Is Grixis Death’s Shadow On the Rise?

Caleb Gordon
June 17, 2022


The winds of Modern are constantly shifting, and this time we're sailing deep into Grixis waters for the first time in weeks. After Lurrus' banning, Grixis Death's Shadow (and its alternative, Grixis no-Shadow) saw a rapid decline over the following weeks. While the archetype did not completely pass into obscurity, it dwindled both in terms of representation and rankings. In May, Reid Duke had pinned it at fifth, saying that it had the possibility to adapt to the loss. By June's updated rankings, it had fallen to ninth, with Duke saying it was unlikely to return to its original placement near the top.

So why am I interested in it again?

New Capenna's barely boltable bird is the answer. Shredding Ledgers and taking names, New Capenna's famous expert in Bird Law is at the forefront of Grixis Death's Shadow, taking the midrange deck to soaring new heights. Check out this list from kanister:

The addition of Ledger Shredder means the deck has greater card selection, another threat that gets more dangerous over time, and forces opponents to consider if they wish to feed into your Shredder by playing more than one spell per turn. This last consideration is currently one of the more difficult aspects of Modern – is your second spell per turn worth the potential advantage gained by an opponent's Shredder? This is obviously a contextual decision, but it's one more question your opponents need to take into consideration.

The other reason that this list is rising in representation is far more grave. While the deck enjoys synergy with the graveyard with cards such as Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, Dragon's Rage Channeler and Drown in the Loch, half of the deck can survive the graveyard hate currently employed by the current meta. While a well-timed Relic of Progenitus activation could save a creature from Drowning, it does absolutely nothing to stop Death's Shadow or a large Ledger Shredder from connecting with your opponent's face. While DRC is happy to have an expansive graveyard, we're more interested in the surveil triggers finding answers to our opponent's threats.

Currently, the deck has a large amount of interaction, and DRC allows us to find the right type, digging for creature removal, counters, or hand disruption as needed. We're happy to close out the game with our good friend, but just as happy to hang back as needed until we find a bigger threat.

In terms of sideboarding, this is not a Blood Moon deck – our manabase is weak to having just Mountains. That doesn't stop us from bringing in Alpine Moon against Saga decks though. Engineered Explosives is great for any Hammer players still kicking around, and happily dismantles most aggro decks that rely too heavily on 1-drops. Dress Down is powerful against any ETB triggers of course, and has a secondary mode that seasoned Death's Shadow players are familiar with – turning their small (potentially unblocked) Shadows into 13/13 terrors.

The final card worth speaking about is New Capenna's Unlicensed Hearse, a graveyard hate card that gobbles up specific threats once per turn, then threatens to swing in and kill your opponents after it has gotten large enough. When comparing the Hearse to current favorite Relic, you'll notice that they perform different functions. Relic is great for chipping away at your opponent's yard as early as turn 1, killing a potential Murktide Regent with a thousand cuts. If your opponent is too close to getting 5 cards in the graveyard, you can pull the ripcord and exile everything. Hearse is somewhat more insidious, removing two cards per turn, and turning into a threat all on its own. Sometimes the best move is stuffing an unescaped Kroxa into the hearse as he makes his way to the yard, just to swing in for that final bit of damage.

Overall, the deck is in a much better place than it was by the end of Neon Dynasty, and has the capacity to rise even higher. It still requires a talented pilot who can navigate the twists and turns of different matchups, knowing when to push, and when to hold back. When in the right hands however, it is a mighty force to be reckoned with.

Have questions on what to do with your Ledger Shredder? Jesse Robkin (@tiddypills) has a great guide on the many decisions behind Connive triggers here.

Want to watch the deck in action? Kanister streams on, and answers most questions in his chat.

Finally, a skill-testing question from the old age of Death's Shadow: what happens when a 7/7 Death's Shadow that is blocked by a 5/5 Death's Shadow is targeted with Temur Battle Rage? Tell me your thoughts (and find out why this is a neat interaction) by talking to me on Twitter @Melitius.