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Esper Shadows - Plunge into Death!

Modern Aggro Combo Competitive Jank W/U/B (Esper)



Plunge into Death

Since the rules changing on Death's Shadow and negative life, this deck has taken a little bit of a hit. For those who don't know, the deck's original idea had a little combo that allowed me to go into negative life and one shot people with Death's Shadow. Surprisingly, it worked quite a bit.

Here was the combo:

Hand - 3 Street Wraith, 2 Fetchlands/Shocklands, Death's Shadow, Angel's Grace

Turn 1 - Start with cycling all three Street Wraith, bringing you down to 14 life. You NEED to draw a Spoils of the Vault. Next, play a fetch/shockland, netting a source of black, playing Death's Shadow. You'll either be at 11 or 12 life, so either one works.

Turn 2 - Play another fetch or shock land with a white source. Swing at opponent. If they do not block, you can cast Angel's Grace and then Spoils of the Vault naming (insert card not in the deck), going to negative life, buffing Death's Shadow. Angel's Grace prevents you from losing the game, and since they didn't block, you win with lethal damage on turn 2.

Since those days are over though, and I already own the deck in paper, I need to make it competitive again. However, I want to keep the same idea.

It's not going to pull off insane turn two wins anymore (which did happen to me at one Friday Night Magic by the way, so it was possible), rather it is going to be a very effective beatdown control deck that can still win turn 3 potentially.

The only thing that is changing in the deck is 2 Angel's Grace are going to the sideboard, and 2 Phyrexian Unlife are going mainboard.

What does this do? Well, the Angel's Graces are in there as an "oh shit." They're going to enable me to stay alive in sticky situations when I'm playing with ridiculously low life. Angel's Grace as well shut down a LOT of combos, so it's an extremely effective card to run mainboard. Think of it as a timewalk.

Phyrexian Unlife is in the mainboard to ensure safety. I noticed a lot of times while playing that I wasn't able to use Spoils of the Vault to its full effect because of life constraints. And Angel's Grace only lasts one turn, so it's incredibly risky fetching for something in your deck when you have no idea where it is. Phyrexian Unlife ensures that if I fetch something (at instant speed by the way), I wont die. So lets say I need a Stubborn Denial to respond instantly. Now I can fetch without having to worry about dying. Same goes for any piece of removal, and it makes Death's Shadow a 13/13. Overall a highly effective card, and definitely neccessary now that the negative life trick doesn't work anymore.

The color combo is still very strong I believe. Putting in blue allows me to run Serum Visions, Snapcaster Mage, and Stubborn Denial, which are all extremely powerful cards. Overall, this deck is super fun to play, and it has a lot of cool tricks up it's sleeve with life loss, creature removal, and creature protection.

Let me know what you think and check out my other competitive builds if you'd like! Most notably my elf deck :)

Selesnya Elves of the Sun

Storm is the new Splinter Twin

Competitive Infect


So I've been playing some games online with this deck on untap.in - for those of you who don't know it's a free platform to play magic games online.

In testing, this deck is actually surprisingly competitive even with the janky combo in there. As with every deck, it has really good match-ups and really rough match-ups.

Seemingly good match-ups: Storm, elves, goblins, burn, Griselbrand, Bloomless titan

Even match-ups: Infect, Merfolk, Dredge

Really bad match-ups: Any type of control, Eldrazi, Jund/Junk

As for the good match-ups, they seem to make a lot of sense. A lot of the time, my wins didn't actually come from using the combo (as expected), however when I did win from using the combo, it came at the most unexpected times.

For example, in a game against a mono-green stompy, I was down to four life, had three cards in hand, and my opponent had 20 life. It was turn 6. I was trying to stall as much as possible (thanks to Lingering Souls for coming in clutch), and I had Angel's Grace and Spoils of the Vault in hand. I just swung full, he didn't block and I did the combo and won. A very unexpected and surprising win because I was dead next turn.

As for winning normally, I won with normal Death's Shadow play. Hand control with Thoughtseize and effective lifeloss, swinging with Death's Shadow and controlling the board with creature removal.

Continuing on with why I consider the good match-ups good is because Angel's Grace was a fantastic tool for me to stall out the game against combos.

