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Shigeki, Jukai Visionary Art by Anna Podedworna

Standard Shigeki Four-Color Control Deck Guide: Grind Them to Dust

Hello fellow gamers, I have a confession to make, I love to make my opponents despair by robbing them of everything. It’s not because I am vindictive, it is more that I like to have an answer to their threat, an answer for everything really. It is just a play style that I enjoy. I think in the current Standard Metagame, Orzhov decks that run a full playset each of Rite of Oblivion and Vanishing Verse are the de facto grinder deck. This particular deck has been around now for a good while; starting around the time Standard 2022 was a format. Their form of card advantage comes from a few sources: Planeswalkers, Wedding Invitation, and Deadly Dispute.

For the deck I am about to show you, our card advantage comes from a different, rather innocuous looking source: A Snake Druid to be exact.

If I am being honest Shigeki, Jukai Visionary was not on my radar during spoiler season. What with big flashy dragons and devastating sagas right in front of me its easy to overlook a green two-drop. This particular two-drop though is a card draw engine has a lot of flexibility and advantages over what Orzhov is doing. Very early on, it can stonewall a lot of smaller creatures like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Then it can soak up some additional damage by blocking a much larger threat and bouncing itself back into your hand to avoid the damage step in combat. Oh, and on its way there it will most times ramp you with a land and fill your graveyard with goodies.

Which sets us up perfectly for part two of the Shigeki plan: Channeling. Yes, I know that detractors will say that 2 green plus XX is a terrible rate to draw cards, but here are two counterarguments to this. First, since this is a channeled ability and not a spell its nearly uncounterable (yes cards like Stifle and Disallow exist but not in Standard, only Mirrorshell Crab could stop it).

Second, this is just not random cards from the top, these are handpicked by you from targets in your graveyard. We have built our deck to take advantage of this by using mostly disposable spells that can be recycled time and time again. Finally, (here’s my favorite part) this is sustainable card draw when you add Soul Transfer into the mix.

That’s right, we have created a loop of misery for our opponents. Shigeki targets Soul Transfer and hopefully a few other choice spells. The following turn we cast Soul Transfer (in a perfect world we have activated both modes) remove their big threat and/or return Shigeki into our hand to do it all over again. At a certain point we have buried them in card advantage and we can let our Invoke the Ancients tokens finish them off, or sometimes a surprise snipe from an animated land thanks to Druid Class.

Of course, there is plenty of ways to interact with this loop, such as countering Soul Transfer, or graveyard hate like Go Blank. That is why we are packing a total of 4 Test of Talents between the sideboard and main deck. The other big issue with all this is its very mana intensive. Just to draw three cards with Shigeki we need to have 8 mana open. Luckily, our deck is focused around ramping and removing. Binding the Old Gods being an awesome combination of both.

I call these sorts of decks inevitability engines, as given enough time by our opponents, we will eventually overwhelm them. We of course struggle against very fast decks like Mono-Green and Mono-White but I have noticed that Orzhov has been keeping these decks in check and their prevalence is quite down right now. We are definitely trying to prey on Orzhov and avoid these faster decks. I will not say that they are unbeatable, but I feel like you have to draw well in order to stabilize against them while you have more time to get setup versus Orzhov.

I will also note in my extensive play testing that this deck does quite well against Izzet and Jeskai decks. There are a few varieties out there right now, we have the Combo Izzet deck that features Goldspan Dragon, Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, and a metric ton of spell interaction. There is also the Hinata, Dawn-Crowned deck that DoggertQBones breaks down here. There’s even the more traditional Izzet with Smoldering Egg and Hullbreaker Horror. We have plenty of tools to beat these decks as again, a full playset of Test of Talents can really give them fits in addition to Soul Shatter which is an all star versus every creature they play. Even in a pre-sideboard game Binding the Old Gods and Vanishing Verse do a lot of work here.

