Historic Orzhov Death’s Shadow Deck Guide: The Best Deck Nobody Knows About

Death's Shadow Art by Howard Lyon
Death's Shadow Art by Howard Lyon

Hello everyone! Today I’m going over a deck I just discovered (in a sense) yesterday, but has been absolutely crushing for me since: Orzhov Shadow. Now playing a Death’s Shadow deck in Historic isn’t exactly a novel concept, it’s been around for awhile. Between decks built around Shadow or Rakdos Arcanist with Shadow, even Rogues with Shadow, the deck has failed to gain any significant traction. Not having fetch lands in Historic definitely hurts, but there’s plenty of pain lands to go around so I never felt that was the inherent issue with the deck. So what was the problem? Like many other archetypes, the correct list had yet to be found.

When Jumpstart: Historic Horizons came out, Chris and I were excited by the prospect of Shadow as not only did you have Ranger of Eos from a previous expansion, but Ranger-Captain of Eos as well. This would allow you to find Death’s Shadow super consistently and have this cool grindy game plan of finding a million Shadows and overwhelming the opponent. Not only that, but you could have a small toolbox of 1 mana creatures since you had 8 different ways to tutor them up. Here’s what the first version of that list looked like, sans sideboard.

Eos Orzhov Shadow
by DoggertQBones
Historic
Midrange
best of 3
8 mythic
44 rare
5 uncommon
3 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (22)
4
Death’s Shadow
$15.96
1
Giant Killer
$0.35
4
Adanto Vanguard
$1.40
4
Ranger of Eos
$19.96
Instants (4)
3
Fatal Push
$65.97
1
Heartless Act
$0.39
Sorceries (13)
4
Thoughtseize
$99.96
2
Feed the Swarm
$0.70
Lands (21)
1
Plains
$0.25
6
Swamp
$1.50
2
Castle Locthwain
$35.98
4
Godless Shrine
$83.96
60 Cards
$543.4

As reasonable as this deck looked, it performed dreadfully. It just felt way less powerful than anything else I could be doing, especially in a format that still had Brainstorm and Memory Lapse at the time. Nevertheless, the deck just didn’t perform as it was either too slow, too clunky, or the threats too low impact to contend with the rest of the format. With that, I scrapped and forgot about it… Until now. As I was mindlessly scrolling through Twitter, I saw the legendary fireshoes post a link to the Historic deck dump. When looking through it, I found this interesting version of Orzhov Shadow and just looking at it, I could tell this was a really good take on it.

OG Lurrus Shadow
by DoggertQBones
Historic
Tempo
best of 3
7 mythic
38 rare
15 uncommon
0 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Companion
Instants (6)
3
Fatal Push
$65.97
3
Infernal Grasp
$5.37
Sorceries (9)
4
Thoughtseize
$99.96
60 Cards
$545.88
Sideboard
4
Hushbringer
$27.96
2
Go Blank
$0.50
1
Rest in Peace
$15.99
15 Cards
$93.87

First off, it’s playing Esper Sentinel and that card is so good, so that was an easy remedy from my original take on the deck. Second, getting Infernal Grasp from Innistrad was super sweet and a huge upgrade over Feed the Swarm which a lot of lists begrudgingly played. However, the obvious biggest innovation was turning it into a Lurrus of the Dream-Den deck. I was always locked on using the Eos package, but it was way too clunky; it’s no surprise the answer was to eschew it and trim down the deck’s average mana cost.

I played a few matches with it and the deck thrummed. I was killing people quickly, grinding, interacting, the works. I’m not confident enough to say this is a Tier 1 option, but it’s felt absolutely excellent to me and I have to really commend the original creator of the deck as they gave me an excellent base. Per usual, there are always a few cards I want to change around to fit my preferences and here’s where I’m currently at.

