Brewed Up: Aggro Shift

An archetype that I always seem to fall back into is Scapeshift. I think I have owned every iteration of the deck since Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was unbanned in September of 2012. Aggro Shift is the intersection of two of my favorite archetypes in Modern. The deck is capable of incredibly fast aggro kills while also having a very viable Valakut Plan B. It is not a new idea, but the printing of Wrenn and Six has breathed new life into this old archetype.

Decklist
Land (26)
4x Flagstones of Trokair
1x Forest
1x Mountain
4x Sacred Foundry
4x Stomping Ground
1x Temple Garden
3x Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
4x Windswept Heath
4x Wooded Foothills
Creature (12)
4x Knight of the Reliquary
4x Plated Geopede
4x Steppe Lynx
Spells (22)
4x Boom / Bust
4x Explore
4x Scapeshift
2x Brought Back
4x Prismatic Omen
4x Wrenn and Six
Sideboard (15)
1x Bojuka Bog
2x Damping Sphere
1x Ghostly Prison
4x Path to Exile
2x Primeval Titan
2x Rest in Peace
1x Sejiri Steppe
2x Stony Silence
75 Cards Total

The Build
The first thing that stands out about this deck is the incredibly high land count. Even control decks in Modern generally don’t run more than twenty-three or twenty-four lands in their deck. The funny thing is, twenty six lands in this deck is fairly low. Older versions of the deck ran upwards of twenty-eight lands. This seems absolutely crazy on paper. Flooding in an aggro deck generally means a game loss. For all of the burn players, how many times have you topdecked a land when any spell would have won the game? It’s an absolutely horrible feeling. Aggro Shift however requires a critical mass of lands for both of it’s gameplans. The deck does not function well without an early fetchland or Flagstones of Trokair. You need one way to trigger landfall multiple times in the same turn at the very least.

Without that, you are playing a deck full of 0/1s, 1/1s and three mana 2/2s which is obviously not ideal. On top of that, we are able to win via Scapeshift with seven lands in play or six and a Prismatic Omen. Getting to six or seven lands is something that most decks don’t want to do, but Aggro Shift is very happy putting one or multiple lands into play each turn. This means we have to have a very high Mountain count. This build is running nine lands that are Mountains along with three Valakut. Pair that with the twelve lands that enable multiple landfall triggers and it is no surprise to see how the deck gets up to twenty-six lands. There is not much room to shave down past this without severely hurting either gameplan. Even twenty-six lands is a little low for this deck in my opinion. The only reason we are able to get away with it is due to some new toys from Modern Horizons and Magic 2020.

Scapeshift is the key workhorse in this deck. Not only can it be a one card combo, it also can be cast without a lethal number lands in play just to enable landfall. With four lands in play you can create seven landfall triggers by itself by fetching out a playset of Flagstones. They are legendary so three of them have to go and that will allow you to fetch out three more lands. With a single ramp spell, you’re able to do this as early as turn 3. Turning your one mana 0/1 into a 14/15 (or even 18/19 if you played and cracked a fetch) is absurd. Moving on, we have four copies of Timewalk. Sorry, I meant Explore, which is basically the same thing. The deck has a super high land count so you rarely have to be worried about not being able to hit the additional land drop.

Wrenn and Six is making a major splash in older formats. Obviously the +1 is the major draw of Wrenn for this deck. Recurring our fetchlands and Flagstones is exactly the type of the effect that this deck wants. The -2 is also quite strong. Modern is riddled with one toughness creatures. Having a two mana planeswalker that can also effect the board is incredibly nice. Finally, the ultimate is okay, but not the real reason we’re running the card. I wouldn’t expect to ever ultimate Wrenn outside of some crazy circumstances. One of the cards that benefits the most from Wrenn is Boom//Bust. To get full value off of casting Boom, you need a fetchland or Flagstones in play. You target your own fetchland with Boom, then sacrifice it before Boom resolves for one sided land destruction. As I’ve been discussing for two paragraphs, fetchlands and Flagstones are precious commodities. Wrenn makes Booming your own land hurt so much less because you can recur it. It’s obviously still not ideal, but it is infinitely better then it was before when you had zero ways to get lands back.

Speaking of recursion, M20 gave us another new toy to play with in Brought Back. I have currently settled on two copies, but I believe that more could be correct. When I was first analyzing the card, I was hung up on getting full value out of it. It turns out that just using it as a Rampant Growth is good enough most of the time. If you are transitioning to the Valakut plan, it can become an incredibly explosive ramp spell. It actually enables the potential Turn 4 Scapeshift kill as long as you have another ramp spell or a Prismatic Omen. If you play a fetchland on Turn 2 and don’t crack it, on Turn 3 you can play another fetch, crack both and cast Brought Back. You’ll untap with five lands on turn 4 which means if you can hit your land drop, you have the perfect mana to cast a ramp spell or Prismatic Omen plus Scapeshift. In addition to the explosiveness it as adds a ramp spell, it also just provides value over the course of the game. In grindy matchups, it can recur your non-land permanents to help you get over the hump. The biggest drawback is definitely the mana cost but it is far from a dealbreaker. These new additions paired with some old favorites help to make this deck truly viable.

