Red-Green Titan Scapeshift

May 16, 2018

Red-Green Scapeshift is a linear ramp deck which is trying end the game by using Scapeshift and Primeval Titan to search up some combination of Mountains and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to finish off one’s opponent. Scapeshift functions as a 1-card combo in this deck because of its interaction with Valakut. When at least 7 lands are sacrificed to search up at least 6 Mountains and 1 Valakut, each of these Mountains will trigger Valakut because they “see” 5 other Mountains. The result of this is that each deals 3 damage to any target, thus likely dealing 18 to the opponent.

While this is a clean 1-shot kill most of the time, sometimes the cost of waiting until 7 lands are in play to cast a 4 mana sorcery can be difficult. When this is the case, Primeval Titan steps in as an alternate route to a Valakut kill. Simply resolving the Titan will result in some amount of Valakuts hitting the board, thus making every future Mountain incredibly dangerous for the opponent, even if Primeval Titan dies. If it doesn’t, the game will likely end shortly after the Titan gets to attack again, searching up more Mountains and Valakuts to dish out more damage.

If all else fails, this deck can simply play a Valakut and use its land drops to control the board and slowly work on the opponent's life total. Due to the high number of Mountains and ramp spells this deck plays, it’s relatively easy to use this to generate an advantage and bide time until the combo pieces start rolling off the top.

While this is an incredibly powerful and effective strategy for ending games, it does come along with serious deck building costs to support it. Let’s look at the core set of cards that allow this deck to function:

RG Titan Shiftmelancio7-2 MTGO PTQ Sakura-Tribe Elder Primeval Titan Bloodbraid Elf Sweltering Suns Summoner's Pact Search for Tomorrow Scapeshift Lightning Bolt Growth Spasm Farseek Wooded Foothills Windswept Heath Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle Stomping Ground Sheltered Thicket Mountain Forest Cinder Glade Tireless Tracker Roast Reclamation Sage Obstinate Baloth Nature's Claim Damping Sphere Crumble to Dust Anger of the Gods Ancient Grudge

 

The Core

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Search for Tomorrow

2-3 Farseek

 

These are the core ramp spells that let RG Scapeshift ramp to the expensive spells early. They are the best Green ramp spells that Modern has to offer, and the speed and efficiency of them allows this deck to get ahead on mana very early. It is critical to have at least 1 ramp spell in the early game to start the game plan, and it’s very easy to use them to start casting Primeval Titan on turn 4. Sakura-Tribe Elder soaks up some damage, Search can save on mana on turn 1, and Farseek is just an efficient 2 mana spell that can perfectly fix the mana.

 

4 Lightning Bolt

2 Anger of the Gods/Slagstorm/Sweltering Suns

 

RG Scapeshift can have trouble getting to the critical turn and dealing with annoying creatures, so this removal suite allows it to survive long enough to win. Lightning Bolt is cheap and powerful enough to deal with most of the most threatening creatures this deck can face down. However, when it doesn’t have a creature to kill it can also cut a turn off of the clock with Scapeshift or keep Planeswalkers in check. Anger of the Gods and friends are all incredibly powerful at dealing with creatures, but can be ineffective in some matchups, thus you don’t want to overload on this effect in the main deck. Anger of the Gods is the best against creatures, but the least versatile. Slagstorm sacrifices effectiveness against creatures for additional pressure against Planeswalkers. Sweltering Suns makes a similar sacrifice, but is always able to be upgraded into a random card. Each of these is a defensible choice, and it comes down to how the rest of the 75 is built.

 

4 Primeval Titan

4 Scapeshift

2 Summoner’s Pact

This is the end game, and the power of this deck is in the consistency in which it ends games. Having 8 cards that have to be answered allows this deck to have a win condition on turn 4 much more likely. Primeval Titan and Scapeshift are both mostly standalone, and don’t require much else to end the game the turn they get cast. Summoner’s Pact mostly acts as additional copies of Primeval Titan, but they have added functionality depending on how many Green bullet-creatures that get run main deck or sideboard.



Optional Card Choices

While this deck is fairly linear, there are some interesting decisions in how to support the core of the deck and optimize it for an expected metagame.

