Monday, 25 February 2013

Scapeshift & Nick's BG midrange

Sup c*#@nts

More bloggy boo.

Thought I'd talk about my Scapeshift deck this blog post. Haven't had particular success with it, but I like it. Plays some funky cards, does stuff that other decks don't do and it has a good matchup Vs Zoo.

Heres is current list:
Diligent Farmhand
Coiled Oracle
Pernicious Deed
Wayfarer's Bauble
Demonic Tutor (3)
Thrun, the last troll
Search for Tomorrow
Shardless Agent
Seige-gang Commander
Nature's Lore
Grim Tutor (1)
Three Visits
Beseech the Queen
Primal Command
Rampant Growth
Eternal Witness
Inferno Titan
Bloodbraid Elf
Skeletal Vampire
Into the North
Grave Titan
Broodmate Dragon
Time Walk (3)
Clutch of the Undercity
Sakura Tribe-elder
Dimir Houseguard
Solemn Simulacrum
Maelstrom Wanderer
Wooded Foothills
Faerie Macabre
Misty Rainforest
Ravenous Trap
Verdant Catacombs
Mindbreak Trap
2 x Snow Covered Forest
2 x Snow covered swamp
Snow covered island
6 x Snow covered mountain

Volcanic Island
Flametongue Kavu


Rhystic Tutor

Overgrown Tomb

Gaea's Revenge

Akroma, Angel of Fury

Stomping Grounds
Scute Mob

Breeding Pool
Dragonmaster Outcast

Tropical Island

Treetop Village

Raging Ravine

Tranquil Thicket

Valakut the Molten Pinnacle

Polluted Delta

The plan is: ramp turn 2 & 3. Then slam bombs from turn 4 onwards.

The Ramp
To keep a hand with this deck, the hand needs to contain a 2-cost ramp spell (Although, there are fringe cases where I know what my opponents are playing and I can get away with a slow hand).
Because I play Timewalk, Demonic Tutor can act like a 2-cost ramp spell. Timewalk also turns Grim Tutor and Beseech the Queen into 3-cost explores.... How many explores?
Beseech the Queen less so because triple black isn't common, but it does happen.
Shardless Agent and Bloodbraid Elf are almost always ramp spells. Occasionally they'll hit Diligent Farmhand or Wayfarer's Bauble (that's bad), but occasionally they'll hit Timewalk or Demonic Tutor (that's good).

The control matchup is inherently bad. That's why the deck plays cascade guys and Thrun. Thrun crushes most control decks and I often transmute for him. Combining Thrun with the cascade guys and the two manlands is enough to make the control decks tap out. Which is when you Scapeshift them.

In case you're unfamiliar with Scapeshift, you need to have at least 7 lands in play. You sac them all and get 6 Mountains + Valakut, dealing 6 x 3 damage to their face. Most highlander decks will have paid a couple life or you may have nugged them with a cascade creature. If not, you just have to wait until you have more than 7 lands to get enough triggers to kill them. The deck plays Scapeshift and 6 other tutors for it (Primal Command finds Dimir Houseguard). You may also cascade into a tutor. So by the time you're at 7 lands you'll probably be able to pull the trigger.

The Bombs
The cards that I've catagorised as 'bombs' can take the game by themselves but most of the time they just keep me alive long enough to cast Scapeshift. I've chosen the bombs for their resilience against removal. I don't add much to the board turns 2 and 3, so whatever I play turn 4 is typically going to cop removal. That's why I'm not playing such bombs as Wurmcoil Engine and Primeval Titan. Those two are amazing if your opponent hasn't got removal, but I don't want to take that chance.

The mana base
Playing Scapeshift makes for a very challenging mana base. I've found that 11 mountains is the minimum. There have been several games that I've used every mountain in my deck to kill my opponent. As well as playing a minimum 11 mountains, I currently play 17 green sources, using trusty statrek, that's at least 1 green source in 90% of hands.

