Yesterday I broke down Jun Young Park's GP Minneapolis-winning Scapeshift deck. I analyzed his card choices and theory behind them, talked some strategy, and I shared a sideboarding guide against the most popular archetypes. Today I am going to focus on the actual mechanics of playing the Scapeshift deck.
In this article you will find all sorts of tips and tricks for playing the Scapeshift deck. I recorded myself playing Scapeshift in a Modern eight-player queue up through the Finals. While hardly a comprehensive look at all matchups, the videos are great for showcasing how the deck operates, and the opportunities and pitfalls therein. I discuss all my plays and thoughts along the way.
Here's the list I played:
First, the videos!
Round 1: Scapeshift vs. RG Tron
Round 2: Scapeshift vs. Melira Pod
Round 3: Scapeshift vs. Unburial Gifts
The tournament was anything but pretty, but it was a great showing for my first spin around the block with Scapeshift. I'll take it.Tips and Tricks
Scapeshift can go off with seven lands, dealing 18 damage. Electrolyze and Snapcaster Mage are useful for closing the gap. Sakura-Tribe Elder is also capable, so don't necessarily sacrifice it immediately.
The earliest Scapeshift can win the game is turn four, assuming there are three acceleration spells over the first three turns.
Here's a little chart showing various relevant Scapeshift land sacrifice/damage dealt combinations:
6 land -> 1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle + 5 Mountain = 0 triggers = 0 damage7 land -> 1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle + 6 Mountain = 6 triggers = 18 damage8 land -> 1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle + 7 Mountain = 7 triggers = 21 damage8 land -> 2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle + 6 Mountain = 12 triggers = 36 damage6 land, keeping 1 Mountain in play -> 1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle + 5 Mountain = 5 triggers = 15 damage6 land, keeping 2 Mountain in play -> 2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle + 4 Mountain = 8 triggers = 24 damage
When going off with Scapeshift it's not always necessary to sacrifice all lands, and sometimes it will be important to keep some Mountains in play in order to maintain the six necessary for Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Searching up two Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle turns each Mountain in the deck into six damage, and this is the best way to get around a low Mountain count remaining in the deck.
The most important thing to keep in mind at all times is the number of Mountains in the deck.
The most damage Scapeshift can ever do is 60, assuming all Mountains enter play with two Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in play. In practice, the number is considerably lower. Always be aware of Mountains left in the deck and your potential damage output. It's rare other than against Soul Sisters and Bogles, but there are times you will need to prevent the opponent from gaining too much life.
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle triggers check for number of Mountains upon resolution, meaning if you have just six Mountains and the opponent removes one Mountain with the Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle triggers on the stack, all the other triggers will deal 0 damage. (The one removed Mountain will still trigger because it sees the other five+ Mountains still on the battlefield) Play around this by ensuring 7 or more Mountains are in play upon resolving Scapeshift. It's also important to tap all lands and float mana before casting Scapeshift, in case an opponent has interaction after it resolves.
Once Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle triggers are on the stack, destroying Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle itself will do nothing to stop the triggers. The one exception to this would be if Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle itself was a Mountain because of something like Prismatic Omen, which this list does not play.
One corner-case situation is that if you must protect a game-winning Scapeshift with Cryptic Command, don't choose "draw a card" if it opens up the possibility of drawing a Mountain and leaving you with too few to win with. This is unavoidable with Remand, so in these situations use it as a last resort.
It's possible to speed up the kill and possibly surprise the opponent by casting Sakura-Tribe Elder or Search from Tomorrow to hit the critical mass of lands, immediately followed by Scapeshift on the same turn.
Serum Visions and Telling Time have a little bit of synergy. One option is to cast Serum Visions first, scry a card to the top, then using Telling Time to grab it. Another play is to use Telling Time first, then use Serum Visions to draw the card put on top. The order is basically a wash, so in any particular game I'd sequence them based on other factors. In many cases it will be best to cast them separately in order to get the maximum amount of digging potential from each card.
When used by itself, Telling Time leaves one card on top. It's best used in conjunction with a shuffle effect as a way to potentially shuffle the top card in, slightly similar to how Brainstorm is used in Legacy.
Bouncing Snapcaster Mage with Cryptic Command is sometimes a great play. It's particularly useful in this deck to tap opposing attackers/bounce Snapcaster Mage, then flashback Cryptic Command the next turn to effectively Fog a second time. It can be repeated again with each extra Cryptic Command in the graveyard.
Scapeshift is a strong Modern deck that's not going anywhere. It straddles the line between combo and control deck, and it has advantages of both types of deck. With a slew of removal, Counterspells, and card draw, Scapeshift can play a convincing control deck. These cards allow it to interfere with the various powerful strategies in Modern and disrupt the opposing gameplan. On the other hand, Scapeshift is a combo deck that can go from 0 to 60 and win the game quickly. This hybrid deck has proven itself a winner that is here to stay, and it's a great choice for the upcoming Modern season and beyond.