A house is not a home, they say, and what is Modern if not a format that houses some of the baddest cards banned from Standard? Well, it's also got Standard newcomers, be they banned or not. And one among them has had its heart set on turning our beloved format into its own sweet digs.
So, what is Scourge of the Skyclaves? Overhyped cardboard? A "budget" Tarmogoyf? A Goyf fit for the Fatal Push era? Today, I want to let the numbers talk. Let's dive right into the decklists and see where Scourge is setting up shop... and where it could!
While Scourge has yet to sully these neighborhoods, I fear their time is nigh.
It's mostly conjecture at this point, as I haven't seen any BGx Rock lists running Scourge. But I do think the creature has a place in the deck... depending on the metagame.
Of the BGx Rock strategies, Jund seems like the best fit, as it's got red for the hasty Bloodbraid Elf, the damage-dealing Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, and of course Lightning Bolt. All of these cards help control the opponent's life total, making Scourge less of a liability against the likes of control decks.
However, Scourge still underperforms relative to other two-drops against said decks, and Rock decks walk a precarious line in terms of ceding matchup points. As a slower reactive deck, they don't have much of a choice; Modern is too fast and focused to permit much else. Even against aggressive opponents, Rock might find itself hard-pressed to deal enough damage to make Scourge a defensive wall at all. I wouldn't rule out the creature's eventual appearance in Rock decks, but the time will certainly have to be right for it.
Traverse Shadow initially struck me as a great home for Scourge of the Skyclaves. Even if the deck didn't want too many copies, it could run as little as one to fetch up when Temur Battle Rage found itself in a mid-game hand or if Scourge would otherwise just be the biggest thing on the battlefield. The opportunity cost of running a single copy in a deck that's already swinging with huge Goyfs still seems quite low to me, but alexmw14 opted not to run any in his 2nd-place Challenge list, which incidentally lost to a set of Scourges in the finals. The jury's out on this one, but as of yet, I have not seen a Traverse Shadow list which welcomes Scourge.
There are also plenty of spots that Scourge has gotten comfy in already. Naysayers: take heed!
Perhaps the most exciting home for Scourge right now is in Rakdos Prowess, a deck that was already sitting on top of the metagame and our power rankings when the card was released.
Rakdos Prowess being good is hardly news to Modernites, but it perhaps bears stating how great Scourge can be in this shell. With Swiftspear locking in early damage before opponents can even play their first land and Push it, Scourge is all but a lock to come down and wreak havoc, as pilots have plenty of control over their own life points. Crash Through lets the big dummy do just that.
Prowess in general has longed for Goyf enough to splash green, and we've seen Jund builds pop up and enjoy success ever since the widespread adoption of Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Scourge all but renders green obsolete, marking a turning point for the archetype.
Traverse Shadow might be missing the boat on Scourge for the moment, or maybe it's me having a tough time figuring out why they wouldn't want it. But ugly little brother Grixis is buying in.
Scourge seems less appealing in Grixis Shadow, primarily because the deck can't reliably find it. Grixis leans on xerox-style cantrips without selection to get to Scourge when the Scourgin's good, and that makes the creature somewhat awkward; at 4, it'll clog too many early hands, and at 1, pilots may never draw it at all. Either way, it's a bomb in the mid-to-late-game. Istillhaveeczema settled on 2 copies, perhaps to test the creature at all. Whether or not mainboard copies are adopted long-term, I do think it will be great in the Grixis Shadow sideboard as extra insurance against aggro decks when needed.
Death's Shadow Zoo
Of all Modern's old Shadow decks, this one seems best positioned to abuse Scourge:
Oh yes, that's Akoum Hellhound! Death's Shadow Zoo used to splash Steppe Lynx (and Wild Nacatl), and now it doesn't have to. The deck is a natural home for Scourge because of its high aggression, suicidal bent, and tendency to want multiple Temur Battle Rage anyway. The deck has long run Hooting Mandrills in that slot, supplementing it with or subbing it out for Tarmogoyf from the sideboard depending on the matchup; Scourge is a clear upgrade to either creature here, as it outgrows both and comes down more unconditionally.
I did say "existing" Shadow decks. Since Rakdos Prowess and Death's Shadow Zoo have such similar bottom lines, wouldn't it perhaps make sense to fuse the two into a shell tailor-made for Scourge?
This deck looks absolutely brutal, combining the best Rakdos Prowess and the Shadow archetypes have to offer into a blazing-fast aggro-combo behemoth. The sideboard hosts 4 Fatal Push, helping clear enemy boards of other Scourges and breaking up creature combos. But the instant doesn't earn a mainboard slot, presumably because this deck is too fast to need the interaction. 0-mana Tormod's Crypt being selected as graveyard hate is also telling. And should pilots need to go long, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger is the only card in the 75 using the grave as a resource, and is here to put a beating on any card advantage-focused strategy.
From Hell to the Hills
Hopefully, by now, Modern players have woken up to the fact that Scourge is for real, and here to stay. Soon, I'll unveil the directions my own Scourge brewing has led me and dissect what each color splash has to offer the Demon. See you then!