Arena Boys: Scapeshift Ascendancy

After incinerating four mythic wildcards on Scapeshift for a previous video, we were determined to get more value out of this total powerhouse of a card on MTGA. When Evolution Sage was previewed, we knew we had a winner—we’d been tinkering around with a Simic Ascendancy deck already, and this was the final piece of the puzzle.

While Simic Ascendancy isn’t quite Valakut, it can and will win you the game on the spot (well, sort of) with Scapeshift and Evolution Sage. All you need is a pile of creatures that give themselves +1/+1 counters, and then let the proliferation begin. Before you know it, you’ll have a squillion counters on your Simic Ascendancy. Given there’s already a powerful, tight package of explore creatures ready to go, this deck almost builds itself!

Scapeshift Ascendancy

8 Forest
4 Island
4 Hinterland Harbor
4 Breeding Pool
1 Blast Zone
2 Karn's Bastion
4 Wildgrowth Walker
4 Jadelight Ranger
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
1 Roalesk, Apex Hybrid
4 Pelt Collector
1 Merfolk Skydiver
1 Hydroid Krasis
1 Biogenic Ooze
4 Incubation Druid
1 Zegana, Utopian Speaker
4 Evolution Sage
1 Hadana's Climb/Winged Temple of Orazca
4 Simic Ascendancy
3 Scapeshift

Card Choices

This deck is, rather obviously, heavily reliant on getting +1/+1 counters on creatures to proliferate them, which gives us a very specific suite of creatures to work with. First, the tried-and-true package of Merfolk Branchwalker, Jadelight Ranger, and Wildgrowth Walker is an easy inclusion, as these cards see play in high-tier decks and play right into the strategy we’re seeking to execute.

To back these creatures up, we have Pelt Collector and Evolution Sage—also capable of generating their own +1/+1 counters—and a range of one-ofs that were experimental, more than anything else. All the one-ofs serve different roles, although Hadana’s Climb and Biogenic Ooze overperformed when set against things like Roalesk.

Finally, there’s the “combo” of Evolution Sage and Scapeshift. As demonstrated in the video, this will pile truly ludicrous amounts of counters on your creatures, and easily get your Simic Ascendancy across the like. Failing that, however, cards like Zegana and Hadana’s Climb offer ways to punch through damage in a stalled board.

Gameplay

The biggest priority you have when playing this deck is ensuring that you have at least one +1/+1 counter on each of your creatures. This isn’t too difficult to achieve, but is critical in ensuring your Evolution Sage has the maximum impact the moment it comes down. Use Merfolk Skydiver and Hadana’s Climb intelligently to ensure you distribute your counters far and wide.

Against aggressive decks, Wildgrowth Walker will keep you alive and help to bridge to your much more powerful late game. Protect them at all costs—playing one out on turn 2 is a risky proposition considering how much 3-damage burn they have. You should at least consider playing around a tapped-out opponent by waiting until turn 4 to play one in conjunction with a Branchwalker. Against slower decks, it’s sometimes possible to string together some truly explosive draws. As you saw in the video, we had a turn-4 kill thanks to Evolution Sage!

Evolution Sage is a bit like Courser of Kruphix in that it’s a secret 4-drop—you want to play the Sage when you can benefit from a land drop. Opponents can’t stop this—they don’t get priority between the Sage resolving and you playing a land—so look to sandbag your Sage until turn 4, when you can proliferate the counters on your explore creatures or Pelt Collectors.

There are lots of little tips and tricks to remember when playing this deck (some of which we definitely forgot about during the video, oops).

  • You can respond to a proliferate trigger by putting a counter on a counterless creature with Simic Ascendancy for extra value.
  • It doesn’t matter how Incubation Druid gets a counter—Hadana’s Climb, Merfolk Skydiver, etc.—it still taps for 3 mana. The counter doesn’t have to come from its own adapt ability.
  • It’s difficult to push damage through blockers without Hadana’s Climb or Zegana, so on a stalled board, play to your outs and recognize you can probably one-shot them when you draw an evasive card.
  • You can proliferate the counters on Blast Zone rather than pay full retail for them. Keep in mind how many you want in each matchup (five against Teferi, four against Frenzy, etc.).
  • Don’t play out useless lands for the sake of it—you’ll wish you’d sandbagged those three lands when you finally draw an Evolution Sage!

Moving Forward

As sweet as it is to play and then juice up a Simic Ascendancy, it’s not difficult to realize just how unnecessary the card is in a deck like this. This is principally because by putting +1/+1 counters on your creatures, you’re building a massive board that should win a game anyway. You just don’t need the Ascendancy trigger. It’s the definition of a win-more card.

Therefore, if you want to play this deck with a more competitive mindset, there are a range of options you can choose from.

Green-Blue Scapeshift

8 Forest
4 Island
4 Hinterland Harbor
2 Karn's Bastion
1 Blast Zone
4 Breeding Pool
4 Wildgrowth Walker
1 Merfolk Skydiver
4 Jadelight Ranger
2 Hydroid Krasis
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
3 Biogenic Ooze
4 Pelt Collector
4 Incubation Druid
2 Zegana, Utopian Speaker
4 Evolution Sage
2 Hadana's Climb/Winged Temple of Orazca
3 Scapeshift

Cutting Simic Ascendancy for better creatures gives this deck a much more focused (if slightly less sweet) game plan. We increase the amount of Zegana and Hadana’s Climb to bolster our chances of an evasive finish thanks to trample and flying, respectively. Roalesk hits the bin, while Biogenic Ooze and Merfolk Skydiver stick around as mana sinks.

Mono-Green Scapeshift

17 Forest
4 Karn's Bastion
1 Blast Zone
1 Field of Ruin
4 Evolution Sage
4 Wildgrowth Walker
3 Biogenic Ooze
4 Jadelight Ranger
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
4 Incubation Druid
4 Pelt Collector
4 Growth-Chamber Guardian
3 Scapeshift
3 Nissa, Who Shakes the World

There are enough cards in green alone to make this deck tick, and by playing so many Forests we can benefit from Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Not only does she create creatures with +1/+1 counters, she pairs excellently as a late game threat alongside a single Biogenic Ooze. Growth-Chamber Guardian is another excellent inclusion, helping you draw ahead on resources and keep the threats coming.

Green-White Scapeshift

8 Forest
2 Plains
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Karn's Bastion
1 Blast Zone
4 Evolution Sage
1 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
4 Wildgrowth Walker
3 Venerated Loxodon
2 Knight of Autumn
4 Jadelight Ranger
1 Biogenic Ooze
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
4 Incubation Druid
4 Pelt Collector
3 Scapeshift
3 Prison Realm

Finally, we can add white instead of blue, which opens up some sweet interactive options. Knight of Autumn serves triple-duty, one of which is of course generating +1/+1 counters, while Venerated Loxodon is another way to distribute counters far and wide. Shalai is an additional pseudo-proliferate ability, and Prison Realm provides actual, literal disruption. Amazing!

That’s it for this week—next week we’ll be harnessing the dark power of Bolas’s Citadel in order to draw our entire deck and chuck it at our opponents. We’ll see you then!

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