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Stark Reality – Landscaping Extended

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Landscaping Extended

By now everyone pretty much associates me with the [card]Scapeshift[/card] deck. Usually when this happens, it’s because you have done well with the deck. I went a disappointing 2-3 with it in Austin and 4-2 with it in Worlds. Now I win almost all the testing games I play with the deck because I know how to play it. I was definitely learning in Austin and ran a less than optimal version in Worlds. It is not a particularly easy deck to play; you are often faced with choices where the answer is not apparent. It is not like one card is going to deal more damage than the other, so as you navigate through the games, you need to have a plan and need to be able to decide what order to play your cards in. I highly recommend the deck but I also recommend practicing it a lot before you play it in a tournament.

Here is the list I would run if I played the deck in a tournament tomorrow.

The maindeck is pretty much set now in my opinion. The Cryptics have been amazing for me and I have always wanted more. Expedition is better than Coiling Oracle. It is more reliable and more explosive. You don’t need the extra body against zoo, since that matchup is so easy anyways. The 2 [card]Ponder[/card]s help a lot with the Peer Through Depths to make sure you can always find Scapeshift. 3 is pretty much the perfect number for your solutions (Repeal and Firespout) in a deck with Peer and so much thinning. Some of the Japenese players I have seen playing the deck seem to like Magma Jet over Firespout. I think that the deal 2 damage and scrye effect in a combo deck that does 18 damage some of the time is undeniably useful, but even more critical is being able to kill things with your removal. You can’t even kill most of Zoo’s 1-drops with a Jet if you are on the draw. Firespout’s ability to wipe the board has won me a lot of games and as long as it is going to be a Zoo-driven format, I wouldn’t cut them.

The sideboard is not nearly as set in stone. I always said they should do 25 card sideboards for Extended. There are just a ton of different good decks. If Dark Depths isn’t popular in your area than you don’t need the Ghost Quarters, Dredge – Ravenous Traps, Thopter Foundry/Affinity- Fracturing Gusts etc etc. My friend Rob pointed out that Glen Elendra Archmage is a big problem for the deck, so we came up with Shackles in the sideboard. You can resolve one before they can get it out pretty easily, especially with the help of Remand and Negate, and since this deck searches extra lands out you can usually use it to steal just about anything that Firespout leaves behind.

Sideboarding and Matchup Notes

Zoo

The main advantage to playing Scapeshift right now is that you have a virtual bye against what has become by far the most popular deck in the format. Most games you can just casually block with Tribe-Elder and Remand whatever, then kill them with Scapeshift. They don’t generally play much of anything in the maindeck to disrupt or stop it. If they have Gaddock Teeg, then you will need to Firespout it away, so don’t spend your Firespout on a Nacatl and a Kird Ape when you have the win next turn and you are at 14. Other than that, the matchup is really straightforward.

I sideboard out 3 Remands for the 3 Shackles; the Shackles really annoy and them and give you an alternate way to win if you just can’t find a Scapeshift. They aren’t the nut card against Zoo or anything, but they help slow them down and buy you time, which is all you need to beat them. Plus, sometimes they are enough to win the game on their own.

Dark Depths

This is a really fun matchup. They have Muddle the Mixture and Thoughtseize against you and you have Repeal, Cryptic Command, and [card]Remand[/card] against them. Both decks have a ton of disruption, so the games often go long. Normally you want to figure out how fast you think you can win and how fast you think they can win. That is important specifically because your decisions will generally need to flow in the same direction. You will sometimes have to play more like the control deck and try to stop them and sometimes you will figure out how fast each player can kill. When you can win in 2 turns and they can’t win for 3, then you will need to start figuring out how to protect your Scapeshift instead of just trying to stop them. It is an intricate matchup and you just need to practice it before you play it in a tournament.

You sideboard in 3 Negate, 3 Shackles, and 3 Ghost Quarters, for 4 Expedition, 2 Harrow, 1 Firespout, 1 Valakut, 1 Peer through Depths. You have Shackles and Firespout against Confidant and Clique, and the Ghost Quarters back up your Repeals to stop them from comboing. If you think they left in Chalices, then you could bring in 2 Fracturing Gusts to kill them and Chrome Moxes, but I don’t generally like to board them and Shackles in at the same time, and Shackles is pretty good against them.