One last thing before we see the list, you will notice immediately it is four-colors. Fun fact, at a certain point, iterations of this list were full rainbow. After testing The Kami War though I found it not to be enough to justify the hoops you had to go through to get it out. Any semblance of Red was dropped in favor of slightly better mana consistency. Some would also argue that White could be dropped too. Our deck after all, only features 8 White cards in truth: Doomskar and Vanishing Verse. I suppose that The Meathook Massacre and Infernal Grasp could do decent impersonations of these but in certain cases, they are not nearly as good.

Here is the list:

Shi-eesh-Geki 4c Control
by Josh
Buy on TCGplayer $259.2
Standard
Control
best of 3
7 mythic
34 rare
9 uncommon
10 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
3
Kaito Shizuki
$16.47
1
Wrenn and Seven
$8.99
Creatures (4)
Instants (6)
1
Negate
$0.25
4
Vanishing Verse
$7.96
1
Test of Talents
$0.35
Sorceries (6)
3
Soul Transfer
$1.05
1
Doomskar
$2.29
Artifacts (4)
2
The Celestus
$3.58
Enchantments (8)
1
Druid Class
$1.29
Lands (28)
1
Forest
$0.25
1
Island
$0.25
2
Plains
$0.50
2
Swamp
$0.50
3
Field of Ruin
$0.75
2
Darkbore Pathway
$12.98
3
The World Tree
$17.97
2
Deathcap Glade
$14.98
2
Shipwreck Marsh
$6.98
1
Rimewood Falls
$1.49
1
Arctic Treeline
$0.69
1
Woodland Chasm
$0.99
60 Cards
$316.06
Sideboard
1
Negate
$0.25
3
Test of Talents
$1.05
3
Soul Shatter
$5.97
2
Duress
$0.50
1
Path of Peril
$0.49
3
Doomskar
$6.87
1
Invoke Despair
$0.79
15 Cards
$16.27

Card Choices

Creatures

Shigeki, Jukai Visionary has been discussed at length. Basically, you are always happy to see this snake druid, early and late.

Kotose, the Silent Spider is a spicy card from the sideboard like Unmoored Ego on a body. It is especially fun against decks that rely heavily on one or two key spells such as Magma Opus or Goldspan Dragon. Its also great fun versus Rite of Oblivion.

Instants

Vanishing Verse is a card I won’t spend any time on, we know why it’s good.

Negate seems really well positioned right now, with the one glaring exception being mono-white, there is even decent targets in Mono-Green (Esika's Chariot, Wrenn and Seven, etc.)

Soul Shatter is mainly for the Izzet matchup, especially with the combo Izzet deck that loves to use Sejiri Shelter and Valorous Stance. Not only does this dodge those but it also prevents them from receiving a free treasure token.

Test of Talents is really good against Orzhov, yes it cannot target their planeswalkers or enchantments but if you shutoff Deadly Dispute, or Rite of Oblivion it really hamstrings them. In addition, this card will be critical in sideboard games versus Go Blank. While less prevalent I have seen an uptick of a super-friends type deck that uses a critical mass of planeswalkers and Farewell. Farewell is brutal against us it blows up all our artifacts and enchantments and shuts down our graveyard fun.

Enchantments

Druid Class is a card I am going to keep running until someone forcibly pries it from my hands. Yes, its only a single copy right now. Apart from all the obvious good it does, it also helps us turn on Soul Transfer.

The Meathook Massacre is another way to help us enable Soul Transfer and buy us a lot of time. My only gripe here is that you cannot recur these with Shigeki.

Binding the Old Gods is a card a I rarely ever sideboard out: it does so much work.

Sorceries

Path of Peril is a single copy in the sideboard as way to deal with the many token-based threats of Orzhov and hopefully buy us precious time versus mono-white.

Invoke the Ancients has been quite good for me, it has built in card advantage against spot removal. Its stats line up perfectly against certain prevalent threats in the format such as Edgar, Charmed Groom, Esika’s Chariot and most importantly Goldspan Dragon. The flexibility of its keyword abilities cannot be understated, I have switched between all of them or a combination of two. For example, against a Lolth, Spider Queen, trample is perfect to punch past those spiders and take out their queen. While of course we want reach against dragons. The other great thing about this spell is being able to recycle it multiple times from the graveyard.

