Scapeshifting in Prague

by Joel_Calafell on January 14, 2014

Joel_Calafell

About
Joel Calafell

Spanish Player
Top 8 PT Kuala Lampur 2008
3 GP Top 8s
Winner GP Barcelona 2009

For this time, let’s this list make the presentation:

UGR Scapeshift


[Sideboard]
4 Obstinated Baloth
2 Inferno Titan
2 Urban Evolution
2 Counterflux
2 Creeping Corrosion
2 Torpor Orb
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
[/Sideboard]
[/cardlist]
This is the deck I played this weekend in GP Prague together with two other good Spanish friends: Toni Ramis and Alejandro Dupuy. We all ended up in the money, but I know my result could have been much better with just some more luck, and probably some more testing as well. Looking at my start of 8-1, I was hoping to at least end up between Top 16 and Top 32… But I’m afraid this time it wasn’t good enough.

However, I’m here to talk to you about all I learned while playing this archetype, and I hope this article will help you understand all of its strengths and weaknesses.

I know the list is nothing new in the format, but we managed to tweak a few interesting things to make it better against Twin and Jund, the obvious contenders. In fact, one of the reasons I chose to play the deck is that it had a good matchup against Jund, a reasonable one against Twin, Affinity, Merfolks or UWR, and plenty of easy games against Tron, Pod or Living End, as say some examples.

Dissecting the deck

Now, I will try to dissect all of our decisions, and what changes I might make to the list if I would happen to play it again (let’s say, Pro tour Valencia?).

Let’s analyze some of the major changes, since the rest should be pretty much self-explanatory.

4 Lightning Bolt

Yes, I know Firespout and Pyroclasm are usually played in this slot, or at least split between some Lightning Bolts as well…. But Pyroclasm is horrendous against Merfolk right now, and Firespout proved to be too slow during testing. Besides, they were clunky to play, even after board. I never missed them…

In this deck, you don’t really want to control the board, you preferably want to optimize your mana as much as possible, and a turn two Pyroclasm won’t enable you to cast Sakura-Tribe Elder or Farseek to start ramping up your game plan. On the other end, none of them were a good answer to a Deathrite Shaman start against Jund, and you always wanted to kill it turn 1. After that, Liliana of the Veil or Tarmogoyf, or just Thoughtseize/Inquisition of Kozilek into Dark Confidant might follow, and none of them put you into a good situation if you didn’t have the Bolt instead.

Of course, another reason is that they both are horrible against Twin, whereas Lightning Bolt is one of the key cards to beat the matchup, assuming most of the lists play more Pestermites than Deceiver Exarchs.

On top of that, there are also a bunch of games in which you need to Bolt your opponent to kill your opponent with just a 7 land-fueled Scapeshift.

3 Izzet Charm

I know the numbers usually vary on this card, but its flexibility is hard to discuss. It is one of the best tools you have to fight Twin, but it also helps you to randomly counter Liliana of the Veil, Karn Liberated, or just some more important spells in the format. The draw 2, discard 2 effect was sometimes useful as well, although I usually look at the card as if it didn’t really have this last option… I don’t think the deck could be any good without this kind of card.

Why no Prismatic Omen or Primeval Titan?

They only make sense if you don’t run Cryptic Command, basically, because you then are forced to play a totally different mana base. The problem with Primeval Titan is that it is very bad in a world with Deceiver Exarchs and Pestermites followed by an instant kill next turn. It doesn’t even do much if it resolves, and even if you liked its effect against certain matchups, you could just run Inferno Titan from the board instead.

Prismatic Omen, however, was a card we considered for a long time, but in the end it just didn’t make much sense. It made you play more than 2 Valakuts, and even though it feels like just another ramp spell… It’s not. It won’t help you cast Cryptic Command or Creeping Corrosion on turn 3, and it will hit the bin with Abrupt Decay many more times than you might think. In the end, I just didn’t like it enough.

4 Cryptic Command

I know, I know, looking back it might seem like you are making too many sacrifices in this version to just play this card… But it’s more than worth it, seriously. This card is totally insane: Not only enables for crushing control of the game if you cast it on turn 3 via some acceleration, but its also an incredibly flexible card during all the steps of the game: It protects you countering all kinds of relevant spells until you assemble enough lands to kill with your Scapeshift, and it lets you “fog” for some turns as well. It also works wonders in matchups like Twin, in which you always have extra mana to play around their Izzet Charms and can crush them with card advantage after repeated Cryptic Commands in the late game.

In the control matchups, it’s also good at starting to bounce lands on just turn 3. Countering spells and bouncing lands while mana ramping was also one of the ways to trump this kind of matchups.

