Smart Deck Investments: Twin and Scapeshift

It doesn’t have to be, but Modern certainly can be an expensive format. Even if you’re a spike with a reasonably large budget, after dropping $1,800 on Junk, you maybe don’t want to drop another $1,200 on Twin. Or maybe you get sick of Affinity, but don’t want to start from scratch to play something else.

There’s a way to avoid this: buy into decks that lend themselves well to card sharing and inexpensive transformation(s).

twin scapeshift cryptic command

Note that if you’re sharing cards between decks, you should be using the same sleeves for those decks so you don’t have to remove cards from sleeves. Just be sure to keep track of what goes where to prevent game losses and suboptimal lists.

Today I’m going to discuss two decks that lend themselves well to sharing and transformation, both in blue. But first, I’d like to talk a little about investment criteria.

Identifying Good Investments

The first step in finding a deck that qualifies as a good investment (in a non-speculative sense) is determining whether or not it’s linear. If it is, chances are it’s a very singular strategy fueled by lots of cards that don’t fit into any other decks. Strong, popular examples of this are Burn, Affinity, Merfolk, Amulet, and Infect (notice they’re all primarily one colour). Sure, there are cards in these decks that can be played in other decks, but they are few, and many of them are inexpensive, thus saving us very little money long-term.

Conversely, if the deck is considered “goodstuff” (that is, little or no synergy or dependency between cards, but a lot of power in each card), or is non-linear (has at least two win conditions and/or falls under two archetypes e.g. Combo/Control), there’s a high chance it has many pricey cards we can use in other decks. Strong, popular examples include Junk, Twin, and Scapeshift.

Despite these criteria, virtually any deck that runs fetchlands and shocklands is almost definitely a decent investment at worst. Fetch prices will probably drop dramatically after Battle for Zendikar releases in October, so this becomes even more true then; shocklands should be picked up as soon as possible, particularly Steam Vents, and to a lesser extent, Overgrown Tomb, as they go into the most amount of Modern decks. Prices are low on shocks now, but they will increase hugely over the next few years.

The Blue Card Pool

Blue decks in Modern almost all run a lot of Remand and Snapcaster Mage (which by no coincidence are stupid good together). Each of them is quite expensive, so buying into any deck that runs them will get you a lot of usage long-term. Keep in mind Remand will almost definitely be reprinted in Modern Masters 2015 in May, so it’s strongly recommended you wait until then to invest in it.

Also extremely common among these decks is Batterskull and Spellskite. While they aren’t run in high numbers within each of the decks, they are very costly unto themselves, and also slot nicely into some non-blue decks. These are likely going to be staples for as long as Modern exists, or at least through the far-off future, so they’re great incidental acquisitions.

scapeshift twin batterskull

Batterskull was recently reprinted as a MOCS promo and Spellskite is plane-specific, and with a Zendikar theme incoming, a Phyrexia theme may well follow. As such, I’m inclined to Skull won’t be reprinted anytime soon, and Skite won’t be reprinted in May, but could be sometime next year. If you don’t want to wait, it’s smart to pick decks with these cards up now or soon.

Less expensive and/or common cards in blue decks include Lightning Bolt, Electrolyze, Blood Moon, and Path to Exile, among others, so anything with them will lend itself to conversion or sharing.

Beware the Bans

Something to keep in mind in debating which deck to invest in is the possibility of bans. The format is pretty stable right now, but Modern is young and has seen a lot of cards put on the chopping block, most recently Birthing Pod, which at least temporarily, axed an entire deck (I’m looking forward to seeing if a new brew with Collected Company and Congregation at Dawn is viable).

Our recent banlist article gives a good rundown on Wizards’ banning criteria, so anything there that might apply to a deck you’re considering building might be a poor idea, at least if the deck doesn’t contain a ton of format staples. The main one is format domination — if our stats say a deck is about 15% or more of the meta for a prolonged period of time, there’s a strong chance it will see a ban. That’s not to necessarily say the deck will die or become bad, just that it’s a less strong investment. Fortunately the meta is fairly balanced right now, and should stay put until the next round of bans and unbans.

Twin: The Complete Package

twin scapeshift pestermite

Your best bet then, particularly when considering deck effectiveness in this meta, is Twin, by far. Our internal data shows a very strong 12.4% meta share and the second highest day 2 tournament presence in the format at 12.5%, and it includes pretty well the full array of blue control cards: Remand, Snapcaster, Vendilion Clique, Serum Visions, Batterskull, Spellskite, and many more. If you buy into Twin, you buy into results, which can earn you your money back, and you buy into the foundation for almost every blue deck in the format.

