Deaths Shadow Modern

Playing the Mythic Championship Qualifier Season with Grixis Death’s Shadow

Hello there! I’m back to share my thoughts about the MCQ season, evolving as a player with Grixis Death’s Shadow.

Well… another season of MCQs came and went. Another failed attempt to qualify, but I trust the process of evolving as a player, making proper choices, making right plays and evaluating things despite of the outcome, and I think I gained a lot during this season.I’m pretty damn sure Will Jonathan would be proud of me. I grew my mental game. I feel that the MCQ season is the true grind. Going to PPTQs in order to qualify to RPTQs wasn’t my thing. In some cities there would be lots of opportunities, but not so much in others. The atmosphere of the new system (truthfully, the old one, as they basically reverted to the system that existed before PPTQs and RPTQs) is much nicer. Stakes are much higher. Winner takes all. It makes you feel like you are playing for something important, rather than playing to qualify to another qualifier. It also brings me nostalgia and makes me feel the fire burning once again.

Thank you WotC! It is very nice to have this system back, as I truly believe it is better and more exciting to play than the other one. Having said that, there’s still plenty of room for improvement (like qualifications based on consecutive good results and not only spikes, and making teams matter again and coverage and so much more), but I think we are on the right track.

The Brazilian season started in Curitiba on August 18th. Hogaak wasn’t banned yet and I decided I would not fool myself by not playing it, even though I despised the deck and loved Whirza. So there I went with the best deck, and finished a terrible 1-2. I got what I deserved. I went there to not play Magic, but to flop cards on the table. I lost on turn 3 to Storm and the mirror flipping his graveyard better than me.

Even before the bannings, it was clear to me that Whirza would be the best deck of the upcoming format. I played a lot with it on MTGO and watched all Kanister’s and Eli Kassis’ streams and it was clear how powerful the deck was, especially post-bans with the format slowing down a little bit with everybody trying Stoneforge Mystics… Besides that, the deck is a joy to play. I was having fun winning or losing. I tuned my list for what I expected (Mono Red, Valakut and Tron) and the next stop was in Belo Horizonte on September 7th.

With 121 players, my 4-1-1 start meant that even winning the last round I could only get 9th. Despite not Top 8ing, I was feeling good. I played well to a decent result and had fun while doing it. For the upcoming weekend, Whirza got too much attention and become noticeably the best deck to a point where people would over-hate it on the sideboards. With the online results of Marc Tobiasch and others and having some good background with Grixis Death’s Shadow, I decided to give it a go. I 5-0’ed my first league and had great fun navigating the many decisions the deck presents.

After a couple more leagues, I decided I would play GDS for my last MCQ in São Paulo. I

The mana base felt so tight with 17 lands:

  • 10 Fetches: 4 Polluted Delta 4 Bloodstained Mire and 2 Scalding Tarn
  • 5 Shocks: 2 Watery Grave 2 Blood Crypt and 1 Steam Vents
  • 2 Basics: 1 Swamp and 1 Island

I tried switching Island, Steam Vents or Scalding Tarn for Fiery Islet. It turned out to be always disappointing. I even tried it as my 18th land, also to my dissatisfaction.

Some lists play Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy or even the new Dreadhorde Arcanist (which requires list adaptations). I did have two copies in the past in my list, but with the recent unban of Stoneforge, I thought decks would pack more 1-mana removal spells and I decided against it. That might have been a mistake. I think it is good against slower decks like UW Control, UW Stoneblade and Whirza. Having a different angle of attack is a nice option.

The 2 Temur Battle Rage are a must and a reason to play the deck, though I did sideboard them out quite a bit. I don’t think you want them against several decks where disruption and counter and card advantage are too important, or against decks with too much removal. You don’t want them lying dead in your hand.

The typical removal package is 6-7 cards. Two Dismembers are a must and the rest is usually Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt. It is a matter of choice for the expected meta and I went with 3 and 2 respectively, I expected the field to be filled with Burn. The main reason to play Grixis is Stubborn Denial and you should not go with any less than four.

Four Street Wraiths are a given, and you should always play 4 Baubles! The deck is so tight, and the card relevancy is so different depending on the matchup that a 0-mana cantrip that helps lots of decisions and enables Gurmag on turn 2 should be a consensus choice again in my opinion. Mishra’s Bauble can help you find your second land of the game if you kept a 1-lander. You can see your top card and then decide whether to fetch or not. You can see your opponent’s top card and help guide your discard. There’s so much decision-making involving this card, and I love it.

With all that, let’s see how my list shaped up:

Grixis Death’s Shadow

4 Polluted Delta
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Scalding Tarn
2 Watery Grave
2 Blood Crypt
1 Steam Vents
1 Swamp (339)
1 Island (335)
4 Death’s Shadow
4 Gurmag Angler
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Street Wraith
4 Mishra’s Bauble
4 Thought Scour
1 Serum Visions
4 Stubborn Denial
4 Thoughtseize
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Dismember
3 Fatal Push
2 Lightning Bolt
2 Temur Battle Rage

Sideboard
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Abrade
2 Kolaghan’s Command
3 Collective Brutality
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Damping Sphere
1 Anger of the Gods
2 Ashiok, Dream Render

To the sideboard! I definitely wanted 2 Disdainful Strokes to help fight the big mana decks that are still running rampant in the meta. I also wouldn’t leave home without 3 Collective Brutality with Burn being very popular in Brazil and being very well-positioned in the metagame. Kolaghan’s Command and Abrade are a must in this deck for card advantage, creature removal and most importantly artifact removal. A Chalice of the Void totally shuts this deck down. Planeswalkers often make the cut as alternative win cons, especially Liliana, the Last Hope. People have been trying Jace, the Mind Sculptor in lists with 18 lands, but I can’t see it being cast consistently with 17 lands. I like Liliana of the Veil as a second option and a way to keep some decks in check. Last cards are very different depending on player preferences. I like a creature removal silver bullet in the likes of Anger of the Gods. It is one of your hopes to beat Dredge, Elves, Druid Combo, Bogles and it’s even decent against Storm. Speaking of which, that 1 Damping Sphere also helps against it and is also useful against Tron and Amulet. A card that has been on my radar and I tested and was really good was Ashiok, Dream Render. It’s a very castable planeswalker that locks Titanshift, Amulet, Storm and Dredge. Fortunately, I packed 2 of them.

