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Shadowless Shadow in Modern

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Hey everyone!

After the NRG Team 10K I wanted to try a new Modern deck to shake things up. It can be difficult for me to consistently win without Dragon's Rage Channeler and Ragavan, and I found a cool list by Max Kominowski, Twinlesstwin on Magic Online:

Max made the Top 8 of the Manatraders series on November 27 by taking out Death's Shadow from the traditional Grixis shadow deck. It's so simple.

This deck is up my alley because it has quick clocks in the form of Dragon's Rage Channeler and Ragavan, but can also grind with Kolaghan's Command and Tourach, Dread Cantor. Value all day every day.

On the surface cutting Death's Shadow and adding four grindy cards doesn't mean much, but there's actually a lot going on here. A surprise 13/13 creature gives you burst damage against uninteractive decks, such as Tron and Burn, which comes at the expense of playing fewer card advantage-generating cards for fair decks.

Grixis Lurrus, a.k.a. Shadowless Shadow, plays a slower game plan which hurts matchups against non-interactive decks while strengthening your position against fair strategies. Sounds familiar right? Sounds a lot like what happens when you replace Kaheera with Yorion in Hallowed Fountain control decks. This is a more seamless approach to solve the same issue because a 60-card deck is preferred in Modern.

A sixty-card deck is better than eighty in Modern because:

  1. The top removal, threats, and card advantage are far above replacement level. Expressive Iteration, Unholy Heat, Ragavan, and Dragon's Rage Channeler can be replaced in functionality, but not power.
  2. Lurrus is a good companion because it indicates a wide range of proactive decks while Yorion is currently indicative of fewer archetypes that are closer together in play patterns. When you see a Yorion at the start of the match it means you're likely to face a control deck with Hallowed Fountain.
  3. Lurrus is likely the most powerful card in Modern. Play it when you can.
  4. The paper aspect of Yorion is not pleasant. It's time-consuming to randomize sixty cards and adding another twenty makes things more complicated.
  5. The sideboard cards in Modern are high-impact. The success of non-interactive decks each week hinges on the popularity of silver bullet sideboard cards. Engineered Explosives, Tourach, Chalice of the Void, Alpine Moon, Collective Brutality, Soul-Guide Lantern, and many more play a key role in a match. I not only want to draw these cards, but they can even be a requirement in their respective matchups.

I tried my hand at Shadowless Shadow at FNM and went 4-0. The deck felt great. Here's my proposed list:


Let's do a deck breakdown because there's some customizability thanks to the deck being largely reactive. The deck should be constantly evolving with the metagame.

The Spells

4 Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer - Monkey is busted. I've been largely indifferent about being on the play in interactive matchups, but Ragavan helps steal the initiative on the play in a big way. The treasures were already useful in Grixis Shadow, but now I can ramp into a kicked Tourach on the third turn. For this reason, there are more reasons to dash it on the second turn as mana ramp.

4 Dragon's Rage Channeler - I really like DRC's surveilling ability in reactive Expressive Iteration decks to help avoid flooding out. There are more combinations of hands I can keep with a low land count. I surveil more aggressively to power out Kroxa in uninteractive matchups as there are fewer top-end threats in the deck without Death's Shadow.

4 Mishra's Bauble - I don't ever cut Bauble in these types of decks after sideboard. There are so many different synergies with Bauble in Lurrus decks.

4 Unholy Heat - At this point everyone has figured out Unholy Heat is the best Red removal spell even though it can't go to the face like Lightning Bolt. Play four copies and keep Bauble in your deck to get Delirium more frequently.

1 Lightning Bolt - There are plenty of matchups where three damage isn't meaningful. I also don't have Death's Shadow in the deck where Bolting myself was a potential combat trick. You rarely win with sneaky damage and often by having interaction for every threat.

1 Fatal Push - I like maindecking Fatal Push in Shadowless Shadow because Lightning Bolt has less utility. It kills more big creatures like Omnath, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, and Tarmogoyf. Black spells are also more useful when you need to find three for a kicked Tourach.