Hypergenesis

Their deck is faster, but if they don’t succesfully kill you when they go off then them going off sometimes backfires. Put into play my Wood Elves, Sakura Tribe-Elder and 2 land you say? Sounds good, at least until they drop a Sundering Titan. They do also have Angel of Despairs, and other significant nuisances, but you play Harrows too; all and all it’s pretty messy. You do want to keep them off Hypergenesis as long as possible; just make sure you Remand or Cryptic Command the actual card, not the cascade spell. It’s a very straitforward matchup so there isn’t much to say. Just delay them as much as possible so you can win with Scapeshift, and if they go off sometimes you get locked out and sometimes you untap and win, so try and prepare for that as much as possible.

Sideboard out 3 Firespout and 3 Repeal for 3 Ghost Quarters and 3 Negates, unless you think they are bringing in Meddling Mage, in which case you want to leave in the Repeals and not board in the Ghost Quarters. Sometimes I have seen them play basics and sometimes they don’t.

Next Level Blue

It can be tough to beat a control deck when your win condition is a four mana sorcery. The key to the match is to always play around Mana Leak, since they don’t have that many real counters. You just want to let them Remand stuff, pay for Mana Leak, and make them have to beat you with Cryptic Commands. It is obvious that if they are running the version with Kitchen Finks instead of Vendillion Cliques that’s much better for you. Either way, when you play the game you don’t want to have the mindset of “if they have it, they have it”. You want to keep thinning out your deck and playing around their counters, unless they put you under enough pressure that you are forced to try and go off into Mana Leak.

The sideboarding really depends on which version they’re playing and what you expect to see. Shackles is going to be much better than Firespout against them, but if they are playing an artifact-heavy version blowing them out with Gusts could be more valuable. If you expect Meddling Mages out of their sideboard it’s also more important to have Firespouts. Otherwise I would board out the 3 Firespouts and 4 Expeditions for 3 Negates, 3 Shackles and 1 Ghost Quarter. I usually just bring in the quarter here to have an extra land to hit land drops with.

Thopter Foundry

It is pretty much the same as against Blue, but even easier because they have fewer counters. Even if they set up their combo you can deal 36 with 8 lands out, so you usually still have several turns to win. Make sure you play around Mana Leak. Also, unlike against Dark Depths, you can still win even after they combo out. You are not normally that worried about them comboing. Look to always protect your combo and generally don’t try and fight theirs.

Usually the sideboarding depends heavily on what you expect to face. Since LSV and CF have been the biggest proponents of the Thopter deck I would assume their general sideboard and plans. This means Meddling Mage and Archmages, especially since if they don’t have cards like this it is nearly impossible for them to beat you. You should probably assume they do and board accordingly unless you specifically gain the information that they don’t.

Therefore I would board out 1 Repeal, 4 Expedition, 2 Harrow, 2 Wood Elves, and add in 3 Negate, 3 Fracturing Gust, 3 Shackles. I know I said you don’t often board in Gusts and Shackles, but in this matchup it’s ok to do so. I played against a Thopter Foundry deck once at Worlds, and while I wasn’t privy to his decklist, I did Gust him into oblivion. Both decks have answers and problems so you really need to practice the games. My main advice would be not to commit anything to the board unnecessarily. If you don’t have a Remand or Cryptic, you will want to put out Shackles in case they cast Glen Elendra, but if you do have those cards and you know they won’t be resolving a Glen Elendra for a while, you don’t want to put out a Shackles only to have to Gust them away.

I still think Scapeshift is the best deck in Extended. It’s very resilient to hate and blue still seems to be underplayed. In our testing with the deck when we play against someone who isn’t overly familiar with the deck, we almost always crush them. Make sure you know the matchups; don’t just copy the decklist from here and run it in a tournament. Even if you don’t like the deck, I recommend getting familiar with it if you want to be able to beat it.

Good luck in the upcoming extended PTQs and GPs,

Ben

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