So Death’s Shadow is pretty neat, huh? Since Gerry T, Sam Black, and Josh Utter-Leyton killed Grand Prix Vancouver with a then little known Jund variant, the undercosted, super powerful innocuous little black rare that could soon took the Modern landscape by storm. It has been through a TON of variants over these past many months. Since the card’s core set of cards is not only very powerful, but just a small package of cards, specifically just Death’s Shadow, Thoughtseize, and Street Wraith, we’ve seen almost every variant perform well in this modern metagame.
We’ve seen the likes of Abzan, Jund, and the currently de facto best deck in Modern, Grixis as the main, most popular colors of the archetype, while seeing Esper and Sultai is not uncommon, as well as four color variants. The strength of the cards, and the synergies between the package I mentioned as well as how well fetch and shocklands work with that core means, much like delver decks in Legacy, as long as you’re touching that main color (in this case black), the other cards in your deck don’t matter much.
With this rise of the Death’s Shadow decks, we’ve seen the Modern metagame shift. Traditional tron variants have been replaced by Eldrazi Tron as the de facto big mana deck, we’ve seen decks like Affinity and Dredge, decks that are able to fight the rise of Death’s Shadow come back in a big way, while we have seen the decline of slower midrange decks like Abzan and Jund, as well as the decline of slower combo decks that rely on hand size or resolving a critical spell like Ad Nauseam.
Even one of my favorites, Bant Eldrazi, has fallen out of favor due to the cheap interaction, discard, and swift threats that Death’s Shadow decks are able to push out onto the battlefield.
While we may have seen the Grixis Death’s Shadow decks peak before GP Las Vegas showed us what a hostile metagame for Grixis looks like, while it was on its way up, we saw some other flashes of brilliance that were able to fight against the deck, sometimes with style. Today I want to talk about one of those decks.
Now, for some inexplicable reason, Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, and their gaggle of groupies have a special place in my heart. Whether it be Matter Reshaper, Eldrazi Displacer, or Wasteland Strangler, they’re always palling around together, and they make my heart feel warm and fuzzy. I’m not sure why. I have played my fair share of Grixis Death’s Shadow, and I do love that deck. It has some of my favorite cards. But it doesn’t have these Eldrazi. Lo and behold, while they aren’t able to take part as much in Bant Eldrazi these days, there’s another party for them, and Karn isn’t invited.
Joe Soh Grand Prix Kobe 2017
On the surface, you can probably see how this can fight Death’s Shadow. Between the cheap removal, kinda sorta big threats, and Lingering Souls, Death’s Shadow has some fits here. While it looks like a mish-mash of just good removal and some sub-par creatures, it is actually a pretty amazing little deck. I think since Fatal Push had been revealed, people had been talking the B/X deck that can run 4 Fatal Push next to either 4 Lightning Bolt or 4 Path to Exile.
I have also been on the hunt for a deck that is able to play Rest in Peace or just general graveyard hate with as little downside for me as possible. I think that the Eldrazi creatures are a perfect place for this sort of approach to the metagame, and with that in mind, this color combination along with the way this deck is built feels like a surgeon’s scalpel being applied to the current metagame.
Other appeals to this deck, at least for me, is that it’s inexpensive, to play both in paper and online, which is something I’ve been wanting to try to get into more and more, especially with the new changes to the PTQ system on Magic Online. It is also difficult to sideboard against. You’re a Lingering Souls deck, while having some colorless creatures in your deck, with big fat hasty dudes and little guys while you’re taking apart your opponent’s hand.
You also get to run some of the most powerful cards in Modern like Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, Fatal Push, Path to Exile, and Collective Brutality as well as strong sideboard cards like Rest in Peace and Stony Silence.
It feels like playing Abzan without so many color requirements, and without all of these creatures that just die to Fatal Push.
I’ve been running this on some leagues online, especially after I saw it go 5-0 a couple times, as well as top 16 the SCG Open in Charlotte, kind of somewhat under the radar. I think one strength to this deck at the moment is that people see Swamps and Plains in the same deck with some Eldrazi, and dismiss the deck as one of those Eldrazi and Taxes decks, but that’s not what this is. This is a much less creature centric but still midrange deck that utilizes the Eldrazi as value pieces rather than as the top end of a curve.
In my adventures with this deck online, I’ve been able to 3-2 and 4-1 my first and second leagues respectively. The mana can be a bit wonky sometimes, for instance typically in Bant Eldrazi, if you had a draw with a single Eldrazi Temple and a Thought-Knot seer, you most likely would play the temple as your first land in case you hit another Temple, you could Thought-Knot on turn 2. In this deck, the mana is stretched a bit more early on, so you would be more inclined to play your Concealed Courtyard on turn 2 rather than your Eldrazi Temple.
This doesn’t mean the deck can’t get busted Eldrazi draws though. Inherent with the deck’s build, you do get the occasional turn 2 Thought-Knot Seer, turn 3 Reality Smasher draws that can just win games out of nowhere, so the free wins are not lost in this deck.
One card that I’ve been extremely surprised with how well it works in this deck is Smuggler’s Copter. I’m running a pair in my most current list as a way to attack with evasion, which is important against Death’s Shadow, as well as find relevant spells, since this deck is apt at flooding sometimes. When paired with Lingering Souls, the card is just a blast.
Here is what I’m currently running, and I’m 3-0 in my current league:
I’m really happy with this list at the moment. Swapping the Mutavaults out for Ghost Quarters has been a real boon. It has helped in not only the Tron matchups, but also against matchups with either a lot of man lands, like Affinity, or with few basic lands, like the Death’s Shadow decks, especially when you can hit their red sources to keep them from casting things like Terminate, Kolaghan’s Command, Anger of the Gods, and Lightning Bolt. Bringing in Aven Mindcensor from the board complements this strategy as well.
Mirran Crusader is incredibly strong in the format in general. I’ve brought it in against so many decks and haven’t really been disappointed. Not only is it good against the obvious Death’s Shadow decks, but it’s good against Fatal Push/Tarmogoyf decks as well as Collected Company decks, too. It’s just been a beast almost every time I’ve brought it in.
I’m still testing the flex slots, obviously the mana base can be tweaked. Soh won the GP with 4 Mutavaults, I’m playing 4 Ghost Quarter, and I’ve seen lists with 4 Cavern of Souls as well. You can really customize it to include whichever lands you want that aren’t completely unreasonable. The flex slots I’m testing are currently Eldrazi Displacers. They seem pretty ok, but not great. I’ve seen everything in that slot from Matter Reshaper, to Blight Herder, to even Glory-Bound Initiate.
This archetype is relatively new, especially in this metagame. While it seems exceptional in the current metagame, I’m not sure how it will fare if the metagame shifts. I imagine that all of the delightful white sideboard cards won’t stop being relevant, and the black cards are just great, and Eldrazi are just amazing. If you’re looking for a midrange deck to play that’s very good in the current metagame, or are looking for an inexpensive midrange deck that doesn’t need a ton of fetchlands, or Tarmogoyfs, or Liliana of the Veil, or if your Bant Eldrazi deck is just collecting dust and you don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for Chalice of the Void, this is certainly a strong, rewarding deck that can, you know, win a Grand Prix.
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