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Stark Reality – Scapeshift from Start to Finish

A few weeks after Zendikar was released, it was time for Pro Tour Austin. From my testing (infinite MTGO-ing in the non-Zendikar Extended world) I thought the field would be a lot of Blue, Zoo and Hypergenesis, so I designed a WW list with Canonists main that I thought would be fairly well-tooled to beat all 3 and went on my way. When I got to the Fort Lauderdale airport for my flight to Austin, I unexpectedly bumped into Brad Carpenter. For those who haven’t heard of him, he’s won a bunch of Southeast PTQs over the past year or 2 but hasn’t had a ton of PT success. We started talking about Extended and he mentioned that there were decks trying to abuse Valakut using Scapeshift. They were mostly Red/Green decks kind of similar to the one people played in Type 2. Just for the sake of brewing fun we talked about it and came up with the Blue list that people now play (albeit a rather unpolished form of it). We played a bunch of games during the flight against Zoo and I believe the Scapeshift crushed. Then I landed in Austin, put the idea back on the shelf as something for the future, pulled out the WW list that I was excited to get to play and went to meet my friends.

Getting to Scapeshift

After meeting up with a variety of the usual suspects I learned that no one was really playing Hypergenesis and everyone who was interested in combo was playing Dark Depths. I playtested my WW list against the DD deck and was getting crushed. Four Path to Exiles was nowhere near enough to be competitive against the DD deck back when it ran 4 Chalice of the Voids. So I started thinking…well, Scapeshift has Repeals, Cryptic Commands, and Remands, as well as It’s own fairly quick win condition. Maybe this deck will beat DD. It didn’t really beat it but it was pretty close to 50/50. The deck destroyed Zoo but had a fairly weak matchup against Blue. Not really a dream scenario going into a PT but better than playing my WW list which couldn’t beat the premiere combo deck of the format at all. So I decided to go with it.

The original list I played in Austin wasn’t very good. I played the Expedition/Harrow package and Tarmogoyfs to apply pressure against Blue annd slow down zoo and just have an alternate win condition. The list looked like this:

Like I said, going into Austin I was anticipating a lot of Blue and a ton of zoo. This led me to playing with the Tarmogoyfs. The Khalni Heart Expedition / Harrow combo wasn’t bad by any means, but it is completely unnecessary. With the decks ability to put a few extra lands into play and cast useful Blue spells there is no reason to clog up your deck with situational cards that allow you to be able to win turn 4. It really just isn’t necessary. The Remands were an obvious choice for a deck looking to delay the game and win by making land drops. The Repeals were and are amazing. There was about a month period where the deck pretty much took over Extended after worlds. During this period people started playing Into the Roil instead to be able to beat Gaddock Teeg. That might be correct if there is enough Teegs in opposing decks, but that’s why I stopped playing Scapeshift at that point.

The deck is definitely good enough to be a Tier 1 Extended deck but not good enough that you have to start watering it down to beat hate for it. Even Dark Depths Thopter, which is a much more powerful deck, stopped performing overly well once there was too much hate. The Firespouts are a metagame choice to beat Zoo. I don’t think they need to be in the maindeck because Zoo is an extremely good matchup; that said, Zoo is so incredibly popular that it makes it hard to regret playing them. After having some time to work on the deck I had a much better list ready for Worlds.

Ben Stark, 4-2
2009 World Championships, Extended

Basically the updates to this list were just to trade in the Tarmogoyfs and Khalni Heart Expeditions for Coiling Oracles. The Oracles felt underpowered every single time I cast one. I think I was still trying too hard to be unnecessarily fast. All you really need to do is do some cantripping that delays the game then play your 1-card combo win condition. A few more ways to find it would have been nice and focusing so hard on getting lands into play isn’t what you need to be accomplishing. Some of the Japenese who had been playing the deck around the same time played Magma Jets. I don’t think that card is right for the deck either. While it does help you to find Scapeshift, it doesn’t draw a card so it hurts your ability to get to 7-8 lands. I think that when the deck basically reemerged, putting 2 people into the Top 8 of GP Yokohama, the new lists were definitely improved. The main difference between the 2 new Japanese lists were one had Gigadrowse main and no Coiling Oracles or even Wood Elves, where as the other played all the creatures. Both played Search for Tomorrow, a card that should have been there the whole time.

The next and last Extended tournament was GP Houston. PV chose to run a similar Scapeshift list to that played by the Japanese in Yokohama. He basically combined the decklists kind of meeting in the middle. He chose to play 2 Wood Elves and no Coiling Oracles. No Gigadrowse main but a couple of Muddle the Mixture and 1 Boseiju to help beat decks with counters.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Grand Prix Houston 2010 – Top 8

I think his list is really good. If I was entering the deck in an Extended tournament tomorrow I would run his list with only minor tweaks. I like Wood Elves, and I think three is the perfect number for it. Since it’s a card that you don’t really want two of but you would like your one by turn three or four. Also, if you draw two it’s not the end of the world. Four is too many though, because you don’t want to see opening hands with two of them or draw into three copies of them over the course of a game. I would cut 1 copy of Cryptic Command for the 1 Wood Elves. By the same token, though Cryptic Command is an amazing card and the whole time I was playing with two I wished I had three, four is too many. You don’t want to see two in your opening hand ever, and with Scapeshift costing 4 mana also and not really doing anything until you use it, I think playing 4 could result in some clunky hands. Also for the sideboard, I think you want more Negates. While Chalice is really good against Hypergenesis and Living End you need to be able to counter the counterspells that decks like Faeries, Scapeshift, and DDT play. You don’t need a full compliment of them or anything but I think that having access to 2-3 Negates is optimal. This is the decklist I would play if I wanted to run Scapeshift moving forward:

I think that the 2nd Gigadrowse is pretty useful versus the control decks, and the 1 Meloku/1 Oona split is better than two Oona. The reason for that is if you do encounter a beatdown deck with enough hate towards Scapeshift you will want to be able to play it and use it immediately to make some chump blockers to be able to untap with it and win the game. If Oona has to chump the Knight or Goyf that they most likely have, that is a really sad situation. Since you have Firespout/Bolt/Dead/Gone it is unlikely they will have an army of little creatures. Most likely you will just need to beat the 1 or 2 fatties they have down. On the flip side, there are games Oona can win that Meloku can’t, so I think the split is really nice. Obviously in Rxtended you never really want to copy anyone’s exact sideboard; it’s important that you tweak yours based on what decks are popular in your area or what you expect to face in the tournament your about to play.

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