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Deep Tracks: Nantuko Shade ~ Dread Shade

Welcome, everyone! Today we’re teleporting back to Odyssey block! More specifically, we’ll be focusing on one of my all-time favorite Magic cards, which was originally printed in the Torment expansion set:
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For those of you who weren’t following Magic when Torment (a.k.a. “the black set”) was released, I’ll break it down like this: Nantuko Shade was, at that time, the equivalent of a modern day Standard staple like The Scarab God. In 2002, Nantuko Shade was recognized as a quintessential card in competitive Magic. And much like the climate of our present-day Magic economy, the purchase price for a copy of Nantuko Shade went through the roof! I even remember making a trade with my buddy who was also into Mono Black archetypes. He had pulled a FOIL Nantuko Shade from a Torment booster, and we immediately worked out a deal in which I traded him… an entire playset of non-foil Nantuko Shades for his one foil version! Looking back, it probably wasn’t my most savvy exchange as a collector, but foils were hard to come by and yes, the card was that hyped back then, and for good reason. In the exact same set, we were given access to a highly synergistic Land card that pushed Nantuko Shade over the top:
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Yes, there was a reason these two cards were printed in the same set! With the inclusion of Nantuko Shade and Cabal Coffers, Mono Black strategies suddenly had an extremely powerful “finisher” to work with, hence the archetype’s rise in popularity.
Now, before we start jumping into Decklists, I want to bring up our recent return to Dominaria, from which we've been gifted two new cards reminiscent of the duo mentioned above:
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Here we have it folks. It’s like we’ve been graced with Nantuko Shade and Cabal Coffers all over again! It’s not literal Nantuko Shade and Cabal Coffers, but pretty darn close! I have to say, I’m a big fan of the throwback flavor that Wizards has incorporated into Dominaria​.
Now where were we? Oh yeah, 2002 :)
As a starting point for our exploration, take a look at this Odyssey ​Block Constructed Decklist from the 2002 Magic World Championship:
Whoa! What’s this?
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Hypnox!? Seems like a decent one for Deep Tracks, doesn't it? But let’s stay on track here…
Nantuko Shade was such a highly touted Magic card in 2002. And as you can see, it was the focal point of a headlining deck at a high-profile Magic tournament. As a matter of fact, Mono Black Control also took first place at Pro Tour Osaka that same year!
Much to my surprise, it seemed like Nantuko Shade drifted into obscurity after its Dominant run in Odyssey block; it’s a card that never really found a good home outside of Standard and Limited play. Nantuko Shade did manage to see one Standard reprinting in Magic 2011 (M11), but once again slipped into the shadows after rotation.
As fate would have it, Dread Shade and Cabal Stronghold have emerged into the current Standard card pool. And I'm curious; will we see a resurgence of the same style deck from 2002?
Are we witnessing history repeat itself? The two decks above aren’t mirror images of each other, but they operate on the same premise: Disrupt and control the opponent for days, then close out the game with a massively pumped Shade!

Going Eternal

Both of the Decklists we’ve looked at so far are very similar in the way they utilize Nantuko Shade / Dread Shade. And, both Decklists are from formats containing a small pool of cards to brew with. So, in typical Deep Tracks fashion, I decided to slide over to my favorite eternal formats and develop some ideas based on the Mono Black archetype, and our “Shady” friends.
First up, we’re taking to the Legacy streets with a Nantuko Shade themed Decklist:
I went the formal route with this one. It’s MBC in Legacy, with Nantuko Shade and Dread Shade doing the dirty work! We have a very potent disruption scheme featuring powerhouse cards such as Liliana of the Veil, Hymn to Tourach, Thoughtseize, Collective Brutality, and the like. And it should be no surprise that our mana base is molded around Cabal Coffers.
You may be wondering about the oddball Encroach sitting in the Sideboard. I’ve been thinking about Encroach a lot due to all the crazy Lands flying around Legacy. I assume there must be some reason it doesn't see play (?). But here I feel like I’ve finally found a home to at least test it out! And did you notice the throwback to Odyssey ​Block Constructed?
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I love hidden gems like Skeletal Scrying!
Now, I know that not everyone is a control player; the decks we’ve looked at so far have been more or less hardcore control. I started thinking about Modern, and I came up with something a little less controlling, and a little more smash-mouth! Call me “Captain Obvious”, but what I settled on was a Mono Black Devotion list:
This one’s pretty straightforward in terms of playstyle. It’s like a Black Stompy deck with Gray Merchant of Asphodel on the top end. But I’m sure Chalice of the Void is sticking out like a sore thumb. It serves a critical role by disrupting our opponent’s plan in the early stages of a game. Ideally, we want to cast Chalice of the Void on turn two. It’s also worth noting that Chalice isn’t quite as good when we’re on the draw, and will usually be boarded out in such cases. Brewing around Chalice did throw up some deck building restrictions, but this version of Mono Black Devotion isn’t a particularly “fast” starter, and Chalice is very good at slowing things down, so I decided to include it.
As far as the rest of the deck goes, we’re looking to curve into threats like Dread Shade and Phyrexian Obliterator, apply pressure, and present inevitability to the opponent. Eventually, we should be able to either steamroll our way to victory or drain the opponent out with Gray Merchant of Asphodel!
Ah, my trusty old pal Nantuko Shade, back in action… I love it! My decision to magnify it’s illustrious past just felt appropriate now that Dread Shade and Cabal Stronghold have entered the fold, thanks to Dominaria! I’m very interested to see if Mono Black Control can be viable in today’s Standard Meta, and I’m even more interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject!
Well, that’s it for now. Let me know what you think! What else can we do with my old fav Nantuko Shade? How about Dread Shade and Cabal Stronghold – Is Mono Black Control poised to be a contender in Standard once again? As always, all comments are welcome, thank you so much for reading, and have a great one!
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