I've been playing around with the idea of using plunge into darkness with berserk and deaths shadow. The idea being if you have death's shadow or berserk in your opener and plunge, you can plunge for 17'ish and get the other, then play the shadow and win the next turn. In gold fishing I get mostly turn 2-3 kills.
If you wiff but already have a death's shadow you can get another and just beat down with 2 death's shadows. You also don't need to go all in on the combo.
Against an aggro deck like shops or dredge either. You can take a few hits and play the shadow then berserk for the win when the time is right.

This is very much a glass canon, and I don't have a list I'm comfortable with. I do think this has potential.
I figured I would throw this out for the public since I haven't had any luck.

last edited by John Cox

I like the idea. Similarly though what about just poison? That deck is (was?) a turn 2 combo deck in Pauper. Using things like Invigorate and Mutagenic Growth

Poison wins on a 3 card combo of 1 mana dork, berserk, Invigorate. It's a very low mana combo that is hampered that it needs more than 2 pieces and is affected by summoning sickness. It probably has some legs against some decks that are not prepared to fight over a one drop but also probably just dies to shops which can sphere it, ping it with ballista, or just put random 3 toughness dorks in front of it.

The creature selection in infect is not great either. For 1 drops you have elf and Asp, and the Asp is basically an installment plan 2 mana dork. At 2 mana you get 2 evasive dudes and ichorclaw who becomes much better with trample cards. If you want to try to play rituals or a lot of fast black mana you can also run Phyrexian Crusader which is a 2/2 with a lot of relevant protections (bolt, Swords, Mentor and Pyromancer tokens).

I still have my list together in legacy, I suspect it may be pretty decent in vintage because of the acceleration and fewer pieces of removal around, but I'm not sure it would be substantial enough.

I've been playing Vintage infect to some degree of success. Can never quite T4, but have ended up 5th out of 20-30 players in local tourneys with it. It usually finishes 3-2 or 4-1. Similar strategy, but I just think needing to find Death's Shadow and opening yourself up to death by lightning bolt too fragile.

Berserk is great, and with spells like invigorate in the format, an infect strategy just plays better and more consistent I feel. For reference (not to jack the thread), here's a recent iteration of Vintage infect that tries to leverage Berserk:

last edited by Thewhitedragon69


Death's Shadow has become something of a pet card for me. I've tried a lot of variants, including a focused green/black list revolving around Plunge/Berserk (Which I called BERSERKER! while I was working on it. The caps and exclamation point are important.) Unfortunately, like you I never found a list that felt strong enough to play it any "real" event. I've had more luck with hybrid approaches, where I think Death's Shadow can do a lot of interesting things (though I'm a hybrid deckbuilder at heart). Shadow can do real work in a fishy Grixis Delver shell or a BUG midrange shell. I've personally had the best showing with Death's Shadow BUG Survival/Death Survives.

I didn't learn too much about a focused Berserk list that would be useful, but here are some cards I found interesting. Most of these won't be a surprise for people who followed Death's Shadow decks in Legacy/Modern

There's not much to say about Thoughtseize, Dismember, Snuff Out, Vampiric Tutor/Imperial Seal, but they're already good cards that get better with Death's Shadow. Street Wraith is not a great card, but might be good enough in a Shadow deck. Grim Tutor sounds good for a minute, but I don't think you want 3-drops in the middle of your curve. I suspect Mutagenic Growth and Gut Shot just aren't Vintage quality but I'd kinda love to see them.

Temur Battle Rage is more or less just a 1R Berserk for the deck. I didn't explore cutting the green entirely and playing a B/R Plunge/Rage list, but you totally could. You can't use 2 Rages to kill with a 5/5 the same way you can with two Berserks. You can splash red for redundant Berserk effects, but don't forget that Time Walk also lets a creature deal damage twice.

Speaking of Time Walk, blue is the natural splash for any Vintage deck, but I understand there's a big overlap between people who would like B/G Berserk Shadow and people who don't like running blue out of principle. If you're in that group, I'd still consider running your 1x Gitaxian Probe and 1x Mental Misstep. You don't need to run blue mana and they're both very strong with Shadow. Swords to Plowshares is Death's Shadow public enemy number one, and the restriction of Misstep hurt Shadow lists a lot more than opposing Missteps did.

