There is a famous thought experiment often referred to as “The Ship of Theseus”, which poses the following question: If a ship takes a voyage and, over the course of its voyage, each plank of wood is replaced with a new plank, the sails are replaced with new sails and the crew is replaced by new crew members, does the ship remain the same object? If not, at what point does the ship become a new object? You could pose the same question about a Magic deck. If you copy someone’s deck list and change a single card, is it still the same deck? What if you change two cards? At what point does your pile of cards transition from one archetype to another? Why is Evart asking me these questions in an article about Grixis Shadow? Where is he going with this?
I’m trying to plant the idea in your head that, in Modern, there are some archetypes that have lots of pieces that are interchangeable with others. You can replace different packages of cards, or even color combinations, while still effectively playing the same deck. A great example of this is blue/white/x control decks. Some weeks you’ll want to play Jeskai, or Esper, or straight UW for metagame-dependent cards all while effectively still playing the same deck.
The new clear example of this concept, and the focus of today’s article are the red/black/x midrange decks that play discard spells, cheap removal spells, Ragavan, Dragon’s Rage Channeler (DRC) and have Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion. The different flavors – Rakdos, Jund, Mardu and Grixis – are all effectively the same deck, and if you’re looking to master the archetype, you’ll want to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each version. Mastering all the variants of an archetype takes a lot of time, but doing so will help you build your ship to take on any voyage.