The Scoop: Casual Contemplation – Shirei Shenanigans

One of the first decks I ever built was around one of my favorite cards in Magic – Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker. I loved the card so much, but I didn’t have the Magic community around me that was interested in EDH at the time, and even then I found the inconsistencies in the EDH format for Shirei were too detrimental. So I decided to go another route with a 60-card modern format based around 4-of Shirei.

The deck feeds off of itself very well, despite the high mana needs for Shirei. Most everything else in the deck is very cheap to play and helps to keep opponents at bay and on their heels until Shirei is established.

What a fun card!…Stupid CMC…


  • Creatures
    • Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker x4
    • Abyssal Gatekeeper x3
    • Big Game Hunter x2
    • Blood Artist x4
    • Gnawing Zombie x2
    • Viscera Seer x2
    • Skirsdag High Priest x4
    • Zulaport Cutthroat x2
  • Instants and Sorceries
    • Dark Ritual x4
    • Undying x4
    • Killing Wave x3
  • Enchantments
    • Vampiric Rites x2
    • Dark Prophecy x2
  • Lands
    • Swamp x22
  • Sideboard
    • Augur of Skulls x1
    • Bile Urchin x1
    • Death Cultist x1
    • Disciple of Griselbrand x1
    • Fume Spitter x1
    • Mortician Beetle x1
    • Eldrazi Monument x1
    • Scavenger Drake x1
    • Hell’s Caretaker x1
    • Apprentice Necromancer x1
    • Ogre Slumlord x1
    • Tragic Slip x1
    • Thoughtpicker Witch x1
    • Plagued Rusalka x1
    • Bone Splinters x1

I won’t lie. I made up the sideboard. I don’t actually keep 1-ofs all those cards on the side. But, I made it to show a handful of cards that were once in the deck or could easily be placed in the deck for modding the synergy. It’s fun to have a couple of cards in the deck that feed off of sacrificed/dying creatures, like Scavenger Drake, but it isn’t the primary focus of the deck.

Shirei is all about keeping 1-power creatures reentering from the graveyard on a regular basis. To this end, the deck is about triggering graveyard/ETB effects with and from its weenies. Dark Ritual and Undying are primarily additions specifically for Shirei. Dark Ritual to get him out quicker and Undying to keep him out there. The deck doesn’t NEED Shirei to win, but he’s a massive advantage when out.

Blood Artist, Dark Prophecy, Zulaport Cutthroat and Skirsdag High Priest all feed off of creatures going to the graveyard. These guys allow hand advantage, Extort-like life trading and 5/5 demons when creatures die, and they all themselves reenter the battlefield with Shirei.

Abyssal Gatekeeper and Big Game Hunter are the primary fodder for the deck, providing removal when they die/ETB (which both triggers happen with Shirei on the field). They do have one disadvantage…they can’t kill themselves, so therefore require some assistance that your opponent is likely to not provide.

Therefore, you have to kill your weenies yourself. That’s where Gnawing Zombie, Viscera Seer, Vampiric Rites and Killing Wave come in handy. They all provide self-removal to trigger all the effects necessary. Killing Wave is particularly devastating in the mid to late game when you’ve established a field with Shirei. Simply pay the life to save Shirei then watch your opponent sweat as they try to do the math. After they’ve made their decisions, point out that Abyssal Gatekeeper and Big Game Hunter will now be taking the precious few remaining creatures they tried to keep out at the expense of life. It’s sadistically beautiful.

Ideal Scenario

  1. (Swamp) Viscera Seer
  2. (Swamp) Abyssal Gatekeeper
  3. (Swamp) Dark Ritual, Shirei
  4. (Swamp) Blood Artist, Skirsdag High Priest
  5. (Swamp) Dark Ritual, Dark Prophecy, Zulaport Cutthroat, Gnawing Zombie, sacrifice Abyssal Gatekeeper, scry 1, draw a card, lose 1 life, gain 2 life, opponent loses 2 life, opponent sacks a creature, gain 1 life, opponent loses 1 life, sack Gnawing Zombie, draw a card, lose 1 life, gain 2 life, opponent loses 2 life, tap Skirsdag High Priest, Shirei and Viscera Seer, put a 5/5 demon with flying onto the battlefield, return Abyssal Gatekeeper and Gnawing Zombie to the battlefield.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

As you can see, the triggers never end as early as turn 5 (with a good chunk of luck). But everything simply gets more crazy from there. The scoops tend to start happening as the triggers continue and your opponent acknowledges that Shirei is just going to keep this rolling. Removal is then inevitable, but Undying should help out with that a little bit.

The deck is slow if you require Shirei to start moving things along. But, Shirei isn’t necessary to start triggering a few abilities off. Abyssal Gatekeeper is a strong deterrent in the early game and a powerful ally when you have a large creature base. Cutthroat and Blood Artist keep your life in the green while you wait for everything to fall perfectly into place. Killing Wave is just biding its time, waiting for an opportunity.

I had at one point splashed some white to run Athreos, High Priest of Penance and Suture Priest. Athreos provided some Shirei-like support, High Priest of Penance behaved similarly to Abyssal Gatekeeper, and Suture Priest gave some ETB support for the graveyard-flickering creatures. But, the benefit wasn’t enough to endure the sluggishness of another color, so I took them out. However, I would argue that splashing white is a reasonable consideration if you are looking into 60-card Shirei.


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