At 10 p.m. on Friday night, I had a Vampires deck built and was about to sleeve it. At 6 p.m. last Sunday night, I was casting a lethal Scapeshift to win Grand Prix Denver. A few things changed between those two times, and today you get the rundown as to all that transpired. It was a whirlwind and a ton of fun, so let’s explore the circuitous route that got me to my sixth GP win (yes, I am very lucky, as this report will reveal).
GP Denver was not exactly optimally timed. It was the weekend before the Mythic Championship in Barcelona, which meant a few things. The first was that I couldn’t justify spending a ton of time (or any) testing for it. The Mythic Championship formats being different (Modern and Modern Horizons Limited) meant that testing Standard for Denver wasn’t on the table. The second is that a lot of my team was going to be gone, though there were tons of awesome people in town anyways.
After making a pact with myself to not test for Denver or play Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (seriously, I told Gaby to yell at me if she saw me doing it–as great as that game is, I had way too much stuff to do to spend time on it), I just asked Huey Jensen for a Standard list. He shipped me a Vampires list and I ordered the cards from the best source for Magic cards and strategy, ChannelFireball.com, and thought no more about it.
Cut to Friday night. Gaby and I hosted a BBQ at our place (don’t worry, the BBQ decklist can be found below), and a bunch of our friends were playing Bant Scapeshift, the list that Ondrej Strasjky popularized. I started to really feel like I was missing the boat, and everyone knows by now that FOMO (fear of missing out) is a driving force behind human behavior, even past the millennial generation. As we ate delicious food, I pondered what I should play. Here’s the BBQ decklist that I brewed up:
Oven-roasted (and grill-finished) BBQ pork ribs
Shrimp, corn, sausage, and potato foil packets (with garlic and Old Bay)
Chicken, mushroom, onion, and pepper skewers with Ecuadorian aji seasoning
Grilled asparagus and zucchini
Macaroni and cheese
Watermelon feta mint salad (this is an odd-sounding combination but it’s truly amazing)
Mexican street corn salad
The BBQ was a success, and much food was eaten. It was actually a Viper Brood meetup, as tons of folks from Gaby’s stream came, and it was awesome to see them. We had a whole weekend of hangouts, which made the hometown GP so enjoyable. Winning the event also helped there, as that too was enjoyable.
Back to Scapeshift. One of my (and Cheon’s) roommates from college, Matt Benjamin (the Bene, as he’s known) was on Bant Shift, as was Carolyn “TheMightyLinguine” Kavanaugh, and Chris “mullibok on twitch” Oien.
Aside on nicknames in gaming:
Pro Magic is a very real name-focused culture, which is funny. I think it’s because so many of the events are or were in paper, and pairings and standings and reports all used everyone’s actual names. As a result, almost every pro largely goes by their name, which is an anomaly in gaming and internet culture. Most esports are handle-based, and many of the folks we saw this weekend we know from twitch, so their nicknames ended up being their usernames.
In any case, lots of people were on Scapeshift, and it sounded so sweet. I messaged Huey and GerryT, and both of them also told me to play it, so what else could I do? I was worried about finding random commons, so I tweeted asking for them, and Nathan Steuer tweeted back that he had all the cards I needed.
I have all of those.
— Nathan Steuer (@Nathansteuer1) July 20, 2019
I was sold, and I registered Bant Scapeshift. Here’s the list:
Bant Scapeshift in Standard
1 Azorius Guildgate 1 Blast Zone 1 Blossoming Sands 2 Breeding Pool 4 Field of the Dead 2 Forest (347) 1 Field of Ruin 2 Hallowed Fountain 1 Hinterland Harbor 2 Island (335) 1 Memorial to Genius 1 Plains (331) 1 Selesnya Guildgate 1 Simic Guildgate 1 Sunpetal Grove 1 Tranquil Cove 2 Temple Garden 2 Temple of Mystery 1 Thornwood Falls 4 Arboreal Grazer 4 Elvish Rejuvenator 4 Hydroid Krasis 4 Circuitous Route 2 Grow from the Ashes 4 Growth Spiral 2 Prison Realm 4 Scapeshift 4 Teferi, Time Raveler Sideboard 2 Ripjaw Raptor 2 Ajani’s Welcome 2 Ixalan’s Binding 3 Dovin's Veto 2 Deputy of Detention 3 Veil of Summer 1 Crucible of Worlds
This list was the same maindeck as Ondrej’s but with -1 Glacial Fortress and +1 Field of Ruin, as well as some key sideboard differences. Huey suggested Deputy of Detention, and they were flat-out incredible. In the mirror, they eat all opposing Zombies and none of yours, and you can even bounce them with Teferi if need be. Also, with Teferi in play, the opponent has to main-phase Scape, and can’t even use Veil of Summer to stop Deputy. They also can come in against anyone lacking removal, which is most decks vs you post-board. I have an updated list below, and it’s got the third Deputy, since they were that good.
The Crucible was also for the mirror, in combination with Field of Ruin, but it was terrible. It will eventually win you the game if you draw equal amounts of Scapeshifts and ramp spells as the opponent, but most games don’t go that way.
