Death’s Shadow: Modern’s New Nemesis

If you’ve been keeping up on recent Modern events, be it paper or MTGO, you have probably noticed the dramatic increase in Death’s Shadow decks. The “suicide aggro” deck based around the card existed back in the Gitaxian Probe era, and even had some success, but was nowhere near as prevalent as the current iterations are. For the first time in memory the most popular Jund colored deck is not the typical lightning bolt, Dark Confidant build, but an extremely mana efficient Delirium Death’s Shadow build.

Traverse the Ulvenwald

Unlike the Midrange/Control Jund decks of the past, this new version takes a much more proactive approach. Tearing your opponents hand apart with the full 8 copies of premium discard in the format followed by an early Death’s Shadow, or super powered Tarmogoyf, is the usual game plan. Traverse is an amazing addition to this shell as it almost always doubles as a threat since delirium is so easily achieved, but can always grab a land in a pinch as well. My favorite interaction is tutoring for a Ghor-Clan Rampager when you have a lethal threat and need to push through chump blockers with trample. It really doesn’t come up that often, but having that option in your back pocket can be game winning.

After giving this version a few runs on MTGO leagues I can see why it has become so dominant. As we all know, modern is an extremely fast format and mana efficiency is key. Previous Jund decks were chock full of amazing cards, but often felt too clunky against the faster decks. This new version is overloaded on one drops and just feels so streamlined that it’s hard to go back. The success of this version has even sparked brewers testing the waters for Death’s Shadow in Grixis, and even Sultai shells.

Snapcaster Mage

This list may look familiar to some of you, and that’s because it largely resembles Grixis Delver. Instead of a one mana 3/2 flyer however, this version is more interested in a one mana 6/6 or 10/10. More discard and fewer counters are also a notable feature of this build. The one counter it did choose to run, Stubborn Denial, can do some serious work when you land a delve threat or a sizable Death’s Shadow though. Turns out 1 mana negate is pretty strong. When you aren’t on the Death’s Shadow plan, this list can still operate like a classic Grixis deck as well by answering threats, extracting value out of Snapcaster, and winning with the big delve creatures. This versatility is a really big draw in my eyes, and I’ve actually made the switch from Delver to this list when for when I’m in the mood for some Grixis action. I haven’t put enough reps in to know all of the good and bad matchups, but I’ve been having a blast with it so far.

The last Death’s Shadow build I want to just touch on is Sultai. This is by far the least popular of the three, but I have seen it show up a few times now. It’s almost like a hybrid of the previous two, incorporating some elements of delve and countermagic, but also utilizing delirium and keeping the Tarmogoyf count high.


Tarmogoyf – Modern Masters

If you are preparing for a modern tournament and looking for a new deck to play I highly recommend checking out some of these Death’s Shadow builds. Make sure to get in a decent amount of reps to get the sequencing down and start to grasp using your life total as a resource. The decks are relatively straight forward, but some interesting lines can come up and things like bolting or Tarfiring yourself to power out a Shadow is not an uncommon occurrence. Other niche things like traversing for a fetch to deal yourself 3, Kolaghan’s Commanding back a Street Wraith to draw and deal yourself an additional 2, or Mishra’s Baubling yourself before fetching as a mini scry to see if you want to draw the top card are just a few cool lines I can think of, but I’m sure there are countless more you will encounter.

Well that’s it for me this week, hope you enjoyed the read and make sure to follow me on twitch if you want to see some of these decks in action at

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Max Mitchell

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