Modern season is in full swing and it’s easily become my favourite format. It’s wide open with various strategies and room to brew without being incredibly broken… which is everything I could ever ask for in a format.
When I play Magic, I love playing control or combo decks. It’s strange, considering one archetype requires an immense amount of interaction while the other requires next to none. It’s no surprise that when I finally decided to get into Modern, Scapeshift was the deck that appealed to me. A control deck that uses it’s tools to survive long enough to cast one spell that wins the game? Sign me up. Here’s my current list:
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Serum Visions
3 Cryptic Command
3 Izzet Charm
3 Snapcaster Mage
3 Telling Time
4 Steam Vents
4 Stomping Ground
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
1 Breeding Pool
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Flooded Grove
1 Halimar Depths
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Obstinate Baloth
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Swan Song
2 Vendilion Clique
This list is pretty stock. It’s a 74-card copy of Jun Young Park’s GP Minneapolis winning list, with the only current change being a Quicken in the sideboard. I added it in to be ?cute?, but it’s actually quite decent. Most of your matchups have cards worth siding out even if you don’t have anything worthwhile to bring in and it always cantrips. Getting people with Quicken + Anger of the Gods when they activate manlands is insane and the option of casting Scapeshift in response to a Sphinx’s Revelation on end step (the one time they think they are safe to cast it) is a dream I haven’t lived yet, but that I am continuing to hope it happens.
The premise of the deck itself is fairly simple. Your goal is to get to 7 or 8 lands and to cast Scapeshift. Casting it with 7 lands equals 18 damage, which is enough against most decks in the format. 8 lands can net you 36 damage, or 21 damage if you have to play around Tectonic Edge. I feel like most of the cards are very self-explanatory, so I won’t go into much detail. You have Search for Tomorrow and Sakura-Tribe Elder to speed up the process, which will sometimes allow you to do so as early as turn 5 or 6. The rest of your cards serve either simply to keep you alive long enough to do so, or to find the actual Scapeshift itself. Some cards work overtime, Remand buys you a turn in most cases and a card, while Izzet Charm serves triple duty since it can counter cards like Living End or Birthing Pod, kill key creatures such as Aven Mindcensor, Melira, Sylvok Outcast or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker; or allow you to dig for a Scapeshift.
I’ve played this deck exclusively for about a month now. One of the things I find very important about a format as wide open as Modern, is to stick to a deck and learn it thoroughly. Understanding your matchups in a format with so many is extremely vital. I’ve had mixed success, starting 1-2 and 0-2 at two different GPT’s while making top 8 at another and doing fairly well at The Comic Hunter’s Tuesday night Modern tournaments (which are a blast by the way, 6:30pm on Tuesdays, you should come!).
I was durdling around on Facebook Friday afternoon when I saw Mike Sheng post about a PTQ in Quebec City, saying he had room for two. I asked what time they were leaving (4am) and immediately said I was in. Could have literally been any time and I would’ve been on board. After 1-2’ing a GPT in Saint John and getting back at 8pm, I left at 12:30am for Fredericton without any sleep. Sacrifices must be made in order to go to the Pro Tour.
Arrived at the venue, which thankfully, was well air conditioned considering the muggy weather outside and the 140 people that showed up to play. I might have caught an hour or so of sleep in the car, but I downed an energy drink before the day started and was feeling quite alert. Time to game.
Round 1: Martin Pelletier playing Aristocrats
We sat down for round 1 and the judges made an announcement to write the table number on the top right hand corner of the decklist sheet. My opponent slammed down his decklist to write the number and I managed to see the deck name (Aristocrats) as well as two of the namesake cards in Cartel and Falkenrath Aristocrat.
In game 1, he didn’t do much. He kept a hand with Swamp and Blood Crypt and never played a third land. He took a Scapeshift with a Thoughtseize, but when he cast Inqusition of Kozilek on his 6th turn and saw my 7th land and another Scapeshift, he conceded.
Game 2 was a little bit more of a game, but his deck was not able to apply enough pressure with Skirsdag High Priest and Cartel Aristocrat to put me on a real clock. I played a Halimar Depths and kept Scapeshift as the second card to blank the Thoughtseize he played after I drew my card the next turn, then won shortly afterward.
