/ Modern

Innovations in Modern: Grixis Death's Shadow

Hello everyone, my name is Tim Tscheppe and I’m here to write about my favorite format: modern!

First, I’ll give a brief background about myself - I have been playing magic since M14, and was first introduced to the format via modern. I started playing competitively around Khans of Tarkir, and have been hooked on modern ever since.

DD20151201_icon--1-

History of the Deck

Death's Shadow, a card that's been in the format forever, came into its own in 2010. A 13/13 for one seems pretty good, but the drawback of having to be almost dead scared people away until then.

2018-02-07_21-49-19

Death's Shadow began to be slotted into hyper aggressive zoo builds that used cyclers such as Gitaxian Probe and Street Wraith in combination with pump spells to alpha strike opponents as early as turn 3. These decks were dubbed “Suicide Zoo” or "Suicide Blue”. This archetype eventually became a viable deck in the modern metagame, and finally Death's Shadow was believed to be solved.

On January 9, 2017, Gitaxian Probe was banned in Modern. Wizards explained that it increased the number of third-turn kills in a few ways, but particularly by giving perfect information (and a card) to decks that often have to make strategic decisions about going "all-in." This hurt the ability of reactive decks to effectively bluff or for the aggressive deck to mis-sequence their turn. Ultimately, the card did too much for too little cost. The ban effectively killed the archetype, as players had no way to know if the coast was clear to attack or not.

Death’s Shadow Jund

Many people still saw further potential in Death's Shadow, and realized that it could be good in a traditional Jund shell (which has a lot of incidental life loss already). The combination of Tarmogoyf and Death's Shadow backed by early discard and removal to clear the way was a potent strategy.

Tarmogoyf

To run even more threats (and to fuel Tarmogoyfs), cards that added to the amount of card types, mainly Mishra's Bauble and Tarfire were used in the deck alongside Traverse the Ulvenwald to run functionally 8 copies of Death's Shadow. This strategy boosted Death's Shadow Jund, or “DSJ”, to the top of the metagame.

A New Contender

With the glass-cannon esque deck of DSJ was at the top of the metagame, brewers tested blue as the tertiary color of the Death's Shadow core. This allowed for the deck to go grindy with Snapcaster Mage, and an additional card that could blank removal - Stubborn Denial. In place of the Tarmogoyf, the deck ran Thought Scour alongside delve fatties for additional haymakers.

Snapcaster-Mage

Most importantly, Grixis Death's Shadow was favored in the match against DSJ due to the sheer amount of disruption and grindiness with Snapcaster Mage, discard spells, and Stubborn Denial. This allowed it to become top tier, where it remains today.

Looking Forward

The modern metagame is dynamic and ever-changing, which breeds adaptation. One of the most recent innovations to Grixis Death's Shadow is combinations of Liliana planeswalkers in the the mainboard and sideboard, and Young Pyromancer as a two-of in the board.

Liliana-of-the-Veil

These planeswalkers can take over a game on their own if unanswered, and provide lots of value in an attrition based matchup like BGx or Control. Additionally, more than one type of Liliana can be on the battlefield at once thanks to the new planeswalker rule, providing a steady stream of value. The Young Pyromancers are an additional threat that will run away with the game quickly.

Finally, Liliana of the Veil can answer annoying anti-shadow cards such as Etched Champion and Mirran Crusader with her edict ability.

Wrapping Up

I'm currently on the following list, which utilizes the newer sideboard cards but still is super aggressive, running two Temur Battle Rage and two Dismember mainboard.

2 Blood Crypt
3 Bloodstained Mire
4 Death's Shadow 
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Fatal Push
2 Temur Battle Rage 
2 Inquisition of Kozilek 
2 Dismember 
1 Kolaghan's Command
1 Island
4 Polluted Delta
4 Serum Visions
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Steam Vents
4 Street Wraith 
3 Stubborn Denial 
1 Swamp
2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang 
4 Thought Scour 
4 Thoughtseize 
2 Watery Grave

2 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Young Pyromancer
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Collective Brutality
2 Liliana of the Veil
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Kolaghan's Command
2 Kozilek's Return
1 Terminate
1 Stubborn Denial

Grixis Death's Shadow has proven to be able to adapt to the metagame, and is now evolving to play with a strategy similar to traditional Jund. What do you predict will become a staple of the deck in the future? Feel free to share any thoughts or ideas with me on here or discord!