Hardened Scales In-depth & sideboard guide

Joan Carraco (MrSeri)
24/06/2022 · 60 min read

Who am I?

Hello everyone! I am Joan Carrasco, aka MrSeri on MTGO and MrSeriMTG on Twitch , Twitter  and Youtube.

I started playing MTG back in 7th edition but stopped shortly after. My favorite strategy at the time was to throw a big fireball at my opponent. I resumed playing the game in 2019 and Hardened Scales was the first deck I played competitively. I was there when Opal was banned (rip) and when the Ozolith was printed (wow!) and I have played and pioneered many versions of the deck.

I have played thousands of matches with scales and lately I have been preparing for the big tournaments coming up in Europe this summer. I am currently 18-3 with this version of the deck, including a qualifier top2 for a big tournament in Malmo at the beginning of July. I hope you can learn something from this, enjoy the read and if you join the robot side: Welcome! I guess I never got over the throwing fireballs thing: Now they are just colorless and attack!

Introduction to Hardened Scales

WTF is Hardened Scales? Hardened Scales is a deck birthed by the colorful MagicAids  and has since then been more or less a player in the Modern metagame . Hardened Scales is an aggressive synergy based deck. The goal with scales is to abuse counter and artifact synergies to present lethal to your opponent.

Game plan

The deck can kill on turn 3 but it most commonly can present lethal turn 4. It is important to realize that scales is an aggressive deck that can grind, not a grindy deck that can win fast. That means that you should make your decisions with the focus of winning the game, not grinding down your opponent’s resources. This is especially important in postboard games where your opponents can bring extremely powerful hate pieces that shut you down on the spot. This can also inform sideboard decisions, you should sideboard enough, but you don’t need to bring all your interaction all the time. You want to kill your opponent and that should be the primary plan. On the other end of the spectrum, Scales CAN win turn 10 so there is no need to go all in turn 4 if it is not safe to do so. I feel that keeping this balance between aggression and grindiness and knowing when to go for the kill and when to take it slow is where most new scales players mess up.

A turn 4 win while playing Hardening Scales
A turn 4 win while playing Hardening Scales

Current Metagame after Lurrus Ban - Thoughts

This section is completely skippable if you don’t want to hear my ramblings about the format as a whole. Lurrus made for horrible play patterns in my opinion where you were incentivized to trade aggressively, put pressure on your opponent and then fall back to an insane free engine when needed. This might not seem so bad but it basically meant that any low to the ground deck ALSO had the best late game, which oftentimes meant that there was no point in playing any other big threat and that everything had to be kept low to the ground.

I think the banning made sense, even though it has not really accomplished much in terms of making more decks viable, rather the opposite. Still, decks that were only viable thanks to Lurrus (Think RB anvil, or the boom/bust  deck) were basically cheesing, since they were able to go all in on the early strategy and still have the best late game if you managed to stop the early aggression. Now that they only have the early game, those decks have lost a lot of the appeal. I think, too, that Yorion and all other companions (Yes, Lutri too) should be errated into not being companions, but that is a lengthy discussion.

After the Lurrus ban the main developments of the Modern have been:

1. There are no thoughtseize decks anymore*. At least online. All the Grixis Shadow decks, which were basically the best Lurrus decks, disappeared. I think they are still fine decks, but the lack of late game makes it almost impossible for them to compete with…

*There has been somewhat of a resurgence on Grixis/BR decks since Kanister won a challenge and Ledger Shredder was spoiled. I don’t think these decks are super amazing and they are still good matchups, but they are popular as a perhaps more aggressive version of the UR murktide deck.

2. 4c decks that go over the top. Albeit not the format wrapping destruction that was prophesied, these decks are at the moment the strongest midrange options in Modern. There are two main flavors which ebb and flow: 4c control is basically a good stuff deck but loses to the more synergy based 4c elementals. Both decks look basically the same but 4c elementals ability to go over the top with Risen Reef/Ephemerate and to tutor people with Eladamri’s call (you can tutor a solitude and pitch it at instant speed) makes it better vs other 4c decks. These decks are basically better than any other midrange deck, and they even play magus on the sb so look out!

3. UR murktide is the most popular deck, but not the best. All the shadow gamers, Lurrus gamers and enjoyers of tempo navigated to UR. UR is a great deck, very skill intensive and skill rewarding and very good against anyone that wants to do anything unfair, with the combination of pressure, countermagic and customization. The problem is these decks are not so hot vs 4c, so they get better when people try to go over the top of 4c, and worse when 4c becomes the best deck.They have recently adopted ledger shredder as another graveyard filling threat. This has made the deck more consistent overall but they are not missing out on the brutal 1-offs like dress down, brazen borrower, engineered explosive which have been all relegated to the sideboard.

4. Living End is probably the finest cascade deck, but Rhinos are still good. These decks benefited a lot from the new Kamigawa lands (Otawara can bounce any hate piece at instant speed). These are decks we need to be prepared for.

5. Hammer is still very good, but nobody respects it too much. As a Lurrus deck, Hammer has had a dip in popularity recently but obviously the deck still slaps (With a hammer). Everyone thinks they have a good matchup so they don’t play sb slots for it, but then hammer shadowspear happens and you lose. This benefits scales players because there is way less artifact hate than there should.

6. A lot of Scales bad matchups are on the downswing. In my opinion, Green decks are the worst matchups for scales. Amulet Titan  and Yawgmoth  are both really tough matchups since post board they have Force of Vigor, which means they can play the control role, sit on it and then wipe us with their combo. Amulet has been seeing less play (I assume Solitude being so popular makes it worse) and Yawgmoth, although popular, is more beatable than Titan.

Overall, decklists are way less low to the ground and noncreature based as before (there are less baubles, less Thoughtseize) and the decks that are winning are either doing something really unfair (Living end ), something very fair (UR murktide) or trying to go over the top.

Hardened Scales in the the current metagame

Is Hardened Scales better or worse now? Both, let’s explain.

Some time ago, I defended that I felt GW Sentinel Scales was the best version. When Lurrus was not banned. The reasons were simple: it allowed us to take advantage of the low to the ground nature of the game with sentinel, it could utilize Prismatic ending  to deal with other cheap permanents and it had access to the crazy engine that was Lurrus. The meta being way less low to the ground means that both Sentinel and Prismatic Ending are worse, which means the payoff for going GW is even less than just losing Lurrus. I have played various leagues with different GW shells, and I have never felt that good. The main draw of white at the moment is the flexible removal, but on that topic….

