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

like-us-on-facebook-mid-article-banner-ad-520x86

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

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 Twitch.tv/maxmitchell3001

like-us-on-facebook-mid-article-banner-ad-520x86

Green/Black Energy Rocks!

Back in my day G/B was lucky to scrape enough cards together to make one standard deck. In this current format, however, there are three distinct sub-archetypes: Aggressive Energy, Delirium, and Midrange. After tinkering around with all three versions and countless tweaks to each list, I finally settled on Energy as not only the most powerful, but also the most enjoyable to play. It definitely has the most potential for a “nut draw” out of any of the G/B variants, and often times a Winding Constrictor into any of the various +1/+1 token producers is just game. For being on the aggressive side the deck has a surprising amount of staying power if the game goes long and this is what really drew me in.

This past weekend I decided to sleeve this archetype up for a local PPTQ, and spoiler alert, I was able to take it down. This was extremely reassuring to me as I Have the RPTQ coming up, and the tweaks I had made to the “standard” list going around all played out well. I’m most likely going to run my same list back again, which is listed below.

Winding Constrictor - Aether Revolt

Winding Constrictor – Aether Revolt

Now I’ll quickly go over my changes, and my thought process behind them. First off, I decided to cut down to 2 Longtusk Cub, and replace them with 2 Gonti, Lord of Luxury. Longtusk Cub can lead to some of the most powerful starts, but in the late game its often a fairly bad top deck, and not particularly impressive in the mirror outside of turn 2. Gonti on the other hand is a house in the mirror, providing a must deal with body due to its deathtouch, as well as providing a free card to use later on. With the prevalence of the G/B mirrors this felt like a no brainer to me.

The other main change I made was to include 3 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar in the main deck over the more common 2 Aethersphere Harvester and an extra removal spell. I was never particularly impressed with Harvester outside of the Mardu matchup, where as Nissa is great in the mirror and versus control. There are very few ways to efficiently deal with planeswalkers in the format and she seemingly does it all. Her plus gums up the board in creature mirrors buying you time to assemble your forces or can threaten ultimate on a stable board. Her minus is also a huge game especially if you have out a Winding Constrictor, allowing your forces to immediately outclass your opponent’s. Against the control decks she also proves herself worthy by allowing you to deploy a threat that is difficult to deal with, and doesn’t lose to Wrath. Overall I’ve been very happy with her and could possibly even see adding the 4th copy.

Now for everyone’s favorite part of deck-tech style articles is the sideboarding guide. This deck does a great job post board at converting itself to matchups against whatever is thrown at it, with solid plans against Mardu, G/B mirrors, and various flavors of control.

Mardu Vehicles:

Out:
2x Gonti, Lord of Luxury
3x Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
2x Longtusk Cub

In:
2x Grasp of Darkness
2x Natural Obsolescence
2x Aethersphere Harvester
1x Murder

Jeskai Control/Saheeli

Out:
4x Fatal Push
2x Gonti, Lord of Luxury
2x Longtusk Cub

In:
3x Transgress the Mind
1x Lifecrafter’s Bestiary
2x Tireless Tracker
2x Ob Nixilis Reignited

G/B Mirrors

Out:
2x Longtusk Cub
1x Verduruous Gearkhulk
3x Glint-Sleeve Siphoner

In:
2x Grasp of Darkness
2x Tireless tracker
2x Ob Nixilis Reignited

4 color Saheeli

Out:
2x Gonti, Lord of Luxury
2x Fatal Push

In:
3x Transgress the Mind
1x Murder

That should just about cover all of the matchups you would expect to face in any competitive tournament or on MTGO. When facing a rogue deck, or brew just keep sideboarding to a minimum and try to curve out. Usually Gonti, Cub, and Fatal Push are the cards to look to if you’re having trouble narrowing the cuts down. Anyway, hope you enjoyed, and good luck to anyone sleeving the deck up in the coming weeks. I think it’s a great choice. Until next time!

MTGO: Mitchapalooza
Twitter: @Maxmitchell3000
Twitch: Maxmitchell3001

Weekly Ward Season 2 Ep. 07 – The PTQ Awakens

This week Kevin is joined guest host Max Mitchell as they discuss GP Pittsburgh, return of the PTQ and the upcoming GP Vancouver and SCG Baltimore.

