Woo Brews – Modern Shamans

Pro Tour Born of the Gods in Valencia is getting closer and closer. It would, perhaps, be a good time to buckle down on the existing strategies that I really like and tune as much as I can against the other existing decks. But I can’t do that.

I’ve been brewing. I actually think it’s possible to reinvent the wheel in Modern. I think the community is capable of discovering amazing decks, but I just don’t think the incentives and motivation are necessarily there for Modern. So I think something might still be out there. Some boogeyman format-crusher.

I’ve had a few new brews in the past couple of weeks that are decent. I’m not talking decks that I necessarily would be excited to take to the Pro Tour, but decks that wouldn’t be the worst either. This is promising, because even discovering semi-viable decks at this rate is pretty good, and who knows, with all this knowledge maybe I’ll just break it the week before the Pro Tour and lay low for a week. That might happen.


My brother used to play a Shaman deck back in LorwynMorningtide Block Constructed. The deck was built around the card [ccProd]Rage Forger[/ccProd].

[draft]Rage Forger[/draft] [ccProd]Rage Forger[/ccProd] is a hell of a lord. With the +1 counters and the damage ability it’s really like a double lord. The amount of damage is so much that we would be willing to play a mediocre cast of Shamans around the card just to reap the rewards.

So people would play [ccProd]Flamekin Harbinger[/ccProd] to fish it out, [ccProd]Bosk Banneret[/ccProd] to allow us to dump our hand, and [ccProd]Rage Forger[/ccProd] for the quick kill. People would play heavy hitters like [ccProd]Leaf-Crowned Elder[/ccProd], [ccProd]Chameleon Colossus[/ccProd], or even [ccProd]Doran the Siege Tower[/ccProd] to punch through longer games.

I basically forgot about that deck, but I do remember seeing someone play it in an early Modern tournament at Atlanta. The player had [ccProd]Bloodbraid Elf[/ccProd] and a bunch of [ccProd]Fulminator Mage[/ccProd]s and it seemed okay.

So the other day, [ccProd]Fauna Shaman[/ccProd] popped into my head. And then [ccProd]Rage Forger[/ccProd]. I wonder if Wizards has printed any new Shamans recently? Let’s check!

So, um, well then.

[draft]Deathrite Shaman[/draft]

Yeah this card. It’s an accelerator and just a wildly overpowered Magic card in general. Maybe this can inject some juice into the deck.

And yeah, okay, this one too.

[draft]Burning-Tree Emissary[/draft]

If we’re looking to dump our hand with Shamans, this card has seen a little bit of play.

Obviously I had to put Shamans back together and see what we had. [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Burning-Tree Emissary[/ccProd] are such good cards, and the idea that we can build a tribal synergy deck with them is really exciting.



[deck]Main Deck
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Cavern of Souls
1 Murmuring Bosk
1 Blood Crypt
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
1 Godless Shrine
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Misty Rainforest
3 Arid Mesa
1 Mountain
1 Forest
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Experiment One
3 Flamekin Harbinger
4 Bosk Banneret
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Elvish Visionary
3 Doran, the Siege Tower
4 Rage Forger
2 Leaf-Crowned Elder
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
3 Thoughtseize
3 Ancient Grudge
1 Vithian Renegades
2 Burning-Tree Shaman
4 Fulminator Mage
1 Leaf-Crowned Elder[/deck]

(The picture shows [ccProd]Viridan Shaman[/ccProd] but it’s meant to be [ccProd]Vithian Renegades[/ccProd].)

My first take on Shamans is a deck that is neither particularly fast nor interactive, but is resilient. What this means is that a deck like this might match up poorly against combo decks, but is going to be okay in fair matchups vs. creature decks and control decks.

Against combo decks we could try to board heavily, similar to how Brian Kibler’s Rubin Zoo deck operated.

Against the fair decks, we just have a lot of value dorks that give us a decent shot in longer games.

