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Much Abrew: Shadowbown Shelldock Combo (Modern)

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. Instant Deck Tech viewers love their meme decks, and after The People's Cannon proved to be somewhat competitive last week, we're going to stick with the meme plan this week with an even jankier deck: Shadowborn Shelldock Combo. In a perfect world, we can cast an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn on Turn 3, but the way we get there is...let's say, unique. The primary plan of the deck, which runs a massive 34 copies of Shadowborn Apostle, is to choose to play last, discard a Shadowborn Apostle to hand size, exile it (and the other 33 Shadowborn Apostles) with a Surgical Extraction or Extirpate to get below 20 cards in our library, and then (hopefully) exile an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn with a Shelldock Isle to cast the following turn. Is it possible to compete with such a janky plan in a format as fast and powerful as Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we can talk more about the deck!

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Much Abrew: Shadowborn Shelldock Combo (Modern)


  • Well, that was interesting. We played five matches with Shadowborn Shelldock Combo and managed to sneak out a single win, to finish 1-4 (although we did combo off a few additional times along the way). 
  • The deck certainly isn't competitive in the sense that it could win a tournament (or even many matches), but you don't play Shadowborn Shelldock Combo because you're planning to spike a Grand Prix; you play it because it's super unique and amazing the 20% of the time the deck does its thing!
  • The biggest problem with the deck is that it's incredibly inconsistent. While we always have a Shadowborn Apostle, we technically need three combo pieces to pull off our plan: a Shadowborn Apostle, a Surgical Extraction / Extirpate, and a Shelldock Isle. A lot of times, we're forced to keep hands missing one piece, which leaves us at the mercy of the top of our deck. 
  • Making the plan even more awkward is that the deck actually doesn't mulligan very well. In theory, we need to mulligan aggressively to try to find our combo pieces, but since our plan is to discard a Shadowborn Apostle to hand size (which is why we choose to draw rather than play), every mulligan puts us further away from getting a Shadowborn Apostle in the graveyard. While we can try to cast and chump with Shadowborn Apostle, this only works in some matchups. 
  • Perhaps the most frustrating part of the deck is when everything comes together as planned—we have all three combo pieces, discard, and Extract our Shadowborn Apostles—and then we play our Shelldock Isle and whiff. While this might seem like something that shouldn't come up often, according to the hypergeometric calculator, if we have all four copies of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in our deck and 20 cards in our library, we have a 37% chance of whiffing when we look at the top four cards with Shelldock Isle, and the odds drop to 50% if we only have three copies of Emrakul (because we draw a copy or exile one to Serum Powder). 
  • Oh yeah, and we also lose to graveyard hate (since we can't use Surgical Extraction on Shadowborn Apostle) and land disruption (like Blood Moon, Fulminator Mage, or even Ghost Quarter / Field of Ruin). 
  • While this might make the deck sound horrible—and the deck probably is horrible if the goal is to win a tournament—when all of the pieces come together, it's one of the most unique and fastest ways to win in Modern. This makes Shadowborn Shelldock Combo similar to Zombie Hunt. While you won't win consistently and the combo is risky and easy to disrupt, the good games are so good that it makes up for all the clunky, painful losses. 
  • The sideboard plan is interesting and in some cases pretty effective, but it's difficult to know exactly when we're supposed to sideboard out all of our combo pieces and go on the Demon plan. It does give us a way to fight through graveyard hate, but it also makes the deck a lot less explosive and even more inconsistent.
  • I've talked before about trying to find at least one good thing about every deck we play, even if the deck itself isn't very strong, and for Shadowborn Shelldock Combo, the answer (apart from the sweet combo wins) was Demon of Death's Gate. While it didn't come up often in our matches, the possibility of a 9/9 flying trampler on Turn 2 is pretty appealing. Hopefully in the future, we can play a deck built around the Demon.
  • So, should you play Shadowborn Shelldock Combo? I think the answer is yes, but only for fun (and if you already have the cards, since the deck is pretty expensive for a meme). You're not going to win your FNM or even many matches at your FNM with Shadowborn Shelldock Combo, but if you pull of the combo just once or twice, you'll be the talk of your local game store for at least a couple of weeks! 


Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck by liking, commenting on, and subscribing to Instant Deck Tech videos! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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