Modern Rules Problems – Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle is recent addition to Modern – it was banned fairly early on after the format was created, but it was unbanned about a year ago. Once unbanned, it immediately became a popular deck, usually involving Scapeshift and/or Prismatic Omen to quickly assemble lethal damage for the opponent. With this article, we’re going to go through some of interactions you might see involving Valakut at your next Modern tournament.


Valakut and Shocklands

Valakut triggers when you play a Mountain and you control five other mountains. The name doesn’t matter, having the land subtype “Mountain” is what matters. This is why shocklands like Stomping Ground work well in the deck. Since Stomping Grounds count as a Mountain (as well as other types), having it enter the battlefield under your control will cause Valakut to trigger as long as you control enough Mountains.


Valakut and Prismatic Omen

When we check for enter the battlefield triggers, we look at how the card looks on the battlefield. In the case of the Omen, it will make your lands Mountains (as well as other basic land types) before we check to see if Valakut will trigger. This is why Valakut and Prismatic Omen combo well together: once you’ve reached five lands, any other lands you play with the Omen on the battlefield will cause Valakut to trigger (even if the new land you just played is Valakut).


Valakut and Scapeshift

This is where things start to get fun. When Scapeshift resolves, you sacrifice any number of lands you control, then search your library for that many lands and put them onto the battlefield. The lands enter the battlefield at the same time, so they will see each other entering the battlefield if needed. So if you sacrifice seven lands and search for a Valakut and six Mountains, each Mountain will see that you control five other Mountains when it enters the battlefield and  Valakut will trigger a total of six times (once for each Mountain) for a total of 18 damage.


Valakut and Land Destruction

So, looking at the paragraphs above, Valakut seems to be a powerful card, with some powerful interactions. But it’s not unstoppable. For instance, Valakut’s triggered ability has an intervening if. That means that Valakut checks the number of Mountains you control two times: to see if the ability should trigger in the first place, and again when the trigger goes to resolve. If the condition is no longer true when the trigger goes to resolve, then nothing happens when the trigger resolves. That means if, between the ability being added to the stack and the ability resolving, that player loses some Mountains, the ability won’t do anything when it resolve.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you have a Tectonic Edge on the battlefield, and I cast Scapeshift, sacrificing seven lands, and searching out a Valakut, four Stomping Grounds, and two Steam Vents. This causes Valakut to trigger a total of six times. Tectonic Edge can stop most of the damage. You don’t want to destroy Valakut, because Valakut’s triggered ability exists independent of the source that made it. No, what you want to do is destroy one of the other lands that just entered the battlefield. Since each trigger will check to see if you control five other Mountains when the trigger goes to resolve, by destroying one of the lands, you can prevent most of the triggers from resolving (the Valakut trigger from the land you destroyed will still resolve, however, since I still control five other Mountains when the trigger resolves).


Valakut and Blood Moon

And just for fun, let’s look at Valakut and Blood Moon. You think that Valakut would love Blood Moon, since the Moon makes nonbasics into Mountains. However, Blood Moon goes a little too far for Valakut’s own good. Blood Moon will cause Valakut to lose all abilities and just has the ability to tap for red mana, so playing Mountains would not cause Valakut’s ability to trigger, since it doesn’t have that ability anymore.


And that’s it for my analysis of Valakut. Join me next time when we flash back to our favorite blue two drop, Snapcaster Mage.

Written by Nathan Long

Written by Nathan Long


Nathan Long
DCI Level 2 Judge