When I went against storm, I wait until they grapeshot and then Angel's Grace. A good chunk of their ramp cards will be exiled due to using Past in Flames, and as well, cantrips will run scarce too. Angel's Grace will stall the turn out, and make me not die. In one game, I actually used Angel's Grace twice - once by regular cast, another time with Snapcaster Mage and I won the game because my opponent forfeited because he had nothing left.

This deck stumps most other combo decks for that exact reason - once the combo goes off, it's hard to recuperate if you don't win. In elves, which is a more turn consistent combo (meaning it can go off multiple turns in a row), you really just have to play the hand control game. Using Stubborn Denial on Collected Company, Lead the Stampede, and Chord of Calling, and then destroy their board presence by wiping out mana dorks. If Elves doesn't have mana dorks, elves doesn't win.

Dredge is an okay match-up because the deck tends to have very good creature presence. So it is really hard to get swings in with Death's Shadow. As well, removing creatures is very difficult because they tend to be quite permanent. There's quite a lot of graveyard play and in order to get swings in you have to exile their creatures.

As for infect, it's really a race to win. Angel's Grace does nothing in this match-up, and you're very reliant on controlling their hand and creatures to get the job done. If you have no counter spells or creature destroys/exiles or any hand control, you're likely dead. If you get one of the three, you can generally be in an okay spot and make it a really grindy game with Lingering Souls.

Merfolk is an okay match-up because it has the same plan as you. Beatdown, but the difference is that merfolk is generally mono blue, so it's going to run some aspect of control. This can really shut you down. But sometimes if the opponent doesn't get it, you can get a very easy win.

Bad match-ups are pretty easily explained. Jund/Junk, control, and Eldrazi run some aspects of control. Thought-Knot Seer and Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek really make your life hard. As well as hard counterspells, and turn stallers like Remand make it even more difficult. Any type of control will generally win because you won't get out a Death's Shadow (they won't let you), and if it gets seen in a Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek, it's generally your opponents first choice to take away anyways. So life gets very difficult against control.


BPWyndon says... #1

I might be mistaken but you won't be able to make Death's Shadow bigger than a 13/13 with the way your combo is setup. You aren't allowed to pay life you don't have, you would actually need another card to bring your life total below 0, like Spoils of the Vault.

April 3, 2017 12:58 a.m.

icehit6 says... #2

Good point! Going to have to put that in :)

April 3, 2017 1:02 a.m.

Moonbar says... #3

Um... Death's Shadow can't get larger than a 13/13... am I missing something?

April 18, 2017 12:19 a.m.

icehit6 says... #4

If you go into negative life totals, Deaths Shadow gets +X/+X

April 18, 2017 12:33 a.m.

Astendash says... #5

I would recommend Orzhov Charm, it is a nice toolbox that synergizes so well with Death's Shadow

April 18, 2017 3:58 p.m.

icehit6 says... #6

Yeah, I need to figure out what card to take out to put it in

April 18, 2017 4:08 p.m.

benelas16 says... #7

Im confused. Why aren't decks like these running mutagenic growth? It's a free 4 point swing isn't it?

April 23, 2017 6:53 p.m.

icehit6 says... #8

Some do, I don't feel a need for it though. I'm playing more of a control oriented version though with removal and time walks along with the combo to make sure that I get the kill. It's definitely a great card for the deck, but not needed. The deck runs a TON of life loss in general. I'm still tweaking the deck though, so you never know, mutagenic growth could be highly effective in the future.

April 23, 2017 7:04 p.m.

I think you have to cast Spoils of the Vault before Angel's Grace since split second stops you from responding.

April 27, 2017 2:45 a.m.

icehit6 says... #10

I do have to cast spoils before angel's grace, that's correct.

April 27, 2017 11:47 a.m.

