Pretty much as soon as I learned how Valakut and Scapeshift worked, I fell in love. My favorite type of Magic decks have always been those that aren’t purely controlling, or purely aggressive, but those that do something cool and powerful, where my opponent isn’t necessarily sure what I am doing.
When I played Scapeshift at PT Austin in 2009 pretty much all of my opponents had to read it when I cast it, then read Valakut, and then look confused. I realize by now everyone pretty much knows what the deck does. However, the RG deck has several different paths to victory and generally I don’t think people are very good at playing against it. I think the UG version is slightly more powerful but anyone who sets out to beat it can. The RG version allows you to play some very interactive games where you start Valukuting their guys to buy time or go straight to the head with Valakut or Scapeshift and Omen/Titan. Basically Scapeshift is plan A and everything else is plan B, but plan B is still always on. Also, this deck can have some unexpected plan A kills. I highly recommend this deck for the remainder of the Extended season. It’s the perfect deck to face weak opposition, since it is tough to hate out and very flexible, and it has natural good matchups with the aggro decks and a strong sideboard.
I was really happy with the list I used in the GP. Not just because I got second, but because all the cards performed. There are choices you could make based on what you expect the format to look like but there mostly in the sideboard.
Moving forward I would use this maindeck.
Ben Stark (RG Valakut)
The sideboard is a different issue. I didn’t expect UG omen/Scapeshift to be nearly as popular as it was. Between Swiss and the finals I played against it 4 times. I definitely wish I had a little more sideboard against it then I did. My current sb now is:
There are different types of sideboards: transformational sideboards where your deck can change its main strategy and turn into a different deck and tool box sideboards where your deck can just regularly change 6-10 cards in every matchup to make you stronger.
This deck doesn’t want those kinds of sideboards.
This deck uses what I consider a traditional sideboard. Strong hate cards that are there for a specific matchup or 2 and make a big difference. The reason for that is because it is ok if you don’t sideboard a single card in a lot of matchups. You don’t have a lot of cards that are strong in some matchups and weak in others. You have a deck. The only card in the deck that isn’t part of the engine is Lightning Bolt. You may not want the exact sideboard I am using. You have to guess what you are going to play against. In addition to those sideboard cards, my roommate Max came up with Koth of the Hammer as a sideboard card for pure control strategies and it has been extremely effective against them, but not too useful against faeries so we were extremely excited because at worlds there was a lot more control but since it has kind of turned into all faeries all the time.
Sideboarding and Matchups
Cawblade is very beatable with Valakut in extended. Unlike in Standard, you are much faster and can just untap and kill them. I frequently win games against them even after being hit by a Sword. Plus, you have the 4 Bolts main to really get them when they go for it. The games are however hard, and you don’t always do the same thing so i suggest getting some serious practice in the matchup. Sometimes I Bolt the Stoneforge when they play it, and other times I wait for them to equip it to something. Usually I try and play around Mana Leak, since thats pretty easy to do with Scapeshift only costing 4 mana.
I know it seems wierd not bringing in all the copies of your sideboard cards, but the thing is that sometimes they have [card leyline of sanctity]Leylines[/card] and sometimes they don’t. If they do, you want all 4 Nature’s Claim. If they seem creature heavy you want the 2nd Fallout or counter heavy with Flashfreeze or Negate you definitely want the 3rd Guttural Response. If you want to win with this deck it’s important not to oversideboard; you can’t take out many ramp and win conditions and still have a functioning deck.
I used to have Great Stable Stags for them but they all copied the Channelfireball tech and started boarding in Nighthawks. This is awesome for us. While Nighthawk was a great idea against Naya’s Stags because it is also a decent card against Naya’s other guys, Nighthawk is a terrible card against us but is effective against our Stags. So, if they want to bring in Nighthawks we can just not have Stags and trump them. If no one in your area is using Nighthawks you may want to bring the stags off the bench and into the sideboard.
The Mythic/Bant matchup is really pretty easy. Combust is an all star, taking out [card knight of the reliquary]Knights[/card], [card mirran crusader]Crusader[/card] or [card sovereigns of lost alara]Sovereigns[/card] and their deck just doesn’t function well through Bolts/Fallouts. Additionally, if they gain mana advantage it’s ok because we can just kill them, unlike most control decks that run into difficult spots against them, once they can play a threat with Leak backup.
These matchups are straight races. If beatdown were faster than combo, combo wouldn’t be able to exist. They aren’t much slower than us but they are a little slower. Additionally, if you can bolt their turn 1 play that’s almost a timewalk. Neither of these decks do anything real to disrupt you so just plan your turns ahead and make sure you don’t come up just short. I have beaten mono red easily 80 percent of the time I have played it but my average life total at the end of the game is like 4. Expect to get low and just kill them as quick as possible.
Jund is the only deck not playing Scapeshift that I lost to at the Grand Prix. I attribute this more to Gindy being a master then the matchup because I have beaten it countless times on MTGO. They do have Thoughtseizes so don’t mulligan aggressively to find a Scapeshift or Titan because they will probably make you discard it anyways. Just get your deck ramping and setting up and usually you will draw into something and beat them. Sometimes it just won’t be there but between all the different good things the deck does( Omen/Valakut, Baloth after Sideboard, Scapeshift, Titan) usually you can find something.
The control matchups can get interesting. Sometimes I board in some Obstinate Baloths and try and go more beatdown but that was generally when I had less enchantment kill in my sideboard. The problem is being on the wrong end of the guessing game with the Runed Halos and Leylines can be very problematic. You don’t want to have a hand full of Nature’s Claims and they aren’t even boarding those cards. On the other hand Valakut’s popularity has only continued to grow so I think it is a safe assumption that they do have those cards.