Round 2: Michael Huot playing Affinity (Robots)
I sat down and there was a judge hovering near our table, once my opponent showed, the judge said that the head judge wanted to speak to my opponent and I sat waiting for a good 10 minutes before we were able to get our match underway.
No penalties were issued to my knowledge and even though it appeared that we were off to a fair match, he mulliganed to 5 cards in game one and never put up any offense. I cast a Scapeshift for 36 damage at 19 life, only taking a single damage from my own Misty Rainforest.
Game two was somewhat closer, as he had Vault Skirge, Signal Pest, Ornithopter, some lands and Springleaf Drums. I had an Anger of the Gods, but he only had 3 power, so I waited to pull the trigger. An end step Telling Time found me a Quicken and the trap was set. My opponent activated one Blinkmoth Nexus and then a second. In what I can only deem a misplay, he chose to cast Arcbound Ravager pre-combat, but after activating his manlands and I got a 5 for 1 with an instant speed Anger of the Gods. He went all in on the Arcbound Ravager, making it a 5/5 and getting me down to 9, but I had the end of turn Electrolyze to drop him to 18 and the Scapeshift to win afterward.
Round 3: Maxime Paquette playing Kiki Pod
This is of little relevance to the report, but my opponent’s deck was triple sleeved, which was the first time I had seen such a thing. Considering how much of it was foil, it seems like a good idea!
Game one was extremely back and forth. He landed a turn 2 Birthing Pod, but I had Electrolyze and Izzet Charm to slow down the sheer amount of creatures he had on the table. He took a lot of damage off of his lands, which meant the lifegain he got from Kitchen Finks kept him under the crucial 18. He played a Murderous Redcap to drop me to 5, then podded it into a Kiki-Jiki before moving to combat. I allowed it and he simply passed the turn. I cast my Scapeshift the next turn and he copied the Redcap with Kiki-Jiki, then played a Restoration Angel to reset the Kiki-Jiki and make another Redcap to get me to 1. I had a Cryptic Command in hand if he tried to go infinite, but it ended up not being necessary.
Game two was probably as close to a perfect draw on a mull to 5 that he could ask for. I had mulled to 6 myself and had a hand with no interaction, but a turn 5 kill. However, he killed me quite quickly on his turn 5 with the Kiki-Jiki + Restoration Angel combo and we were off to game 3.
We both kept seven and had no plays for the first couple turns. He played a few creatures, but I had the answers for them. I then played a Vendilion Clique on his draw step on an empty board to see his four cards. Couldn’t help but laugh when he showed me two copies of Verdant Catacombs, an Arid Mesa and a Sacred Foundry. I eventually did draw a Scapeshift, but I had no way to deal with Aven Mindcensor so I just kept it in hand, he had no pressure anyway. His board eventually consisted of 3 copies of Birds of Paradise and my Clique beat him down to 4 life. I then finally drew an Electrolyze to kill a Mindcensor in response to Scapeshift, but he didn’t have it anyway.
Round 4: Jonathan St-Martin-Allard playing Living End
I chose to keep a hand with two Remands, an Izzet Charm, Serum Visions and two shocklands, which against Living End literally buys you all the time in the world. He tried cascading into Living End on three different occasions, then Suspended a copy before I untapped and killed him on the next turn.
I learned about this match-up at the SJ GPT, where I lost a second game after having my Scapeshifts exiled with Slaughter Games, so I knew to be ready for it this time. He cast a turn 4 Slaughter Games naming Scapeshift and when I revealed my hand with two Remands, a Cryptic Command and a Batterskull, he shrugged. When he looked at my deck, he shrugged again seeing the copies of Obstinate Baloth and Vendilion Clique I had brought in.
We both did nothing for several turns, just making land drops. Once I had 4 mana up, I ran out the Batterskull and started on the offensive. I then found a Relic of Progenitus and played it. He played a Valley Rannet and it simply traded with the Germ token. One or two turns later, he started off his turn with a Beast Within on my Batterskull. I immediately figured that his plan was for me to pick it up using it’s own ability, so I thought for a bit before ultimately deciding to counter it with Cryptic Command, leaving three mana up. He immediately passed the turn and I was quite focused on that line of play, so on my end step, I tapped out to return it to my hand. When he said he had a response and cast Violent Outburst, my heart skipped a beat. My first instinct was to look at the clock and see if I had time to win a game three if I conceded.