Basically, I think the deck is good, but it’s not something I want to play at the Pro Tour because it’s not at all broken. But, if playing fair and sideboarding for combo is the type of thing you’re into, I don’t think you’d be making a mistake by playing this deck. This deck has legs.

Before moving on, let’s talk a bit about some of the cards I am not including.

[ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] [draft]lightning bolt[/draft] [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] should probably be in the deck, but I don’t know what to cut.

If I have a problem as a deck builder it is building linear decks without putting in interaction. Historically my decks have often been improved by other players sacrificing a bit for additional interaction.

I think you would be right to play Lightning Bolt, even if I am not doing it. The card is historically powerful, in our colors, and one of the best interactive spells in Modern.

[ccProd]Aether Vial[/ccProd] [draft]aether vial[/draft]

I love [ccProd]Aether Vial[/ccProd]. My first trip to the Pro Tour was because of this card. I feel like I have a good sense of when the card is good in a deck and when the card is bad.

I tried [ccProd]Aether Vial[/ccProd] in this deck and didn’t like it. It had a lot of tension with [ccProd]Burning-Tree Emissary[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Bosk Banneret[/ccProd]. There would be games where our hand is dumped on the third turn and this [ccProd]Aether Vial[/ccProd] could really be another spell. And then we draw another [ccProd]Aether Vial[/ccProd].

Against combo decks Aether Vial does not speed us up, and since we have no interaction in the first game all we care about is speed. Aether Vial is not that good against interactive ground decks like Jund, because Jund decks will try to starve us of creatures and resources, leaving us with time to play more spells if we have them. Against control decks, we have [ccProd]Cavern of Souls[/ccProd] to get through countermagic anyways.

[ccProd]Fulminator Mage[/ccProd] [draft]fulminator mage[/draft]

You’d think [ccProd]Fulminator Mage[/ccProd] would be a great maindeck card in this deck. We can fetch it with [ccProd]Flamekin Harbinger[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Fauana Shaman[/ccProd], and it’s a Shaman!

Fulminator Mage is a Shaman yes, but if we’re going to sacrifice it anyway, what’s the point?

I haven’t liked it very much so far and am thinking [ccProd]Goblin Ruinblaster[/ccProd] might be better, even though it costs more.

[ccProd]Eternal Witness[/ccProd] [draft]eternal witness[/draft] [ccProd]Eternal Witness[/ccProd] is a Shaman and a historically powerful Magic card. However, it’s not a very good early game card, and if we’re looking for late game cards we should be able to do better. It’s definitely an option to search up with [ccProd]Fauna Shaman[/ccProd], but I haven’t been missing it.

[ccProd]Wolf-Skull Shaman[/ccProd] [draft]wolf-skull shaman[/draft]

I’m really not a huge fan of [ccProd]Wolf-Skull Shaman[/ccProd]. The card was really good, back in the day, but the occasional extra non-Shaman body doesn’t seem that good to me. Even if we get one on the third turn, it doesn’t get to attack until the fourth turn, and if we get swept, everything dies anyway.

Shaman Card Choices

There are a lot of Shamans available in Modern, and only some of them made the cut. We’re even playing some non-Shamans in the deck, so let’s talk about that too.

[ccProd]Experiment One[/ccProd] [draft]experiment one[/draft] [ccProd]Experiment One[/ccProd] is one of the weirdest cards in here, but I like it for a few reasons. The first is as a curve filler. In Modern we want to hit the ground running, which means consistently having turn 1 plays. It turns out that there really aren’t that many 1 mana Shaman options (which makes [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd] that much better).

[ccProd]Experiment One[/ccProd] just gives the deck speed. We have draws like [ccProd]Experiment One[/ccProd] into [ccProd]Burning-Tree Emissary[/ccProd] into [ccProd]Bosk Banneret[/ccProd], attack with a 3/3. Sure, our [ccProd]Rage Forger[/ccProd] doesn’t pump it, but we do get the extra point from it having +1 counters. There isn’t really another 1-drop that does that for this deck.

