Death’s Shadow with Justin Cohen

Posted in Event Coverage on May 21, 2016

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Death's Shadow decks have been around Modern for some time now. The deck existed in a cloud of obscurity, with drastically different lists occasionally putting up OK results at smaller events. At Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, Team EUreka brought an exciting new take on the strategy that seemed like it had what it took to compete at the highest level. Unfortunately for Team EUreka, Eldrazi decks decided to show up and completely destroy the competition. Again, Death's Shadow Zoo faded into obscurity.

Justin Cohen

Last weekend, at The Magic Online Championship, defending champ Magnus Lantto brought his take on the EUreka version of Death's Shadow to battle and it caught the eye of (12) Sam Black. Black was intrigued by the deck and became legitimately interested in it after he watched Lantto win nine matches in a row on Magic Online later that evening. Black returned to Wisconsin with this newfound knowledge and shared the information with his roommate Justin Cohen.

Cohen immediately went to work, “I started playing with the deck online and I felt like I couldn't lose.”

I asked why people should want to play with the deck.

“I never said people should play it,” laughed Cohen. “The deck plays a one-mana monster [Death's Shadow] that's just beyond unreal. The decks that can kill Death's Shadow need to do so immediately and the decks that can't are forced to win the game right away.”

When asked about the changes that have been made to the deck recently, Cohen was quick to deny responsibility for the list, “It's still very much Magnus Lantto's list. His version of the deck with Thoughtseize in the main and Hooting Mandrills in the sideboard has just been incredible.”

Not many people have had the pleasure of playing with or against Death's Shadow. I wanted to know what the decks good and bad matchups were.

“Burn can be very bad. We're dealing ourselves a lot of damage and burn loves that. Abzan is also quite hard, especially in games two and three; they have a lot of spot removal including Path to Exile and Abrupt Decay that can ignore the massive size of our Death's Shadow. Tron decks are the best matchup. The deck does very well against slower decks and/or most decks without access to Path to Exile.”

I wanted to know what types of things the deck is capable of.

“I've killed more than one person on turn two. We can play Death's Shadow right away if we have enough ways to hurt ourselves without spending mana on turn one. Sometimes we only need to cast turn one Death's Shadow and turn two Temur Battle Rage as the only cards that cost mana.”

Cohen was forthcoming with tips for playing with and against the deck, “There's a lot of weird Death's Shadow stuff. For example, I've had more than one opponent attack with a trample creature when I had an untapped Death's Shadow that could block - they assign damage in excess of Death's Shadow's toughness to me and then my Death's Shadow lives because that's how state based effects work. People get confused and sometimes frustrated.

The sequencing of the deck can be difficult. We want to playing our cards in a sequence such that we're protecting our Death's Shadow without giving our opponent an easy route to victory. Additionally, we often want to be maximizing the value of our spells alongside Monastery Swiftspear.

There are a ton of small edges to be had too. We want to be looking at our top card with Mishra's Bauble before we decide whether or not to crack a fetchland, we have enough cantrips (cards that draw another card) that we can even do it mainphase. It's also worth noting that, if we've already chosen a particular combo kill to go for, we should hold our Gitaxian Probe until the turn we intend on going for our combo, just to make sure the coast is clear.

The deck has a similar playstyle to Infect. Games are fast and players are faced with a few high stakes decisions over the course of each game. Should I go for the kill or respect open mana with cards in hand?”

The Modern Death's Shadow deck is a pulse-pounding, skill-testing, race to victory. There's no better deck for Modern you're looking for a rush of adrenaline and a lot of winning.

Justin Cohen's Death's Shadow

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