Updated Scapeshift list
1 Azorius Guildgate 1 Blast Zone 1 Blossoming Sands 3 Breeding Pool 4 Field of the Dead 2 Forest (347) 1 Field of Ruin 2 Hallowed Fountain 1 Hinterland Harbor 2 Island (335) 1 Temple of Malady 1 Plains (331) 1 Selesnya Guildgate 1 Simic Guildgate 1 Sunpetal Grove 2 Temple Garden 2 Temple of Mystery 1 Thornwood Falls 1 Tranquil Cove 3 Arboreal Grazer 4 Elvish Rejuvenator 4 Hydroid Krasis 4 Circuitous Route 2 Grow from the Ashes 4 Growth Spiral 2 Prison Realm 4 Scapeshift 4 Teferi, Time Raveler Sideboard 3 Aether Gust 3 Dovin's Veto 1 Finale of Glory 3 Deputy of Detention 3 Veil of Summer 2 Knight of Autumn
I cut Memorial to Genius and the fourth Grazer for a Temple of Malady (there are no other on-color temples) and a Breeding Pool. The deck wanted 29 lands and double-Grazer draws were horrible.
The sideboard is much improved, as Raptors and Ajani’s Welcomes were terrible, and Aether Gust is great. I also like Allen Sun’s tech of Knight of Autumn, and after playing him in the Top 4 I decided to steal it.
The counterspells are awkward here because of Teferi, so you don’t want all of them. Rejuvenator and Grazer are your weakest ramp spells. This matchup is all about Teferi, especially once both players have Deputy. If this matchup becomes prevalent, another win condition that is less vulnerable to Deputy could be good–some other planeswalker doesn’t sound bad to me.
Gust is awesome here, and Knight does a ton as well. Just draw lots of Grazers and Rejuvenators and you’ll usually outrace them.
Rotting Regisaur is their best card, but Gust is great against everything else. If they are keeping in a lot of removal that can kill Deputy, just leave Teferi and ramp in instead.
The Finale is a nod to Unmoored Ego, though you have six counterspells for that as well. You often just grind out Esper with Fields, as they are pretty good at stopping Scapeshift.
Deputy is killable but still quite good here, and Veil can protect it (or Krasis) from Hostage Taker. Finale is also for Ego, as I expect to see more of those.
This matchup is tough, but Gusts help. They can counter or bounce Reclamation or Root Snare, which can be critical. Knights also snipe Search and Rec, and you can drop them as a 4/3 on turn three to threaten planeswalkers too. You also have Veto and Veil to stop their counterspells or protect your Teferi from bounce.
This is your easiest matchup by far. They usually can’t win the race, can’t disrupt you much, and don’t have reach.
Mono-Blue // Simic Flash
These play out pretty similarly. I don’t think Gust is quite good enough against Simic, so I’d just board the same way. You can often win just by playing lands and forcing them to react to Field, though a fast Tempest Djinn or Nightpack Ambusher can be awkward.
Gameplan / Tips / Tricks
The gameplan with this deck is to ramp multiple times and cast an early Scapeshift. The cards you are looking for in your opening hand are Arboreal Grazer, Growth Spiral, and Elvish Rejuvenator, with Circuitous Route, Grow, and Teferi being the next highest priority. You don’t really want Scapeshift and Hydroid Krasis until turn four or five, though you do eventually want one.
It’s hard to justify keeping a hand without any of the 1-3 mana spells, though I would keep Route, big spells, and lands on the play against midrange or control (if you know what you’re playing against).
- When you cast a two-land ramp spell (Route or kicked Grow), try and go from 5 to 7 lands with a Field of the Dead in play, as that’ll get you two Zombies, and if you haven’t made a land drop yet, wait until after so you get that third Zombie too.
- Make sure to play Temple of Mystery post-Rejuvenator or search, so you don’t waste a scry.
- Pay attention to which lands come in tapped. You need to make sure you aren’t delaying yourself, so think about sequencing before doing anything.
- Feel free to tick down Teferi aggressively if you need to hit land drops or need acceleration.
- Try not to play Krasis for less than x=4. Obviously you have to do it if you’re in dire straights, but this is a resource-intensive deck, and you want all the land possible.
- If you don’t have to, wait until 8+ lands to cast Scapeshift, as it’s more than twice as good as 7 (there’s a chart below). Also, this deck isn’t like old Scapeshift-Valakut decks – with 29 lands, you can just go off multiple times, so don’t be afraid to cast back to back Scapeshifts.
- For bigger Scapes, try not to sacrifice Field of the Dead – you get fewer Zombies right away, but many more long-term, and sometimes you need all four Fields to grind out the opponent.
- The “normal” Scapeshift package is, in order:
Zombie Count Cheat Sheet
7 Lands: 7 Zombies
8 Lands: 16 Zombies
9 Lands: 27 Zombies
10+ Lands: ALL THE ZOMBIES
On to the tournament!
