I have been jamming leagues on Magic Online for about 2 weeks testing Modern. I think I went 4-1 once and every other league I joined was 3-2 or x-3 drop. Modern can be pretty miserable sometimes, with seriously unfair decks showing up and crushing you out of nowhere. I won the PPTQ for this playing UR Twin, and while I think Twin is a great deck, there is a time and a place for it. I did not believe the time and place for it was now. After seeing the spoiler for Bring to Light I thought there was a great Scapeshift list out there somewhere. Scapeshift is very good because it preys on midrange decks and has a lot of game against control decks due to your mana advantage and counter package. It’s weak to super explosive decks (Grishoalbrand, Storm, Infect, or a big draw from Affinity/Naya Burn/Amulet) but given enough time it will almost always come out ahead due to mana advantage, and a good sideboard plan.
Bring to Light gives Scapeshift a silver bullet plan, meaning you can actually cut a Scapeshift (since they do nothing in multiples) and instead play 1 ofs like Anger of the Gods and sideboard cards like Slaughter Games, Obstinate Baloth and Shatterstorm. Twin is especially weak to discard because you need two cards to win, and turns on creature removal like Path to Exile and Abrupt Decay, which are completely dead against you. It’s almost impossible to combo off with Twin if your opponent is holding Abrupt Decay or Rending Volley, and I’m not really comfortable with the aggro package to take it to a tournament like this. Scapeshift doesn’t have these problems, so it’s easier for people with one-dimensional minds like myself (cast the thing and you die) but it’s weaker to explosive strategies. The list I ended up playing was piloted to a top finish 8 by Jeff Hoogland, a successful SCG Grinder.
Bring to Light Scapeshift – Robert Anderson
I tested a few cards that didn’t end up being great, like Damnation (Anger is better and easier to cast practically all the time) and am glad that Jeff’s list showed up and I could test it.
He seems to have come to very similar conclusions in Modern testing, but the one that he made seemed pretty obvious to me but I never saw it.
Cut Lightning Bolt.
In the current meta, the decks you actively want Lightning Bolt against are:
Against most other decks Bolt is just not very good. The list looked great to me so I tested a few leagues online. I got slightly better results, but was still seeing a lot of surprises and learned a lot about the deck. I tried not to get discouraged always going 3-2 but I was learning a lot, and that’s what really matters. Onto the report.
R1 – Jeskai Ascendency 0-2
This is still a deck? I knew the player and put him on Jeskai midrange of some sort, but he went T1 birds, t2 Glittering Wish for Jeskai Ascendency and effectively killed me t3-4 both games. I was really regretting not having bolt, but my hands were actually pretty abysmal. Game 2 I mulled 6 lands remand into 5 lands Cryptic, scryed a land to the bottom and drew Cryptic-Cryptic. The whole match I played 1 spell (unless you count 2 suspended Searches that never resolved!)
I was a bit discouraged and was regretting not taking Sammy T’s advice a couple of days prior to just play Twin, perhaps a Bolt would have saved me?
R2- Affinity – 2-1
These games went pretty much as expected, G1 I Bring to Lighted for Anger to wipe his board, G2 he infected me on turn 3, and g3 I Angered and Shatterstormed him. I made a rookie mistake where I Electrolyzed his face to put him at 18 and then played Scapeshift, whereas in hindsight if I had drawn a mountain land with my Electrolyze I wouldn’t have had enough left in my deck. You should always keep a mental note of how many mountains are left in your library and if drawing one will inadvertently kill you.
R3 – Grixis Control – 2-0
I felt like my opponent didn’t draw very well. He didn’t have any pressure and I was able to Scapeshift with 10 lands in play with counter backup. Game 2 we both mulliganed and both forgot to scry. He played Steam Vents untapped and then said oh we should scry and I said no we both forgot sorry. He Thought Scoured himself, milled 2 lands, then never played a 2nd land and I Balothed him out pretty easily. I guess my scry punt paid off.
