Hello My Fellow Planeswalkers,
A wise old man (sorry Shep) once said “Always take the draw”. You could be forgiven for thinking he refers to intentionally drawing, or ID’ing as it’s known to competitive Magic players, but he is, in fact, giving fantastic advice for the startup procedure in any game where you play with a very specific Modern fringe deck: 8-Rack.
Mathew from GenericBadMagic here to talk to you about 8-Rack, the deck chosen by Mark Shepherd, another one of the Arbroath players who attended GP Birmingham last weekend. Mark has been playing Magic for quite some time and often yearns for the old days of completely locking your opponent down and making them suffer for it (I said wise OLD man right?). 8-Rack fully facilitates this approach, stripping your opponent’s hand, removing their on-board threats and then dealing damage to them for having three or less cards in hand due to The Rack!
Always taking the draw and going second means you start the game effectively with one or two more cards than the opponent and it means they are holding less cards for you to take away before The Rack or Shrieking Affliction come online.
Lets start by looking at the cards which spawn the name…
The Win Condition:
4x The Rack
4x Shrieking Affliction
So, the deck runs four copies of a card called The Rack, when this card comes into play you choose an opponent, then at the beginning of that player’s Upkeep step The Rack deals X damage to them, X is equal to three minus the number of cards they have in hand. This means that with one card in hand the opponent takes two damage.
The deck also runs four copies of Shrieking Affliction, which causes each opponent to lose three life at the beginning of their upkeep if they have one or less cards in hand, an effect pretty similar to The Rack.
So in essence, it’s like just having eight copies of The Rack! (It took me longer to realize that was why than I’d like to admit)
To support The Rack and Shrieking Affliction we have a number of Spells which cause the opponent’s hand size to diminish in some way, let’s have a look:
Discard and Removal Spells:
4x Inquisition of Kozilek
3x Raven’s Crime
3x Wrench Mind
2x Collective Brutality
1x Surgical Extraction
3x Fatal Push
These are your premium, turn one cards for gleaning information and starting to shrink the opponent’s hand size. Remember to always Thoughtseize first, because it can hit any nonland card AND let you know if an Inquisition will catch anything next turn.
Who can argue with the effectiveness of repeatedly forcing your opponent to discard a card? Raven’s Crime offers that value, retracing from your graveyard if you have a spare Land in your hand to discard in addition to one black mana. Better yet, it does not exile itself from your graveyard like a lot of similar re-usable spells do!
Wrench Mind is great if you know they either have a great artifact in hand that you’d like to encourage the opponent to discard and even if you know they don’t! Forcing two cards out of someone’s hand for only two coloured mana which is easily produced in your deck translates to superb value and really furthers your gameplan.
Collective Brutality offers modality, the first choice is always to look at the opponent’s hand and try to choose an Instant or Sorcery, forcing the opponent to discard it, but you can also shrink an opposing creature or drain the opponent for two life in addition to this by simply discarding a card for each additional effect.
Smallpox is ideal for forcing a discard, Land sacrifice, creature sacrifice and the loss of one life, this can be a real pain for the opponent in the early stages of the game when mana fixing is still a priority and can be devastating for Tron players, setting them back a whole extra turn from a Karn or Ugin, a pretty huge tempo shift in that example.
What do we do when we’ve removed a key piece? A Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle perhaps, or a Death’s Shadow? We use Surgical Extraction of course! This nifty silver bullet can force the opposition straight into Plan B, likely taking them more time to become effective and sometimes just shutting them down altogether!
Want to draw the opponent’s attention away from your life total and represent more soul-crushing hand disruption? Look no further than…
4x Liliana of the Veil
Hey look, it’s everyone’s favourite necromancer, worth, quite literally, more than her own weight in gold! (cardboard doesn’t weigh much) She has fun forcing each player to discard a card, effectively suppressing your opponent when they run out of things to do, whilst letting your win conditions do their thing. She can also force the opponent to sacrifice a creature or, if the game goes long, she can even let you separate an opponent’s permanents into two piles and let you watch them agonize over which one to sacrifice… Delicious, salty tears should follow.
