An Ultimate Master of the Scales

James McNally

Event: Cerberus Master Series September - Modern, 01/09/19.
Deck: Hardened Scales (Scaley bois)

Probably the biggest BnR announcement in Modern's history had just come into effect. For those living under a Magic rock this means Faithless Looting & Hogaak Arisen Necropolis Banned, Stoneforge Mystic (SFM) Unbanned.

Just recently I had played at the MTG ADEPT Representationals running Scaley bois to a strong finish (see VLOG of event from Accumulated Knowledge deck still built-up hadn't had a chance to brew since BnR announcement. Scaley bois is as an aggro/on-board-combo deck centered around Hardened Scales which gives huge value with extra +1/+1 counters for all your bois. The deck is able to achieve explosive starts but also grinds well into the late-game with resilient threats. In this post-ban Modern world I considered Mox Opal (accelerant) & Ancient Stirrings (card-selection) to be some of the more busted things you could have in your deck, strong individually better together was the theory. Your main boi Arcbound Ravager ties this deck turning artifacts into many +1/+1 counters producing routes to victory beyond ground combat from Walking Ballista (non-combat damage), Hangarback Walker (flying attackers) & Inkmoth Nexus (flying infect). This deck I find to be quite resiliant to removal when setup & sometimes deploying your threats slower with blink/inkmoth nexus as modular targets with sac-outlets can really insulate you from this. See deck here:

Concerns I had with this selecting this deck for this event included:
Path to Exile: I expected an up-tick in the meta of this card with the un-banning of SFM. If you don't have sacrifice outlets you can miss out on modular triggers as your creatures don't die which can be costly for your game-plan.
Stony Silence: With SFM un-banning potential to see an up-tick in this card in SB's replacing GY hate. However stony silence is a nonbo in any new SFM decks with swords/batterskull so concluded less likely to see play.
Karn, Great Creator: Probably one of the scarier cards turns off your artifacts activated abilities & can wish for what's needed to lock the game up, expected out of E-tron & G-tron primarily though some other fringe decks run it too.
Chalice of the Void: Paticularly scary when you are on the draw, x=0,1,2 can all be relevant. However you can often play out your threats out with a fast enough tempo. Walking Ballista/Hangarback Walker casts for x=2 gets around chalice on 2.
Force of Vigor: Less expected in meta but 0 mana permanent hate that hits scales & my bois, potentially devastating.
Sweepers: This deck being an on-board-combo deck is vulnerable to sweepers if you overcommit to the board. Two ways you protect against this is welding jar (e.g. supreme verdict still let's your regenerate), manlands (e.g. oblivion stone only destroys all non-land permanents).

Notable cards:
Metallic Mimic: Dream plays can include T1 hardened scales, T2 Metallic Mimic (construct) Hangarback Walker/Walking Ballista x=0 -> 2x +1/+1 counters. Be aware though if your opponent can interact with you especially if you only have a Metallic Mimic you can get blown out, potential for 2:1/3:1 card advantage plays. This card has been run over Steel Overseer which felt worse in a world of gut shot but possibly worth bringing back as I don't mind it getting pathed so much & welding jar does provide protection still to other removal. Scrapyard Recombiner: Fresh out of Modern Horizons, I wanted to try this card as a additional sac-outlet, down-side summoning sickness to sac but upside has Modular (so dying to removal bit less sad & additional conduit for +1/+1 counters)! It fits well in the curve as the deck is saturated with two drops, would consider going up to two of this card. This card is often a must kill for your opp as I'm sure you can imagine searching up constructs is BONKERS.
Evolutionary Leap: I selected this card with the expectation of Path to Exile and it provides non-creature sac-outlet, that produces a steady stream of creatures. The card is effectively 1GG if you want to use straight away which can make it feel like it has summoning sickness if you are having colored mana problems, also notably not an artifact. Would run 0-1 of this card.
Spellskite: Put in SB to replace 2/4 Grafdigger's cage post-BnR announcement. They provided great insulation vs removal & also being an 0/4 felt great on defence.

Tournament Report (notes to best of my recollection)
R1: Mono Red Prowess 2-0 (draw)
G1: Opp comes out flying with double prowess creatures Monastery Swiftspear & Soul-scar mage (potentially scary burn as -1/-1 counters but wasn't relevant here). Play hard defense, he tanks on land till I draw second scales, then load-up an Walking Ballista for the win. SB:+3 Nature's Claim, +2 Spellskite, -1 Evolutionary Leap, -1 Animation Module, -2 Throne of Geth, -1 Scrapyard Recombiner
G2: Opp keeps a no creature hand and tries to burn me out. Able to suit-up an Inkmoth Nexus to 10/10 through this and power through.

R2: Eldrazi Tron 2-0 (play)
G1: Keep explosive hand with scales, opp chalices on 1 but too slow. Play around dismember and over-power. SB: +3 Damping Sphere, +4 Dismember, -3 Welding Jar, -2 Throne of Geth, -1 Evolutionary Leap, -1 Animation Module
G2: Opp chalices on 0, but I don't draw a 0 mana card all game. T1 Scales -> T2 Metallic Mimic + Hangarback Walker. 2* Dismembers, deals with Thought-Knot Seer and allow me to remove his Karn & take the game.

