Death’s Shadow Deck Guide

Immanuel Gerschenson


Treasure CruiseDeath's Shadow

I have loved Modern for a very long time. My first love in Modern was 《Treasure Cruise》, which got banned approximately one year after its release. It took me some time after, but then I found the next card to break: 《Death's Shadow》.

I have piloted various 《Death's Shadow》 decks for many years now and had my fair share of success with it. As I already wrote some pieces on 《Death's Shadow》, but people still kept asking me about it, I decided to dedicate this article to some of those questions.

To see which question were asked more frequently, I asked in the 《Death's Shadow》 group on Facebook to get a feeling on what people would like me to answer.

Question Section – Tell me about 《Death's Shadow》 Deck!

Without further ado I will jump straight to the first question.

Question1 -About the Best Shell Right Now-

“Since you played 4C Death’s Shadow at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan and it has been scoring results lately, please explain why one would chose one version over the other at the moment!”

Long answer in short: I like Grixis Shadow more at the moment.

Now a bit longer, for those who actually want to read my thoughts about this question. I played 4 Color Traverse Shadow at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, with a 9-1 record, because I expected very little UWx Control decks and I found my match-up against 5C Humans and Lantern Control to be good.

I tuned my list to beat those two decks and to not fold to most random decks. My loss was indeed a control deck.

This was my thought back in February, now we have December. Now if I attend a Modern tournament I expect basically zero of both aforementioned decks, but more control decks and way more graveyard hate.

Relic of ProgenitusRest in PeaceLeyline of the Void

Traverse Shadow has a big problem with graveyard hate, as it lets you have 8 dead cards (《Traverse the Ulvenwald》 and 《Tarmogoyf》), that you actually need to pilot your deck to victory.

Traverse the UlvenwaldTarmogoyf

If you compare Grixis Shadow to Traverse Shadow, it also uses its graveyard, but does not have those 8 dead cards. Besides that I like the control match-up better with Grixis Shadow, because you have more filtering to maneuver your way to victory there.

That said; I think it always depends on which meta you expect, as both Death’s Shadow decks are very good, but do things very differently.

Question2 -About Cantrip Spell-

Time for a long discussed question to which I have my own unique answer: choices on cantrips; 《Opt》, 《Serum Visions》, 《Mishra's Bauble》, 《Faithless Looting》.

《Faithless Looting》

Faithless Looting

I will start with the boogeyman in this list, 《Faithless Looting》. I honestly dislike it in Grixis Shadow. Pre-board it lets you filter through your deck and discard cards you might not need.

I get that, but what if you have to play it on turn 1? There are definitely hands you have to keep and make it your turn 1 play, but as you cannot be 100% sure what you are facing, discarding cards is very hard here.

If you play it turn 4, you will approximately have 1-2 cards in your hand, which means you will have to settle for the one card you think will do the most out of this position. Flashbacking it comes close to skipping a turn, as it most likely will not allow you to play another spell in the same turn.

Post-board you have mostly cards that matter at all times, so what would you like to discard here? In some match-ups you will board in 《Leyline of the Void》 and be able to discard that, but I do not want to discard any other cards post-board as my deck is streamlined to do its thing.

《Mishra's Bauble》

Mishra's Bauble

《Mishra's Bauble》 is great! I could probably write an entire article on how to use it correctly, but I will have to make a short answer here.

In a deck with so many cantrips and fetchlands, it lets you filter, as you can shuffle away not needed cards, besides that it makes 《Gurmag Angler》 cheaper and more likely to cast on turn 2.

《Opt》 and 《Serum Visions》

OptSerum Visions

Now to 《Opt》 versus 《Serum Visions》. 《Opt》 is instant and interacts better with 《Snapcaster Mage》 while also being better in the late game, if you are looking for a specific card. 《Serum Visions》 is better in every other situation, as you usually need to plan for several turns ahead tough.

Question3 -About Sideboarding-

Another question I could write an article about, but will touch only the surface of it: How to sideboard?

Thought ScourDeath's ShadowMishra's Bauble

First of all, in Grixis Shadow there are some cards you should never ever consider boarding out! To name a few: 《Thought Scour》, 《Death's Shadow》 and 《Mishra's Bauble》.

Sideboarding depends on your individual card-choices obviously, but to make those you need to understand which role you are taking post-board against certain decks.