Prismatic Omen is one of the best cards in the deck. I have considered shaving down to 3three copies because drawing multiple can feel very clunky. The card just does so much for the deck. It allows your fetches to make mana without needing to crack them. It enables you to do 54 damage with Scapeshift with only 6 lands in play. It helps to fix your very strict color requirements. The card is just a workhorse. As touched on earlier, Boom//Bust is Sinkhole in this deck most of the time. It enables you to take your opponent off colors, remove their utility lands, and just gets you ahead on board and in tempo. I’ve considered moving it to the sideboard but the card does a ton of work in almost every matchup. It’s not even bad against decks like Mono-Red Prowess where setting them back on mana can be the difference between winning and losing. It is one of the few ways we have to interact with our opponents game one. Our creature suite is a big part of the reason we can get away with this.

Steppe Lynx is the premiere landfall creature. Most of your ideal hands start out with turn one Steppe Lynx. The deck does it’s best to ensure that it is almost never smaller than a 4/5 when attacking. As noted earlier, this is far from the ceiling on size for the creature. Anyone who played original Zendikar Standard knows how potent Plated Geopede can be. It is slightly worse than Steppe Lynx in this deck but is never totally dead like the 0/1 can be. While first strike is far from the best ability, it definitely isn’t irrelevant. It allows Geopede to block X/1s without a pump and makes blocking even more difficult for the opponent. Knight of the Reliquary might be my favorite Magic card of all time. It grows massive in this deck from popping all of the fetchlands and Flagstones. We mostly take advantage of her ability for extra landfall triggers for our other creatures. In the past, the deck has run one or two utility lands in the main deck. The list is just slightly too tight for that now in my opinion. In sideboarded games we are  still able to tutor up relevant lands. The sideboard is still a work in progress but Sejiri Steppe and Bojuka Bog are very viable options for Knight to find.

The meta is still settling from the banning of Bridge from Below. Because of this, I have not nailed down my exact sideboard. The numbers may be a bit off, but I am sure that these are some of the best options for your sideboard. As we touched on earlier, utility lands are incredibly valuable in this deck. Bojuka Bog is tutorable graveyard hate. Tutoring up Sejiri Steppe can save your creatures from spot removal and also provide a little bit of evasion. Another nice thing about Steppe is that it makes colored mana for this deck. Alternatively, Soaring Seacliff is the card that offers real evasion. Many decks clog the ground but cannot stop a flier. I find myself going back and forth but you definitely do not need both. Either way, when you go for the landfall creature + Scapeshift combo you will be able to find evasion.

Stony Silence is obviously a very good way to shut down the artifact decks. Collector Ouphe is also an option but removal will be left in versus us making that less viable. Path to Exile is our best way to interact with opposing creatures. I have tried to figure out a way to get two copies into the main deck but the list is just too tight currently. We are able to establish a fairly fast clock so Damping Sphere is a nice hate piece that covers spell slinging matchups. We are solid against big mana decks, but since this overlaps we are happy to have it there as well. The graveyard hate was hard for me to choose. We do take advantage of our graveyard quite a bit. I still feel like truly shutting down graveyard decks is worth it so RiP gets the nod. Ghostly Prison is somewhat of a pet card in here but I have found it to be very, very good. You are comfortable just hitting your land drops. You can take more of a Titanshift role if you are not under pressure. Finally, to really turn the deck into Titanshift, we have two copies of Primeval Titan. In grindy matchups, we are able to do our best Titanshift impersonation which those decks have a ton of trouble dealing with. The flexibility in gameplan gives this deck a ton of options.

Verdict
Overall, I think that this deck is incredibly viable. It has two very strong gameplans and now has a two mana planeswalker. The deck definitely is not the easiest deck in the world to pilot. When to save or crack your lands, what lands you should tutor, and which win condition to go for are all questions that might be unintuitive to players. This can all be overcome with practice though. It is not a Doomsday combo deck. The aggro plan is almost always Option A. You really should only switch to actively going for plan B when you know you won’t be able to win through combat or it is a good matchup for it. I think this deck does very well against fair decks. Midrange decks like Jund and U/W Control are really the decks we want to be playing against. We take more of a midrange role in aggro matchups which can be hit or miss. Combo is our real problem. The goal in that matchup is to set them back on mana and hope that we are fast enough to take advantage. This can be scary, but we have very solid hate pieces in our sideboard. Wrenn and Six has really breathed new life into this archetype and I am so happy I can play it again.

Wrap-Up
We seem to come back to this deck every year or so and it truly is a blast to play. For a long time we wanted them to unban BBE so that we could cascade into Bust but they changed the rules on that interaction before the unban. Alas, the new toys are just as sweet and we look forward to testing it further. What is your pet deck in Modern? Has it gained any toys from the recent sets? Please share it with us in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back on Monday with another article for you to enjoy. Until then my friends.

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