R4 – Jund 2-0
This match showcased a lot of what I like about Scapeshift, which is also how stupid it is. He stripped my hand completely with Thoughtseize, Inquisition and Liliana, and I drew lands and ramp spells. With 6 Scapeshifts and various digging cards it was only a matter of time before I drew one, which I did before I was dead. This is a perfect example of a game I probably wouldn’t have won with Twin. Having 4 Obstinate Baloths makes this game 2 so much better as well, I don’t really remember game 2 but I’m pretty sure I drew Scapeshift and killed him. I kept a Baloth in my hand for most of the game just for Lili insurance (he also saw it with Thoughtseize so I couldn’t really play it out unless I had a game plan).
R5 – Naya Aggro 2-1
This was the Experiment One/Burning Tree x/3 deck. G1 I would have won had I won the die roll (dead with 6 lands and Scapeshift/7th land in hand). G2-3 I brought in Baloths, Angers and took out Remands and he ran out of gas pretty quickly. One turn he attacked with 2 x/3s and 2 x/2s, I elected to block an x/2 with my Baloth, he Atarka Commanded me to take a bunch of damage, I Angered his board and had a Baloth to clean up the rest of the game.
R6 – Abzan 2-1
I was happy going into this match but I actually came extremely close to losing. We both mulliganed game 1 and I had to keep a sketchy hand that contained a Valakut and a Watery Grave as my only mana sources and an anticipate to dig. I ended up drawing a second valakut and needing to play it to set up anger + Electrolyze to kill his Knight of the Reliquary. He ended up playing 2 Ghost Quarters, killing my Valakuts and all of a sudden I couldn’t win anymore.
G2 I used my ‘one time’ when I was dead on board with no hand, fetched my 10th land with misty, presented my deck, and my opponent was nice enough to shuffle a Bring to Light to the top.
G3 his hand was very awkward after a mulligan with only 2 Voice of Resurgence and no real discard. I played a couple of Baloths since he didn’t have double black and ended up Scapeshifting eventually.
I ended the Swiss in 1st place after losing round 1.
Top 8 – Grixis Control 2-0
I saw this player throughout the tournament playing a grixis control deck similar to the one I played in R3. G1 was very similar to round 3, as he had no real pressure and I was able to assemble land advantage. His Rise // Fall hit an island and an Anger of the Gods which was basically dead so that worked out well (my other 2 cards were Cryptic and Scapeshift). I find this matchup is quite easy unless they turn 2 Tasigur and you don’t have Remand or something.
G2 was much closer, he had a relatively early Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy but forgot to use +1 one turn allowing me to beat it down with Sakura-Tribe Elder for 1 turn. On the crucial turn he was at 13 life, I had 10 lands in play and Snapcaster, Cryptic in hand against his board of Spellskite, Tasigur and Gurmag Angler. I was at 9 so I had to go for it. His Jace was at 4, if he simply flashbacked his Thoughtseize I was dead but he elected to +1 it instead (mistake #1). EOT I wanted a better idea of what I’m up against, it could be either:
He played a Snare earlier so I didn’t expect to see a second. I decided to bounce one of his two blue sources to see where I’m at. He let it resolve instead of redirecting it to spellskite (mistake #2). I drew land and Cryptic for my turn, so I snap Scapeshifted, he negated, I Crypticed and he realized his Spellskite wouldn’t save him for 16 triggers. He showed me a Mana Leak that he assumed was dead (my line required 10 mana). I DID draw the counter I needed but he easily had the game in the bag. It felt really good to get back on the PT and I was happy many of my friends were there at Face to Face Games to share my big moment with me.
Final thoughts on Scapeshift and Modern: I think that Modern has a lot of problems that have been discussed to death but it’s very difficult to predict a metagame with so many decks, so allocating sideboard cards is extremely hard. I had reasonably good matchups and some stupid off-the-top draws and unfortunately it’s what you need to do to succeed in this format. It’s supposed to be a turn 4 format, yet you get decks like Infect, Amulet, Grishoalbrand, Storm etc that can pretty realistically kill you on turn 2 if you’re playing a slower deck. Scapeshift has the advantage of being able to ‘oops I win’ with no cards in hand, but I hope that Oath of the Gatewatch spices things up for the PT, but it likely won’t change much.
Thanks for reading and keep in mind even if you’re really bad you can still make it to the PT! Leave a comment if you have questions or want to tell me how bad I am!