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Death's Shadow Art by Howard Lyon

Historic Grixis Death’s Shadow Deck Guide: Lurrus Finding Its Path

Want to relive the glory days of Modern? Skura has just the deck for you with Grixis Death's Shadow. Find out how you can harness the power of Modern's former best deck in Historic!

There is only one format in which Lurrus of the Dream-Den is legal – Historic. If you want to use Lurrus to it’s fullest capabilities, we should look towards the former best Modern deck that has its own incarnation on MTG Arena – Grixis Death's Shadow.

It’s an interactive tempo deck that can really grind. It plays a ton of efficient interaction, chiefly removal, but there is a bit of countermagic as well. Dominaria United bolstered the deck in a few ways. First, the Painlands give it another way to lose life and make Death's Shadow bigger. In addition, Founding the Third Path is a new card from Dominaria United that adds another new dimension to the shell. It’s an enchantment that adds to the Delirium condition, makes your Expressive Iteration essentially cost 0, and mills over cards for Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, and Delirium. Let’s deep deeper into the card choices.

[Lurrus] Grixis Shadow
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $962.18
Historic
best of 3
2 mythic
43 rare
15 uncommon
0 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Companion
Instants (9)
4
Fatal Push
$15.96
1
Cut Down
$1.79
1
Bind to Secrecy
$0.00
Sorceries (14)
4
Thoughtseize
$87.96
3
Molten Impact
$0.00
Enchantments (4)
Lands (20)
2
Shivan Reef
$3.58
2
Drowned Catacomb
$15.98
4
Steam Vents
$87.96
4
Watery Grave
$75.96
4
Blood Crypt
$79.96
60 Cards
$560.88
15 Cards
$30.79

Deck Tech

Threats

I’ll divide the deck into 3 sections – threats, interaction and other. Let’s start off with the creatures.

I’ll start off with the namesake. As is, the card will usually die upon entry as it’ll get -20/-20. However, if we can manipulate our lite total to get it low enough, it can easily become the best threat in the format. With shocklands and newly added DMU painlands, we can lower our own life total and then deploy big Shadows. The main plan is to play interaction and other threats, and at a later turn, drop, say, two 7/7 Shadows and be able to close the game in one attack. It’s not really a one-drop despite its upper right corner icon, but it still does cost one mana.

Arguably the biggest strength of the deck is the fact that your Companion, Lurrus of the Dream-Den, is itself a must-answer threat that, upon entry, can immediately replay Death's Shadow which is going to be a must-answer threat as well. In matchups that revolve around your life total like Burn, you can let them do the damage and then play the Shadows, but try not to deal damage to yourself. Normally cards like Thoughtseize have a clear downside, but in this case it’s a strict upside.

A card so strong that it had to be nerfed. While still good, it is appreciably worse than before. In the new version it gets +2/+0 rather than +2/+2 with Delirium which affects its offensive capabilities as it trades more often than it would if it had more toughness. It also makes it not viable to strategically turn on Delirium in the second main phase to have a 3/3 blocker for a turn.

Still, it’s arguably one of the strongest one drops in the format. Surveil quickly adds up to both accomplish Delirium and just filter through your draws. You very quickly fuel your graveyard for Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger and ditch the cards you don’t need like removal against control or creatures when you’re searching for interaction.

A multi-format all-star. It’s exceptional in formats where a lot of spells are cast left and right, and especially if you yourself cast a lot of cheap spells. Both Historic and this deck meet the criterion. It has a lot going for it: it has evasion which pairs nicely with DRC, making our avian army strong. It provides card selection, similarly to DRC. Not only do we get to keep the cards we like, but when paired with DRC, we get cumulatively a ton of filtering. Finally, it blocks very well so against more aggressive decks it buys us time.

The card is basically a swiss knife of a card. The only downside is that its not very aggressive so it commits to a more grindy, long-term plan. Remember that it can trigger twice during one turn – if both you and the opponent have cast two spells.

We basically only play Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger for its late game Escape applications. A 6/6 is already powerful as Unholy Heat no longer kills it, but its trigger makes it the perfect end-game threat. It can often be ditched into the graveyard through DRC or Ledger and only be cast for its escape cost. The worst part about this card, as it was with Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, is casting its front half. In this deck, we rarely will have to.

