Grixis Shadow (Modern) - A Tournament Report from an MTGAdept Selectional Event

Written by Corey McCartan

Road trips are great. Seeing as Palmerston North is only a 2 hour drive away from Wellington and they were holding the only Selectional for a while, I decided to make the mission up. Originally it was going to be a full car going up but due to work commitments people pulled out one by one until it was just me and my good friend. I got to his early on Friday night and we decided to do a Modern Masters draft together. Unfortunately he lives across the road from the Garage Project [Editor's note: a superlative micro brewery] in Aro Valley, and after opening nothing of value we bombed the draft on the back of my bad tipsy advice while our friend who was drafting on his laptop next to us opened a Tarmogoyf, a fetch land and a Blood Moon, and narrowly missed 3-0ing his league. Listen to Chapin; don’t drink and draft. 

We were up early to make the drive...and it’s a lovely drive with stunning countryside scenery for most of the way. When we arrived at the store (Nexus Games), the staff there were lovely. We were clearly not from around the area, and the staff were warm and friendly. We weren’t the only people who had driven a while as some people from Whanganui had also come down to play. 

I brought a Death's Shadow deck because the Death's Shadow decks are busted. There was a Grixis version that had been putting up results on Modo so I wanted to try that. Here’s the list I played.

Land (19):
1 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
2 Watery Grave
1 Island
1 Swamp

Creatures (16):
4 Death’s Shadow
4 Street Wraith
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Tasigur, The Golden Fang
2 Gurmag Angler

Spells (25):
4 Fatal Push
2 Inquisition Of Kozilek
2 Kolaghan’s Command
2 Lightning Bolt
1 Rise // Fall
4 Serum Visions
2 Stubborn Denial
4 Thought Scour
4 Thoughtseize

Sideboard:
2 Surgical Extraction
3 Collective Brutality
2 Countersquall
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Liliana, The Last Hope
1 Stubborn Denial
2 Terminate 

Round 1 - Bye
Round 1 I was lucky enough to get a bye. However the wife of the store owner was kind enough to play a couple games with me for fun. She was on Infect, and the match up felt great. Grixis Shadow has discard, cheap removal, cheap threats, and counter magic for their pump spells if they do manage to stick a threat. Post board bringing in cards like Collective Brutality is just back breaking for them as going 1-for-1 cripples them. 

Round 2 - Naya Burn (1-2)
My opening hand felt great. Double Street Wraith, Death's Shadow, Thought Scour, Gurmag Angler, and land. After putting myself to 13 on my first turn and getting ready to set up a turn 2 Angler I felt like I was in a strong position. My opponent's opening of fetch, shock, Wild Nacatl was not what I wanted to see. After fetching on my turn I opted to cast Angler as I didn’t want to expose Death's Shadow to a bolt. I was forced to tap out, and my opponent calmly made his land drop and confidently attacked. I did think about not blocking as I had removal spells in hand, but decided if he wanted to spend his turn killing Angler, I was okay with that, hoping to leverage a tempo advantage next turn. My opponent cast Searing Blaze and passed.  After deploying a Death's Shadow and passing with removal up, my opponent cast Lava Spike and two bolts to the dome. GG.

Game 2 I had two Death's Shadow in hand. I opted to not kill his Goblin Guide for a couple turns, instead letting him use it to get me in Death's Shadow range while my discard spells took problem cards like Eidolon and Path from his hand. Once the coast was clear, I jammed both of them and top decked a Collective Brutality to seal it. 

Game 3 was a really tense game. Discard spells revealed two Eidolons and two Path to Exile. Path is a hindrance, but beatable. I felt like an unchecked Eidolon would lock me out of the game. After having my first threat eat a Path, I held onto a Death's Shadow until I could draw a discard spell. My opponent had cast a couple Boros Charms, and was on one unknown and Path in hand. I drew a Snapcaster Mage and had the option of fetching and shocking myself down to 2 life and flashing back a Collective Brutality and then playing a Death's Shadow. I had enough cards for two modes: duress and life gain. I decided against this line as if the unkown in my opponent's hand was Lightning Bolt or Boros Charm, I was dead on the spot. So I decided to be more conservative and wait a turn until I could flash back a Kolaghan's Command, giving me another Death's Shadow. My opponent kept a land in hand to discard to Kolaghan's Command and drew Lava Spike into Rift Bolt to seal it. Looking back I’m not sure if the conservative approach I took was correct. They were only at 5 life so one hit from a Death's Shadow would have won me the game. If I had gone back up to 4 life from the Collective Brutality, I was only dead to a top decked Boros Charm, of which he had already cast two. Sometimes you have to play like they don’t have it and I’m not sure if this was one of those times.