Against 4cc be sure to keep 4 cards in hand where possible because then they cannot [card cruel ultimatum]Cruel[/card] you or you can untap and Scapeshift and kill them. If you start to draw excess lands 6 cards is even better so as to stay ahead of eot Esper Charm then untap Cruel. These games tend to be long hard and winnable. You can’t just assume because the game went late they win; since they can’t just tap 6 and play a win condition, often times you end up in Mexican standoffs where neither person can really do things.
I mean, this match is a straightforward as it seems. It’s pretty much a disruption free race to the finish line. I went 3-0 against it in the GP. I felt that was largely due to them having Primal Commands and me not. I feel like you ramp at least 1, probably more like 1.2 lands per turn, and if you have Titan and they have Scapeshift you auto lose. Therefore, spending time putting a land on top and getting Titan or gaining 7 is near worthless and having these in your library puts you at a disadvantage. All you can really do is ramp as much as possible and shift as fast as possible.
This matchup is a lot more fun than the actual mirror. They have counters but if they are leaving counter mana up then they aren’t ramping. They have a quicker kill then you but they need both parts of the combo whereas you have multiple 1 card combos. Also, one Nature’s Claim means their whole combo doesn’t work, but of course they will have Dispel, Vendilion Clique, Cryptic Command, etc. Be prepared to ramp first, then try and win. If they stop you, use Claim to stop them and win with your plan B’s. Also, you can let them Scapeshift then Claim the Omen because Valakut checks on resolution that there are 5 other Mountains in play, and unless they are running the JWay 66 card special they don’t play 6 Mountains.
Firespout is much better here because they often can get a combination of elves in play quickly where you need to do 3 damage and not 2. I noticed a big change in my win percentage against elves when I switched from Fallouts to Firespouts online.
As far as the game play, there are some things that come up. Against Faeries or other counter decks you do have to make them have it. You cannot be afraid to play your spells and have them Mana Leaked or Spellstuttered. However, one of the key things if you can set it up is to be able to double Scapeshift when they have 5 or less mana. That is very tough for them to stop. Also, if you can Scapeshift on turn 4 with 3 untapped that’s really good. The games go different ways. Sometimes Faeries plays more like a control deck and other times they have a Blossom and a Mistbind and the race is on. You don’t want to get caught waiting and lose with your winners in your hand since you play around the same number of good finishers that they do solutions. So my usual advice in this matchup is to go for it.
Against Mythic it’s different. If you can stay out of 1-shot Sovereigns kill range then you can just develop and play around Mana Leak. Obviously if they have you under pressure then you just have to kill them first, like against naya or mono red. Really the games don’t always go the same way so you do need to practice the Scapeshift deck before a tournament.
Something else you may want to know with the deck is that there are times where you can Scapeshift for non lethal and have it be very effective. One game that plays out sometimes is turn 2 expedition or Omen, turn 3 the other one. Now, turn 4, even though you don’t have the 3 counters on your Expedition you can still Scapeshift. Sacrifice the 4 lands you have in play to go and get 4 Valakuts. When they come into play you get 3 counters on your Expedition. Now you can sacrifice it to go get 2 Mountains and deal 24 points of damage to your opponent.
Another thing that has come up for me is against decks like faeries or Jund, if they are at 20 but give you the window to deal 18 it can easily be right for you to do so. They may have a Kitchen Finks or Tectonic Edge so you will want to try and have a Forest left in your hand to get back going in addition to the Mountain to deal the remaining 3, but risky plays like these can be better than letting them untap with counters or play land 4 to bring Cryptic online and lock you out of the game.
After Sideboard Jund normally has Thoughtseizes so every turn that goes by they can topdeck one. Along the same lines let’s say you draw an Expedition and you have 6 land in play and no Omen, and your hand is 2 Scapeshifts. You can cast an Expedition then Scapeshift for 3 to get the 3 counters on your expedition, then next turn you will be able to do the lethal Scapeshift; that’s much faster than waiting to draw 3 lands.
Lastly, I lent a friend of mine the deck to play in a PTQ this weekend. He hasn’t played in awhile and doesn’t know the format much. What follows is some Q&A with him.
Why not play Volcanic Fallout in the main deck like many players are doing now instead of Lightning Bolt?
Lightning Bolt is much faster. Killing Knight or Hierarch on turn 1 is very important. As said before, it acts as a Time Walk vs. beatdown decks. Also, you can much more easily bolt their creature in response to Sword — it is unlikely you will have 1RR available for fallout on their turn.
Drawing multiple Harrows against decks with counterspells is too big of a liability.
This choice can certainly be changed based on the metagame, but Firespout is much better vs. Elves, and as I said earlier in the article, the sideboard strategy is to have a few great cards for each matchup. If you don’t expect Elves at your PTQ, Fallout should replace Firespout. But you really need the 3 damage against elves, whereas Fallout is only a little better against other decks.
Why not board Firespout in against Faeries?
You can’t oversideboard and it’s just not a good enough card against them to be better then what it replaces.
Why do you still play 2 Oracle of Mul Daya when many players have cut it for Fallout?
Between the syngery with shuffle effects and of getting to your good spells, it works as card drawing for you, which this deck lacks.
Good luck in the upcoming PTQ’s. If anyone Q’d with the deck last weekend or is going to play it this weekend feel free to ask any questions. Hopefully, this article will help.