Other than the mountains and green sources, I also need 2 basic swamp and 1 basic island to find with my ramp spells so that I can cast all my black and blue spells.

Adding all those lands together gives me 28 lands, well over the general consensus of a sufficient land count, so the deck doesn't have the luxury of Wasteland or Underground Sea.

The sideboard
Scapeshift's counterspell matchup is very bad, hence the hilarious anti-counter sideboard. Quagnoth lol, anyone who drafted a lot of Future Sight can empathise with me here: you're sorting through a bunch of random rares in your collection! I didn't know I had 5 Tarmogoyfs!... awwww fuck you Quagnoth, got me again.

The sideboard also has a nice transmute suite: ravenous trap, mindbreak trap & massacre.

I know that me rambling about one of my tier 3 creations is not the most interesting topic but it's really easy for me to write about and I enjoy it ^^. At least if you're sick of losing to Zoo you can try it out...although getting a timewalk can be tough.

Ok, onto last posts' 1st posted list...

Nick Watson's GreenBlack midrange (not sure how comfortable people are about me typing their last names in my blog. I like to think that it improves communication, which makes up for any identity paranoia people may have. Nick aiming to become a public film figure, I'm sure wouldn't more revealing information)

Alright, here's his list!:
1 Deathrite Shaman
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Bloodghast
1 Mental Misstep
1 Gatekeeper of Malakir
1 Mind Twist
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Sensei's Divining Top
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Skullclamp
1 Tarmogoyf
1 Sol Ring
1 Eternal Witness
1 Thoughtseize
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Bitterblossom
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Diabolic Edict
1 Skinrender
1 Hymn to Tourach
1 Shriekmaw
1 Sylvan Library
1 Thragtusk
1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Grave Titan
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Pernicious Deed
1 Putrefy
1 Garruk Relentless
1 Snuff Out
1 Batterskull
1 Beseech the Queen
1 Bayou
1 Duress
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Guttural Response
4 Forest
1 Nature's Claim
1 Marsh Flats
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Pithing Needle
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Planar Void
1 Polluted Delta
1 Dark Confidant
7 Swamp
1 Shadow of Doubt
1 Twilight Mire
1 Victim of Night
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Choke
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Faerie Macabre
1 Volrath's Stronghold
1 Phyrexian Crusader
1 Wasteland
1 Tribute to Hunger
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Damnation
1 Woodland Cemetery
1 Nekrataal

Nick has never played or made a highlander deck before, so this is an impressive first list.

I imagine this comes down to card familiarity, but Nick has managed to make a Recurring Nightmare deck without Recurring Nightmare! All its friends are here: Eternal Witness, Kitchen Finks, Skinrender, Shriekmaw, Wurmcoil Engine, Grave Titan, Thragtusk, Bloodghast. So that's the first card he should try out.

I'm naturally inclined to be more aggro with my card choices, so keep that in mind when taking my suggestions onboard. Aggro may not be your style. Currently Nick's playing Umezawa's Jitte but only ~6 creatures that wear a Jitte well (creatures that are likely to survive combat and cost <4). I think Nick should add more creatures that can wear Jitte rather than cut Jitte from the deck. A few suggestions:
Strangleroot Giest (would require a mana base change which I'll get to later)
Glissa, the Traitor (Karakas is now 1 point so she's very playable now)

Adding more creatures boosts you skullclamp & recurring nightmare too.

Mana base. Nick's a card choices are a little torn between Mox Jet and Sol Ring.
On team Mox Jet we have:
Hymn to Tourach
Vampire Nighthawk
Scavenging Ooze
Liliana of the Veil
Gatekeeper of Malkir
Sylvan Library
Sakura Tribe Elder

Then on team Sol Ring we have:
Garruk Relentless
Wurmcoil Engine
Grave Titan
Mind Twist

That's 10 for Jet and 7 for Sol Ring. If Nick can borrow/purchase a Jet he should play it instead of Sol Ring. It should be noted that both Mox Jet and Sol Ring are bad with Pernicious Deed, so are Sylvan Library, Tarmogoyf, Deathrite Shaman, Scavenging Ooze, Bitterblossom, equipment etc. Deed should probably be cut if Nick wants to go for the equipment and recurring nightmare route.