Let’s quickly address the cat in the room. Lurrus does not restrict the deck in the slightest – it plays all the cards it would anyway. It’s our free late-game engine, and a powerful one at that. Recasting Shadows is very powerful and dominates the battlefield on its own. It can also recast Founding the Third Path which I will talk about later.

On top of that, our permanent-based sideboard cards can be used multiple times, be it a killed Grim Lavamancer, or clearing their graveyard every turn with Soul-Guide Lantern. If you don’t feel the power of the card, I suggest playing with it a couple of matches, yhen the power becomes apparent.

Interaction

Now, let’s move onto the interaction.

Both discard spells perform a similar function: poke holes in the opponent’s hand, especially if they have mulliganed. The actual purpose can be multi-fold and depend on the situation. Sometimes it will take a removal spell to save our creature or take the creature if we don’t otherwise have a lot of interaction. As I’ve already mentioned earlier, Thoughtseize‘s downside is obviously an upside in this shell as it buffs Shadows.

We play Molten Impact and Fatal Push as the core of our removal suite, the rest is relatively flex. They both kill most threats that we want to kill turns one through four. Impact compounds nicely with the triggered ability, and if we expect a big creature to drop, we can purposefully kill a small creature with it first so that the second copy has a lot of excess damage to deal.

Fatal Push, while powerful, the revolt is quite difficult to turn on in this deck. The main ways are Kroxa and Founding the Third Path reaching the third chapter and going to the graveyard. Other than that, you have to rely on your permanents leaving play in combat. While not easily triggering revolt isn’t ideal, Push will still get the job done most of the time. There are a lot of options in those colours so one can get creative as far as the last few slots are concerned.

Other Cards

Arguably the best modern-era card advantage spell. According to many, this uncommon is ban worthy. As long as it’s legal, we might as well play it. It can function as a way to find a land drop that you’d otherwise miss, find threats, interaction, etc. On turns 4+, you’ll most likely be able to play both spells off of it as the deck’s curve is so low. It’s usually the best spell to top deck in later stages of the game. Last but not least, it itself will almost guarantee conniving Ledger Shredder.

This is a new DMU addition. All three chapters do something desirable for the deck, and more. I will start with the more. It’s an enchantment which helps achieve delirium for our A-Dragon's Rage Channeler as well as a permanent that can be recast with Lurrus. On top of that, we’ve got its actual effects.

  1. The first chapter casting a one-drop it a tad inefficient, but doable. However, the best cards to use with this are Molten Impact and Expressive Iteration to stay on par with the mana.
  2. The second chapter is not irrelevant either as you get to fuel the graveyard for Lurrus, Delirium, and Kroxa.
  3. The last chapter provides a flashback which is very welcome as far as Expressive Iteration is concerned. Being able to essentially play 8 Iterations in a single game of Magic is dirty, but in practice, you won’t need more than two. You can also flashback a discard spell, removal, or a utility spell like Kolaghan's Command.

I believe most of the time the saga will start at 1 or 3. Starting at 2 will happen almost exclusively if you want to escape Kroxa the following turn or desperately need lethal with DRCs so you want to mill yourself, but even then it might be better to just put the enchantment in the graveyard immediately with the third chapter.


Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Ledger Shredder Art by Mila Pesic
Ledger Shredder Art by Mila Pesic

Izzet Wizards

INOUT
+2 Cut Down-4 Thoughtseize
+1 Feed the Swarm-1 Bind to Secrecy
+2 Mystical Dispute

We are the control deck. We need to thwart their early attempts at expanding the board and not allow Dreadhorde Arcanist to recast their card draw. They cannot deal with Death's Shadow, but they can deal with our low life total. When you’re low enough to make Shadow relevant, try to set up a situation where you kill them in a turn or two. Trade creatures when possible to deplete them of threats. With discard, I’d focus on creatures first as they are the primary source of damage. Keep in mind that Lurrus’s lifelink can also help stabilise.

Post-board, we get even more controlling. Playing Ledger Shredder and immediately making it a 2/4 can be quite annoying for them. Remember though that they can make it smaller with burn spells if Soul-Scar Mage is on the battlefield.

Don’t Shock yourself too aggressively with the lands, this will lower your life total easily.

I’m not siding in Grim Lavamancer as it actually does not kill that much. I’m still cutting Thoughtseize as we want to control our life total more. An alternative approach that I see is keeping Thoughtseize in, but cutting A-Dragon's Rage Channeler as they can’t block anyway. I prefer the threat, but it’s not a crazy idea to try.

