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December 11, 2015

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Bringing Light to Scapeshift

Six Scapeshift decks (see a Scapeshift primer) featuring Bring to Light (BTL) made Day 2 at GP Pittsburgh, outnumbering vanilla Scapeshift which only had one appearance. It also had numerous top 8 appearances at the most recent round of RPTQs.

I want to talk about how the card changes the deck and the toolbox it offers.

What Scapeshift gained with Bring to Light

Scapeshift has been held back from Tier 1 for countless reasons. Some examples:

  • its game 1 is one-dimensional
  • you can go games without finding Scapeshift
  • you can die well before even having enough mana to cast Scapeshift

BTL helps address the latter two issues by giving you guaranteed (at a cost) extra copies of Scapeshift or virtual multiples of singleton utility cards. It doesn’t just give the deck a little more consistency, it offers a lot more consistency.

The fourth colour and flexibility allow you to play some new, useful mainboard additions and give you access to a toolbox sideboard of cards. Since BTL can be almost any card in your deck, it’s almost like you’re running five copies of sideboard cards like Shatterstorm instead of one. Versus other one-dimensional decks like Affinity, that matters.

What Scapeshift lost with Bring to Light

Unfortunately, all this good can’t come without some bad.

Cards having to play well with BTL

Space is usually made by cutting Bolts and/or your diggers (Anticipate, Telling Time, etc.). Prior to the BTL “template, ” you could dig with these cards for singleton sideboard hosers like Gigadrowse or Boseiju, Who Shelters All. That’s no longer the case. None of these play well with BTL, forcing you to look at other options. Sure, you could keep running these, but they just aren’t as dependable.

Higher curve

The added flexibility of BTL comes with a cost. As your key spells’ Converted Mana Costs get higher and higher, you become susceptible to losing substantial tempo to counter magic, or folding to aggro. As always, know your meta well before choosing any deck in a competitive setting.

Rocky manabase

A deck’s manabase gets less consistent and shakier when it goes from two colours to the three colours (see Twin). This is even worse when going from three to four. Thankfully though, of all decks in the format, Scapeshift is one of the few that can manage a fourth colour. That said, there is no room to be lazy with mana management, and that means being especially critical when keeping your opening hand.

Bring to Light toolbox

Post-board with BTL Scapeshift almost feels like you’re running Demonic Tutor. Apart from the usual suspects you would see in a Scapeshift deck (Obstinate Baloth, Cryptic Command, Electrolyze, etc.), you’ve got a heck of an arsenal to pick from using BTL. Let’s start with the cards seeing more play in Temur colours.

Temur cards

A few Temur cards are showing up more often thanks to BTL’s flexibility. Some examples:

Temur does manage to fill in most of the gaps in your sideboard, but white and black do offer some more choices:

Black splash

  • Slaughter Games: Combo-stopper
  • Damnation: Wiping out creatures bigger than x/3. Risky choice as you (usually) have exactly 2 black sources.

If you’re looking for something spicier, Nick Hyler piloted a version with Jund Charm and Kolaghan’s Command in the sideboard to Top 8 of an SCG IQ.

White splash

Not the most exciting, but if you’re venturing outside the box, Linvala, Keeper of Silence and Monastery Mentor may be worthwhile experiments.

Summary

What Scapeshift gained with Bring to Light by far outweighs what it’s lost. The tournament results show that. A clunkier manabase is well worth being able to combo or hose your opponent more reliably. Some are even comparing the newfound consistency to the days of the late Dig Through Time.

If you’ve found yourself wandering aimlessly through Modern for a pet deck since Birthing Pod was banned, this may be a fun toolbox deck for you. If Scapeshift isn’t your bag or isn’t spicy enough, that’s okay, too! Perhaps Luis Scott-Vargas can lure you in through his Bring to Light Gifts deck.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to play the deck. I’m also hoping that in due time, I will hear the phrase “This is the first time I’ve played against Scapeshift.” a lot less at local events.

Quick facts about BTL

  • Your opponent has two opportunities to interact with you when you cast BTL: in response to BTL and in response to the spell you may cast.
  • Unlike Flashback, Remand returns the BTL Spell to your hand.
  • The BTL spell goes to the graveyard as normal when cast.
  • You can pay additional costs, such as kicker costs, (Yay [Hunting Wilds]) and must pay mandatory additional costs. (Boo [Thalia])

My take

If you’re curious how I’ve approached it, this is what my current version looks like:

Patrick’s BTL Scapeshift

Creatures: (6)
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Snapcaster Mage

Spells: (28)
Anger of the Gods
Bring to Light
Cryptic Command
Electrolyze
Farseek
Hunting Wilds
Izzet Charm
Remand
Scapeshift
Search for Tomorrow
Worldly Counsel

Lands: (26)
Breeding Pool
Cinder Glade
Flooded Grove
Forest
Island
Misty Rainforest
Mountain
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Swamp
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Watery Grave

Sideboard: (15)
Ancient Grudge
Anger of the Gods
Crumble to Dust
Damnation
Dispel
Glen Elendra Archmage
Negate
Obstinate Baloth
Shatterstorm
Slaughter Games
Spellskite