Last week I wrote about winners from the unbanning of Stoneforge Mystic, and if I remember correctly I said Stubborn Denial was a winner.  For anyone who wasn’t following the Dallas Open over Labor Day Weekend, you may be unaware of Grixis Death’s Shadow (a deck with four Stubborn Denial) making the top 4 of the event.  It also won the MTGO Modern challenge facing off in the mirror. Grixis Death’s Shadow is here to stay.

Grixis Death's Shadow

Creatures (15)
Death’s Shadow
Gurmag Angler
Street Wraith
Snapcaster Mage

Spells (27)
Serum Visions
Thought Scour
Inquisition of Kozilek
Stubborn Denial
Lightning Bolt
Fatal Push
Kolaghan’s Command
Temur Battle Rage
Lands (18)
Polluted Delta
Bloodstained Mire
Scalding Tarn
Blood Crypt
Steam Vents
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Plague Engineer
Seasoned Pyromancer
Kolaghan’s Command
Stubborn Denial
Lightning Bolt
Collective Brutality
Disdainful Stroke
Force of Negation

So where does it leave its long lost cousin, Mardu Death’s Shadow? Well that’s why we are here this week to go over which variant is better and when to switch between them.

What is the main difference between Mardu and Grixis? While the difference in color seems obvious, the addition to blue over white mana really changes the feel of the deck. What does blue give you that white doesn’t? Well—a lot. Blue first and foremost gives you protection with cards like Stubborn Denial, Ceremonious Rejection, and Disdainful Stroke. The deck has only eight creatures that matter, so you need to be able to protect them cheaply. The counterspells can also snap off an opposing Detention Sphere, Liliana of the Veil, or Ensnaring Bridge on the stack. As long as you can get ahead, the flexibility of the blue counterspells shore up the matchups where Mardu would struggle.

Another piece that blue gives you over white are cantrips. These cantrips are particularly important in a format that is designed to be more midrangey. Serum Visions has been the go to cantrip for Grixis Death’s Shadow cantrip over the years. It is good for digging and setting up a game plan and fine with Street Wraith if you are looking for something immediately. Since the format slowed down a bit, this is the better of the cantrips to play now.

By contrast, Mardu lives at the mercy of the top of the deck. With fewer ways to churn through the deck—Street Wraith and Mishra’s Bauble—the deck suffers when it draws the wrong cards. The other big blue card is Thought Scour, which fues an early Gurmag Angler. That’s why Mardu plays only one copy compared to Grixis with the full playset.

Now I know I am coming off extremely biased with my love for Grixis, but Mardu has some upsides too. White does lot of good things in Modern. In a creature-heavy metagame, extra removal spells like Path to Exile is strong. Grixis can’t afford to play any more removal spells without cutting a lot of the permission spells or the cantrips. White can also find Death’s Shadow more easily. Ranger-Captain of Eos essentially doubles your copies of Death’s Shadow. This is beneficial in a metagame where racing to victory is so common. And of course white provides good sideboard options for problematic permanents that Grixis can’t handle. Cards like Wear // Tear proves valuable with so many enchantments running rampant. Celestial Purge exiles many problem cards, like planeswalkers, enchantments, or creatures that could have recursion.

Overall with this slower-paced metagame discussed earlier, I would keep the Watery Graves sleeved up over those pesky Godless Shrines.  Do keep those Shrines in safekeeping just in case the metagame decides to put the gas on and move faster again.

Zack is a SCG grinder with one ultimate goal: getting to the Players Championship. Based out of NYC, you can find him in other cities every weekend trying to hit that goal. When he isn’t traveling he streams. Follow his journey on Twitter!

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.