I’m still moderately salty about having impulsively burnt four mythic wildcards on Scapeshift, way back in March, and so I desperately take every opportunity I get to play it as I chase the value dragon. I was thrilled, therefore, when Arena Boys superfan Correl got in touch with an update to one of our previous Scapeshift decks–looks like those mythic wildcards are going to be put to work again.
This time around, the central interaction we’re looking to exploit is between Scapeshift and Field of the Dead. Putting a squillion Zombie tokens into play once we have seven or eight lands means that the opponent needs an immediate answer or will die very swiftly, as even a seven-land Scapeshift puts 14 power into play.
The Gate shell is well-suited to this strategy, as it’s very defensive and allows a play patterns that slows down the game to bridge to the late-game. Besides, having all five colors allows us to play not only our special Zacama, but also newcomer Golos, Tireless Pilgrim!
2 Field of the Dead 4 Plaza of Harmony 1 Izzet Guildgate 1 Orzhov Guildgate 2 Golgari Guildgate 1 Azorius Guildgate 1 Dimir Guildgate 1 Rakdos Guildgate 4 Gruul Guildgate 1 Boros Guildgate 1 Selesnya Guildgate 4 Simic Guildgate 3 Gateway Plaza 1 Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar 3 Archway Angel 3 Golos, Tireless Pilgrim 1 Zacama, Primal Calamity 1 Chamber Sentry 1 Muldrotha, the Gravetide 4 Elvish Rejuvenator 4 Guild Summit 4 Circuitous Route 4 Gates Ablaze 4 Growth Spiral 3 Scapeshift 1 The Mending of Dominaria
The Gate package is relatively straightforward. Playing so many Gate cards allows you to fight through aggro with Gates Ablaze, and contest control with Guild Summit. Unfortunately, drawing the wrong one in the wrong matchup is pretty horrendous, but their power level justifies their somewhat narrow nature.
Archway Angel is an important inclusion, both gaining life and providing a clock should your other plans go awry. It’s not unusual to cast the Angel much earlier than turn six, and many aggro decks just concede to you gaining eight to ten life stapled to a 3/4. Finally, the Gate package also allows us to make the most of Circuitous Route and turns Plaza of Harmony into a five-color land with upside!
Circuitous Route is joined by Growth Spiral and Elvish Rejuvenator as part of a ramp suite. Rejuvenator has really impressed me recently, as a three-mana Rampant Growth that gains you three to five life by chump-blocking. There’s also Golos, a juiced-up Solemn Simulacrum that provides a way to snag a Field of the Dead, should you be lacking a Scapeshift.
Scapeshift is the quickest and easiest way to win games with this deck. Typically, you want to sacrifice eight or more lands, fetching both copies of Field of the Dead and then six other lands with different names. Much like Valakut in Modern, the Fields see all the lands enter at the same time, and so you end up with a huge Zombie army, just like that.
While Scapeshift is the Plan A, there are plenty of places to put all the mana this deck can generate. Multani, Chamber Sentry, Muldrotha, and of course Zacama were our chosen haymakers this time around–along with The Mending of Dominaria to retrigger the Fields post-Scapeshift!
This deck is slow, no doubt about it, and relies heavily on cards like Gates Ablaze to get back into games. Unfortunately, you’re always a turn behind your opponent as almost every single land in this list enters tapped–choosing the right moment to play your Plaza of Harmony, therefore, becomes incredibly important. Sometimes you need to slam it turn three to set the world on fire with Gates Ablaze; sometimes you need to sandbag it to deploy Archway Angel on time.
Any way you slice it, you’ll almost always be adopting a defensive posture. In all but the slowest matchups, your job is to soak up damage, get lands into play, and then transition into dropping bomb after bomb. Whether that’s Muldrotha, Zacama, or just a big Scapeshift, once you survive to turn six or seven with a reasonable life total, you’re in good shape.
Speaking of your life total, there are plenty of ways to buffer and bolster it that don’t really come at the cost of effective gameplay. Plaza of Harmony is an incredible way to keep yourself above water. While you can’t fetch it with Circuitous Route, remember that both Golos and Scapeshift allow you to gain a bit of life with them. Archway Angel will also keep you alive, and as I mentioned before, Elvish Rejuvenator is a chump-blocking all-star!
Guild Summit is a critical tool against slower decks, but remember that things can spiral out of control very quickly with more than one copy in play. In fact, I rarely think you want to play more than one. It’s not a may ability, and The Mending of Dominaria is your only way to avoid milling yourself out. While Guild Summit is your principal weapon in fight off control decks, you should nonetheless proceed with caution.
Finally (and while I made a total mess of playing the deck this week) there’s a lot going on with proper sequencing. You need to remember which lands aren’t in your deck, how many cards you can draw in a given turn, and plan a few turns ahead based on your lands coming into play tapped. I’d like to blame my horrendous play on the fact that I was so unwell while recording this week, but it’s not that–I’m just bad.
This deck is relatively streamlined, with most slots pretty difficult to play around with. The core of the deck is necessarily inflexible due to its reliance on Gate synergies, but there’s still a little bit of room to play around when it comes to some of the high-end threats and utility cards.
2 Gateway Plaza 2 Golgari Guildgate 1 Azorius Guildgate 1 Dimir Guildgate 1 Rakdos Guildgate 4 Gruul Guildgate 1 Boros Guildgate 1 Selesnya Guildgate 4 Simic Guildgate 1 Izzet Guildgate 1 Orzhov Guildgate 4 Plaza of Harmony 3 Field of the Dead 3 Archway Angel 4 Circuitous Route 4 Growth Spiral 4 Elvish Rejuvenator 3 Shimmer of Possibility 3 Scapeshift 3 Golos, Tireless Pilgrim 1 Zacama, Primal Calamity 2 The Mending of Dominaria 3 Guild Summit 4 Gates Ablaze
We cut back on the sweet top-end one-ofs to make room for some rather more sensible cards. Correl included Shimmer of Possibility in the original list, and it returns here to be a relevant turn-three play that can find the right tools in the matchup (having a way to choose between that critical Gates Ablaze or Guild Summit is very welcome). Besides, we don’t need cards like Muldrotha–flashy haymakers are sweet, but everyone dies to Scapeshift anyway. Zacama is the only Plan B you’ll need.
Well, no, that’s not quite true. Double Mending of Dominaria means you can’t get milled out (the second will shuffle in the first) and there are enough creatures in this list to get some value from its first two chapters, especially if you’re following orders and chump-blocking with Elvish Rejuvenator!
Finally, we adjust the numbers of some of the mainstay cards. I don’t think you ever want more than one copy of Guild Summit, so we trim down to three copies. We also add another copy of Field of the Dead, just in case something happens to the other ones–it also means you can Scapeshift with nine lands and make… um, er… a lot of Zombies. I don’t think we’ve invented numbers that go that high.
That’s it for this time. Next week, we’ll be back with another list sent in by an Arena Boys superfan. You, too, can send in lists–head over to Twitter, and get at us via @thearenaboys, or me personally: @rileyquarytower!