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Posted by on Oct 23, 2017

Winning a PPTQ with 4C Death’s Shadow

Winning a PPTQ with 4C Death’s Shadow

After losing what felt like 15 Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier (PPTQ) finals appearances in a row (it was actually 6) I finally converted  a couple weeks back and took down the Hairy Tarantula Modern PPTQ with 4C Death’s Shadow.

Now, I’ve written at length about the Jund Death’s Shadow base in the past and mused about countless other BGx Modern archetypes. So, today I’m going to do something rather, well, ordinary. I’m simply going to give you the methodology behind some of my individual card choices and provide a guide to sideboarding with the deck. I guess after a few articles and a few thousand words I’ve finally found the guts to shut up about Thoughtseize.

Here’s the list:

4C Death’s Shadow by Keith Capstick

What I didn’t want to lose to

You see, I just hate Primeval Titan and Karn, Liberated so much, it’s almost unhealthy. In all seriousness I decided prior to the event that I just wasn’t going to lose to big mana decks and linear spell-based combo decks. For this reason you see a full six counterspells in my sideboard in addition to two maindeck copies of Temur Battle Rage. With this my deck can morph into a Death’s Shadow deck reminiscent of the old Gitaxian Probe-fuelled Aggro Shadow decks that could kill so quickly.

I dealt lethal damage on multiple Turn 4s in this event and that’s the way you win at Modern Magic: The Gathering baby.

What was I giving up?

Traditional iterations of this archetype sport white cards like Lingering Souls and Ranger of Eos to bolster your midrange matchups. Instead of these cards I went with a full four copies of Liliana of the Veil (bae) in my maindeck and a couple Liliana, the Last Hopes in my sideboard out of respect for opposing Souls decks. I just figured I’d try to play tight and aggressive to beat decks like U/W Control and Abzan and then  if I played Grixis Death’s Shadow my Lillys would take over the game (they did).

I also decided to play Leyline of the Void as my graveyard interaction to stay on-plan with targeted and game-ending cards against linear strategies like Dredge and Living End. What this allowed me to do was also bring in Leyline versus Grixis to cold their card advantage giving me a targeted sideboard card that’s also effective in some fair matchups which I believe is a major key to Modern sideboarding.

The hardest deck I’ve ever played

Jund-based Death’s Shadow decks are the most challenging decks I’ve ever played–full stop. I don’t mean this in a “what do you I use my removal spell on?” kind of way but rather a, “if I fake fainting at this table does that make I don’t have to make this mulliganing decisions?” kind of way. You both have to be cognisant of what your deck is doing on a macro level and a micro level simultaneously. You have to play and use fetch lands and take damage based on both what’s in your hand and what you may draw. You must decide to switch gears from midrange to aggro instantly and know exactly when that change needs to happen.

It’s funny, every time I play this deck I imagine that Luis Scott-Vargas would be very good at playing it, because you’re playing with what’s in your deck more often than what’s in your hand which is something he excels at.

As I remarked above, I think mulliganing is the biggest challenge of all. I’m almost convinced you should keep any hand with Street Wraith, Mishra’s Bauble and two lands because of the effect Delirium can have on you draws. It’s like giving your deck an energy drink. With that said, you obviously often need discard spells to allow your draw to come together, so every pre-game decision comes down to a whole lot of context, what role you think you can play in the matchup and how aggressive you can be. All I can really say, is take your time, practice a lot and this deck is honestly just broken. What you’re doing is both proactive and reactive at the same time and the efficiency of your deck is just unfair. One misstep though, and it’s just another average Modern deck.

Sideboarding

Vs. Grixis Death’s Shadow

In:

+3 Leyline of the Void

+1 Dreadbore

+2 Liliana, The Last Hope

Out:

-2 Temur Battle Rage

-2 Inquisition of Kozilek

-2 Fatal Push

Here I’m obviously just trying to grind, but as I mentioned the deck has to lean on Leyline and Liliana very hard because we don’t have access to white cards. The way the post-board deck is configured there are ample ways to beat Delve threats which is the way you usually get behind. This matchup is fairly straightforward but my best advice is to play yourself into Liliana of the Veil as much as possible.

Vs. Affinity

In:

+2 Liliana, The Last Hope

+2 Ancient Grudge

+1 Flaying Tendrils

+1 Dreadbore

Out:

-4 Liliana of the Veil

-2 Thoughtseize

This is one of the only matchups I think boarding-out Thoughtseize is reasonable. You can play this matchup pretty aggressively on the play but look for Ancient Grudge and reactive hands on the draw.

Vs. U/R Storm

In:

+3 Stubborn Denial

+3 Leyline of the Void

+3 Disdainful Stroke

+1 Flaying Tendrils

Out:

-2 Terminate

-1 Dismember

-1 Abrupt Decay

-4 Liliana of the Veil

-2 Traverse the Ulvenwald

The above suggestion is a little less refined than all my other plans. It really depends on what I see out of my opponent. I’ve experimented with playing an Izzet Staticaster to traverse for and if that were the case I’d leave in all my copies of traverse. Recently I’ve had success boarding-out my Lilianas in favour of the most low-to-the-ground 60-card deck possible despite acknowledging that she is powerful in the matchup.

Quite honestly the matchup is about a very specific set of 10-20 cards in your deck. Establishing one of your eight threats by turn-two and then setting up behind your counter-magic. I do think you need the Fatal Push’s to answer their accelerators. Lastly, look for hands in this matchup and matchups that are similarly-linear that put your life total low early as that gives you access to some of your most explosive draws.

Vs. Eldrazi Tron

In:

+3 Disdainful Stroke

+2 Ancient Grudge

+1 Dreadbore

Out:

-3 Inquisition of Kozilek

-2 Fatal Push

-1 Traverse the  Ulvenwald

I really think you need the grudges to answer Chalice of the Void which is often a point of contention in these matchups. Inquisition is a little weak and you want to increase the general power level of your top decks in a matchup that plays out blow-for-blow. I often board-out one copy of Traverse against decks with Relic of Progenitus.

Vs. G/R TitanShift

In:

+3 Stubborn Denial

+3 Disdainful Stroke

Out:

-4 Fatal Push

-1 Dismember

-1 Traverse the Ulvenwald

If you don’t see Khalni Heart Expedition or Prismatic Omen you’re probably better off with the Dreadbore after-board than the Abrupt Decay but that’s pretty marginal. This is the matchup that benefits most from the heavy-blue sideboard and was the deck I defeated in the finals of the event. Temur Battle Rage is the sacred cow of this matchup as far as I’m considered and is often an “I win” effect if you’re set up to take advantage of it.

Want to try out this sweet deck? We’ve got you covered this Sunday as you and two friends can come play Modern, Legacy and Standard at our Team Trios 1k Sunday Showdown in-store at Face to Face Games Toronto !

  • Markus Rockatansky

    Please help me understand your sideboarding decisions vs Storm. Why is flaying tendrils better than targeted removal like decay? Which by the way ist remand-proof.