Even in an all-in list I think you need more threats than just the Shadows. The most Berserkable option is probably Gurmag Angler. If you're doing something more hybrid, Shadows in your list let you drop the mana curve real low, so expensive threats requiring more lands kind of kill the edge that Shadow gave you. I tend toward the really cheap stuff like Deathrite Shaman and Delver of Secrets, (though it would be really hard for me to run a BUG list without two or three Oko, Thief of Crowns.)

Nurturing Peatland and its friends are underrated in general, I think. But a Death's Shadow list is particularly suited. I'd consider running some Waterlogged Groves or Silent Clearings even if you don't splash a colorA play tip that might be obvious but took me a couple matches to figure out: If your hand has both a Canopy Land and a Fetch/Shockland, the Fetch deals 3 damage and the Canopyland deals N damage, where N is how many turns it will be in play. Even though the fetch deals more now, a lot of the times it's better to lead with the Peatland on the first few turns, and don't forget to tap it for damage every turn, whether you have anything to cast or not.

There has to be something really dumb you can do with Lim-Dul's Vault. I haven't tested this myself, but it's very straightforward to get Shadow+Berserk+19 damage to yourself all with one cast of this. For people that aren't ancient enough to remember with Vault was a common vintage card, there's a trick you can do where you use LDV to loop through your deck several times. If your library size isn't a multiple of five, you can stack your piles such that you see different sets of cards together the second time through your deck. This means you can force certain cards together, making little mini-doomsday stacks like "Brainstorm->Shadow->Berserk->Time Walk". It's still random, but it's not as random as it looks.

This is for sure a @Brass-Man pet card, but Hex Parasite is a sexy little robot. I already love a Parasite as a top-secret-weapon for taking down Planeswalkers and Workshop Aggro threats, but in Death's Shadow you can just have it target itself for {P} as many times as you want.

last edited by Brass Man

I used to use the Death's Shadow in a Suicide Black Storm list utilizing Night's Whispers and the plethora of BBB, lose half you life, draw 4 cards that are available. That way if they flustered/MBT my Tendrils, I could drop a Shadow or 2, and win through a swing the next turn. I could totally see adding in a number of Berserks/Veil of Summer to the list, and go big in either direction.

Thanks alot lots of great stuff I had not thought of! Good catch on Hex Parasite!
Thanks, had not thought of using shadow in a storm shell. I have been hoping to go more of a shadow+berserk direction though.

Been wondering about a Jund version with Tarmagoyf.

last edited by John Cox

So, as I noted, the biggest hesitancy for me is running a deck where bolt just kills you in response to winning. That got me thinking - what if you run BGW and 4x phyrexian unlife/4x angel's grace? Both of those cards are naturally amazeballs vs tendrils decks, so you get a nice bonus there. AG is essentially time walk vs all decks since most kill you on their turn and only at sorcery speed. White also lets you run Spirit of the Labyrinth, RiP, Leyline of Sanctity, etc, and is probably the best SB color around. With an unlife or grace, you can plunge for 60 to basically DT and guarantee you get berserk. You could probably even run ad nauseum as a plan B kill instead of other beatsticks. You also get anguished unmaking, which helps your DS plan. Shallow grave becomes a fine choice if you have no other creatures in the deck too.

TLDR; Death's Shadow is basically a suicide mission making him 10/10 in a world with bolts anyway - why not go full suicide and live with 0 life?

last edited by Thewhitedragon69

You could say the same thing about doomsday or maybe even PO.
People have mentioned blue (for force of will) and using Thoughtseize in black. You want to win when its safe and not just throw out your win with no back up.
If your really worried about storm Hope of Ghirapur is a bit better than angel's grace since you can cast it off a ritual.
I think 8-12 protection spells are needed. Blue is nice since you can Plunge for a force if you have a blue card and the combo.

last edited by John Cox

@john-cox Yeah, I'm a big fan of angel's grace. A lot of decks rely on counterspells when they try to go off. If you can just play a 1-mana, split-second "you don't win now" spell, you can straight up steal wins off DD or PO or whatever. At the worst, you time walk vs almost every deck for W.

