Grand Prix Madrid was, for me, the last GP of the year. I had the pleasure to team with two Platinum players: My best friend Christian Calcano, and my Pro Tour teammate Eduardo Sajgalik.
The format was Team Unified Modern, and both Calcano and I had not played Modern in a very long time, so we relied on Eduardo’s knowledge to enlighten us.
He had been playing Grixis Death’s Shadow for a long time to good success, and despite the fact that I had never played with or against the deck, I have heard a lot of great things about it and even that some notable pros were advocating bans.
It was tough. As lovers of the game both, we despise strategies like Tron or Burn where you don’t interact with your opponent, but that was where we had to start.
I tried Bant Knightfall and some Company decks, but I didn’t think they were powerful enough, and the matchup versus Affinity scared me.
Eventually I started looking at Burn. The deck is simple and has some good matchups (Storm and R/G Valakut), so despite the fact that it was definitely not the kind of Magic I like to play, I decided to play it for the good of the team.
Actually, the team was against my choice of playing Burn. They wanted me to play Tron, but I’d rather quit Magic than sleeve up Urza’s lands.
Christian has experience with Affinity, and after a week of playtesting locked it in. Affinity is a powerful deck, but it’s hard to master and easy to hate.
There was a clear mistake in deckbuilding. Since Eduardo was playing both Bloodstained Mire and Scalding Tarn, I figured that it was okay if I only played 8 fetchlands. That turned out to be a disaster since I only had 9 sources to cast my Destructive Revelry in the sideboard and that made me lose at least one game against Ad Nauseam.
I should have played at least 2 Windswept Heath, but I think I’d play 11 fetches if I’d had access to more red ones.
The deck performed great and it was by far the best of the three (despite their initial doubts). I ended up going 10-2 (but didn’t finish one match) before our team dropped. I faced plenty of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and control decks. The deck was simple to play and I didn’t have much room for mistakes. I was left with a very good impression of it.
I was player A and Calcano was player C, so I didn’t watch many of his games. I just saw him mulligan a lot (multiple times to 4 and 5) and that, to me, was a sign of a deck that’s unbeatable 50% of the time.
He and I quickly won the first four rounds and it felt great, but then his winning streak ended and I guess he started drawing poorly.
Overall, I’m happy with Affinity being one of the three decks for a Team Unified Modern event, but I wouldn’t pick it up for a single-person Modern event.
Grixis Death’s Shadow
On Sunday night I wrote this tweet, which I guess sums up my thoughts on the deck.
Since I always finished my matches quickly, I happened to watch many of Eduardo’s games, and I’m not lying when I say that he flooded every single game of his tournament.
I might have flooded 3 or 4 games out of 30. You can call that variance, but if you flood every single game of your tournament you can’t say you’re unlucky. Your deck has to be bad.
This deck plays 19 lands and 12 cantrips, and cantrips in Modern (unlike Legacy) are totally random. You open a hand with 2 Street Wraith, 2 Thought Scour, and a Serum Visions/Opt, and in a few turns you can find yourself either with the perfect hand or with 6 lands in hand and 2 in play (it has happened).
You have no control over those cantrips, and that will have a huge impact on the game. On top of that, you are playing a control deck that always starts at around 8-10 life points, and you have some very bad matchups. Death’s Shadow is definitely a powerful card in Modern, but blue just can’t be the way to go.
Looking back, I don’t know what the ideal combination would have been. Both of the finalists at GP Madrid had R/G Valakut in their combination, and R/G Valakut overperformed in Oklahoma City too with two players in the finals. This probably means that the deck is among the best in the format, and likely needed to be played.
My next event will be GP London on the 26th of January, so I’ll have plenty of time to playtest Modern for PT Bilbao. I’m hoping to find something interactive, fun, and that doesn’t have only bad matchups (yes, no Abzan unfortunately…).