The Return of The Scarab God

Feature Article from Adam Yurchick
Adam Yurchick
5/24/2018 11:01:00 AM
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A few months ago The Scarab God was the defining card in Standard, the card against which all others were measured – and few could stand up to the God. It forced the metagame to completely warp around its presence, pushing out other midrange strategies and anything else that couldn't compete with the stream of card and battlefield advantage it creates, while encouraging aggressive strategies and anything else that could go under or around it. This eventually culminated in Grand Prix Seattle, where The Scarab God found itself on the sidelines looking in at Red-Black Vehicles, Mono-Red Aggro and Blue-Red God-Pharaoh's Gift decks.

Dominaria made things even worse for The Scarab God, as Red-Black Vehicles received a gift in Karn, Scion of Urza and Mono-Red gained Goblin Chainwhirler, along with plenty of other great new cards added to the metagame like Seal Away. The most important new card of all so far has been another five-drop mythic, a card that history may show is even more important than The Scarab God: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. A consequence of its presence is that it has made white-blue the control deck of choice, which further cuts Blue-Black from the metagame.

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 The Scarab God
$14.07
$10.00
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Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card The Scarab God Magic MTG Card
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Nowadays The Scarab God is difficult to find at the top of tournament standings, and week after week of absence in Top 8 lists brings into question if the card is even relevant in this metagame. Some recent and very pertinent Magic Online results, however, show a very different world, one where the tides have shifted back towards The Scarab God.

Magic Online Championship Seriesevents are the hardest tournaments online because they invite all professional players, who compete along hordes of the best online players. Last weekend's event was Standard, which gives us a valuable look into the minds of these players ahead of Pro Tour Dominaria. The single most surprising thing about last weekend's decklists was the prominence of The Scarab God. The Scarab God took up six of the top 36 spots, present in two decks with a 7-1 record and four with a 6-2 record. That's a big increase compared to its complete absence from the last few Grand Prix Top 8s, so I'm taking that as a sign given how competitive this even was. It gets more interesting considering some of the players who were playing The Scarab God included Hall of Fame players Shota Yasooka and Yuuya Watanabe.

Shota's deck – to no surprise – is control, and it's a traditional approach to Blue-Black Control, but updated with some key new Dominaria cards that have subtly increased the power of Blue-Black.

Shota's list shows strong appreciation for Syncopate, playing three at the expense of Censor and all but one Essence Scatter. Cast Down is a very efficient removal spell and is particularly well-suited for enabling The Scarab God's ability, while Blink of an Eye adds some nice versatility and adds to Torrential Gearhulk's toolbox. Knight of Malice in the sideboard hoses white decks, like the technology of three Knight of Grace in Brad Nelson's White-Blue deck last weekend at Grand Prix Toronto. More surprising is a pair of The Eldest Reborn, which can be a massive tempo and card advantage play and is some great technology to take note of.

Yuuya's deck gets more creative by combining The Scarab God with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, stretching its mana but gaining access to what might be the best card in Dominaria.

The deck is otherwise extremely similar to Shota's, but he takes advantage of the white splash by including Forsake the Worldly in the sideboard. It's a great inclusion, providing a Disenchant effect not available in blue-black, but can be cycled if there is no white mana available. Another player also put up a 6-2 record with the Esper Control deck, but with an additional Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

These Esper decks are an argument that the best part of White-Blue Control is Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and that combining it with the efficient targeted removal of black creates a better deck than combining it with the sweepers and enchantment-based removal of white. It makes sense given how well the black removal matches up against the metagame. In world where Heart of Kiran is so prevalent, Fatal Push is the ideal removal spell and a big upgrade to Seal Away.

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Vraska's Contempt lost value with the decline of The Scarab God and Hazoret the Fervent after Dominaria, but it's an answer to Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Karn, Scion of Urza, and its life gain has become more relevant with the rise of aggressive black-red and white-black decks, so it outshines Cast Away. Black also gives the deck Duress, which gives the black control decks a distinct advantage over white control decks, so I expect they are the natural evolution of the metagame from White-Blue.

This trend of splashing in white for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria was also followed by a midrange The Scarab God deck that finished 7-1 in the MOCS.

Besides Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, the deck is a pretty normal looking Blue-Black The Scarab God midrange deck, but there are some details to take note of. Three Kitesail Freebooter wasn't played in the stock Blue-Black Midrange deck before Dominaria, like Brad Nelson's ninth place GP Seattle deck, but things have changed. Its two-toughness makes it resistant to Goblin Chainwhirler, which Walking Ballista and Dusk Legion Zealot aren't. It's also a great way to clear the way for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, which has the potential to take over the game just like The Scarab God does.