As with most decks we need a solid Mana Base to support these actions, so here it is:
4x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4x Concealed Courtyard
2x Godless Shrine
2x Bloodstained Mire
2x Verdant Catacombs
Mutavault allows us to use our mana in the late game to turn it into a creature and get in for two damage a turn, a reliable, if frustrating for your opponent, way to win a war of attrition. (I mean, who wants to be on a ten turn clock?) Bloodstained Mire and Verdant Catacombs both fetch for our Swamps or Godless Shrines whilst also representing that we may are in Jund colours and hinting at Death’s Shadow, likely influencing how the opponent plays out the first few turns.
Godless Shrine and Concealed Courtyard both provide white mana which facilitates a sideboard strategy that requires us to go into a second colour.
But what ties this together nicely is Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, making everything a swamp, even the fetches, meaning they can tap for black mana and anything in our mainboard can then be cast with any configuration of other Land plus Urborg.
Lets have a look at what we bring in against some of the strategies we may face:
3x Ensnaring Bridge
2x Surgical Extraction
2x Bontu’s Last Reckoning
2x Relic of Progenitus
1x Leyline of the Void
2x Death’s Shadow
Disenchant and Fragmentize offer two answers to Leyline of Sanctity, letting us continue to target the opponent with our forced discard spells.
Bontu’s last Reckoning is excellent when facing off against Mid-Range or Go-Wide strategies, while Ensnaring Bridge helps prevent the opponent attacking. Bridge also helps as it means the opponent is unlikely to get an attack in while you wait for Land to untap after Bontu’s Last Reckoning.
Both Relic of Progenitus and Leyline of the Void help to insulate us against Living End and Death’s Shadow builds, partly because the opponent can’t delve for a Tasigur but also because Living End can’t remove it’s graveyard from play and dump it on the field if it doesn’t have one!
Last up in sideboard it’s Death’s Shadow himself, due to the deck having no creatures in the mainboard, this guy can usually come in and meet zero removal and force the opponent to board a lot of it back in, even though you might have boarded them out for game three. (Thanks Shep…) Such is the polarizing effect this can have on any game, totally changing how the opponent plays.
Referring back to my first statement, regarding always take the draw, there are exceptions to this rule. Mark found, through his performance in the main event that any decks that run Chalice of the Void can usually lock out your one mana spells on turn two, before you have much of a chance to take them from the opponent’s hand. This means that Affinity or Tron are two such matches that you would likely prefer to be going first, in order to give yourself as much of a chance as possible to take it out before it wrecks your game plan.
Mark managed to put in a solid performance with this fringe deck, running up a record of 5-4 in the main event. To put that into perspective, I only know of one other player at the whole tournament on that deck, because I played them in round six! This really did nearly come out of nowhere and steal a strong finish. I find myself wanting to have a shot myself…
That’s pretty much all I’ve got for this deck and that then marks the end of the GP Birmingham article series so I’d like to thank Alan, Matt and Mark for letting me write up their decks to provide content to you all.
I’d also like to thank yourselves for taking the time out of your lives to read this, in favour of other content out there, so thank you.
And one last thanks has to go out to the great people I met at GP Birmingham last weekend, from the staff to the judges and my opponents… You were all fantastic. Thanks especially to Jordan and Luke from Orcs Head Magic and also Holt Hauser from Murphy’s Vault in Edinburgh for always being available to have a chat, discuss game records and generally console each other when it went pear-shaped!
Catch Jordan @OrcsHeadJordan, Luke @OrcsHeadLuke and Holt @CapnPowerHaus on Twitter
Until my next scheduled Friday article, I reckon I deserve a rest! (Four articles in four days is more than I expected!)
Have a good one.