Boseiju, Who endures is a bomb. Now our lands are spells that can beat almost any hate piece and can do so for 1G (or G, if you control Zabaz) this again makes the need for W based removal less and opens up the deck to having essentially maindeckable answers to hate for the low cost of running untapped forests. Also from Kamigawa, we got a new friend:

Patchwork automaton is a vibing construct from near Sokenzan, Kamigawa. The at first unassuming 2 mana 1/1 is truly a gem in scales. Everytime you cast an artifact you get counters and ward 2 means that it lines up SO well vs the most popular removals in Modern. Prismatic ending costs 4 mana to remove good patchboy, solitude needs two mana or 7 if hardcast and it can quickly grow out of bolt/unholy heat range. This taxing effect has a similar stunting effect on opponents as Esper Sentinel, but the mana requirements are nowhere near as steep. It obviously gets worse as the game goes longer, but so does sentinel. T1 scales, t2 patchwork+jar can quickly take over the game. Patchman might not always be a 4off, and it will oftentimes be side boarded out, but when it is good, it is REALLY good.

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Kamigawa gave us also a crazy colorless late game land in the form of  Roadside Reliquary. Everyone needs to read the card but it fits beautifully in scales because we have both enchantments and artifacts. More times that you think you will be able to pay 3 mana to draw 2 cards, which is insane late game value for an untapped land.

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Even though I thought new Capenna had nothing in store for us I have been playing around with Unlicensed Hearse. The card plays much better than it reads and it is MUCH better vs living end and murktide than other graveyard pieces.

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The main reason is that you get to choose which cards get exiled and that you don’t have to hold up mana to exile the graveyard. Relic has always felt like a bit of a lackluster saga target. You get it, you exile graveyard and basically you are just prolonging the game instead of slamming some people with the Ozolith or Zabaz. Hearse is basically a rest in peace effect that can eventually become a huge threat that can also carry counters and it can also be sacrificed to ravager for counters. Truly amazing card!

A quick note: Some players are having a lot of success with UG scales, but I am not well practiced enough in that version to have an informed opinion.

What is the current best Hardened Scales deck?

OK MrSeri, enough rambings, tell me what to play!

Ok, ok! I think right now the best version of scales is Monogreen with a splash of red:

Hardened Scales. Builder: MrSeri.MTGA - Magic Arena
(18 - 3)
in 23-Jun-2022
Maindeck (60)
Creature [21]
2  Patchwork Automaton   $0.79
3  Arcbound Worker   $0.25
4  Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp   $0.35
4  Walking Ballista   $15.99
4  Hangarback Walker   $5.49
4  Arcbound Ravager   $16.99
Artifact [7]
3  The Ozolith   $21.99
4  Welding Jar   $0.99
Sorcery [4]
4  Ancient Stirrings   $0.25
Enchantment [8]
4  Urza's Saga   $39.99
4  Hardened Scales   $5.99
Land [20]
1  Roadside Reliquary   $0.25
1  Pendelhaven   $3.49
1  Llanowar Reborn   $0.25
2  Boseiju, Who Endures   $34.99
3  Forest   $0.01
4  Inkmoth Nexus   $32.99
4  Grove of the Burnwillows   $6.49
4  Cragcrown Pathway   // $4.99

Sideboard [15]
1  Void Mirror   $0.49
1  Animation Module   $1.49
1  Pithing Needle   $0.79
1  Grafdigger's Cage   $3.49
1  Chalice of the Void   $64.99
2  Tamiyo's Safekeeping   $1.29
2  Unlicensed Hearse   $19.99
2  Nature's Claim   $1.49
2  Gemrazer   $0.69
2  Dismember   /P/P $2.49
Buy this deck:

$447.92 Tix @cardhoarder   $11.20 / Week @cardhoarder   $685.59 @tcgplayer   $787.49 @cardkingdom  

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The reasons are the following:

The best Scales plan is the Scales plan. In a meta where sometimes you need to do your thing, and sometimes your opp is doing crazy unfair things, having a streamlined strategy is premium.

The best mana: Maximizing the utility of lands is paramount now that Lurrus is not a thing. I have tried sideboarding expensive cards like Karn or animation module (Module is back on the menu for a very specific matchup) but they have always felt lackluster. This also includes the aforementioned Boseiju but also Roadside reliquary. We have also never been as susceptible to moon effects until now (with urza’s saga) so having access to 3-4 forests is fantastic. It sucks to lose to a moon as a colorless deck.

4 stirrings help find hate pieces post board and also enable the best consistency

No painlands makes us way better vs the other aggressive decks in the format, which is also important. We are, as far as I can tell, one of the few decks that takes no damage from their lands in Gr.

No bad cards.

It is certainly a difficult task to figure out what cards to fill your deck up with, other than the essentials. It is a much easier task to figure out what cards you should NOT play and why(Why is harder). The heuristic is the following: Do not make your deck better by making it worse. If a card is bad a lot of the times and GREAT sometimes, you really need a great reason to play it but you don’t really need much reason NOT to play it. I will repeat the point once more: if you are considering playing a card, you need to look at the worst case, the average case and the best case scenario. If the card is not on average better than the alternative, you should only play it if you really think that the best case scenario will come enough to justify it. This is at the core of much of my deck building philosophy.

Deck analysis: card choices

Cards to avoid

Springleaf Drum

Drum is a necessary evil in a lot of people’s eyes. It both fixes your mana after saga, replaces saga if you need a land and can allow for a mild acceleration if the stars align.

The reason drum should not be played in Gr is that most of the time it is worse than a land and the only utility it has is to tap itself for W for Zabaz or to replace an Urza’s Saga. So basically, by putting drum in your deck you make your deck worse most of the time, for an upside which is basically only coming up when a saga pops off, which should already be a winning position. Besides, robots need no music.


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Some argumentation is in order:

1. Shadowspear helps push through damage decks that gum out the board tremendously, thanks to the trample. Quick, give me an example of those decks. I said quick! Found one yet? No, goblins are not a deck you should plan for.

2. Shadowspear is also great at recouping lifeloss vs the many aggressive decks in the format which play no creature/artifact removal and just aim to kill you as fast as they can. Give me 2 examples, quick. BURN! Oh, ok, burn, and what else? Every aggressive deck in modern plays a ton of interaction, so if you are able to untap with a saga, fetch a shadowspear, equip it, swing and be like “I won” you probably were going to win that game anyway because your opp has no interaction, no clock, and can never possibly get there if you gain 6 life. Burn game 1 (And game 1 only) is that deck, all other decks will have something to say about you beating them down with a trampling construct or they will ignore it and kill you anyway. The tempo loss from having your dude removed (Or worse, stolen) when trying to equip shadowspear is an easy avenue to go from “I could win this game in a few turns thanks to the Ozolith” to “I lost”.

3. As a sideboard option is even worse. Like I alluded to above, post board people will have artifact removal, including burn. Imagine, t4 you untap with saga, find Shadowspear, equip to your karnstruck and attack for 7 lifelink. Op smash to smithereens your karnstruck, you lose 3 life and forfeit your whole turn. Or your op palms you etc. There are situations in Modern where you will want to trample/lifelink (Even the prevent indestructible thing) but those are rare. There will be times where games degenerate and you fetch spear vs control and you win the game by racing a solitude, but you should not build your deck with those corner cases in mind. On the contrary, you will draw shadowspear in a decent % of your games where it will be utterly useless. Think 4c, UR, UW, Titan, Yawgmoth, Living End etc. The list just goes on.

