Bring to Light Scapeshift

April 20, 2018

Synopsis

Bring the Light Scapeshift is a ramp deck that is trying to abuse the power of the Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in conjunction with Scapeshift. Due to how Valakut is worded, if 6 Mountains enter the battlefield at the same time, with a Valakut either in play already, or entering alongside the Mountains, each Mountain will be recognized as entering with 5 other Mountains in play already, and thus trigger Valakut’s ability. As such, when Scapeshift gets cast, and the player sacrifices 7 or more lands and searches up 6 or more Mountains and at least 1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Valakut will trigger and deal instances of 3 damage equal to the number of Mountains that are searched up. This specific interaction functionally makes Scapeshift a 1-card combo, wherein it is the only card needed to win the game on the turn it is cast.

However, in order to get to this point, there are substantial deck-building costs that need to be paid. Not only does this deck need to find copies of Scapeshift, it needs to get at least 7 lands in play and survive to that point. This isn’t a trivial task, so the rest of the deck is designed to maximize the ability to do so.

The Deck

6th Place in GP Phoenix by Sung-jin Ahn

Core Card Choices:

Bring to Light is the card that makes this deck function. By playing Bring to Light, this deck gets to have access to more copies of Scapeshift than any other Scapeshift variant, as well as gaining access to more copies of just about every spell in the deck. This is the reason that this deck doesn’t play more than 2 or 3 Scapeshifts. Scapeshift doesn’t work well in multiples, and Bring to Light gives the deck a lot more strategic versatility.

Sakura-Tribe Elder, Search for Tomorrow and Farseek are the key to making this deck function. Needing to have 7-8 lands in play to win the game, as well as support a 4-color mana base, make the mana requirements somewhat intense. By playing a large number of ramp spells, the color requirements can be mitigated, and it greatly accelerates the rate at which this deck can combo. Farseek is the weakest because it doesn’t provide any other function than a 2-mana ramp spell. Search allows the deck to cheat on mana by being suspended, and Sakura-Tribe Elder gets to absorb some damage against opposing creatures.

Cryptic Command, Remand and Izzet Charm allow the deck to survive long enough to win, and allows it to protect its Scapeshift on the critical turn. Most control elements in this deck aren’t designed to establish long-term control over the game, but instead, keep the player alive just long enough to cast a Scapeshift. Remand might not get rid of the spell forever, but it buys time while it digs closer to the critical missing pieces. Cryptic Command’s versatility is part of its allure in this deck, especially considering that it can be cast on turn 3 along with any 2-drop ramp spell. The most common single mode on the card is “Draw a card,” but every other mode provides this deck a strong survival option. Izzet Charm might be a bit of an odd-duck, but every mode is subtly very good in this deck. Both the counter and damage mode can buy this deck the critical turns it needs to survive, and when it’s time to find a copy of Scapeshift, digging 2 cards deeper can be a huge deal, even if it doesn’t generate any card advantage.



Support Cards

Due to the nature of Bring to Light allowing this deck to include most types of support and/or bullet cards and instantly have 4 extra copies of it, the optional cards in this deck can be wide-ranging. The core of the deck only takes up about 24-31 of the 34 spells that will be included, so there’s a lot of space for different types of support cards. Here are some, but most certainly not all, popular options that will be seen in deck lists:

 

1-2 Snapcaster Mages

An excellent way to functionally gain additional copies of key spells, Snapcaster Mage is a rather common choice for this deck, in small numbers. Due to the fact that this deck isn’t full of cheap, interactive spells, playing more than a couple of Snapcaster Mages can leave them dead in the water, with no relevant spells to flashback. Nevertheless, this card still gives the deck a nice control element, rebuying essential survival pieces, while allowing it to sidestep discard spells a little more effectively.

1 Hunting Wilds/Cultivate

This slot is included as a way to use excess Bring to Lights on turn 5 to ramp straight up to Scapeshift mana. Both have their advantages, but Hunting Wilds usually gets the nod because it is such a good card to draw on turn 3 after playing a 2-mana ramp spell. Cultivate does have the upside of being castable earlier and putting a card into the hand to play around cards like Liliana of the Veil.

