PTQ Khans of Trakir Report
First of all, I have two confessions to make.
Number one… I hate Modern. Prior to this, never played in a single modern premier event in my life.
Number two…. I love Modern.
Prior to joining Team Decards sometime in March, our Malaysian hero Raymond Tan had already went and returned from his Pro Tour Born of the Gods campaign. The format was Modern and I didn’t really pay much attention to that Pro Tour besides knowing that Shaun McLaren won with American control. I knew Modern season was coming and there was a Modern PTQ around the corner. I have been stocking up on some cards but by the time the end of March rolled in, I was pretty much sold out on everything save a playset of Spinter Twin, some filter lands and the UWR components which I piloted for GP Kitakyushu a year ago.
When the team prepared for GP Nagoya in April, Eugene informed me that Super Sunday was Modern instead of the usual Standard. Oh well, looks like it was going to be another round of sealed deck for me on Sunday if things didn’t go well. In the end, I did make Day 2 and skipped the Super Sunday but between my games I managed to catch a glimpse of the Modern action. As expected Modern games were brutal and furious. There were so many invasive and backbreaking cards. Basically I call these my Top 10.
Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, Cranial Plating, Karn Liberated, Birthing Pod, Blood Moon, Tarmagoyf, Liliana of the Veil, Cryptic Command and Lightning Bolt
And we haven’t talked about $$$ yet. Oh my… I was starting to hate this format already.
With the PTQ date set for June 15th at Signa, I had roughly 6 weeks to prepare. Starting Modern from scratch is like doing your high school chemistry exams again, only difference is you’re 34 years old now. I did my usual routine of just looking through all the deck options, studying videos of game plays and understanding basically what made Modern tick. And I came to certain conclusions.
1) If your deck couldn’t interact with your opponents – you lose.
2) If your opponent’s deck could interact with yours, your deck better be resilient.
Before arriving at the deck I played at the PTQ, I had my hands on (and so diligently tuned) UR Delver and Dredgevine. But these two decks had so many weak points against my top 10 and I ditched it after Eugene Tong had several games of Scapeshift with me. That’s when I thought back at my 2 conclusions earlier and decided that Scapeshift was the one. Many of you are pretty familiar with the combo – Scapeshift with 7 lands in play, sacrifice them and bring in 6 Mountains and 1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle for a simultaneous trigger to deal 18 points of damage. With modern’s shocklands and fetchlands, opponents usually deal the first two to themselves.
Here’s where it gets tricky – Scapeshift needs to:
1) Keep playing land drops (or searching lands)
2) Dig into your deck for more lands (and Scapeshift)
3) Stay alive while doing (1) and (2)
While we have seen many versions of this deck (with Prismatic Omen and/or Primeval Titan) I opted for Park Jun Young’s version except adding in a 25th land for his 3rd Snapcaster Mage
3 Cryptic Command
2 Izzet Charm
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Serum Visions
3 Telling Time
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
2 Snapcaster Mage
4 Stomping Ground
4 Steam Vent
2 Breeding Pool
2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
3 Misty Rainforest
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Flooded Grove
3 Obstinate Baloth
1 Sowing Salt
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Anger of the Gods
2 Engineered Explosives
The sideboard was hours of testing plus refinement with Eugene, we came up with the best 15 which we felt was right for the meta. However, looking at how the results turned out, I would have made some tweaks if any of you are looking to play this deck next week in Singapore.
Fast forward to June 15th PTQ @ Signa – 122 players.
Round 1 – Bye (opponent failed to show up) 1-0
Round 2 – Uzair (Jund) 1-1
In Game 1, I was keeping Uzair’s attack force at bay, casting Cryptic Command 5 times in that game while digging for my Scapeshift. With 20 cards left in the deck, I still failed to find one. I combo off in Game 2 but Game 3 was a repeat of Game 1. The final turn (before losing), I cast a Repeal on his Wolf token only to Remand it in response to draw a card.
Repeal #2 and draw a card. Serum Visions
Serum Visions to draw a card. Land. Reveal top 2 – Electrolyze and Land.
It was not meant to be.
Round 3 Mohd Noor Firdaus (Red white burn) 2-1
Was in control the entire match, just buying time with Remands and combo off. In game 2, he sat with 17 life and 4 open mana just refusing to do anything except for beating with a Goblin Guide. I combo off with 8 lands in play and bring 2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and 6 Mountains to deal 36 and he showed me 2 Lightning Helix and he thought I would bring 7 Mountains and a Valakut and that would be 21 and double helix would have brought him out of range. Oh well…
Round 4 Johan Jefri (Tarmo twin) 3-1
Johan probably hasn’t played against Scapeshift and started to burn his cheap counters on my land searches. When Scapeshift finally hit, his expensive Cryptic Command was no match for Remand. In game 2, he had 5 non-basics and 1 island and tried to sneak in a Blood Moon. A Negate and the combo next turn with him on 17 life was game over.
Round 5 Yang ZiJian (Pod) 4-1
Pod has always been a tricky matchup. If you do some research, everyone says its an easy matchup but I personally feel its very dependent on both pilots. I won the die roll and had a Turn 1 Serum Visions and put a Remand on top. He lead with Thoughtseize to take away a Telling Time (over Search for Tomorrow). From turns 2 to 5, I chained Remands into Cryptic Commands while playing lands and Search for Tomorrow staying true to the three simple rules of Scapeshift and won. In Game 2, he had early discard + Fulminator Mage which vised my plays. I still managed to stay alive and get 8 lands in play. But after digging twice I had no outs. In the decider, he had a heavy creature hand and started to pressure early. With the combo in my grip and a Repeal + Izzet Charm in hand to his 4 open mana (one Noble Hierarch). Fearing Aven Mindcensor or Negate, I Repealed his Hierach in my first main phase which he Path to Exiled in response, which cleared his open blue mana and I combo off for the win.
Round 6 Shawn Khoo (Saito Rock) 5-1
Shawn at this point was 4-0-1 and a win would lock him into top 8. A win for me meant both of us still needed to play out our last round. We split the first two close games and in the decider, Shawn resolved a Tarmagoyf followed by a Liliana of the Veil and proceeded to discard. Obstinate Baloth entered play and Shawn held back his Tarmagoyf. I mainphase Repeal his Goyf, took down the Liliana and played land #4 and suspended a Search for Tomorrow. Shawn cast Liliana #2 to sacrifice the Baloth, played land #4 and passed. I played land #5 and cast Sakura-Tribe Elder. The Liliana ticked up for one only to find another Baloth coming down into play. Shaun tried to even the board with a Tarmagoyf and Scavenging Ooze and passed. Search for Tomorrow brought in land #6 and I played Engineered Explosive for 2 with Cryptic Command mana up. Liliana ticked up and a Fulminator Mage met Cryptic Command. Untap, the Explosives cleared the way, Baloth hit for 4 damage and with 7 lands Scapeshift was lethal.
Round 7 Raymond Tan (Scapeshift) 6-1
Another teammate battle. With slim chances of both of us drawing in, we needed to play. Consolation was either one from our team was locked. I had tested more games for the mirror was ready from the get go. It didn’t help that Raymond couldn’t dig for his Scapeshift before I comboed off in game 1. And in game 2, Raymond tried to fight off end-step Vendilion Clique too many times, drawing out his Remand, Snapcaster Mage and Swan Song before leaving him exposed for the winning Scapeshift.
So the swiss ended and I was at the top of the standings after round 7 that allowed me to play first in every match, which was huge. Only problem was Shawn Khoo was my first opponent and was another inner-team battle.
5 team players in top 16
I can’t remember the details of the first two games but I know game 2 Shawn locked me out with just 5 lands in play early and always a turn late before I combo off. So after splitting the first two games again, we went to a decider. My turn one Serum Visions placed a Remand on the top. Turn 1 Thoughtseize from Shawn yielded a Scapeshift, but the deck went to work with Remand after Remand after Remand. Shawn’s grip with gas with multiple Fulminator Mages but stuck on 3 lands. The deck gained steam with the cantrips and the Scapeshift off a Telling Time ended the match.
These top 8 playmats were sweet… can’t say the same for a teammate battle
Coming into the top 4 match with Faheem piloting a pimped up (all foil) Kiki-Pod, I knew Wesley (with Affinity) was up a game against Jund. The Scapeshift deck was well tuned against Affinity so this match was in fact the final hurdle for me to the sunny beaches of Hawaii. But the lack of testing against this version of Pod really took a toll on me, I allowed Glen-Elendra Archmage to hit the table in game 1 and it was over. Fazed but not beaten yet, game 2 I mulled over my choices of trying to go hard on the combo or take the Obstinate Baloth route to apply pressure. I went for the latter and sided out my slower Cryptic Commands. The Baloth entered into the battlefield early attacking my opponent down. He responded with a Thrun, the Last Troll and took a hit as he didn’t have regeneration mana up. He did manage to resolve a Birthing Pod and with a combination of fetchlands, shocklands and Birthing Pod activations, he was down a to precarious 10 life. I had two cards in hand and he confidently did his math and went for it.
He played a Hallowed Fountain untapped (taking 2). Birthing Pod sacrificed the Wall of Roots (taking another 2) to look for a Deceiver Exarch to untap the Pod and podded his Thrun for the game-ending Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker (taking another 2). The Kiki proceeded to target the Exarch but I flipped my Combust and after a brief read and looking at the hapless Negate in his hand, he scooped. On to game 3.
Looking back at the deciding game and after contemplating all my earlier 8 rounds of play (including this and excluding my bye), I finally acknowledged I did a mistake on turn 4 which cost me the match. Faheem had a turn 2 Voice of Resurgence which attacked into my Sakura-Tribe Elder (and got me a third land) followed by a turn 3 Birthing Pod. Here on my turn 3 main phase I cast Serum Visions and saw Steam Vents and Remand. I had drawn a Forest off the Serum Visions and had Mountain, Anger of the Gods, Obstinate Baloth, Combust and Scapeshift
My lands in play were Island (tapped), Stomping Ground and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
From the list of cards I mentioned above the victory was in hand. Do you see it?
As what Eugene (and Shawn did as well) sometimes points out – Tunnel Vision. I had the sequencing all wrong. I proceeded to put the Steam Vents on top and the Remand to the bottom, playing the Forest and Angered away the Voice. He had a Wall of Roots which went to fetch a Kitchen Finks. I played my Baloth and Steam Vents tapped. The Finks was sacrificed for a Glen-Elendra Archmage and suddenly I felt my grip on the match starting to slip. He didn’t have a blue mana, but an Eternal Witness fetching back the earlier sacrificed Arid Mesa was promptly swapped to an untapped Hallowed Fountain. My draws were more lands, of which IF the Archmage wasn’t on table, I could have won outright. I had drawn a second Scapeshift which could give me a window but I needed to get to 8 lands. An Aven Mindcensor made things complicated. Faheem went for lethal searching out a Zealous Conscripts to steal my Baloth. My Combust went to the Glen-Elendra during combat and with persist on the stack, I Cryptic Command to tap down but his Negate ended the match.
Rewinding the earlier play, after Serum Visions, I should have left both cards on top with Remand above the Steam Vents. Play my Forest and passed the turn. Faheem would have probably played a Wall of Roots and looked for Kitchen Finks (likely sacrificing the Voice). I would draw my Remand, played land number 5 and Anger his Finks and token away with a Remand up. I would have Remanded anything relevant and he may have Podded his Wall for a second Finks (which am not sure if he did have a second in his deck). To note, he didn’t have a blue mana so even if he went for the Elendra, he wouldn’t have mana to activate. I had land #6 in my hand (from the Remand) and the next draw was a land too. I would then cast my Baloth and offered two mana open for a Combust. At this juncture, he couldn’t have gone for the Archmage (as he couldn’t activate the ability) but may have gotten the Mindcensor (in hand). If I got to untap I would have Scapeshifted for the win with a Combust to stop the Mindcensor. Also to note he drew that Negate much later in the game.
So that sums it up. One of the easiest decks on paper but when sequenced incorrectly was the difference between a potential PTQ winner or 3rd place with 12 boosters. But I have to admit, Modern decks be it Scapeshift, Delver or even Dredgevine have so much force and velocity, piloting them is like the joy of taking a Ferrari out for a spin after years of stuck behind the wheel of your 1.5CC car (by that I mean Standard Constructed).
You just gotta love and hate modern at the same time ;D
Hope this article was useful for those who are trying to build Scapeshift for this upcoming season. If I were to play this deck again, I would take out the 1 Sowing Salt, probably trim a Shatterstorm and try to squeeze in another Ancient Grudge and Anger of the Gods. I’m going to take a break from competitive magic until M15 and from there start to prepare for GP Taipei… maybe in the meantime I may get sucked into some Vintage Masters and hope to pull a Black Lotus. Till the next one….