4. The final argument pro shadowspear I have seen is that all other saga decks play it. This comes down to the 2 kinds of Saga decks from my previous primer: the ones that do it mostly for the karnstrucks/grind power and the fetching is just some added value and the ones that saga actually enables. We are a saga enabled deck (Saga fetches some of our best cards) so don’t make your deck worse by playing the bad cards others have to play in order to justify saga!

Torpor Orb

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I have been a fan of this card for the longest time, but it has also done very little to increase my win%. The theory says that this card should in fact be great vs 4c decks , but in reality is super lackluster. You are paying 2 mana for something that can be easily answered with boseiju, Ending, March, Teferi, Force of Vigor etc. In the 4c matchup, people will find answers for it if it is good, and ignore it otherwise, but you have already committed. Only the Risen Reef/Ephemerate version seems to fold slightly to this, but they also play all the answers above.

There are other matchups where orb shines though, mainly humans, goblins and taxes but those are fringe at best right now (Thanks fury!) and they are generally quite good matchups already (maybe taxes less so, but again, fury is a thing) so i don’t see the point of having a card that is only good vs currently good matchups. The change was motivated by realizing one thing: prison plays are bad right now because there are so many universal answers. Your prison play needs to absolutely wreck your opponent (think: Pithing Needle a belcher or Grafdigger's Cage a dredge gamer) or they are not worth it. A mild annoyance is not worth it when the goal is to kill your opponent. Recall that scales is an aggressive deck, not a midrange/prison/control deck.

Relic of Progenitus

1.4 Tix

Look, I love this card, ok? I have played this card for the longest time and it was there when Wrenn and Uro were the only thing, there when Grixis Shadow was the best thing, and there when you are paired against the one random player who is still on dredge or oops all spells. BUT this card suffers a similar problem than Torpor orb: it is just a passive play. Exiling 1 card a turn doesn’t do it vs Ledger, Murktide or Wrenn and Six, and having to hold up mana makes it bad vs living end. The upside of being fetchable is not really there in my opinion, since you will more often than not tutor something else and on top of that your op gets to choose what to exile. Anyhow, after playing with it for a while I am a firm believer in Unlicensed Hearse . The card is not only better graveyard hate that can actually keep graveyards in check, but also is a late game threat that grows fast. The only reason to play relic right now is because Drown in the Loch becomes popular again, but since it is not, I recommend against playing it.

Ingenious Smith

0.04 Tix

I am not uber high on this card. I think having 16 2-drops makes the deck really clunky and also you cannot find Saga/Inkmoth off it, which are normally really good hits. The fail rate with a standard list is about 10%, less if you play artifact lands and portable holes. Then you either start running into colored source problems or into the age-old problem of “making your deck better by making your deck worse”. Of course, it is a body and, of course, it grows huge with scales, but Ancient Stirrings has basically a 0% fail rate and hits lands (which allows you to cut the stingy springleaf drum and play overall less lands).

People have done and will continue to do well with this card, but you need to build your deck to make it good: more mana sources, more artifacts and not keeping 1-2 landers since with 16 2 drops you might be too slow. This card is phenomenal vs control and 4c nonsense though. Stirrings is my preferred option at the moment, since I built this deck to have only 24 mana sources and I like being able to look deeper for a ravager. Also this card requires white, which I am not a fan of at the moment.

Esper Sentinel

I will leave my original thoughts on sentinel below, these still are mostly true if you intend on playing GW or if your meta is really all Grixis and UR. I have moved away from sentinel since Lurrus was banned for a few reasons:

  • Number is that there is not so much reason to play W if you don’t have Lurrus, again you are making your deck worse (worse manabase) by putting white on it so you need to carefully consider if it’s worth it.
  • The second reason is that decks are much less close to ground at the moment, meaning that people play more expensive spells and less thoughtseize/bauble. Sentinel is best when these cheap cards are the norm, and they are not necessarily the norm at the moment. On top of that, prismatic ending is also worse since there are less cheap permanents so all in all I am off sentinel.

    As I said some time ago:”It has taken a while to adopt this card in Scales, but I would say now it is a mainstay for the GW version of the deck. Esper sentinel is almost always the best 1 drop in the deck turn 1. That means that you need to have as many (Hopefully 14) white sources in your deck as you can. Don’t skimp here, playing sentinel t1 is waaay better than turn 3. The same is not true for Hardened Scales (the card), you can get away with playing it later. The beauty of scales and sentinel is that the deck really takes advantage of all the facets of it. First, it is an artifact so it can be sacrificed for counters and it can be modulated into. That means your sentinel can easily become a 2/2 or a 3/3, pretty much guaranteeing a draw with every noncreature your opponent casts. On top of that, I tend to favor 3-4 welding jars on my deck, so not only do you play it turn 1 but you can also protect it! Imagine your opponent casting a 2 mana bolt just for you to counter it with a 0 mana artifact. Tempo, people.
  • Thirdly, Scales plays Pendelhaven so you can respond to the sentinel trigger and buff it, making your opponent pay 1 extra or you draw a card. This works the same with ravager. If your opponent has 3 mana up and Prismatic ending your ravager, you can sac it in response, modular to sentinel and draw a card.  Once you get enough artifacts rolling, it’s hard to be stopped and seeing more cards with sentinel is, for lack of a better word, gas. Most medium hands with t1 sentinel/jar or double sentinel can be kept vs interactive decks, specially on the play.” Again, I DO NOT currently recommend GW over Gr.

Steel Overseer

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Underwhelming to many, Steel overseer compensate for a weakness of scales that it might not seem obvious at first glance. Scales has no must answer t1 and t2 threats. Even a Scales into Ballista is not something your opponents need to worry about RIGHT NOW. But untapping with t2 steel overseer is generally a win. This is the reason that should not be played right now. Untapping with it is almost impossible+we have a much better t2 must answer and harder to deal with threat in Patchwork Automaton.

Actual card breakdown

Now with the bad cards out of the way we can start looking at the good cards. These are obviously good cards and you don’t need much reason to play them other than they are the best at what they do.

Urza’s Saga

You probably know how busted this card is. I would say there are two kinds of Saga decks: the decks that saga enables and the decks that want saga to help grind. Of course, all decks can use saga to grind but some decks also can find their key pieces with saga whereas others are just finding some random artifact that they would not be playing without saga.

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Saga-enabled decks are Amulet Titan, Hammer Time and Lantern control . Grindy saga decks: Jund Saga, Food decks, Affinity decks. The former can normally play saga on t1, using it to become a “suspend 2: key card” that taps for mana for 3 turns. The latter would almost never do it and rather play it either turn 2 or later, when there is nothing else to do with their mana. Scales falls somewhat in the middle. You will rarely play saga t1 with scales unless you either need a hate card out asap (Pithing Needle, Grafdigger's Cage) or you want to set up a turn 3 kill.