Lurrus Shadow v2
by DoggertQBones
Historic
Tempo
best of 3
7 mythic
38 rare
15 uncommon
0 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Companion
Instants (6)
3
Fatal Push
$65.97
3
Infernal Grasp
$5.37
Sorceries (9)
4
Thoughtseize
$99.96
60 Cards
$545.88
Sideboard
4
Hushbringer
$27.96
2
Go Blank
$0.50
2
Portable Hole
$3.98
15 Cards
$64.67

When you have a good base, there isn’t much reason to change things. The main deck I’ve kept exactly the same and I believe that if this isn’t the correct 60, it’s extremely close to it. For the board, I just took out the Drannith Magistrate since they were pretty narrow in the current metagame and the Rest in Peace as we don’t want that in a Lurrus deck and there aren’t an excess of graveyard reliant decks right now. In their place, I added 2 Portable Hole to have a bit more removal against aggro and Witch’s Oven answers against Jund as well as a miser Soul-Guide Lantern in case I find a matchup where I want it. You could easily keep in 1 Drannith Magistrate if you prefer, but it’s pretty contextual. Overall the deck has felt powerful, well positioned, and really good at being strong in multiple matchups.


NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS / POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS

Call of the Death-Dweller Art by Vincent Proce

Apostle of Purifying Light

Although you’d never main deck this card, it can be an excellent board option against Jund Food if you really want that as they can’t interact with it at all. That being said, it’s a bit narrow right now as there aren’t too many Black decks and a little low impact as a 2/1 Progenitus is cool, but not amazing.

Drannith Magistrate

As I said before, I think it’s a bit narrow in this metagame but if Mizzix’s Mastery comes back in a big way, this is definitely something to consider.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

We don’t play an excess of spells and the spells we do play are pretty cheap so this isn’t that unreasonable. Could be a cool board card and works really well with Lurrus.

Dead Weight

It’s a bit narrow, but it’s absolutely killer with Lurrus against small creature decks so there’s real consideration to put a few in the board if you’re concerned about those matchups.

Duress

I was surprised to see no Duress in the initial list, but it does make a lot of sense. There aren’t many Control decks and the main one that exists (Jeskai Opus) does get hit harder by Go Blank most of the time anyway. Great card, wrong meta.

Phyrexian Reclamation

Almost certainly too niche, but it is pretty nice against grindier matchups and helps lower your life total.

Agonizing Remorse / Check for Traps

Either could replace Go Blank if you prefer this effect, but I do like Go Blank’s graveyard exile ability as well.

Noxious Grasp

Great board card, just a bit narrow and the 1 life is ironically a bit awkward rather than a benefit.

Skyclave Shade

If control matchups become more popular, this can be an excellent board card as an extreme headache for decks looking to 1 for 1 you.

Call of the Death-Dweller

Cool card that could easily be a great 1 of either in the main or sideboard. Giving a huge Death’s Shadow menace? Broken.

Despark

Great board card in some metas, just not this one.

Vanishing Verse

A great removal spell that could find it’s way in the deck if it made sense.


MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING

Hushbringer by Bastien Lecouffe Deharme
Hushbringer Art by Bastien Lecouffe Deharme

JUND FOOD

INOUT
+4 Hushbringer-4 Esper Sentinel
+2 Containment Priest-4 Adanto Vanguard
+2 Portable Hole

The Cat/Oven loop is annoying since it blocks our huge threats so well, but we have 4 ways to stop it completely and 4 more to make it mediocre. Furthermore they play a lot less creature removal than they used to so this matchup is still difficult, but not unwinnable. Hushbringer is also really nice as they need to remove it for Korvold, Fae-Cursed King to be relevant, but it’s not that hard for them to remove it so don’t think it’s going to stick around forever.

JESKAI CONTROL

INOUT
+2 Go Blank-3 Fatal Push
+1 Soul-Guide Lantern

Although we don’t have a perfect board plan for them, this matchup does favor us as a lot of our threats are just good against them. The thing you have to look out for the most is Archmage’s Charm as that can steal the Death’s Shadows, but just don’t be over reliant on them. Try no to give them too much time as cheating out Magma Opus can definitely be difficult to beat, especially if they can chain them together.

HUMANS

INOUT
+4 Hushbringer-4 Esper Sentinel
+2 Portable Hole-4 Adanto Vanguard
+3 Witch’s Vengeance-1 Selfless Savior
+2 Containment Priest (if playing Collected Company)-1 Selfless Savior
-1 Luminarch Aspirant (if playing Collected Company)

Here we have plenty of board cards so this matchup is generally quite good for us. In this matchup (and other creature matchups), don’t be so gung ho on losing life as your opponent is going to help you out there themselves. You don’t want to get too low, play a big Shadow, then they remove it and kill you.

