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《Death's Shadow》 in Legacy

2018.05.25 Marc Tobiasch

Introduction

I've been playing a lot of Standard lately leading up the Pro Tour Dominaria. There is a lot of sweet stuff going on with the new set but that will be food for thought for now.

The last GP I went to was Birmingham and I played my favorite constructed format: Legacy.

Legacy has been in turmoil lately. A lot of new decks cropping up and the metagame trying to adjust.

Deathrite ShamanDelver of Secrets

The enemy number one is certainly still 《Deathrite Shaman》 in either 4 color 《Delver of Secrets》 decks or 4 color control decks. However 《Dark Depths》 has been picking up a lot of steam with both Turbo Depth as well as Lands being strong contenders. To combat both of these strategies 《Ancient Tomb》 fueled all-in decks with 《Chalice of the Void》 and 《Blood Moon》 reared their head (and eventually took down the tournament).

GriselbrandChalice of the Void

In this expected metagame of fast 《Griselbrand》 (since both Reanimator and 《Show and Tell》 decks are still on the map) and 《Chalice of the Void》 decks as well as the usual countermagic dense 《Deathrite Shaman》 decks I felt like Storm wouldn't be the best choice.

In looking for alternatives I wanted a deck that could win fast and be very disruption dense with threats that survive 《Punishing Fire》. Basically I wanted an upgrade on Grixis Delver which I don't like for multiple reasons.

Death's Shadow

The answer for me was 《Death's Shadow》. After its rise in Modern the card has been a known quantity, but the reason it fell off in Modern again is absent in Legacy. 《Death's Shadow》 is inherently weak in creature mirror matches. If they can just chump your 《Shadow》 and attack back you are usually in a position where you can't profitably attack and ultimately in a losing position. This is very apparent in Modern in a matchup like Humans. They have a ton of creatures to halt your offense and being on low life means that they will inherently win every race.

In Legacy creatures are mostly very small and utility based. 《Deathrite Shaman》 and 《Delver of Secrets》 aren't that great at racing. Also there is no real creature deck in the format that aims on playing a lot of creatures and attacking with them, expect maybe Elves which is having a bad space in the metagame though.

What 《Death's Shadow》 is very good at is pressuring opponents who don't aim to win via damage or deal damage in a large enough chunk that it doesn't matter if you are on 5 or 19. All in all this makes Legacy a great environment for 《Death's Shadow》 to shine. Plus you get some confused faces when you fetch out a Ravnica shock dual in Legacy.

Deck List

The first thing that becomes obvious is only 2 《Deathrite Shaman》.

Deathrite Shaman

It's possible that you want 0 instead and the fourth 《Gurmag Angler》 going forward. The reason for 2 was multifold. Neither poking nor forcing them to lose 2 life with his ability isn't really relevant in this deck since you usually hit in large chunks. Also the mana that takes is tough to come by since the deck is extremely mana light. This means that drawing multiple 《Deathrite Shaman》 is usually very weak. The extra mana is only really relevant on the first couple of turns for the same reasons as well as not having anything to ramp into since the curve stops at 2 with only a single card costing 2 mana at that. Compared to Grixis Delver this is much cheaper since they play both 2 and 3 mana cards in decent quantities.

《Deathrite Shaman》 is actually mostly for 2 reasons in the deck:

  • 1) it checks opposing 《Deathrite Shaman》. The 《Deathrite》 standoff means that both 《Deathrite》 are mostly neutralized, especially for manaproduction which is the most important aspect this deck cares about.
  • 2) it forces an answer from the fair opponents drawing out removal that could possibly otherwise hit your real threats.

Going forward I would certainly consider cutting them entirely while I'm sure that you don't want more. This is also a sign to the decks powerlevel since you have access to the possibly best creature ever printed and you just don't want it since it might be to weak.

The disruption suite in this deck is probably the most you are likely to see in any Legacy deck.