How does Saga enable a turn 3 kill?

Glad you asked! By playing saga on t1 and either Ozolith or a Worker Zabaz, you can kill your opponents on 3 by playing Inkmoth/Ravager on 2 or Ballista on 2, Ravager/Worker on 3.

Exercise: try setting it with cards yourself if not clear!

The right turn to play Urza’s Saga

Most often, the best time to play saga in non-UW control matchups is turn 2(We will cover this later, I don’t think this is now optimal in a lot of other situations). What I find optimal is to use your turn 3 to make a Karnstruck. That will generally lead your opponent to tap out, since they don’t want to fall behind on board to your robots. Then turn 4 you can tutor up the Ozolith and play a Ravager, so you still have 1 mana to activate Inkmoth Nexus or 2 to play a Ballista.

You will be surprised how fast you can kill thanks to Saga here. If your opponent still holds interaction, then the best is to just make another karnstruck and play for the long game. The pressure from the karnstrucks will often force your opponent to tap out and give you a window to go for the kill.

What should I fetch with Urza’s Saga?

So, what do you get with Saga? Normally my priority is Ozolith, then Zabaz, then worker. If I expect heavy removal a Jar is also good.

Animation Module is normally a high priority vs control decks. One neat trick I do is that I don’t sideboard in Needle vs Engineered Explosives decks. They will tend to pop their Engineered Explosives in response to Saga’s chapter 3 in fear of the Needle and you just get something else. The logic is that they play 3 EEs tops and you 1 Needle, so it is unlikely your needle will be there on time to save you but they still need to respect it (Please, keep respecting it UR opponents). By the time a Saga will trigger to turn 3, I normally would rather get something else than Needle, so I just don’t play around Explosives much. Against Archmages Charm decks II tutor Zabaz over Ozolith if I have a red source. This way I can keep my cards for myself instead of letting other people play with them.

Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp

Zabaz holds the records for the most kreygasm/minute heart in the Hardened Scales discord when it was spoiled. The card just does so much for scales. The floor is a second Arcbound worker, which already has the best counters to mana ratio in the deck (1 mana for 1 counter). On top of that, Zabaz can fly to be one more evasive attacker, it can add some counters (Only works with modular triggers, not enter the battlefield) and it can be a sac outlet for R which really allows for the deck to not have to rely so much on ravager as the sole sac outlet.

All this comes at a cost: Zabaz is legendary. But is it really a cost? Thanks to the legendary rule Zabaz can “self-sacrifice” if another is standing on the battlefield. This will give you a modular trigger which will give you not 1 but 2 counters thanks to Zabaz ability. It is an easy way to make a ballista huge, since this obviously gets even more out of control with Scales and Ozolith.

Hardened Scales (the card).

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This card seems straightforward but about 50% of my paper opponents read it when I play it. Scales is a replacement effect, so if 1 counter is placed, 2 are placed instead. This means that this will stack: if you have 2 scales, 1 counter will become 3 counters. This is a strength of Hardened Scales compared to other “namesake card” decks: additional copies work nicely instead of being redundant.

Hardened Scales also makes up for most of the colored source requirements for the deck, since playing Scales t1 is often key to getting ahead in the game. Scales works both as a ramp spell and as a combo enchantment. It makes a ballista for X=1 enter as a 2/2, which will normally cost you 4 mana. It also allows that combined with a sac outlet and modular to multiply your counters and get as many as 10 on a ballista or 9 on an inkmoth for a kill.

I suggest you watch some of my videos to see how all the interactions work but the most important is that scales adds a counter every time a counter is placed on a creature, not just entering the battlefield. Importantly, if you play a Ballista or Hangarback for X=0 it will not enter the battlefield with 1 counter if you have scales but rather it would die since no counters were going to be placed in the first place.

The Ozolith

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The Ozolith was a godsend from a dinosaur realm that nobody saw coming, The Ozolith basically “doubles” modular counters, allowing for some super explosive turns. But it is more than that, the Ozolith is an insurance policy vs bounce effects and exile effects, since you still get the counters on the Ozolith. It is also a bank account where you can store all your counters, should you get wiped. It is, however, also the prime target for the prismatic endings of the world so be judicious about keeping counters on it for too long. The Ozolith can also target your opponent creatures with minus counters. In my most recent Gr list I am running 3 copies again, since they get removed often and you need a density of good t1 plays. Worth noting that unlike Hardened Scales, the Ozolith does nothing until something leaves the battlefield so I tend to play my scales out first unless expecting enchantment removal. In those cases, I play my Ozolith first, since I still value more scales and I am playing more virtual copies of the Ozolith (Saga almost always finds the Ozolith and stirrings can either find the Ozolith directly or a saga that can give you Ozolith).

Arcbound Ravager

0.08 Tix

“This card Is pretty good” DemonicTutor . Just after double unholy heating a ravager unsuccessfully). I would say Ravager is at its best vs red removal, but I generally tend to wait to cast them until either my op has used up their removal or I have a big board. Scales and jar makes me more liberal with ravager usage, but the best ravager is the one that comes down, eats a bunch of friends and then wins the game on the spot.

Rarely will people expect or play around a ravager in your hand and on many occasions you will just win through interaction because it is simply so difficult to interact with ravager. Against Thoughtseize decks it might be smart to play it out early if you have 1-2 jars, since it will be easier to discard than to remove. Best card in the deck. My personal favorite is the modern masters one but the foiling on inventions is fantastic.

Welding Jar

0.06 Tix

Some people play 1. I play 4. I have 1200 followers on Twitch. You do the math.

LULs aside, I really believe this card is suuuuper good in the current meta  (Any meta?). Even when it is bad (Humans?) it is still a 0 mana artifact that allows you to kill people faster. One thing I do and I don’t see any people do is that I aggressively attack with jar up or block and jar my creatures. Your creature will be removed from combat after damage, so you basically can turn jar into a 0 mana removal spell. You can get 2for1d if you do that and your op has the removal spell, so be judicious. Jar is insane in combination with Patchwork Automaton, since it triggers the automaton and protects it from a t3 Lightning Bolt/Unholy Heat. In the mirror, you can use it to regenerate your opponent’s artifact when your OP tries to shatter it with Zabaz. You are welcome.

Ancient Stirrings

0.02 Tix

A lot of people want to cut this card for other more fancy cards (Like shadowspear and springleaf drum) but this is one of the best cantrips ever printed. It makes it so early game you can find many more urza’s sagas or lands when needed. Late game it can find Ravager, Ballistas or whatever threat is needed. It has basically an almost 0% fail rate and it majorly increases the consistency when keeping a 2 lander. In the grand scheme of things, this increases in consistency will for sure lead to more wins. Post board, you trim them sometimes, but they also help you find your colorless hate pieces.