 

4 Bloodbraid Elf

Bloodbraid Elf has a lot of uses in this deck, and is pretty well suited for this archetype. It can block creatures, pressure their life total or Planeswalkers, and act as an alternate win condition against opponents who go after Valakuts. In addition, almost every cascade is a ramp spell or a removal spell, and that goes a long way in allowing RG Scapeshift to buy time or accelerate into a win.

 

2-3 Explore

2-3 Khalni Heart Expedition

2-3 Prismatic Omen

 

I lump these together because they are often seen together. Khalni-Heart Expedition and Prismatic Omen both make Valakut a more terrifying card. Prismatic Omen allows you to only need 6 lands to kill with Scapeshift because every land is now a Mountain, including Valakut. When a Valakut is already in play and you hit your 6th land drop it will deal 3 damage, and if it’s a fetchland, 6 damage. Khalni-Heart provides an explosive amount of mana once it has 3 counters and can search up 2 Mountains to deal 6 damage with a Valakut in play. However, both of these require some set up and can definitely be very awkward when they’re not killing your opponent, so they might not be the most consistent cards.

Explore, on the other hand, is just an additional ramp spell that has the added functionality of being a 2-mana cantrip in the late game. The only downside is that on turn 2 it doesn’t always put an extra land into play, and that makes it less consistent than other options. Still, it is an excellent card and a fine inclusion to the deck.

 

2 Growth Spasm

 

This is a weird and relatively recent addition to the roster of cards. While it is slow at 3 mana, it’s the only ramp spell that provides 2 mana sources on board, which alone feeds into a Primeval Titan on the very next turn. In addition, the token provided can block to buy time, potentially buying RG an extra turn. This works perfectly with Bloodbraid Elf, which means 2 bodies are hitting the board to absorb some damage against aggressive decks. Because the mana cost is somewhat prohibitive, not too many of these can be played. However, it is an effective tool for progressing this deck’s game plan.

 

1 Tireless Tracker

1 Obstinate Baloth

1 Courser of Kruphix

1 Reclamation Sage

 

This section of cards are various bullets that can be tutored using Summoner’s Pact. The cost of deck building space is real, but if there’s a particular issue that can be mitigated using one of these, it might be worth including 1. Realistically any green creature can be played here, but these are the most common

Reclamation Sage allows RG to win through main deck Blood Moons and Leyline of Sanctities more easily. Baloth, Courser, and Tracker all help in more grindy matchups, particularly against BGx. Finally, Courser and Baloth provide some stability against Burn and other aggressive decks.

 

The Mana Base

6-8 Mountains

2-3 Forest

2-4 Cinder Glade

3-4 Stomping Ground

4 Wooded Foothills

2-4 Green Fetchlands

4 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

 

This deck plays 27 lands, which is a lot relative to the rest of Modern. Not only is it trying to get to 6-8 lands every game and wants to hit its land drops, it makes use of excess lands with Valakut triggers. Luckily it is a relatively straightforward mana base. This deck always plays 4 Valakuts, and usually 13 total Mountains. The mix of those Mountains can be variable based on preference, but usually 4 Stomping Grounds get run because it is always untapped on turn 1. Cinder Glade gets better the more basics that get run, but 2 is a pretty common number. Basic Mountains and Forests can be really good, but they each come with some relatively steep costs. Forests do nothing to trigger Valakut, so while running 3 is acceptable, some fail rate is associated with that. Mountains, on the other hand, don’t really cast any spells in the deck, but they always enter untapped, which can be huge in the early game. Finally, this deck likes Green Fetchlands because usually having access to Green mana that won’t deal you damage is pretty important in the early game.

 

Sideboard Options

The sideboard choices in this deck are pretty straightforward. Usually the goal is to slow down opponents long enough to kill them with Titan or Scapeshift or answer their hate for your gameplan. There are also some options that allow for alternate win conditions against decks that can easily answer the primary game plan. Let’s take a look at some common choices:

 

1 Reclamation Sage

2 Ancient Grudge

2 Fracturing Gust

 

1 Reclamation Sage is almost always included in the sideboard and almost always brought in, just in case a Leyline of Sanctity comes down. Fracturing Gust can help in those circumstances, as well, but mostly it is a hate card for Bogles, Affinity, and Lantern Control. Ancient Grudge provides more insurance against those pesky artifact decks, and in conjunction with Fracturing Gust, can really make their lives difficult.

