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The Ultimate Guide to Modern Hardened Scales

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Individuals over-complicate the method of choosing a Trendy deck. It’s method easier than it seems: you’ll be able to play no matter you want so long as it’s damaged.

However what’s a damaged deck?

A damaged deck is anybody that may break one of many elementary axes alongside which Magic: The Gathering is designed, be it mana or playing cards. You are able to do so by accessing a billion playing cards, dishonest a billion permanents into play early, including a billion mana (seven on flip Three is sufficient, I assume?) very early, and so forth. The idea of digital card benefit, which is killing your opponent in a noninteractive sufficient method that their entire deck is totally irrelevant, additionally ties into this, and provides an additional layer of complexity to the evaluation. It’s a must to think about whether or not, say, Burn or Grixis Demise’s Shadow (by means of Temur Battle Rage’s combo-kill) is noninteractive sufficient in a given metagame to be thought-about “damaged,” however you possibly can circumvent this by merely choosing the decks which have at the least some degree of damaged written into them, like Dredge, Tron, Amulet, or Phoenix.

However this text isn’t about any of these decks.

Scales is an extremely odd deck as a result of it doesn’t odor prefer it’s damaged. You aren’t accruing card benefit, you’re considerably sluggish out of the gates, lots of your combo-kills are convoluted and straightforward to overlook, and loads of your video games, merely put, look lame. And but, it’s damaged. The turn-Three pure goldfish fee is definitely round 10%, which is on par with the quickest Trendy decks, and despite the fact that you’re a volume-based deck, you truly mulligan fairly properly.

So, what the hell?

Scales’ “broken-ness” is hidden underneath one of many layers beneath the mana/tempo axis, which is creature sizing. Creatures are designed to be a sure measurement at sure factors within the recreation, and creature counters (and, extra importantly for the deck, talents tied to counters) are designed with that in thoughts. Hardened Scales is designed to make a Three/Three enter the battlefield as a Four/Four in Restricted, not for repeated use spending zero mana with Ravager, utterly breaking the way it was purported to scale with the board. That’s the place the “damaged” comes from.

Hangarback, Ballista, and Inkmoth are the three payoff/kill circumstances. All three assault from utterly totally different angles (and Ravager itself could be thought-about a fourth), and none of them might be thought-about “card benefit” in a standard sense. The deck principally goes “tall” as an alternative of “large” with the benefits it accumulates. However it’s damaged all the identical.

In fact, you’ll be able to solely run 4 Hardened Scales. However the London mulligan will assist quite a bit in that regard, as it’s going to for each deck depending on particular playing cards. You’ll merely have extra playable arms with Hardened Scales in them. Scales thrives on quantity too, however your playing cards don’t stack linearly: an additional counter on a Ballista could be the distinction between killing off a Noble Hierarch on flip 2 and staying in play or not, which is completely large. So a hand with 6 or 5 that has Scales often doesn’t want as many artifacts to be highly effective.

After a few years hovering across the prime of the metagame, Scales was pushed out of the winners’ circle, principally, for my part, due to its dangerous Phoenix matchup. The metagame shifts introduced on by the London mulligan guidelines and open deck lists, although, for my part, all favor it:

  • There are good artifact hate playing cards for principally each potential damaged linear with the London mulligan, and also you play Stirrings and Welding Jars. Scales can do an excellent jail impression post-board by default for free of charge towards all kinds of decks with playing cards like Grafdigger’s Cage, Damping Sphere, and Pithing Needle.
  • Chalice of the Void, one of many “fashionable” playing cards for this MC, is downright embarrassing towards you. Have you ever ever proliferated one with Throne of Geth? It’s actually cool.
  • Tron is a predator for each People, which is the level-1 deck towards the aforementioned linears, and for Phoenix. Scales isn’t a deck with many lopsided matchups, however Tron is your greatest by a large margin. You’re one of many few within the format that go excessive of their top-end (even turn-Three Karn doesn’t do a lot more often than not in the event that they’re on the draw), and also you even get focused hate post-board whereas they don’t get something of substance.
  • U/R Phoenix, which was the #1 deck for the previous few months and a nasty matchup, has already been dropping steam because of the rise of People and Tron in current occasions, which is one other good flip of occasions. It additionally isn’t a deck that interacts with others very properly, which could make it a nasty selection in a event poised to have plenty of new linear decks within the area.

Glossing over the remainder of the Trendy metagame, Scales is a really well-rounded deck. You’re strong even towards People and creature decks normally, and have a constructive matchup towards Thoughtseize. Your worst matchup, U/W, is usually pushed out of the metagame. Phoenix, which was the most important cause the deck had been pushed out of the highest tables, is on a downswing, and the opposite really dangerous matchups are principally very fringe decks these days (stuff like Dwelling Finish or Advert Nauseam). Stony Silence has by no means seen so little play, and Shatterstorm doesn’t shut you off almost as a lot because of Hangarback.