Round 1-3: Vendor Booth
During my byes, I hung out and helped customers at the CFB vendor booth. It was quite fun, and I plan on spending some more time working the booth at future events. I like talking to people, and getting to actually sell cards face to face was neat, given that my job does involve selling cards with many layers in between me and the actual sales. If you are ever at an event and I’m working the booth, definitely come say hi!
Rounds 4-9 Notables:
Since most of the games tend to play out similarly, here are the highlights.
- I lost the mirror because I ran out of Route targets. That can certainly happen, and in a long game you have to be very cognizant of what lands are left in your deck. I even had the edge if that game went longer, as the opponent had to sac a Field early and my Field of Ruin put them down to two Fields to my four, but they out-Zombied me and killed me before I could leverage that.
- I got hit by Unmoored Ego in game three against Esper Hero, and managed to win an INSANE game. I won with two cards in my deck, on turn three of extra turns, after Scapeshifting all my lands out and going through all four Hydroid Krasis. This was a wild game, and I was lucky to have won it (my opponent even drew 10(!) cards with Bolas’s Citadel / Liliana on the last turn, but couldn’t find Kaya’s Wrath).
- I beat Nathan Steuer in the Scapeshift mirror thanks to Deputy, which seems like punishing him for doing a kind deed and lending me cards. Luckily, his good karma came up later in the weekend, as he won the Sunday MCQ!
I ended the day 8-1, with wrapter (on BW Vamps) at 8-1, Bene on the same 75 as me at 8-1, and mullibok at 9-0! Sadly, Gaby went 5-3 to barely miss, also playing BW Vamps.
We then went with the Serpent Squad to dinner, and had some great burgers and some very odd ice cream. The Inventing Room is a dessert place that does wild things like use liquid nitrogen to make inventive desserts (froze popcorn and unicorn sparkled ice cream and whatnot). I’d definitely recommend it if you find yourself in Denver.
The day started off auspiciously, as Bene demanded Burger King*, and it was a disaster.
Luis stopped at a Burger King for breakfast because we were running late and it was on the way.
They didn’t have coffee, soda, multiple food items, AND they missed 1/4 of our order (it was my order).
Our car is ready to win the Grand Prix/MCQ💥 pic.twitter.com/ejdpy7cQi3
— Gaby Spartz (@GabySpartz) July 21, 2019
We then stopped at Wendy’s (closed), then Taco Bell (not good), so we didn’t exactly have a breakfast of champions. Well, except for that I did win, so does that by definition mean my breakfast was one of a champion?
*When I say “Bene demanded” about anything, I’m very clearly lying, as Matt has never demanded anything in his life. It was the driver that chose Burger King, whoever that may be.
- I started off by winning against Nexus in a very lucky match, then losing to Jeskai Planeswalkers and Feather. At this point, I thought I was out of the running.
- Mulli kept crushing. Once he was 13-0, we asked him to keep playing, as it could help some more x-3’s make it into Top 8. Spoiler: it did.
- I got lucky enough to play White Weenie twice, which really is just the easiest matchup in the world.
- In my last round, it looked like both me and Bene were dead, as our tables were outside of the Top 8 range. We both won (him against Mono-Blue and me against Feather), and got ready for our Top 16 finishes.
In a shocking twist (Wrapter, among others, was not in fact shocked), I squeaked in to 8th on breakers. According to @ajlvi, 10/16 matches went my way in the last round, and I barely made it. I am a lucksack.
Speaking of @ajlvi (who is one of the fine folks who run the Elo project, and a great guy), he provided some great play-by-play coverage of the Top 8:
In case anyone missed it and is interested, finding the first tweets of my top 8 play-by-play threads is a bit of a pain, so here they all are.
— ajlvi (@ajlvi) July 24, 2019
I actually had a pretty easy path in the Top 8. Mulli beat me game one soundly, but Deputy was too good in postboard games, and then I played against Allen Sun in the mirror. I had better ramp hands than he did, and cruised to the finals against Nexus.
My finals match against Gregg Keithley was about as cut-and-dried as it gets. Despite Nexus being a bad matchup, I just had back to back turn five kills with Teferi in play, which they do have trouble beating.
Just like that, I was the GP Denver champion! It felt pretty awesome, because Denver is my home now (I’ve been here for almost 8 years), so I got to defend my home turf. I also got to see and celebrate with a ton of my friends, which made the victory even sweeter. Plus, mulli made Top 8 and Bene got 10th, so they had a good weekend too (sadly, Gaby missed the MCQ Top 8 on breakers at 5-1, which is a beat).
We got some delicious arepas, sangria, and ice cream for dinner, then went to Matt Nass’ place and hung out. I even snuck in a victory stream, and my trophy is still over there (and will be there for months I’m sure).
Folks eventually left Denver on their various flights, though there were some mishaps (our friend Marc got a bonus day in town!), and we ended up tired and happy after a long weekend. I couldn’t have done it without Gaby putting up with all my nonsense (this weekend and always) and Huey suggesting Deputies, so they deserve a ton of the credit as well.
Bonus Brunch Picture with the Cobra Crew: