Constructed Criticism – Wargate Is Back!

Thursday, February 10 – Todd Anderson is on a winning streak again with a Wargate deck on Magic Online! Check out the next evolution of Scapeshift!

Winning again feels good.

I don’t mean winning as in “You win the occasional match, mostly with really close games where your opponent had to misplay,” or
“You’re constantly in a situation where you have to topdeck your way out of a jam, but you did.” I mean winning, where
you’re constantly in control of the game’s tempo, forcing your opponent to make poor decisions on your terms, because your deck is just better
than theirs.

Control the action, and you control the game.

When your opponent leads off with a first-turn Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, what pops into your head? Scapeshift should be the only card that comes to
mind, and a clock begins ticking down from the get-go. You have a finite number of turns to kill them before they obliterate you for 2GG, so it’s
time to get to work. I love it when my opponents think like this, because it’s something they don’t usually feel when they play Magic
— panic!

Panic usually sets in immediately after a person realizes that they’re playing against a combo deck, and also realize they have very little way to
interact with that opponent. Decks with counterspells or hand disruption are usually a little less panicked — but the initial knee-jerk
reaction is usually the same. Sweaty palms. Faster breathing. Nervous ticks. They’re incredibly visible. This is especially true when you’re opponent
is casting Cryptic Commands, a.k.a. “the Best Blue Spell in Extended,” to slow you down, as well as burning removal on your small number of
relevant threats.

Combo is not something I’ve gotten to play with recently, and I’ve desperately missed the feeling of completely dominating my opponent. When you have
the latest technology for combo, it feels like you’re playing a completely different game than your opponent. I feel like I’m constantly riding the
heels of Gerry Thompson — but that really just goes to show you that he’s usually right. The man knows what he’s talking about when it comes
to Constructed, and he’s brewed up countless concoctions in the last few years that have gone on to win major events.

This week we’ll be talking about the next evolution of Scapeshift, from RUG Control to Wargate.

Grand Prix: Atlanta

heralded the return of the oft-forgotten sorcery that spells “I Win” in big bold letters when you cast it. For some, it was a joyous occasion, bringing
back an age where combo decks reigned supreme, while the rest of the format does their best to hate it out.

The big question is: Can Scapeshift thrive in a world full of such obvious hate? Why yes, yes it can. But you need to learn how to evolve.

Much like GerryT’s Thopter-Depths deck from last year, you need to find a way to keep your combo cards on the table while your opponent struggles to
find an answer. With Wargate, you’re adding a new dimension to the deck, giving yourself a much easier way to kill your opponent with “raw damage” via
Valakut. With Wargate, you’re effectively playing two combo decks in one, where you can just kill them out of nowhere with Scapeshift, or
manually with Prismatic Omen and Valakut. While you can’t kold kill them with Scapeshift without a Prismatic Omen in play, since that requires the
“JWay 66-card special” — but your plan mostly involves surprising your opponent with both Prismatic Omen and Scapeshift while they’re tapped
out. It is not that rare to win on the fourth turn while countering a few spells and using Cryptic Command as a Fog, making this deck one of the most
consistent in the format.

Wargate brings a new element to the deck unlike any card the format has produced thus far. The ability to tutor for Prismatic Omen or Valakut is just
unreal, and it even puts it directly into play! Take that, Beseech the Queen. With as much velocity this deck can acquire through the use of
Wargate for lands, as well as Explore and Rampant Growth, you can out-land and out-card your opponent in just a few short turns, taking the game
completely out of hand before they even get a chance to counteract your game plan.

Comparing the RUG version of the deck to the Wargate version of the deck is like comparing Dark Depths to Thopter-Depths. While your alternate game
plan revolves around similar cards, you aren’t necessarily digging for Scapeshift every game. Killing your opponent the old-fashioned way with Valakut
triggers is equally satisfying, and is occasionally attainable by as early as the fourth turn if you get that particular nut draw. The deck is much
more resilient to hate with the current Wargate configuration, as you have better tutors at your disposal, and you have another easy way to win the
game that doesn’t rely on resolving Scapeshift.

Without further ado, here’s my current configuration on the WargateScapeshift list I’ve been battling with on Magic Online over the last week:

Allow me to reiterate that this original concept was not my idea — but some of the changes I’ve made have helped me significantly in
testing, and hopefully you can learn something from the choices I’ve made.

Now, to begin, the fundamental difference between this version and the RUG version that won Grand Prix: Atlanta is Wargate. Most of
the other cards are the same, with a few minor exceptions, but the theory behind Wargate is that it makes your deck much more consistent, and also acts
as a ramp effect to boost you towards a lethal Scapeshift. In a pinch, it finds Prismatic Omen — but it can also search for Valakut, Jace, or
even Oracle of Mul Daya in a pinch. There are situations where you want each, and but rarely are there occasions where you would want to draw multiples
of either (excluding Valakut, of course).

With that said, Wargate is the main advantage over RUG — but your mana base becomes slightly worse. GerryT suggested playing red for
Firespout maindeck… but the Cascade Bluffs, Mountain, and Scalding Tarn just aren’t worth the additional headaches to the casting of your

Path to Exile, while not as good against fringe strategies like Elves, is amazing against one of the more popular decks at the moment: Red Deck Wins.
It is also acceptable against Faeries, acting as another answer to Mistbind Clique, which is their most powerful threat against you. Path to Exile is
just a solid removal spell that can buy you enough time to find your combo pieces — exiling Vengevines, Creeping Tar Pits, whatever. It
doesn’t discriminate.

A lot of the singletons in the deck need some explanation, but I have never felt like the numbers have been more correct on any other deck I’ve played
with. The singleton Ponder acts as a fifth Preordain, but Preordain is clearly better in most situations, so I wouldn’t recommend an 3-2 split. Ponder
is good, but you just can’t fit that many dig spells into your deck. You have to make room for important combo pieces and acceleration, otherwise
you’ll be trying to win on turn 6 and just die to Mono-Red (or some other combo deck with a good draw).

The See Beyond might need the most explanation of any card in the deck. It helps reduce the number of redundant cards in your hand by a mile. In the
first game, most people won’t be able to kill your Prismatic Omens, so having an extra in your hand is virtually a dead card once you’ve resolved one.
The same is true for Scapeshift, though you might need more than one to force through against Faeries or other control decks, so don’t shuffle away
your win conditions if you don’t have to!

The deck also has a decent number of lands that come into play tapped in the mid-game, so having a way to turn those into better draws is sweet.
Drawing too many See Beyonds can be horrendous for the curve, hence the singleton… but it has its merits, and I wouldn’t cut it lightly.

Explore and Rampant Growth are necessary, but Explore is clearly better in most situations, since it allows you to play a land and cast
another spell in the same turn. Rampant Growth always nets you a land, but that isn’t necessarily what you always want. In the mid-game when you have
plenty of lands, you just want to dig for your combo, hence the three-of Rampant Growth while you max out on Explore. The singleton Cultivate is there
to help mise your mana in a pinch, while also generating some much-needed card advantage against things like Blightning. It also allows you to fetch
white or blue mana and play it untapped as long as you haven’t played a land that turn, letting you cast Path to Exile or Preordain after grabbing some

The one Oracle of Mul Daya helps round out the ramp spells, but doubles as a win condition when you’re killing them with Valakut triggers from just
playing lands. With fetchlands, Oracle of Mul Daya can get ridiculous in a hurry, and put you so far ahead that your significant mana advantage will
blank Mana Leaks, and allow you to protect your combo with Cryptic Command when you get up to eight lands.

Wargate is sick, and I can’t honestly believe people haven’t already switched back to playing it again. White doesn’t affect your mana that much, and
Wargate is both a ramp spell and a tutor, which is just absurd. Drawing too many can be awkward if you don’t have white mana, and there are
times where you just don’t have much to do with Wargate, so I definitely feel three is the correct number. Older variations relying more on Wargate and
less on Scapeshift correctly played four — but your manual Valakut kill isn’t the primary win condition anymore. If the board is
stalled, Wargate can also grab Jace or Oracle and start gaining you an incredible advantage out of nowhere, so don’t forget it gets any permanent.

The two Mana Leaks might seem a bit off, but I assure you that you don’t want more than that in your maindeck. It’s mostly there as a safeguard
against Mistbind Clique, but it’s a versatile spell that disrupts the opponent and keeps them honest. If you cut it completely, people will no
longer be afraid of it and stop playing around it. If you have two mana untapped constantly, they will respect the fact that you have it more often
than not, even when you don’t, buying you precious time. This method of bluffing can be incredibly crucial against clever Faeries opponents, since
their decisions to attack with man-lands or not is mostly decided on the information they know about your hand. I have a third Leak in the board for
Faeries, the mirror, and other control decks, but I’m not convinced it’s entirely necessary against anything other than Faeries.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor. You sneaky bastard. You always seem to make it into my decks, even when you’re really not that good. I’ll admit, Jace is a
newer addition for me, since I think he’s pretty mediocre when you can’t protect him from anything. With Mono-Red and Faeries as the more prevalent
decks in the format, I wouldn’t bank on being able to tap out for him too often and expect him to resolve, or survive. He’s better than another Ponder,
and another Oracle of Mul Daya, which is really the only reason he’s there. He has some cool synergy with Wargate and Fetchlands — but other
than that he’s just okay, which is why you only want one.

The mana base is a little awkward, and I’ve been toying with it over the last few days trying to perfect it, but this is the configuration I’ve like
the best. The Stirring Wildwood has been swapped with Celestial Colonnade a number of times, but eventually Stirring Wildwood gets the nod for being
cheaper to activate, since it mostly plays defense against Kitchen Finks and Vendilion Clique. Five mana is a hefty price to pay to activate a land.

The Seachrome Coasts have been upped to three with the cut of Celestial Colonnade for Stirring Wildwood. I replaced a Forest to help give you access to
blue and white mana early on, in order to cast your Path to Exiles against Mono Red, as well as your dig spells on the early turns of the game. While
drawing too many Seachrome Coasts can be mediocre in the mid-game, you need it early to help cast Wargate, and it just fits the curve nicely.

The Murmuring Bosk is fairly straightforward, being able to fetch for it is sick, as it taps for white and green mana. It is one of the deck’s
linchpins, allowing you to easily cast Wargate early in the game. While it always comes into play tapped, the ability to fetch a dual land is very
important in this deck.

I’m playing five green fetches because they all can count as white sources of mana since they can nab Murmuring Bosk, though Misty Rainforest gets
Islands a decent amount of time to help cast Cryptic Command. I wouldn’t recommend playing Scalding Tarn or unless you planned on playing red for
Firespout (which I don’t recommend unless your entire metagame is Elf Combo).

The best land in the deck (besides Valakut, since it is technically your win condition) is Flooded Grove, as it can do some miraculous things with
Cryptic Command. You can also float excess blue or green mana, using your Valakuts for colorless mana to cast things like Explore, so that you can use
your floating mana to cast an additional spell on the same turn. It feel so incredible to cast Explore into Explore because you were smart enough to
float a green mana — so don’t mess it up! The exception to this rule would be if you were planning on sitting back on a counterspell, and
didn’t want to float mana… but those times don’t come up that often, since you’re really just racing your opponent in the first game.

Valakuts kill your opponent. Enough said, right? Honestly, I’ve been considering cutting one of them in order to help cast your spells more easily, but
you almost always want to draw one or two when you have Prismatic Omen in play, so cutting down on the count seems risky. With so many Tectonic Edges
running around, you can’t afford to only play three.

The basic lands should be obvious, but I’ve been waffling between one Plains and two for a while now, mostly because I want to fit Day of Judgment into
the sideboard. But it just makes your Cryptic Command draws so awkward. Mystic Gate could help this problem, but it’s probably not
enough to warrant the sideboard slots.

Day of Judgment is mostly for Elves, which is gaining popularity but still a fringe deck in my eyes. You need more answers to red than you do Elves,
and I’m willing to ignore Elves until it gets popular enough. When it does, it might be time to warp your mana base and spells so that you can more
easily cast Day of Judgment… but I’ll wait and see. 

The sideboard is interesting, and an amalgamation of all the cards that I’ve found best against the format. I originally thought Obstinate Baloth was
just superior to Kitchen Finks, but that was before our plan against red involved playing Path to Exile in the first two turns, and then following it
up with a Kitchen Finks on turn 3. In the older versions without Path to Exile, you would almost always cast Obstinate Baloth on the third turn after
playing an Explore or Rampant Growth. This plan involving Path to Exile is much smoother, and allows you to sideboard out Rampant Growths in the
matchup. While you’re still racing, you have a much better curve, and can afford to miss a ramp spell in order to kill their lone threat, or stick an
annoying Kitchen Finks.

The other two Path to Exiles are mostly there for Mono-Red, but are fine against Vengevine decks as well. Fauna Shaman is quite the problem, because
you rarely want to snap-Path their Fauna Shaman, but you don’t want them to untap with it, either. It’s a problem that has plagued me for a few
days, but I refuse to stoop to playing Oblivion Ring or Journey to Nowhere as an “answer.” Those cards are awful against Mistbind Clique, and Faeries
is clearly the most popular Extended deck at the moment, dominating everywhere. While Path to Exile is okay against Faeries, you don’t want to draw too
many of them — so I usually just keep two in the maindeck, and leave the other two in the board.

Spell Pierce is a sweet card that you really want to draw early, but you don’t want to flood your hand with them. They’re awesome against Faeries,
protecting your Prismatic Omens from a first-turn Thoughtseize if you’re on the play, or keeping their Bitterblossom at bay while you set up. You can
also counter their Cryptic Commands pretty easily with it, since they run so few lands and draw spells. They’re also reliant on Tectonic Edge to slow
you down, making sure they rarely have enough mana to cast Cryptic Command and pay for Spell Pierce all at the same time. The extra Mana Leak
fits in this same vein, but is a bit more versatile since it can counter Mistbind Clique. Both of these cards also come in against other Scapeshift
decks in order to help stall their mana development in the early game.

The Flashfreezes rarely come in against Mono-Red, and usually only when you’re on the play. Otherwise you should just rely on Path, Finks, and Cryptic
to slow them down long enough to kill them. Remember than they’re likely to have Tunnel Ignus now, since someone won a Magic Online PTQ recently with a
few in his sideboard, so don’t get too hasty with your Path to Exiles and leave yourself cold to one of those dorks. It’s not fun.

The package of one Qasali Pridemage, one Sun Titan, and two Primal Commands is really good against the mirror, as well as all forms of control except
Faeries. Your plan should revolve around Prismatic Omen resolving, and almost nothing else. If you stick it and start to deal them three damage per
turn (or more), you should put them on a significant enough clock where they feel pressured to begin attacking with manlands, leaving you an opening to
kill them with Scapeshift.

The Pridemage is pretty mediocre most of the time against Faeries, so I would just leave it in the board, but it does come in against other
Omen decks (as well as anyone packing Leyline of Sanctity). The ability to recur it with Sun Titan makes it more valuable than War Priest of Thune, and
it can also come in handy against decks with Tidehollow Sculler.

The Primal Commands are sweet in various matchups. But they’re an especially great answer for control decks, searching up Sun Titan, but can also
just gain seven life and search up Kitchen Finks against red decks. Some people have opted to play Wurmcoil Engine, but most people will be siding in
ways to deal with artifacts and enchantments, making Wurmcoil Engine much worse if they’re sitting on Deglamers.

The singleton Sun Titan has won me plenty of games, and definitely deserves a slot. Again, the double-white in his cost makes him fairly awkward on
occasion, but it’s good enough that I would want one so that I am not dead to Nature’s Claim. Having the ability to recur Qasali Pridemage is
just bonkers against the matchups where you need Disenchant effects.

I’m seriously considering adding a Tectonic Edge to the sideboard in order to have a soft-lock against man-lands — but if I’m attacking with
Sun Titan I think I should be winning already, though that might not be the case. Wargate can fetch the Tectonic Edge, buying you time in the mirror
while you set up Sun Titan recursion. With an additional Oracle of Mul Daya, it could end up being pretty sweet.

Well, for whatever it’s worth, I think this deck is miles ahead of everything else in the format as far as good percentages across the board is
concerned. Your only bad matchup, which I’m sure I’ll lament for quite some time, is the Elf Warrior deck. The “Sixteen lords” are just hard to race,
and their nut draws involving Heritage Druid are just so tough to beat. When they stick an Ezuri, Renegade Leader in the process, it’s tough to
do anything at all.

While there are a lot of newer cards coming out of Mirrodin Besieged for the Extended format, I won’t get a chance to play with them on Magic Online
for a few more weeks. When they become legal there, I’ll share some of what I find. Until then, this is the best I got.

I hope you guys enjoyed reading. I really love this deck and hopefully you will too. It isn’t easy to play, so I recommend testing the hell out of it
before you take it to a tournament. Don’t give up after a few losses. You’ll make subtle mistakes, like playing the wrong land or shuffling away
the wrong card, and those mistakes will cause you losses. Once you can figure out what is important in what matchups, you’ll know just how good
the deck is, and wonder why you haven’t played with it before.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and hopefully I’ll have another article up closer to the end of the week with an update on the deck — or
possibly a tournament report from the online PTQ.

Thanks for reading.


strong sad on MOL