Standard Combos: Bant Scapeshift
- Andreas Reling
Scapeshift has been standard legal since Core Set 2019, yet it never saw much play in competitive Standard, despite being a tournament staple in formats like Modern. In this weeks article, Andifeated will elaborate on the missing piece that is bringing Scapeshift back into the Standard limelight.
Scapeshift – The One-Card Combo
What made Scapeshift a broken card in Extended and Modern was Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. With this and a bunch of Mountains in your deck, Scapeshift essentially was a one-card combo that won most games if the caster controlled 7 or more lands. This worked because Valakut and the other lands than enter all see each other, meaning one Valakut and six lands deals 18 damage on the spot, and if you have more lands and can fetch more Valakuts, those numbers grow out of control very quickly. It's an elegant combo as it only requires you to draw one card while most other combos require you to draw multiple specific cards. Sure, you need a bunch of lands in play and the right land cards left in your deck, but with smart deckbuilding, this is easier to achieve and less vulnerable than most other competitive combos in Magic.
Without a card like Valakut though, Scapeshift isn't really able to fully shine and as such, hasn't seen play in the current Standard.
Core Set 2020 and The Missing Piece
Wizards decided to change that, albeit for a very short period of time with Field of the Dead. This card, from Core Set 2020, provides a way to use Scapshift that's rather similar to Valakut. While creating zombie tokens isn't the same as outright defeating a player with direct damage, but it does have some other advantages to make up for this. For example, Valakut Scapeshift decks sometimes find themselves in situations where they don't have enough Mountains left to deal the necessary damage, but you'll nearly always have enough zombies to bury your opponent with Field of the Dead. Also, creating a horde of Zombie Tokens while being able to spew out a new bunch of Zombies with every ramp spell gives the deck a decent late-game even without a Scapeshift. The need to control seven differently named lands makes for a bad mana base as you can't just play a high amount of basic lands and therefore have to get really creative with deck building and deal with a lot of tapped lands but there are also a lot of nice utility lands you can search for that give the deck more options which are not that bad. Here's an example list posted by Luis Scott-Vargas, having just come off of a GP win.
Bant Scapeshift by Luis Scott-Vargas, Twitter
|1Azorius Guildgate||3Arboreal Grazer||4Circuitous Route|
|1Blast Zone||4Elvish Rejuvenator||2Grow from the Ashes|
|1Blossoming Sands||4Hydroid Krasis||4Scapeshift|
|3Breeding Pool||4Growth Spiral|
|1Field of Ruin||4Teferi, Time Raveler|
|4Field of the Dead||2Prison Realm|
|1Temple of Malady|
|2Temple of Mystery|
|3Aether Gust||3Deputy of Detention||3Dovin's Veto|
|1Ixalan's Binding||2Knight of Autumn||3Veil of Summer|
This is very nearly the decklist Luis Scott-Vargas won Grand Prix Denver this past weekend, with Temple of Malady replacing Memorial to Genius and a significant sideboard rework. Also, the same deck won the Sunday Mythic Championship Qualifier at the Magic Fest in question, the Magic Online MCQ, and put three more players into the top eight of Grand Prix Denver. Before I wrote this article today, I played it a lot myself in Magic Arena Ranked play and I barely lost a match.
The deck feels insanely powerful and it has been a while since a new Standard deck got me this excited.
On the surface, this deck is relatively easy to play with straightforward gameplay. Get a bunch of Lands into play, cast Scapeshift, and put as many zombies into play as you can. Then, swing for the win with your enormous horde. Later on, your Ramp Spells turn into zombie production in case your initial zombie horde gets wiped (or you don't have Scapeshift).
So far so good, but the combo has two problems though as you need to untap with your produced horde and you need to make all this happen before your opponent kills you. As most of your spells are just ramp spells, you're not exactly well defended before it's time to Scapeshift.
Those two problems are solved by Teferi, Time Raveler. It doesn't just prevent your opponent from countering your precious Scapeshift. It also lets you cast your devastating sorcery at the most convenient step of the turn: your opponent's end step.
Board wipes like Kaya's Wrath, a safety valve against other Field of the Dead decks, do nothing in the face of baby Teferi.
The little Planeswalker is an all-star in this deck and this deck really leverages the card to its full potential.
What I also like a lot about this deck is that while, at its heart, it's a combo deck, it also has a very solid backup plan. Ramping into big Hydroid Krasis has been a successful strategy in Standard for a long time now and alongside Elvish Rejuvenators that can find your Field of the Deads, this deck can grind quite well against controlling strategies without ever resolving a Scapeshift in the first place.
Many players who chose the deck for the past weekend's tournaments praised its power. They said many games felt unlosable and I had many opponents concede against me very early despite the fact that the game was far from over because of the deck's powerful and resilient gameplan.
The deck certainly has a lot of room to improve, but I think it will get worse as the meta adapts to it. Slower decks can interact with it using cards like Field of Ruin, Ashiok, Dream Render, and more disruption that can interrupt the Scapeshift combo. Additionally, picking decks that don't really care about the zombie horde could also be a path forward, as it makes the deck a lot less scary.
I definitely recommend the deck in upcoming tournaments and if you choose not to play it, definitely be ready for it as it will be one of the central decks in the meta in the coming weeks.
Did you already play against this deck or witness any crazy moments in games with it? Let me know in the comments your experiences and how you would either adapt to beat it or change the deck itself to be more effective.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.