Plunge is decent, but if you are playing AG or PU, you can run 4x spoils of the vault and just dig your whole library deep and win. You're in black for DS anyway, so you are surely running 8x duress/seize regardless. The PU and AG are just great combo enablers while also solid defense at the same time. If you go with a consultation and 4x Spoils with running AG, You could probably run thassa as an alt-kill yourself (if you get a viable 4-color manabase (and city/confluence/horizon lands seem to be on the "whittle down my life" plan that DS needs anyway).

Hope is okay as a combo enabler, but if I'm not misstaken, you need to attack with it to clear the path (which means you can't ALSO attack with an all-in DS). Hope also doesn't stop losing on your opponent's turn like PU or AG do.

last edited by Thewhitedragon69

@thewhitedragon69 said in Berserk Shadow:

4x phyrexian unlife/4x angel's grace? Both of those cards are naturally amazeballs vs tendrils decks, so you get a nice bonus there.

angel's grace is pretty bad against tendrils- the life loss still happens, they move to cleanup step and you die.

also generally using plunge or spoils of the vault in combination with grace requires that you be digging for the berserk effect, as you're all in on winning that turn and barring haste-giver need to have the shadow already in play.

@blindtherapy Yeah - misread AG. Thought your life couldn't go below 1, not just damage. Unlife still works. I'm actually tinkering with a deck now and it morphed into a Thassa/Doomsday/AG/Unlife/Spoils/Consultation deck. Basically Like a thassa/DD list, but with a lot of paths that don't require DD. It's pretty neat.

I tried to make it a DS/Berserk build, but it's just not good enough no matter what I've tried. It's a fragile two card combo that requires multiple turns and is super easy to stop. When compared to mox, orchard, oath; hermit druid; thassa, consult...it's just not where you want to be.

Death’s Shadow isn’t really an early game combo card. I think if you are trying to play it that way, you are kind of playing it wrong.

It is a valuable mid game 1 drop in a deck with life loss cards. You want to look at the best cards that make you lose life, like Necropotence, Thoughtseize, Bob and Bolas’s Citadel. Dark Times was a deck list back in the day that easily could support these types of cards. Those lists can probably be updated to fit the metagame.

I liked this idea enough to give it a few hours of thought and testing and came up with the following:

Vintage Combo Shadow

1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Black Lotus
4 Mox Diamond
1 Lotus Petal
4 Chrome Mox

2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Bayou
3 Tarnished Citadel

4 Death's Shadow
4 Street Wraith

4 Berserk
1 Spoils of the Vault
4 Plunge into Darkness
4 Once Upon a Time
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Mental Misstep
3 Tainted Strike
1 Snuff Out
1 Force of Vigor

1 Gitaxian Probe
4 Thoughtseize
1 Imperial Seal
1 Demonic Tutor
4 Land Grant
3 Reanimate


2 Gurmag Angler
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Force of Vigor
3 Veil of Summer
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Duress

As per the original idea the goal is to play Shadow as quickly as possible and then kill with it on your next turn.

Manabase: The goal was to consistently play a Shadow on turn two and win with it the next turn. To do this the deck needs two or three permanent sources of mana for the entire game but the earlier you can put them into play the more likely you are to play a shadow on pace. I went with only BG colors because while the blue cards are powerful, they don't really contribute to our turn three kill plan. Tarnished Citadel a card most people have likely not seen is the best land to put into play as it allows us to take three damage each time it is tapped, the two copies of Overgrown Tomb are there to both damage us and to be found by Land Grant and finally the singleton Bayou is for situations where we cannot afford to take damage, also a good land to pitch to Mox Diamond to slightly increase the chances we find a more painful land.

We play the on-color Moxen, Lotus and Lotus Petal as part and parcel of the Vintage fast mana package. Rounding out our acceleration is the full set of both Chrome Mox and Mox Diamond which while costly allow us to consistently cast our spells and convert unneeded pieces into mana. I would caution people picking up this pile from mindlessly playing out either Chrome or Diamond without considering what you gain from them as they are useful when the accelerate you into something meaningful but can be a trap if used without a purpose.