Boseiju, Who Endures

54.21 Tix

Kamigawa: Neon Destiny gave us 3 powerful tools for scales. In the beginning, everyone was like “but Mr.Serious, will Boseiju not be the end of artifact decks?” And I was like: “I am all about my opponent missing landrops to Assassin’s trophy me”. You see, Bojeisu’s effect is not strong enough to be built around. At best is an assassin’s trophy that does not hit creatures/planeswalkers and if you build your deck around it, it’s even worse. Now you really are working hard to make your worst assassin’s trophy an actual assassin’s trophy.

Boseiju’s strength comes from its flexibility. It’s arguably on the highest level of flexibility since it is (most importantly) A: an untapped Green land and B: A mediocre spell. The best decks for Boseiju are decks that would be playing forests anyway. The flexibility here is excellent because it means that for 1G (or G, if you control Zabaz) you can answer any maindeckable hate piece, from Ensnaring Bridge to pithing needle, with a card that you can always tap for mana! The best Boseiju deck is Amulet Titan because they can both tutor for it easily and bounce it later but Scales also plays the powerhouse card Ancient Stirrings, which means you can almost “soft tutor” your uncounterable answer!

I have since the printing of Boseiju now moved to playing 2. The reason is that this way you can be very liberal and play the 1st one as a land while still have the second one in your deck. There is a 4% chance of drawing both in your opener, which is a small enough fail rate and in some matchups (Tron and Hammer time) is even a good thing. If you draw your second Boseiju later in a matchup where Boseiju is not very good, it does the same as drawing any land when you are hellbend: nothing. The upside is very good though and improves many matchups at almost no deck building cost.

Boseiju is also very good in postboard games where people sometimes randomly bring stony silence or rest in peace. Boseiju can answer those without having to actually commit sideboard cards that are bad in the matchup (Like bringing in nature’s claim vs uw control). Extended art beats the special art by a mile.

Eiganjo, seat of the empire

2.66 Tix

Similar to Bojeisu, an untapped W source with upside is very good in our deck if you're playing the GW version.  This card is excellent in the very classical situation of your op discarding/killing everything you got and poking you with a DRC. This is an uncounterable, undiscartable answer to DRC, ragavan with dash, even some more niche monsters like Thought Knot seer.

Don’t forget you can use it aggressively: You can make a bad attack and kill your opponents blockers before damage, giving you a great advantage and making your opponent play around your trick for the rest of the match. Extended art beats the special art by less than Bojeisu, but you can see the doors of the entrance and that is pretty hot.

Patchwork Automaton

0.01 Tix

Now, I get it. Lands are not exactly the most sexy, especially when they are just marginal upgrades to existing cards (I know you spent your money on those beta forests). What about a 2 cmc threat that is basically unkillable in Modern and has a strong synergy with counters? Now THAT is exciting.

If I were a robot, I would be Patchwork Automaton, both in pose and in occupation. Ward 2 means that for the first 3 turns of the game nothing that costs 1 mana can kill it and that also means that Solitude cannot target it (Or it can target it and get countered).

Interestingly, Patchy is insane vs Prismatic Ending, costing a total of 4 mana to remove. Also Patch boy can grow and can grow quickly! It is not limited to growing once a turn, so casting 2-3 artifacts with a Hardened Scales in play will mean you will get a 7/7 ward 2 on t3! This is virtually unkillable for any red deck (Needing 6 mana to double unholy heat it) and black/white decks have their own issues, especially in combination with Welding Jar.

Overall I think this is a fantastic threat that will see a lot of play and it could be possible it even becomes a 4off. Make sure you save your welding jars t1 if you don’t need them in order to trigger Patchman more! Patch is also great vs 4control, where they always want to tap out and then deal with your threats with free spells.

Also a good play vs t2 Wrenn and Six t3 Teferi, since their minus abilities cannot target it and Patchperson can just attack and kill them easily if they plus. I have felt this matchup to be quite favorable since I added Patchwork Automaton. I currently play 2 since Patchwork is not a super good topdeck, but this is as always subject to change.

Tamiyo’s Safekeeping

0.01 Tix

A very unassuming card from Kamigawa Neon Dynasty (Can we give a shout out to this set? We play as many cards from it as from Modern Horizons 2). This card is similar to blacksmith skill and its main role is to protect us from exile removal and free interaction.

I was always hesitant to play cards like Snakeskin Veil  (Although I love the artwork) since they can only protect creatures. I think with so many fragile (meaning 1 cmc or less) non-creatures we want to protect, Tamiyo is in a great spot. It is specially cool to protect an Urza’s Saga  from a Force of Vigor but it’s main use is to protect our all in play vs free interaction, specially Solitude. The card also can protect vs sweepers since it gives indestructible and it even has applications vs Burn, where blanking a smash to smithereens and gaining 2 life is usually game winning.

One neat trick you can do is to use this on an inkmoth nexus before you activate it, making it hexproof before it is susceptible to creature removal from your opponent.

The Manabase

Not a specific card choice but I want to have a few words about it. This deck plays at least 8 colorless sources and, although the deck is mostly colorless, its best t1 play and best card is green.  My goal with this list was to have around 14 green sources while maximizing utility and 8 red sources for Zabaz activation. I don’t play any other color that is not green and the manabase is 100% painless, which gives up points vs aggressive decks. Here are the specifics of this list:

Basic Forest: I think basic lands are underrated. They are painless, tap for green and have no downside. They are also fetchable with Boseiju so playing only 1-2 seems like suicide to me. I favor at least 3 and sometimes 4 forests in my list at the moment. Another good reason to play more forests is that Moon has never been better vs scales: it both turns off saga and all our colored spells. Having 1 forest in play guarantees we can cast stirrings and scales, making Moon very bad.

Crackcrown Pathway/Grove of the Burnwillows: These are basically forests that allow for R for Zabaz sac ability. Pathway is usually best played as a green source if you have both grove and pathway. After that, it is almost always better to play it as a red source for free Zabaz activation. Grove is a bit more controversial since gaining your op life can be bad. I think that max you will give 1-2 life to your op and that is not a lot for Scales. You could also play 4 Karplusan Forests, or a split, but I like grove because it is hilarious vs Death Shadow (I have killed many shadows with it). This is a bit up to you.

4 Saga + 4 Inkmoth

They are basically mandatory so don’t skimp here.

Two of the key cards of this archetype: Inkmonth Nexus and Urza's Saga
Two of the key cards of this archetype: Inkmonth Nexus and Urza's Saga


0.74 Tix

Pendelhaven is one of the best lands in the deck and it should never be cut imo. It is an untapped green source that has a ton of utility in a deck full of 1/1s. There is no drawback, but the main draws for the card are: saving your creatures from W&6 pings, from lava dart, blocking a goblin guide, playing around non delirious unholy heat, can get in for extra cheap damage, can give one more damage to a lethal inkmoth, can target an opponent’s phantasmal image copying a champion of the parish etc. You see the point, lots of uses, no real downside.

