Grixis Death’s Shadow in São Paulo

I have always liked Thoughtseize midrange decks in Modern: there are so many key elements in each deck that taking them out of your opponents’ hands and knowing their next few moves gives you such an edge in the game. B/G/X decks are my preferred choice. I won two PTQs with it, one with Doran Junk featuring Living Wish during the Extended era ages ago, and one with Deathrite Jund. Continuing my share of success with the archetype, I used B/G Traverse to reach Silver in Vegas in 2017.

But for the past couple of GPs in São Paulo, I have played U/W Control. I like puzzles, and U/W is a good way to pursue a solution to the Modern metagame.

So I started my GP preparation there. I quickly found that with so many viable Modern decks and so many different angles of attack, it was hard to have all the tools to protect myself. 15 sideboard slots were often not enough, and to gain a few percentage points in any one matchup you invariably had to compromise somewhere else. There are decks that abuse the graveyard, others that are creature-based, big mana, burn, combo, and even mill. Once you are prepared for one part of the meta, you leave yourself unprotected against other angles of attack.

Also, you don’t punish your opponents for their mistakes as much, and barely have time to eat or go to the restroom between rounds. Logistics are also an important consideration for tournament preparation.

Despite the recent success of B/G Midrange, I don’t think the deck was well positioned for the Brazilian Modern GP metagame. Let me explain this with the help of a prominent voice from our community, whom I would like to thank for all his effort:

Modern MagicFests in Brazil are a big get together for old friends. It’s the gathering part of Magic. And often, they play with decks from the past they are familiar with like Tron and Burn.

I asked myself, which Thoughtseize deck is the best and has a quick clock to win the game? That’s when I started looking at GDS.

I picked it up for a spin and got instantly hooked. The challenge to pilot the deck even remotely well made me realize that I couldn’t put it down—I had to solve the puzzle.

The Deck

A Grixis Death's Shadow Magic: The Gathering list.

It is best described as The Ben Friedman Special with some Sam Pardee sideboard hotness, the difference being the second Disdainful Stroke instead of the second Collective Brutality, and Liliana of the Veil instead of the second Liliana, The Last Hope. I could not ask for a better 75.

The Tournament

I did not know prior to round 1 that I had byes. I even argued with the scorekeeper about it!

So finding out that I had two byes was a sweet surprise. Unfortunately, I did not capitalize on those extra hours of sleep, but hey, I will take what I can get!

  • Round 3: vs. can’t remember, not shown in DCI (3-0)
  • Round 4: vs. B/G – 2-1 (4-0)
  • Round 5: vs. B/G – 2-1 (5-0)
  • Round 6: vs. Scales – 2-0 (6-0)
  • Round 7: vs. Bogles (opponent went 9-0) – 1-2 (6-1)
  • Round 8: vs. Tron – 2-0 (7-1)
  • Round 9: vs. Tron (GP Winner Marlos) – 1-2 (7-2)
  • Round 10: vs. Bridgevine – 2-0 (8-2)
  • Round 11: vs. Dredge – 1-2 (8-3)
  • Round 12: vs. Frenzy Affinity – 2-0 (9-3)
  • Round 13: vs. Tron – 2-1 (10-3)
  • Round 14: vs. Dredge – 2-0 (11-3)
  • Round 15: vs. U/R Phoenix – Concession (12-3).  A shoutout to my good friend Filipe LC, who scooped me into the Top 16 and won the Friday MCQ!

I am very proud to say that I missed zero Mishra’s Bauble triggers!

But, on the other hand, I did make other mistakes. Punting and improving are dependent on acknowledging it and being humble enough to admit it. It is GDS after all, and there are so many decision points in every game that it is hard not to look back and catch a few here and there.

So yeah, despite my 12-3 and playing really well during almost the whole tournament, I made three mistakes that took me from a possible Top 8 to a deserved 11th place finish. It was still a very pleasing finish, but reflecting upon your mistakes is the path to get to another level (and hopefully a Top 8 next time!). Mainly, my mistakes came from the lack of playing competitive REL tournaments and not playing enough with my deck. I will touch on those I found most worth mentioning here:

Mistake #1: In round 7, I made an attack into a fetchland for a Dryad Arbor to block that left me dead on board if my opponent topdecked. It did not happen. I still ended up losing after that game. It just shows how Modern is a tight format and even a fetchland can surprise you.

Mistake #2: In round 9, I had a bad keep and after discussing it with friends and Twitter, I realized how bad of a keep it was. Game 3, OTD against a mulled Tron opponent.

An image of the hand Jonathan kept and should have mulliganed.

The reason for a mull here is that you need lands and threats, and only after that will you be able to use counters/discard spells. It doesn’t matter the outcome or how the game plays out. This hand must be mulliganed. And I did not do that.

Mistake #3: The third big one was actually a brain fart. I read Kolaghan’s Command twice to see if I could deal 2 damage to myself and make me discard a card. But it came out of my mouth as: “take 2 and discard a card,” making an easy game take way longer than necessary. It almost cost me the game since I did not grow my 2x Death’s Shadow and allowed my opponent to discard Bridge From Below and almost get back into the game. Stop when you need to! Say your thoughts and thought process out loud without rushing. Had I gone, “I am going to cast Kolaghan’s Command. So tap three lands. Okay. Mode one is going to be 2 damage to myself. Mode two is going to make myself discard the third Gurmag Angler from my hand” it would have been an entirely different scenario.

Those are the ones easy to remember. I am sure I made many more, but getting to reflect upon those three is already a learning experience and a good opportunity for me to improve in the game.

The problem with GDS is that even when you don’t make a mistake, you are probably making a mistake. How to approach each match and game, and when to switch to aggression is the hard part.

Recently, Roshen Eapen posted about playing the deck as a tempo deck and wanting to be on the play every single time. I don’t agree with him, but can’t say he is wrong. It’s his approach. I try to play a grindy matchup against U/R Phoenix, B/G Midrange, and the mirror. So I want to be on the draw against those to capitalize on card advantage.

Game 2 against Dredge, I also want to be on the draw, since GDS mostly runs Surgical Extraction/Ravenous Trap alongside Snapcaster Mage, which is often not enough. Not all Dredge players bring in enchantment hate game 2. So I want to be on the draw to be able to mulligan for Leyline and still have enough cards to work with. I like keeping discard and counters in this matchup, and to take out spot removal.

Looking back at the GP, I would definitely play GDS again. If you want to take it for a spin in your next Modern event, make sure to practice a lot, as the deck has a lot of decision points and therefore a thin line separates winning and losing. In the end, it is a very rewarding deck that gets better and better the more experienced you are with it. I couldn’t recommend it more.

Until next time, let me know your thoughts on GDS on the comments!

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