For as long as efficient pump spells have been legal, decks utilizing cheap threats have sought to abuse them. While primarily relegated to Death’s Shadow and Infect decks, recent additions have widened the space for other archetypes. Modern Horizons showcases a new pump spell promising to realign the format — Scale Up.

This pump spell gives many decks a redundancy not available before, while increasing the redundancy of Dreadhorde Arcanist. If you’re a fan of attacking for twelve damage on Turn 2, or being able to watch a movie before your next round starts, check out Gruul Scale Up — The Red/Green Infect deck.

I’ll be going over the individual card choices, as well as some general sideboard advice below. While there is no “other choices” section, the available pool of threats and pump spells is quite broad, so don’t be afraid to modify based on your metagame.

The Threats

Monastery Swiftspear | A Modern Staple since its printing in Khans of Tarkir, Monastery Swiftspear combines with pump spells and Mishra’s Bauble to quickly deal lethal to most opponents. The singular best creature in the deck, Monastery Swiftspear is reasonable on its own without any pump spells.

Soul-Scar Mage | A back up Swiftspear, Soul-Scar Mage gives Lightning Bolt the ability to permanent shrink opposing creatures. While this is worse than haste, it is a trick that comes up in post board games when paired with Gut Shot or Forked Bolt (in other builds).

Dreadhorde Arcanist | The final four of creature, Dreadhorde Arcanist allows for explosive turns by doubling up on powerful pump spells. While I’ve neglected to include Become Immense in this version, Arcanist can turn any powerful pump spell into an extra cast. This, when combined with trample of double strike, can kill most opponents in one turn. There are additional fringe uses for Arcanist — he can recast kill spells or Warriors’ Lesson to double up on draw effects. Additionally, you can recast a Surgical Extraction, and some versions can even cast a Ravenous Trap or Crashing Footfalls. In racing situations he can gain you loads of life off of Weather the Storm.

Blistercoil Weird | An unorthodox addition to the archetype, Blistercoil Weird serves as a pseudo-vigilant attacker that has a variation of prowess. While he won’t trigger off of Mishra’s Bauble, his effect still makes him just as aggressive an attacker as Soul-Scar Mage on most board states. I’ve chosen to play three copies instead of the Abbot of Keral Keep like most lists, valuing early kills more than longevity.

The Pump Spells

Blossoming Defense | An iconic pump spell from the days of Kaladesh Standard, Blossoming Defense serves as both protection and damage. With only fifteen creatures in the deck, protecting them is necessary, and the pump nature of Blossoming Defense forces opponents to play spells on their turn. While not the most damage for one mana, the utility provided can often spell defeat for slower opponents. Play four and don’t look back.

Scale Up | The primary reason to play the deck, Scale Up gives nearly any creature the ability to kill immediately. When paired with Reckless Charge or Assault Strobe, Scale Up can creature creatures capable of one shotting most opponents. Additionally, the interaction with prowess can cause a Monastery Swiftspear to deal seven points of damage on Turn 2, while enabling Dreadhorde Arcanist to cast cards like Become Immense (in other builds).

Reckless Charge | Another pick up in Modern Horizons, Reckless Charge gives the deck access to a competitive Haste tool. Decks like this often lose with hands that have only one pump spell, or to drawing creatures too late. Both haste and flashback mitigate these issues, contributing to explosive turns at every stage of the game. I would play no less than 3.

Mutagenic Growth | Rounding out the pump spells is likely the most powerful one. This free spell often represents a Lightning Bolt worth of damage for the small cost of two life. While not without its drawbacks (it’s quite mediocre when not paying two life), Mutagenic Growth contributes to the most explosive and aggressive draws. It can combine with Assault Strobe to kill as early as Turn 2 and often on Turn 3. I would only play 3 in Burn heavy metagames, but until that happens play 4.