Invoke Despair is also good but less flexible then Invoke the Ancients. I find it works best against decks that are very slow and grindy especially those that rely heavily on Planeswalkers. The exception here is Orzhov they have too many disposable threats to make this worth the value when Invoke the Ancients does it better.

Soul Transfer is a key combo piece with Shigeki and rarely ever gets cut. In a pinch we can also recur Kaito Shizuki or Wrenn and Seven. The flexibility of this card and the potential two-for-one makes it an all-star. If it was instant speed, I could easily seeing running the full playset.

Doomskar we have one main deck and three in the sideboard. It’s nice to have at least one sweeper that can be targeted with Shigeki.

Duress comes out of the sideboard against Izzet and control decks we also hope we can generate a juicy target for Kotose, the Silent Spider

Planeswalkers

Kaito Shizuki was definitely a card I did not understand when it was first spoiled. I looked at it is a ninjitsu enabler and moved on. The truth is this ninja is an insanely efficient card drawing machine. Even in a deck like mine that doesn’t feature a ton of threats it can generate its own threat the moment it hits the board and then drops a smoke bomb to hide. This gives you a critical turn to untap and protect it. If they kill the unblockable ninja token that is of course a bummer. But our deck is quite happy to use the loot mechanic as well since Shigeki is always waiting in the wings to scoop up anything we have discarded.

Wrenn and Seven also pushes a lot of buttons for us as another form of looting, it also feeds are intense mana needs, and finally is a fine target for Soul Transfer if Shigeki, Jukai Visionary is not forthcoming.

Artifacts

The Celestus is here because we need a few artifacts to enable Soul Transfer, also it helps us ramp and fix our somewhat greedy mana base. The loot effect is good too of course with Shigeki.

Reckoner Bankbuster another artifact that generates a lot of value and enables Soul Transfer in a pinch this card can act as a finisher when it starts swinging for four damage a turn.

Lands

This land base looks like a pile of cards. I will be the first to admit its ambitious but generally it doesn’t betray me too often. The World Tree is a great but getting to six mana while not dying against the faster decks can be challenging at times. I would always try to drop a Shigeki on turn two If I have it to help us accelerate. Likewise Binding the Old Gods is critical for the same reason.

My best advice is to be very thoughtful on how and when you play your land. It is a bit mini-game within the game if you will. We are running three copies of Field of Ruin with five basics to fetch with them. (I refuse to be beaten by creature lands). In addition, we have three Snow dual lands to fetch with Binding of the Old God. While this mana base looks random, there was a lot of thought put into it. I could see reducing the basics count down to four to add in another dual land, but remember that we can recur Field of Ruin with Shigeki which comes up more than you would think.


Notable Card Exclusions

Esika’s Chariot Art by Raoul Vitale
Esika’s Chariot Art by Raoul Vitale

Esika's Chariot

Chariot is a card that I have cut and added back several times during my play testing. The good sides of the card The upsides to it is that it’s a great threat, it’s great to copy a Wrenn and Seven token or an Invoke the Ancients token , and it does serve as another artifact to help turn on Soul Transfer.

However, the ultimate reason it is currently out is that I cannot recur it with Shigeki. To a lesser extent Esika’s Chariot wants a lot of support around it, just playing a strong card isn’t cutting it here.

Tamiyo, Compleated Sage

I actually have not tried this Phyrexian version of Tamiyo yet she could have some merit in being able to copy certain key permanents in our graveyard, but I am not certain we run enough of those permanents to make it worth effort.

Go Blank

If you need graveyard interaction, Go Blank is a card I would consider if I started see a ton of copies of Lier, Disciple of the Drowned again or more opponents using Shigeki decks for that matter! Blindly taking two cards versus surgically extracting one with Duress though has what has kept his on the sidelines for me.

Dread Fugue

Hand disruption is obviously nice for its flexibility but in a counterspell war you really only want to lead with the one mana Duress versus the cleaved version of this. Though I like how it could take a Goldspan Dragon to feed Kotose, the Silent Spider.

