My Favorite Modern Deck: Orzhov Shadow

Jeremy Dezani

Jeremy Dezani


Death's ShadowStoneforge Mystic

Hello guys. Today I am super exited, because I am going to talk about my favorite deck in Modern right now: Orzhov Shadow (or Orzhov Stoneblade).

ThoughtseizeInquisition of Kozilek

I started to play Modern few months ago with Bant Snowblade. The deck was good and I really enjoyed 《Stoneforge Mystic》 but I wanted to try something with 《Thoughtseize》 and 《Inquisition of Kozilek》 because it’s my favorite kind of deck in Modern since I won Grand Prix Lyon in 2012 with Jund.

Last year, my best experience in Modern was at MagicFest Ghent in team Modern where I played Mardu Shadow and made top 4 with my teammates.

Ranger-Captain of Eos

The deck was a delight to play and I fall really in love for 《Ranger-Captain of Eos》. The card is so good and clearly change my vision of 《Death’s Shadow》 in Modern.

Kolaghan's CommandTemur Battle RageAngrath's RampageLightning Bolt

Therefore, I tried to play Mardu again to see if the deck is still great. It was good but I was very unimpressed by red cards in the deck. 《Kolaghan’s Command》 was too expensive compare to its impact during games. Probably it lost some powers since 《Mox Opal》 was banned. 《Temur Battle Rage》 is a win-more or a dead card. 《Angrath’s Rampage》 and 《Lightning Bolt》 felt very replaceable.

Creating Orzhov Shadow

So I decided to try an Orzhov version and here is the list I am playing now:

Card Choices: Mainboard

First, let’s do a card by card explication.

4 《Death’s Shadow》

Death's Shadow

No need to explain much here, this is the main card of the deck and the whole build is about this card.

2 《Giver of Runes》

Giver of Runes

It is another target for 《Ranger-Captain of Eos》 and an alternative turn 1 action if you don’t have a discard spell. It forces your opponent to use a removal spell on it and not 《Death’s Shadow》 and it allows 《Death’s Shadow》 to attack even with annoying blockers. I don’t want to play more than 2 because it’s not good in all match up and it increases your biggest weakness that are 《Engineered Explosives》 and 《Blast Zone》. Also, Swords do this kind of effect already in the deck.

4 《Tidehollow Sculler》

Tidehollow Sculler

It’s a good turn 2 play after a discard spell. It’s also a better version of 《Kitesail Freebooter》 since a removal in response to the trigger is not a thing.

3 《Stoneforge Mystic》

Stoneforge Mystic

I wanted to have another threat in addition to 《Death’s Shadow》 and good after a discard spell on turn 1. I found 《Stoneforge Mystic》 super good in Bant and wanted to try it in a Shadow deck.

4 《Ranger-Captain of Eos》

Ranger-Captain of Eos

Because Shadow decks are really focus on 《Death’s Shadow》 you need something which help you to see it every games. Jund has 《Traverse the Ulvenwald》, Grixis has 《Serum Visions》 and other cantrips. For Orzhov it’s 《Ranger-Captain of Eos》. The sacrifice ability is not a detail too and might win some games.

4 《Street Wraith》

Street Wraith

A cantrip which helps you to be under 13 life fast. It’s also great to have a 56 cards deck when you want to have a good start. Then it’s a way to lose life in instant speed, after blocking or in response to burn spells to protect 《Death’s Shadow》 for example.

4 《Inquisition of Kozilek》 / 4 《Thoughtseize》

Inquisition of KozilekThoughtseize

Playing many discard spells is bad when the game goes long. In Orzov Shadow you are planning to win fast and few turns. Discard spells are necessary to setup your plan. I would not go under 8.

4 《Fatal Push》

Fatal Push

I played 3 for a long time, but 《Lurrus of the Dream Den》 is a good target and super popular at the moment. 10 fetchlands and 4 《Silent Clearing》 help a lot 《Fatal Push》 to be almost a perfect removal.

1 《Unearth》


The first copy is super good and super powerful with 《Ranger-Captain of Eos》. Though, it is not a card you want in your opening hand or in multiple copies when you don’t have any target in graveyard. 2 mana cycling is not something you want to do in this deck. Note that if you play it game one, sometime opponent brings graveyard hate like 《Nihil Spellbomb》, but it’s the only card in your deck which is impacted by it.

1 《Collective Brutality》

Collective Brutality

I played it in sideboard, but actual metagame is about Lurrus, 《Devoted Druid》 / 《Chord of Calling》, 《Goblin Guide》… so it makes sense to have a copy maindeck at the moment.