Once you have the deck, you can share many of the cards between other decks, or transform it into all kinds of things, usually for a relatively low cost (which is great if it sees a ban, as it might). Your most viable choice is Scapeshift, but other reasonable selections include Jeskai Control, Jeskai Midrange, Delver (Izzet or Grixis), Blue Moon, Sultai Control, and Faeries. There are other decks which share some of the cards, but not enough to save you much dough.

CardCost (paper)Cost (MTGO)
Snapcaster Mage x4$199.96$62.44
Grim Lavamancer x2$11.50$8.82
Vendilion Clique x2$144.50$78.90
Keranos, God of Storms x1$10.66$11
Splinter Twin x4$107.92$34.24
Lightning Bolt x4$8.08$0.36
Serum Visions x4$33.84$21.16
Remand x4$45.51$30.84
Cryptic Command x2$114.74$36.40
Electrolyze x2$6.28$1.50
Scalding Tarn x4$227.96$92.60
Sulfur Falls x4 $32.64$7.20
Steam Vents x3$40.05$15.48
Misty Rainforest x2$71.94$24.96
Breeding Pool x1$10.21$3.27
Polluted Delta x1$13.27$4.39
Blood Moon x2$41.82$39.92
Batterskull x1$15.99$41.77
Spellskite x1$23.97$25.91
TOTAL COST$1160.84$541.16

The only problem with buying into Twin is the hefty price tag (sourced here from TCGPlayer and MTGOTraders). A lot of that comes from Scalding Tarn, so if you’re fortunate enough to have those, that sweets the sting some. If you don’t, you can pick them up in October and save a huge chunk of change then instead. Nearly as expensive are the Snapcasters, Cryptic Commands, and Splinter Twins. Again, Snaps should be reprinted, but you’ll have to bite the bullet on Commands and probably Twins. If you’re starting from scratch after BFZ, expect to drop about $900 (paper) / $350 (MTGO) total. Alternately, you can just invest in the second option (see below).

Scapeshift: True Control, Sort Of

twiin scapeshift

Twin is not every blue player’s cup of tea, as it often plays like a tempo deck as opposed to a “true” control deck. If you’re looking for a modular blue deck that plays more in that vein, Scapeshift is your ticket. It has an okay meta share of 1.7% right now, which may well increase with the sorely needed Anticipate entering the meta.

Buying into Scapeshift now will run you roughly $900, which is a little easier to swallow. By October, that could be up to about 30% less (even easier). Below is a rundown of the costly cards in the deck.

CardCost (paper)Cost (MTGO)
Snapcaster Mage x2$99.98$31.22
Scapeshift x4$93.96$49.40
Lightning Bolt x4$8.08$0.36
Remand x4$45.51$30.84
Cryptic Command x4$229.48$72.80
Electrolyze x1$3.14$0.75
Steam Vents x4$53.40$20.64
Misty Rainforest x4$143.88$49.92
Breeding Pool x1$10.21$3.27
Stomping Ground x4$34.16$14.40
Flooded Grove x2$45.58$14.30
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle x2$5.34$0.94
Spellskite x1$23.97$25.91
TOTAL COST $796.69$384.91

Scapeshift’s card pool gives you a good start on Twin, Delver, Jeskai Control, and Jeskai Midrange, and to a lesser extent Blue Moon. And of course, a large number of decks use a minimum of two of these cards (Blue Tron with Remand and Skite, Gifts with Snapcaster, Remand, Skite, etc), so you get a little help there, too.

I don’t see this deck getting a ban anytime soon, if ever. It’s powerful but not too much so, and anything that busts it (typically blue spells like Dig Through Time) is probably busted in other decks too, and will just be banned instead of anything else in the list. The previous unbanning of Valakut gives me more confidence Wizards wants this deck to stick around.

Twin and Scapeshift Shared Card Pool

Below is a rundown of the shared cards between Twin and Scapeshift. Crunching the numbers, you can see buying into Scapeshift lets you play Twin at an added $607.24 / $332. 80 cost (a lot less if you just use the full set of Mistys and a couple extra basics instead of Tarns); buying into Twin lets you play Scapeshift for an added $307.13 / $120.60 cost. Buying into other decks from either of these will cost you roughly the same.