Check for Traps

I would be all for trying to swap one copy of Duress with one copy of this but I also have superstitions around single copies of cards sometimes, like I am certain I won’t see either this or Duress if only run one each. Duress also has synergy with Kotose, the Silent Spider.

Parasitic Grasp

I have tested this card and sometimes it’s literally a lifesaver and sometimes you wish it was anything else. If mono-red and mono-white start to really see an uptick this may become a necessary evil.

The Wandering Emperor

The Emperor has been in and out of my lists so many times I’ve lost count. It’s hard to pinpoint what the issue with it is, but I think this card benefits more from a midrange shell that looks to switch between beat down and control modes rapidly. Our deck is pretty much full control so while the emperor is fine and has nice synergy with Kaito it is just a victim of card space.

Lolth, Spider Queen

Lolth is a card I briefly experimented with as well. I think this is a powerful card that is just not well supported by our strategy.


Sideboard Guide

Test of Talent Art by Lie Setiawan
Test of Talent Art by Lie Setiawan

Orzhov and Mardu

OUTIN
-1 Wrenn and Seven+2 Test of Talents
-1 Negate+1 Path of Peril
-1 Druid Class

If they are the more traditional Orzhov that uses mainly Eyetwitch and Shambling Ghast resist the urge to use Vanishing Verse on them, save these for their planeswalkers and Wedding Invitations. Hopefully a few copies of The Meathook Massacre will show up to buy you some space. We are really trying to out grind the grindiest deck so be prepared for a long game, which will eventually favor you. Post sideboard you will want to try to nail one of their key spells with Test of Talents, especially Deadly Dispute and Go Blank.

I have seen a trend of more aggro elements in these decks such as inclusion of Luminarch Aspirant, Elite Spellbinder, and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar if that is the case you may want to sideboard more like this:

OUTIN
-1 Wrenn and Seven+3 Doomskar
-1 Negate+1 Path of Peril
-1 Druid Class
-1 Reckoner Bankbuster

Mono Green Stompy

OUTIN
-1 Reckoner Bankbuster+3 Doomskar
-1 Negate
-1 Test of Talents

This is a tough matchup as mentioned in the description, Shigeki has a hard time blocking any of their creatures. Vanishing Verse is your best card and you are put in awkward position on when to use it, if they are running main deck Snakeskin Veil you are inclined to use it when they are tapped out, but at the same time you can get much more value when you use it in response to their plays, like for example a third tier activation of Ranger Class.

The extra copies of Doomskar post board will be immensely helpful, then you just have to worry about hasted creatures and creature lands.

If you have no play on a turn do not be afraid to take out their Lair of the Hydra with Field of Ruin this will allow you to board wipe with less fear of reprisal. Ranger Class is their best card against you in the second matchup.

Mono-White Aggro

OUTIN
-1 Reckoner Bankbuster+3 Doomskar
-1 Negate+1 Path of Peril
-1 Test of Talents
-1 Wrenn and Seven

If you can get past their initial onslaught your chances of winning go up. If I don’t see a board wipe in my opening hand, it better be a darn good hand or it might just be better to send it back. The name of the game here is delay, delay, delay, at a certain point the tables will turn in your favor.

Mono-Red Aggro

OUTIN
-2 Reckoner Bankbuster+3 Doomskar
-1 Negate+3 Soul Shatter
-1 Test of Talents
-1 Wrenn and Seven
-1 Kaito Shizuki

This matchup plays exactly like Mono-White except they have far more haste creatures. I am not going to sugarcoat it, you need to draw near perfect to beat this deck. If you start seeing more Red Deck Wins in your meta you may want to invest in some amount of Parasitic Grasp in the sideboard.

Izzet / Jeskai

OUTIN
-1 Reckoner Bankbuster+3 Test of Talents
-3 The Meathook Massacre+2 Duress
-1 Doomskar+3 Soul Shatter
-1 Wrenn and Seven+1 Kotose, the Silent Spider
-2 Invoke the Ancients+1 Invoke Despair
-1 Binding the Old Gods
-1 The Celestus

I have decided this is our best matchup. They do not put a sufficiently fast clock on you to pressure you, which gives you ample time to setup and begin Shigeki loops. Post board you want to make sure you are not running your Test of Talents into theirs so having a peek at their hand with Duress can really help, but if you can counter Unexpected Windfall or Memory Deluge and they are tapped out, go for it. Remember you can always get Test of Talents out of the graveyard.