1 《Dismember》


It’s a removal which helps you to control your life total. It’s sometime super good to setup a 《Death’s Shadow》 on turn 2 and another way to lose life during combat or other situations like 《Street Wraith》 does.

1 《Anguished Unmaking》

Anguished Unmaking

I wanted a way to deal with 《Chalice of the Void》, 《Wurmcoil Engine》, 《Amulet of Vigor》 or other annoying stuff in my maindeck. It’s also super good against 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 and a way to lose your life. You don’t want more copy since it’s a 3 mana card and you can’t really control the life you lose unlike 《Dismember》.

1 《Sword of Feast and Famine》 / 1 《Sword of Fire and Ice》

Sword of Feast and FamineSword of Fire and Ice

The 2 best Swords to search with 《Stoneforge Mystic》 for sure. They made any creature a win condition and it’s good to not be 《Death’s Shadow》 dependent like the other 《Death’s Shadow》 decks. A 《Tidehollow Sculler》 can be a finisher with a Sword.

4 《Marsh Flats》 / 3 《Arid Mesa》 / 3 《Bloodstained Mire》

Marsh FlatsArid MesaBloodstained Mire

Fetchlands are very important for 《Death’s Shadow》. 《Arid Mesa》 and 《Bloodstained Mire》 could be replaced by 《Flooded Strand》 or 《Windswept Heath》 and 《Polluted Delta》 or 《Verdant Catacombs》 but I like to bluff 《Temur Battle Rage》.

4 《Godless Shrine》

Godless Shrine

You need enough targets for your fetchlands. Being able to have double white and triple black on turn 3 every game is very good. It’s something I found hard to do in Mardu with 《Sacred Foundry》 and 《Blood Crypt》 in addition to basic lands.

4 《Silent Clearing》

Silent Clearing

It helps you to control your life total perfectly, it’s not rare to be at 1 life with the deck and it’s mainly because of 《Silent Clearing》. In late game, it draws a card and mana cost in your deck are so low, you can cast a relevant spell the same turn, like 《Death’s Shadow》 or 《Fatal Push》.

2 《Swamp》 / 1 《Plains》


I tried to have only 1 《Swamp》 and I missed the second one a lot. Basic lands don’t contribute to cast 《Death’s Shadow》 quickly but you can lose your life with other cards and sometimes you need untap lands especially if you have low life. Also, against 《Blood Moon》 and aggressive decks it’s very important to have 3 basic lands to search. Having them is pretty good against 《Assassin’s Trophy》 and 《Path to Exile》 too.

Card Choices: Sideboard

1 《Burrenton Forge-Tender》

Burrenton Forge-Tender

It’s a very good target for 《Ranger-Captain of Eos》 against Burn and Mono-Red Prowess.

2 《Celestial Purge》

Celestial Purge

It deals with so many different cards like 《Death’s Shadow》, 《Lurrus of the Dream Den》, 《Liliana of the Veil》, 《Blood Moon》, 《Mantis Rider》 and so on.

2 《Kaya’s Guile》

Kaya's Guile

Because it has multiple mode the card is super versatile. It’s super good to have multiple purposes in a card since you can save sideboard slot, a gain life + removal against Burn, exile graveyard for Dredge and potentially kill + exile Uro. I found the token very useful to win a race and prevent sacrifice effect. Could be a maindeck card in the right metagame but I prefer 《Collective Brutality》 right now.

1 《Kaya, Orzhov Usurper》

Kaya, Orzhov Usurper

Like 《Kaya’s Guile》, the card gains life, kills permanent and exiles cards in graveyard. It can exile stuff like 《Amulet of Vigor》, 《Chalice of the Void》, 《Delver of Secrets》, 《Champion of the Parish》 or 《Death’s Shadow》 and prevents stuff to come back like Uro, 《Mishra’s Bauble》 etc.

1 《Liliana, the Last Hope》

Liliana, the Last Hope

It’s very good against 《Fatal Push》 decks and 《Noble Hierarch》 decks. It creates value and is a control plan by itself.

3 《Grafdigger’s Cage》

Grafdigger's Cage

Lurrus, Uro, 《Snapcaster Mage》, Dredge, 《Chord of Calling》, so many decks are losing against Cage right now.

2 《Rest in Peace》

Rest in Peace

I like to have 《Rest in Peace》 against Uro and 《Tarmogoyf》 decks. Of course it’s great against Storm, Lurrus and Dredge too. I played 4 for a long time before Companion. I like to have 5 《Rest in Peace》 / 《Grafdigger’s Cage》 in my sideboard.

