Welcome back to the Zenith and the review of my second take on Abzan Shadow.
Let’s quickly go back over the goal of this Shadow ‘Maverick’ project.
My (Joel’s) goal is to bring Maverick to being accessible for all who would like to play it in legacy. When I saw Mengu’s Shadow list with no reserved cards, I thought what a perfect idea and shell for players to ease into legacy…but the Maverick way!
Abzan Shadow Decklist
Maindeck Changes from Abzan Shadow 1.0
– 3 Voice of Resurgence
– 2 Ranger-Captain of Eos
– 2 Elvish Reclaimer
– 1 Brutal Cathar
– 1 Endurance
– 1 Ignoble Hierarch
– 1 Meren of the Clan Nel Toth
– 1 Renegade Rallier
– 1 Grist, the Hunger Tide 
+ 1 Noble Hierarch
+ 1 Sylvan Library
+ 1 Bayou
+ 2 Green Sun’s Zenith
+ 4 Swords to Plowshares
+ 4 Thoughtseize 
The reasoning here was consistently in the mana base and cheaper removal. Swords to Plowshares is really hard to pass up, the main reason being version 1 was to really see how well a creature-based deck could go (no GSZ, no Swords etc).
It’s really difficult to get results with a build that way, but its a great theory to work towards (similar to Newton Elves)
The Green Sun’s Zenith’s brought down the overall CMC, and by removing creatures that were there for value (Voice, Rallier) we were able to find room for more impactful cards.
Thoughtseize allows you to stay in the game against fast combo or potentially snipe a Swords from your opponent. The Bayou was due to a few times not having the life available to get a shock land into play.
The Reclaimers are cool, but in a non-GSZ deck and with only 2 copies, they aren’t reliable when you really want them (turn 1 for a turn 2 Bog vs combo which sadly, is still pretty slow these days).
The main idea of V2 is having Thoughtseize to pave the way, Swords to remove big threats, GSZ to provide ways to disrupt the opponent while you build towards getting Shadow online. Let’s see how we went.
Match 1 vs Reanimator
This was just a classic Reanimator match where I just didn’t have multiple pieces of interaction. There wasn’t too much to take out of this match, but I did find this opening hand post-board interesting.
We’re on the play in game 3. We have access to 3 Leyline of the Voids and 3 Deafening Silence, none of which are in this opening. What would you do? (comment below)
I could see this being a keep as it has some interaction in Thoughtseize, removal in Sudden Edict and mana to make sure we can cast everything off the top.
The issue is I think Reanimators’ become so consistent that a single Thoughtseize isn’t what we’re looking for. By not keeping a solid hand, you also know you have multiple chances of drawing Leyline (a dead draw) off the top of the deck.
I felt my chances of hitting a Leyline or Deafening Silence off the top were high enough to mulligan into a hand with (hopefully) graveyard hate.
Match 2 vs Grixis Delver
Game 1 we were able to get down a turn 4 Deaths’ Shadow playing around the Lightning Bolt in the opposing hand (which we saw off a Thoughtseize).
I did make a minor misplay in taking their only threat (when we had double Snuff Out) instead of taking their Ponder (I believe Bolt and Snuff Out were their only other cards).
We actually ending up stealing game 1 thanks to a timely Ramunap off the top to pitch to Endurance in our opponents draw step, when we only really cared about Murktide at that point.
This seems like a decent matchup, although versus Delver it’s a really tight ballet on when you can lose life and how much you can lose. Being Bolted out of the game is very real and I think it will take a new player a while to understand the matchup (I’m still very much learning).
Game 2 came down to Bitterblossom actually working against us when our opponent’s threats ended up being True-Name Nemesis and Spelldancer (unblockable). We went to 1 and died in our upkeep.
Thankfully Plague Engineer on Rogue hits both of those threats above and Brazen Borrower. In game 3 we were able to trade resources early on, take out a Murktide and pressure with Fiend & Engineer. If more players test out Spelldancer, PE becomes a lot more appealing to board in.
Match 3 vs Mono-White Initiative
This is one of the biggest advantages of mana acceleration. This is a near perfect situation where we’re able to take out WPA and attack to gain the Initiative.
Sadly after this, our opponent played another WPA into Thalia, Heretic Cathar. Thalia really disrupted our game from there and even when we dealt with the first copy, a 2nd copy immediately came down and closed out the game thanks to Seasoned Dungeoneer.
Chalice was another card that shined for Initiative in post-board games (even for us).
— DougesOnTwitch🎥 (@DougesOnTwitch) March 2, 2023
This was a situation that doesn’t often come up but thankfully worked out in our favour. Fiend Artisans grow as the graveyard fills with creatures, so why not cast some 1-CMC creatures into Chalice for the win?
Not too much to say about game 3. Chalice on 1 into Chalice on 2 into Palace Jailer was just too good and we lost.
Game 4 vs UR Delver
This was a really weird game 1 where our opponent didn’t really do anything. We did however get a scare when they Bolted us to 2 and then conceded with a few cards in hand.
Generally I’ve found this matchup so far to be quite good for Shadow as long as you respect your life total.
Bitterblossom out of the board for this game was perfect. It’s very hard for Delver to interact with other than a bounce spell or some sort of sweeper effect. Sudden Edict is also fantastic as it cannot be countered (wow what an amazing insight Douges). Having access to Snuff Out AND Swords to Plowshares is fantastic against Delver and is most likely why the matchup sways in our favour.
Round 5 vs Mono-Black Pox
Grist was a great threat in this game 1. Insects allow you play pretty well around edict effects and both attack and defend very well vs Dark Confidant. This obviously isn’t a great matchup for Snuff Out so that was an easy cut post-board.
Bitterblossom out of the board is also a nightmare for them unless they have a card like Plague Engineer or Liliana, Last Hope. Ramunap getting back Dryad Arbor or a land each turn also played against their strategy of denying resource.
- The mix of both Swords to Plowshares and Snuff Out was great against the meta we expected (creature decks in Initiative and UR Delver)
- The Green Sun’s package could be condensed to just a few key creatures, less good value cards (Ramunap) and more ‘I win’ threats (Ouphe)
- Dryad Arbor with only 2 Green Sun’s Zenith (and potentially only 1 copy going forward) may not be worth the slot and could be a little too awkward
- Thoughtseize in the 75 would be great, but is it a maindeck card? Is something like Mother of Runes worth that slot in the maindeck?
- Against Reanimator you can’t just rely on 1 piece of interaction (Leyline) and should have a mix including Surgical Extraction.
- 1 Endurance is not reliable and why I won’t mention it above – Deafening Silence also isn’t good enough vs the EOT Entomb, untap, Reanimate lines
A huge thank you to Joe for the list – I’m really looking forward to the final league which will be streamed via Twitch!
Until next time,
Play fair, take care