There are two important ideas I want to hammer home:
- Deck creation by deck synthesis. This is a really fun and easy way to make competitive new decks. Take existing ideas and merge them into one. It doesn’t work for every idea—you need to look for ideas that are complement and strengthen each other. But it works frequently and it works well.
- Playing extra cards mathematically supported by “opportunity reward.” Most of you are familiar with opportunity cost, which states that any card you add is worse than the opportunity to draw your best card. But when you flip it and consider that any card you add is a reward over drawing your worst card, things get complicated. There are advantages to playing extra.
For deck synthesis, I’m jamming different ideas together looking for decks that are similar but operate on different axes. This way we can keep the integral plan of both decks while adding strong contingent plans. The result could be a deck that has no true weakness.
Gifts Ungiven and Scapeshift go well together. As existing decks, they are similar. Both decks can take advantage of green ramp and blue disruption to enable a “one-card combo” that is reliant on the library as a resource.
Scapeshift pulls out Mountains and Valakut for a one-shot volcanic eruption aimed directly at the opponent.
Importantly, these decks operate on different axes. The Gifts Ungiven combo deck is weakest against graveyard disruption. The Scapeshift combo deck is weakest to land destruction. Fortunately, each is strong where the other is weak.
The result is a deck with no glaring weakness, though opponents with speed, discard, and counters can interact with it.
The Gifts Shift deck can be filled out with cards that work well for both plans. Green ramp is a good place to start. More lands expedite the Scapeshift kill, but a turn-3 Gifts Ungiven with disruption sounds good too.
Both decks can do well with blue and red disruption as well. Cheap burn and counterspells do well to match the tempo of the opponent, draw extra cards, and burn the opponent when necessary.
Finally we should consider Gifts Ungiven as a great way to find Scapeshift. With Snapcaster Mage and Eternal Witness, Gifts Ungiven is a true tutor. This is a great spell, not just a one-trick combo kill.
Merging these ideas together is starting to form a great deck.
The Case for 70 Cards
Now we have the case for 70 cards, which is a bit controversial. Playing the minimum in all situations is a sacred beast that I am working to slay.
I am making a point for competitive tournament magic. I like to be different, but my motivation is not to be different. I want to make a change here. In the majority of cases 60 cards is correct, but if we take it as a universal truth we miss out on the exceptions, which are an abundant minority.
The case for 70 cards, or however many cards, is just a matter of tradeoff. There are strict quantitative advantages to 60, and there are strict quantitative advantages to 70. I would like to see someone attempt to prove with math that in all cases the 60 advantages always outweigh the 70 advantages. Until then we are dealing with tradeoffs.
The conventional 60-card RUG Scapeshift deck is a 4/60-card combo deck. That is, it NEEDS to draw a Scapeshift from a 60-card deck. That isn’t great odds and is a drawback of the deck. Peer Through Depths is frequently necessary to dig. So why would we want to add more cards?
Similarly, the convention for Gifts Ungiven is a 4/60-card combo deck. While not quite as necessary, this Gifts deck NEEDS to draw a 4-of from 60. Again, these aren’t great odds, so contingent plans are necessary.
By merging these decks together we can form an 8/70-card combo deck. While the extra cards add more variance, the ratio is much, much better. We can actually make a more consistent deck than either deck before. 8/70 is good odds.
So why not 8/60? That may be an unnecessarily high percentage, and we have opportunity reward to address.
Remember, both of these decks have cards that they don’t want to draw—Gifts Ungiven can not ever find Unburial Rites or Iona from your hand—you draw these cards and it’s bad news. Similarly, Scapeshift can not ever find Mountains from your hand or battlefield—draw too many of these and you can lose.
There is an opportunity reward to playing extra cards—extra Gifts Ungivens, extra Scapeshifts. We drown out our bad draws. Our Gifts become better and our Scapeshifts become better, and we are less dependent. There is a lot to be gained from playing 70.
Of course, the last 60-card advantage to consider is increased likelihood of drawing a sideboard card. But then there’s the last 70-card advantage of having more search options for Gifts Ungiven and land fetchers. Tradeoffs abound.
Gifts Shift – 68 Cards
Of course this list draws inspiration from JWay’s 66-card Scapeshift, now merged with Gifts Ungiven.
Metagaming with Gifts Shift
Since you have a plan A, a plan B, and a plan C, you don’t have too much to be afraid of, but it’s nice to have options to either double-down on one of the plans or diversify even more. You have options:
This card is extremely versatile and bolsters your plan C by searching up your white creatures to cast when necessary.
70-Card Gifts Shift
Are you a Gifts player? Are you a Scapeshift player? What do you think? How do you balance the consistency and power tradeoffs? I highly recommend trying this deck, or at the least watching my upcoming video series.
Are you a 40- or 60-card player? Have you considered in what situations 60 creates disadvantages? Look out for the situations to play more.