Hardened Scales Deck Guide

Fabrizio Anteri

Fabrizio Anteri

Introduction

Hello everyone,

Fabrizio Anteri

My name is Fabrizio Anteri and I am one of the newest members of the Hareruya Hopes.

Hardened Scales

I’ve been playing 《Hardened Scales》 Deck” for the past few weeks in preparation for the team Modern GP in Liverpool and the Online RPTQ. I reached about 100 matches online with a 65% win rate, got a personal record of 5-1 in the main event of the GP (even though my teammates weren’t as lucky and we didn’t make day2), lost my win-and-in on the Sunday PTQ with another 5-1 score and missed the invitation on breakers on 7-2 in the Online RPTQ.

Ari Lax and Matt Nass each wrote a nice deck guide of the deck, you can find those here and here. They already went through the basics of how to play the deck and a sideboard guide for it. What I want to cover here instead, is the card choices you have to build your deck.

Card Choices: Lands

Let’s start with the options for the mana base:

《Inkmoth Nexus》:

Inkmoth Nexus

This is the best land of the deck and you should always play 4. It allows for fast kills with 《Arcbound Ravager》 and even has evasion. Almost every hand with 《Hardened Scales》, 《Arcbound Ravager》 and 《Inkmoth Nexus》 is going to provide a Turn 3 kill if your opponent can’t interact with you (and sometimes you can get the kill even through some interaction).

《Darksteel Citadel》:

Darksteel Citadel

I had a chat with Simon Nielsen before the GP who mentioned he was playing different colorless lands and cut one of the 《Citadels》 from the deck. I disliked that idea. 《Citadel》 turns 《Mox Opal》 consistently on Turn 2 and sometimes on Turn 1 and also feeds the 《Ravager》. I don’t see myself playing less than 4 in the near future.

《Pendelhaven》:

Pendelhaven

The possible disadvantages of playing a non-basic Green source are almost non-existent. This is basically free to play and it has a relevant impact in some games. Always play one. I don’t think it’s worth playing more because of the Legend rule.

《Horizon Canopy》:

Horizon Canopy

The deck is quite proactive and most of the time the life lose doesn’t matter, but at the same time it also has some mana sinks in the form of 《Animation Module》 and 《Walking Ballista》, so many times you don’t even want to sacrifice it. I am currently playing one and I am happy with that number, I wouldn’t call you crazy for playing 0 or 2 though.

《Llanowar Reborn》:

Llanowar Reborn

So many of my opponents picked this one up to read it. It’s probably one of the most recent innovations of the deck. It does SO MUCH. Let me start with the only disadvantage of the card: it enters the battlefield tapped, the deck has mostly two drops though, so it doesn’t hurt that bad to play this on Turn 1 or Turn 3. It has clearly great interactions with all the counter creatures and 《Hardened Scales》, being able to kill a 《Noble Hierarch》 or 《Steel Overseer》 with a 《Ballista》 and keep it around for later use is huge.

Animation ModuleLlanowar RebornSarvo

The best interaction though, is one you probably miss the first few times you played with the deck and probably won’t even see it if you are not playing Online and are forced to notice all the triggers: 《Animation Module》. This two cards combo is a grind machine and helps so much against UW Control, Jund or Death Shadow.

How it works: Activate the 3 mana ability on 《Animation Module》 targeting the counter on 《Llanowar Reborn》, get a second “Graft Counter”, 《Animation Module》 triggers and you get to pay 1 for a “Servo”, you can then move one of the two counters on the land to the Servo Token and pay another mana to get a new 1/1. So basically you get: pay 4 mana and tap 《Module》 for a 2/2 or pay 5 mana for a 2/2 and a 1/1.

Against decks heavy on creature removal this is a game winning line and I normally try to keep the “Graft Counter” in these matches as long as possible so I can assemble the combo. I am currently playing 2 copies of this and it feels like the right number. It does enough to want more than one but I am worried of losing too much tempo if you draw multiples by playing 3 or 4.