I don't want to maindeck two Fatal Push at the expense of Lightning Bolt as it misses the evoke elementals.

2 Terminate - I really like Terminate in slower Grixis decks because there isn't an option to race Murktide Regent against Izzet. This also ensures a critical mass of removal for Primeval Titan when standing alongside Unholy Heat.

4 Expressive Iteration - The premier card advantage spell in Modern and Legacy and Standard and Pioneer. You get the idea. If you want to win more in competitive Magic this spell is a good start.

Expressive Iteration is insane, but they can be boarded out against fast decks because adding Lurrus to your hand is a guaranteed way to generate card advantage without affecting the board.

Due to the reactive nature of Shadowless Shadow, I'll play Expressive Iteration more patiently and am more likely to keep lands on top of my deck when I surveil with Dragon's Rage Channeler to ensure a 2-for-1. I won more with Collected Company and Brainstorm when I would play the guaranteed cards first in a similar way.

3 Thoughtseize - Pitch elementals, Tron payoffs, and Primeval Titan are reasons to play the painful Thoughtseize over Inquisition of Kozilek. Since this is a more controlling deck than Death's Shadow there is still an incentive to play Thoughtseize over Inquisition as I need to deal with every threat.

2 Inquisition of Kozilek - I can't take every card with IOK, but I can strand removal to take if needed.

The hand disruption combined with removal and 1-drop Red creatures make up the beginning of the curve. I'm incentivized to play more early interaction because there are so many 2-for-1s in the deck. Most of the top-end card advantage comes in the form of discard so I can nicely bridge hand disruption into Kroxa, Tourach, and Kolaghan's Command. Beware this can also mean there are some dead discard spells to draw in the late game.

4 Drown in the Loch - Drown is perfect in the deck that looks to go late. The early hand disruption fills the graveyard and shines in Lurrus mirrors. Drown can be worse after board once opponents begin to exile cards from graveyards. There are times I will cast a spell off Ragavan to get a card in my opponent's graveyard to make Drown more relevant.

2 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger - I played one Kroxa to start because it's susceptible to graveyard hate after sideboard, but proved to be the haymaker required to close the game against non-interactive decks. A 6/6 creature can invalidate most of the opposing board so you don't need to worry about beating every single threat.

2 Tourach, Dread Cantor - As more players give Shadowless Shadow a try they all have the exact same feedback: Tourach massively overperformed. This is the perfect threat to top the curve as it is able to answer any type of card remaining in the opponent's hand once you spend the early turns interacting.

Tourach is good when the protection from white is only flavor text and insane when the protection is relevant. Hallowed Fountain control decks have plenty of card advantage generated via planeswalkers and Tourach is able to undo the traction-generating threats while evading Prismatic Ending and Solitude.

Tourach gets +1+1 if you discard cards from the opponent's hand outside of the kicker ability making it an impressive threat quickly. This plays out better in practice as the opponent's hand is likely decimated from the kicker. There is a minor interaction as well that Tourach gets +1+1 when the opponent cycles as the card is discarded.

1 Snapcaster Mage - I began with two Snapcaster, but cut the second to make room for the extra Kroxa. Both card advantage threats utilize the graveyard making them less reliable than Tourach.

Snapcaster may seem unassuming, but is able to be recurred with Kolaghan's Command and Lurrus. The big game-changer Snapcaster Provides is a 2/1 blue body with flash to block Sanctifier en-Vec. This is important because Dress Down is weaker in Shadowless Shadow as it doesn't have the proactive mode with Death's Shadow.

2 Kolaghan's Command - Not only is this a hammer in the Hammertime matchup, but it also takes care of Chalice of the Void. It creates a sense of card advantage inevitability as it can rebuy Lurrus from the graveyard so I can add it to hand more aggressively. A discard on the opponent's draw step is also a way to lock away a game. I don't want to maindeck three, but the second has been very strong.

The Mana Base

The mana base is different compared to the Death's Shadow counterpart as you no longer need to focus on getting below thirteen life. The fast land cycle is a good dual land cycle to lean into without this restriction of fetches and shocks.

