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Deathrite Shaman and Mono Red Prison

2018/03/27 00:00 

    • Javier Dominguez
    • Hareruya Pros Blog

Not all Constructed Formats evolve at the same pace. While Standard metagame sometimes shifts really fast, Legacy is well known for being a format that changes slowly. However, after many years being played, someone is finally claiming the boogeyman throne:

Deathrite Shaman

This little elf is probably the best creature in the game, to the point where the whole Legacy format is warped around it. Some great players claim it should be banned. It is also a very common opinion to think that Grixis Delver is the best deck in the format thanks to the power of this creature. What is 《Deathrite Shaman》 exactly doing in this Legacy format?

Decks can play a higher average converted mana cost and be more flexible in terms of colored mana.

Wasteland

Traditionally, manabases in Legacy can't be really greedy because of 《Wasteland》. 《Wasteland》 is one of the pillars of the format, and while it's still one of the most played cards, the disruption power it provides is less efficient when it's facing an overpowered 《Birds of Paradise》.

Thanks to 《Deathrite Shaman》 (DRS) we see many three and four color control decks with cards like 《Kolaghan's Command》 and 《Leovold, Emissary of Trest》. Before 《DRS》, playing four colors against a deck with 《Wasteland》 was a losing proposition. That's not the case anymore.

Leovold, Emissary of TrestTrue-Name Nemesis

Being a mana accelerator, it also makes all the expensive cards much faster. Cards like 《Leovold》 or 《True-Name Nemesis》 are much more powerful if they show up as early as turn 2.

Cantrips and Fetchlands are better. More 《Force of Will》.

BrainstormPonder

Cantrips offer card quality in exchange of tempo. That means if the match-up is tempo based, cantrips are not very good since you need the cards you get out of them to be able to make up the tempo you lost digging. Turns out 《DRS》 is good at making up the tempo lost by cantrips, making the blue fair vs non-blue fair match-ups much better for the blue side. It also helps us casting cards like 《True-Name Nemesis》, which can turn those match-ups around.

Force of Will

As a corollary, 《DRS》 helping cantrips in the fair match-ups means that there are less reasons to play without blue, and that translates into more 《Force of Will》 copies floating around.

Flooded StrandMisty RainforestPolluted DeltaScalding Tarn

Fetchlands play really well with both 《DRS》 and cantrips. The Shaman needs lands on graveyards for his ability and the shuffling makes cards like 《Brainstorm》 and 《Ponder》 much better.

Having 《Deathrite Shaman》 gives you an advantage on the fair mirror match.

Stifle

While this doesn't mean fair decks without 《DRS》 are exactly unplayable, they are at a larger disadvantage when they play against similar decks that play that card. The easiest example is Temur Delver against Grixis Delver, where everything is great until the Grixis player untaps with a Shaman in play. This is particularly true for mana denial decks, where facing a mana dork on the draw makes cards like 《Stifle》 look really bad.

Decks are being pushed out of the metagame.

Mother of RunesTarmogoyf

It's not only that you can rarely see decks like G/W Maverick or Jund anymore at the top tables: there are many decks whose share of the metagame is really low compared to what it used to be.

Tendrils of AgonyThalia, Guardian of Thraben

Decks like Storm (ANT) or Death and Taxes used to be played by a medium % of the field. Now, they show up in low numbers. Even "Death and Taxes Master" Thomas Enevoldsen dropped the white deck for the last GP Madrid 2018 in favor of Four-Color Control. Many Storm players are also off the Storm boat because many of the decks they preyed on are just not there any longer. They have to face 《Deathrite Shaman》 + Countermagic decks again and again.

Golgari Grave-Troll

《DRS》 also had a big impact against graveyard decks. Playing Dredge when everyone is packing maindeck graveyard hate isn't exactly ideal.

Where to go……then? Playing 《Deathrite》 mirrors all day long?

There is a spot for those decks which prey on 《Deathrite Shaman》 decks.

Vampire HexmageDark DepthsThespian's Stage

The metagame is evolving in a way that most of the top decks have the same shell of 《Deathrite Shaman》 + Blue package. This has opened a window for new decks to flourish and combat them. Turbo Depths, for example, doesn't really have any new card, but it has exactly the tools to answer the 《DRS》 decks.

Here's a sample decklist.

Other way to attack the 《DRS》 decks is denying their manabase. All 《DRS》 decks have in common that they need to play a lot of fetchlands, and that makes them weak to 《Blood Moon》 effects.

Mono Red Prison

Mono Red Prison was the breakout deck of GP Madrid, where we could see two copies on the Top 4. I think the deck could be here to stay, since it preys on the best decks in the format.

Here's what Alessandro Lippi took to the tournament:

Blood MoonMagus of the Moon

This deck works as a traditional prison deck, where the lock pieces are the most important part of our game plan. That means if we are playing the deck we are accepting some kind of match-up lottery, because if our lock pieces don't pair well against our opponent, our match-up is going to turn very badly. Luckily for Mono Red players, most of the tier 1 strategies just fold to a turn 1 《Blood Moon》, and we play 8 copies of that effect thanks to 《Magus of the Moon》.

Ancient TombCity of TraitorsChrome MoxSimian Spirit Guide

The mana package is pretty straightforward, with 8 "《Sol Ring》" Lands, 《Chrome Mox》 and 《Simian Spirit Guide》, giving us 16 ways to generate extra mana in our early turns. The goal of this deck is dropping a prison piece as soon as possible, which means we have to play the mana generators quite early and aggressively.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance

This strategy is going to disrupt our opponents' game plan by dropping a 《Chalice of the Void》 or a 《Blood Moon》 effect as soon as possible, but it's also usually going to translate into card disadvantage on our side. 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》 is our most important threat since it's the one that will let us recover that card disadvantage, while also threating with her ultimate.

Goblin RabblemasterPia and Kiran NalaarHazoret the Fervent

《Goblin Rabblemaster》, 《Pia and Kiran Nalaar》 and 《Hazoret the Fervent》 are the threats Lippi ran because they all work under 《Ensnaring Bridge》, which is our best plan against cards like 《Gurmag Angler》. Our 1/1 tokens can attack under the bridge during our turn, and 《Hazoret》 doesn't even need to attack to deal damage. If we have both 《Goblin Rabblemaster》 and 《Ensnaring Bridge》 on the battlefield, we can go around 《Goblin Rabblemaster》's drawback. If we empty our hand before combat, we can avoid sending our small goblins into bigger blockers.

Fiery Confluence

With all the mana acceleration, threats and prison element there's not much space for interactive spells. However, this deck chooses to play 《Fiery Confluence》. Being from a set that has never been Modern legal, many players don't have much experience with or against this card, but in my opinion it's worth using the slot.

Young PyromancerHeritage Druid

This deck is weak to early game creatures that swarm the board like 《Young Pyromancer》 or the whole Elves deck, and 《Fiery Confluence》 shaves this weakness. Having more modes is useful because we can't really afford to have many dead cards, especially in multiples. Dealing 6 damage to an opponent after an early 《Goblin Rabblemaster》 can help us closing a game where our opponent escaped our prison elements.

AbradeScab-Clan Berserker

The sideboard is basically made of hate cards and two 《Abrade》 on top to have a little bit more of interaction. 《Scab-Clan Berserker》 is a card I haven't seen outside of the Mono Red Prison decks, but it's the most popular creature against combo.

We will have some very weak cards against most match-ups, so sideboarding should be relatively easy. Also, if we don't have bad cards at all, we probably have a great match-up without sideboarding anyway!

Thanks for reading!

Javier Dominguez

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