Like I said last time, I’ve become part of the problem. I am a Shadow man.
Tournament reports are long and intros are boring. So let’s just hit it. Me and Grixis Shadow vs. the world: Round 1. Fight!
This is the decklist I battled with last Tuesday at Crazy Squirrel Games, where a crowd of 30(!) people showed up to play Modern. People’d brought a lot of Living End and a lot of Shadow, along with a bunch of other random goodness. I was hoping to dodge the mirror for at least one match, as I wanted to play the deck just once before getting out-skilled.
Round 1: Vs. Grixis Shadow
Yeah, the universe is just and merciful.
In Game 1, I kept an extremely greedy hand with a million one-mana action spells (Thoughts both Seize and Scour, plus more), two Street Wraiths and…no lands. In any other game (re: not the first game with a new deck), this hand is an immediate mulligan. But I wanted to test the deck’s resiliency and the limits of my own luck, so I kept it.
I cycled both Street Wraiths and did not find a land. Three more turns passed, and I did not find a land. I eventually found a Blood Crypt, which was the worst land I could’ve drawn outside of basic Swamp. Any Blue-producing land would’ve set me up to cast the cantrips in my hand, which could’ve then found more lands.
My opponent felt the opposite side of variance, ending the game with every mana-producing land in his deck in play. But he was still able to kill me before I could string any serious resistance together.
For Game 2, I sided out my Inquistion of Kozileks and three Street Wraiths. I reasoned that Inquisitions didn’t beat Delve threats, and discard could be a dead draw later in the game. Instead, I wanted to bring in value cards, like Painful Truths and my extra Kolaghan’s Command, to be able to fight in the late game.
I lost Game 2, but it was much more interesting. My opponent and I had a tense series of turns where he could’ve attacked with a Death’s Shadow, forcing me to chump block with my own Shadow or lose. But if I’d then drawn a removal spell for his Gurmag Angler, my own Angler would’ve been able to crack back for exactly lethal. My opponent drew more business spells over this series of turns, so he took the game.
After the match, I asked my opponent how he sideboarded. Our lines of thought were both very similar and very disparate, as we wanted to bring the same types of cards in, but we’d made different cuts. Where I’d cut Inquisitions, he’d cut Stubborn Denials. He reasoned that discard is still very good early and can also snipe some cards (like Denial) late. I’m not sure I agree, but I’ll try it out anyway next time I play the mirror.
Result: L (0-1)
Round 2: Vs. Eldrazi Tron
I knew this opponent, but I didn’t know what deck he was on. I’d spotted a Cavern of Souls as he shuffled up, so I thought he might still be playing Bant Eldrazi. But he then told me he’d had bad luck drawing the right spells with the right lands, which signalled that he was on Eldrazi Tron.
In Game 1, my opponent mulliganed to 5, and I kept a hand with a turn 1 Thoughtseize. He was leaning heavily on resolving a turn 2 Chalice of the Void, so I took it like a big ‘ol meanie. From there, the game wasn’t close, as my opponent only ever found two lands and was stuck with 4, 5, and 8-mana spells in hand.
For Game 2, I sided out all 3 Stubborn Denials and sided in all 3 Ceremonious Rejections. I thought about bringing in my third Kolaghan’s Command, but couldn’t find anything I wanted to cut for it. In retrospect, it’s possible I should have cut one Snapcaster Mage for the Command, as DraziTron’s Relics make Snapcasters a little worse than normal.
Game 2 went about the same as Game 1, although my opponent actually got to play some spells. I opened up with a Thoughtseize that revealed a hand of random lands, Matter Reshaper, All is Dust, and Ugin. My opponent didn’t have Tron or any way to assemble it, so I took the Reshaper. I figured I’d draw something (either another Thoughtseize or a Rejection) to deal with the other two spells before they came down. My opponent did manage to stick a Thought-Knot Seer on turn 3, but I had multiple Fatal Pushes ready to take care of it.
I ended up not drawing a clean answer to either All is Dust or Ugin, which left me in a bit of a sweat come turn 6. I planned to let my opponent eat both of my Gurmag Anglers with each of the two spells and then grab one back with Kolaghan’s Command.