The other 7-1 The Scarab God deck was a basic blue-black deck, and instead of splashing for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria it includes Karn, Scion of Urza, which generates a ton of value and is well-protected by the disruption in the deck.

Three Cast Down in the deck gives it a ton of game against creatures, and a Syncopate diversifies the disruption available to the archetype. The Scarab God is also making in impact in Competitive Leagues, and it's being used in a variety of ways. The allure of splashing for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria has not been escaped by White-Black Vehicles, so lists that use the new planeswalker alongside Heart of Kiran have already appeared. Some have gone further in their splash to include The Scarab God, and this decklist has taken advantage of the opportunity.

The deck embraces The Scarab God by playing a slower gameplan than White-Black Vehicles, removing Toolcraft Exemplar and Heart of Kiran. It takes on a more midrange role with additional creature removal, and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner adds a card advantage element. Other versions of the deck that appeared in leagues are even slower and more controlling.

This deck goes deeper into blue with Hostage Taker and Champion of Wits, but what stands out more is including four of both Knight of Malice and Knight of Grace, which seems like a reasonable move given how prevalent white and black are in the metagame.

There's also the approach of going the pure control route like Yuuya did, but a more creative version appeared in the leagues.

This deck goes all-in on Teferi, Hero of Dominaria with a playset, and with four Merfolk Trickster, which if nothing else is a great follow-up to Teferi, Hero of Dominaria after untapping two lands because it offers great protection against creatures by tapping one and potentially blocking the following turn. The list also has two Baral, Chief of Compliance, which was too broken for Brawl, and probably deserves more respect in Standard. Both creatures enable Wizard's Retort, which at worst is similar to Disallow.

Another The Scarab God deck that's winning leagues is a Blue-Black Midrange deck that goes deep into black to support Dread Shade.

Dread Shade adds a potent threat to the deck and is great tool to have against a control-heavy metagame because it will win the game if not answered. It also fights well against creature decks like Red, which eventually just won't be able to kill or profitably attack into it.

Sultai The Scarab God

The Scarab God has seen a lot of play in Sultai decks, and they are making a comeback. One reason is one of the very best cards in Dominaria is Llanowar Elves and accelerating into The Scarab God is a strong plan.

Accelerating into The Scarab God is especially strong against a metagame that has been cutting back on its hosers for the God, and four Llanowar Elves along with four Servant of the Conduit gives the deck a ton of mana acceleration. Four copies of The Scarab God means it's the main plan of the deck, and Adventurous Impulse can even help find it. Adventurous Impulse has been proving itself in green decks since release and has already made its way to Modern, and it's put to excellent use here by increasing consistency, whether it's finding a land, a Servant of the Conduit or digging into a threat as a topdeck. One card it can find – which helps the card earn a spot in this deck over Vraska, Relic Seeker – is Noxious Gearhulk, which hasn't seen much Standard play but is undeniably powerful. It's obvious amazing against Lyra Dawnbringer, but it also lines up well against Gobin Chainwhirler and is just a great card against an aggressive metagame because of its life gain.

The Scarab God also makes an appearance in a classic Sultai Constrictor deck.

This list has moved away from Hadana's Climb, which was the typical Sultai deck before Dominaria, to embrace a more midrange strategy with more powerful cards like Hostage Taker and Vraska, Relic Seeker. It also plays three Aethersphere Harvester in the main deck, which fights back directly against Heart of Kiran.

A rather interesting Sultai deck does play Hadana's Climb, but in a decidedly more midrange deck.

Winding Constrictor has been removed, and counter and energy synergies have taken a back seat. The Goblin Chainwhirler-resistant Gifted Aetherborn has replaced Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, and full sets of Fatal Push and Vraska's Contempt gives the deck an expanded removal suite. The Scarab God comes in as a great win condition for a deck capable of the playing the drawn-out midrange game that the God thrives in.

I also have to mention what might be the coolest Sultai deck of all, which puts The Scarab God alongside three main deck copies of The Eldest Reborn.

The Scarab God has a successful history in Grixis decks, which have been conspicuously absent from the metagame for a while, in part due to being victim of the metagame moving against The Scarab God. A Grixis deck has appeared in league results, and it's a reminder that Grixis is still here.

The decklist doesn't use a single new Dominaria card and seems blissfully unaware of what the set has brought, like Goblin Chainwhirler wreaking havoc on Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Whirler Virtuoso's Thopter Tokens. Beyond this, Grixis also doesn't seem very well-positioned against planeswalkers like Karn, Scion of Urza and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, which it has few answers to. I can't recommend it, but I am curious if it can evolve. One way it could do that is to play more creatures, specifically the Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer that it had success with in the early days of Rivals of Ixalan, which would help it pressure planeswalkers.

How are you using The Scarab God?

-Adam

@AdamYurchick




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