CardCost (paper)Cost (MTGO)
Snapcaster Mage x4$199.96$62.44
Lightning Bolt x4$8.08$0.36
Remand x4$45.51$30.84
Cryptic Command x4$229.48$72.80
Electrolyze x1$6.28$1.50
Steam Vents x4$53.40$20.64
Misty Rainforest x4$143.88$49.92
Breeding Pool x1$10.21$3.27
Spellskite x1$23.97$25.91
TOTAL COST $720.77$267.68

Honorable Mentions

There are three main other blue decks in Modern that carry a heap of staples. If you don’t mind sacrificing some viability, check out Izzet Delver (which carries a lot of high-end staples unlike its Grixis cousin), Jeskai Control, and Jeskai Midrange. With these, you’ll net Snapcaster, Bolt, Electrolyze, and Remand, among others. While they’re not great now, the meta will forever ebb and flow and new cards will be introduced, which could well bring them to top tier status.

Until Next Time

If blue decks aren’t your thing, or you love a little black in your Magic collection too, join me next time when I break the black decks of the format down to see which are the smartest investments. Naturally, you can expect the same kinds of cost rundowns and analysis.

10 thoughts on “Smart Deck Investments: Twin and Scapeshift

  1. Just to point something out, you mention to hold off on buying Snapcaster and Remand because the new MM set may have reprints. This could be true for Remand, but the Innistrad block is not included in the sets for potential reprint for MM 2015.

  2. “The main one is format domination — if our stats say a deck is about 15% or more of the meta for a prolonged period of time, there’s a strong chance it will see a ban. ”

    Is this 15% of successful decks (ie: 15% of top 16 decks) or just 15% of the decks that are played? It would be pretty lame if they banned Soul Warden if 30% of the playerbase randomly switched to Soul Sisters. (bad example, but still) Simply because a deck is overplayed does not make it oppressive. Junk is honestly a pretty bad deck for being the preeminate level 1 deck of the format, and yet it had like a 30% cut of the PT, would that fall under Wizard’s idea of bannable, even if its not winning?

    1. that number is pretty much nowhere to be confirmed.

      decks have been banned because they made up over 25% of a day 2 meta, spiking at around 50+% (BBE Jund). This also just happens when a deck prevents other archetypes from existing.

      Also add to that, no deck will be banned per se, you will get one card out of it banned, that’s it. The powerlevel of the deck will take a hit, but it will survive 90% of the time.. The lone exception so far is birthing pod, but that thing had the writing on the wall for a long long time.

      Also, if your deck will break competetive events because it takes too long to win / locks out your opponent in that time, there will be bans. This is why they weakend eggs (still playable, just not t1 anymore) or why they banned SDT.

      So no, you don’t need to panik just because your deck will reach 15% of the meta.

      1. 15% is actually our closest benchmark to deck banning, although it’s probably somewhere closer to 20%. No deck in Modern has sustained a 15% metagame share for 3-4 months and survived the next round of bannings. All disclaimers about small sample sizes and the perils of statistics apply. But remember, we don’t need an N of 50000 to make reasonable conclusions about the format, especially if the numbers are lining up with qualitative impressions.

  3. I was lucky enough to punch in on snapcasters at $30, but missed the boat on tarns, cryptics, and cliques which limits my blue options 🙁 I also scoffed at $5 serum visions and now scoff at $10 serum visions, but expect MM2015 will bring the cost back down (although I’m guessing it’ll be $4-5 ><)

    1. keep in mind that even the much smaller MM1 tanked the price of commons and uncommons quite considerably.

      so if Serum Visions is in MM15 (which it definitely should be), they price will fall the most of the reprints. Same goes for Path to exile, etc.

      Uncommons out of the first MM1 could be had for 0.50 .-

  4. Writing a finance article with both MM2 and Zen on the horizon is difficult. I do not however think you made enough mention of what is likely to be in those sets and the impact on cost. Suggesting people spend $200 on fetches that will, most likely, be worth $60 by Christmas is bad advice. The same goes for other key cards like Twin, Scapeshift and Visions that are all going to drop when re-printed.

    1. I didn’t explicitly suggest people buy fetches now, just that if they do now, this is what it will cost. And I mentioned the price if they wait until late this year.

      But I agree about the rest. I should’ve included a section specifically about the likely reprints and encouraged people to hold off on those for now. Thanks for the feedback.

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