New Set, New Bans, and New Brews

So I’ll just come right out and talk about the elephant in the room, the new standard bans. In case you are living under a rock, Emrakul, the Promised End, Smuggler’s Copter, and Reflector Mage just got the axe. It had been over five years since standard had seen a ban, and back then it was Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Stoneforge Mystic that got hit. Two insanely powerful cards that still pull their weight in legacy. While I don’t believe any of the standard cards that just got banned are on this level (Emrakul perhaps, but certainly not the other two), they were warping the format in a way Wizards deemed unappealing. I don’t want to get too much into the “why” because there are plenty of people that beat me to that, but rather the pros and cons of this precedent.

Pros:
-Wizards will be free to push the envelope on new card types (I.E. Vehicles) and mechanics, with the crutch that a ban can fix a problem should it arise.

-The new second ban update 5 weeks after the pro tour could lead to a “rolling” ban list, potentially unbanning cards already on the list, or banning new offenders (**cough** Saheeli Combo **cough**). This will help keep standard fresh and entertaining.

-The new cards will see more play and formerly oppressed decks will spring up.

-More diversity in the format

Cons:
-Consumers may be more hesitant to “invest” in 4 copies of that new $30 mythic when it may end up getting banned in the near future.

-Slightly less faith in the brand. May also be harder to keep up on standard especially for those with a smaller budget.

-Nerfing/destroying strategies you enjoyed.

That’s my short list I came up with on the fly, but I would love to hear any more you have in the comments section. I’m sure I’ve missed some. I personally think the pros far outweigh the cons here. I am even one of the people “hurt” most by the ban, since I owned 4 copies of copter, and Emrakul in both paper and MTGO. My decks of choice were even nerfed as I had the most success with U/W flash and R/G Marvel! That said, I understand how oppressive and not fun these cards could be and am totally on board with the bans. There’s nothing like a completely new standard environment to get the creative juices flowing. Which leads me right into my two rough draft brews for Aether Revolt Standard.

First up is the somewhat obvious choice of Jeskai “copycat” which utilizes the new Saheeli Rai/Felidar Guardian infinite combo in a controlling shell. While I believe there may also be a more midrange/tempo shell, I wanted to start with something that’s already established itself as a contender.

This list is definitely not perfectly tuned, especially the sideboard which is basically just a collection of 15 cards in our colors, but the main deck plan is definitely a viable one. I think this shell will definitely be a good starting point for standard. Now if control isn’t your thing, my other brew today is G/W tokens. Sram’s Expertise and Oath of Ajani seem like great additions to this strategy and I’m excited to give them a try. Here’s a preliminary list:

like-us-on-facebook-mid-article-banner-ad-520x86

Once again, this is a pretty un-tuned. There are so many competing choices in G/W it’s hard to choose what to play. Other two drops could include Selfless Spirit, Lambholt Pacifist, Walking Ballista and possibly even Heart of Kiran. Tireless tracker could be a worthy inclusion and collective effort might be a nice utility spell. I could see Verdurous Gearhulk being a more powerful 5 drop in this deck, but Avacyn is hard to cut. I think once we see how the metagame fleshes out, narrowing down card choices will be easier.

Lastly, we can’t forget to touch on modern. Gitaxian Probe and Golgari Grave-Troll were banned the other week as well. While the banning of these two cards won’t completely kill any strategies, it does nerf a couple of decks. Grave-troll clearly affects only dredge, but losing it is a pretty big hit to the deck. They will now have to play Golgari Thug as a replacement dredger which is considerably less explosive, and doesn’t offer the same plan B Grave-Troll did. When coupled with Cathartic Reunion and the Bloodghast/Amalgam Engine, it is still a powerful strategy Especially with people packing less graveyard hate. I think the deck will continue to exist in smaller numbers, but wont be enemy number one anymore. Gitaxian probe on the other hand, was widely played in a number of different strategies, but wasn’t exactly integral to any deck. Storm, Infect, Death Shadow Variants, Grixis Delver, and U/R Thing in the Ice all come to mind and each used it for different reasons. They all benefited from the cantrip and peek effect. These decks will now have to alter their configurations a bit, but I think most of them will bounce back. The Death Shadow and Thing in the Ice decks will probably have the hardest time though. Not only does losing the free spell and perfect info hurt, but the new card fatal push will be tough to beat, as it kills all of their threats for just 1 mana.

Speaking of Fatal push, I think this card is great and will make a big splash in modern. I’ve always been a huge fan of Abzan myself, and I think this will be the piece that finally makes it truly a contender with old trusty Jund. Here is what I’ll be starting with.

Two Fatal push seems like a safe place to start and depending on how well it performs and what the meta looks like, I will adjust accordingly.

That’s all from me for this week. If you are interested in watching me test some of these decks live, make sure to follow my twitch stream at twitch.tv/maxmitchell3001. Also, make sure to let me know what decks you are excited to play after Aether Revolt launches in either modern or standard! Good luck in any release weekend tournaments and until next time.

