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Modern Hardened Scales – Deck Guide

One of the most common questions that players have about a deck is of course simply, “is this deck good?” Usually, when evaluating how good a deck is, you want to assume that the pilot of the deck is piloting it perfectly or close to it. That’s not to say that a deck being difficult to play inherently makes it better, but that you can only evaluate how competitive a difficult deck is if you see it in the hands of a master. There are many decks like this in Modern. Belcher, Titan and Yawgmoth are all examples of powerful competitive decks that shine in the hands of a master and fall flat in the hands of a novice. Another one of these decks is Hardened Scales, an artifact-based aggro deck that tries to take advantage of various synergies with +1/+1 counters and doubles all of these synergies with its namesake card, Hardened Scales.

Hardened Scales

In my opinion, Hardened Scales is currently the most underplayed deck in Modern. It’s powerful, resilient, consistent, grindy and got a ton of upgrades from Modern Horizons 2. The deck is also very difficult to play perfectly, and some of the play patterns can seem unintuitive. That being said, I firmly believe that with enough time and practice, any player can master any deck, and I highly recommend that if Hardened Scales is a deck that interests you, that you spend time learning it.  

This guide is not meant to be an exhaustive resource for how to pilot Scales, but is meant to serve as an introduction to get you in the door if this is an archetype that interests you. 

Make sure you plan out your turns carefully and do your math ahead of time. There’s a lot of math involved in piloting this deck and you’ll want to make sure that you carefully double check that the numbers line up the way you want them too before you take a line. You’ll get more used to some of the common plays as you learn the deck, but this isn’t a list that you can play with intuition. You’ll always need to make sure that you’re remembering your triggers and playing your turns carefully. If you find yourself having trouble remembering your triggers you can try playing it on Magic Online, where the client will remember your triggers for you.

Let’s take a look at a deck list. This list is a few cards off of the list Twitch Streamer MrSeri has been tuning, and I’ve been spending time learning it over the last couple of weeks. The deck has a lot of game in every matchup in my opinion, but can be soft to hate cards like Karn, the Great Creator, Force of Vigor and Wear // Tear. 

 

 

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Modern Hardened Scales by Evart Moughon

 

Header - Key Cards

There’s a lot of moving pieces here so I’d like to break down some of the most important ones, what role they serve, and how to use them.

Hardened Scales

This is the deck’s namesake card, and all your most powerful draws will involve it. While the deck is totally capable of having powerful draws without it, you’re definitely always happy to see it in your opening hand. The card can get wildly out of control in multiples. Here’s a list of all the times Scales will give you an extra counter:

  • Your Arcbound Ravager gets an extra counter every time you sacrifice an artifact to it. 
  • Your creatures that enter with +1/+1 counters enter with an extra one
  • You get an extra counter +1/+1  when you put counters on a creature from The Ozolith
  • Ingenious Smith, Walking Ballista and Hangarback Walker get an extra counter for each time you use their abilities.  
  • You also get an extra counter when you modular onto a creature. 
Urza's Saga

One of the most powerful cards in MH2, Saga fits perfectly into this archetype as a powerful card advantage engine and tutor for powerful payoff cards like The Ozolith or Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp. Surprisingly, I’ve found myself activating the token ability of Saga less in this deck than in other Saga decks, as I find developing your board with creatures like Arcbound Ravager on the early turns of the game to be crucial. The token generation is nice to have of course, and you should look to use it especially in more grindy matchups. 

The Ozolith

Left unchecked, The Ozolith is an absurd card. Make note that you get counters on the Ozolith whenever a creature leaves the battlefield, not just when one dies. So you’ll get the counters on The Ozolith through exile or bounce effects. The best use for The Ozolith is to combo kill your opponent by putting counters on a Walking Ballista or Inkmoth Nexus for lethal. This is always a line you should be thinking about executing, especially in noninteractive matchups. Your best way to get counters on the Ozolith is by sacrificing creatures to Arcbound Ravager, but you can also use Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp as a sac outlet if you have access to red mana. 

Animation Module

Module is another powerful tutor target for Urza’s Saga. It allows you to generate a big board advantage in grindy matchups, giving you lots of extra creatures if you have extra mana lying around. A couple of neat tricks with Module include:

  • Sacrificing a servo token to Arcbound Ravager, making a token from the counter that’s created from the Module trigger, then repeating this process for each available mana you have.
  • Using Module’s activated ability to give your opponent an extra infect counter. 
Arcbound Ravager

Ravager is one of your most important cards and opens up the most possibilities when it’s in play.

Ravager can:

Make sure that you use your Ravager wisely, for once its removed, lots of your powerful lines dissipate. 

Ingenious SmithEsper Sentinel

Two important new upgrades to this archetype, these cards allow any artifact-based deck to become much grinder and resilient to removal. I often find myself siding one of these cards out in sideboard games, but I find them to be great game one cards.

 

Header - Sideboard Guide

As always, thanks for reading. For those interested in learning the Scales deck, I hope this has been a good introduction for you. Before you go, here’s how I would recommend sideboarding with this 75. 

Blue/Red Murktide

Blue/Red Murktide

Mill

Mill

In: +2 Veil of Summer, +2 Relic of Progenitus

Out: -1 Shadowspear (it’s okay to board up a couple cards against Mill)

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Jund Saga

Jund Saga

Hammer Time

Hammer Time

Burn

Burn

Living End

Living End

Temur Rhinos

Temur Rhinos

In: +2 Veil of Summer

Out: -1 Animation Module, -1 Ingenious Smith

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UWx Control

UWx Control

In: +2 Veil of Summer

Out: -1 Welding Jar, -1 Arcbound Worker

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Amulet Titan

Amulet Titan

Mono-Green Tron

Mono-Green Tron

In: +2 Nature’s Claim, +1 Pithing Needle

Out: -3 Ingenious Smith 

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