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Feature Article – Red/Green Scapeshift

Red/Green Scapeshift

This article is about Pat (SARCASTO) McGregor and my (Snuffleupogus)’s new Extended RG Scapeshift deck that has been tearing up the online metagame. This article will also cover the deck’s brief history, the thought process behind card selections, why I believe it is a much better choice than traditional UGr Scapeshift decks, and its matchups (including sideboarding) against the major decks in Extended.

This deck started with Peter Knudson and Brendan Carlson in a Minneapolis PTQ. Although they ran many different cards like Rampant Growth, Harmonize, and Siege-Gang Commander, it was their innovative inclusion of the Punishing Fire combo in Scapeshift that caught our attention.

We quickly built the deck on Modo. Extended eight-mans were half price and firing like crazy, and P McG ran a train on them. We gained a ton of valuable information from this testing session and found the deck to be
extremely competitive. After trimming some numbers and trying various cards we eventually settled on this:

Punishing Shift

The best thing about this deck is that it attacks from so many different angles. Your opponent has to stop you from doing so many different things:

1. You have the Punishing Fire combo which can stop almost any creature deck.
2. You have Umezewa’s Jitte, which is just so good in so many different ways.
3. You have Scapeshift, which, when resolved with 7 lands in play, is game over.
4. You also have access to very powerful creatures like Tarmogoyf and Kitchen Finks that can win the game on their own, or at the very least do a great job of stopping your opponents from winning.
5. You have Bloodbraid Elf.

Card Choices, Reasoning, and Quick Tips:

Search for Tomorrow

It is a turn 1 play, which is why it gets the nod over other accelerators, and it gets your Black mana and enables turn 3 Bloodbraid Elf.

 

Sakura-Tribe Elder 

Very good at blocking and sacking for a land against aggro. He also enables turn 3
Bloodbraid. One thing to keep in mind is that you should almost always sacrifice it against control
decks early in the game. Sacrificing him kills Bridge from Below. He holds a Jitte.

 

Umezawa’s Jitte 

There are not many pieces of equipment in Magic that can turn Sakura Tribe-Elder into a formidable foe. This card is just nuts. An active Jitte is game over against so many decks. It is also the best card you can have against any other deck with Jitte. Your opponent will usually have to spend a lot of resources dealing with your Jitte, which allows time to get Punishing Fire online or enough lands for a lethal Scapeshift.

 

Punishing Fire 

This combo is insane against decks with creatures. Even if you don’t have Grove of Burnwillows it is passable; 2 damage for 2 mana isn’t that bad. One of the best things about this deck is that the “combo” pieces are functional although admittedly subpar alone.

 

Kitchen Finks 

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the best Ouphe ever printed. Where do I start? This guy gains you life twice, blocks twice, dies twice, holds Jitte twice, lives through Wrath/DoJ, and picks up Jitte to beat face. If they Path it, that’s fine – Scapeshift them.

 

Bloodbraid Elf 

It turns out the card that ruined Standard is indeed good enough for Extended. Matt Tickal originally – and half-jokingly – suggested this card, but Bloodbraid fits so well we couldn’t believe he had never been in. This guy is so unfair almost every time you cast him. Sure, once and awhile he’ll hit a card you didn’t
really want, but so will Thirst for Knowledge, and Thirst doesn’t cast the card for free. It is not too hard to get this guy down on turn 3, which is sick against control and aggro strategies. This card is one of the best topdecks imaginable in any deck he’s ever been in, and you often find yourself saying “I can still win if I just draw Bloodbraid into X.” He is also great post-Wrath, and, trust me on this, haste creatures are good with Jitte.

 

Scapeshift 

For the little amount that it costs you in deck slots, Scapeshift is simply amazing. For the cost of two comes-into-play-tapped lands (Valakut) and 10 Mountains (including duals), you get to win the game 99% of the time you resolve this spell with 7 lands in play. WTF?! Sure, this deck isn’t Scapeshift combo and you won’t get this card every time. Sure, you have no way of deck manipulation to get this card once you have ANY 7 lands. But the card still basically says “I win.”

 

Valakut, The Molten Pinnacle 

Not a legend: 7 lands = 1 valakut + 6 mountains = 18 damage. 8 lands = 2 Valakut + 6 mountains = 36 damage. Remember, it is fine to play these if you have to because Scapeshift allows you to sacrifice any number of lands, not all. Also regarding the Scapeshift combo, remember that you only have 10 Mountains, so if there are only 5 left in your deck, leave at least one in play for the combo to work.

 

Grove of the Burnwillows 

Taiga. Taps for colorless. Combos with Punishing Fire.

 

Treetop Village 

You can easily get flooded with a deck like this, so this guy helps. There are also times when you have a lot of Scapeshifts in hand against control where you can go get a couple of these guys to bash with.