2 《Damping Sphere》

Damping Sphere

It’s mainly a card to fight Tron and Amulet but I used it also against Storm and Ad Nauseum.

1 《Batterskull》


I found 《Batterskull》 being better in sideboard these days but you can definitely have it maindeck if the metagame allows it.

Other Potential Sideboard Cards

Against Titanshift, Tron and Amulet:

Ashiok, Dream RenderFulminator Mage

Against Control Decks:

Liliana of the Veil

Against Companion and Graveyard Decks:

Drannith Magistrate

Against Artifact Decks:

Stony SilenceWear+Tear

Note: we have to add some red sources to play 《Wear/Tear》.

Against Uroza:

Spirit of the Labyrinth

Against Aggro:


Cards I Don’t Like and Why

《Hex Parasite》

Hex Parasite

The deck controls life total already very well and without 《Temur Battle Rage》, I think the card is super bad in Orzhov.

《Path to Exile》

Path to Exile

I really don’t like to give extra mana to my opponent with Orzhov. 《Path to Exile》 is great but not in this deck.

General Tips


《Street Wraith》:

《Death’s Shadow》:

Other Cards in Mainboard:

Cards in Sideboard and Sideboarding:



Since the goal of your opponent is about dealing to you damages, you are playing differently in this matchup. You want to keep your life total as high as possible and use 《Death’s Shadow》 only as a race plan in late game. Because of this, you will sideboard out cards making you lose life. Finding basic lands with fetchlands, killing creatures and trying to win with 《Batterskull》. Discard spell and 《Giver of Runes》 on turn 1 might protect 《Stoneforge Mystic》 but if she dies you just go for the control game until you cast 《Batterskull》 for 5 mana.

《Ranger-Captain of Eos》 can search 《Burrenton Forge-Tender》. 《Skullcrack》 can be a way to kill 《Burrenton Forge-Tender》 so be careful when you plan to block with it. Though, 《Skullcrack》 is not a great card at the moment and people replaced it by 《Seal of Fire》 for Lurrus. At the moment, Burn has 0 card in sideboard against us but 2-3 《Wear/Tear》. Make sure to not lose your 《Batterskull》 on it, and keep 3 mana open if possible.

Against Burn


Street Wraith Street Wraith Street Wraith Street Wraith
Thoughtseize Thoughtseize Sword of Feast and Famine Anguished Unmaking


Kaya's Guile Kaya's Guile Celestial Purge Celestial Purge
Liliana, the Last Hope Kaya, Orzhov Usurper Batterskull Burrenton Forge-Tender

Bant Snowblade

A card very good against us is 《Supreme Verdict》. They have a lot of expensive spells to cast in sorcery speed and it’s not rare to sacrifice a 《Ranger-Captain of Eos》 to prevent it. Especially with hand information from discard spells. 《Mystic Sanctuary》, 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 and 《Snapcaster Mage》 are all very important and having a 《Rest in Peace》 in play is great against them. It’s also good to have a 《Kaya’s Guile》 to exile the graveyard and kill Uro.

《Archmage’s Charm》 can take control of 《Death’s Shadow》 and they also have 4 《Path to Exile》. It’s important to discard these cards in priority. 《Sword of Feast and Famine》 and 《Sword of Fire and Ice》 are great against 《Ice-Fang Coatl》. 《Sword of Fire and Ice》 also prevents blocking from 《Yorion, Sky Nomad》, and prevents bounce effects of 《Teferi, Time Raveler》, 《Jace, the Mind Sculptor》 or 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》.

They might have additional 《Supreme Verdict》 and 2 《Veil of Summer》 in sideboard but not much more.

Against Bant Snowblade


Giver of Runes Giver of Runes Unearth Fatal Push
Dismember Collective Brutality


Rest in Peace Rest in Peace Kaya's Guile Kaya's Guile
Kaya, Orzhov Usurper Grafdigger's Cage

Lurrus Jund

Because they are under Lurrus restriction, it means that 《Fatal Push》 kills every single creature they play. 《Rest in Peace》 prevents Lurrus effect and makes 《Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger》, 《Scavenging Ooze》 and 《Tarmogoyf》 weak. Make sure to save a removal spell for Lurrus. It’s not a problem that they make little value with Lurrus since they are losing so much tempo. Anyway, 《Stoneforge Mystic》 and 《Ranger-Captain of Eos》 also produce value. I don’t like 《Tidehollow Sculler》 in the match up because of many removals and 《Seal of Fire》, especially on the draw. On the draw, I might keep more 《Inquisition of Kozilek》 to prevent a turn 2 《Wrenn and Six》.

