Deck Tech: Death’s Shadow Delver with Nicholas Rausch
Yes, it has Delver of Secrets. Yes, it has Death's Shadow. Yes, it is a Legacy deck. No, Nicholas is not insane! You may remember Nicholas from his strong work with Manaless Dredge on the StarCityGames.com Open Series last year, including a finals appearance after a day of convincing superiority.
Why yes, I would like to pay the life!
For Detroit, Nicholas wasn't looking to Dredge, however. “Delver's just such a good card, and I like being a proactive tempo deck, but I wanted to have game in all the combo matchups,” he explained. Underground Sea and Delver had become a recent trend over the last few weeks, so he got to work. “We started with a U/B Delver plan, with all the disruption... mainly for Thoughtseize.”
One of the advantages of the other Delver decks is that their colors give them more reach, either through burn spells or better creatures. Disruption is useful, but it doesn't attack for 20 damage. “You don't have Tarmogoyf and Nimble Mongoose, so you're playing like... Tombstalkers,” Nicholas admitted, not enthusiastic about the option. “Then we found out that since you're dealing yourself so much damage with Thoughtseizes, fetchlands, Gitaxian Probes, and Snuff Out, that Death's Shadow is a real card!”
Between incidental damage from the opponent and the amount you can deal yourself, the one- drop can grow to surprising size. “Usually when you play him he's anywhere between a 5/5 and a 7/7,” Nicholas noted. “It really messes with combat math, because if they swing at you and don't kill him, they'll die on the crack back. Because you have Watery Grave and fetchlands, you can even Giant Growth him!” That's a threatening shift to any clock that most opponents won't know to expect the first time. “He's done very well.”
Of course, more than a couple stories have cropped up today. “I just played against BUG Control, and Death's Shadow started out as like a 1/1. They went to Vendilion Clique, I Snuff Outted, and he was suddenly a 5/5!” Even more amusing have been some of his games against Reanimator. “Against a Sphinx of the Steel Wind, I was at 11 life with two Death's Shadows... and he just couldn't swing at me.” Even the 6 life was not enough to counteract an effective +12/ +12 to the opposing offense!
Nicholas is still sort of in it, but some early losses to Dredge exploited his decision to skimp on graveyard hate. The deck has done well, otherwise. “Gitaxian Probe has overperformed. Not only for the life loss, but because information is so huge in Legacy,” Nicholas explained. While Thoughtseize is often more powerful, additional effective copies can let you slowroll the actual disruption when desired.
“Phyrexian Unlife has underperformed a little bit, but I don't think I've gotten the right matchups for it. It's really good against RUG, and most of the creature decks, but I really haven't played a deck it's good against,” Nicholas added. “When we were trying out Phyrexian Unlife we originally had four in there, but shaved that down since it's pretty narrow.”
A few other cards met the chopping block as well. “Street Wraith—we tried that one,” he said. Considering it “feeds” Tombstalker and Death's Shadow, I can see why! “Gut Shot was still, this morning, a card I debated having a copy of in the sideboard. We tried more Snapcasters, more Tombstalkers, Phantasmal Image found its way in...” and voila, the deck was done.
Explosives... Umezawa's Jitte is good against them and if they're playing Stoneforge Mystic, bring in the Phantasmal Images.” Cute! “You have to kill every single creature they're playing.” If you can avoid Maverick, then combo decks and RUG Delver are what you're hoping to see, with Death's Shadow easily overshadowing Tarmogoyf and Nimble Mongoose.
See what I did there?