Death's Shadow - The New Deck to Beat

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
2/22/2017 11:01:00 AM
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Death's Shadow could be broken.

The results of the player who played it this past weekend at Grand Prix Vancouver were nothing short of spectacular, with three players on the deck placing in the top four. This is the deck that anyone going into a Modern tournament right now should be gunning for. Those who thought this deck couldn't translate its success online to paper were clearly wrong. Traverse the Ulvenwald helps provide redundancy and makes it that much more likely you can get a Death's Shadow into play. The list I'm playing today is the one Josh Utter-Leyton won Grand Prix Vancouver with.

Part of what makes this strategy so powerful is it's difficult to metagame against. The eight discard spells mean that the Death's Shadow deck can take away removal spells it sees early, as well as break up an opposing combo deck. Discard plus cheap threats is the traditional recipe that makes this deck favored against combo decks. This deck really only needs to play one win condition to close the game out, and that is Death's Shadow. The cantrips like Street Wraith and Mishra's Bauble help provide more consistency to the game plan.

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Is Death's Shadow is the best deck in Modern? Based on results, it is, there is no getting around it. Modern has a ton of decks and viable strategies, and many of them have shifted as a result of the additions from Aether Revolt, along with the recent bannings. This is an example of how a deck can adapt after losing a card (in Gitaxian Probe), and come back stronger than ever. I would be surprised if there aren't talks about banning Death's Shadow if results like this continue.

As far as the games themselves, our draws didn't seem that great, yet we still were able to take all the matches down. Dredge is a deck that has clearly gotten worse as a result of Golgari Grave-Troll being banned, as we saw when our opponent tried to win with Life from the Loam, but the dredge three just didn't do enough. Eventually Death's Shadow plus Temur Battle Rage will get the job done here, and even with some bad removal spells in the matchup I like the Death's Shadow side.

Similarly, against Blue-Black Faeries the spot removal wasn't particularly important. Faeries isn't too popular, yet this is still a Modern deck to be aware of. The first game initially seemed pretty hopeless, but we ran hot to draw Death's Shadow and be able to take away our opponent's removal spell with a timely discard spell. This was a situation where we were able to ignore most of what our opponent was doing, as there were only a couple cards that truly mattered in the matchup. After sideboard, Lingering Souls felt great.

On another note, I stand behind the one land hand keep; the deck doesn't play many lands, so sometimes you need to make greedy keeps. Early discard spells provide something to do and make missing land drops more bearable.

Out of the three matches, the one against the Elves deck was definitely the strangest. Two of the games were lopsided, but the third game was a game of cat and mouse. Operating off of one land for an entire game and winning is something that is very rare, yet it did happen. Grafdigger's Cage shutting off Chord of Calling and Collected Company was key, but our opponent was clearly scared to attack us. This meant we were unable to play Death's Shadow, but at the same time we were given more time to draw out of a bad hand. Being able to use removal spells on the most important Elves meant eventually Death's Shadow simply outclassed the much smaller creatures the opponent was producing.

Thanks for reading,
Seth Manfield




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