1 Damnation/Supreme Verdict/Wrath of God

This is usually the dedicated slot for a tutorable board sweeper, and this entirely depends on the 4th color choice. Although this is a common inclusion, it is not technically necessary and it does depend on the expected metagame.

1-2 Electrolyze

Although this card is clunky, it does help keep the Bring to Light player alive, while generating a bit of card advantage. At its worst, it can always target the opponent and bring them down to the critical 18 life while cantripping.

1-4 Lightning Bolt

While this is much more efficient than Electrolyze, it doesn’t really progress the deck’s gameplan in the same way. Bring to Light Scapeshift isn’t usually looking to trade 1 for 1, and even using this to stem the bleeding from early creatures can be awkward because of how few red sources this deck has that aren’t shocklands. Still, it can help against some decks that require specific creatures to win the game, such as against Counters Company, or against decks with Spell Queller.

2-3 Engineered Explosives

Although incredibly slow, this is another survival element included for its versatility. This is usually included to deal with creatures like Death's Shadow and Tarmogoyf, but it also helps against a variety of go-wide decks, like Elves. In addition, because this deck plays 4 colors, it can also deal with some other problematic permanents, like Worship and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor  / 2 Search for Azcanta

Both of these cards are unique in this deck because they can’t be found with Bring to Light. However, they are both powerful enough card advantage engines to warrant inclusion. Jace can be cast on turn 3 and used to cycle through some suboptimal cards, protect you from opposing creatures, and eventually win the game, thus providing a ton of utility. Search doesn’t provide quite as much versatility, but it only costs 2 mana and the card selection has a profound impact on the game. Eventually it might even flip, thus turning into a weird 2-mana ramp spell that can dig further towards Scapeshift. Not being tutorable is a relevant factor for these cards, and seeing as they aren’t ramp or protection spells their function might not be what this deck is always looking for.

2-4 Worldly Counsel

This is usually the most effective cantip this deck can play, as it can usually function exactly as an impulse. 4 cards is a lot to see, and this goes a long way towards finding whatever pieces are being missed. It is much worse when Domain isn’t active, however, and this deck  plays a lot of expensive spells. Because of this, sometimes spending two mana to cantrip isn’t what the deck really needs.

1-2 Repeal

This card basically answers everything that matters to this deck in the format, but usually at a steep mana cost. However, it is part of a long tradition of cards that stem the bleeding that this deck plays, and usually it is a solid defensive option.

 

The Mana Base

2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

4 Steam Vents

3-4 Stomping Ground

1 Cinder Glade

1-2 Mountain

1 Breeding Pool

1 Hallowed Fountain (Watery Grave)

1 Temple Garden (Overgrown Tomb)

3 Island

2 Forest

1 Plains (Swamp)

1 Flooded Grove

4 Misty Rainforest

 

The mana base is the most dubious part of the deck, and often is one of the most common criticisms this deck gets. This deck is mostly a blue/green deck, splashing the other 2 colors lightly for Bring to Light. This means that almost every land in the deck taps for either blue or green mana. In fact, because the commitment to blue/green is so high, and the need for other colors outside of the card Bring to Light is substantially lower, most of the dual lands in this deck function as glorified basic lands.

Despite being almost entirely blue/green, this deck needs to play other colors of lands in order to make everything work. In addition to 2 Valakut, this deck usually plays around 10 Mountains in order to ensure a certain level of consistency when it comes to killing with Scapeshift. Having to play 12 red producing lands, 3-4 of which only produce red, is a somewhat intense cost in a deck with few red cards.

On top of this, Bring to Light Scapeshift sports a full 4 colors, and plays a fair amount of cards with heavy mana requirements, thus making the rest of the mana somewhat challenging to balance. 3 Islands, 2 Forests, and 1 Plains/Swamp are pretty common, and this land suite ensures that the early ramp will always have a valid basic target, while also being able to play spells through a Blood Moon somewhat easily. In addition to 1 Breeding Pool, there are usually 2 off-color shocklands to support the 4th color splash, and these are often the blue and green shocklands (Temple Garden/Hallowed Fountain). Because this deck needs to have actual lands that tap for mana to search up, it can’t support too many fetchlands, so 4 Misty Rainforests are commonly the only ones included.