R3: UW Flash Stoneblade 0-2 (draw)
G1: Mull to a decent 6 but a combination of SFM, Path, Detention Sphere (on two Hardened scales!), many cryptic commands get ground out. SB: +2 Spellskite, +4 Dismember, + 3 Nature's claim. -2 Throne of Geth, -3 Welding jar, -2 Animation Module, -1 Metallic Mimic
G2: Keep decent 7. Very tight game with back and forth, have potential lethal a number of times but playing around open mana, full hand & no redundancy my window to win closes. Sword of Feast and Famine on a dude, with Celestial Colonnade smashes me out.

R4: 4C Titanshift 0-2 (play)
G1: Keep a slightly average 7. Opp plays a good ground defense, slowing my attacks with Steve, combined with Ojutai's command (ooh spicy!). Can feel the inevitable scapeshift kill coming, so go in for lethal and he has ice-fang coatl my creature runs into lick a brick wall. SB: -1 Evolutionary Leap, -1 Animation Module, +2 Spellskite
G2: Mull to 6. T1 Inkmoth Nexus, Arcbound Worker, T2: Mox Opal, activate inkmoth nexus to get metal craft, response force of vigor (ouch), Hardened Scales, T3, Metallic Mimic -> Hangarback Walker another Force of Vigor (Double ouch). At this stage I'm way behind a Snap, force of vigor (bois = broken), just before Scapeshift finishes me off.

R5: Eldrazi Tron 2-1 (draw)
G1: Mull to 6. opp maps, I play scales, opp chalices on 1, I play Metallic Mimic & Hangarback walking & Walking Ballista, opp on chalices on 2, I play scrapyard recombiner. Back and forth as I build up board of constructs for x=2. Get there. SB: +3 Damping Sphere, +4 Dismember, -3 Welding Jar, -2 Throne of Geth, -1 Evolutionary Leap, -1 Animation Module
G2: Opp. maps -> activate Karn, the great creator, liquimetal coating -> kill my land, draw darksteel citadel, have 2 scales out which are textless, concede.
G3: Opp mulls down. T1 Scales, T2 Metallic Mimic, Hangarback Walker *2, Ravager. He Thought-knot seers, I dismember. Grind out the game with Phyrexian's core making flyers, then ravager + ballista for remaining points of damage.

End 3-2 into 7th place for Top 8:
1st: UW Flash Stoneblade
2nd: JUND
3rd: Ponza
4th: 4c Titan shift
5th: Amulet Titan
6th: Dredge
7th: Hardened Scales
8th: BW Eldrazi & Taxes (w/SFM)

Quarter Final: Jund 2-0 (draw)
G1: DQ, unfortunate deck error. SB: None
G2: Play a slower game to maximise value, opponent runs out of resource and his removal just moves a growing number of +1/+1 counters round.

Semi Final: Dredge 2-1 (draw)
G1: Long grind of a game on defense, scrapheap scavenger & throne of geth were awesome here. In the end able to assemble a lethal walking ballista with protection SB: +2 Spellskite +2 Grafdigger's cage
G2: Opp mulls down to 6, but then flips triple Prized Amalgam of the top, get run down.
G3: Opp mulls to 4, I keep a hand of triple arcbound worker, mox opal, darksteel citadel, ancient stirrings, inkmoth nexus. Start pushing in with workers & inkmoth nexus, opp gets a bit of loam value going but lacks resources to conflagarate/darkblast sufficiently. I draw grafdigger's cage. He gets blast zone activates in combat but has to tap out, I setup in combat inkmoth nexus to 6/6 & non-combat inkmoth nexus to 2/2 to insulate against darkblast & lightning axe. Swing for lethal the next turn.

Final: 4C Titanshift 2-1 (draw)
G1: Both mull to 5, this better for me. Awkward start with no G for my scales, but he paths hangarback which turns my deck on effectively SB: -1 Evolutionary Leap, -1 Animation Module, +2 Spellskite
G2: Keep an okay 6, go in for the Metallic Mimic -> Hangarback walker play, get got by force of vigor, then shatterstorm & get scapeshifted out of game.
G3: Keep a strong 7, get force of vigored again but still doing fine, stay aggressive. He plays down a field of the dead, I am swinging in with a huge ravager that he keeps blocking with zombies and blinkmoth nexus. I get down a ravager and have lethal on board if he doesn't have an interaction but don't go straight for it. Draw land, get down scrapheap scrounger, sac scrapheap targeting blinkmoth for lethal damage with the modular with back-up of ravager + ballista. Opp shows me two land in his hand.

Now I am looking forward to drafting Ultimate Masters in a couple of weeks with 7 of Wellington’s finest.

The deck is definitely fun and seems pretty good if you put in a bit of practice. Give it a go at your next big Modern event. Thanks for reading.