Modern Event Deck Competition – Shamans (Dech Tech)
I started playing Modern relatively recently at around the time Innistrad block was rotating out. My first deck was 8rack, which was a decision entirely fuelled by a combination of budgetary concerns and the fact that I had a playset of Liliana of the Veil.
I spent most of my time testing against a friend’s Burn at the Stake storm deck and destroying it nine times out of ten. I really thought I was onto something – a format I was winning at with my favourite Planeswalker and I hadn’t spent nearly as much money as everyone else! I didn’t even have to resort to Tron which bored the living daylights out of me.
Several months later, 8rack was tilting me like a bag of concrete on a see saw: it’s painfully boring, my opponents hate me and I wasn’t learning the format as well as I would like. I wanted to move back to something proactive that fit my style of play better. I love synergistic aggressive strategies and one of my favourite times playing magic was around a pub table with a bunch of more casual friends with tribal decks.
I put 8rack aside and searched for an aggro deck that wouldn’t cost me the earth like Zoo or that I’d quickly tire of like Affinity. This Shamans list is the answer. Getting into a format is a very difficult challenge, particularly for players who haven’t played much Eternal Magic before.
Starting with an aggro deck allows you to take on the field pro-actively, a useful tool in learning how decks in an unfamiliar format interact with each other. You’ll pick up this deck and the first few games will be fairly straightforward before you learn it inside out and work out interesting lines of play that only the very best aggressive mages can muster.
Budget Modern Shamans
3 Flamekin Harbinger – £2.97
4 Llanowar Elves – £0.80
4 Burning-Tree Emissary – £7.96
4 Bosk Banneret – £0.80
4 Elvish Visionary – £0.40
3 Wolf-Skull Shaman – £0.45
3 Fauna Shaman – £17.97
2 Tattermunge Witch – £0.50
4 Rage Forger – £0.60
2 Burning-Tree Shaman – £2.98
1 Eternal Witness – £2.99
1 Troll Ascetic – £0.99
3 Lightning Bolt – £5.97
4 Guttural Response – £1.96
2 Essence Warden – £2.98
3 Ancient Grudge – £0.60
2 Back to Nature – £0.40
1 Tormod’s Crypt – £0.49
1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed – £0.39
1 Vithian Renegades – £0.45
1 Destructive Revelry – £0.20
Total Cost: £64.77
I won’t pretend this deck is entirely my own invention but it is the budget list I’ve put the most love into since I started playing Modern.
Whilst the Shamans archetype has been around for some time, and was a leading candidate for a viable aggro deck when Modern became a format, the deck has largely been written off due to being slower than Affinity and Zoo, and having the supposedly crucial Deathrite Shaman banned.
I’d argue that Deathrite Shaman actually doesn’t have a place in this deck despite being a fabulous card: you don’t have the black mana to effectively drain your opponent, you’re not playing fetches, and other cards are better at attacking once Rage Forger hits the table.
I firmly believe that this deck is a very good budget introduction to Modern for players who have played aggressive decks in Standard. Not having to pay £45 per Mox Opal is a bit tasty and let’s not even go there regarding the price tag on the Tarmogoyfs, Hierarchs and fetch lands that are necessary for Zoo decks. You also get to play cool tribal synergies!
Your opponents will be reaching to read Rage Forger after it hits the table, unable to believe the amount of value you’re getting out of a junk rare valued at fifteen pence.
The deck has a very solid maindeck plan that can be difficult to stop when you curve out well, as well as having a really gorgeous selection of nut draws. A turn one Flamekin Harbinger – tutoring for Rage Forger – into a second turn Burning-Tree Emissary, laying down a Bosk Banneret, sets you up very nicely to play two crucial spells on turn three.
Following this opening, you can play Fauna Shaman, Elvish Visionary, Wolf Skull-Shaman or even a second Bosk Banneret (cast for G) as well as a Rage Forger, whose trigger puts +1/+1 counters on your entire team before you swing for 7 (3 of it unblockable) which can be tricky for an opponent to recover from. A second Rage Forger the following turn means you can be swinging for lethal.
I’ve taken the deck to Modern FNM a few times and I’ve always done reasonably well. For a cheap deck, consistently going 2-2 at a smallish FNM full of top tier decks is more than enough for me.
I tend to lose to the quick combo decks, but this list is surprisingly resilient against Affinity or anything that takes a little time to get going and there’s so much redundancy that control decks have to hit that board wipe to prevent you from getting the last few points of damage through, or get a hard counter in at some point targeting Rage Forger.
