Do Your Worst - Simic Burn

(Primal Order | Art by Rob Alexander)

I Set Fire to the Rain

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another installment of Do Your Worst, where we take a popular archetype and find the most unusual home for it! I'm your host, Philomène, and in this column, we look at decks that shouldn't be... or should they?

Today is a special day for all Simic Burn enthusiasts (yes, all three of you)! It turns out that I am teaming up with Commander's Herald author Unsummoned Skull, author of the PokeDecks column, who is also writing about Simic burn today! In his column, he works with an alter artist and brews a deck around a particular Pokémon's moves, which often leads to very particular builds! It's going to be interesting to compare how differently we approached the challenge of building a burn deck in Simic colors.

And let me tell you, a challenge it was! But let's start from the beginning.

Red deck wins. Face is the place. Going upstairs. "Any target". SMOrc.

Burn isn't just an archetype. It's a way of life.

Today, we'll bring burn to its most unlikely color combination. We already know it's going to be Simic, but let's go through our little statistics box nonetheless. Here are the top five color combinations for the burn archetype:

The top five commanders for these colors are Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, Firesong and Sunspeaker, Ghyrson Starn, Kelermorph, Tor Wauki the Younger and Klothys, God of Destiny. Let's take those five average decks, put together all the relevant cards, and see what color spread we get.

To be completely fair, I feel like black should have a bigger portion of this pie. The color is so good at hurting people! Just look at Mogis, God of Slaughter or Obosh, the Preypiercer decks, for example. I'm thinking of cards like Painful Quandary, Exsanguinate or even just Gary. Still, blue and green are clearly the worst choices here.

Time to brew a Simic deck that actually has a win condition!

The Research

My first inclination is always to go down the list of potential commanders and check if any of them might relate to our theme. Well, only three Simic commanders have the word "damage" on them: Edric, Spymaster of Trest, Jolrael, Voice of Zhalfir and Nael, Avizoa Aeronaut. Yikes. They all trigger on creatures dealing damage to our opponents, which isn't what burn is about. We're looking to kill our opponents with noncombat damage, dang it!

The list of Simic commanders is filled with powerful cards, but there isn't a single one that jumps out to me as a burn commander. We'll just have to go the other way around: build the deck, and see what commander fits best at the end.

So, if creatures are out of the equation... how does Simic deal damage, exactly?

Here I Am, Rock You Like a Hurricane

Green, believe it or not, actually has some ways to deal damage to each player. Hurricane, Squall Line and Borrowing the East Wind all have something in common: they can be pumped full of mana and deliver a one hit K.O. to the table. I know the spells hurt us too. I'll cover that later. I think these play into one of Simic's greatest strengths: generating inordinate amounts of mana. In that same vein, Goblin Cannon might be useful. With enough mana, we can activate its ability in response to its own trigger to put a lot of damage on the stack.

Other options include Canopy Surge. If we kick it, it can deal four damage to everyone for four mana which, in our colors, is a rate we're happy with! Claws of Wirewood is worse, but we can cycle it if it doesn't fit with our current hand.

All these spells also have the benefit of getting rid of flying creatures. Take that, Talrand! But can blue help us deal damage too?

The words "any target" are pretty useful in a burn deck, simply because we like the flexibility: we can choose to hit the player with the most life, or maybe kill a value creature. There is one type of card in blue that deals damage to any target: pingers.

Tim, Rootwater Hunter, Suq'Ata Firewalker, Zuran Spellcaster are all three-mana pingers. Thornwind Faeries has flying, which is a nonbo with Hurricane, but you can't make an omelette au fromage without breaking eggs and grating cheese. We only have three pingers that are above three mana: Stuffy Doll, Fledgling Mawcor and Reveka, Wizard Savant. You might question the choice of Reveka, but Simic is also good at untapping stuff! With cards like Seedborn Muse or Kiora's Follower and some pingers, we can deal a lot of damage in one turn rotation. They also untap our lands, which works well with our big mana plan.

With tapping synergies, it's only logical to include Throne of the God-Pharaoh.

Now for a few hidden gems. You've read correctly: Psionic Blast and Mind Bomb are indeed blue cards. That's wild! Soul Barrier is another nice one. It's more of a tax effect, but two mana is pretty expensive. Folks will often take the damage instead, at least for a few turns. Primal Order can be pretty gnarly against greedy manabases, and it's the reason why we'll prioritize playing basic lands in our deck. I discovered Storm Seeker in my Selesnya Wheels article, and it's still awesome here as a green Sudden Impact!

In terms of damage payoffs, we really only have Notorious Throng, but it's awesome if we get to damage our opponents a lot in a single turn!

The Hurt Locker

Let's cover our essentials to make sure our deck "does the thing".


Since we're running untappers and Ankh of Mishra in the deck, I think mana dorks are our best mana acceleration plan. Creatures that can tap for more than one mana, like Bloom Tender, are especially useful. But why stop there? Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy makes all our mana dorks tap for an additional mana, and Cryptolith Rite turns all our creatures into mana dorks! Wow, Simic doing Simic things.