Llanowar Reborn

0.96 Tix

This card is there to be our 8th good turn 1 play. It basically allows us to play a t2 ballista with 2 counters and ping a Ragaver, a 2/2 Hangarback etc. Late in the game and with Scales you can give 2-3 extra counters to a creature out of the blue. It is also very good in conjunction with the animation module. Once you have 5 lands, you can use module activated ability to proliferate the reborn, which will trigger reborn. Then you make a servo, move a counter to it, which will trigger reborn again. Basically for 5 mana you make a 2/2 and a 1/1 per turn, which is pretty good. Another more niche usage of reborn is that it triggers on every creature that ETB. This allows you to for example kill an omnath or a Dryad before they get to play a land. Especially vs dryad, this is something to pay attention to.

Roadside reliquary

0.01 Tix

Touch on this above but play it. 1 or 2 are good, 1 maybe is best because you will rarely need two but one is so good because drawing two cards late game is absolutely game changing from a land!

The different flavors

My favorite version right now is Gr but I will give a quick rundown of the versions and their strengths so you can make your choices based on your meta.

Green White

Best against Grixis, UR and UW control. If you play GW you should really make sure you can cast your Esper Sentinel t1 and that you play 4 spires so you can utilize sacrifice sac ability. Sideboard, path to exile is the best card in white since it answers serra’s emissary, archon of cruelty, primeval titan etc. Blacksmith skill is probably better than Tamiyo in GW as well.

Example list:


Blue Green

Popularized but the beast “Butznozle” in HS Discord. Plays Metallic rebuke on the sideboard and aether spellbomb and Academy ruins as blue utilizing spells. Best against Titan and Rhinos/Living end due to counterspells. Good against murktide too thanks to the aether spellbomb bounce. I think this is a quite technical version.

Example list:


Black Green

The main reason to play black is thoughtseize. It gives you a better combo matchup and probably good too vs control decks. I have not find this to be optimal, but you can try it if you want. I don’t have any example decklists.

Tricolor meme

You can play expensive bad spells that have synergy with the deck and also kill yourself with fetchlands. My new favorite is a jund version with Ob nixilis, but a Naya version with Showdown of the Skalds is also fun.

Some play patterns worth considering

In this section I am going to have a look at some less obvious play patterns that you can do well with. It is my firm opinion that is neither in the deckbuilding, nor in the sideboarding but rather in the actual play that you will find success or failure with scales. This is then obviously the place where you should be putting most of your time, but the deckbuilding is the most attractive, therefore it went first.

1. Consider your opponent's likely interaction before making your early plays. If your hand contains both the Ozolith and Scales and your opp could have an ending, consider playing the Ozolith first (Especially if you have a saga or other Ozolith finding cards). Same with Patchwork Automaton, on the draw your opp might be able to bolt Patchwork on their turn. Even though it might be tempting to save the jar for when after you cast the hardened scales in your hand, deploying it on t2 can win you the game.

2. Even if you don’t have a ravager in hand, try to put yourself in a position that ravager would be lethal. This does two things: it obviously kills your opponent if you do draw the ravager and it makes your opp afraid, making them hold up interaction when you in fact don’t have the ravager.

3. If you are going to be playing patchwork automaton on t2, consider holding your scales in hand until turn 3. This will give your opponent no window to ending the scales before you make a huge patchwork.

4. Think of how you want to sequence all your early lands, especially if you have Urza’s saga. Your best bet is to save your color producing lands to be your turn 4 land, this way you can make a karnstruck and still cast any scales/stirrings you may have or leave up zabaz activation.

5. It is ok to not cast your stirrings t1 if you don’t know what you are looking for. If I am landlight, I don’t use stirrings until after I cannot make a landrop. This way if I do draw the lands I can use stirrings later on to get a ravager or ballista. Aggressive stirrings for an Uza’s Saga in the good saga matchups is a counter example of this point.

6. Don’t always play saga on 2. I used to be a very big proponent of playing Urza’s saga on turn 2 to both pressure your op with karnstrucks early and if the opportunity arises, kill my op on t4 with a tutored ozolith+ravager. I think this play pattern still works, but it is quite passive in nature. I have found that actually playing my saga on turn 3 allows me to much better play to the board early, and still make karnstrucks. On top of that on turn 5 you can make karnstrucs AND play a 2 drop(Or t4 make a karnstruck and play a 1 drop), which is a great way to keep the pressure up. This I have found to be specially true vs money piles and UW control, but I am exploring this line more and more.

7. Use a welding jar as a combat trick to push damage. Every little damage counts, so don’t be afraid to send your 2/2 on their 2/2 if you have a jar. If they make the block you can trade your jar for their 2/2 (0 mana removal spell) and if they don’t you get some damage in. Same with blocking, aggressively chumping+jar is an easy way to catch up on board presence when under pressure. Pendelhavening your 1/1 aggressively also works here, since 2 damage adds up much more quickly than 1.

8. Learn your deck's interactions and math. You need to be better at knowing how your deck works than your op. If you are not less confused by a boarstate than your opp, you leave some important % points on the table.

9. Don’t throw the towel vs an early Force of Vigor. It is only back breaking if they kill an Urza’s Saga. Therefore vs FoV decks you should follow tip number 6. On top of that, when pitched is card neutral and your opponent tends to mulligan for FoV vs scales or to keep bad hands that have FoV. So play your Hangarcks and Workers first and save your scales until after the FoV window has closed.

10. The fuck is the Force of Vigor window? The FoV window is a term I (have just) coined which described the time where an opponent could have FoV something favorably (Like a t3 saga and an Ozolith) and they DID NOT DO IT. What does it tell you? It tells you that it is likely your opponent didn’t have it then and if they didn’t have it then, it is unlikely they will have it in the coming turns so you should not play around it. This also applies to Solitude to a lesser degree and to other removal spells. If a bolt on a ravager would have killed it at some point, OP had mana open, and they didn’t bolt it chances are they don’t have it and you are free to go for it. This might backfire sometimes, but I would say unless you are playing against some seriously good player, the FoV Window rule holds. Another application of the FoV window is that you can purposely play into it FoV early to see if your opp has it. If they don’t then going all in the next turn is a good idea. Since there is no other way of playing around free spells, elimination is the best way to do it.

11. Sometimes you just have to go for it. Better to do it this turn than next turn. If they have Solitude you take the L and move on.

12. If your opp is a Boseiju gamer (Specially titan) bring in the needle to tutor with saga just before you go all in. It is often their only interaction and they rely heavily on it after casting a titan.

Scales enemies

Here is a list of cards that scales hate. Some are pretty obvious but some might not be. I will provide suggestions on how to play around them.

