Conditions Allow - Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked

(Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked | Art by Dave Allsop)

Wreathed in Shadow and Blood

Greetings, dear readers, and welcome back to Conditions Allow. In this series, I look at legendary creatures that come with a drawback which I then turn into a strength. This week I’m diving back into the turbulent seas of mono-red. I know I wrote about Jaya Ballard, Task Mage just a few weeks ago, but this next deck is too much fun to leave alone. I promise I’ll get back into multi-color legends soon. For now, though, let’s talk about Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked.

Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked is a four-mana Demon Spirit. As Shimatsu comes into play, you may sacrifice any number of permanents, and Shimatsu comes into play with that many +1/+1 counters on it. Notice the strategic use of the word 'permanent' here. This particular Demon demands sacrifice, but not necessarily creature sacrifice. Looking at EDHREC, Shimatsu has ten decks, and most seem to be focused around Threaten effects. 

This makes a lot of sense: sacrificing other players' permanents sounds a lot better than sacrificing our own. But I do think we can do better than spells that only steal a single creature. Shimatsu cares about the quantity, not quality, of his sacrifices. Insurrection and Mob Rule let us steal multiple creatures at once, effectively turning one card from your hand into several creatures on the field. This is really important, especially since red can struggle to maintain card advantage. Thus, I was shocked to find out that the card that can steal the most permanents isn’t even on Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked’s EDHREC page.

Trickery and Thievery

Treasure Nabber has the potential to grab every mana-producing artifact on the table. Depending on your meta, this can seem hit or miss, but we have ways to make sure everyone has to tap artifacts for mana. There are a lot of tricks you can play with Mycosynth Lattice, and this is probably one of the more tame ones, but War's Toll compounds this effect, often granting us control of all the lands played by each player on our turn. Until, of course, you sacrifice all of your opponents’ lands to fuel a huge Shimatsu. This does stray directly into the territory of land destruction, which not all folks are agreeable to... but at the same time, come on, we're playing Shimatsu. The major upside over most other forms of land destruction is that Shimatsu is very problematic for entirely defenseless opponents.

Of course, to truly make our opponents defenseless, we're going to want to get rid of their creatures, too. Taking a page from the book of the Shimatsu decks on EDHREC, we're going to include a couple of ways to steal creatures. Threaten isn't quite efficient enough, however; we want more, and Insurrection gives us more. In fact, it gives us everything, every creature our opponents control. Mob Rule does something similar. Depending on the mode you choose, it will either grant control of all the small or large creatures on the table, making it particularly good against other tribal decks. These spells, and creatures like Captivating Crew, are especially important because they let us pick up sacrifice fodder from our opponents. This turns Shimatsu's downside into a powerful removal effect.

So far we're building pretty heavily around Mycosynth Lattice. Finding the artifact can be difficult, but keeping it around is often much harder, especially after you steal all of someone's lands with Treasure Nabber. To keep the Lattice around, we can make use of Goblin Engineer and Goblin Welder. If you feel you want more redundancy here, you can also include Daretti, Scrap Savant. I'm going to leave the planeswalker out to make room for a little protection for our Goblins themselves.

Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots play an important role for Shimatsu: not only do they help keep his most productive servants safe against Path to Exile, they let the Demon himself swing in for big damage as soon as he enters play. Any Voltron deck that has any hope of winning has to sufficiently protect the commander. I'm not going any deeper on haste, however, because this deck isn't purely Voltron: because of Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked's ability, this deck can switch between a go-wide token strategy and a Voltron strategy at a moment's notice. We've already mentioned two Goblins that help us create or gain control of a lot of permanents, so let's see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Goblins and Goblins and Goblins, Oh My

When thinking about Goblin tokens, most people think first of Krenko, Mob Boss, and not without reason. Krenko will double the number of Goblins on the field every turn. As a commander, he's often paired with infinite combos or just plain ol' aggro that will quickly bring games to an end. Even on his own, this mob boss is a creature to be respected. His more modern iteration is nearly as scary: more focused around combat than combos, Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin is still very capable of generating a large army all on his own. Once you have that army, Kindred Charge will quickly double its ranks. Those tokens will vanish at the end of the turn, but that doesn't matter if you immortalize their power within Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked.

Goblins don't just have numbers on their side, they are also a highly synergistic tribe. Goblin Matron helps find any Goblin card we need and put it into our hand, while Goblin Recruiter stacks the top of our deck, ensuring we have a string of powerful draws or setting up a Goblin Ringleader for the following turn. Most other Goblins, like Beetleback Chief and Goblin Instigator, simply help create more Goblins. However, with the right support, this can quickly get out of hand.

Blood for the Blood Cloak

We're making tokens with the intent to sacrifice them to Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked, but that doesn't mean that that's all they're good for. Enough Goblins are a threat all on their own, and both Kyren Negotiations and Goblin War Strike both effectively make our 1/1 tokens unblockable. Pashalik Mons and Boggart Shenanigans let the tokens hit again when we sacrifice them to our commander. Finally, Fling lets us throw around another chunk of damage after Shimatsu attacks.

These cards give us the potential to deal a ton of damage in a single turn, depending on how many Goblin tokens our opponents let us accumulate. The only problem is that casting all these spells in sequence can be very expensive. Luckily, red is actually pretty good at creating a lot of mana, at least temporarily.

Battle Hymn and Brightstone Ritual both have the potential to make truly ridiculous amounts of mana with the number of tokens this deck can create. The other red rituals, like Pyretic Ritual, can also net us a fair amount of mana, especially in conjunction with effects that copy spells. Bonus Round works for a whole turn, while Primal Amulet and Pyromancer's Goggles can both copy a single spell.

Even without the rituals, these spell doublers are worthy inclusions. They give us four Goblins from Krenko's Command and extra cards from Tormenting Voice and our other draw spells. Most imporantly, however, they double the effects of Burn at the Stake and Goblin War Party. This makes it even easier for all of our damage effects to actually finish out the game.

It is tempting to fit in damage doubling effects, or the new Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, but it is probably smarter to include Chaos Warp, Skullclamp, and Gamble to round out the deck.

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This is a really fun deck with a lot of flexibility. It isn't easy to win with just the Goblin tokens since we don't have any ways to boost their power. To compensate, we have plenty of ways to turn the Goblins themselves into damage. Burn at the Stake can deal truly massive amounts of damage, as can Goblin War Strike. The sheer number of tokens, combined with the power of Treasure Nabber, also makes Shimatsu the Bloodcloaked a real threat. If you play in a meta that wants a little more speed, there is room here to lean more into the Voltron plan as well. Blood Mist and Temur Battle Rage are both worthy additions if that is your plan, alongside more haste enablers.

However you might choose to alter this decklist, I hope you enjoyed the adventure! Let me know of any cards I missed, or your favorite way to play a deck focused around theft effects. Until next time, thanks for reading.

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.