Today I bring you my favorite Historic deck, Scapeshift! With the upcoming Money Challenge in MTG Arena I thought it would be nice to explain everything you need to know to be able to master this sweet deck. The recent banning of 《Nexus of Fate》 and the addition of 《Explore》 made it a very strong deck.
I’ve seen 《Field of the Dead》 played mostly on 《Golos, Tireless Pilgrim》 decks that don’t run 《Scapeshift》 but I think the card is just too powerful, especially with 《Teferi, Time Raveler》. It’s capable of finishing the game right away, and that’s very important in the matchups where grinding your opponent with zombies and card advantage isn’t good enough.
2 《Fabled Passage》
2 《Breeding Pool》
2 《Hallowed Fountain》
2 《Temple Garden》
1 《Indatha Triome》
1 《Ketria Triome》
1 《Raugrin Triome》
1 《Zagoth Triome》
1 《Glacial Fortress》
1 《Hinterland Harbor》
1 《Sunpetal Grove》
1 《Temple of Enlightenment》
1 《Temple of Mystery》
1 《Temple of Plenty》
4 《Field of the Dead》
1 《Blast Zone》
1 《Radiant Fountain》
-Land (30)- 2 《Hydroid Krasis》
4 《Elvish Rejuvenator》
2 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》
2 《Golos, Tireless Pilgrim》
4 《Growth Spiral》
3 《Shatter the Sky》
2 《Migration Path》
4 《Teferi, Time Raveler》
Normally I would start with spells, but this time I’ll do the opposite. We have 30 lands in this list and unlike most of the times, here spells serve the lands, and not the other way round.
《Field of the Dead》 is the core of the deck, by now everyone knows how powerful is having a land that produces zombies just by making your landrops while also producing colorless mana. This is also the perfect deck to learn how to properly sequence landrops, and I will go deep into this later.
Ideally, all the other lands would be 1offs, however we want a decent amount of untapped lands so there are 2 of each shockland and 2 of each basic. 《Fabled Passage》 is great since it can give you 2 《Field of the Dead》 triggers but I’m not playing more because I’m afraid of running out of basics to fetch. A 3rd one could be good.
The Triomes are good for multiple reasons, they are good for having different names, they enable the checklands to come untapped, they cycle in the late game and eventually they could activate 《Golos, Tireless Pilgrim》 (which is not something the deck would want to do usually but it’s nice to have the option).
The 3 checklands and the 3 temples are simply good by themselves and the only reason we don’t play more is because you don’t want multiples before having 7 different lands.
SpellNow let’s go to the spells:
Simply the perfect effect for a 30 land deck, the fact that the ramp spells also cycle in the late game makes this deck a lot more consistency than traditional ramp decks.
《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 is excellent versus both aggro and control, the reason we don’t play more is because in general this deck is already good versus both aggro and control but will struggle versus combo. And versus the most aggressive decks it can even be slow so we need some wrath effects.
This creature is excellent for the deck because if we don’t have 《Field of the Dead》 already the chances of hitting one are very high. With 30 lands it’s very rare to miss but if you play enough eventually it will happen, so don’t tilt too much about it, trust me the card is good enough to risk a little.
Everyone obviously know how good 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 is, and in this deck the [+1] ability is more important than usual, because it allows our 《Scapeshift》s to dodge any type of sweeper by casting it at the end of your opponent’s turn and swinging for lethal right afterwards. At the same time it’s one of the best tools one can have to fight 《Wilderness Reclamation》, that can be a tough matchup.
At least in the ladder, the aggro decks are the most popular ones, so having 《Shatter the Sky》 in the maindeck seems like a good call, depending on the expected meta could go up to 4, it even has utility against Kethis Combo and other 《Field of the Dead》 decks. Goblins is the only deck that could actually go over the top of 20 zombies with 《Krenko, Mob Boss》, that’s unless we play a 《Shatter the Sky》 before that.
I’m only playing 2 because 《Golos, Tireless Pilgrim》 is not really necessary most of the times, however it’s very good when we didn’t find a Field, and we need to chumpblock before hitting a lethal 《Scapeshift》.
I’m not super convinced about 《Migration Path》, but the deck obviously needs to ramp to operate, so it’s necessary. Cycling in the late game it’s relevant since we might not have basics if the game goes super long. Notice that if you cast it with 5 lands (one of them being 《Field of the Dead》) you already make 2 zombies, so that turn is really good to chump and then cast a big 《Scapeshift》.
If resolving 《Scapeshift》 with 7 or 8 lands would kill the same way the Modern versions do with 《Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle》 I would play 4, but the fact that sometimes you don’t want to rush it into a sweeper and wait for 《Teferi, Time Raveler》, and also multiple copies early can cost us the game makes me “only” play 3.