On turn 5 be ready for their Goldspan Dragon, spend all resources possible to remove this, likewise with Hinata, Dawn-Crowned on turn four. Fun fact Binding the Old Gods takes out Hinata without the one mana penalty.

If they are running Hinata, Dawn-Crowned do not cut Binding the Old Gods, but you can consider cutting some number of Vanishing Verse. Just be careful they will often bring in Malevolent Hermit in from the sideboard in which case consider cutting some number of artifacts like a copy of The Celestus and all Reckoner Bankbuster copies instead.

Naya and Seleynsa Enchantments

OUTIN
-1 Reckoner Bankbuster+3 Doomskar
-1 Negate+1 Path of Peril
-1 Test of Talents+2 Soul Shatter
-1 Wrenn and Seven
-2 The Meathook Massacre

This definitely comes down to a war of attrition obviously the version that runs Showdown of the Skalds is the harder deck to beat. I have had games go to where they are down to 15 cards in their deck and the finally give up because they were completely out of gas. A lot of their creatures can’t be targeted by Vanishing Verse so use it when you can. I have had games where I had to use Vanishing Verse on their Rune of Speed to remove haste from a creature just to stay alive and board wipe the next turn., so don’t forget that is an option. Likewise you can remove Rune of Might to remove trample if you have a chump blocker available.

Blue/White/Black Control decks

We want to to do our best to take out Farewell with Test of Talents, as from there, we have tons of answers for the many planeswalkers they run. Look for an opening to get in Druid Class for a one-shot kill late in the game. Its trickier when they run Malevolent Hermit, this is a card that must be removed quickly. There clock is anemic which favors us since we are the inevitability machine.

OUTIN
-1 Reckoner Bankbuster+3 Test of Talents
-3 The Meathook Massacre+2 Duress
-1 Doomskar+1 Soul Shatter
-1 Wrenn and Seven+1 Kotose, the Silent Spider
-2 Invoke the Ancients+1 Invoke Despair

If the deck features Kaito Shizuki and Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset consider swapping two additional copies of Vanishing Verse out for two more copies of Soul Shatter.


Tips and Tricks

The Celestus Art by Jonas De Ro
The Celestus Art by Jonas De Ro
  • As mentioned, I want to drop Shigeki, Jukai Visionary on turn two it can usually block most other two-drops with a few notable exceptions like Werewolf Pack leader. It then has the chance to blunt the attack of a larger threat the following turn by blocking then activating its ability before the damage portion of combat (just be aware this does NOT stop trample damage, you will still take the full amount).
  • Later on, I am far more hesitant to run out my Shigeki, Jukai Visionary as I don’t want it to be removed unless I have a counterspell to protect or a removal in the case of Blizzard Brawl from Mono Green.
  • Obviously, we want to draw as many cards as possible with Shigeki, Jukai Visionary and generally on our opponent’s end step. However, do not be afraid to leave one card in the graveyard in order to cast a Negate or Vanishing Verse in response to what are opponent does. A very typical play pattern is to target one of those instant speed cards with Shigeki, Jukai Visionary and immediately use it against our opponent.
  • What is neat about this deck is you can hide your counterspells in your graveyard against Duress and get them back at instant speed. This comes up more often than you’d think.
  • Do not be afraid to loot with The Celestus often, you may discard something you want but you have a chance to get it back later. The same goes for Kaito Shizuki, just think of your graveyard as an extension of your hand.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

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Josh
Josh

Josh has been playing Magic: the Gathering since Ice Age (that came out in 1996 for you whippersnappers out there). He was a MODO grinder and early beta tester for MTGA where his handle is Parabolian. He is no stranger to Mythic ladder and has frequently finished in the top 1200. Josh loves to brew decks but he loves to win too. Sometimes those two interests align and sometimes he goes on epic losing streaks.

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