For someone who’s been out of the Modern format for awhile now, and just venturing back into it, I’ve been lucky to have multiple premiere events these past two weekends showcasing the much maligned format. Last week I wrote about the new form of Death’s Shadow that took GP Vancouver by storm, and I was excited to see if the newly tuned archetype would have a similar dominance at the SCG Open in Indianapolis.

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While it didn’t take home the trophy in Indy, it did put two copies into the top 8, and a staggering additional seven copies into the top 32. One of the things I expected to see most in updated lists from Vancouver was an omission of Tarfire. Grand Prix Vancouver Champion Josh Utter-Layton had poor things to say about it in his top 8 player profile, and I expected the tribal instant to be one of the first things to go.

To my surprise however, most players and notable pros all kept Tarfire. Putting 2 card types in the graveyard for Tarmogoyf and delirium apparently adds enough value that it’s worth playing Shock over Lightning Bolt. I may be no Math Scientist, and while 2 is in fact less than 3 by my calculation, that also means 1 card type is less than 2 card types. #Science

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The other popular update seems to be one some players were already on last weekend. The new 3 mana Lili on the block seems to be edging out the old Jund staple. Yes Liliana, the Last Hope seems to be the preferred Liliana in Death’s Shadow Jund over the always reliable Liliana of the Veil. The ability to buy back Tarmogoyf or Death’s Shadow is just too much value to say no to, especially when that Regrowth comes along with enabling Delirium by putting more card types into the ‘yard.

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The decision behind Renegade Rallier vs. Ghor-Clan Rampager also seems to have been made, with the overwhelming majority of lists choosing to play the Bloodrush creature instead of the Revolt one.

Alas, poor Renegade Rallier, we hardly knew thee.

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These tweaks and tunes for the most part were quite small, as were some minor adjustments made to the sideboard. Big Game Hunter has seen fringe play in toolbox-style decks’ sideboards before, and he now pops up in Death’s Shadow Jund’s board as well. Having a removal spell you can rebuy with Liliana, the Last Hope, Kolaghan’s Command, or tutor for with Traverse the Ulvenwald seems particularly potent in this format now dominated by cheap fatties. Eldrazi and huge Lhurgoyfs abound, so its time to hunt big game.

As a whole, these small revisions all seem quite potent and generally positive, and I can see me following suit if I decide to give Death’s Shadow a whirl.

Wait, what? If you decide to try Death’s Shadow? It’s obviously the hot new deck for Spikes to jump on, and you said it’d be starting place for your Modern testing! LIAR!

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I know, imaginary voice I talk to in 25% of my articles! I honestly was ready to give Death’s Shadow a proper whirl, but there was one small factor I didn’t take into consideration…

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No, that’s not it! If we want to be serious about being a competitive Magic Player, we should never let card price push us away from the best deck. If you’re paying 300 bucks to fly to a Grand Prix, you’d better be prepared to spend 100 dollars on a set of Coldsnap uncommons, even thought it may hurt…a lot.

Remember, I’m not just testing and preparing for any Modern GP, I’m getting ready for GP San Antonio, Team Unified Modern. And for those of you who don’t know, that means any card I register in my 75, must be omitted from the 75 of my two teammates. So for instance, let’s say I have one lowly little copy of Overgrown Tomb or Stomping Ground in my deck. That means neither of my teammates could feature either of those two shock lands in their decks. Yes, even if I have beautiful original Ravnica Rob Alexander shocks and they have dirty Return to Ravnica shock lands, it still counts.

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So it turns out being a 4-color aggressive deck that relies heavily on the fetch land + shock land mana base is not the best team player. Death’s Shadow Jund has a lot of toys, and it does not like sharing. The biggest question hinges on, is Death’s Shadow too good not to play? So far, its results certainly have been impressive. But can you make it work?

Obviously you could never field both a copy of Death’s Shadow Jund and a more traditional Jund deck, there is simply too much overlap. But what about Burn? Losing access to Stomping Ground means losing access to Wild Nacatl, and the ever-important sideboarded Destructive Revelry. One simple little Mountain Forest in Death’s Shadow Jund’s mana base means Naya Burn is downgraded to just R/W Burn. It’s not necessarily the biggest impact in the world, but it is a sacrifice to be made.

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While GP Vancouver was all about Death’s Shadow, the same weekend on the other side of the world there was another Modern GP with a different deck dominating the swiss. Dredge in the capable hands of Lee Shi Tian and testing partner Zen Takahashi both made top 8 of GP Brisbane, and finished with an incredibly impressive combined final record. It’s noteworthy that both Death’s Shadow and Dredge, two decks people thought were dead due to the banning of Gitaxian Probe and Golgari Grave-Troll, were suddenly crushing Grand Prix.

Players were obviously underprepared for the two archetypes due to assuming the bannings made the decks no longer viable, and capable players took advantage of their opponents’ ill-preparedness. With Dredge’s comeback in full swing, and it’s history of being a key part of many of the winning teams’ compositions from the last major Team Unified Modern event, it looks like Dredge is definitely a deck to consider when figuring out any team for GP San Antonio.

Personally, I’ll be teaming up with former Spellsnare writer and acclaimed Dredge aficionado, Peter Rawlings, so it seems highly likely someone on my team might be registering Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam. Except for one little Mountain Forest-shaped problem….

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DAMN YOU SHOOOOOOOOOOCK LANDS!!!!

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In addition to the most popular belle (dual land) at the ball, Dredge does also share some overlap in popular sideboard cards. Collective Brutality, Thoughtseize, Abrupt Decay and Ancient Grudge are also hotly contested cards between Dredge and Death’s Shadow Jund.

So where does that leave me in my testing and preparing? It’s hard to say. Figuring out exactly what 3 decks you can field without diluting or sacrificing any of the key components is going to be one of the most difficult, but also most exciting, prospects when it comes to Team Unified Modern! Luckily, I have another month or so to figure things out! Come back next week as I dive into some more specific deck combinations you could register for Grand Prix San Antonio!

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