Finally, we have the playset of Land Grant and Once Upon a Time, these spells will help ensure that we find the lands we need and fix our opening hands. Pay attention to both the restriction on a free OUaT and Grant when assessing an opener, specifically you can use Street Wraith before casting OUaT to gain more information and can use Mox Diamondwe in addition to your land drop for the turn to ensure that Grant is free.

Lifeloss and Utility: To Play a Shadow on turn two or sooner we need to be able to lose at least eight life in those turns, and to kill we will usually need to lose 17 or more life. To do this, profitably, we have a number of cards that both disrupt our opponents (Thoughtseize), cycle to find our own combo pieces or provide mana for ours spells. Street Wraith does double duty as a cycler to find what we need and pinging us for two, it is also good good friends with Reanimate as cycling a Wraith then brining it back puts us to 13, just one life away from being able to cast a Shadow. It is also important to note that Wraith attacks for three which can be an important part of dealing 20 damage and winning the game. As I mentioned earlier, Tarnished Citadelis one of our best ways to lose life, if we land it on turn one we can hit ourselves for nine by the time we are killing, it is a good idea to play it early and tap it aggressively. Tomb does something similar but only once, and is a necessary evil to support the Land Grant. Plunge, Vamp, Imperial Seal and Spoils are all very similar for our purposes as they are going to find a missing piece of our combo and lose us some life along the way. Vamp is the best for pure tutoring while Plunge gives us the most control over out life total. Finally, we have our two 'blue' cards in Misstep and Git Probe both of which are too good not to play and a way to lose some life and gain some value. Snuff Out has been fine for me, you could easily replace it with an Unmask or a Surgical in the main.

Combo: This part is fairly simple, we have the full four Shadows and Berserks as well as three additional similar effects in Tainted Strike. Remember that you can double up on Berserks and even combine it with a Strike if your life total is too high.


This deck functions as advertised, it plays a Shadow on turn two or earlier and kills on turn three or earlier when it isn't disrupted. It loses to itself infrequently (missing on Spoils or something similar) and certainly feels unique. That said it doesn't hold up well to disruption, lots of the Xerox decks are going to overpower a single discard spell and counter our Shadow. PO has been a coinflip in my experience, on the play you are fast enough to beat them and a single discard spell is often good enough. Shops is better that it would appear and usually they will need a good hand to keep up. BUG is unwinnable.

Play this deck for the novelty, I would say that the above list is a good start if you want a very combo oriented version, but do not expect to run the table.

As ever I am happy to talk theory and testing with anyone who is interested in the list or the logic that got me there.

my first thought on seeing the list is that 14 hits seems pretty low to be running Once Upon A Time. land grant is also probably worse than just playing fetchlands, as those let you lose more life. 4 mox diamond in a deck with only 6 lands+4 land grant is extremely questionable.

I would play Unearth over Reanimate as the 1 life loss to reanimate the Shadow is less relevant than being able to cycle unearth when it's not needed, and they both cost 1 mana. Also, this is just preference, but I like having Dark Rituals and the BBB draw 4 lose half your life spells over some of your loss of life tutors.

last edited by Serracollector

@serracollector reanimate isn't just for shadow. in addition to the opponent's creatures, you can cycle street wraith and then reanimate it, getting to lose a full 5 life.

@blindtherapy said in Berserk Shadow:

@serracollector reanimate isn't just for shadow. in addition to the opponent's creatures, you can cycle street wraith and then reanimate it, getting to lose a full 5 life.

7 life if you count the cycle!

Cruel Bargain and Nefarious Contract get you there a lot faster. Maybe I just like drawing cards too much 😂

@serracollector 2nd legacy deck i ever played was Pact Spanish Inquisition. postboard i cast a 12/12 shadow off a tomb of urami, then stared at my opponent for a few turns as they failed to draw a bolt but eventually drew a 2nd creature while my 2nd shadow was stranded in hand due to the land costing life.
also i think it's Infernal Contract, only "Nefarious" is the Lich, which is its own interesting combo deck

last edited by BlindTherapy
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