Weirdly enough, the card that brings it all together is a single copy of Flooded Grove. This might sound weird because this is one of the few lands in the deck that can’t be tutored up, but when this card is drawn, it almost always makes the entire mana base function very smoothly. This fixes the intense color requirements of Cryptic Command, and makes Stomping Ground/Forest function as a blue dual land. Unfortunately, it is difficult to fit more than 1 copy in because it is too awkward with the 4-5 lands it doesn’t work with (Valakut, Mountain, and Plains) and can occasionally be way more harmful than helpful.

Although this would be almost impossible for any other deck, Bring to Light Scapeshift gets to play a fair amount of ramp spells, and that greatly mitigates some of the issues that might come up. However, this is one of the largest places that this deck can have a fail-rate, and it is absolutely essential to pay close attention when assembling the mana base mid-game.

 

Sideboarding

In a similar vein to how Bring to Light makes the card choices in the main deck versatile, the sideboard can be just as varied. Some of the choices are much more common than others, but just about everything is fair game and it greatly depends on the expected metagame. This is also the area in which the 4th color is most prominently seen, and each comes with its own pros and cons.

 

The Staples

1-3 Obstinate Baloth

1-2 Dispel

1-2 Negate

1-3 Anger of the Gods

1 Shatterstorm

1 Krosan Grip (or any enchantment removal spell)

 

These are the sideboard cards that almost every decklist runs. Obstinate Baloth helps greatly against BGx and Burn, and can even help against decks like Eldrazi in order to buy time. Dispel and Negate mostly just help push through the combo against decks with a large amount of countermagic. Anger of the Gods helps mitigate the damage dealt by go-wide strategies, most creature decks, and even against Dredge. Shatterstorm is almost always included as a way to completely take over the game against Affinity. Finally, there is almost always 1 form of enchantment removal against decks that bring in Leyline, and this almost always comes in.

The rest of the sideboard is completely variable, and there are a large swath of good choices to help against just about every deck. These are the most common flex cards used, but this doesn’t really scratch the surface of what can be played.

 

The Optional

1 Crumble to Dust

If a lot of Tron is expected, this one inclusion goes a long way to stopping them in their tracks. Although it does come down somewhat slowly, usually on turn 4 through a Bring to Light, often Remand and Cryptic Command can do a good job buying an extra turn or 2 for Crumble to shore up the game against them.

 

1 Glen Elendra Archmage

Once this hits play against just about any control or combo deck, it’s going to be close to lights out for them. The ability to attack for 2, act as 2 counterspells, and be a form of countermagic that is tutorable by Bring to Light makes this a real powerhouse. However, it is incredibly clunky and slow, and often times it might be better to Bring to Light for a ramp spell, if you think it is going to resolve. Despite this, Glen Elendra is one of the strongest control elements this deck has access to, and is usually worth a slot.

 

1 Madcap Experiment/1 Platinum Emperion

This is a huge nod towards Burn, a historically challenging matchup, but this package can completely take over the game against an unsuspecting player. Drawing the Emperion is a risk worth taking, and usually this package does more good than harm.

 

1 Slaughter Games

This is the best reason to play black as the 4th color. Having access to Slaughter Games can make almost every combo matchup much better, as it turns Bring to Light into a game-ending card much sooner than it usually is. The largest downside is that most decks usually bring in Leyline of Sanctity against this deck anyway, and this negates the use of Slaughter Games completely. However, the risk of this isn’t large enough to warrant not including this, as it very often spells the end for any combo opponent.

 

3 Timely Reinforcements

This is the biggest draw to playing white, as Timely Reinforcements helps buy time against almost every single creature deck in Modern. To some extent, the need for this is mitigated by the presence of Madcap Experiment, but this card is still incredibly effective at blocking large creatures, and side steps any type of spot removal that might have been left in.

