansion//Explosion instead of Nexus of Fate. Keep in mind with Ral, Storm Conduit that they can perform an infinite combo with just 5 mana, and if they use Ral’s -2 and just pass priority, do not cast a spell that can be the target of Expansion unless you have countermagic ready to break up the resulting infinite combo. The combo itself is simply having Expansion on the stack targeting another Expansion, because once the top Expansion resolves, it becomes an Expansion copy and you can change the target to the other Expansion still on the stack. Normally this doesn’t achieve anything, but Ral’s static ability will deal you one damage each iteration of this. We have a more powerful engine overall, but they will have a far more immediate kill. Many of these lists also play Niv Mizzet in the maindeck, and those that don’t play it in the sideboard. Beating a Niv Mizzet in play can be extremely difficult unless you have a Blast Zone or bounce effect immediately. We sideboard in Kefnet to try and pull ahead with a threat that cannot be Negated, and we bring in canopy to help beat their Reclamations and Niv Mizzets. Callous dismissal is too risky here at sorcery speed, and Spell Pierce once again shines.
Out: 1 Blink of an Eye, 1 Callous Dismissal, 4 Growth Spiral, 4 Root Snare
In: 2 Kraul Harpooner, 2 God-Eternal Kefnet, 1 Murmuring Mystic, 1 Spell Pierce, 2 Negate, 2 Crushing Canopy
These decks can be deceptively difficult to beat. Unlike Teferi, Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God is actively threatening our resources while they use the card draw mode. Nicol Bolas can also use Tamiyo’s ability to rebuy spells in the yard, though in those scenarios Nicol Bolas usually just destroys Tamiyo instead. Grazer does not come in because Grixis tends to play some mix of Kefnet, Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, and Rekindling Phoenix, all of which embarass Grazer. Spell Pierce comes in becacuse they don’t have access to as much mana as Esper does via Teferi, but they also don’t have Dovin’s Veto so we are actually able to force our threats through, and Grixis generally cannot remove a Wilderness Reclamation or Search for Azcanta without Ugin, the Ineffable. if you can avoid it, don’t let Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God resolve, because losing a card in hand or permanent in play every turn can very quickly create an unwinnable position when trying to set up a mana advantage or a safe turn to deploy engine pieces. If you play Biogenic Ooze it’s incredible here as they don’t have access to as many good ways to get rid of it as Esper does and they can’t touch a Reclamation.
Out: 2 Opt, 1 Negate
In: 3 Arboreal Grazer
These decks simply don’t apply enough pressure to kill you quickly, they suffer into Root Snare and have no ability to counter it, and they have very little interaction for your engine pieces. Against aristocrats specifically, be aware of them using God-Eternal Bontu to try and burn you out with Cruel Celebrant, Judith, the Scourge Diva, and/or Mayhem Devil. This is one of the ways they can kill you without getting into combat.
Out: 2 Opt, 4 Root Snare
In: 2 God-Eternal Kefnet, 1 Murmuring Mystic, 1 Spell Pierce, 2 Negate
I do not like the matchup into the deck that can -3 Teferi, Time Raveler targeting their own Frilled Mystic. Both of those cards are incredibly powerful against us, and together they just get worse. We want to sideboard to play kind of like a weird creature deck with a combo backup plan, and Root Snare really doesn’t do anything for us here since they don’t attack for a lot and they can take their time killing us with the amount of control they have. Kefnet is our best option but also gives them a great Teferi target. If you have Biogenic Ooze it’s pretty solid here, but be careful not to get it Frilled Mystic’d.
This article ended up being much longer than I had originally intended, but I wanted to do more than a quick writeup and sideboard blurbs. I hope I was able to give you all my week’s worth of experience in tuning the deck for the new standard format, and I hope this article hasn’t gone up too late for you all to take in before SCG Richmond and the MCQs happening this weekend. As usual you can find me on Twitter @yoman_5 and I stream on Twitch at twitch.tv/yoman5. I’ll be playing this 75 tomorrow in my own MCQ, and I wish you all luck in your events this weekend!
Adam “yoman5” Hernandez is an up-and-coming pro player, recently earning an invite to MC Cleveland with a top 8 finish at GP Milwaukee. He has a strong focus on figuring out key aspects of decks, matches, and gameplay, digging past the what to figure out the why. In addition to his written content, Adam regularly streams on Twitch.