4 Bloodstained Mire - This remains the best fetch land as it can find all three colors as well as your Mountain and Swamp.

3 Polluted Delta - The second best fetch land as it finds your Swamp which is more important than Mountain thanks to Tourach.

2 Scalding Tarn - I like a total of nine fetches because the game will go later and the damage can add up. It's important to balance the pure Mountain and pure Swamp fetches to ensure your lands can find a basic or shock in the late game to thin.

1 Swamp - Helps cast spells through Blood Moon and is a less painful mana source against aggressive decks. The downside is it doesn't cast Expressive Iteration early.

1 Mountain - Doesn't help against Blood Moon, but is a less painful mana source against aggressive decks. It doesn't cast Drown in the Loch.

0 Island - There aren't any Islands because it doesn't cast one-mana spells. The reason to play Island is that it's a less painful land against aggressive decks meaning you can play more Blue spells in the game and also helps cast Expressive Iteration with Blood Moon on the battlefield. It doesn't add Black or Red, making an escaped Kroxa effectively a five-mana play.

2 Blackcleave Cliffs - A fast land that casts all of your 1-drops. There are four-drops in the deck which makes entering the battlefield tapped a real cost. I want four fast lands in the mana base.

1 Darkslick Shores and 1 Spirebluff Canal - Rounding out the fast land cycle I have two Blue duals.

2 Blood Crypt, 2 Watery Grave, and 1 Steam Vents - I am more likely to fetch Black mana to kick Tourach. There are nine fetches and seven lands to find.

The Sideboard

There are plenty of powerful sideboard cards to play that are fairly narrow. There's less closing speed in this deck compared to Grixis Shadow so I want more access to the sideboard hammers.

2 Alpine Moon - The Blast Zone issue against Grixis Shadow is less pronounced because there are only eight 1-drops instead of twelve. Tron is a tough matchup and you need to attack their hand aggressively without Shadow pressuring their life total.

2 Collective Brutality - Burn is also a tricky matchup because Death's Shadow was one of the key ways to take Game 1. Kroxa needs to come down early to get rid of their hand and close the game quickly.

2 Nihil Spellbomb - I'm also afraid of the Yawgmoth matchup and Nihil Spellbomb is much better than Soul-Guide Lantern. If Dredge and Living End make a return, I can go back to a split of artifact hate.

2 Dress Down - This is a defensive measure to interact with Sanctifier en-Vec, Primeval Titan, Cultivator Colossus, and much more. It's a metagame call to maindeck Dress Down without the Death's Shadow upside.

3 Engineered Explosives - I need ways to interact with Rhino tokens and Sanctifier en-Vec. Since I only want two Dress Down without Death's Shadow I want to make room for a third Engineered Explosives for Sanctifier.

1 Terminate - The third hate card for Amulet Titan and Izzet Murktide. The sideboard is tight in this deck, but I can board in Terminate in other creature matchups as well. Two hammers in a matchup allows you to compete and three pushes it in your favor. The difference between making Top 8, winning, and scrubbing out is getting the last few sideboard slots correct for the event.

1 Mystical Dispute - I'm less concerned about countering Chalice of the Void as I have more Kolaghan's Command so I can play the counter that is going to be better in the later turns. Spell Pierce is great with Death's Shadow as the games end quicker.

1 Aether Gust - Another catch-all that notably interacts with Primeval TItan, Crashing Footfalls, and Blood Moon.

Shadow or Shadowless???

This is a metagame call. Shadowless Shadow is favored against Grixis Shadow because Expressive Iteration and Kroxa are the defining spells in the mirror. This comes at the cost of closing speed making the non-interactive matchups more challenging. I personally enjoy the game play of Shadowless, but both decks have plenty of skill to leverage.

A takeaway here, if you prefer Shadow, is Tourach is able to help you significantly in the Solitude matchups and Hallowed Fountain players should be very afraid.

That's all I have for today. As always, message me on Twitter if you're interested in coaching and follow if you want to know what decks I'm working on.

Thanks for reading!

-Kyle

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