I regained my composure, even though I was still mad at myself and let the spell resolve. He brought back in a total of 8 or 9 creatures while I brought in two Sakura-Tribe Elders. Two Avalanche Riders and a Fulminator Mage crippled my green mana stranding an Obstinate Baloth in my hand. The Batterskull came back to my hand and I cast it again on the next turn. He did not pay the Echo on the Riders and attacked with his team. With the lifegain from the Batterskull and the two Sakura-Tribe Elders blocking, I only dropped from 24 to 18. I got forests after chumping with the Elders and on my next turn, played an Obstinate Baloth and equipped the Batterskull, leaving up an Island. On his next turn, he cast Demonic Dread on my Baloth, choosing not to cast the Living End he cascaded into as to not wrath his team. After the cascade resolved, I tapped my last blue and cast Swan Song to counter the Demonic Dread. The ensuing attack dropped me to 5 and then I untapped and drew Cryptic Command. I killed the 2/2 Bird token with Izzet Charm to ensure he didn’t have a Beast Within to stop my lifegain and attacked him down to 4. On his next turn, when he went to combat, I tapped his team with my Cryptic Command and he played a post-combat Deadshot Minotaur to block. I gained another 8 on my next combat step, going up to 21 and playing a Sakura-Tribe Elder. He then attacked with all of his creatures the following turn and conceded realizing he hadn’t left any defenses and couldn’t kill me.
Other than the one giant misplay, I thought I played pretty tightly and was certainly lucky to get out of that one. Another lesson learned in that match.
Round 5: Vincent Laberge playing Jund
I really don’t have much to say about this particular match, my opponent did nothing in both games and I went off basically uninterrupted in both games.
Round 6: Francisco Leon Valencia playing Melira Pod
This match was a win and in into the top 8, which certainly increased the pressure somewhat. I used to play Melira Pod in Modern before the banning of Deathrite Shaman, so I thought I was well versed in what was in their lists… I don’t think I could’ve been any more wrong.
In game one, I cast an Izzet Charm since I needed to make land drops, and drew the land necessary and a second Scapeshift. I decided to discard one of the Scapeshifts, knowing they generally don’t play Thoughtseize in the main. However, on his next turn, he podded away a two-drop into a Sin Collector and took my other copy of Scapeshift. I dealt with his creatures for the most part, but couldn’t kill him. He played a Scavenging Ooze which eliminated Snapcaster Mage as a possibility and on his next turn podded it into Spike Feeder before playing Archangel of Thune from his hand prompting my concession.
In game two, I had a hand with a lot of ramp but no Scapeshift. He had no Birthing Pod, but had an array of creatures before playing Gavony Township to make them all scary. Luckily, on the turn after he used the Township, I managed to draw an Anger of the Gods to kill everything other than Wall of Roots at a stable 10 life. He quickly reloaded and passed the turn back to me, saying ?Do you have another?? when I drew my card, which prompted me to look at the board and realize that if I drew it next turn, I wouldn’t be able to kill his creatures. I then decided to crack my Relic of Progenitus which didn’t find me the Anger of the Gods, but rather a Scapeshift to go along with the 8th land I had previously drawn.
We were commenting about how the games had been good so far, which was absolutely true. My opening hand in game three was strong, with a lot of the necessary answers and a Scapeshift. We played a very interactive game, going back and forth on board positions until he managed to Pod into an Entomber Exarch, nailing my Scapeshift the turn before I could cast it to win. On the penultimate turn, he cast a Restoration Angel. I had Telling Time in my hand and for some reason, let the Angel resolve and let it blink the Entomber Exarch before casting it. It found Izzet Charm, Cryptic Command and another card, so I took the Izzet Charm and left Cryptic on top before using the Izzet Charm to kill the Exarch. He then attacked me down to two with Murderous Redcap before passing. I untapped, drew my Cryptic Command and simply passed back. He drew his card and paused slightly before entering combat, so it was obviously something relevant. I tapped his creatures with Cryptic and drew a card, which I simply laid face down in front of me without looking at it as I didn’t want to give anything away that could influence his decision. He thought for a minute or so before playing a Birthing Pod and sacrificing a one-drop to get Scavenging Ooze to be able to exile my Scapeshift if I drew Snapcaster Mage. He then passed the turn back to me and I looked at the card I drew off my Cryptic Command… Forest. Untapped my four lands and drew my card and immediately slammed the Scapeshift on the table when I realized what I had drawn. There was a large gathering at our table and I was shaking. I just couldn’t believe it.
