The rumors of Death’s Shadow’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
The loss of Gitaxian Probe from Modern has had a big impact. Decks like Infect and Death’s Shadow are no longer able to fuel their delve spells for free while providing perfect information on when it’s clear to go for their combos. This greatly weakens Become Immense, and radically changes the composure of the decks.
This loss to Infect was certainly relevant, but it felt much larger for Death’s Shadow. Not only does making your deck 4 cards smaller matter quite a bit for the strategy, but the life loss itself was actually integral to casting an early Death’s Shadow. This seemed like the end for the archetype.
As it turns out, things evolve.
Death’s Shadow is still a great card, but there isn’t as much reason to go after your own life total for incredible speed as there once was. The loss of Probe slowed down the deck, and at this point Become Immense isn’t even included. Not only is the delve spell harder to fuel, but it appears the best approach is to play a Jund-style delirium deck. This means there’s no real advantage to removing your graveyard, and you’ll win the game a bit more slowly. Death’s Shadow itself is still a massive threat, even if it will almost never come down in the first few turns of the game.
Instead, the other heavy-hitter is Tarmogoyf. This is already one of the best creatures ever printed, and with tons of cheap ways to add various types to your graveyard, that’s still the case here.
Like all Jund decks, there’s plenty of discard. Inquisition of Kozilek is great at disrupting Modern opponents, but Thoughtseize is still the top dog as the life loss still helps your Shadows and it’s going to take exactly what you want.
Collective Brutality and Abrupt Decay are also solid removal spells you’ll find in virtually any Jund build. Liliana of the Veil is a versatile planeswalker that doubles as removal and discard while adding another card type to your deck.
Mishra’s Bauble is a 0-mana spell that gives you a delayed draw. You can no longer combo with Probe for perfect information, but you can still target yourself before deciding if you want to fetch or search your library. Street Wraith remains as an easy way to get creatures in the graveyard, churn through your deck, and pump Death’s Shadow. You still have some copies of Temur Battle Rage to make sure a massive Tarmogoyf or Shadow can punch through some chump blockers or deal lethal out of nowhere.
The big payoff for reaching delirium quickly is in Traverse the Ulvenwald. This is a single-mana tutor that you can often turn on in the first couple turns of the game. This gives you far greater access to Death’s Shadows and Tarmogoyf, which are already incredibly efficient creatures.
This deck won’t be killing people turn 2 like the Death’s Shadow aggro decks of old, but it’s more resilient and can play a typical Jund game well. You don’t have all-in creatures like Monastery Swiftspear and Steppe Lynx anymore, so you’re happy letting the game go a bit later. And by later, I mean having 8/8 Death’s Shadows and 7/8 Tarmogoyfs on turn 3!