I was very happy about my deck choice, my card choices, my preparation and my chances. Confidence was flowing. But there were 225 other players and it would be an 8-round, long day.

Round 1: Burn – 2-0

This match is always very hard and you have to be very cautious with your life loss. The extra removal spell helps, as killing a turn-one creature or an Eidolon is very important to fight their game plan. Finding Temur Battle Rage is very relevant and Stubborn Denial is there to give you that breathing room.

In: 3 Collective Brutality 2 Abrade 1 Anger of the Gods 1 Liliana of the Veil 1 Kolaghan’s Command

Out: 4 Street Wraith 4 Thoughtseize

Round 2: Storm – 2-0

This match shouldn’t be problematic if you find an early creature and discard the right cards.

In: 1 Damping Sphere 2 Ashiok, Dream Render 1 Liliana of the Veil 1 Anger of the Gods 3 Collective Brutality

Out: 3 Fatal Push 2 Dismember 2 Temur Battle Rage

Round 3: Storm – 2-0

Round 4: Abzan Stoneblade – 2-1

This BGX decks are VERY hard and challenging. I think you can/should outgrind them and therefore I like to be on the draw, especially post-board.

In: 2 Kolaghan’s Command 1 Liliana, the Last Hope 1 Liliana of the Veil 2 Abrade

Out: 4 Stubborn Denial 2 Temur Battle Rage

Round 5: Tron – 2-1

Never underestimate the strength of this deck. Stripping their hand isn’t enough. Going for their lands also is not enough. Countering their stuff is not enough. Just pressuring their life total is not enough either. You have to do a mix of all those things.

In: 2 Disdainful Stroke 1 Damping Sphere 2 Abrade 1 Liliana of the Veil

Out: 3 Fatal Push 2 Dismember 1 Lightning Bolt

Round 6: Jund – 2-1

Same as the previous BGX deck.

Round 7: Soulherder Value – ID

Have never played the matchup, but thought I would be able to double ID into 6-0-2 and Top 8.

Unfortunately, I was paired down and had to play:

Round 8: TitanShift – 2-0

I think this is one of the easiest matchups for the deck and even one of the reasons to play it since Valakut is well-positioned at the moment. You have discard and counters to keep them from ramping, combined with a fast clock–the perfect combination to beat TitanShift. But don’t play loose or you’ll lose.

In: 2 Disdainful Stroke 2 Ashiok, Dream Render 1 Liliana of the Veil 2 Collective Brutality

Out: 3 Fatal Push 2 Lightning Bolt 2 Dismember

Top 8: Twiddle Storm

I knew this match would be way tougher than regular Storm, and with open decklists for Top 8 I was pretty sure I would lose this round. My opponent’s list was a very solid UGR splashing green for Sylvan Scrying and Veil of Summer and red for Past in Flames, Grapeshot and Aria of Flame. Game 1 made my predictions real and I was demolished, drawing 2 removal spells and not being able to pressure him enough. Games 2 and 3 I had some good draws and was able to discard and apply pressure to keep him off his plan. Battle Rage to close both games early enough was also helpful.

In: 1 Damping Sphere 2 Ashiok 1 Liliana of the Veil 3 Collective Brutality

Out: 3 Fatal Push 2 Dismember 2 Lightning Bolt

Top 4: UW Stoneblade – 1-2

This game was also streamed. I was on the play since I was second seed. Once I looked at my opponent’s decklist I knew he could have trouble finding his fourth land drops since he only packed a couple of Opts and zero Serum Visions. That was exactly what happened and game 1 was in the books. Game 2 I had a very keepable hand and stripped his, but drew a bunch of lands and was killed by a lonely Colonnade. Game 3 was harsh. I started with Mishra’s Bauble and saw he had a Stoneforge Mystic on top. Nothing I could do, though. So I Seized and saw a hand of 2 lands, 3 Path to Exile, 1 Supreme Verdict and 1 Stoneforge Mystic. I took the SFM hoping to draw a second discard spell, and relied on Collective Brutality to kill it and discard something else. Without much else, he drew his second card and went for Batterskull with SFM. Discarding a land and knowing all but one card in his hand, I went for his hand and SFM hoping to close the game fast enough to not see that Batterskull hit the table, but he had drawn Force of Negation. I managed to put some threats out, ditch some Paths, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.

In: 2 Abrade 2 Kolaghan’s Command 1 Liliana of the Veil 2 Collective Brutality

Out: 3 Fatal Push 2 Temur Battle Rage 2 Lightning Bolt

And my opponent went on to beat Infect in the finals. That’s how my season went. I had great fun, learned a lot and got the fire back. How did yours go? Good luck if you still have something to play for =)

I’m going to finish this article with a statement from a powerful wizard that I identify with quite a lot.

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