Rounds 7 & 8: Intentional Draws
I did sit down intending to play round 8 as Bradd who had come with us was X-1-1 and may have needed me to open up a spot. After splitting the first two games with my opponent, I noticed that table 4 was playing instead of having drawn, meaning he was in regardless, so I accepted the draw.
6-0-2 after swiss, seeded 3rd.
Quarterfinals: Maxime Paquette playing Kiki Pod
It felt good to see a familiar face, just because I knew what I was up against, which would help my game one decisions on whether to keep or not.
Once again, not too much to write about for this particular match as in game one, I had all the answers to stop him for the entirety of the game. I finally found the Scapeshift I needed and cast it at a comfortable 17 life.
In game two, it was much of the same, although this time he had much more of a creature presence. I however, had enough to stop him and had the Scapeshift. The only hurdle this game was that I couldn’t find the 7th land. After a turn of missing through Serum Visions and Telling Time, the Serum Visions I cast on the next turn found it allowing me to kill him.
Semifinals: Samuel Lamarre playing Hate Bears
I had never really played this matchup other than the two games in round 8, but it seemed fairly atrocious. A deck full of Leonin Arbiters, Aven Mindcensors and Aether Vials is real annoying.
In game one, I kept a fairly loose hand without much ramp and he played a turn one Aether Vial. All I had for the subsequent turns were Remands that did essentially nothing and he killed me in short order while still at 20 life.
My opening hand for game two was pretty strong, with a lot of interactive cards, as long as he didn’t play turn one Aether Vial. He did, but I fortunately drew a Repeal which slowed him down enough. He went to 18 off a Temple Garden, but back up to 19 off Scavenging Ooze. I had 5 lands in play when he thought about his play, taking one damage from Horizon Canopy to play something that I unfortunately cannot remember at all, but while tapping himself out. I untapped and simply played my 6th land, played Sakura-Tribe Elder, sacrificed it to get the 7th and cast Scapeshift to seal it.
In game 3, I had a hand with two lands, Serum Visions and a Scapeshift amongst other cards. He had the dreaded turn 1 Aether Vial and came out of the gates pretty quickly. An early Leonin Arbiter was a hinderance and when he played a mainphase Aven Mindcensor, I had to respond by paying two to sacrifice my Sakura-Tribe Elder to ensure finding a 5th land. I untapped and ticked my Search for Tomorrow down to one counter and passed the turn back to him. He attacked me down to 4 and thought for a bit before playing a second Leonin Arbiter to go along with a Scavenging Ooze. It was now or never, I needed to find either a Cryptic Command to stay alive for an extra turn or an Anger of the Gods which would wipe his board clean.
I untapped and cast my Search for Tomorrow, unable to search for a land and drew my card, Serum Visions. I cast it, which drew me Telling Time and scryed into two useless cards. I bottomed them both and cast the Telling Time. I didn’t slowroll myself, simply picked up the top three cards and flipped them towards me in one motion. I saw a red card on the top, but it was unfortunately the only other red card in the deck, Ancient Grudge, so I offered the concession and wished him luck in the finals.
I had a good run and even though it really sucks to be that close and lose, there will be other opportunities. I learned a lot from this event, playing against a plethora of different archetypes, which is very valuable. GP Boston and the PTQ in August will be the last chances to qualify this season, which I will certainly be trying to do. I will probably write a primer on the deck before GP Boston, mainly for myself to better understand the matchups through talking about them, so if that kind of thing interests you, look back for that!
Some quick props and slops!
– Mike, for posting about the tournament as well as all the stuff between rounds
– Matt, for driving both ways and also taking a nap to ensure a safe ride home
– Everyone else on the trip for also being cool
– AMP Energy drinks for not tasting completely terrible while keeping me awake
– Van Houtte Cafe for that insane caramel square thing I ate
– Hotel Pur for having air conditioning
– A special someone for sending me what has essentially become a good luck charm, thank you so much!
– Quebec for still having the worst stretch of highway imaginable between Edmundston and Riviere-du-Loup
– Hurricane Arthur for being an [expletive deleted]
– Subway in Montmagny for not having marinara
– The timing on this PTQ for being a week before M15 therefore making the Journey into Nyx packs I won worthless
Thanks for reading, see you next time!