Supporting Spells

Assault Strobe | Analogous to Temur Battle Rage for Death’s Shadow, Assault Strobe is a cheap double strike spell to close out games quickly. While being a sorcery requires information to be lost, the suite of prowess threats alongside a huge trampler in Dreadhorde Arcanist mitigates this. Additionally, it can be cast by Arcanist, splitting the double strike among two creatures for that final burst of damage.

Lightning Bolt | As discussed in other articles, Lightning Bolt is the most efficient burn spell in the format. Being able to slow down opposing aggressive decks, or giving crucial reach against removal spells, Lightning Bolt is the most important one drop in the archetype. The ability to flash it back with Dreadhorde Arcanist can yield large amounts of reach, and with eleven prowess creatures Bolt is sure to mean more than just three points of burn.

Mishra’s Bauble | An unconventional addition to Monastery Swiftspear decks, Mishra’s Bauble mostly serves as a free spell that can draw a card. With delayed draw it is worse than the currently banned Gitaxian Probe, but triggering one of the eight prowess creatures is enough merit for a slow cantrip. The full four copies are in this list, but I could see cutting one for a Warriors’ Lesson.

Warriors’ Lesson | As of now the primary flex slot in the list, Warriors’ Lesson does a similar job as Faithless Looting. It smooths out draws, and can even churn through the deck in the mid game. Where Lesson is better than Looting is in fast games. Lesson can draw you as many as four cards in a turn with just Arcanist and another creatures, though it is significantly worse on Turn 1. Still, I’ve included it due to the higher upside.

The Sideboard

Gut Shot | Another free spell, Gut Shot is most effective in metagames with Noble Hierarchs. With both Infect and Humans gaining ground, Gut Shot is another free spell to remain keenly aware of. I would play at least three.

Surgical Extraction | With an uptick in Bridgevine and other graveyard strategies, Surgical Extraction is at a premium. While less effective than exiling the entire graveyard, Surgical triggers prowess for free and can be cast from the graveyard with Arcanist. While not standard in most lists, I’ve included it due to the rise of Hogaak.

Ancient Grudge | One of the most effective anti artifact cards ever printed, Ancient Grudge makes the list over other options due to the easy to cast flashback. Additionally, Ancient Grudge helps this deck race by enabling prowess better than Shattering Spree. Add or remove as necessary.

Weather the Storm | A recent life gain addition to the Modern format, Weather the Storm allows Dreadhorde Arcanist to gain huge chunks of life. Use this against Storm, Burn, or any matchup where you are racing.

Force of Vigor | A recent Modern Horizons card, Force of Vigor gives this deck access to a free way to remove Chalice of the Void or Ensnaring Bridge, without sacrificing on tempo. Free spells tend to be among Magic’s most powerful tools, and one copy is well worth it.

Leyline of the Void | Increasingly a staple of Modern sideboards, Leyline of the Void is the most effective graveyard hate against the Hogaak Menace. While there is merit to Ravenous Trap due to Dreadhorde Arcanist, the immediate impact of Leyline of the Void edges out the powerful instant. Three copies is what I’ve started with, though a fourth can be added if needed.

Sideboarding Strategies

  1. Don’t board out creatures | The list is incredibly threat light, meaning that no creatures can really be taken out. Try to remove the weakest spells first.
  2. Board out a land on the draw | This deck lacks any sort of card advantage, but being on the draw means you can be greedier with your hands. Try boarding out a land on the draw in faster matchups.
  3. Don’t overboard | Like many synergy decks, this deck needs a critical mass of spells and creatures in order to win. As with Infect, boarding too reactive can leave you with insufficient pump spells to kill the opponent. Pay attention to how many cards you’re bringing in.
  4. Weather the Storm is for aggressive matchups, as well as some combo decks | Boarding in this powerful Instant singlehandedly swings aggressive matchups. Gaining upwards of 12-15 life for just two mana, Weather the Storm will invalidate much of the work your opponents have done, while serving as a useful sideboard card against Storm.

Thanks for checking out our Gruul Scale Up Deck Tech, and let us know what you want to see next in the comments below. You can follow me on Twitter at for more competitive content and brews.