The math is simple: 7 lands, 7 zombies (if you can wait a turn you probably should). 8 lands 16 zombies, now we are talking, and you can even bring back 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 the same turn maybe (float your mana!). 9 lands, 27 zombies and from here on it’s probably overkill. Finding 《Radiant Fountain》 might help you to survive, and fetching for 《Fabled Passage》 can be good to generate more zombies next turn if needed.
As I said playing this deck is very good for practicing the order of the lands we play, which is important in every deck that’s not monocolor, but here it constantly makes a difference.
There are different interests that will create tension and you will have to identify which one has the priority, these are:
Besides the obvious possible mistakes that you could make if for instance you don’t have an untapped green land and play a land that doesn’t give green on turn 1 you could be punished for drawing 《Explore》 or 《Growth Spiral》 next turn and not being able to cast it on turn 2.
There are some more specific scenarios. The hardest for me is when you need to decide if you should play 《Field of the Dead》 early or not. If you don’t have other tapped lands, then playing it might be correct, because it allows you to have more mana on the following turns by playing untapped lands. However, if we play a 《Field of the Dead》 in the early turns, if a turn or two later we cast 《Elvish Rejuvenator》 or 《Golos, Tireless Pilgrim》 before having 7 different lands we might miss the opportunity of getting a second 《Field of the Dead》 and also making zombies as soon as possible. And the second 《Field of the Dead》 might be crucial in the late game, but making early zombies could also be!
Practice is the best, since most of the times when you make a mistake you realize it soon.
Another thing that you need to keep in mind is that you should delay 《Fabled Passage》 in the early turns for two reasons. First is that you might draw a duplicate of the basic you’ve searched, and the second is that it gives you 2 triggers of 《Field of the Dead》 when they started producing zombies.
I’m not going to make a sideboard guide this time (sorry!) because there are many different lists and versions of the decks in Historic. Since we didn’t have any major tournament the archetypes are still developing and I don’t want to give a guide that might not be correct. However, I can give you an idea.
Against aggro, the cards that you would usually cut are: 《Teferi, Time Raveler》s and 《Migration Path》 and add a 《Shatter the Sky》 and 《Aether Gust》s (if they are playing Green, Red or Gruul). 《Knight of Autumn》 I don’t really like it versus creature based aggro, I rather ramp and 《Shatter the Sky》. Against decks with a lot of burn it will be good though.
Against control and other 《Field of the Dead》 decks, Add the counterspells and 《Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger》, take out 《Shatter the Sky》s and then depending on their list I would consider: 《Radiant Fountain》, 《Migration Path》, 《Golos, Tireless Pilgrim》, 1 《Scapeshift》 maybe 1 or 2 《Explore》s. We can take out one 《Scapeshift》 if we suspect they will leave sweepers, and play the 《Scapeshift》 only once we’ve got 《Teferi, Time Raveler》.
《Grafdigger’s Cage》s against Kethis and Breach are excellent and these decks can be scary. We can also add more interaction against these decks and take out 《Golos, Tireless Pilgrim》, 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》, 《Hydroid Krasis》, 《Radiant Fountain》. Aim to interact enough until you can kill them with 《Scapeshift》.
《Knight of Autumn》 is mostly because the best hate card that your opponent can play is 《Virulent Plague》. 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 won’t resolve it unless you also have a 《Dovin’s Veto》. As for other hate cards like 《Rampaging Ferocidon》 a lot of the times you will just 《Shatter the Sky》 before, or bounce with 《Teferi, Time Raveler》/《Aether Gust》 the turn you make the zombies so it’s not very scary.
Then another card that can be problematic is 《Unmoored Ego》 for 《Field of the Dead》. The best way to beat this card is to play 《Field of the Dead》 in turn 1 or 2. Usually one 《Field of the Dead》 is enough to beat these slow decks. We could obviously also 《Mystical Dispute》 it, but a mistake I’ve made is to not play my 《Field of the Dead》 on turn one in games 2 or 3 versus a deck that could cast 《Unmoored Ego》 and lose to it. Learned the hard way!
Against Goblins on the other hand you want to protect the lands that you really need because of 《Goblin Ruinblaster》. That will usually mean that you don’t want to expose your 《Field of the Dead》. Another advice would be that if you have 3 white sources play them as soon as possible because if you only have one in play by the time they cast the 《Goblin Ruinblaster》 they will probably kill it and you won’t be able to cast 《Shatter the Sky》 the next turn.
If there are cards that you don’t like too much in the sideboard I’d suggest adding another 《Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger》 if the 《Field of the Dead》 becomes more popular or another Wrath effect such as 《Time Wipe》 since it’s too good versus Goblins, and Goblins I think it’s the most played deck right now. Could add a fourth 《Grafdigger’s Cage》 if you are really afraid of Kethis and Breach too, or another 《Dovin’s Veto》 if Reclamation is giving you troubles.
I hope you liked the article and I wish you the best of luck for the upcoming Arena Challenge!
Sebastian Pozzo (Twitter)