With a lot of control decks only playing a couple of copies of Mana Leak at the lower end to hard counter Forger, you’ll be landing it sooner or later.
The Key Cards
I’ll go through a couple of the key cards in the deck and some of the more interesting interactions.
Burning-Tree Emissary does a lot more for me in this deck that it has done so far in Theros standard. When paired with Rage Forger, being a Shaman turns it into what is essentially a free 3/3 threat that pings for 1 on attacking, not to mention the trigger leading into the sheer number of 1G drops you‘re packing.
Fabulous turn two plays are BTE into Elvish Visionary letting you cycle, BTE into a Bosk Banneret which makes 22 of the spells in your deck cheaper, BTE into Fauna Shaman allowing you to tutor for anything in your library apart from Bolt, and BTE into Wolf-Skull Shaman gives you a free Wolf around 50% of the time.
Flamekin Harbinger and Llanowar Elves are incredibly solid t1 plays. Flamekin searches for your win condition while not putting it in your hand to be Thoughtseized away, and Llanowar Elves ramp you nicely.
Wolf-Skull Shaman is the reason I play Elves over Birds of Paradise. Having another four cards that trigger Kinship is very important (Wolf-Skull is an Elf as well as a Shaman) as you want as many live triggers as possible out of what would otherwise be the weakest card in your maindeck.
Burning-Tree Shaman pings your opponent every time they crack a fetch, making fetching for that untapped shock land 33% more painful. It has applications against almost every deck in the format and weakens cards like Arcbound Ravager considerably.
A 3/4 for three mana isn’t at all shabby, especially when the casting cost is reduced by Bosk Banneret and the power is pumped by Rage Forger. Some players may want to play more of these, but I can’t find the space over my other three drops.
Rage Forger’s value really can’t be understated. This is the card that wins you games. You can tutor for it using Flamekin Harbinger and Fauna Shaman and if it ends up in your graveyard you’ve got an Eternal Witness to rebuy it. With two Rage Forgers out all your Shamans are massive creatures that do a lot of damage to your opponent before they can even block.
This is a deck packed with redundancy and one that has a lot of scope for getting better with a little investment. Fetchlands will help the deck (although beware the interaction with Burning-Tree Shaman), as you can get to your mana and thin your deck more efficiently, increasing the power of cards like Wolf-Skull Shaman (you can also crack a fetch after seeing the top card of your deck with Wolf-Skull, shuffling away something you don’t want to draw that turn).
Equally, investing in Stomping Grounds, Aether Vials and Cavern of Souls will improve the deck while also adding cards to your Modern card pool that will be relevant in other decks further down the line.
The cards I’d buy first if I discovered that I liked this deck would be Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls. Uncounterable creatures are super important in a lot of match ups, and an end step Rage Forger vialled in can make all the difference to your alpha strike the following turn. They aren’t cheap though, so I didn’t include them in this build of the deck.
Scavenging Ooze is a fairly cheap card that improves the deck from the board. As an aside, one of my favourite plays of all time will remain Aether Vialling a sideboard Ruric Thar, the Unbowed in against a UWR opponent who thought he’d stabilised on 6 life, to take the match 2-0.
Speaking of the sideboard, let’s go through it briefly.
Guttural Response – this is just a beautiful blow out against control decks, or decks that intend on Remanding one of your creatures to effectively time walk you while gaining tempo. No one expects a counter spell to come out of the board of a Gruul aggro deck and it can be backbreaking as you add to your assault. I might play fewer than four, but not at the moment in my local meta.
Essence Warden – it’s a Shaman and any twin player hoping to go off with Exarch has to deal with it before they can combo out. Not the greatest card in the sideboard but occasionally buys you a crucial extra turn against Splinter Twin variants.
Back to Nature – because screw Bogles.
Tormod’s Crypt – Should probably be a Relic of Progenitus but that would have sent me sixteen pence over budget! Having a free card is always nice but the ability to draw a card with Relic is probably better.
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed – I love this guy but I can see players cutting him, especially in a twenty card deck. I mainly included him so I could tell my Ruric-Thar anecdote above.
He is a serious beating when he hits the field against a lot of decks and if you think you might have to play a slower game, he’s a prime candidate for bringing in.
Vithian Renegades – More artifact hate in the form of a 3 mana 3 power shaman. Take out one of Affinity’s crucial pieces or a Sword that’s slowing you down without losing tempo.
Destructive Revelry – Again, some hate that serves a particular role against affinity as well as Bogles or any deck that relies on artifacts or enchantments while also adding 2 points of damage into the equation.
Thanks for reading,