Nick's curve is pretty spread out so I think he can add Treetop Village without the tempo loss hurting him too often. He can also play the 7th fetch land, windswept heath. 6 forests is enough to not run out of lands to fetch. He can even play scrubland to find with windswept heath or cast kitchen finks with. I'd also add Llanowar Wastes, Nick has a lot of double colour spell and even gatekeeper of malakir and beseech the queen which can be triple colour. Having said that, I'd also consider cutting Volrath's Stronghold.

4th: Miscellaneous card choices.
·        Play Dark Confidant main. If he lives, you win the game if he dies he only cost 2 mana so ~the same cost as a counter or removal spell.
·        If you add Recurring Nightmare you'll find that Acidic Slime will be good. Green Sun's Zenith finds it, you can add that too. So versatile.
·        Thrun, the last troll should be considered.
·        Phyrexian Metamorph is an ok card which can be cut. It is very reactionary. I suspect Andrew Atkinson may have recommended this card to Nick, as Andrew loves it.
·        Skinrender and Shriekmaw are also very reactionary but much more powerful. Playing cards that are good against some decks but bad against others is a personal preference thing. These guys will be awesome vs creature decks yet trash against control. At the moment I'd say maindeck Skinrender and Shriekmaw are a great metagame choice. GWx creature equipment decks are coming out on top and being played a lot.
·        Try out Vraska :P I haven't seen anyone play her yet and this is the deck you'd play her in if any. Let us know if she's good.

5th: Sideboard.
·        You can play better graveyard hate than Planarvoid. Planarvoid doesn't actually stop much stuff. Flash decks that go off instant speed will kill you with the Planarvoid trigger on the stack. Hermit Druid combp can respond to the trigger with Memory's Journey. I think surgical extraction would be better.
·        Guttural Response is a too narrow. The spell types of highlander decks are actually quite diverse. If you want something extra against U, try Thrun and/or Great Sable Stag.
·        I like that you have Duress in the board. Lots of people really overload on discard effects which can be really bad against aggro decks
·        I love Shadow of Doubt, but not in your deck. To play Shadow of Doubt, you have to be holding up 2 mana every turn to catch that search effect. Your deck taps out sorcery speed 99% of the time.
·        Get Mindbreak trap in your board, amazing against Storm. There's typically one Storm or two storm decks in the bigger tournaments and you don't want to be caught out without any hate.

Ok, that about sums it up. I know I've taken a while to respond and there's a good chance you might have changed the list a couple times since you posted it.
I like to mention everything I think of and I only type up this blog on my daily train rides to work so it can take me a while.
It's hard for me to tell how my critique comes across. I hope I don't sound too critical, but it is the nature of this article. If I mentioned everything that was good, these posts would be even longer!


  1. Hey Luke, thanks for the Highlander thoughts. Highlander is a steep learning curve for a new player like me and it definitely makes it worse that there isn't much written about it. I've been playing with my Tinker list since it has underperformed the past three weeks. Going for less control and more value, I suppose, and tailoring it more toward Zoo than control. Might be some weird choices of cards, blame it on wanting to play Shardless Agent and not have it be shit.

