The vast majority of ideas are not entirely new. They are taken, stolen, reused, recycling, remixed, remastered, and represented in a new context. The idea may feel new, and the effect may be new, but it’s just a synthesis of old ideas.
The concept of idea synthesis to come up with “new effects” is a useful tool in combining ideas for ANYTHING. It happens to work well in Magic: the Gathering as well.
There are times when we can take old ideas and existing ideas and scramble them together into a brand new exciting deck. At its most obvious, deck synthesis is a mash-up of two ideas.
Both decks used cheap combos, cheap disruption, cheap card selection, and draw.
The Vampire Hexmage/Dark Depths combo was insanely fast, but poor against particular removal spells like Path to Exile.
By synthesizing these old existing ideas together, we now get a new deck that is resilient to the weaknesses of both of the old decks. “Idea synthesis” in action.
This is a really fun way to build that is popular and frequently effective.
For instance, consider the current mash-up of Living End with Splinter Twin.
The Living End deck is weak to graveyard hate. Counterspells can be annoying, but discard is easy to topdeck through.
Splinter Twin combo doesn’t care at all about graveyard hate and can be decent at fighting against counterspell decks.
Hence the Living Twin deck was born with plenty of excitement and some promising tournament results.
I think the shell is brilliant, but I wonder if there is a better deck to mash-up Living End with.
The more I think about Living End the more I want to play more than 60 cards. More cards to drown out Living End—ANYTHING is a better draw than Living End. So reverse opportunity cost pushes me to play more cards.
But if I’m playing more cards I don’t want to put in a 2-card combo. The bigger the deck, the more erratic things can become. Twin is at its deadliest when forged into a sharp 60-card blade.
So I got to thinking about what other reverse-opportunity-cost-style decks I could mash Living End together with.
Scapeshift is a really interesting deck that shares some a lot in common with Living End.
This 1-card combo deck needs Mountains in the deck but would rather not draw them—much like Living End. Valakut, as well, is not a great draw.
One player who took advantage of this revelation was James “JWay” Zornes, who took a 66-card Scapeshift deck on a monstrous tournament tear… few could explain his results. Many called the idea crazy—it’s hard to believe.
The major arguments against it were that JWay was watering down his chances of actually drawing Scapeshift, but the beauty of his deck was that he could put a game away almost just as easily with Prismatic Omen. Scapeshift was not an essential draw.
66-Card Scapeshift End
Mashing together Living End with Scapeshift feels more and more comfortable.
Both decks are OK with 60+ cards. Both decks are OK with 10+ Mountains. Both decks are green, and both decks are prepared to play a longer game.
Living End as a strategy frequently hits its 7th land drop. We cycle and land cycle and hit our land drops. Living End clears the board and the game drags. Spiders come out.
Vs. Graveyard Hate
Scapeshift obviously doesn’t care at all about graveyard hate.
We still have our cycling and we still have Living End to destroy all of their creatures at least once, and that can drag the game out to a clean Scapeshift kill.
We care very little about most kinds of removal, although Fulminator Mage is particularly good against us.
Traditionally, Living End has so much cycling and redundancy that discard does not spell permanent doom, and this deck still has that strength.
This deck plays a similar strategy with the added help of Search for Tomorrow.
Search For Tomorrow is awesome for giving a midgame mana boost—crucial to going over the top of opponent’s countermagic.
Fulminator Mages hold down the opponent’s mana and by the time we reach turns 6 and 7, we have enough mana to play multiple deadly spells. If not Living End, Scapeshift.
66-Card Scapeshift End Sideboard
The most exciting advantage of having Scapeshift in a Living End deck is our lessened reliance on Living End. Simian Spirit Guide into fast hate like Stony Silence, Rest in Peace etc. is effective, but without Living End our backup plan of hard casting creatures is certainly slow.
With Scapeshift in the deck, however, we can dump a fast hoser and use that to buy time until Scapeshift comes online.
Finally, I’m using the sideboard to push us more toward a Living End deck or more toward a Scapeshift deck if necessary. Some matchups will call for one over the other, or in certain situations we can use surprise to our advantage.
Scapeshift End is a competitive hybridization and I’m excited to show it off in a video series.
If you have access to both Living End and Scapeshift I highly recommend trying the two together.
Otherwise, I hope you find the ideas of idea synthesis and reverse opportunity cost useful in your Magic: the Gathering brewing!