《Phyrexia's Core》:

Phyrexia's Core

This is an extra Sacrifice outlet that has some nice synergies with “Modular” and 《Hangarback Walker》. The life gain could also be relevant sometimes. I am playing 1 mostly because I am not playing 《Throne of Geth》 and I want the extra sacrifice outlet.

《Blinkmoth Nexus》:

Blinkmoth Nexus

I tried this and I think it’s OK, but never as good as 《Inkmoth Nexus》. The problem here is that you have a maximum number of colorless lands you can afford and as I just mentioned, I am prioritizing 《Phyrexia's Core》 because I don’t play 《Throne of Geth》 at the moment. I think you want 11 sources of green in 20 lands, but maybe you can get greedier than that and add a 10th colorless land.

《Gemstone Caverns》:

Gemstone Caverns

I tried this one and had a Turn 2 kill once. The idea is that with so many two drops in the deck, it lets you deploy one on Turn 1 on the draw. I found two problems with this land though, first it has no use for the 1 mana you get on their first turn, which is kind of a waste and a shame. Second, I found it hard to decide what to exile with the land on game one when you don’t know what is your opponent playing. The deck uses well enough the extra lands, so I don’t always want to exile even my third land, 《Animation Module》 and 《Welding Jar》 are bad in certain matches, but very good in others. Creatures are always good so I don’t want to let go those either. A second copy of 《Mox Opal》 is probably the only card I am OK exiling to 《Gemstone Caverns》, but that’s too much to ask for a starting hand that also has to be on the draw.

《Ruins of Oran-Rief》:

Ruins of Oran-Rief

I honestly haven’t try this one out. I think 《Llanowar Reborn》 is better and also a green source. I’ve also noticed how this card was present on the first versions of the deck, but it’s almost gone entirely now, so I can only assume people who tried it didn’t like it.


I am happy with 20 lands overall, but I could see playing 19 if there are some extra worth playing spells (I think there is a pretty big gap between the best spells of the deck and the filling flexible slots).

Card Choices: Creatures

Next let’s visit the creatures. For me there is a block of 20 creatures I wouldn’t touch, even if I don’t think it’s crazy to cut down on 《Steel Overseer》.

《Arcbound Ravager》:

Arcbound Ravager

The engine of the deck that glues everything together. You are never sad of drawing this card.

《Hangarback Walker》 and 《Walking Ballista》:

Hangarback WalkerWalking Ballista

This is the cute part and the reason the deck exists. 《Ballista》 wins against the creature decks on it’s own and 《Hangarback》 is great against grindy decks with Red or Black based removal. Always play 8 of these.

《Arcbound Worker》:

Arcbound Worker

This is a low power card, but it has an important role and most importantly the right mana cost. It’s the only creature from the core that costs 1 instead of 2 or 4, so it’s great to maximise your mana every turn. “Modular” is pretty important for the deck, with or without 《Hardened Scales》. I wouldn’t cut the playset of these, even if they look weak.

《Steel Overseer》:

Steel Overseer

Untapping with this is as good as it gets, but that’s not always easy to do. 12 creatures get you some value when they die and 4 can shoot something in response to removal, I get why people don’t like seeing their 《Overseer》 dying without getting anything in return, but the upside is too good to let go, I don’t think I will be playing less than 4 in my next event.

《Spellskite》:

Spellskite

This is also a kind of new inclusion in the deck. It’s very good in the mirror and helps secure kills with 《Inkmoths》 when they have open mana. Note that 《Welding Jar》 can save a 《Nexus》 from 《Lightning Bolt》 but it will remove it from combat, 《Spellskite》 gets you the kill right there. I have one in my maindeck at the moment, but remember this is another two-drop in the deck and you don’t really want millions of those.

《Street Wraith》:

Street Wraith

This is a personal tech. As I said, the deck has some underwhelming cards and 0 mana cycle is the solution I found. You really want to draw 《Scales》 and 《Ravager》 every game and that’s more likely in a 59 cards deck. Same as 《Horizon Canopy》, the life lose is irrelevant in many match-ups and games, but I don’t want to play too many of these because it would then become relevant. It makes also harder to evaluate hands if you draw multiples and you don’t actually know if you have all the correct pieces to keep.