4 Remand

Probably the best card in the deck. Ideally, you always wanted to cast it as early as possible, because it helped you keep ramping while slowing down the threats on the other side of the table. In all my hands when I had multiples I was really happy because it was always the kind of game you wanted to play. I also loved how good it was against Counterflux, as you could just Remand your own Scapeshift and cast it next turn. If you think of it, with 8 lands, Scapeshift and Remand, it was very hard for the Twin player to avoid the inevitability.

It was very bad on the draw against Jund or Merfolks, but I would still pretty much run all of the 4 copies without a doubt.

3 [card]Peer Through Depths[card]

Needed to find Scapeshift. You might wonder why the list only runs three copies, but you will understand it after a few times trying the deck. You never want to draw two copies of it against certain matchups, as they slow down your plan quite a bit if you play them very early, and might be quite redundant later on…

2 Snapcaster Mage

The fact that I wanted to play this guy no matter what, made me consider playing 4 Lightning Bolts even more. This little wizard is actually very flexible in this deck, and it allows you to recast ramp spells, removal, and the best targets: Remand and Cryptic Command.

It was also very good at dealing the last 2 points of damage Scapeshift usually needs (remember that if you want to go off with just 7 lands, you will need to search for 6 mountains and Valakut, so that will only be 18 damage)… And at flashbacking your Scapeshift after hitting the graveyard after an early Thoughtseize. That was actually really sweet against Jund!

What about the sideboard?

This is the part I liked the most about the deck, and I probably wouldn’t change a single card in this 15. I mean, I liked my maindeck as well, but just for once, I think my sideboard was even better.

2 Inferno Titan

This creature was amazing against so many things: Affinity, Pod, Jund, Merfolk… It enabled for alternative win conditions, which were very relevant if you didn’t want to autoscoop to a Sowing Salt on Valakut, or to Slaughter Games, which I didn’t expect much anyway. But its biggest strength is that almost nobody really expected it coming after sideboard. Even if they kind of were, and decided to keep some removal in, it was very difficult for them to play around two absolutely different plans. I even saw some of them throwing their removal to a ready to block Sakura-Tribe Elder after realizing they would die to Scapeshift if they didn’t start forcing damage through a bit earlier…

4 Obstinate Baloth

One of the problems of the Jund matchup (and who doesn’t have it?) was that it was hard to win through an early Liliana… But know what? Baloth was very bad news for anyone who dared activate it on turn 3, many times just killing the Planeswalker after that.

But it also was helpful to stall the board if cast on turn 3, and netting you some edge against Zoo or Monored. Yes, not very probable matchups, but they were all lurking around the Grand Prix anyway.

2 Urban Evolution

Another card that was very good to fight Liliana. At the GP, I had awkward hands in which I wasn’t able to ramp into it earlier enough… But during testing, and even after plenty of games on MTGO, it proved to be an amazing answer against both Liliana and Karn. It might look like a Limited card, I know, but drawing a bunch of cards and having an extra land drop were all you need. I mean, other Jund decks were playing Harmonize for the mirror!

2 Tropor Orb

“Turning off” Snapcasters, Vendilion Cliques and Pestermite/Deceiver Exarch was one of the keys to beat Twin post sideboard. What else do you need to know?

Boseiju, Who Shelters All

To board against Twin, UWR, and the mirror match, and mostly the best answer to Counterflux. One copy was to potentially draw it in the long game, but it wasn’t imperative to win those matchups anyway. It was also easy to protect against Molten Rains or Sowing Salts with the help of all your countermagic. Even if it was that good, I still think one was like the perfect number for it.

2 Counterflux

The kind of card I love in sideboards. It works against plenty of strategies in the format, and it’s also very, very good against Dispel. If you were casting Scapeshift with Counterflux backup… They would need to have more than a hard counter + Dispel if they wanted to avoid you going off. Isn’t that cool enough?

Conclusion

Would I play the deck again? Do I think it was a good choice for the metagame? Answering at the second question… A clear yes!

But will it be a good choice for the Pro Tour? I’m not so sure. The metagame has turned a bit worse for Scapeshift with the rise of UWR aggro (specifically Geist of Saint Traft) and UR Delver, which are not very good matchups, and I don’t know how it all will evolve during the following weeks.

Still, I think the deck was pretty solid overall and almost everyone I saw with it was doing pretty good at this tournament. Yes, none of them ended up in the Top 8 or even Top 16, but sometimes things aren’t that easy… I guess you will need to see if you like it enough or not, but if I were you, I would definitely try it, because this deck could be a real contender if prepared accordingly.

However, the Born of the Gods preview season has just started and I am very excited to see what might come out in the new set! I hope you are as much as I am!

Until next time!

Joel Calafell.

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