Sideboard:

Thought Hemorrhage/Cranial Extraction

I’m going to admit I wasn’t expecting to play these cards in Extended, but they’re deceptively good and surprisingly versatile in a deck like this. You cast them on turn three sort of reliably and they are very crippling in many matchups. A lot of times one will just simply eat a Counterspell, which can help pave the way for Scapeshift. They are also passable against Dredge.

Ancient Grudge

I don’t care what anybody says: Affinity must be respected. This card is also decent against the Blue
control/combo decks running artifact lands, [card]Chrome Mox[/card], etc. You also board in a couple of these against Fairies and other decks with Jitte because they have trouble beating you without an active Jitte.

 

Blood Moon 

Nobody sees this coming out of a deck with Scapeshift. The fact of the matter is a lot of decks just can’t beat a Blood Moon. Further, a lot of those decks are tough matchups, so you might as well throw in hosers and cross your fingers. There are fewer feelings more gratifying than cascading into this card.

 

Extirpate 

It stops Thopter Foundry combo, and is good against Dredge and some random other things. It also stops the Punishing Fire combo as long as they don’t have a Grove of the Burnwillows open, since tapping lands gets around split second, but you should rarely be boarding this in against typical decks that run that combo.

 

Relic of Progenitus 

This card is pretty versatile. Good against Dredge, Punishing Fire, and decks
with Gifts or Loam or other graveyard shenanigans.

Matchups:

Burn

This is the most played deck right now in MTGO PTQs because it is cheap and easy. In about 30 matches (not games, matches) against this deck, Pat McGregor, and Mark Hinsz, and I have still not lost to this deck. Your deck is so good against them with Finks and Jitte and you can burn their dudes. Some really terrible things have to happen for you to lose this matchup.

Affinity

-3 Umezewa’s Jitte
-1 Scapeshift
+4 Ancient Grudge

This deck is somewhat popular online. It won an online PTQ. This match is surprisingly close game 1. If they are on the play or have a nut draw you are a definite dog, but you have a lot of game against them. Your plan is to just murder all of their guys and chump until you can cast Scapeshift. Jitte is too slow, so board it out. Grudge kills their deck. It’s usually wrong to Grudge their lands; just Grudge all their guys.

Bant

+2 Ancient Grudge
-2 Kitchen Finks

This deck is sort-of played and a Doran/Bant deck won an online PTQ. It’s another great matchup. Finks and War Monk gain them life so you don’t even need Grove to recur Punishing Fire. They actually don’t have a way to counter your Scapeshift since the typical counters they play are Mana Leak and Spell Snare. Bring in Grudge for Finks because Jitte is one of their few ways to beat you.

Little Zoo (with Jitte)

-2 Scapeshift
+2 Ancient Grudge

This deck is pretty popular online. This deck is explosive, but luckily a lot of your cards are very good against them. You usually backpedal for the first few turns, killing guys, chumping guys, and finding lands. Bloodbraid and Finks are good against this deck and usually 2-for-1 them while you build up the Punishing Fire combo or the Scapeshift kill. Post board, you are only interested in surviving. The last thing you want is 2 Scapeshifts in your opening hand. Grudge kills Jitte, which again is very important because without a Jitte, Punishing Fire should beat their deck.

UGr Scapeshift

+2 Cranial Extraction
+2 Thought Hemorrhage
+3 Blood Moon
-3 Jitte
-4 Lightning Bolt

Game 1 is pretty tough. They have more acceleration and deck manipulation than you do so they will be faster. The most important thing in this matchup is to make sure you don’t take two random damage, because if you play right that should never happen. It makes them one turn slower because they need to get to 8 and you only need to get to 7. Post board, you have a lot more weapons against them. Their deck cannot beat a resolved Cranial Extraction and if they can’t bounce your Blood Moon, you win. You keep in Scapeshift because even though it is a nombo with Blood Moon, a Blood Moon in play mean you are already
in good shape. You can still combo them faster than they can combo you sometimes, so there is no reason not to try. Jitte and Bolt are bad against them anyway.

Dredge:

+2 Thought Hemorrhage
+2 Cranial Extraction
+2 Extirpate
+2 Relic of Progenitus
-4 Kitchen Finks
-3 Umezewa’s Jitte
-1 Tarmogoyf

This is a very frustrating deck to have in the metagame. If you want any chance of beating it you have to shrink your sideboard to about 10 cards. Sure, some of the Dredge hate has alternate purposes, but if Dredge didn’t exist it wouldn’t be there. Game 1 is bad for you. Sakura-Tribe Elder and burning guys to death removes Bridge from Below, but that’s about all you have going for you. Still, if you can Scapeshift them quickly you have a chance.