《Metallic Mimic》:

Metallic Mimic

I added one of these for few days to try. The idea is cute: you play it on Turn two, name construct and can immediately cast a 《Ballista》 or 《Hangarback》 for no mana and still get a 1/1. Then every other construct you play enters the battlefield bigger. The reason why I disliked it, it’s because you are getting a free 2/1 in play on Turn 2 when you follow up by 《Ballista》/《Hangarback》, but that’s just not a relevant body. When you start casting additional creatures and creating a board presence, the deck is already ahead, the extra counter or the 2/1 are not better in most cases than an additional card in hand, in my opinion.


With that we covered what I consider the core and flex slots for creatures in the deck. Let’s move to the spells.

Card Choices: Spells

《Hardened Scales》:

Hardened Scales

Best card in the deck. Your chances of winning a game probably increase 30-50% when you cast this on Turn 1.

《Ancient Stirrings》:

Ancient Stirrings

Decks using this card are normally referred to as “《Ancient Stirrings》 decks” for good reason. With the sad exception of 《Hardened Scales》, this basically is an 《Impulse》 at Sorcery speed for one mana that looks 5 cards instead of 4.

《Mox Opal》:

Mox Opal

Modern is currently not much about what can you do, but about how fast can you do it. 《Mox》 let’s you do whatever that is a turn faster and even if it’s legendary, it has great synergy with 《Ravager》.

《Welding Jar》:

Welding Jar

I find this to be a necessary evil. It’s good in some matches, but dead in others. The deck needs the extra 0 drop to turn 《Mox》 on though, so even when it’s dead, it’s supporting one of the most important cards in the deck and can be later be sacrificed to 《Ravager》. I tried to get away with only playing 2 of these and I know I will try again in the future, but for now I think 3 is the needed number for consistency.

《Animation Module》:

Animation Module

I really like this card. It adds so much grinding to the deck, it’s also the most likely card to cause mistakes from your unfamiliar opponents. That said it’s a bit slow and is the card I cut the most during sideboarding. I am currently on three copies, but I could see playing two, specially if the metagame speeds up and there are less grindy decks around.

《Throne of Geth》 and 《Evolutionary Leap》:

Throne of GethEvolutionary Leap

These are the most flex slot of the deck and the one you see most people are toying around with, playing from 0 to 2 copies of one, the other or both. At the moment I have 《Spellskite》 in this slot, I think it does more for the two mana you invest. I had one 《Throne》 for most of my testing and it was basically always cut for sideboard cards.


Mishra's BaubleImplement of FerocitySpringleaf Drum

Other cards I have tried or considered for the maindeck are: 《Mishra's Bauble》, 《Implement of Ferocity》 and 《Springleaf Drum》. I think there could be potential for the flex slots, but I can’t be sure without enough testing.

The Blue Splash:

Yavimaya CoastStubborn DenialBotanical Sanctum

At GP Liverpool I went for a splash for 《Stubborn Denial》. I had one in my maindeck and two in the sideboard. I added 4 《Yavimaya Coast》 and 1 《Botanical Sanctum》 for 4 《Forest》 and the 《Horizon Canopy》. This splash is probably metagame dependent. Denial can potentially help in some of your worst match-ups (UW control, KCI) but it comes at a cost. 5 lands, 4 《Moxes》 and 4 《Stirrings》 are not enough sources of blue to consistently cast Denial and I didn’t want to drop below 3 《Forest》. Further sacrifices in the mana base could be made if the metagame really calls for the blue splash.

Card Choices: Sideboard

The sideboard also has some must be played cards and some (many) flexible slots.

《Damping Sphere》:

Damping Sphere

Best option against Tron, Storm and KCI. I am running 4 of these, mostly because Tron and KCI are boarding in 《Nature's Claim》 and Storm also has some form of artifact removal or bounce so you are happy in most cases to draw extra copies.