Selesnya Lifegain

INOUT
+1 Feed the Swarm-2 Founding the Third Path
+2 Grim Lavamancer-1 Bind to Secrecy

In most cases, Cut Down won’t shine too much as a single lifegain trigger will make their payoffs grow out of range. However, Fatal Push is absolutely stellar. We should be able to win the longer games thanks to our staying power. While our threats are very powerful, they play Skyclave Apparition which can deal with any of them, so be wary of that.

A trick that you might not be aware of is that Heliod, Sun-Crowned can grant your Death's Shadow lifelink which means it will die after combat. That said, it’s entirely possible that your Heliod opponent is not aware of this interaction either.

Mono Red Aggro

INOUT
+2 Cut Down-4 Thoughtseize
+2 Grim Lavamancer

Similar to the Wizards matchup, I opt for cutting Thoughtseize but you could experiment with cutting A-Dragon's Rage Channelers. Removal is king and we want to preserve our life total as much as possible. Our threats are much bigger than theirs and they don’t have a lot of card advantage so we have inevitability. If we can kill the early stuff, accumulate some card advantage while they burn us, and then turn the corner, it should be okay. We don’t want to be in a topdecking situation at 4 or less life. DRC and Ledger Shredder will get in there for chip damage unblocked thanks to flying.

In such a fast matchup, I can imagine plays like turn one DRC, turn two Founding the Third Path, and immediately cast Expressive Iteration. The first reason is that you will surely have delirium the following turn and you might not really have time to play around with Iteration later – so you might as well cash it in as Anticipate.

Humans

INOUT
+2 Cut Down-4 Founding the Third Path
+2 Grim Lavamancer

Here our big creatures will matter more, but there is even more pressure on the removal. Their creatures will grow so our Ledger Shredder will only hold the fort for so long. Keeping the board contained is key. Cut Down, while powerful, might be risky in the light of a potential Collected Company as it might grow creatures out of range, so keep that in mind.

In sideboarding, I’ve decided to change strategy compared to other aggro decks. Since they don’t have any burn, I feel like I will have more control over my life total anyways. Stripping them off some key cards like Collected Company, Thalia's Lieutenant, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, or Adeline, Resplendent Cathar with discard could be game changing.

Azorius Control

INOUT
+2 Kolaghan's Command-1 Cut Down
+2 Mystical Dispute -3 Molten Impact
+2 Bind to Secrecy-2 Fatal Push

We want to be disruptive aggressors here. I like taking their cheap cards with discard so they have to commit more mana on the other plays. You should set up situations when you can immediately follow up with something powerful after a mass removal spell, for example escape Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger or maybe double Death's Shadow.

In the perfect world, you’d have discard to know whether there are more Wrath of God effects coming. They will really have a hard time dealing with multiple early A-Dragon's Rage Channelers but don’t get blown out by Divine Purge. As you can see, discard will play a major role – both in terms of poking holes but also getting the invaluable information.


Tips and Tricks

Dragon’s Rage Channeler Art by Martina Fackova
Dragon’s Rage Channeler Art by Martina Fackova
  • If you do not want to suicide attack your Dragon's Rage Channeler into, say, Ledger Shredder, you can cast your spells in the second main phase. This way if you turn on Delirium, it’s post-combat so DRC won’t have to attack.
  • With multiple Ledger Shredder, especially with different number of counters, pay attention to which is triggered when. It’s key in situations when you want to make sure that both Ledgers have at least 4 toughness so you need to grow the smaller one and discard a land to the bigger one.
  • When escaping Kroxa, try to maintain delirium and permanents for future Lurrus recast.
  • Kroxa’s sacrifice triggers revolt for Fatal Push.
  • If your opponent passes the turn and you don’t have a spell to cast, you can deal yourself damage with Sulfurous Springs and Shivan Reef just to lower your life total for Death's Shadow. However, you’ll need priority to do this, either by having something you can cast, having a stop, or holding Full Control.
  • In some case scenarios, you can play a discard spell on yourself to discard a card which turns on Delirium.

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Skura
Skura

Also known as Skura or IslandsInFront on Twitter and YouTube, Filip started his career upon the release of Gatecrash and has been passing the turn in all formats ever since. He coaches and creates written and video content, mainly centered around the control archetype. He is passionate about Magic game theory and countering spells. Outside of Magic, he is a fan of snooker/pool, chess and Project Management.

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