Last updated on May 1, 2023

Fathom Mage - Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Fathom Mage | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

The Simic () guild in Ravnica cares about growth, evolution, and (in MTG’s terms) +1/+1 counters. It’s always been this way, and the mechanic I’m going to highlight today is all about growth and evolution. That’s right, today I’m talking about evolve.

Evolve nailed the feeling of evolution that the Simic so crave, and it’s a fun and interesting mechanic. It deals with +1/+1 counters, which interests a good part of EDH and Doubling Season players.

Today I’m going to go through the rules, the precious few creatures with the mechanic, and a fun casual deck built around some of the most efficient evolve creatures and some combo-y interactions. Ready? Let’s dive in!

How Does Evolve Work?

Battering Krasis - Illustration by Jack Wang

Battering Krasis | Illustration by Jack Wang

Evolve is a creature mechanic. It’s a triggered ability that happens whenever a creature enters the battlefield on your side.

The evolve trigger is a stat comparison that checks both power and toughness separately. If the power or toughness of the new creature entering the battlefield on your side is bigger than the power or toughness of your evolve creature already on the battlefield, then the evolve creature gets a +1/+1 counter (evoking the feeling of evolving, growing stronger). Let’s see an example.

Turn 1 you play Experiment One. Next turn you play Shambleshark. The 2-powered creature evolves Experiment One, making it a 2/2. Then you can play a 4/3 on the next turn, evolving both Shambleshark and Experiment One and attacking for six.

The History of Evolve in MTG

Evolve was created as the Simic guild mechanic in the second Ravnica block in 2013. Gatecrash had five guilds, and one of them was the Simic guild. Since they usually have a theme of growing, experiment, and +1/+1 counters, the mechanic evolve was created for them and it made sense there.

Evolve is found mainly on green and blue cards. Gatecrash had 11 cards with the mechanic while Dragon’s Maze had two. Other sets with the mechanic were Modern Horizons, with the first black evolve card, Modern Horizons 2 had one, and Warhammer 40k also had one. That brings evolve to just 16 cards in three colors, mainly blue and green.

Evolve will probably continue to be used in supplementary sets like Commander precons with a design or two.

Does Evolve Stack?

Yes, evolve stacks. If a creature has more than one instance of evolve then both triggers go to the stack whenever a creature enters the battlefield. Each of them resolves separately and compares the power of the evolve creature and the power of the new creature, and the same thing goes for toughness.

Let’s say a 2/2 with two instances of evolve sees a 4/4 entering play. It evolves twice, but it would only evolve once if a 3/3 entered the battlefield.

When Does a Creature Evolve?

The evolve trigger happens whenever a new creature enters the battlefield. The comparisons between powers or toughness happen to see if the +1/+1 counter will be applied at that point.

A creature can evolve only once per creature entering the battlefield. A creature that’s already on the battlefield growing won’t evolve another creature.

Gallery and List of Evolve Cards

Best Evolve Cards

#5. Gyre Sage

Gyre Sage

Gyre Sage looks like a weak mana dork, but it can generate healthy doses of mana thanks to evolve and some +1/+1 counters synergies you might have. It’s one of the better dorks in decks that care about counters, plus it’s an elf.

#4. Tyranid Prime

Tyranid Prime

A 0/4 with evolve is bound to get bigger, at least to a 2/6 or 3/7 with no effort. Tyranid Prime also gives all your other creatures evolve, so every 6/6 and 7/7 you play afterwards will distribute +1/+1 counters around like a boss in a green big creature deck.

#3. Cloudfin Raptor

Cloudfin Raptor

Cloudfin Raptor was a mainstay of its Standard format in mono blue devotion. Early drops in a devotion deck are very important, and one that gets bigger as the match goes is better. This adds evasion and can often hit as a 2/3 or 3/4 flier, all for an investment of a single mana.

#2. Experiment One

Experiment One

Experiment One had its day in the sun as a premier 1-drop for zoo decks. It only asks that you play creatures on curve in order to keep evolving.

Just play a 2/2 and a 3/3 and you’ll have a nice Wild Nacatl-like card. It can even regenerate if you remove two counters.

#1. Fathom Mage

Fathom Mage

Fathom Mage is especially good in Commander decks with a +1/+1 counters theme. You’ll draw a lot of cards from it, and you can transfer some counters to the Mage and keep drawing new cards. It’s an infinite card-draw combo with Wizard Class too since you’ll be putting counters on the seer, drawing cards, and doing it again.

It’s fragile as a 1/1 for four mana, though, so take extra care.

Decklist: Simic Evolve in Modern

Experiment One - Illustration by Jack Wang

Experiment One | Illustration by Jack Wang


This is an adapted budget Simic deck built around 2018 for Modern. The core of the deck are the early drops consisting of Cloudfin Raptor and Experiment One, alongside the undying creatures.

The idea is to proactively use Pongify or Rapid Hybridization on your creatures to produce at least a 3/3 creature and evolve your 1/1s and 0/1s. And if you Pongify a Young Wolf it comes back as a 2/2. This can be a very explosive play.

You’ll apply tempo cards like Vapor Snag and Remand to keep the moment going your way. Boon Satyr is a threat that can evolve your creatures at instant speed while Become Immense can win the game out of nowhere.

Wrap Up

Tyranid Prime - Illustration by Mathias Kollros

Tyranid Prime | Illustration by Mathias Kollros

That’s all for me today on evolve. This is an interesting mechanic, but it has a small design space. You’ll also need a mix of weird creatures to keep triggering it.

It’s hard to see a set with evolve as one of the main mechanics, but some sets will probably have cards like Pelt Collector, which is a riff on evolve. Not to mention that mechanics that are made for Ravnica guilds are usually too narrow and don’t fit the theme of other sets. One of the best parts of evolve is that these creatures can easily get counters in a +1/+1 counters deck, which in part makes the synergies even better.

Do you play evolve creatures in your Commander decks? Let me know in the comments below or discuss it on the Draftsim Twitter.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe!

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