This past weekend was the last StarCityGames Standard Open before Kaladesh releases and rotation happens and I made the trek out to Richmond to play in the event. Before I played a single match of Magic in round three, I had made one critical mistake. I did not register Bant Company. Instead, I registered a variation of Jund Delirium like I had tested on stream the week before. If you have any Standard events that you genuinely care about winning (or doing well in) before rotation happens, do yourself a favor and just play Bant.
Today’s article is not going to be about my Standard performance though. Today we are going to talk about a sweet little number I played to a third place finish in the Modern classic on Sunday:
Aggro Scapeshift by Jeff Hoogland
3rd place at SCG Richmond Modern Classic
I have been getting a lot of questions about the decklist, many of which I hope to answer today. The most pressing question I have been getting is: Where in the heck did this decklist come from?
As the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. What does history have to do with this decklist? Well it is fairly rare that an entirely new deck is ever born into a format like Modern. This list is no exception as it is actually a variation on an old extended deck. Last week an updated variation of this old idea top 64’d one of the Modern Grands Prix and I immediately put it together to start testing.
The second most popular question I have been getting is: Why did I register this instead of Darwin Chord (Kiki Evolution) for the Modern classic?
The short version is that I left Darwin Chord at home by mistake. I counted the deck boxes I had in my bag and forgot to take into account I should have an extra one because I was bringing Aggro Scapeshift with me.
Before I get into some of the more specific questions folks have been asking me, I would like to talk about the number of different things this deck has going on. This deck is attacking people along a lot of different angles and even I did not see them all at first glance. Starting with the obvious:
Get seven lands in play, cast Scapeshift finding six mountains and a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to deal 18 damage to your opponent.
This of course does not take into account the fact that we could have a Prismatic Omen in play. You see, Prismatic Omens make all of your lands have all basic land types, allowing you to trigger Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle starting on your sixth land drop. In fact, with Prismatic Omen in play, if you Scapeshift into all four copies of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and two other lands you will deal 72 damage to your opponent!
Prismatic Omen also fixes our mana in this deck. There are often hands where you are missing one or more colors and casting Manamorphose into Prismatic Omen makes everything castable. It is important to remember that your fetchlands tap for mana of any color while under Prismatic Omen. This allows you to save cracking them until you need to trigger Landfall or once you have six lands in play for Valakut to be active.
The last thing Prismatic Omen does for us is that it allows Knight of the Reliquary to act as an accelerant using Flagstones of Trokair. Normally you cannot sacrifice Flagstones to Knight’s ability (unless you are playing MTGO of course), but Prismatic Omen turns Flagstones into a Forest card and a Plains card. As a result, when you sacrifice Flagstones to Knight you get a land from the Flagstones’ trigger and then one from the Knight’s ability.
Next up we have these two little gems:
These two lightweight threats are really what separates this deck from the more “traditional” Scapeshift shells in Modern. One of the things this archetype has always had a problem with is being able to close the game out fast enough. Playing these landfall creatures lets us end the game as early as the third turn. One such sequence might look like:
Turn One: White source, Steppe Lynx.
Turn Two: Green source, Explore, play a fetchland and search with it, attack for six.
Turn Three: Fourth land, cast Scapeshift, find three copies of Flagstones of Trokair and our Soaring Seacliff, sacrifice two of our copies of Flagstones of Trokair due to the legend rule, fetch two Plains from our deck, attack with a fourteen-power flying Steppe Lynx for lethal.
Combo kills and cute interactions aside, we can just naturally kill our opponents by simply playing out our landfall creatures and Knights and doing the NASCAR shuffle.
