Battle for Zendikar's Tribute to Valakut

by Lee Shi Tian on 12 September 2015, Saturday

Lee Shi Tian



Hello everyone!


Tons of Battle for Zendikar previews have been released since PAX Prime. We're obviously not disappointed with the R&D Team, at least not I!


As you know, Battle for Zendikar is a land-based set. The first time we visited the plane, we had enemy-colored fetchlands and allied-color manlands. This time, instead of treasures in the booster packs, they are bringing us the Zendikar Expeditions!


Fetchlands and manlands were among the most heavily-played lands from the block. They provided us with some great manabases across different formats. However, let's not forget that there is one land in Zendikar that spawned an entire new strategy solely by itself, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.


Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle




Brief History of Valakut


Ever since Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was printed, it shook up any format it was legal in. The first time it reared its ugly head was during Pro Tour Austin, a Pro Tour that was won by Brian Kibler. Makihito Mihara created the first shell of the Scapeshift deck.


Scapeshift Primeval Titan


One year later, Primeval Titan was printed in Magic 2011, and it naturally went very well with Valakut as well. At that time, Green-Red Ramp was the most dominant strategy until Caw Blade took over the entire scene.


Today, I'd like to talk about how the new lands in Battle for Zendikar could change the Valakut deck in Modern! In general, there are two types of Valakut decks in Modern: Green-Red Ramp and Scapeshift. Let's take a look!




Breach the Titan


The first version I am about to talk about is a more fringe version of Valakut in Modern. Nonetheless, Ricardo van den Bogaard was able to pilot the deck into a 3rd place finish at Grand Prix Madrid during the dark era of Treasure Cruise's dominance in Modern.



Cinder Glade


The reason I am raising up this deck is because I believe this is the best shell for the newly printed "tangle" land, Cinder Glade.


There are no non-mono colored decks which has more basics than this onel


One of the main issues of the deck was not having enough green sources in the opening hand. Having any non-Mountain mana source in play slows the Valakut trigger by a whole turn.


Also, you'd want at least two green sources in the first six lands you play, in order to cast Summoning Trap or Primeval Titan. The fifth to eight "Mountain Forest" provides many more keepable hands and a higher chance of having enough good green sources.


Khalni Heart Expedition Hunting WIlds


Another direction of the deck is to add more two-for-one cards to the deck. Khalni Heart Expedition is great on turns two or three, but is a bad card to topdeck in the middle or late game and that's probably why we might not want four of them.


Kodama's Reach and Cultivate gets you two cards for the price of one, but only accelerates you for a turn. Explosive Vegetation is a good one, since it allows us to jump from 4 to 6 mana the next turn, and still have a land drop available. Hunting Wilds is even more exciting, since it gets us Forests! It enables us to tutor out Cinder Glade and we no longer have to overwork the Stomping Grounds in the deck.


Animist's Awakening Nissa's Renewal


Animist's Awakening is also a very interesting card to explore, but the math is too difficult and maybe we should wait for Frank Karsten to do the math. Haha! However, one thing for certain is that we'll have Spell mastery, with so many instants and sorceries in the deck.


Also, Nissa's Renewal is also a possible addition, but I fear it might be too slow. It does provide us with a significant life cushion though, and might be useful in buying us additional time. There are some games where you are drawing Valakut but having nothing beyond the Ramp Spells. With 12+ Mountains in your deck, your Valakut triggers can always target opposing creatures before you can find additional Valakuts (or throwing Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play with Through the Breach) for the win.






Anyone who has ever played Scapeshift will know that it is a dedicated control deck. The deck interacts with your opponent a lot with counterspells and removals. Unlike traditional control decks who try to win by creatures (such as Yuuya Watanabe's White-Blue Control deck), the win conditions are the four Scapeshifts.


For example, this is the winning decklist of Grand Prix Minneapolis, piloted by my fellow teammate Park Jun Young:



However, ever since Monastery Swiftspear, Burn has been the enemy of Scapeshift.  There are simply too many Shocklands (because we're forced to play a bunch of Mountains and yet we are a three-color deck) and it is not a good sign against aggro decks.


Stomping Ground Steam Vents


Apparently, enemy "tangle" lands are not going to be printed in Battle for Zendikar. it is kind of sad that there is no replacement for Steam Vents. Still, Cinder Glade will improve our matchup significantly by cutting down the number of shocklands in the deck. The chance of drawing "non-painful" lands in the mid-to-late game is very relevant against aggressive matchups like this. I would say that we can start by replacing 3 Stomping Ground with Cinder Glade. That will certainly be the starting point of my playtesting.


Lumbering Falls


On another note, I'm also excited to see Lumbering Falls being printed! The card is the alternate win condition for Scapeshift. I used to have Vendilion Clique and Obstinate Baloth as the alternate winning condition in the sideboard, but now that we have a land that we can play in the maindeck, it s a great addition.


It has hexproof, so it continues to blank most of the creature removal spells in Modern. This ability is highly relevant because there is almost no risk when you attack into opponent's open mana, but watch out for Restoration Angel! Unlike Raging Ravine, it doesn't die to Lightning Bolt. It also allows you to kill your opponent if your Scapeshift for 18 is not lethal! Especially against control, you'll be able to have more lands than him by abusing Cryptic Commands (to sometimes bounce his lands) and flashing them back with Snapcaster Mage.


Lumbering Falls does add a new dimension to Scapeshift and I'm curious to find out how good it really is!




Bonus Section


Bring to Light


For years and years, we've been looking for tutor effects that enable "one card combos". I'm referring to additional ways to find Scapeshift. Bring to Light is such a card that we need. However, it requires us to have the fourth color to the deck. Between Farseek, shocklands and fetchlands, we can very easily fit in the fourth color.


The next question is, do we want White or Black as the fourth color? The first card that pops up in my mind is Gifts Ungiven.


Gifts Ungiven Unburial Rites


With White, Gifts Ungiven allows us to flashback Unburial Rites and silver bullets such as Iona, Shield of Emeria gives up a powerful against Burn or Black-Green decks.


I've seen Scapeshift lists running Gives Ungiven alongside Snapcaster Mage and Noxious Revival to search out the combo. However, with Bring to Light, Gifts Ungiven can actually search for Snapcaster Mage, Bring to Light and Scapeshift, which effectively forces your opponent to eventually give you a Scapeshift!


Cards like Noxious Revival are very situational, and sometimes a huge burden to draw. Yet, Bring to Light could be the tutor we are looking for once we reach seven mana. It could be a removal spell, a ramp spell, or the lethal combo piece. I believe it could be the new weapon for the post Battle of Zendikar Scapeshift deck.





This is all I have for the week and I will get back to preparing for the Modern Super League this coming Tuesday. I have already selected my deck and I'm just deciding on the last few sideboard cards in the deck. Let's keep my deck choice a secret for now, but here's a hint, there is no Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in my deck! Not without Cinder Glade!


Stayed tuned and I hope you guys liked this article and what I am about to bring to the Modern Super League! Also, I hope you're as excited as Battle for Zendikar as I am!

Cards in the Articles

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