 

Strengths

One of the biggest draws to this deck is in the “1-card combo” nature. This means that in almost any game that you can get up to 7 or 8 lands, you have a chance to win the game. Ramp heavy hands are very viable options because of this, and not many decks are well-equipped to actually disrupt the deck’s gameplan very well. Most of this is a result of not being a creature-based deck, thus making opposing removal ineffective. In addition, this deck plays countermagic which can interact with the few cards that actually matter. Because of this, Bring to Light Scapeshift is an excellent choice in a slower Modern field. This deck has an edge against almost any deck trying to play fair, as well as the turn 4-5 combo decks.

 

Weaknesses

This deck greatly struggles against any aggressive deck and most fast combo decks. The first few turns are usually spent setting up, and the fast decks, like Burn and Hollow One, can easily end the game before Scapeshift is ready to go. The problem with this is that the relative speed of Modern is high, thus meaning there are a lot of decks faster than it. In addition, while there is a certain amount of redundancy  of the combo pieces, sometimes this deck won’t find a Scapeshift in the late game, which will really give any deck a good chance to win against it.

 

Sideboarding

In general, siding in cards is pretty simple because the game plan doesn’t change in the postboard games. The goal is still to cast Scapeshift as consistently as possible, but in the post board games, this deck gets to upgrade its interaction suite to be more efficient and effective. Enchantment removal tends to come in against most decks as a fail safe against Blood Moon and Leyline of Sanctity. Other than that, the sideboard is usually chock full of various impactful cards against a lot of the tough matchups. Shatterstorm and Anger come in against Affinity, Madcap and Baloth come in against Burn, Crumble and Negate come in against Tron, etc…

The more difficult part is in siding out cards, but considering the linear nature of this deck, it is not too hard. When doing so, it is important to remember that the game plan is to survive. When evaluating cards in the deck, each should be looked at considering how impactful they are against the threats that the opposing deck are presenting. Usually, the plan against really fast decks is to race them hoping to draw some speed bump cards along the way. In that case, some slower interactive cards can come out, like Remand and Cryptic Command. Against the more grindy decks, like Jund, unreliable 1 for 1s, like Lightning Bolt, don’t tend to be very good because they don’t help get you to the end game.

 

General Tips

The most important tip when playing this deck is to manage your lands properly. There are going to be a lot of junctions with choices of how to build your mana base, and this is going to change wildly depending on the game. Usually the goal is to have all 4 colors by turn 4, and be able to cast Cryptic Command, but that can be a difficult task. Pay attention to the land selection, and make sure to manage the amount of Mountains you have in your deck.

It is possible for your opponents to disrupt your Scapeshift combo with instant speed land destruction. If you search up 6 Mountains and 1 Valakut, they can destroy 1 Mountain, thus making the other 5 only “see” 4 other Mountains, thus countering the Valakut trigger. To play around this, simply cast Scapeshift with 8 lands, and search up 7 Mountains and a Valakut. If all they have in Ghost Quarter, you can use 7 lands to combo, but make sure you have a basic Mountain left in the deck

Finally, mulligan decisions with this deck are pretty straightforward. Almost any hand with green mana and ramp spells are keepable. Hands without ramp are keepable if there are enough disruptive elements and the mana base is solid. Most hands without green mana aren’t going to pan out well. Don’t look for a Bring to Light in the opener. There are enough copies of it, and enough ways to draw cards, that it is likely to show up sooner rather than later.

The Future of Bring to Light Scapeshift

If the Modern format keeps speeding up as it has in the last year or so, the future for Bring to Light Scapeshift may not be great. The sped up pace will leave Bring to Light in the dust; if the format slows down, Bring to Light could benefit and reemerge as a premier option. Bring to Light can adapt to any slower format and utilize its inherit flexibility. The deck has a lot to gain with future answer cards that are printed. The future for Bring to Light is uncertain but it has upsides.