Is Rakdos Death’s Shadow The New Deck To Beat In Modern?

Rakdos Death’s Shadow has become popular in Modern, but is it the deck to beat? Five SCG creators say what they’d play this weekend.

Felidar Guardian, illustrated by Jakub Kasper

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the recent introduction of Zendikar Rising, many are unsure what they’d play in Modern. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this advice aids in your decision making for your next Modern event! Be sure to vote for what deck you would play at the end!

Patrick Sullivan — Boros Burn (Lurrus)

Much like with my Pioneer Boros Wizards deck, Zendikar Rising has produced a couple of appealing options for Modern Burn. The Wayward Guide-Beast is somewhat speculative; sometimes you see lists with a single Grim Lavamancer and I think there’s some analogy here. With four copies of Searing Blaze in the maindeck I want to direct a flex slot a bit towards control and away from creatures. While the Beast is a little awkward on the first turn comparatively, it is much better on subsequent turns, plays better with Lurrus, and frequently generates mana on your land-light hands. I could be talked off this slot but the early returns have been good, if a bit volatile.

Roiling Vortex is a massive improvement over Skullcrack — much more powerful to curve into and much less cumbersome to leave up in anticipation of a lifegain spell. If not for Eidolon and a general aversion to adding two-plus-mana cards to the deck I think it could be worth trying in the maindeck. It is a bit worse against Jund (they can kill it and they’re more equipped to damage race) but it is leaps and bounds better against Azorius Control, Uro strategies, and most opponents where you’d want Skullcrack.

The rest of the list is pretty set and the sideboard is trying to optimize for “best cards” meets “stuff that’s good to recur with Lurrus if games go long,” which they more often do against better resistance. I think I want another Soul-Guide Lantern, but otherwise I’m very happy with this somewhat-under-the-radar option for Modern.

Todd Anderson — Mono-White Death & Taxes

Modern is in a pretty wonderful space right now. With so many playable decks and viable strategies, is it any wonder that Death & Taxes would make a resurgence? This recent list from Will Pulliam has it all, including a new addition from Zendikar Rising.

Skyclave Apparition

Skyclave Apparition is an absurd card. It feels like a great answer to just about anything the opponent can throw at you while giving them back very little if they eventually kill it. Giver of Runes is especially good at protecting it here, but there are a million little tricks you can do with this deck. If you’ve ever played the Legacy version, you’ll know just what I’m talking about. Blinking Skyclave Apparition with Flickerwisp is a nice way to deal with two different permanents. If you have Aether Vial, you can do a “blink trick” to exile two permanents for the price of one.

Stoneforge Mystic getting unbanned was not something I thought I’d ever see in Modern, but it definitely gave new legs to this archetype. No longer must we play Blade Splicer! Instead, we get a powerful two-drop creature that punishes the opponent for not interacting. When combining all of this together, you get one tight package full of interactive creatures, disruption, and card advantage. What’s not to love?

But why Death & Taxes specifically? Leonin Arbiter is particularly strong against the land-based decks in the format, but is absolutely busted in conjunction with Ghost Quarter, Field of Ruin, and Path to Exile. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben constricts their mana even more, forcing them to pay extra for every card draw or removal spell. We now finally have all the pieces necessary to make a monster of a deck, and I personally believe that is all thanks to Skyclave Apparition. It’s a perfect fit and might ultimately vault the deck right into the top tiers.

Ben Friedman – Mardu Death’s Shadow (Lurrus)

This time, we’re spicing things up with a few new additions. Bomat Courier hops in to replace Soul-Scar Mage. Why? It’s a more powerful card and allows you to dump your hand before refueling on a one-mana creature. What’s not to love? You’re making your deck better at going into a longer game with a creature that demands an answer and often gives you a three-for-one or better in card advantage even if your opponent spends a card to answer it!

We’re also splashing white. Why? Wear // Tear and Path to Exile are strong sideboard cards, of course, and the splash is pretty much free. The deck already played Sunbaked Canyon and now it just slots in a Sacred Foundry and a Godless Shrine to gain access to these great new sideboard cards.

I’m a bit perplexed at the choice to put in Soul-Guide Lantern over Nihil Spellbomb, but I’m sure there was a good reason for it. I just want to be able to eat my opponent’s graveyard and draw a card at the same time!

I do still appreciate Cleansing Wildfire as a sideboard card, and I’m thrilled to see that it’s rapidly increasing its stock to a four-of here.

I’m also intrigued by the shift away from Lava Dart and towards Seal of Fire. I suppose that when you remove half of your Prowess creatures, Lava Dart drops precipitously in quality and the enchantment makes the cut instead, due to synergy with Lurrus.

The archetype keeps evolving, and I am here for every bit of it!

Corey Baumeister — Four-Color Copy Cat (Yorion)

Copy Cat is something I have kept in the back of my mind for quite some time, but the huge problem is actually going off on Magic Online because of all the clicks that Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai demand. With the inclusion of Omnath and Uro, you really have a great Plan B so you don’t require a combo finish every single game.

Not only does that take the pressure off your clock but also makes sideboarding against you way more difficult. Now, not only does your opponent have to come prepared with enough disruption to not just die on Turn 4 to the combo, but they also have to make sure you can beat the very strong midrange plan that the deck can generate. It’s not an easy feat to be able to do both!

Now there are a few reasons to add Yorion, Sky Nomad to the list instead of just playing 60 cards. One, I really want to be able to play a land of every color combination since we’re a very demanding four-color deck. Two, you have both combo pieces that synergize extremely well with Yorion’s blink ability. Lastly, Omnath naturally allows you to buy Yorion from the exile and cast it on Turn 5 with any fetchland! Also, let’s get real, Yorion is so fun!

If you want to see this deck in action, look out for my Droppin’ Baums that will showcase this masterpiece being released on Wednesday, October 14th. 

Shaheen Soorani — Four-Color Control

This deck is amazing.  The planeswalker and creature packages are fueled by value, each providing game-ending advantage across the spectrum of matchups.  Uro is a control staple in the older formats, only falling from Standard from a forced ban.  The early-game disruption, combined with the fetchland manabase, provides Uro a full graveyard to return to the battlefield on time.

Outside of Uro, Four-Color Control is a powerful strategy to utilize Omnath.  I could not wait to get started on those busted turns, hitting the bonus mana from the second trigger to cast a planeswalker the same turn I cast Omnath.  It’s a setup that’s easy to assemble, especially if you’re bringing in one of the cheaper options.  These two creatures break the typical Modern game as we know it, producing life, card advantage, and a mana advantage that control desperately needs to be successful in the format.

The mana advantage from the creatures is joined by Growth Spiral.  The other spells in the deck represent the best disruption control has to offer across the mana wheel.  This deck has Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt, and it casts Cryptic Command with ease, even with a pile of green spells in the mix. 

Overall, this is what control needs to be doing in Modern.  The days of casual disruption and maintaining a clean battlefield are over.  If these broken elements exist and can be incorporated, we should take full advantage.