They have some sideboard against us. Potentially 《Engineered Explosives》, 《Veil of Summer》 and sometime 《Pillage》 to deal with our Equipments.

Against Lurrus Jund (On the Play)


Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler
Inquisition of Kozilek Inquisition of Kozilek Collective Brutality Unearth


Kaya's Guile Kaya's Guile Celestial Purge Celestial Purge
Rest in Peace Rest in Peace Liliana, the Last Hope Batterskull

Against Lurrus Jund (On the Draw)


Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler
Collective Brutality Unearth


Rest in Peace Rest in Peace Celestial Purge Celestial Purge
Batterskull Kaya's Guile

Devoted Druid Combo

This deck is about assemble 2 card combo. Discards and removals deal with that easily but you might lose if you draw too many non-interactive cards. 《Ranger-Captain of Eos》 might be used to prevent a 《Finale of Devastation》 if you know about it. 《Collective Brutality》 is a very good card in this matchup.

《Sword of Feast and Famine》 can be used to avoid chump block on your 《Death’s Shadow》 and 《Sword of Fire and Ice》 forces your opponent to chump since you will have a 2 damages effect if they don’t. 《Grafdigger’s Cage》 is obviously super good against them. 《Liliana, the Last Hope》 and 《Kaya, Orzhov Usurper》 also do a great job here. The main sideboard weapon they have is 《Veil of Summer》 but since they have to tap out turn 1 and 2, you just save your discard when they don’t have mana up.

Against Devoted Druid Combo


Unearth Ranger-Captain of Eos Tidehollow Sculler
Giver of Runes Giver of Runes


Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage
Liliana, the Last Hope Kaya, Orzhov Usurper

Amulet Titan

I believe Amulet is a very good match up. All the discards are so annoying for them and you don’t have dead cards since your removals kill 《Azusa, Lost but Seeking》, 《Dryad of the Ilysian Grove》 and 《Sakura-Tribe Scout》. Most of the lists don’t play 《Blast Zone》 but be aware of it. Save your 《Thoughtseize》 for the turn before they play a 《Primeval Titan》.

Don’t hesitate to search for 《Sword of Feast and Famine》 with Stoneforge. The discard effect is great and the protection helps against all the green creatures in the deck and the zombies from 《Field of the Dead》. They have access to 《Radiant Fountain》 and 《Vesuva》 so calculating well your damages if they have a Titan. After sideboard, they might have 《Engineered Explosives》 and 《Veil of Summer》. They run like 8 bounce lands so 《Damping Sphere》 is great.

Against Amulet Titan


Collective Brutality Stoneforge Mystic Fatal Push
Giver of Runes Giver of Runes


Damping Sphere Damping Sphere Kaya, Orzhov Usurper
Kaya's Guile Kaya's Guile


The match up is super interesting. Save your fetchlands for 《Fatal Push》 since you need to kill 3 or 4 mana cost cards like 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》, 《Emry, Lurker of the Loch》, and 《Urza, Lord High Artificer》. Be safe with your life total since they can deal 8 damages out of nowhere with 《Galvanic Blast》 and 《Mystic Sanctuary》. They play 4 《Engineered Explosives》 so don’t play multiple 《Death’s Shadow》 in the dark. It also kills their 《Gilded Goose》, 《Arcum’s Astrolabe》 and 《Abundant Growth》 so if they kill only one 《Death’s Shadow》 it’s totally fine.

If it becomes more popular again having 4 《Rest in Peace》 is great since it impacts so many cards like Uro, 4 Emry and 3 Sanctuary.

Against Uroza


Giver of Runes Giver of Runes Collective Brutality Unearth
Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler


Rest in Peace Rest in Peace Kaya's Guile Kaya's Guile
Grafdigger's Cage Grafdigger's Cage Kaya, Orzhov Usurper

Gruul Obosh

Matchup is fair, but if you have a big 《Death’s Shadow》 they will be in trouble. You need to keep your life to be out of reach from 《Lightning Bolt》 or 《Glorybringer》. At 7 life your 《Death’s Shadow》 is 6/6 and it already leads the board.

Since they play only odd cards, if you kill 《Arbor Elf》 with a 《Fatal Push》 you might be safe on turn 2. Obviously, you have to take care of 《Magus of the Moon》 by searching your basic lands. They have so many answers to 《Tidehollow Sculler》 in the form of 《Bonecrusher Giant》, 《Glorybringer》, 《Lightning Bolt》, 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》 and it’s super hard to attack with it anyway so I sideboard out all copies.

They don’t have relevant sideboard against us.

