Last updated on October 5, 2021

Hardened Scales - Illustration by Mark Winters

Hardened Scales | Illustration by Mark Winters

Historic has been an exciting format to play for the last couple months. A big part of that is thanks to recent set releases like Modern Horizons 2 and newer Standard sets like Midnight Hunt.

It’s only natural to see new brews from our MTG heroes with this new wave of cards available. Today I’ll cover a deck from one of the best brewers that the game has seen in the last couple of years, Yuta Takahashi.

If you like counters and robots, this deck is for you! The list I’m looking at is Yuta’s take on Hardened Scales in Historic.

Let’s get started!

The Deck

Arcbound Mouser - Illustration by Campbell White

Arcbound Mouser | Illustration by Campbell White

Decklist

The Strategy

The Namesake

Hardened Scales

This deck is all about counters moving around your creatures. Hardened Scales is (unsurprisingly) the main card of the deck. It’s both cheap and hard to remove once it’s resolved, and even tiny creatures with modular like Arcbound Mouser can become huge threats with it really quickly.

The Creatures

Arcbound Mouser and Arcbound Prototype fill the same role. They’re both cheap artifact creatures that enter the battlefield with counters. They can also transfer their counters between each other and to other artifact creatures when they die.

Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp fills a similar role to the Arcbound twins except its ability allows it to give an extra counter to other artifact creatures when modular triggers. It essentially acts as a pseudo Hardened Scales for them.

Your last artifact creature with counters, Stonecoil Serpent, is a perfect addition to the deck. It’s very flexible in terms of how much mana you can spend on casting it. Don’t be discouraged if you need to play it early as a 2/2 since it’ll eventually grow with all your counter providers.

Luminarch Aspirant gives one of your creatures a +1/+1 counter at the start of each combat phase. It even gives an extra counter with the help of your trusty enchantment. Similarly, Steel Overseer provides counters to artifact creatures with the upside that it benefits each one on the battlefield.

As far as support creatures go, Conclave Mentor acts as a pseudo Hardened Scales since it basically has the same ability. Esper Sentinel is a cheap addition since most decks rely heavily on non-creature spells to craft their turns. It also benefits from all your other creatures since it’s also an artifact, meaning your modular creatures along with Steel Overseer will help it grow.

Finally, Lurrus of the Dream-Den is your companion on this journey. It can bring dead creatures back from the graveyard. Lurrus can even put you back in the game with some counters stacked on it to boost your lifelink benefits, especially if you’re racing against other aggro decks.

The Artifact and Sorcery

You can’t always count on things going your way. That’s why you run other spells that help you go wide or remove troublesome creatures.

The Ozolith is an excellent card for this deck. It “stores” counters from creatures that passed away with them so that you can put them on other creatures in their honor. A common play is to put these counters on your Blinkmoth Nexus since it’s hard to remove.

Speaking of removal, the only piece you run main deck is Declaration in Stone. Your main plan is to grow creatures of your own eventually, but you may need to get rid of opposing creatures that can easily wipe your board like Mayhem Devil.

The Lands

You run a solid mana base with Branchloft Pathway, Sunpetal Grove, and Temple Garden to help you play your spells on curve. You also have access to the only artifact “man land” available in Historic, Blinkmoth Nexus.

Don’t be fooled by its stats; a 1/1 flying creature may not be great on its own, but it becomes a big problem for your opponent very fast if you manage to grow it with counters. Blinkmoth helps both offense and defense, and opponents might miss its second ability which becomes relevant if you have multiple in play.

Common Interactions

Lurrus of the Dream Den MTG card art by Slawomir Maniak

Lurrus of the Dream-Den | Illustration by Slawomir Maniak

Some interactions are very intuitive while others are more difficult to spot if you haven’t played with the deck or haven’t seen it in action. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered:

  • Prioritize putting your counters on Esper Sentinel against non-creature spell-heavy decks like Izzet Phoenix.
  • Place your counters on lifelink creatures like Arcbound Mouser against creature-heavy decks; it’ll help you win the race.
  • When moving counters between creatures when they die, prioritize other creatures with modular since they’ll add up each time one dies.
  • Most players miss that Blinkmoth Nexus has a second ability. This can be key in scenarios where only one creature can attack or defend since the second copy of a Blinkmoth can pump the first and make math tricky for your opponent.
  • Blinkmoth’s first ability allows it to activate itself. This is key when you pump your whole team with Steel Overseer, so try not to miss this.
  • Unless you’re trying to push more damage on a turn, save your Steel Overseer activations for instant speed on your opponent’s turn to make math difficult for them, especially in a board stall.
  • Lurrus of the Dream-Den’s ability allows you to bring creatures back from the graveyard, but remember that Stonecoil Serpent’s mana value can’t be greater than X=2.