As well as likely the highest cantrip densitiy with:

This means you have the best disruption and are more likely to find them. Together with the fast clock you gain by your hard hitting threats, you can win as early as turn 3, 《Death's Shadow》 is likely the best possible deck against the unfair decks in the format.

The threatdensity however is somewhat low as a result. This means that in fair matchups where you face of against removal spells and cards like 《Baleful Strix》 you can struggle.

Baleful Strix

The sideboard attempts to fix this issue with 《Bitterblossom》 and 《Liliana, the Last Hope》.

BitterblossomLiliana, the Last Hope

Both are additional threats as well as strong cards against 《Strix》 which is something you need to be prepared for out of the control decks.

Swords to Plowshares

《Swords to Plowshares》 is of course a problematic card for the deck since it has the potential to destroy multiple 《Shadow》 at once.

Stubborn DenialThoughtseizeGitaxian Probe

Playing around those is possible though since 《Stubborn Denial》 is a clean answer and with both 《Thoughtseize》 and 《Gitaxian Probe》 you usually have enough knowledge to have ample warning.

Miracles, one of the decks with 《Swords》 is a decent matchup with calculated play, although Death and Taxes is hard to win against. They have too many cards that are hard to deal with which makes it harder to play around 《Swords》 as well as having a lot of problematic creatures which was the problem I noted earlier. Luckily Death and Taxes is quite weak in the meta right now and even stalwarts of the deck have been jumping ship.

Ground Seal

A nice addition in the sideboard is 《Ground Seal》. The card is very strong against fair decks that rely on 《Deathrite Shaman》 and 《Snapcaster Mage》 as well as hosing graveyard strategies with 《Life from the Loam》 or Reanimates. Most fair decks can't play the card since almost all the fair decks play either 《Deathrite Shaman》 or 《Snapcaster》 or both, but we are an exception there.

With the growing popularity of 《Chalice of the Void》 decks after its win in Birmingham the way forward might be cutting the 《Deathrite Shaman》 for the fourth 《Angler》 and a second 《Decay》.

Gurmag AnglerAbrupt Decay

The 8th real threat might be necessary since most of the games you lose is where you either can't find a threat or lose your only one. And having more maindeck answers to a resolved 《Chalice》 can't hurt either. Having multiple 《Angler》 in hand can be awkward, but casting the first as early as turn 2 is usually trivial and even the second one soon after is usually fine. If you do happen to draw more you can still shuffle them away with 《Brainstorm》. 《Gurmag Angler》 is also just a very strong threat at the moment since the only way for the 4 Color Decks to kill it is with their (usually sideboard) 《Diabolic Edict》, since the usual removal in those decks consists of 《Lightning Bolt》, 《Fatal Push》 and 《Abrupt Decay》 all of which cannot hit the fish.

Stubborn DenialDaze

Like its Modern counterpart the deck usually really locks up the game with the help of 《Stubborn Denial》 which is a unique card in this deck. With this many threats that enable Ferocious that you can deploy as early as turn 1 the card becomes a very strong tool to ride the threat to victory in the few turn it usually needs. And as evidenced but 《Daze》, even the 《Force Spike》 mode can be very potent in Legacy.

Conclusion

To sum up, I think this deck should be a very strong contender in the format. It does what it does very well and focused, basically doing what Delver wants to do, but better. It loses some of Delver's flexibility as a result, but in a format such as Legacy where being the most focused version of a deck is usually a big boon this shouldn't deter you.

The sideboard also gives you a lot of options to juke and jive opponents that might attack you in a way that your main gameplan is weak against. It is even possible to switch out green for red for example since 《Pyroblast》 and 《Pyroclasm》 are very strong at the moment.

PyroblastAbrupt DecayPyroclasm

I personally think that 《Abrupt Decay》 is too important to not play red right now, but that can easily change with small changes in the metagame.

It is never too late to innovate even in a format as old and large as Legacy. And this deck is far from set in stone.

So try it out and tune to your hearts content!

Marc Tobiasch

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