Card Advantage and Velocity

Tapping and untapping you say? Arcanis the Omnipotent is great in this deck! Merfolk Looter and Unctus, Grand Metatect also synergize with our plan and help us forge the perfect hand. Pull from Tomorrow and Harmonize are just generic card draw spells that help us refill our hand and keep going if we ever run out of gas. Card advantage is also possibly something that we can look for in the command zone. We'll keep that in mind.


Here are three spells that I find very neat: Vapor Snag, Glissa's Scorn and Psychic Barrier. They're nothing to write home about, but they make our opponents lose life, which is exactly what we want to do in this deck! Saryth, the Viper's Fang does it all: she turns our pingers into removal, protects them when they are untapped, and can untap a land or creature. Nice! As for board wipes, Curse of the Swine works well if we make a lot of mana, and Eugene can bolt someone's face when he doesn't exile the majority of the board.


The glaring flaw in our plan right now is that we're going to die to our own huge Hurricane. How can we work around that? We have two main ways: prevent the damage done to us, or have more life than our opponents when we cast the finishing blow. Glacial Chasm will help us with the first, while Essence Warden can help us with the second. Titania's Command helps us with both, since it can find us Glacial Chasm and buff our life total by exiling an opponent's graveyard.

With the deck now complete, it's time to choose the lead singer!

If You Play With Water, You Get Burned

I tried a lot of commanders while brewing this pile.

First, I tried the partner pair of Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator and Halana, Kessig Ranger. Malcom could generate some mana and Halana could damage creatures, which was close enough for me. Unfortunately, the creatures in our deck aren't very big, so Halana wasn't that effective. Malcom was good but didn't synergize that well with the rest of the deck. Next.

Why not go for two mana-dorks in the command zone? I tried Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood and Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix as Partners. It was pretty good, but I ran out of gas quickly and there weren't that many spells with mana value six or more in the deck, so we weren't drawing that many cards with Gilanra. Next.

The man himself. Thrasios is powerful, don't get me wrong, but I didn't like having to reveal my draws. A big portion of our plan is to cast a big flashy spell and if people know it's coming, they're more likely to keep up interaction. Also, Thrasios is a known threat at many tables and I felt the deck didn't match the heat he generates. Next.

I ended up hesitating between two very similar cards: Zimone, Quandrix Prodigy and Gretchen Titchwillow. They're both very interchangeable Simic value engines, but I finally selected Zimone, Quandrix Prodigy just because her abilities require her to tap, which has synergy in our deck. I also really like having Zimone as the face of a burn deck for some reason.

A Simic burn deck: that's what you get when you study axiomatic leyline paratrigonometrics!

And there we have it! Let's see what the deck as a whole looks like!

⚗️ Take a Burn for the Worst - Simic Burn

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Quandrix Command | Art by Viktor Titov

Burning With a Low Blue Flame

I want to quickly go through some notable exclusions:

  • There are a lot of janky old blue and green cards that deal damage. I tried my best to play as many of them as I could, but most of them are just too bad to be included. Among my favorites were Psychic Allergy, Ichneumon Druid and Reverberation.
  • You might wonder why Birds of Paradise isn't in this deck; it's a flyer that dies to Squall Line. I know I said the exact opposite earlier for Thornwind Faeries, but we have far less choices for pingers than mana dorks, so the Fairies stay, and the Birds go.
  • Remarkably absent are Dramatic Reversal and Isochron Scepter. They make a ton of sense in this deck, but they take the power level a little too high for me. They are totally valid choices though.
  • Knight Paladin was in the deck for a long time during my testing, but I decided to take it out. Five mana to deal four damage to each opponent is okay, but it would be so much better if our deck could reuse its ETB trigger, or had artifact synergies. The lack of both of these things made the card feel a little lackluster.

Comparing my deck with Unsummoned Skull's list featured in his article, I'm not surprised that we both ended up going for Squall Line, Hurricane and Borrowing the East Wind. The rest of our decks are quite different though! For his commander, he recognizes the need for lifegain and goes for Tatyova, Benthic Druid. The deck focuses on making everyone draw cards and punishes opponents for their hand size with tools like Iron Maiden. This is played in a strong control shell with lots of bounce effects like Devastation Tide, which I guess makes sense from someone named Unsummoned Skull! It's really cool to see how differently we approached the challenge of building Simic burn.

If you like unusual decks or enjoy Pokémon, check out the Pokedecks series!

But what do you think? How would you build a Simic burn deck, or just a burn deck without any black or red? Would you have picked another commander than Zimone for the task? Are there any sweet cards or synergies that I missed? Let me know in the comments! I'm Philomène, and this has been Do Your Worst. See you next time!

Philomène is a film composer from Montréal, Canada. Her love of card games started in the late 90's with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z and of course, Magic: The Gathering. Preferring a more casual kind of game in commander (art and lore being very high on her list of reasons to play cards), she satiates her competitive urges through Limited formats.

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