Methylase says... #11

I have seen (and played against) a number of Death's Shadow esper lists and I really struggle to understand why the deck is in blue. Snapcaster Mage and Serum Visions appear to be the two main drivers, but I would ask why not run Dark Confidants and a larger removal battery (i.e. a set of path and fatal push) instead? I do not mean to challenge your investment decisions, but adding blue strikes me as an over-complication of the archetype. If you wanted to shift to a more controlling build, I could understand the inclusion of blue, but I would expect to see countersqualls in the mainboard alongside, say, cryptic command. However, such a shift would also require a larger landbase, and this is something that I have seen esper death's shadow struggle with-the landbase is so reduced that players struggle to achieve opening hands that support those turn 3 wins.

April 28, 2017 10:46 a.m.

icehit6 says... #12

Methylase this is just a fun deck :) While it is perfectly good for Friday Night Magic, I do not expect this to go to a Grand Prix and win the entire thing. The idea behind Esper Death's Shadows, my version at the very least, is I have plenty of control (there is control other than just counter spells you know!) with the cards Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, Stubborn Denial, Path to Exile, Fatal Push, and Orzhov Charm. As well with those, I run Angel's Grace as a combo piece and a time walk, and Spoils of the Vault as a potential tutor, and main combo piece. Other than that, Serum Visions is mandatory and Lingering Souls gives the deck some other beaters that are potentially hard to deal with.

Snapcaster Mage is in here because it's always good to reuse a Path to Exile, or Fatal Push, or Orzhov Charm. Or even Angel's Grace. I can technically stall out a game 7 turns with Angel's Grace and Snapcaster Mage. It's a highly effective card, and targets a large portion of the deck.

EDIT: Include Dismember in that list of removal too.

April 28, 2017 11:15 a.m.

HyperionMI6 says... #13

Take the plunge...

April 28, 2017 1:10 p.m.

Actually you do not need to cast spoils before angels grace. you can cast angels grace and let it resolve then cast spoils.

April 28, 2017 8:44 p.m.

darkdawson123 says... #15

Hey just so you know I love the idea of the deck but Angel's Grace puts you at 1 life, you can't go under 1 with it ya know so sadly your turn 2 combo doesn't work :( overall still a rad deck.

April 30, 2017 11:14 a.m.

darkdawson123 says... #16

I am an awful liar I apologize! Since spoils is loss of life you are all set! sorry about that!

April 30, 2017 11:16 a.m.

icehit6 says... #17

Haha it's alright, in testing I've had a lot of peoplet say the combo doesn't work for that reason :P it seems easily confused when the combo goes off but it does I'm fact work!

May 1, 2017 9:59 p.m.

my daddy doesn't even need a diving suit to plunge into an ocean of pleasure

subscribe or the knife goes deeper

May 18, 2017 3:42 p.m.

icehit6 says... #19

Hahahaha what??

May 18, 2017 3:51 p.m.

CptZutii says... #20

Just so everyone who reads this deck knows, Angel's Grace does not stop loss of life and you will be at negative live after Spoils of the Vault resolves, causing Death's Shadow to grow an amount equal to your negative life. If you name a card not in your deck with spoils, you will exile your whole deck and fall to about -40 makeing Death's Shadow a 50/50 ish

May 19, 2017 9:37 a.m.

Xica says... #21

Due to rule changes this "combo" doesn't work anymore.
2017. 07. 14. If your life total is negative, X is considered to be 0. (This is a change from previous rulings.)

Thus you will be at a very negative life total, with a "just" 13/13 death's shadow - and will lose the game at the beginning of the opponent's upkeep.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but i think its better to found out here, then during a tournament.

October 11, 2017 12:50 p.m.

icehit6 says... #22

The deck has been updated since the ruling. Before the ruling the combo worked. That's why I have Phyrexian Unlife main board now.

October 11, 2017 8:26 p.m.

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81% Casual


Compare to inventory
Date added 8 months
Last updated 2 months

This deck is Modern legal.

Cards 60
Avg. CMC 1.85
Tokens 1/1 Spirit
Folders Combo, Expensive Modern Decks, ideckas, modern, deck ideas, Decks To Build, favs, Modern, Brilliant Ideas, modern ideas, See all 22
Top rank #4 on 2017-05-01
Views 7922

Revision 10 See all

2 months ago)

-2 Angel's Grace main
+2 Phyrexian Unlife main
+2 Angel's Grace side
-1 Murderous Cut side
-1 Zealous Persecution side