    1 Underground Sea
    1 Watery Grave
    1 Bayou
    1 Tropical Island
    1 Breeding Pool
    1 Overgrown Tomb
    2 Swamp
    2 Forest
    5 Island
    1 Flooded Strand
    1 Polluted Delta
    1 Verdant Catacombs
    1 Marsh Flats
    1 Scalding Tarn
    1 Mishra's Factory
    1 Wasteland
    1 Misty Rainforest
    1 Seat of the Synod
    1 Vault of Whispers

    1 Drift of Phantasms
    1 Baleful Strix
    1 Shardless Agent
    1 Coiling Oracle
    1 Deathrite Shaman
    1 Phyrexian Revoker
    1 Scavenging Ooze
    1 Thragtusk
    1 Myr Battlesphere
    1 Wurmcoil Engine
    1 Inkwell Leviathan

    1 Personal
    1 Mystical Tutor
    1 Impulse
    1 Ancestral Vision
    1 Into the Roil
    1 Disfigure
    1 Dimir Charm
    1 Go for the Throat
    1 Repeal
    1 Telling Time
    1 Abrupt Decay
    1 Putrefy
    1 Lim-Dul's Vault

    1 Tinker
    1 Gitaxian Probe
    1 Maelstrom Pulse
    1 Thoughtseize

    1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
    1 Garruk Relentless

    1 Vedalken Shackles
    1 Pithing Needle
    1 Sensei's Divining Top
    1 Mox Diamond
    1 Chrome Mox

  2. I have difficulty believing Skeletal Vampire is worth playing. Sure it is marginally better than Wurmcoil if they have Path/Plow/O-Ring (I don’t see two 1/1 flyers doing much work), but it is worse in every almost every other situation since Skeletal Vampire is very beatable just using creatures and equipment, Wurmcoil isn't. Primeval is also more powerful than the Vampire since you can fetch Treetop and Raging Ravine, so it isn't as if them plowing/pathing your guy actually deals with all your threats, and your will now have 8 mana so you can activate both and attack for 7 or trade/kill most of the threats from aggro decks. Basically I’d rather lose to them having the right answers to my creatures than my creatures being bad. Huntmaster might be better as well, since it is much better when you don't hit enough ramp to go 2-4-6.

    Green Sun's is obviously awkward with both Bloodbraid and Shardless Agent, but you have 17 other cards that Bloodbraid can hit and 12 for the Agent. Green Sun's can act as a ramp spell on 2 (Diligent Farmhand), 3 (Tribe Elder), a 4 mana Eternal Witness, or a bomb based on the situation and matchup, acting as a second copy of Thrun against control and Thragtusk against aggro. I know you hate the possibility of bricking off a cascade, but the fact that it takes take some of the variance out of the deck (sometimes you draw all 4+ cmc spells and no ramp, and sometimes you draw ramp and no action) by fulfilling both roles makes it worth it in my opinion.

    I'd be inclined to cut all but 1 forest from the GB deck, since you never actually want to draw one due to Gatekeeper, Beseech, Bloodghast, Hymn etc...

  3. So I have been experimenting with a list that takes a lot less time to write up than most people's lists.
    It was originally:
    21 Swamp
    39 Relentless Rats.

    But his friends came along, and I nearly lost my shit.
    It is now:

    Bloodbond March
    Liliana of the Veil
    Cloud Key
    Cabal Ritual
    Pack Rat
    Land Grant
    Sign in Blood
    Night's Whisper
    Hymn to Tourach
    Jet Medallion
    Golgari Signet
    Dark Ritual
    Typhoid Rats
    Deathrite Shaman
    Mox Diamond
    Mox Jet
    Chrome Mox
    Lotus Petal
    Black Lotus
    Lotus Bloom

    Volrath's Stronghold
    Overgrown Tomb
    Cavern of Souls
    Verdant Catacombs
    Marsh Flats
    Bloodstained Mire
    Polluted Delta
    Windswept Heath
    Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
    8 Swamp
    1 Forest
    1 Wasteland

    The business:
    20 Relentless Rats

    The Sideboard
    Patriarch's Bidding
    Pernicious Deed
    Engineered Explosives
    Nature's Claim
    Creeping Corrosion
    Seeds of Innocence
    Liliana of the Dark Realms
    Dryad Militant
    Leyline of the Void
    Maelstrom Pulse
    Ghost Quarter
    Immortal Servitude
    Golgari Charm