Force of Vigor

40.42 Tix

Undoubtedly the worst offender in the free spells that kill your deck category. This is not only removal, but it is removal for 0 mana on card parity. Not too bad when hardcast either. It is very hard to play around it (It being free and all) but I suggest the following: 1)don’t play saga turn 2 so you can play a 2 drop even if it gets destroyed with the saga trigger on the stack. 2) keep welding jars in even vs decks where it is normally not good against 3)try to not give them a clear blowout. The longer the game goes the worse force gets, since if you have 10 artifacts you can probably find lethal even through FoV. Still, this card is disgusting and I cry every night.


52.1 Tix

Since scales goes “tall” rather than “wide” you normally end up with a supermecha at the end of the game, not many small dudes. Solitude both being free and having flash means that you can get suuuper blownout even if your op is tapped out. Worse yet, if your opponent ephemerates it, it becomes a machinegun of exile effects. Hardcasted is not too bad either but it can be seen coming. I suggest not playing too hard around it. Specially in an 80 card deck, the odds of them having it are not great and if they keep it in hand the odds of them randomly running out of cards are slim. Unless you have a very nice animation module setup where you can run them out of answers, solitude will be there for you. In solitude matchup, Ozolith is key.

Prismatic Ending

1.85 Tix

Answers 95% of the deck for 1 mana, the rest for 2 mana. Card is good but your op can only play 4.

Kaya, Orhov usurper

4.1 Tix

This cards minus answers 90% of the deck, and does it more than once. Brutal but not popular

Dress Down

2.26 Tix

Dress down acts as a counter for a modular creature of and XX construct and also draws a card and also turns off any our your dying effects and also kills your karnstrucks. This card is good but the decks that play it are normally decent matchups.

Collector Ouphe/Stony silence

0.13 Tix

The age old hate pieces. These are I would say traps for opponents sometimes because we are mostly a creature deck so all our creatures have the secret mode of turning sideways and killing em. Saga helps with that plan a lot. You can now Boseiju rips and Stony Silences.

Karn, the great creator

41.93 Tix

Every time someone casts this card against me I go. Why? But I am not a game designer so I just will tell you that vs KTGC you need to play the board as much as possible so you can kill it. G1 you have few outs to a KTGC/bridge lock (it still baffles me how many people don’t go for this vs scales)

EDIT AFTER KAMIGAWA: Now we do!. G2 and G3 you have answers to Bridge so it gets better. Gemraze  is the best sideboard card vs karn decks, since not only kills a bridge, it also tramples to karn and it also makes your Ballista a non creature so it can ping through karn. It also gives you a chance to change the name of Ballista to “Gemrazer” with its mutate ability, so pithing needle effects don’t work on Ballista anymore.

Hushbringer/Rest in Peace/Leyline

They all turn off the dying effects and Hushbringer  also turns off the Ozolith effects. These cards are hard to beat if unprepared, but I would say they are not as popular as they should be? You can still win with beats, but it is harder than vs Stony Silence . Vs potential Husbringers always bring in dismember. Ballista also answers it, but make sure to kill it before they put a hammer on it!

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter

7.2 Tix

3 mana exile your entire library. The TOTAL CMC of my list is 30, so it will exile at least 2/3s if not more. Mill was a rough matchup but there is really no way of beating it at the moment. KEKW indeed.

Sideboard guide

Let’s use this list as a base reference:


I like all the choices at the moment and I would not make any changes (20JUN22)

Hammer time

  • Out: 4 jar, 2 patchwork, 1 stirrings on the play
  • In:  2 claims, 2 gemrazers, 2 dismembers, 1 chalice on the play

We are favored as long as they don’t have the nuts. Dismember kills Hushbringer as much as possible. Claim kills saga or Sigarda’s Aid  which is their best card. Defend a lot and kill in one swift hit.

Grixis Death Shadow

  • Out: 2 workers, 1 ozolith, 2 stirrings on the draw
  • In: 2 Unlicensed Hearse, 2 dismember on the draw, 1 animation module

This matchup I take it as if I was playing vs an aggro deck. On the draw you want to make sure to kill their things, but otherwise dismember is not too great. Hearse is not as good as relic, but still makes them unable to have delirium or makes their drowns worse. You can also kill them with it. Module is great in this matchup.

4c Control (no traverse/bauble)

  • Out: 2 welding jar 2 worker
  • In: 1 animation module, 2 Tamiyo, 1 pithing needle (This could be one heare actually, but have not tested it yet)

This matchup ranges from horrible to ok depending on their draw. Needle names Wrenn, Teferi or Boseiju, in this order normally. Being aggressive and constantly putting pressure is important. They will tend to have some turns at 5-6 mana that are hard to come back from if you don’t push them to 2for1 themselves a lot.

4c Elementals (no traverse/bauble)

  • Out: 2 worker 1 jar 1 stirrings
  • In: 2 Tamiyo, 2 dismember

This is a preliminary sideboard plan, but I feel that killing reef is so important that dismember is a good idea. If you see many Ewit consider also hearse since it also owns wrenn.The reason we don’t bring in module is because they really go over the the top of you with reef and the little servos have nothing on them. We keep 1 more jar because they play more furys.

4c Elementals (Traverse+Bauble)

  • Out: 2 jars, 2 workers 1 Ozolith
  • In: 2 Hearse 2 Tamiyo 1 Module

Hearse does double duty of keeping Wrenn down and not allowing them to traverse, heat for 6 or Ewit things. Have not played much vs this, but I think this might be correct. There are many flavors of 4c and there are no rules (The only rule is that it needs to be expensive). When in doubt, I would sideboard like the 4c Control version, since it is both the most common and the sideboard plan might also work vs the other versions.

UR Murktide

  • Out: 2 worker, 1 ozolith, 1 stirrings
  • In: 2 hearse, 2 dismember

Same plan as vs Grixis. G1 saga is your friend. G2 and G3 not so much but still can be good. The main way you lose is them t4 murktide with counterspell up. That can be enabled by monkey or drc so I focus on killing those to delay murktide.You can sometimes race a murktide when they cast it if you already have a board or play something so they counter and then path the murktide. It is also important to realize that they play only 4 counterspells, so sometimes jamming is ok. Tutoring Zabaz to have a R up comes up a lot on this matchup. We cut 1 ozolith because other than EE they don’t have many answers to it. On the draw you can cut patchwork and leave the workers in to block the monkey.


  • Out: 2 stirrings, 1 ozolith, 1 worker
  • In: 1 void mirror, 1 chalice 2 tamiyo’s

I cut ozolith because drawing 2 is backbreaking in this tempo matchup. The FoV window applies but generally patchman and karnstrucks can get bigger than anything but the fastest rhinos. If they are playing charm, play around it. Tamiyo is a crazy card in this matchup since their interaction usually costs 2 mana.