MTGO: Mitchapalooza
Twitter: @maxmitchell3000
Twitch: Twitch.tv/maxmitchell3001

Standard’s hidden Marvels

After the results from the last few GP’s and SCG’s you may be inclined to say this standard format is completely solved and there are only 2 real contenders: Blue/White Flash and Green/Black Delirium. Having played and been successful with both archetypes I was in that same camp until about a week ago. Around that time MTGO grinder, and legend “Jaberwocki” (twitch.tv/jaberwocki) was busy tuning the Green/Red Aetherworks Marvel deck for the standard championships, which he was able to take down handedly. Previous versions of this deck were more or less all in on the Aetherworks plan, and if that got disrupted you were dead in the water. This new version takes a more midrange approach and can easily play a fair game, while still having the potential to turn 4 “combo” and cheat out an Emrakul.

As you can see by the decklist, this is a considerable detour from the original Temur version that was made popular at the pro tour. The main innovation to this list is the Inclusion of Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Ishkana, Grafwidow in the main deck. Chandra really shines in this deck, and lives up to the hype she generated during spoilers. All 3 of her modes are extremely relevant at different stages of the game, but the most under-rated is the Rite of Flame ramp ability. This helps power out hard-cast Emrakuls or allows you to make multiple plays in one turn. It is also not trivial to ultimate her and generate an emblem, which usually ends the game on the spot. Lastly, her inclusion lets you attack opponents from another angle, diverting their resources while you set up your alternate win cons in Marvel and Emrakul. The fact she adds another card type to the graveyard is just an added bonus, making a hard cast Emrakul even more attainable. Ishkana is no slouch in this deck either. Not only does the legendary spider buy you a ton of time in the midgame, but often times is a big enough threat to just win on its own.

Interaction in the form of Kozilek’s Return and Harnessed Lightning are another feature of this list which really help to shore up the Blue/White Flash matchup, which was previously unwinnable. While it still isn’t my favorite deck to face, if they don’t have a perfect curve, our late game can steal wins. The added removal also does solid work against other creature decks like Vehicles and Red/Black Aggro.

Despite slowing down our “combo”, this list still has an insanely good matchup versus the Green/Black menace that has been dominating, and also just bully’s out the other fringe decks with our haymakers. The one archetype you really want to avoid with this deck is dedicated control. Counters are a nightmare to beat, but the saving grace is that post board we have a ton of must counter threats. You can put them to the test every turn making them have an answer, or potentially die. This style of deck is also not very popular at the moment, so that’s another point in our favor.

Now with such a straightforward game plan, I’m sure many of you are wondering how to sideboard without diluting our deck. Lucky for you I have compiled a sideboard guide for all of the popular matchups below.

U/W Flash

-2 Kozilek’s Return
-2 Tormenting Voice
-1 Emrakul, the Promised End
-1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
-1 Aetherworks Marvel
-1 Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot

+2 Tears of Valakut
+2 Natural State
+3 Tireless Tracker
+1 World Breaker

B/G Delirium (on draw)

-2 Kozilek’s Return
-2 Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot
-1 Tormenting Voice

+3 Tireless Tracker
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+1 Nissa, Vital Force

B/G Delirium (on play)

-2 Kozilek’s Return
-2 Harnessed Lightning
-1 Tormenting Voice

+3 Tireless Tracker
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+1 Nissa, Vital Force

Mirror and Control

-4 Harnessed Lightning
-2 Kozilek’s Return
-2 Tormenting Voice

+4 Tireless Tracker
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+1 Nissa, Vital Force
+1 World Breaker
+1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Mardu, R/W Vehicles

-1 Emrakul, The Promised End
-2 Tormenting Voice

+1 Kozilek’s Return
+2 Natural State

R/B Aggro

-1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
-1 Emrakul, the Promised End
-2 Tormenting Voice

+2 Natural State
+2 Kozilek’s Return

U/R Fevered Visions

-2 Kozilek’s Return
-2 Tormenting Voice
-1 Emrakul, the Promised End

+2 Natural State
+1 Appetite for the Unnatural
+1 World Breaker
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Well that should just about cover every deck you would expect to face. When in doubt, keep sideboarding to a minimum against rogue strategies and just rely on your main plan. Hope this article was educational and inspired some of you to pick the deck up and give it a spin. Once again just want to give a shout out to Jaberwocki (twitch.tv/jaberwocki) for coming up with the list and for help on the sideboarding. I will catch you all next time!