Sideboard Guide

Grafdigger's Cage - Illustration by Daniel Ljunggren

Grafdigger’s Cage | Illustration by Daniel Ljunggren

The main deck plan is straightforward and you should be good as long as you stick to the common interactions guide. You’re just placing counters on your creatures and moving them around when they die. That being said, one of the trickiest parts of this deck comes when it’s time to sideboard against other lists since you don’t want to mess with the deck’s structure and its core pieces too much.

But don’t worry, I got you. I’ll go over how you need to sideboard against the most common archetypes here, but don’t forget that sideboarding must be done based on what you see between games. These are general guidelines to help you better consider your options.

Aggro Matchups

The key against other aggro decks like Gruul and mono black is outgrowing your opponent and not letting them go wider than you do. Luckily you’re somewhat resilient to removal since it’s not great with your modular creatures that can move counters between each other.

As I mentioned earlier, putting counters on your lifelink creatures is essential. Try to protect them the most you can. You need to race your opponent on the play so try to mulligan hands with cards that don’t add a lot of value to the battlefield like Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp and The Ozolith. You’ll be on the defense for the first couple of turns on the draw so trade creatures when you need to.

Stonecoil Serpent is perfect against Gruul since the deck tends to run a lot of multicolored creatures. That being said, be careful with Bonecrusher Giant since it can kill small Serpents and it won’t be protected from multicolored creatures thanks to the Giant’s Stomp spell. This usually happens when you’re blocking, so keep that in mind.

Take out The Ozolith and replace it with an extra copy of Declaration in Stone, especially if you’re facing token decks. Scavenging Ooze comes in against decks that use the graveyard (some of the black decks do).

Gruul, Collected Company, & Green Decks

In

+1 Scavenging Ooze, +2 Dromoka’s Command, +1 Declaration in Stone

Out

-2 The Ozolith, -2 Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp

Mono Black, Rakdos Arcanist, & Graveyard Decks

In

+2 Scavenging Ooze, +1 or 2 Grafdigger’s Cage, +2 Dromoka’s Command

Out

-2 The Ozolith, -1 or 2 Steel Overseer, -2 Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp

Control Matchups

These are mostly long and grindy matches, especially if you’re up against Jeskai. The key is to put just the exact amount of pressure on the table so you don’t get punished too harshly from board wipes.

Esper Sentinel is your best creature in this match by far since your opponent can’t ignore it. Otherwise, you’ll outvalue them. Stonecoil Serpent is also excellent since it avoids most of control’s removal spells in the format like Prismari Command and Lightning Helix.

Man lands and The Ozolith will also play a role in these games so try to protect them as much as you can. Only activate them when you think your opponent doesn’t have the removal for them.

You want to bring cards to go wide post-sideboard. Animation Module and Ranger Class are key. On the other hand, Steel Overseer is too slow against most control decks so the exchange between these should be clear.

In

+2 Ranger Class, +2 Animation Module

Out

-4 Steel Overseer

Other Matchups

Reanimator and combo strategies like the ones using Tibalt’s Trickery are somehow prevalent in the current metagame. You need to be prepared to face them. Your best cards here are Drannith Magistrate and Containment Priest, and Grafdigger’s Cage can see some play if your opponent uses the graveyard.

Dromoka’s Command is excellent against enchantress matchups, so consider bringing it in if the opportunity presents itself. The ideal cut in these situations would be The Ozolith or Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp. Take a look at them as your first option to slide out.

Wrap Up

Conclave Mentor - Illustration by Raoul Vitale

Conclave Mentor | Illustration by Raoul Vitale

Hardened Scales is an entertaining deck to play. It involves a lot of thinking and plays to get used to it. The more you play it the more you’ll like it and the better you’ll get at playing it.

I hope you have as much fun as I did if you test this deck out. Don’t forget to let me know how it performed for you in the comments and which changes you’d make to improve it. Oh, and make sure you grab Arena Tutor if you’re playing on MTGA a lot and want a free app to track your matches.

As always, take care and have a good one!

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