 

2 Anger of the Gods

2 Engineered Explosives

2-4 Roast

 

These are to slow down the creature decks that aim to beat RG down before it can end the game. Anger of the Gods and Engineered Explosives do a fine job at stopping opponents from going too wide, and each of them have their advantages. Anger is excellent against Dredge and Elves, while Explosives can kill Death’s Shadows and Tarmogoyfs. Roast is a bit more narrow, but in a world of Hollow Ones coming down on turn 1, Roast can buy a lot of time against that.

 

2-4 Relic of Progenitus

2-3 Damping Sphere

2 Crumble to Dust

 

There are there to slow down the unfair decks. In fact, Relic of Progenitus occasionally sees play in the maindeck, over Lightning Bolt, as a means of stopping decks like Storm or Dredge from winning too quickly, while never being a dead card because it can cantrip. Regardless, it is a strong sideboard option that can go a long way in slowing down any deck that uses its graveyard as a resource. Damping Sphere is a new inclusion, and it perfectly fits the model of slowing down faster decks to buy time to win the game. It definitely doesn’t stop Storm or Tron from going off, but if it can buy 2-3 turns then it has effectively done its job. Crumble to Dust is almost entirely for Tron and the mirror match, and it is definitely effective in those matchups. However, it is narrow, and at 4 mana, it can be too slow against either of those decks.



3-4 Obstinate Baloth

2-3 Tireless Tracker

1 Carnage Tyrant

 

These are all alternate win condition Green creatures that can be tutored with Summoner’s Pact and help against different archetypes. Obstinate Baloth is solid against Burn, BGx, and Eldrazi as a means to buy some time. Tireless Tracker is great against any type of grindy deck, and it’s especially good against Lantern Control because it can churn through cards and apply pressure at the same time. Carnage Tyrant is almost entirely for Blue control matchups, as it can’t be stopped easily, or even at all, so including a single copy can go a long distance in those matchups.

Strengths

This deck is incredibly consistent and proactive, and will likely be able to end the game on turn 4 almost every time it remains undisrupted. By not emphasizing creatures, RG gets to blank its opponent’s removal spells, and have a game plan that focuses on haymakers. This makes it a great choice against the fair decks of the format, as it is able to consistently play threats turn after turn once it gets 6 lands in play. Even if the primary gameplan is disrupted thoroughly, by playing 4 Valakuts and 27 lands, the back-up plan can be incredibly effective at buying time and even ending the game.

Weaknesses

RG Scapeshift is limited by its color pair, and doesn’t get to play much disruption. As such, it struggles against just about any combo deck that is faster than it. In addition, it doesn’t get any faster in the post-board games, so it has to hope that a light amount of disruption can buy enough time to win the game. It similarly struggles against aggressive decks that can get out under it. While it will likely win if the game gets to turn 4 or 5, getting to that point can be very difficult in Modern, and this is a weak-point of the deck.

Tips and Mulligans

If your opponent has a piece of land destruction that doesn’t allow you to get a land, like Tectonic Edge, don’t cast Scapeshift on 7 lands (unless you can get all basics and a Valakut) because they can destroy one of your Mountains when all of them enter the battlefield and this will fizzle all of the Valakut triggers. Instead, wait until you have 8 lands and get 1 Valakut and 7 Mountains, which will protect you against that interaction.

When in doubt, just cast your win conditions. The deck has 10 and not every control deck will always have a counterspells. If that doesn’t work, just having a Valakut in play will apply a fair amount of pressure to them.

If you know Scapeshift will resolve and kill them, but only have 6 lands, you can Summoner’s Pact for a Sakura-Tribe Elder instead of a Primeval Titan in order to ramp up to 7 and cast Scapeshift, ending the game on the spot.

Finally, when mulliganing, the ramp spells are the most important. Hands will lands and ramp are almost always going to be keepers. There has to be some trust that you’ll draw a way to kill them, but with 10 win conditions, it won’t be that hard to draw 1. If you think your opponent will kill you before you can, it is usually better to mulligan towards some piece of interaction.