Instead, my opponent played his cards such that Ugin was the only card left in his hand (playing out an Expedition Map to set up an eighth land for Ugin), so I sniped Ugin with Kommand and returned an Angler a turn early. That Angler carried the game, and I ended up not even needing to play the second one.
Result: W (1-1)
Round 3: Vs. UW Control
I knew this opponent and what he was playing, so I figured this match would be tough. The key would be sniping early removal with Thoughtseizes and Inquisitions, while sticking the landing via quick pressure and Stubborn Denials.
That plan worked exactly as I drew it up in both Games 1 and 3. My opponent drew just a couple too many lands, and I was able to assemble quick disruption and kills. I believe I killed on turns 5 and 4 in those games, respectively. In Game 3, I definitely raced a Supreme Verdict.
Game 2, however, was a little nuttier. I most definitely lost that game, and it was most definitely my own fault.
First off, I sideboarded incorrectly. For some reason, I decided to bring in my grindy sideboard cards (Painful Truths and the third Kolaghan’s Command), thinking I could use them to get back into a game where my opponent was able to take out my early threats.
This was wrong. The way Shadow wins this match-up (at least from my perspective) is to go under the UW Control deck. If they ever, ever stick a sweeper into a Gideon, we’re just done. My sideboarding plan should position me as a tempo-beatdown deck that closes the game early and mostly doesn’t care about trying to go late.
Secondly, I attempted to counter a Gideon using a Snapcaster’d Stubborn Denial when I did not control a creature with power 4 or more. My opponent simply paid the one extra mana, and the Gideon hit the board. Denial is a hard-counter in my head, because that’s what it’s always been when people play it against me. I need to disabuse myself of this notion quickly.
Thirdly, my opponent ended up with a chance to Detention Sphere away three Snapcaster Mages at once in Game 2, and he didn’t take it. He chose to Supreme Verdict instead. That seems insanely wrong, but maybe he was playing with new cards too…
Result: W (2-1)
Round 4: Vs. Blue Moon
I knew my opponent was on some form of Blue Moon (Editor’s Note: There’s not a recent list for Blue Moon on MTGGoldfish! Which is a shame because it’s a neat deck…), because I’d seen him play earlier. But in the spirit of the evening, I decided to handicap myself a little, because I wanted to see how the Grixis Shadow deck would do if it ran into this match-up blind.
So instead of fetching basic Island turn 1, like I could and should have, I fetched a Watery Grave. I did fetch myself a basic Swamp, because I figured I would’ve known my opponent was on Blue Moon by then, but Remand into Blood Moon locked me out of playing any Blue spells. I drew enough discard, Tasigurs, and Shadows to make it a game, but was eventually overwhelmed by Cryptic Commands. Which was only right and fair.
Thankfully, Games 2 and 3 broke my way. I sided out all of my removal spells, because I did not see any opposing creatures in Game 1, and I sided in counterspells, Nihil Spellbombs to weaken opposing Snapcasters, and the extra Kommand to blow up Vedalken Shackles and further disrupt my opponent’s game plan.
In Game 2, I worked around a turn one Relic of Progenitus and managed to stick a Tasigur on turn four (after trying and failing on turn three due to Remand). I backed that up with a Shadow and some Stubborn Denials (for Threads of Disloyalty), which closed the game pretty quickly.
Game 3 showcased the power of Thoughtseize and Inquistion. I started by taking my opponent’s best two spells, leaving him with only a useless Spell Snare and lands in hand. He didn’t really draw anything besides counterspells afterwards, which couldn’t answer my already-resolved Death’s Shadows.
Result: W (3-1)
I played relatively loosely and still took down three matches, which should sell you on the power of Grixis Death’s Shadow. Thoughtseize is the best card in Modern (an article for another day), and Grixis Shadow is a very good Thoughtseize deck. It disrupts well and kills quickly (while also punishing mulligans aggressively), meaning it’s not dead in the water against any deck, even its bad match-ups.
I’ll be playing Shadow exclusively over the next month or so, in prep for an August PPTQ at Crazy Squirrel. I have about five more weeks to tighten up my skills with the deck, and I’m not sure that’s enough time to get it done. But I’m going to do my best!
Check back here in two weeks for a discussion of the best Magic format ever: casual workplace Magic.