Okay, you satisfied me, _megafone_. Now what?

That is the necessary a part of the article. Learn rigorously any more. First, let’s get the straightforward half off our heads.

6 Forest
2 Horizon Cover
2 Llanowar Reborn
Four Inkmoth Nexus
1 Phyrexia’s Core
1 Pendelhaven
Four Darksteel Citadel
Four Arcbound Employee
Four Arcbound Ravager
Four Hangarback Walker
Four Strolling Ballista
1 Spellskite
2 Metallic Mimic
Four Mox Opal
Four Historic Stirrings
Four Hardened Scales
2 Throne of Geth
2 Animation Module
Four Welding Jar
1 Dismember

2 Dismember
Four Grafdigger’s Cage
Three Damping Sphere
2 Pithing Needle
Four Nature’s Declare

That is as clear because it will get. The final two playing cards in your important deck do not likely matter a lot, so that you principally run 58 maindeck playing cards and 17 sideboard playing cards. That’s the gist of it. You’ll be able to reduce the Spellskite or the Dismember if you’d like—a important deck Relic of Progenitus may make sense for London relying on the metagame subsequent week (regulate the SB plans under accordingly). I don’t care. Don’t add Metal Overseer. It’s horrible, however that’s irrelevant. Stick with me now.

Do Not Overthink the Record. It’s Not Necessary.

In the event you take one lesson out of this text, let it’s this: Scales is the toughest deck in Trendy to play. On the time of writing, I don’t know when that is going to be revealed, however I suppose you will have lower than every week to select it up. Scales just isn’t an intuitive deck to play. When you spend ten minutes arguing with your self concerning the listing, these are ten minutes you aren’t studying the strains.

The purpose of this text is to get you to the purpose the place you don’t want to consider something in addition to studying the deck. Apart from shifting a card or two off the sideboard relying on what seems on MTGO this weekend, you’ll be able to submit the listing as it’s for the MC and I’m positive it’ll be 99% optimum to play. Focus your playtesting on discussing retains and features of play. I’ll go over a number of issues right here, however it’s onerous to even scratch the floor of the entire complexity of the Scales play fashion.

How do I play with out Scales?

  • The “rule” on the best way to play whenever you don’t draw Scales is to go for extremes: you both play extraordinarily conservatively when accruing counters in your permanents for an extended recreation, otherwise you all-in on a 5/5 Nexus on flip Three and pray for the most effective.
  • When going conservative, a standard line of play that I’ve discovered to be nonintuitive for individuals is to run Throne of Geth as your first artifact. Throne is your Scales proxy and may make a reasonably good impression of it when you get Three+ totally different permanents with counters in play, so that you need to shield your capacity to activate it at the very least as soon as with the utmost potential variety of counters in play. A great way of doing so is to have it out in a flip the place you play two totally different creatures (in order to constrain their potential to have open mana to cope with certainly one of them in response to the opposite). Having Llanowar Reborn out or Welding Jar out makes this simpler too.
  • Attempt to maximize the potential measurement of your largest creature. This often means saving your Ravager for final, and in addition maximizing your capability to make use of up mana to pump Ballista because the turns go. For instance, you possibly can plan three turns forward, beginning on flip Four the place you possibly can pump Ballista now, pump it once more and play a 1-drop on 5, after which play Ravager on 6 and pump Ballista once more. That is only a random theoretical instance for example the type of considering you need to have.
  • When going all-in, keep in mind you possibly can proliferate non-animated Nexus and Dismember your personal Staff. The 5/5 Nexus occurs typically, and even Four/Four Nexus may be right, particularly on deep mulligans.
  • All that stated, be versatile. All the time, on each flip, rely for potential kills. It’s straightforward to shock your self.

How do I sequence my artifacts early on?

Sequencing with Scales is extremely tough. Let’s attempt to be as thorough as attainable. Keep in mind, you’ll know their deck in London!

Flip 1

  • Module is best than Scales towards heavy interplay. Play it first and don’t get Seized/Rejected.
  • All the time lead with Llanowar Reborn in the event you don’t have the third supply. I’d relatively play Scales on flip Four than miss enjoying a 2-drop on both flip 2 or Three. More often than not—that makes you means too sluggish.
  • You don’t essentially need to get Employee Bolted towards a man who performed an untapped supply on flip 1. Think about in the event you’d quite have him spend his mana on flip Three relatively than on 1.

Flip 2

The 2 questions it’s worthwhile to ask your self are a) what sort of interplay can they provide me, and b) which flip do I need to begin presenting deadly?