After sideboard you have a significant edge. Although Thought Hemorrhage and Cranial Extraction are slower than you’d like, naming Bridge from Below or Dread Return is a very powerful effect. Don’t pop Relic for no reason. Consciously look at their graveyard to see if it is necessary. Remember that you can pop a Relic with the Narcomoeba trigger on the stack.

Hypergenesis:

+3 Blood Moon
+2 Cranial Extraction
+2 Thought Hemorrhage
-4 Lightning Bolt
-3 Punishing Fire

Probably the worst matchup for the deck. Game 1 you can sometimes get them if they Hypergenesis with a subpar hand and you just drop a few guys and a Jitte. Post board you have to land a Blood Moon or a Hemorrhage before they cast a spell.

Thopter Combo:

+2 Thought Hemorrhage
+2 Cranial Extraction
+2 Extirpate
+2 Ancient Grudge
-2 Kitchen Finks
-3 Jitte
-2 Punishing Fire
-1 Lightning Bolt

Game 1 is pretty close. If they don’t have the combo right away you can often aggro them out to the point where they have to tap out, at which point you can Scapeshift. This sideboard plan assumes a lot of things, and since a lot of these decks are different, it will usually be correct to sideboard differently according to their unique list. That said, the reason to take Punishing Fire out instead of Bolt is because they will bring in Meddling Mage against you. If they name a burn spell they will always name Punishing Fire. You need to kill the Mages to cast Scapeshift, which can only be countered by Muddle the Mixture and maybe Cryptic Command, if they even play it.

Ancient Grudge stops the Foundry combo as well as hit random artifact lands, Chrome Moxes, etc. Extirpate stops their combo and Cranial Extraction/Thought Hemorrhage can either pull out their Thopter Foundry or Baneslayer. One thing to note is that if they are playing Gifts, they probably shaved the numbers of their Thopter combo, so it is much more correct to name a win condition like Baneslayer with Thought Hemorrhage. If it seems like they have a lot of graveyard recursion you can consider bringing in Relic of Progenitus, but
remember you need to keep cards in your deck that can win the game.

All-In Red:

(no sideboard)

Their Blood Moon effects are pretty dead against you. An early Deus is annoying, but it isn’t that hard for you to 2-for-1 him. As long as they don’t get him first turn you aren’t in that bad of shape. Empty the Warrens is much more problematic, but as long as they aren’t making a ton of guys you still have a chance.

Rubin Zoo:

-2 Kitchen Finks
+2 Relic of Progenitus

You will rarely play against this deck. Pre-board you are heavily favored against their deck. They are slow enough where your combo will be able to race them just about every time and Punishing Fire can lock them out of the game. You board out Finks because they have Punishing Fire in their deck. Relic can keep Goyf and Knight of the Reliquary in check or stop their Punishing Fire combo. Your strategy still revolves around casting a Scapeshift.

Hexmage Combo:

+2 Cranial Extraction
+2 Thought Hemorrhage
+3 Blood Moon
+2 Ancient Grudge
-4 Scapeshift
-3 Jitte
-2 Kitchen Finks

Your plan in the first game is to pray they don’t have the combo and combo/aggro them out before they do. This is pretty rare but occasionally they just don’t have it. Post-board it gets better as Hexmage is hard-pressed to beat a Blood Moon. They are generally kold to a resolved Thought Hemorrhage since their aggro plan is much worse than yours. The Grudges are for Chrome Moxes, which are one of their only ways to get out of the Blood Moon lockdown. Make sure you Grudge with imprint on the stack.

Faeries:

-2 Scapeshift
+2 Ancient Grudge

This matchup is intricate, but you usually have a slight edge game 1. PunishingFire/Grove single-handedly wins this matchup. You need to mulligan aggressively, and feel free to run a Scapeshift out there to get Groves. Post-board they have Flash Freeze and sometimes Relic. Grudge kills a Jitte or forces them to pop their Relic, which is good enough. Always be conscious of when they could play Mistbind Clique, Vendillion Clique, or Jitte with mana left over to equip it.

Final Notes:

Although I am the one who wrote this article, this deck was definitely a team effort. Pat and I collaborate on almost every Magic deck we play and we have both benefited greatly because of it.

He put a lot of work into this deck, and deserves most of the credit. Mark “mark the nark” Hinsz took all of the money out of his child’s college fund to buy this deck on Magic Online and nearly made top eight back to back in online PTQs, finishing ninth in the second on tiebreakers.

Although he misplayed a few times in these tournaments (and this speaks to the power of the deck), he did an awesome job of picking up the deck and winning with it. I hope this article has been interesting and beneficial, and thank you for reading.

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