How to beat modern scam

How to Beat Modern Scam

Michael RappModern

The metagame varies greatly at any given Regional Championship Qualifier, but there is one constant: Scam players will be there. The density of this deck may change, but assuming those players are practiced, they’ll likely be floating around the top tables. So today, we’re going to teach you how to beat Modern Scam.

Given that, there are two schools of thought when it comes to preparing for a tournament. Either play a deck that is strong against an unknown field or play a deck that lines up well against what you anticipate the stronger players will bring. And chances are, if you’re reading this, you fall into the second camp (otherwise you’d probably be playing Scam yourself)! 

The good news is there are a few meta decks that will be ahead of Scam, on paper, while offering a fighting chance in an open field. Let’s take a look at some lists I think are your best bet for scamming the scammers.


Creativity deck list in Modern
Full deck list here.

Through the later parts of 2022 and early 2023, Creativity was firmly in the “decks to beat” camp. It has fallen off since the release of The Lord of the Rings, as Creativity simply hasn’t received much in the way of new cards when compared to other Modern powerhouses. 

However, Creativity is back on the menu — or at least it has been on Magic Online, which is a hotbed of Scam at the moment. That’s because while Scam is good at going over the top of the opponent early with explosive turn one plays, it can struggle if opponents either deal with that first threat or re-raise the stakes. 

Creativity possesses both qualities. Leyline Binding and Teferi, Time Raveler are both strong when it comes to answering an elemental that was cheated into play, while Archon of Cruelty goes way over the top of what Scam is doing. 

It is important to note that much of Scam’s creature interaction is tied up in Fury. And while it’s incredibly powerful in general, the card is weak against instant speed effects. The play pattern of using a fetch land to make a Dwarf with Dwarven Mine on the Scam player’s end step, then untapping and doing that again before playing an Indomitable Creativity for X = 2 is almost always lights out against Scam. 

Orcish Bowmasters is good at combating the Dwarf tokens if the Scam player can get enough pressure to force a Creativity for one, but in most games, Creativity can buy enough time to wait for a spot to go for two or more. 

Creativity is also an inherently powerful deck that can punish weaker decks, draws that stumble or hands without a strong plan. That means it’s a strong choice for an open room, as it will do well against the wide variety of decks that you see at the RCQ level. 


Timmer Time deck list in Modern
Full deck list here.

Hammer Time shares the pseudo instant speed kill that Creativity can create when playing against Scam, but this time Sigarda’s Aid is the name of the game. 

Not only does this enchantment turn every creature into a legitimate threat, but it is also difficult for Scam to remove. Meanwhile, Surge of Salvation and Giver of Runes really tax the removal spells out of Scam, often demanding that they have the ability to play multiple in the same turn to actually get anything off the battlefield. 

Otherwise, Urza’s Saga is huge in the Scam matchup, as it can give you an edge in whatever game plan is best for the moment. Scam tends to operate not necessarily in a traditional one for one style, but they do keep a similar ratio of cards exchanged. 

Getting two creatures and a bonus treat out of Saga often forces Scam to dump a lot of their cards to clean things up, which means a second one will likely close the door. On top of getting Hammer ahead in fair games, Saga also operates as two-thirds of the combo at a speed Scam doesn’t handle well. 

Making a Construct on the Scam player’s end step before searching up a Colossus Hammer to equip with a Sigarda’s Aid or Puresteel Paladin makes sure you’re insulted from most of Scam’s creature interaction. Inkmoth Nexus poses a similar threat if Sigarda’s Aid is in play, because every attack could be lethal since they can’t block Nexus. 

Hammer, much like Creativity, is good at beating Scam while maintaining a play style that is powerful against even the most unexpected strategies in the room.


Coffers deck list in Modern
Full deck list here.

Mono Black Coffers can’t go under Scam (like Hammer can) and doesn’t have a tough-to-interact-with combo like Creativity. But what it does do well is go way over the top of Scam. 