  • Ballista is the quickest kill and probably the most fragile of your creatures. Towards Tron, for instance, that’s your typical lead. Keep in mind, Ballista “doubles” your counters as they rely towards a kill, identical to an Inkmoth (you assault with, say, a 10/10 Ballista, deal 10, then take away 10 counters for 10 injury on them, dealing 20. Sounds apparent, however won’t be for a novice).
  • Towards a deck like B/G/x or Phoenix, you often lead with Throne, as I’ve talked about above. This protects your capability to exponentiate your playing cards, and also you’re often solely angling for a turn-Four.5(ish) kill, so you will have ample time to construct up.
  • Having Scales out often makes you need to lead with Ravager much more since that each makes it higher at attacking and defending itself. That stated, I all the time want to err towards warning with Ravagers.

Beginning on flip Three, you’re all the time looking out for kills. Examine if in case you have a kill. In the event you don’t, make the play that lets you both have the most important potential creature creature on the board with the playing cards you’ve got, or the most important quantity of various playing cards with counters on them as the sport progresses.

What do I get with Stirrings?

  • First off, don’t be so grasping. This can be a mana-hungry deck. When you don’t have three mana sources, you virtually all the time must be getting the third. Get one which does one thing over a Forest, however get one. That Ravager gained’t be doing something in case you’re lifeless and may’t forged your spells. That is the primary mistake I see individuals make.
  • The primary sacrifice outlet often will get precedence over any enterprise spell, apart from Module or Hangarback towards grindy decks and Ballista every time it’s stupidly apparent (e.g. they’re enjoying Elves).
  • Even when you have already got mana, Mox could be a good pickup. Plan out your turns and examine should you can current deadly a flip earlier should you get it. As all the time, rely it up. You’ll be able to all the time shock your self.

What concerning the fight math? I can’t get it proper!

  • Going by way of each potential fight state of affairs with Scales is inconceivable and utterly out of the scope of this text. Nothing beats follow in that regard. As an alternative of banging your head towards the wall, simply play video games. The counts get extra pure with time.
  • Attempt to get some reps with arbitrarily giant boards (like, actually construct a big board, not essentially in a real-game setting) in case you’re not used to difficult double-Ravager + Hangarback setups. It could actually get actually messy and also you want follow, particularly to navigate board-stall matchups like People. You’ll be able to even use a timer: ask a buddy to construct an enormous board and attempt to get out of it in two minutes. That is essential. Studying to do that shortly is far more necessary than determining sideboard slots.

I don’t hate SB guides as a lot as I used to, however sideboarding in Scales is frankly fairly straightforward—the deck could be very tight and the sideboard is even tighter, with the playing cards coming in often being apparent. Modules, Mimics, Dismember, Spellskite, and Jars towards white-based decks are the apparent “dangerous” essential deck playing cards. Every thing else is sweet and shouldn’t be sided out (there are a couple of matchups the place shaving one Hangarback or one Throne is OK, however these are exceptions, and that’s about it).

U/R Phoenix


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  • Proliferating Factor early will often purchase you a flip off the flip. In the event you can arrange an early kill in recreation 1, more often than not you must go for it. They don’t have that a lot removing. If not, use the additional time to organize for the hit (that often means chumping with an Inkmoth or one thing like that) and rebuild afterward.
  • Spellskite is nice recreation 1 however truly isn’t excellent post-board. It may be good to sub a Cage in on the draw to drive them to Abrade it on flip 2 and never lose to the nut Phoenix attracts, however I’ve by no means examined that. I additionally by no means examined siding Damping Sphere in that matchup. The primary drawback is that for those who deliver an excessive amount of hate you begin dropping to arduous forged Arclight Phoenixes, and should you don’t you lose to reanimated Phoenixes. Yeah, the matchup is dangerous.
  • In the event that they lean too arduous into management recreation 2 (the clear signal often is Anger of the Gods), deliver Module again. This often makes the matchup simpler. You’re an excellent deck towards U/R Moon, and fairly horrible towards U/R Phoenix because you don’t have lots of solutions towards flyer beatdown (Crackling Drake particularly is a nightmare). I tweeted a couple of weeks in the past that I’ve had a whole lot of success enjoying on-line towards this deck regardless that I feel the matchup could be very dangerous, and this is likely one of the causes—individuals mis-assign their roles steadily right here. Phoenix is the beatdown, not you. You have got the instruments to play beatdown to their management, however you’ll be able to’t play management to their beatdown in any respect.



SpellskiteWelding Jar



  • Keep in mind to proliferate their Vials!
  • All the time plan to have your creatures Reflector Mage’d. This often means prioritizing Throne (once more), and operating odd sequencing if in case you have multiples of the identical creature.
  • Save Dismember for Meddling Mage and Mantis Rider everytime you’re not straight-up dying to no matter else you need to kill now. That Champion of the Parish can get to 40/40 and it gained’t do something apart from being chumped for 40 turns.
  • Animation Module can kill Phantasmal Picture and add counter to Vials.
  • They don’t run instant-speed removing, so screw their 1 Dismember. All-in with impunity. I often am fairly reckless with going all-in on massive Ballistas too. As soon as they play out their hand, they don’t have that many topdecks to kill it.




