Death's Shadow

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Death’s Shadow is a midrange Modern deck. The deck loses life quickly and uses Death’s Shadow and other creatures to win through combat damage. Currently, Grixis is considered the best Death’s Shadow variant and is a top-tier deck.[1]

Strategy[edit | edit source]

Death’s Shadow is similar to other midrange decks in that it plans to win by playing efficiently costed creatures and attacking. What sets Death’s Shadow apart is that the namesake card comes with a drawback that forces its controller to lose eight or more life before it can even exist on the battlefield.

In order to quickly cast Death’s Shadow, decks are built with a number of different ways to lose life, namely fetch lands, shock lands, Street Wraith, and Thoughtsieze. The deck also made use of Gitaxian Probe before it was banned.[2]

The Grixis Death's Shadow build uses Thought Scour, other cantrips, fetch lands, and Street Wraith to fill its graveyard quickly so it can make use of the delve mechanic. Thus Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Gurmag Angler act as back-up threats alongside Death's Shadow.[1]

The Grixis build interacts with its opponent's deck using a mix of discard spells; removal spells; and Stubborn Denial, which is often Ferocious mode due to the high power of the deck's creatures. Snapcaster Mage is another common inclusion, allowing the deck to generate value in later turns by re-using its instant and sorcery spells.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

Zoo[edit | edit source]

Death’s Shadow emerged as a competitively viable deck in 2015 with the printing of Become Immense in Khans of Tarkir and Temur Battle Rage in Fate Reforged. MTGO user PTPaul created a Zoo-like deck that tried to use these cards in conjunction with Death’s Shadow and a host of aggressive creatures to kill the opponent as quickly as possible, ideally on turn three.[2]

In June 2016, Sam Black used a modified version of this deck to place within the top eight at Grand Prix Charlotte. His version of the deck cut Tarmogoyf and Tasigur, the Golden Fang from PTPaul’s build in favor of the more aggressive Monastery Swiftspear and main-deck Thoughtsieze.[2]

Jund[edit | edit source]

In January 2017, Gitaxian Probe was banned in Modern.[3] Although many assumed that this would be the end of Death’s Shadow,[2][4] the deck proved resilient. Even before the banning, players had been experimenting with a less aggressive Jund variant that used Tarmogoyf and Death’s Shadow as its only two finishers, and Traverse the Ulvenwald to tutor for these creatures.[2]

After the banning of Gitaxian Probe, this new build of Death’s Shadow had a dominating performance at Grand Prix Vancouver 2017, where three out of the top eight decks were Jund or other black/green Death’s Shadow variants.[5] Josh Utter-Leyton won the Grand Prix with the following Jund build (splashing white for several sideboard cards).[5][6]

Grixis[edit | edit source]

Eventually, Grixis builds of Death’s Shadow replaced Jund at the top tier of the format.[1]

Carson Peske finished third place at a Star City Games Modern IQ in Durham with the following Grixis build.[7]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c d Reid Duke. (December 28, 2017.) “Thoughtsiezes and Fatal Pushes, Part III: Grixis Death’s Shadow”,, Channel Fireball.
  2. a b c d e SaffronOlive. (February 20, 2017.) “Deck Evolutions: Modern Death’s Shadow”,, MTGGoldfish.
  3. Wizards of the Coast. (January 9, 2017.) “January 9, 2017 Banned and Restricted Announcement”,, Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Seth Manfield. (February 22, 2017.) “Death’s Shadow - The New Deck to Beat”,, TCGplayer.
  5. a b Hallie Santo. (February 20, 2017.) “Top 8 Decklists”,, Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Hallie Santo. (February 19, 2017.) “Finals: Josh Utter-Leyton (Death’s Shadow) vs. Jonathon Zaczek (Merfolk)”,, Wizards of the Coast.
  7. MTGGoldfish. (December 17, 2017.) “Grixis Death’s Shadow by Carson Peske”,, MTGGoldfish.