After recently losing a whole bunch of matches with Modern Storm, I found myself wanting to pilot a Modern deck that I knew inside and out – and that I could actually WIN with. So I sleeved up my “innovative” Blue-Black Death’s Shadow deck … with just a few changes.
Turns out, Death’s Shadow pilots have been working toward even more streamlined versions of the deck while I’ve been dorking around with Storm and Magic Arena. And while I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) incorporate every change I found, some of them seemed like significant upgrades to my Blue-Black brew.
Opt-ing for Mishra’s Bauble
First up, after months of skepticism, I decided to fit Mishra’s Bauble into my list. I figured the 85% of players who have now put Mishra’s Bauble in their Grixis Shadow decks are likely on to something, and that Bauble would play better than I expected.
When I’ve asked other pilots what they like about Mishra’s Bauble, they’ve told me that a) it helps them cast Gurmag Anglers faster, and b) being able to look at the top card of either player’s deck is actually quite relevant. The first point made sense to me, but it’s only after having played with Bauble that I’ve come to understand how strong the “look at the top card” effect actually is.
Using a Bauble on your opponent pre-Thoughtseize allows you to make better discard decisions, as you now know what your opponent will draw next turn. Also, using a Bauble on yourself with a fetchland in play allows you to Scry bad cards away for zero mana. These interactions make Bauble more than just cheap graveyard fuel for early Gurmag Anglers – Mishra’s Bauble has some real play to it, and has more than justified its inclusion over Opt.
Down One Snapcaster, Up One Jace
I do not entirely understand what role Jace is supposed to play in the now super-streamlined Grixis Death’s Shadow deck. Assuming Jace survives, he WILL generate some value, yes. But the most recent versions of Grixis Shadow seem intent on killing opponents quickly in Game One. Jace does not help the deck kill quickly, and he does not help the deck find or deploy more threats (especially since most versions have cut Opt and Serum Visions). At best, Jace flashes back removal and discard spells while MAYBE threatening to ultimate.
Before the “two Jace” Grixis lists began popping up, I was playing one Liliana, the Last Hope and four Snapcaster Mages in my Dimir list. Now, I’ve swapped one Snapcaster for one Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, in an attempt to figure out what all the fuss is about.
So far, I haven’t. Instead, I’ve mostly wished that Jace was still the fourth Snapcaster Mage, so I’d be able to flash back Stubborn Denial as well as Fatal Push and Thoughtseize. I definitely won’t be slotting a second Jace in over Liliana, though I’m willing to give the first copy a few more matches to impress me.
Why Play Land When You Can Play Stubborn Denial Instead
Back in my day, we played 19 lands in our Death’s Shadow decks, and we liked it!
Just kidding – I haven’t played 19 lands in my Death’s Shadow decks for awhile now. 18 lands felt like a good number to me a few months ago, but most pilots have now moved down to 17.
After thinking about this change for a bit, I realized that most Shadow decks now play only 3 or 4 three-mana spells. Back when we were all chaining Kolaghan’s Commands into Snapcaster Mages, 19 lands was likely correct. And when the deck was still playing all four Snapcasters and maybe even one Kommand, 18 was likely right.
But now that we’re all playing three (or less!) Snapcasters, 17 lands could be correct. So I’ve switched to playing 17 lands. So far, I haven’t felt pinched on mana. I’ve still been able to cast my Liliana, the Last Hope on time and Snapcast back Hieroglyphic Illumination in drawn-out matches. I suspect that playing only two colors makes this particular change even easier for me, as I don’t have to worry about sequencing my fetchlands correctly or anything like that.
And what, you may ask, took the place of that 18th land? Why, the fourth copy of Stubborn Denial, of course. Stubborn Denial is very good, so I’m not surprised to see that more people are now playing all four copies in their main deck.
And Finally, a Truly Artful Dodge
Listen – Devour in Shadow was good. Not universally good, not always good, but good. It was dead a few times; it won games a few times. My testing with that card is not over.
But for now, I want to try something else. Which is why I’ve traded in my two copies of Devour in Shadow for one more Fatal Push … and one Artful Dodge.
Artful Dodge is Dimir Death Shadow’s Temur Battle Rage. Or rather, it’s as close to Battle Rage as we’re going to get. Dodge cuts through board stalls and big creatures just as well as Battle Rage does, though it’s obviously less explosive. There’s no way to win in just one attack with Artful Dodge.
For that reason, I do not think Dodge is nearly as good as Battle Rage. However, it does have a couple things to recommend it.
First off, Artful Dodge is cheap. At just one Blue mana, Dodge allows you to cast it and have mana in reserve for Stubborn Denial or even Snapcaster-Stubborn. Second, Dodge can be cast from the graveyard without any assistance from Jace or Snapcaster Mage. I’ve ALREADY lived the Artful Dodge dream of discarding it to Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy early, then flashing it back to attack past an opponent’s Primeval Titan later. Now THAT’S value.
That said, I won’t be surprised to find myself back here in a month or two, writing the words ” … and that’s why I cut Artful Dodge.” Dodge could be just what Dimir Death’s Shadow needs, or it could be garbage. I haven’t played with it enough to find out.
You can bet that I’ll be back with a more detailed report as I test all these changes! For now, here’s a picture of my current decklist, which you can also check out (with comments and my match history) at TappedOut.
Until next time, may you keep experimenting with your own brew!