March of Wretched Sorrow is a way to both clear out an early Scam threat while gaining enough life to stabilize long enough to start making tons of mana with Cabal Coffers. Speaking of Cabal Coffers, Scam tends to be strong because, thanks to free spells, it has a much higher action economy than most other decks. Coffers may not have free spells, but Cabal Coffers + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth makes enough mana that its action economy skyrockets far above even what Scam can accomplish. 

Karn, the Great Creator also poses quite the issue for Scam, not only because it gets to wish for the best artifact in the sideboard at any given moment, but it often gets to do it twice. Not only does that put Coffers ahead on cards, but those cards are incredibly powerful. Wurmcoil Engine, Cityscape Leveler, and Ensnaring Bridge are just a few of the tough to beat options. 

Oh, and Scam isn’t particularly good at dealing with artifacts, either. That also means The One Ring, which is played in heavy numbers, also puts in work against Scam. Not only will The One Ring bury Scam in card advantage, but thanks to the mana Cabal Coffers creates, those extra cards can all be played quickly.  

Coffers is an excellent choice if you expect a lot of other midrange decks, as it is better at fighting those fights than many of the other options. However, if you anticipate a lot of combo decks, it may be wise to look elsewhere. 


Rhinos deck list in Modern
Full deck list here.

In my experience, both sides of the Scam vs. Rhinos matchup think they are favored. That is likely because Scam has the tools to win the match, and because of the deck’s explosive nature of Scam, many of the games it wins aren’t going to look close. 

However, I still fall on the Rhinos side of things. Even if I believe the above points are true, Rhinos will win more than it loses over an extended sample. 

Rhinos simply overwhelms the Scam player, often putting multiple sets of two 4/4 tramplers into play — all while having enough early interaction to handle Ragavan and Dauthi Voidwalker effectively. Fury is good enough at answering Rhinos, but it’s one of the only cards that can keep pace with Crashing Footfalls. Subtlety is also extremely well positioned right now and great against Scam. Savvy Rhinos players will have a lot of copies of Subtlety in the deck.

Rhinos is a great deck in its own right and is genuinely a strong choice for RCQs, as it punishes stumbles and mistakes quite easily. Being ahead against Scam is just free equity in these local level events.

Hardened Scales

Hardened Scales deck list in Modern
Full deck list here.

Hardened Scales, even before it got a pile of new, good cards, has a history of beating up on removal heavy midrange decks. Modular laughs in the face of Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push by simply shifting the power somewhere else. Meanwhile, The Ozolith accomplishes a similar goal of invalidating removal spells, and we haven’t even gotten to Welding Jar

Like Coffers, Hardened Scales aims to beat up on Scam with artifacts and enchantments they will struggle to get off the battlefield — and all of them compound the power of their creatures. Agatha’s Soul Cauldron, in particular, is a new addition that put Hardened Scales back on the map and happens to be incredibly powerful against decks that rely on removing opposing creatures. 

Giving all of your future creatures the abilities of Arcbound Ravager or Walking Ballista is going to make life difficult for Scam, which needs to win the game via creature combat. And Urza’s Saga presents its own complications given the Constructs Hardened Scales decks produce are some of the largest Modern can muster.

That said, Scales is a tricky deck that takes time to master. Just be sure to get some practice in beforehand. When played well, Hardened Scales poses a nightmare for Scam outside of their very best draws with early copies of Dauthi Voidwalker and Fury.

End Step

Hopefully if you’re looking to spike an RCQ (or are just sick of Scam) this has helped you find your weapon of choice. Playing a deck that both beats Scam and also stands up to a bunch of other decks is important, which is why I narrowed down the list to the above five options. Any of these should give you a good chance at taking down your next tournament. 

As always, you can find me on Twitter @RappaciousOne or on BlueSky at for questions, comments or feedback. Best of luck this weekend in any events you may play, and I’ll see you back here next week!