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Joining the Shadows

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Aloha!

As the spoiler for Amonkhet is rolling out and we get a glimpse of what the new Standard environment will look like, I am still battling Modern. I really enjoyed watching the Team Grand Prix in San Antonio and I especially liked the fact that the team with no Death's Shadow in their 225 won the entire thing. So over the last few weeks I tried a bunch of different decks which I deemed to have potential in this metagame.

Although I had decent success with Faeries as well as Abzan Scales - which is, by the way, one of the most fun piles of cards I ever piloted, every game is just one giant puzzle to solve, as you can pull off so many tricks and any board with Arcbound Ravager, Hangarback Walker and Walking Ballista is basically a win - in the end I had to succumb to the dark side.

Playing Death's Shadow is awesome. There is no other description for it. There are so many little nuances to the deck and every decision matters a ton in the game play. Whenever I make the smallest mistake, I curse at myself because I threw away the game in that instance. Especially the sequencing of the lands and the discard spells is mindboggingly hard, way more difficult than in any Jund or Abzan deck I played in the past.

As I am still learning how to not mess up completely, I will want to wait with a complete guide for now and focus more on specific scenarios. Today I will show you some game states and we will do a "What's the Play" in these situations.

Scenario I

I like this situation because most of the stuff is pretty basic to figure out, but the final call to make is still tough. Let's break it down.

The first thing to conclude is that we want to Fatal Push this Wall of Omens. The opponent will almost always use it to chump block one of the Death's Shadows whatever we will do. Now we have to decide if there are any other good targets for the removal spell. Actually, there is already one on the board in Celestial Colonnade. But this is not the type of game we want to play here so we want the blocker gone. Second to that is the thought process of casting the Tarfire or the Tarmogoyf. While we have the opponent dead next turn with the Tarmogoyf on the table, we already have enough pressure and do not need to commit any more, as the possibility of a Supreme Verdict is very real. Now that we've concluded we do not want to cast the Tarmogoyf, it is very easy to see that we want to cast the Tarfire to unlock Delirium, targeting ourselves because burning us is worth four damage instead of just the two. Because of mana efficiency, casting Traverse the Ulvenwald in the same turn is almost trivial, but what to get? We could get another Death's Shadow to have backup when the Verdict really comes, so that we can play two threats again. But there is also the possibility to get a Street Wraith. You see, if we get Street Wraith, we put them down to 4 life with the attack, which makes the remaining Tarmogoyf in our hand a lethal threat. Leaving them at 8 could give them more outs, even if we get another threat. And there is always the chance to hit the lottery and draw another Cycler with the first one, resulting in a clean kill on this very turn. But if we draw a blank with the Street Wraith and they have the Verdict, that would be a bad move.

Scenario II

Collective Brutality is a messed up card. Not only is it undoubtedly powerful but it also is hellish complicated to play with. Just look at this board. What do we do here with it - assuming we play it in the first place, but there really is no other possibility here?

When we observe the play pattern of the last turn, we can deduct that the opponent likely either has a land or another Galvanic Blast in hand, because all the other permanents would have been played (barring maybe another Rest in Peace). Choosing modes number 2 and 3 are pretty obvious. The drain takes us maybe off of the 1-turn clock but the opponent will likely chump in the next turn anyway to prevent a kill with Street Wraith. And I think that is exactly why we need them to use the Galvanic Blast now if they got it. They must decide to either kill the small Death's Shadow or burn our face to have a 2-turn clock themselves. Now what do we discard? Each card has its merits and its downsides. Lingering Souls could get us the last points of damage through or provide blockers, Street Wraith could boost the Death's Shadows and thus our clock, Path and Liliana are both excellent removal (please note that we won't flashback Lingering Souls if we discard it due to the Rest in Peace).

Scenario III

I chose to show you the second turn because I think what I take with the first discard spell is highly irrelevant due to the double Relic of Progenitus. The first thing to notice is that they got little action and are very trigger friendly with their Relics. But if I let them discard the second one, they will value the first one more, so there is an interesting dynamic. Then there is the thought of letting go of both Tarmogoyfs and accept that they are just Liliana fodder in this game. Also note that they do not even have mana to cast the Voice, let alone the Liliana. But they got some redraws with the Relics. Also note that Eldritch Evolution just kills us when it gets Sigarda, Host of Herons. There are a lot of permutations to chose from here.

Conclusion

Scenario I - I ended up tutoring for the Street Wraith, drawing just another Tarmogoyf, putting them to 4 life. When they passed the turn without making any plays, I won by removing their Vendilion Clique with a drawn Abrupt Decay. I think, going for the kill when there is so little risk (they need to have the Verdict plus another good follow-up to be able to punish you and only if you draw a blank with the Cycling) is fine, especially if we make the Tarmogoyf lethal with that line.

Scenario II - I ended up discarding Lingering Souls as well as Street Wraith, choosing all three modes and leaving me with two removal spells. The opponent then proceeded to time out, thus not letting me know if this was the right choice. Frustrating.

Scenario III - I took what seemed to be the most dangerous cards, Voice of Resurgence and Eldritch Evolution. After a series of mana dorks and removal from our sides respectively, my graveyard was still empty, the Tarmogoyfs still in my hand and they topdecked a Voice of Resurgence which was just the perfect draw because I was at 2 life due to various Shocklands and Thoughtseizes. I could play a chump blocker in Tarmogoyf, but they managed to draw Siege Rhino and killed me. Was I supposed to take the Relic there and leave them with Eldritch Evolution and no creatures? It is a dangerous card after all. I still don't know for sure, but I think the Relic would have been a better choice. After that, playing Tarmogoyf is threatening so they have to sacrifice the first one to shrink it and after that the Tarmogoyfs are very much alive.

Well, that's it for today. Join me next time for more preparation for the upcoming Modern tournaments.

Until then,

Jasper

Jasper Grimmer
Jasper Grimmer

About Jasper Grimmer

Jasper is a player from Germany who can be found at almost every European Grand Prix and prepares a lot for them. Being on the GP circuit since 2011, he has had a number of good finishes: 

  • Top 8 GP Malmö 2012
  • Top 8 GP Paris 2015 
  • Top 4 Team GP Florence 2015 (with Amit Cohen & Robin Steinborn)
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