  • Most of what you do runs circles round Tron’s massive threats. Karn, Ulamog, and Wurmcoil are all owned by the sac retailers, and Oblivion Stone is owned by Hangarback and Welding Jar. Principally, the primary factor it’s essential do is to pressure your opponent to blow by means of their Oblivion Stones with out dropping all of your sac retailers. So long as you’ve got one they usually don’t have sufficient Stones to cope with all of them, you possibly can’t actually lose.
  • Right here is the half the place I remind you about one of many alternate kills of the deck, which is the go-wide Hangarback sac: in case you have two retailers, throw your board right into a Hangarback, then sac the Hangarback for a billion tokens. That is the way you beat Ulamog, often.
  • Needle goes on Oblivion Stone 80% of the time, 10% on Ghost Quarter, and solely 10% on Expedition Map. You don’t actually care all that a lot about their Tron setup.
  • Don’t mess around Dismember or Spatial Contortion until you actually can afford to. They don’t run that many, their vary of keepable arms isn’t that enormous (they already will hold arms which have the Tron and threats, thus gained’t be angling for removing as arduous as, say, a B/G deck) and you may’t mess around every part.



Metallic MimicMetallic Mimic



  • Upon getting a Module, lands go method up in worth with Stirrings. They will’t actually beat one as soon as they get going.
  • Shield your life complete in case you can. You need to keep out of TBR vary if attainable.
  • Be affected person. Skipping assaults and build up a board to kill in a single massive hit can repay. This goes hand-in-hand with the purpose above: you don’t need them to have the ability to one-shot you, and ideally you need to have the ability to maintain their Demise’s Shadows in Dismember vary, or at the least shut.




  • In recreation 1, be very aggressive together with your Inkmoths. They don’t run virtually any spot removing, and loads of lists don’t even run Ghost Quarter. Take any alternative you’ll be able to to throw counters on an Inkmoth (by way of Ravager or Throne, or perhaps even Dismembering a Employee when you’re determined) if that’s your greatest shot, and go for it. Going all-in Ballista can also be OK, however worse, since everybody will run a number of Engineered Explosives they usually have floor blockers.
  • In recreation 2, the sideboard plan is principally mana denial. Declare targets Coalition Relic on sight the overwhelming majority of the time. Ignore the Sakura-Tribe Scouts until you will get free kills off it, however don’t depart Azusa in play if they’ve Amulet—they will generate some absurd seems of nowhere with it.




  • This can be a robust matchup recreation 1. Mulligan aggressively, and don’t maintain mediocre arms. Be proud of the open deck lists.
  • Your essential option to win is thru Ballista, so don’t get it Darkblasted or Conflagrated when you can keep away from it.
  • Attempt baiting their artifact removing post-board with Modules and different irrelevant issues earlier than enjoying your Cages. You’ll be able to cope with medium boards more often than not, they usually’re typically sluggish in the event that they maintain a number of removing arms.

Whir Jail



  • Attempt to assemble a various board in order that they want probably the most totally different lock items to cease you (Needles for Inkmoth, Ravager, Throne and Ballista, and a Bridge).
  • Getting the primary poison counter on them is precedence #1 in lots of video games, so that you get the proliferate-win avenue. That makes locking you up much more troublesome.
  • Needle names Welding Jar post-board, greater than Explosives.




  • Burn is straightforward. Simply keep in mind to be aggressive. Should you attempt to be too defensive, ultimately they’ll draw sufficient Bolts to kill you. This often means taking a couple of dangers with tapping out. Be liberal with Claims post-board: if in case you have open mana and a Citadel, hearth the Declare off more often than not.

There are numerous different decks, in fact, and I can reply to What’s the Performs and Retains or Mulligans this week on Twitter @_megafone_.

I’ll reiterate: I firmly consider Scales will probably be a terrific selection for the Mythic Championship subsequent week, however it’s the hardest deck in Trendy and never one thing you possibly can decide up and play with out a number of apply. However it’s a very rewarding deck, and the talents you study there can carry over to the remainder of your future Magic profession. For those who’re studying this and never certified for London, take the chance to study some totally different insights about metagame evaluation and prep for a high-level event. I is perhaps washed up nowadays, however I do know a factor or two to cross to you kids.

Good luck!

P.S. The “the right way to play with out Scales?” part clearly applies to video games with Scales. I simply needed to idiot you into considering that the deck has a “totally different mode of play” once you don’t have the cardboard, which is clearly not true. Scales makes it overpowered, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a great deck with out it. For those who don’t assume so, you simply don’t know find out how to play it but.

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