  • Out: 4 stirrings 2 patchwork (On the draw) 1 ozolith/1worker (On the play)
  • In: 2 claims, 2 gemrazer 2 safekeeping

You should not have shadowspear, and I think even vs burn is bad.This matchup is not difficult. You just claim your own things if they are tapped out, generate blockers and kill them fast You can easily turn the corner here and soon they are bolting your dudes instead of you, you are favored. You can prevent the damage of smash to smithereens by sacking the target, but not searing blaze. That is why I don’t have many sideboard cards for the matchup. Claim being good here is just great, remember you can snipe eidolon of the great revel or that a ballista for X=2 will not trigger it. You can effectively lock your op out of the game with your XX creatures if they go too hard on eidolon. Remember to attack!


  • Out: 1 jar 4 stirrings 1 ozolith 2 patchwork on the draw 2 workers on the play
  • In: 2 claims, 2 gemrazer 1 void mirror 1 pithing needle 2 dismember

Claim is great because it answers dryad,saga and amulet at instant speed. Gemrazing a dryad t3 is also a winning line. Mirror turns of FoV AND summoner’s pact, so it is worth it imo. Needle is for boseiju and basically we just need to be fast, that is why stirrings and patchwork are gone. On the play I still like patchwork but on the draw is abysmal. Patchwork I like on the play because you can go all in on it through FoV or even block a titan.


  • Out: 1 Patchwork OR 1 worker 1 Jar 2 stirrings
  • In: 2 dismember 1 pithing needle, 1 cage

Another FoV deck. The goal here is to prevent yawgmoth from sticking. They don’t run so many lands, so killing dorks is a great plan. I keep 3 jars in because they are handy vs fov and outland liberator, and crime and punishement. This matchup is pretty even but FoV can tip it easily.


  • In: 2 Dismember 2 tamiyo
  • Out: you dreams of 5-0

This is the worst matchup. You need to go for a kill fast. I would 100% go all in t3 if I can even with mana up. If the game goes long then they will Tasha you and then you will cry. Better be fast and be done with it soon so you can grab a sandwich or talk to your friends or something.

Living end

  • In: 1 Chalice 1 void mirror 2 unlicensed hearse
  • Out: 2 worker 2 patchwork

This is a weird matchup. Ozolith and ravager make Living End bad, but they have FoV and foundation breaker post board. If you expect a lot of these decks, then Chalice/Void Mirror are awesome. Jar might seem weird but 4 foundation breakers and 4 FoV makes it worth it imo. Stirrings finds all your hate, Tavager and Jar to protect said hate so it is very good. You could try Tamiyo here, but have not tried it yet.

UW control+

  • Out: 2 Hardened Scales, 1 jar 1 worker
  • In: 1 pithing needle, 1 animation module 2 tamiyo

This is a good matchup if you are skilled at playing vs control decks. The key here is to not yam into countermagic and to keep applying pressure so they cannot just tap out for a planeswalker. Solitude is a thing but they don’t have so many avenues of value like 4c. Make sure to not play your saga into a march early game.

Animation module is crazy in the matchup since it can also proliferate a chalice to 3. Be sure to have a sac outlet handy to prevent theft, Hangarback walker is especially susceptible to Archmages charm. This matchup you want to delay playing saga as much as you can so they have to sea at awkward moments and not be able to hold counter magic.

Needle names Teferi most of the time, but I have named Shark Typhoon when going all in with an inkmoth. Wandering emperor is also a fine call. Might seem crazy to cut Hardened Scales but this matchups is not really about making big dudes but rather having max threats and protecting them, drawing too many scales is bad because they can just ignore them and kill or steall your creatures.

Mono-Black coffers

  • In: 2 Tamiyo 1 pithing needle (2 gemrazer 2 claims ->if they are on karn) Maybe also module?
  • Out: 2 workers 1 ozolith(2 stirrings 1 zabaz 1 worker )

This matchup is not very hard imo, but they’re a fast mana KTGC deck so sometimes you can die. Answering karn and not getting damnationed  is key. They have lots of thoughtseize and pushes, so maybe module is good but perhaps a bit slow since if they stabilize with 12 mana life gets hard.

Mono-Green Tron

  • In: 1 pithing needle 2 claims 2 gemrazers 1 void mirror
  • Out: 1 jar 2 stirrings 2 patchwork 1 worker

Scales is one of the few decks that can go toe to toe with Tron, even with t3 tron. They tap out often so killing them is not so hard and, as always, answering KTGC is paramount. We also have 2 Boseiju to avoid them troning, so it should be ok


Why GR over GW or other combinations of colors?

I think I make ample arguments for this in the primer but TL.DR: Better mana, sentinel not good, lands to stuff now.

Why play Hardened Scales over Hammer time?

Two reasons:

  • 1. Scales actually has a good hammer matchup if your opponent doesn’t nut draw you (t2 kills, t3 hammer+shadowspear or the like) and people are catching up on how to play vs hammer. Many people still have a hard time playing around scales cards and it is inherently more difficult to count on “potential ravager+ozolith” than “2 hammers”. Scales does get collaterally hit by hate pieces against Hammertime, but in some ways Scales is a little bit more resilient to hate since we have different avenues to victory. Our card quality is a bit higher too: hanbarback and ballista are better than a nacked paladin or ornithopter.
  • 2. Hammer  is one of the best decks in Modern, but having a good matchup vs the best deck is a good place to be imo. I know everyone thinks they have a good Hammer matchup these days, but that is just based on the fact that they play good sideboard cards vs Hammer. Hammer can still beat those cards. Scales has a good plan A vs Hammer (Tons of blockers, ballista, ability to kill fairly fast) and gets to play boseiju and claim, which are great vs hammer too.

Why not X (X=witch's oven, shadowspear, pithing needle,etc) in the main?

You are of course welcome to experiment with as many 1-offs as you want on the main deck. The reason I am not running any is that these cards are situational and are not generally good when drawn. I also would not consider saga to be a reliable tutor for hate pieces since it is both slow and susceptible to hate.

I like my main deck plans to be focused so I use saga to get me closer to killing my op. Postboard, I do bring in good saga targets like cage and needle but only when they are better than the worst saga target, which is the worker.

Why no removal in the main?

This comes from the assumption that scales is somehow a midrange deck. It is not. We play all the removal we need in the form of Walking ballista game 1. If you start diluting your deck too much with answers, your main plan suffers.

The only removal I would play main deck is Galvanic blast off the Gr version, since this can become a burn spell later if needed. Still, I think removal is at its best when it is targeted, so I tend to focus on my own game plan g1 and then bring in removal when needed g2/g3.

Final Words

If you made it all the way here, thank you so much! As you can see I am really passionate about Modern and Hardened Scales. If you have any questions feel free to reach out via Twitter or while I am live on Twitch!

If you liked this article maybe you will also find interesting on of the following ones Ragavan and three other cards banned in Duel Commander

Joan Carraco (MrSeri)
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Playing Hardened Scales and other complicated decks sine 2019. In 2021 I started streaming scales and it has been a blast! I live in Copenhagen but I am originally from Spain and I work as a Process Engineer.


Published: 2022-06-24 00:00:00

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