[ccProd]Flamekin Harbinger[/ccProd] [draft]flamekin harbinger[/draft]

The good old 1-mana vanilla 1/1. The idea is that [ccProd]Rage Forger[/ccProd] is so powerful that our deck could be full of 1-mana 1/1s and [ccProd]Rage Forger[/ccProd] would still be good for a win. This is kind of true, as [ccProd]Flamekin Harbinger[/ccProd] was essential in the past and is still quite good here.

The main thing with Harbinger is that it is awkward when we don’t have a third land available. It locks out our draw step so it’s not always even worth playing. It’s definitely worth it for the extra consistency of finding Rage Forger though.

[ccProd]Bosk Banneret[/ccProd] [draft]Bosk Banneret[/draft] [ccProd]Bosk Banneret[/ccProd] doesn’t shave mana symbols off of a lot of the cards in the deck, but I still think it’s worth it. It lets us dump down [ccProd]Elvish Visionary[/ccProd], [ccProd]Fauna Shaman[/ccProd], [ccProd]Rage Forger[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Leaf-Crowned Elder[/ccProd] in the early turns, evolves [ccProd]Experiment One[/ccProd] nicely, and is actually aggressively costed with [ccProd]Doran[/ccProd].

[ccProd]Elvish Visionary[/ccProd] [draft]elvish visionary[/draft] [ccProd]Elvish Visionary[/ccProd] is our sad little [ccProd]Silvergill Adept[/ccProd]. The more bodies we have on the table for [ccProd]Rage Forger[/ccProd], the better. Happy Elf!

If we could, I bet we would play at least 8 of these. They aren’t really inherently powerful but they let us accumulate more creatures on the battlefield as the game progresses.

[ccProd]Fauna Shaman[/ccProd] [draft]fauna shaman[/draft] [ccProd]Fauna Shaman[/ccProd] is a bit of an awkward card because of how slow it is. It demands mana and isn’t aggressively costed at all. It does fill a lot of holes though.

Basically [ccProd]Fauna Shaman[/ccProd] gives us more consistency and a nice late game. It can find us gas cards and allows us to control our late game topdecks nicely.

[ccProd]Fauna Shaman[/ccProd] also gives us a lot more options post-board. It lets us play silver-bullet type Shaman creatures that we have a more consistent shot of drawing, as we now kind of have 5 copies.

[ccProd]Doran, the Siege Tower[/ccProd] [draft]doran, the siege tower[/draft] [ccProd]Doran[/ccProd] is interesting, because it would mean splashing TWO additional colors. Is it worth it? Well, it turns out we really don’t have to stretch the mana much to make it work, so why not?

The card is historically powerful and shines in a tribal deck. It boosts our [ccProd]Deathrite[/ccProd]s, [ccProd]Bosk Banneret[/ccProd]s, and [ccProd]Leaf-Crowned Elder[/ccProd]s. The card is big as is, but gets even bigger and meaner with [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd].

[ccProd]Leaf-Crowed Elder[/ccProd] can also really mess with random creatures on the other side of the table. It’s a bit random in that it makes ‘Goyfs bigger, but generally people are putting pointy creatures like [ccProd]Vendilion Clique[/ccProd] in their deck, making Doran’s ability pretty nice.

[ccProd]Leaf-Crowned Elder[/ccProd] [draft]leaf-crowned elder[/draft] [ccProd]Leaf-Crowned Elder[/ccProd] is my late-game gas card of choice. I like it a lot more than [ccProd]Wolf-Skull Shaman[/ccProd] because of how it can churn through our deck looking for [ccProd]Rage Forger[/ccProd]s to finish.

The card is decently beefy and cheap off a [ccProd]Bosk Banneret[/ccProd], and it’s a huge problem for any long-game deck. Jund in particular really struggles to remove the card. It’s safe from [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Abrupt Decay[/ccProd], and there’s a chance they can’t kill it and it will just take over the game.

