Modern Spotlight: Titan Scapeshift

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Scapeshift decks. Today we look at one from GP Pittsburgh that skips playing the blue entirely to try to win as quickly as possible.

Most people who have played modern have probably run into Scapeshift at some point, but probably not quite like this:

Titan Scapeshift (Thien Nguyen) (33)
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Primeval Titan
Search for Tomorrow
Primal Command
Commune with Lava
Relic of Progenitus
Khalni Heart Expedition
Lands (27)
Stomping Ground
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Cinder Glade
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

Sideboard (15)
Obstinate Baloth
Crumble to Dust
Nature’s Claim
Rending Volley
Anger of the Gods

14 ramp spells make quick kills more consistent compared to the versions that include blue. The increase to 12 mountains also make things a little big easier. 8 cards that cycle is certainly fewer than the versions with blue, but it’s still respectable. The best digger though: Commune with Lava. At first glance I hated the idea of playing this card as it’s possible to have really poor luck and just lose to casting it. However, it allows you to dump a ton of mana at the end of your opponent’s turn, and dig 5-6 cards deep for your win condition. When you just need to dig for Scapeshift, this is a way to do it without adding another color.

Another perk of Titan Scapeshift is that you don’t need Scapeshift to win. With enough ramp spells and 4 copies of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, you can often just get there by playing lands. Sometimes. It depends if your opponent’s deck just kills you before that, because without Scapeshift you’re still looking at a best case turn 4 kill:

Turn 1: Stomping Ground(1), suspend Search for Tomorrow
Turn 2: Mountain(2), Khalni Heart Expedition
Turn 3: Search gets a Mountain(3), play Valakut, cast Explore, play Cinder Glade (4), cast Farseek for Cinder Glade (5).
Turn 4: Cast Khalni Heart Expedition, play Valakut, use both Expeditions to get 4 mountains for 24 damage total….

That’s a tough sequence to get consistently, and it’s much more likely that you kill your opponent on turn 5 or 6. The deck also lacks the interaction to slow down what your opponent is doing, relying on just being faster or them just not having it. Other decks have tried doing the same thing (many Collected Company lists, Amulet Bloom), just they can usually do it faster and more consistently. While it sounds that I’m beating up on the deck a bit here, I actually think that the proactive race plan may often be better than the more reactive plan that also needs to dig. I also much prefer the play style of the blue versions, especially now with Bring to Light (more on this, I think, in a few weeks).

The inclusion of 4 Cinder Glade I also find interesting. With this much ramp for basics it makes it pretty easy to have them enter untapped after a few turns, and it really will help preserve your life total. This is a change I may try adopting in my Bring to Light version of the deck, to allow for getting high domain counts without paying too much life.

I very much like the simplicity of the sideboard. Often times I find myself running a lot of singletons in my sideboard and trying to find cards that cover multiple decks, but it seems like it may actually be best to identify problematic matches and then throw a number of cards at them. Obstinate Baloth is great against any of the aggressive decks out there. Crumble to Dust is a monster against Tron and the mirror. Nature’s Claim is your protection against Blood Moon, Affinity, Twin, and Bogles. Rending Volley helps deal with Twin plus any decks that play white creatures (Aven Mindcensor and Leonin Arbiter being big ones to hit). Anger of the Gods is additional hate for aggro decks and Affinity.

Chris Wendelboe

Chris is a level 2 judge from Ashland, New Hampshire. He enjoys Scapeshift, modern, and putting on the best events possible.