《Nature's Claim》:

Nature's Claim

You need the answer for 《Stony Silence》 post-board. Even if nobody is currently playing 4 《Stony Silence》, I think you need to board in all 4 answers just to be sure you don’t auto lose to the enchantment. I’ve been thinking about the possibility of playing 3 《Nature's Claim》 and 1 《Natural State》, because in many cases giving them 4 life is more relevant than being able to destroy a cost 4 artifact-enchantment.

Against KCI I am already bringing in 4 《Damping Sphere》 and 2 《Dismember》 (their post-board plan is more dependent on 《Sai, Master Thopterist》) so I don’t want to also bring 4 《Nature's Claim》 anyway. 《Leyline of the Void》 is annoying (same as 《Rest in Peace》) but it doesn’t shut down the deck as badly as 《Stony Silence》 so I think I don’t mind having the downgrade on one of the copies of 《Nature's Claim》.

《Dismember》:

Dismember

This card is just great. I started my testing with 3 copies, but in many matches (5C Humans/Spirits) it could be too much life lose to cast two of these, so I think two copies is correct.

《Grafdigger's Cage》:

Grafdigger's Cage

This deck is one of the few decks with a good Game 1 against Dredge, but I still give that deck enough respect to want extra help for post-board games. 《Grafdigger's Cage》 is also good against Storm and 《Collected Company》 decks. Currently playing 2 copies, could change depending on the metagame.

《Tormod's Crypt》:

Tormod's Crypt

With so many two drops in the deck, I don’t really mind paying one mana for 《Grafdigger's Cage》, so I don’t really see the appeal of playing 《Tormod's Crypt》 instead. Also, I appreciate the possibility to have my hate cards around for long enough and then being able to sacrifice to 《Ravager》 the turn I need to, I can do that with 《Cage》, but not with 《Crypt》 if I had to sacrifice it on earlier turns.

《Pithing Needle》:

Pithing Needle

I was playing this for a while. Good against UW (naming 《Jace》, 《Teferi》, 《Field of Ruin》), Tron (《Oblivion Stone》) and some other obscure decks. I ended up cutting this to make space for other cards, but it’s possible you still want and can find the space for 1 of these in your sideboard because it’s a very flexible card.

《Karn, Scion of Urza》:

Karn, Scion of Urza

I am a fan of this. It’s a bit slow, but you normally bring it in against slow decks anyway who are going to have extra artifact hate post-board. Jund players normally instantly pick this with 《Thoughtseize》 as soon as they see it, so if they are so afraid, I am sure 《Karn》 is good. I like the idea of 1 or 2 copies of this.

《Torpor Orb》:

Torpor Orb

I haven’t seen this around and just found out recently about this option. I think I’ve just casted it once so far, but I love the idea of having one copy of this in my sideboard. It shuts down most of the 5C Human deck and also against Spirit it stops basically the interactive creatures: 《Spell Queller》, 《Reflector Mage》 and 《Knight of Autumn》 coming from their sideboard.


I can’t remember of other cards I’ve played in the sideboard, but these cover the basic options. You can always play some of the cards discussed in the Maindeck section in your sideboard as well. Just remember this is a proactive deck and you don’t want to board in too many cards in a match or just improve slightly some cards in your main, you would rather have very impactful cards for the right matches.

Final Decklist

In case you weren’t writing down all the cards I mentioned I am currently playing, this is the list I used in the RPTQ, my last event with the deck:

This is all I have for today. I hope you found it insightful and let me know in the comments your opinion of cards I’ve talked about or also cards I completely ignored or forgot to mention.

Thanks for reading.

Fabrizio Anteri@Anteri_F

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Fabrizio Anteri

Fabrizio Anteri Fabrizio Anteri is a Pro Player from Venezuela. He has 11 Grand Prix Top 8s and won 5 trophies. He went 2nd place at GP Bologna with his teammates and he joined Hareruya Hopes at The 2nd Hareruya Hopes Open Recruitment. Read more articles by Fabrizio Anteri