Round 3 - G/B Tron (2-1)
My opponent had a turn 3 Karn that ate my turn two Angler, which he then followed up with a Wurmcoil Engine. I scooped at this point. 

Game 2 I had a great hand of two Street Wraiths, and Thoughtseize as my opening play. I took an Expedition Map to prevent turn 3 Tron, and cast two 5/5 Death's Shadows on turn 2, thanks to fetching shocklands. After that I just had to lean on Countersquall to counter his Karn/Ugin while my Death's Shadows got in for the win. 

Game 3 I had what looked like a good hand. Thoughtscour, Serum Visions, Snapcaster Mage, Kolaghan's Command, Stubborn Denial, and two lands. I decided to ship this hand as it didn’t really do anything in the match up. The way to win the match up is to run out a cheap threat to try pressure them, and then try to counter their pay-off spell.  My second hand had Snapcaster Mage, Thoughtseize, Death's Shadow, Street Wraith, and a land.  I was able to Thoughtseize both his pay-off spells by flashing back a Thoughtseize with Snapcaster Mage while applying pressure with my Death's Shadow. I made a slight misplay at the end when my opponent cast a Chromatic Sphere to try dig for a threat, and I let it resolve. I had lethal on board, so was only interested in countering a pay-off spell, but if he drew an Ulamog off the sphere, he might have been able to claw his way back into the game. Fortunately he wiffed.

Round 4 - Elves (0-2)
This matchup is horrible. Game 1 my opponent won the die roll and flooded out. I manage to slow roll a fetch to ensure I could kill the inevitable Ezuri, but my own mana base and the chip shot damage had me at 3 life. I had a Tasigur, Snapcaster and 2 Death's Shadows on board. My opponent had two Elivish Archdruids, a Llanowar Elf and an Eternal Witness. I thought the Eternal Witness was an Elf and was another lethal attacker due to the lords. So I attacked with a Death's Shadow to try bait my opponent into a bad block. Once he chumped with his Eternal Witness, I realized my mistake, and my oppoent was able to kill me by attacking with everything. If I hadn't attacked I could have taken 2 from the Eternal Witness, fallen to 1, and killed him on the crack back. 

Game 2 was inevitably decided when I cast Thoughtseize on turn 2 before playing my land. My opponent had opened with a Heritage Druid, and his hand had a Dywen’s Elite, Archdruid, Collected Company, and land. Knowing that I could play a fetchland to hold up Fatal Push for the Archdruid he would play next turn, I took Collected Company with Thoughtseize. After I had announced Collected Company as the take and had my gameplan in my head, I passed the turn....without playing my fetchland. Rip. My opponent was able to cast a Lead the Stampede that he drew and flood the board thanks to the mana produced by the Archdruid. I tried to shake off my misplay and claw back into the game, but the writing was on the wall. I went outside and cleared my head after the game: two embarrassing misplays in two games. But misplays happen in magic and I was determined to play well in the final round. 

Round 5 - G/W Sun Titan (2-0)
Knowing my opponent was on a G/W deck with no reach, I felt comfortable putting myself to a very low life total to produce huge two huge Death's Shadows. I kept a fetchland around to keep Fatal Push’s revolt turned on so I wouldn’t die to any end of turn Restoration Angel shenanigans. He missed a couple land drops and the Death's Shadows were able to kill him before he could land a Sun Titan.  

Game 2 basically played out as game 1. He was able to land a Sun Titan but a timely removal spell meant he had to chump block a Death's Shadow with it, and after that the game was mine. 

I managed to sneak into Top 8 despite my poor record, going in at 7th place. My first opponent, however, had to go to work, so he scooped to me. This was nice of him, but did make me feel a little undeserving of my invite to Representationals. He was on Infect too, which felt like a great match up. 

The Grixis Shadow deck feels good, but I think the Jund version of the deck is better. It feels much more streamlined. However the Grixis version is much cheaper for those on a budget. I think the deck is likely to get banned at some point as it is simply too good in the format. The amount of discard it runs makes it extremely hard to hate out as you can’t simply rely on removal spells. If the recent online MOCs are anything to go by, the only decks that did well against all the Death's Shadow decks were those that had main board Lingering Souls, and  Dredge. And from my experience, decks that go wide are the only way to beat the Death's Shadow decks. Anyone looking to play alot of Modern going forward should keep this in mind. 

After the event we did a couple quick trades before hitting the road back to Wellington. There was a crucial stop to make on the way home however. We had to stop in at Paraparaumu because they have the only Wendy’s in the lower North Island. We missed the turn off and wound up taking a detour to get there. Totally worth it.