Focus on 1 for 1ing their threats a prioritize mulliganing into Hushbringer or Witch’s Vengeance as both are excellent against them. As a final note, if you’re bringing in Containment Priest, be way that you don’t cast a Witch’s Vengeance naming Human afterwards unless you’re desperate sine it’ll kill Priest as well.

MERFOLK

INOUT
+2 Containment Priest-4 Esper Sentinel
+2 Portable Hole-3 Adanto Vanguard
+3 Witch’s Vengeance

Pretty much the same advice for facing Humans applies here as well. The one note is that you really want to save your removal for their lords as they are a deck that relies on getting to a critical mass, so if you can deny that while also killing their lords they should be easy enough to beat.

FIVE COLOR NIV MIZZET

INOUT
+1 Hushbringer-3 Fatal Push
+2 Go Blank

This deck is gaining a lot of popularity which is nice for us as this felt excellent against it so far. They struggle to kill bigger creatures so we can lose as much life as we want and generally kill them before they can even drop a Niv Mizzet Reborn, and even when they do, you can probably kill them through it. Since they have Niv, you don’t want to give them too much time as they can grind you out if you play too conservatively.

MONO RED MADNESS

INOUT
+2 Go Blank-1 Adanto Vanguard
+1 Soul-Guide Lantern-4 Thoughtseize
+2 Portable Hole

This has felt pretty even so far as sometimes they run you over with insane starts and sometimes they just have a middling hand and your cards outclass them. They aren’t the fastest so you can lose life a bit more liberally, but you still want to be careful. The magic number here is 7 as that’s how much toughness you’ll need to get around an Unholy Heat, but in reality, with Seasoned Pyromancer tokens or Blazing Rootwalla, it’s next to impossible to completely ignore Unholy Heat. Be aggressive and don’t play premium threats if they’re representing removal (like keeping open a land multiple turns in a row).


TIPS AND TRICKS

scourge-of-the-skyclaves_icon
Scourge of the Skyclaves Art by Chase Stone
  • While Death’s Shadow only cares about your life total, remember that Scourge of the Skyclaves cares about both. This is obvious, but it’s really easy to make this mistake and forget to check the opponent’s life total. With that in mind, if you’re facing a deck that can gain life, try to play scourge only when they can’t go back to 20+ life so you don’t lose your threat for free.
  • Knight of the Ebon Legion can only trigger if a player lost 4 life on your turn, but that’s any player not your opponent. I frequently shock in a land and play Thoughtseize or just activate Adanto Vanguard to trigger Knight of the Ebon Legion.
  • In theory you want to save Agadeem’s Awakening to bring back a couple of creatures, but generally you want to play it untapped to help lower your life total.
  • I tend to bring back Lurrus of the Dream-Den to my hand more aggressively in this deck than others as with Death’s Shadow and Scourge of the Skyclaves you can have more situations where you can’t cast a threat as early as you’d like.
  • In general, if you’re facing a deck that’s trying to race you, you want to be conservative with how much life you lose. If you’re facing a deck that is trying to out grind you, you generally can lose as much life as you can to make your threats as large as possible.
  • When you board in Hushbringer, you may want to consider not attacking nor blocking so you don’t gain the extra point of life if you need to cast a Death’s Shadow/Scourge of the Skyclaves sooner.

Thank you for reading!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on Twitch and Discord.

3 Responses

  1. Lvl says:

    I’ve been playing this deck for some time but ranger of eos was too good to exclude because of lurrus so I just played it in the main instead of as a companion.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      You could do it that way. I liked Ranger in theory, but it frequently turned out to be too slow and the toolbox aspect of it too low impact. I’m’ glad its working out better for you than it did for me though!

      • Lvl says:

        Been using the V2 deck for a few weeks and right away I missed basic lands. Insted of Shefet Dunes I used 2 Plains. Then for the sideboard I replaced Portable Holes for Necromentias since I found certain Planeswalkers and combo pieces hard to deal with. Anyway that’s all the feedback I have for anyone trying to use Shadow.