[ccProd]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/ccProd] [draft]kiki-jiki, mirror breaker[/draft] [ccProd]Kiki-Jiki[/ccProd] is the game-ender for those times [ccProd]Fauna Shaman[/ccProd] stays in play for a prolonged period. Kiki-Jiki can clone [ccProd]Elvish Visionary[/ccProd], giving us a draw engine and chump blockers. And when Kiki-Jiki clones [ccProd]Rage Forger[/ccProd], the opponent is facing ridiculous amounts of damage.

The card is really nice in this current configuration and I wouldn’t play without it. It just seems to end so many games.

The Mana Base

The mana base is the most interesting part of the deck. First of all, we are playing all creatures and all Shamans, except for [ccProd]Experiment One[/ccProd].

This means we can use [ccProd]Ancient Ziggurat[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Cavern of Souls[/ccProd] as untapped 5-color lands, which goes a long way toward casting Doran.

However, we also have [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd]. We’d like [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd] to tap for mana, and in order to do that, we are going to have to play a bunch of fetchlands.

[draft]Verdant Catacombs
Misty Rainforest
Arid Mesa[/draft]

From there, we have most of the dual lands you would expect, but we also get access to [ccProd]Murmuring Bosk[/ccProd].

[draft]Murmuring Bosk[/draft] [ccProd]Murmuring Bosk[/ccProd] can frequently be a pain-free untapped green land. It is also a tri-colored land that combos nicely with Doran.

Building a Sideboard

We have a 4-color deck, so we have a lot of options in sideboarding. We are also a Shaman deck that can tutor for creatures and Elemental creatures, which draw us toward creatures.

There is also the issue of combo matchups. How do we make our deck more interactive after sideboard for the matchups that matter? There are a lot of ways to go about it.

[ccProd]Thoughtsieze[/ccProd] [draft]Thoughtseize[/draft]

We can cast [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd], and it’s a nice catchall, interactive card that is good against any kind of combo deck.

[ccProd]Vithian Renegades[/ccProd] [draft]Vithian Renegades[/draft] [ccProd]Vithian Renegades[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Viridan Shaman[/ccProd] is the best tutorable artifact kill spell that is also aggressive. We can use it to blow up a [ccProd]Cranial Plating[/ccProd] or a [ccProd]Birthing Pod[/ccProd], all while leading up to a massive [ccProd]Rage Forger[/ccProd]-enhanced army.

[ccProd]Burning-Tree Shaman[/ccProd] [draft]Burning-Tree Shaman[/draft] [ccProd]Burning-Tree Shaman[/ccProd] is an aggressively-costed beater that happens to really hate on activated abilities. This card can present problems for Twin, and can be nice in other matchups as well.

[ccProd]cunning Sparkmage[/ccProd] [draft]Cunning Sparkmage[/draft] [ccProd]Cunning Sparkmage[/ccProd] is a nice pinger for longer games against decks with pointy creatures. It can off [ccProd]Dark Confidant[/ccProd]s and [ccProd]Vendilion Clique[/ccProd]s while pressuring planeswalkers.

3 Thoughtseize
3 Ancient Grudge
1 Vithian Renegades
2 Burning-Tree Shaman
4 Fulminator Mage
1 Leaf-Crowned Elder[/deck]

The Future of Shamans

The future of Shamans is unclear. I know there are people out there playing it, people out there who have played it, and people out there who will play it, and so I guess it’s up to you. I think the deck is pretty solid. It can compete with mainstays like Jund and UWR and we can sideboard to have a chance against cheesy combo decks.

The last thing to keep in mind is to watch out for future Shaman printings. There will be more, and it’s possible that they will slip by all of us. [ccProd]Deathrite Shaman[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Burning-Tree Emissary[/ccProd] are absurd upgrades and I bet there will be more.

<3 Travis Questions! Comments!! Think there’s something I forgot?! twitchtv.com/Travisdwoo


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