Last weekend, we played one of the best decks I’ve played at a Pro Tour in some time. The Blue-Black Death’s Shadow deck was powerful, fast, and had a ton of great matchups, with the bad matchups being close and the good matchups being very lopsided. That’s a great place to be, and our results were quite good.
Blue-Black Death’s Shadow
The game plan of this deck is simple: pressure the opponent with a fast creature, while disrupting them with Wasteland, Thoughtseize, and counterspells. You clock them quickly and have a lot of ways of stopping them from enacting their plan, making this a classic aggro-control deck, which in Legacy can basically be summed up as a “Delver deck.
We ended up on this because we wanted a proactive deck, due to how big of a format Legacy is, and how difficult it is to fight against the linear decks. I tried playing Grixis Control, but it was hard to combat the combo matchup, as the different combo decks attacked from many angles, so from pretty early on we decided that we wanted to be the aggressor.
Death and Taxes is a great deck too, but my teammates would have murdered me if I didn’t include Brainstorm in my deck, and I had four foil Masques ones I was just waiting to break out.
After BK spotted Oliver Tomajko playing Grixis Death’s Shadow at a team SCG, we started working on the list. The deck looked like the direction we wanted, and we knew we could fall back on R/U/G or Grixis Delver if we struck out.
Aside on BK (Andrew Baeckstrom): BK is a newly-minted Platinum pro, and definitely underrated. Not Matt Nass underrated, which is actually overrated, but actual underrated, especially when it comes to deck tuning. He’s got good instincts and I like how he approaches deck building, and he did a ton of the work on this U/B Shadow deck. I know he’s going to read this section three times to try and figure out the beat, but there isn’t one, and I’m somewhat insulted that he assumes there is one.
The first thing we did with Death’s Shadow was to cut the splash color and add a second Underground Sea. While being straight U/B means that you have to play some unconventional answers to Chalice of the Void (more on that later), only needing blue and black mana makes the mana base so much better. That’s especially important in a deck with Ponder and Brainstorm, because it means that you can stop on two lands way more often than the 3-color versions, as well as being much more resilient to Wasteland.
The next leap was a huge one. Wrapter (whose deck building prowess needs no explanation) added Reanimate. Two was the perfect number, as it isn’t always on and does cost life, but they really took the deck to the next level. The “normal” use was to Reanimate Street Wraith, which gave you a turn-1 3/4 that’s immune to Bolt, Fatal Push, and swampwalks past Baleful Strix, while costing you enough life that you can play Shadow on turn 2.
The backup use case is even sweeter. Thoughtseize the opponent and then Reanimate them, stealing whatever large creature they are foolish enough to be playing. I had Chancellor of the Annex in play multiple times, and it was great. You can also use Reanimate as a way to rebuy a dead Shadow or Delver, which comes up often enough.
Throne of Geth was the last bit of spicy tech, and it’s so spicy that multiple people assumed that it was a typo for Geth’s Verdict instead. No, Throne is intended, and is to proliferate Chalice of the Void from 1 to 2. That unlocks all of our 1-drops while locking the opponent out of 2s, which most Chalice-1 decks play a lot of. It’s very narrow, but we went for powerful and narrow over something like a bounce spell, which is just too low-impact.
Tips and Tricks
Unless you know the opponent is on beatdown, aggressively fetch Graves. The idea is to play a turn-2 or -3 Shadow, so don’t be shy.
- If you have Delver in your opener, it’s almost always right to play it first. Once you have Delver in play, Thoughtseize and Wasteland are a lot more potent, so starting with pressure is optimal.
- Reanimating Street Wraith on turn 1 is your best start, so do that unless you know you’re playing against fast combo.
- Reanimating an opposing Snapcaster Mage and using that to cast Reanimate is a great line.
- Daze picking up a Watery Grave grows your Shadows, so sometimes you’ll fire off Daze just for that (even on your own spells).
- If it looks like you might get into combat, holding Street Wraith can conceal the size of your Shadow.
- Sometimes you want to take a hit or two before killing an opposing creature, just to lower your life total.
This deck wants to close games quickly. You aren’t looking for card advantage or to control the game. You are looking to get both players to 1, then the opponent to zero. As such, this deck should be played aggressively and with an eye to pressuring the opponent. Playing with the card Death’s Shadow is a trip, and you need to balance winning and losing such that it’s big enough to dominate the board while not putting yourself dead to one attack.
Vs. R/U/G Delver
Here, you want Forces and Dazes because so much of the game is about getting on the board, and both players are trading resources at a fast clip. Your mana is pressured due to Stifles and Wastes, so you need pitch spells in order to land something. The good news is that if you do, your creatures are bigger and you’re going to win most games where you don’t get burned out.
Vs. Grixis Control
Out on the play
In on the play
Out on the draw
In on the draw
It’s pretty close whether you want Force or Daze on the draw, and despite starting by taking out Forces, I ended up liking them to fight over high-leverage spells like Jace or Kolaghan’s Command. Some of us liked cutting another Force and leaving in Fatal Push, but I found that to be an ineffective way to fight Baleful Strix.
Vs. Death and Taxes
Reanimator plays a ton of Swamps, so Wasteland isn’t that effective, and you can trim a threat to fit in all the hate. This is your best matchup, and highly favorable both pre- and post-board.
Vs. Sneak and Show
You have to respect Arcane Artisan, so you leave in three removal spells. Also note that against the Cunning Wish/Intuition version, you want to cut the removal for Surgicals (they counter Intuition straight up).
Vs. The Mirror
I haven’t tested this, but I imagine Daze is still fine, and the matchup is fast enough to want Force.
I’m not thrilled to be cutting Fatal Push, but you need three answers to Chalice and I like all of the Forces and Dazes. It’s possible that Push is better than Edict, but missing on Reality Smasher and Endbringer is rough.
Reanimate is bad against a deck with no creatures that has all exile effects, and Dread helps combat Monastery Mentor.
Vs. Mono-Red Prison
This matchup is horrendous, and I lost badly to it at the Pro Tour. That said, if you draw a lot of Dazes and Forces you can definitely win.
I’ll have a full tournament report up soon, but I wanted to get the deck guide out first. Please let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@lsv) if you have any questions!