A prominent example for most of you would be being the control deck post-board against Humans. This is not good in my opinion. You are trying to control the board and land a 《Death's Shadow》 at some point to win somehow?

AEther Vial

What happens if your opponent also has 《AEther Vial》? Most of your spells trade one for one and at most you will have two mass-removal spells in your sideboard. So for as long as your opponent does not have 《AEther Vial》, you might be able to trade one for one or to deploy your mass-removal, but if 《AEther Vial》 is involved you are not in for much fun.

In my opinion, your role is the glass-cannon deck. You need to keep all 《Temur Battle Rage》, 《Street Wraith》 and all your discard spells. Prioritize taking cards that prevent you from comboing or are hard to deal with: 《Reflector Mage》, 《Auriok Champion》, 《Mantis Rider》 or 《Meddling Mage》.

Death's ShadowTemur Battle Rage

Play a 《Death's Shadow》 and/or 《Gurmag Angler》 as fast as possible and smash, at some point they will just fold as they cannot jump-block it all day long. Eventually you will also find 《Temur Battle Rage》 to just win, meanwhile you still play all these removal spells.

The good thing about the various Shadow decks is that there is no definite wrong or correct. If you identify something for yourself as good and it keeps that way for some time, you should probably stick to this.

I am mentioning it, because Magnus Lantto and I love to disagree on some card-choices and/or how to approach some match-ups. Guess what, our win percentages are nonetheless very close to each others (mine being usually 1-2% higher :P) and we still respect the others opinion, which means we can still have great discussions.

Question4 -About How to Play the Deck-

A question that keeps coming as magic keeps growing daily: Sequencing, teach us senpai!

Polluted DeltaWatery GraveThoughtseize

That is a hard one, but let me start with the basic of the basics, if I am allowed to call it that way. Imagine your starting hand contains following cards: 《Thoughtseize》, 《Serum Visions》, a creature, 《Polluted Delta》 and 3 random cards.

The best line of play here, no matter if you are on the play or draw, would be to play 《Thoughtseize》 of a fetched 《Watery Grave》. This gives you information about what you are facing match-up-wise and which cards you need to play against at the moment.

What you get from this information? It makes your 《Serum Visions》 on turn 2 much better, as now you know what cards you actually want to find in your scry. Imagine you would have played 《Serum Visions》 instead on turn 1, which cards to keep on top with your scry and why?

Lesson 1: If possible, play your discard spell before your cantrip, to maximize their value.

This is your starting hand now: 《Street Wraith》, 《Mishra's Bauble》, 《Bloodstained Mire》, 《Watery Grave》, 《Inquisition of Kozilek》, 2 random cards.

Street WraithMishra's BaubleInquisition of Kozilek
Bloodstained MireWatery Grave

On the Play

Watery GraveInquisition of KozilekMishra's Bauble

Here you have 2 options in my opinion, depending if you are on the play or draw. Lets start with us being on the play. I would play 《Watery Grave》, 《Inquisition of Kozilek》 my opponent and play 《Mishra's Bauble》 without using it most likely (this largely depends on the 2 random cards and the match-up). I would keep the 《Mishra's Bauble》, to get full value of it with my remaining fetchland, ideally.

On the Draw

Mishra's BaubleStreet Wraith

On the draw you already have more information and might want to play 《Mishra's Bauble》 to look at your top card. If you want it and the match-ups allows it, use 《Street Wraith》 to draw it.

If you do not want that card, play your 《Bloodstained Mire》 and fetch right away into a 《Blood Crypt》 and play 《Inquisition of Kozilek》. If you feel like you do not have enough information available and it is likely that you have a few turns to do your thing, you can also start with the line I suggested when being on the play.

Lesson 2: No rush, information is key to your spells.

Question5 -About the Latest Deck List-

Another all-time classic: Can we get your updated deck list?


I hope you enjoyed it and that I was able to touch briefly on as many questions as possible. If you have any further questions to do not hesitate to contact me and I will try my best answering them.

I wish all of you nice holidays and a good start into the new year.

Immanuel Gerschenson

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Immanuel Gerschenson Immanuel is skillful at Constructed formats and took trophies at GP Madrid 2014 (Modern) and GP Seville 2015 (Standard). He run a spicy Traverse Shadow list with 《Delay》 and went 14th place at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan with an impressive 9-1 Constructed record. In addition, he was the runner-up of Austria Nationals 2018 it made him to be a Gold Level Pro. Read more articles by Immanuel Gerschenson