The classic that I played in had a little over 140 players which made for eight rounds of swiss. I finished swiss with a record of 7-1 and then lost in the second of the single elimination rounds. Throughout the course of the event I beat:
- Infect 4x
While losing to:
- RG Valakut
Instead of doing a blow-by-blow of each match I will hit on the highlights:
In the match I lost to Merfolk I had the choice on turn four to either make my Steppe Lynx a 4/5 and then Anger of the Gods his board, or go for the Scapeshift kill while he was tapped out but had an active Aether Vial on 2. I went for the kill and got blown out by a Harbinger of the Tides. It is worth noting that had I been playing Sejiri Steppe instead of Soaring Seacliff I would have definitely won this game.
In my matchup against Tron the first game ended through Prismatic Omen + Knight of the Reliquary = multiple Valakut nonsense. Then in the second game my opponent played out Orbs of Warding to beat my Valakut game plan, and promptly died to three Plated Geopedes surfing on a Scapeshift.
Similarly against my round eight match against Jund I kept the following hand on the play game one:
On turn five I kill him when I draw a Prismatic Omen.
Now for a bunch of quick hits:
- In the match I lost against RG Valakut in the top four, I was one turn short of killing him games one and three.
- Throughout my 10 matches I killed my opponent on turn three on two separate occasions.
- I used Path to Exile on my own creatures (as a ramp or pump spell) about as many times as I used it on my opponents’ creatures.
- At least once I Path’d my own creature to make my unblocked creatures lethal with a landfall trigger.
- Announcing Storm count when you cast the second Manamorphose in a turn is good fun.
- Waiting to fetch whenever possible is ideal for triggering both landfall and Valakut later on.
- “Scapeshift-ing” a Flagstones of Trokair nets you an additional land much like Knighting it does (though I caution against saying “I dub thee sir Flagsones of Trokair” to accompany it)
As far as my thoughts on the deck in general, I still do not really have an educated opinion on it. One event (with only 10 matches at that) is not enough to learn the ins and outs of a “new” archetype like this. The deck feels as odd to play as it is to look at on paper. The game play it generates is fairly interesting though, as your role can completely change based on your opening hand.
It feels less consistent in terms of early kills than other “all in” decks like Death’s Shadow and Infect, but often is a bit faster than other Valakut decks can be. I would be very surprised if the list I played was optimal, but I do feel like the changes I made from the Grand Prix list were improvements. Path gives the deck both quick interaction and improvised acceleration game one.
The one copy of Farseek I played as an additional acceleration felt good every time I drew it and I think I would like to fit at least one more copy in the main deck somewhere. That being said, all of the current slots are fairly tight. The mana base is already stretched trying to support Valakut kills, Flagstones of Trokair, and enough fetches to enable our landfall creatures.
Speaking of that taxed mana base—I have had several people ask if I think Retreat to Coralhelm could be worth jamming in here. The short answer is no. The longer answer is that we would need to play 30+ lands to make Coralhelm kills lethal and even then we would not be doing so until turn 4+.
My sideboard was mostly me going in blind—just including cards that were powerful in the context of the format. The only “tricky” board card is the Dryad Arbor. I included this as a threat we can grab with a green fetchland, and protection against Liliana of the Veil decks.
I did some recording with this deck on my weekly paper Magic stream this week. If you are interested in some of the sweet things it can do check out this short clip here. If you want to see full games check out this playlist.
I am certain that a number of my wins with the deck stemmed from my opponents not being familiar with what my deck was doing or what they should play around. It is important to remember that a single result does not make a deck good or even viable. Just like good decks failing to top eight events, less-than-good decks break through on occasion.
The jury is out on whether this deck falls into the “Good” or “Not Good” category. Only time will tell if this deck is consistent enough to have real staying power, or if it is just a fun flash in the pan I caught people off-guard with. Either way I plan to test it enough to figure out which of the two it is!
I am taking the next few weeks off of Magic events, but I am very much looking forward to diving into Kaladesh when it is fully spoiled. My next major Magic event is the open in Indianapolis after rotation and I cannot wait to get brewing!
Have a question about the deck I did not answer above? Let me know in a comment below!
* One SCG Invitational Top 8
* Two SCG Invitational Top 16
* 14 SCG Open series Top 8s
* One GP top 16