Top 50 Standard Simic Keruga Midrange Deck Guide: Hit Em With the Hippo

Ashaya-Soul-of-the-Wild-Zendikar-Rising-MtG-Art

Hello everyone! Today, I’m are bringing you a Standard deck that’s definitely off the beaten path, but is already earning its stripes: Simic Keruga. Created by famous French brewer elliott_dragon, he navigated this spicy number to top 50 on the Standard ladder at the end of the month, the hardest time to climb to a high rank. Keruga has never been a popular companion, even with the old rule, but this may be the first deck to actually use it well. Before we go further, let’s take a look at this majestic piece.

Simic Keruga 

Companion
1
Keruga, the Macrosage
Creatures (23)
4
Cosima, God of the Voyage
4
Kazandu Mammoth
4
Brazen Borrower
4
Lovestruck Beast
4
Scute Swarm
3
Ashaya, Soul of the Wild
Spells (8)
4
Cultivate
4
Alrund's Epiphany
Enchantments (4)
4
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
Lands (25)
4
Barkchannel Pathway
4
Fabled Passage
9
Forest
4
Island
4
Temple of Mystery
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
4
Mystical Dispute
3
Saw It Coming
2
Esika's Chariot
2
Gemrazer
2
Elder Gargaroth
1
Keruga, the Macrosage
1
Koma, Cosmos Serpent

Scrumptious. The largest issue Keruga always had was the deckbuilding restriction. Only having access to cards that are 3 CMC or above is an unbelievable detriment which has functionally locked Keruga out of any sort of meaningful play, even with the old Companion rule. In a realistic sense, Keruga is likely the only companion to never really see play for any extended period due to how tough the restriction was. So what’s changed? Well there are finally enough cards that can offset the deck building requirement to make it a viable companion!

The most pivotal aspect of circumventing Keruga’s deck building restriction is to play cards that are 3 CMC or higher, but with cheaper alternate casting costs. There’s never been a time in Standard where there were enough cards to fit in this category, but with Kaldheim, there finally is. We have the obvious Adventure buddies of Lovestruck Beast and Brazen Borrower to act both as early spells and bodies. When Keruga was first being worked with, the Adventure creatures were the only early game the deck could have which quickly led to a brewing dead end. However, Kaldheim delivered 2 more cards that fit into this category: Alrund's Epiphany and Cosima, God of the Voyage. Although Alrund’s Epiphany isn’t a proactive 2 drop, being able to do anything on turn 2 is infinitely better than having to pass. Cosima is also extremely nice as the front side is a pretty reasonable card advantage engine and the back side is The Omenkeel, a 2 drop Vehicle that helps you find lands, something the deck is desperate to get.

That being said, the deck utilizes a lot of ramp elements to get ahead. There’s Kazandu Mammoth that functions both as a solid beater and a land. Dryad of the Ilysian Grove fixes your colors and lets you play additional lands for turn. Lastly, we have good old fashioned Cultivate for even more ramp. Why bother playing all the ramp spells? For the payoffs: Scute Swarm and Ashaya, Soul of the Wild. Scute Swarm is a cool engine that never really saw play, but is great in a deck with so much ramp. Ashaya, Soul of the Wild looks great here as well as a humongous 5 drop that turns your creatures into lands and synergizes amazingly well with Scute Swarm as well. To top it all off, you have Keruga to grab and play when you have an excess of mana and drawing 3+ cards is relatively common with this deck. Unlike many of the Keruga brews of the past, this deck has a really nice curve and a great balance of enablers and payoffs.

SIDEBOARDING AND MATCHUPS

Keruga, the Macrosage Art by Dan Scott
Keruga, the Macrosage Art by Dan Scott

DIMIR ROGUES

INOUT
+4 Mystical Dispute-4 Brazen Borrower
+3 Saw it Coming-3 Ashaya, Soul of the Wild
+2 Esika’s Chariot-3 Alrund’s Epiphany
+1 Koma, Cosmos Serpent

This matchup is unsurprisingly difficult as you are a relatively clunky deck and Rogues preys on clunky decks. That being said, Rogues has been an unpopular option for a few weeks now due to it’s meta positioning so it isn’t the most likely you’ll see it on ladder anyway. Nevertheless, the best way to win is to hope they don’t have too quick of a start and you can establish a threat with counter backup.

SULTAI ULTIMATUM

INOUT
+4 Mystical Dispute-4 Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
+3 Saw it Coming-3 Ashaya, Soul of the Wild
+2 Esika’s Chariot-3 Cultivate
+1 Koma, Cosmos Serpent

We have a great late game, but obviously Sultai also has a scary good late game. Your best bet is to lean down the deck a bit and add all the interaction we have. Although the ramp elements aren’t bad, having more threats or interaction is generally better. The best way to beat Sultai with this deck (or really any deck) is pressure backed up by a counterspell or two. Bonus points if your threats are harder to kill than normal creatures, like Vehicles.

GRUUL ADVENTURES

INOUT
+2 Esika’s Chariot-4 Scute Swarm
+2 Gemrazer-2 Cultivate
+2 Elder Gargaroth

Beating Gruul is going to be all about board positioning, and as much fun as Scute Swarm is, you realistically won’t have the time to make it good. Luckily, there are plenty of strong late game elements so nixing one of them isn’t a big deal at all. You need to go fast as Gruul can have insanely explosive starts with Magda and Jaspera Sentinel, but if they don’t have a great start, Simic can easily overwhelm them.

MONO RED AGGRO

INOUT
+2 Esika’s Chariot-2 Scute Swarm
+2 Gemrazer-4 Cultivate
+2 Elder Gargaroth

Pretty much everything I said about Gruul applies here as well. Monored can be a bit tougher since they’re definitely faster, but they also have a lot less grinding potential compared to Gruul. If you can blunt the early assault and set yourself up so you don’t just autolose to Embercleave, they don’t really have a way to win. 

MONO WHITE AGGRO

INOUT
+2 Esika’s Chariot-3 Ashaya, Soul of the Wild
+2 Gemrazer-3 Cultivate
+2 Elder Gargaroth

Out of all the aggro decks, Simic definitely prefers to face Monowhite compared to the others, outside of the occasional Luminarch Aspirant popping off. They sacrifice a decent amount of speed for resilience, but this deck isn’t really looking to interact so it doesn’t match up well against our plan. Beyond Maul of the Skyclaves or Reidane, God of the Worthy, they don’t really have a way to beat through Scute Swarm so that’ll be plan A. Furthermore, there’s just a lot of great threats and blockers in this list so as long as they don’t have the nuts, this should be a solid matchup.

JESKAI CYCLING

INOUT
+4 Mystical Dispute-4 Cosima, God of the Voyage
+3 Saw it Coming-3 Ashaya, Soul of the Wild
+2 Gemrazer-4  Alrund’s Epiphany
+2 Elder Gargaroth

Cycling is a complete toss up as their permanent heavy hands are going to be very hard to beat, but they’re permanent light hands you can definitely run over. Boarding in this many counterspells may seem egregious, but a lot of Cycling lists play 4 Disdainful Stroke and a bunch of Mystical Disputes as well. Similar to Sultai, your best bet is to establish a strong threat and hold up counterspells forever to stop their Zenith Flare.

IZZET DRAGONS

INOUT
+4 Mystical Dispute-4 Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
+3 Saw it Coming-2 Cultivate
+2 Esika’s Chariot-4 Alrund’s Epiphany
+1 Koma, Cosmos Serpent

Although it seems like Dragons should be a bad matchup, I actually think it’s pretty even (Dragons still has an edge, but not a huge one). This list has so many counterspells to keep them off balance and resolving even one decent threat can be a huge problem for them. Koma in particular is a nightmare for Dragons as they need exactly The Akroan War to ever have a chance of beating it. Ashaya is also a surprisingly good threat against them as it’s a huge beater that makes their Brazen Borrower nearly useless.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Dryad-of-the-Ilysian-Grove-Theros-Beyond-Death-Art
Dryad of Ilysian Grove by Scott Murphy
  • Most other Kazandu Mammoth decks view Mammoth as a beater that’s sometimes the land, for this list think the opposite
  • Since this deck mostly lacks early game, if your only turn 2 play is Petty Theft from Brazen Borrower, don’t be afraid to use it. Brazen Borrower is at it’s best later in the game, but using your mana early on is extremely important
  • Remember that Dryad of the Ilysian Grove isn’t exactly a color fixer, but it turns all your lands into lands of all basic types. This is a huge difference with Ashaya as all your creatures can tap for any color of mana.
  • Although you generally want to wait to play Scute Swarm until you have land 6, playing it out early and just getting a 1/1 isn’t a bad use either. 1/1s are very helpful in this deck since we play Lovestruck Beast
  • Scute Swarm tokens with land 6+ are clones of the original Scute Swarm so it keeps all the same characteristics. If you mutated a Gemrazer on top of Scute Swarm, you’ll get an army of 4/4s. Furthermore, all the tokens retain their mana value so they count towards Keruga as well!
  • The sideboard Esika’s Chariot can copy any token including Scute Swarm tokens. That’s generally a better target than a 2/2.
  • I mentioned this before, but Ashaya turns all your non-token creatures into lands so every creature you play triggers Scute Swarm and it also makes your non-token creatures Brazen Borrower proof.
  • Getting Keruga should be the functional last thing you do as it’s very mana intensive and doesn’t impact the board immediately. Think of it like a curve topping draw spell.

Thank you for reading!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is a streamer and high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, GW Company in Historic, and Temur Koma in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and teaching! Twitch Discord

2 Responses

  1. darint says:

    Looks like fun, and I *do* have a Keruga lying around. Speaking of which, unless I am having a senior moment it doesn’t look like Keruga is listed as a Companion for this deck, which it probably should be.

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