Against Gruul Obosh


Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler
Sword of Feast and Famine Collective Brutality


Kaya's Guile Kaya's Guile Celestial Purge Celestial Purge
Batterskull Burrenton Forge-Tender

Lurrus Shadow

The deck is very dependent on 《Death’s Shadow》. 《Mutagenic Growth》, 《Temur Battle Rage》… if you kill 《Death’s Shadow》 the rest of the deck isn’t that great. Since you have many answers to it with discards and removals, the match up is super easy. People play it because Lurrus is good to bring back 《Death’s Shadow》 but it’s not enough to compensate the rest of dead cards they have in hand. If they try to deal damages with other creatures like 《Monastery Swiftspear》 it just helps your own 《Death’s Shadow》.

They might have 《Veil of Summer》 in sideboard but to be honest they have access to too many cards to predict exactly what you could face after sideboard.

Against Lurrus Shadow


Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler
Collective Brutality Unearth


Rest in Peace Rest in Peace Celestial Purge Celestial Purge
Kaya, Orzhov Usurper Batterskull


Human can be very aggressive with 《Champion of the Parish》 but if you have removals it will not work very well. If they can’t finish you off, your 《Death’s Shadow》 will win the race overall. It’s not rare that a 《Mantis Rider》 can’t attack just because they don’t want to grow your 《Death’s Shadow》. If they start with 《Aether Vial》, discard spells will prevent it from abusing. If they start with 《Noble Hierarch》, you can ignore it.

《Reflector Mage》 is the best card they have and you want to discard it in priority. Though, a 《Champion of the Parish》 on turn 1 is an exception and it is better to discard it rather than 《Reflector Mage》. 《Sword of Fire and Ice》 prevents 《Reflector Mage》‘s trigger and it also kills 《Mirran Crusader》 and 《Auriok Champion》 that are annoying after sideboard.

Against Humans


Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler Tidehollow Sculler
Unearth Sword of Feast and Famine Thoughtseize


Kaya's Guile Kaya's Guile Celestial Purge Celestial Purge
Liliana, the Last Hope Kaya, Orzhov Usurper Batterskull

Eldrazi Tron

They have 3 good stuffs against you but everything is easy to play around if you aware about it.

Save your fetchland for 《Fatal Push》 on 《Thought-Knot Seer》. Make sure to not die on 《Walking Ballista》 or 《Reality Smasher》 if your life is too low. I don’t like 《Damping Sphere》 in this matchup.

Against Eldrazi Tron


Giver of Runes Giver of Runes
Sword of Feast and Famine Collective Brutality


Kaya's Guile Kaya's Guile
Kaya, Orzhov Usurper Batterskull


Same as Eldrazi Tron they have 《Karn, the Great Creator》 and 《Ensnaring Bridge》 and 《Blast Zone》. Otherwise they don’t interact much with you and you might just control the whole thing by discarding all the payoffs or all the land search spells. 《Karn Liberated》 is not great against you since you might have multiple threats and 《Ranger-Captain of Eos》 can 《Time Stop》 on their upkeep. 《Wurmcoil Engine》 is great and you don’t want to face that. That said if Tron attacks with it, it doesn’t gain life against a 《Death’s Shadow》 since the 6 life you lost increases its power and Shadow will deal more damage next turn. 《Giver of Runes》‘ protection colorless or killing your blocker with a 《Fatal Push》 by yourself might be an option against 《Wurmcoil Engine》.

They have 《Veil of Summer》 in sideboard but they don’t really have easy access to green sources.

Against Tron


Fatal Push Fatal Push Fatal Push
Giver of Runes Giver of Runes Collective Brutality


Kaya's Guile Kaya's Guile Batterskull
Damping Sphere Damping Sphere Kaya, Orzhov Usurper


Orzhov Shadow is my actual favorite deck in Modern and I love it so much that I decide to collect all card to play with it each time I have the opportunity to do it. I’m so in love for the deck and the game play is exactly the style of game I like to play.

I hope you will like it too, some of my followers on twitter already win a lot with the deck and it’s a good feeling to see people having success with a deck you create.

Have fun and thank you for reading.

Jeremy DEZANI (Twitter / Twitch)

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Jeremy Dezani

Jeremy Dezani He was the 2013-14 Player of the Year with his crowning achievement taking place at Pro Tour Theros where he won in spectacular fashion with Blue Devotion back in 2013. He has a stunning over 10 Grand Prix Top 8s to his name including 3 wins and Runner-up 4 times. He will also be the first Non-Japanese player to join the ranks of the Hareruya Pros. Read more articles by Jeremy Dezani