Saturday, 11 November 2017

8 Rack .dec

The RackWell, a generous 4 Rack.dec but still, we make do with what we must in singleton! I have been meaning to do this deck in cube ever since Shrieking Affliction came out and for one reason or another I just somehow haven't. I have loads of experience with Pox and old school styles of Necropotence decks which have many similar core principles. I have even used The Rack a bunch in those lists. All these kinds of deck plunge the game into a low economy one. The Pox builds tend to abuse the symmetries with cards like Bloodghast allowing them to pull ahead. Necro obviously uses the massive influx of cards on the cheap to pull ahead. While this list uses many of the same cards and resource hitting strategies it doesn't really abuse the symmetries. It has a few things that work well with the self discard and sacrifice but not really. This deck just employs a far better win condition in the various Rack effects. As has been said many a time, winning is the best form of defense in magic. This list does not need to create such a tight stranglehold on the opponent nor be able to cope with a full range of potential problems as it is rather more proactive at turning its advantage into an actual win. I have had plenty of games with a Pox deck where I am ahead for turn after turn after turn but only beating down for 2 in each of those I give my opponent every chance to pull out of it. Most normal games are totally won or lost if someone does nothing for a few turns in a row but not with the Pox style lowering of resources in the game.

Shrieking AfflictionOne of the problems with discard is that after you reduce their hand to zero they are able to play off the top fairly well and you have a bunch of dead discard cards. This is why you can't over do it in normal decks. As this list wins through them having low hand size they are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they hold stuff in hand they are not getting much done except turning on your discard effects. If however they play out their stuff your very efficient Rack effects punish them. Pox decks need to keep the land count low such that top decks cannot just be played. Rack decks don't care about mana denial. Either opponents have plenty and play out their hand quicker thus suffering more to The Rack or they hold back on laying lands to mitigate damage and can't play their big stuff anyway.

The premise of the 8 Rack deck is simple, rapidly strip the scary parts out of their hand before they are relevant and then put them under Rack pressure and simply control the game as best you can. This list has no power, no Mox and yet it can technically make someone discard their whole hand on turn one! This is a design for a list I plan to do soon. While it is untested I am fairly happy with the build and don't expect it to change wildly. I expect I will mostly want to tweak ratios and things. The potential cards I looked at but didn't end up running will all be covered in this article. There is a fairly limited selection of core cards for this deck and so the main bulk of the deck is pretty set in stone. Here is my intended list;

Raven's Crime24 Spells

The Rack
Shrieking Affliction
Quest for the Nihil Stone

Raven's Crime
Funeral Charm
Inquisition of Kozilek
Cabal Therapy

Fatal Push
Dark Ritual
Dread Wanderer
Hymn to Tourach
Waste Not
Nezumi Shortfang
Asylum Visitor
Dark Confidant

Hymn to Tourach
Collective Brutaility
Augur of Skulls

Liliana, Heretical Healer
Liliana of the Veil

Toxic Deluge / Last Reckoning

Death Cloud

16 Lands

Mishra's Factory
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
14 Swamps

Nezumi ShortfangShrieking Affliction and The Rack are the namesake of the deck and the most key cards, I would run more if I could and in desperation have also run Nezumi Shortfang and Quest for the Nihil Stone. Both these extra Rack effects do have quite high ceilings however both have pretty embarrassing floors. Shortfang is an instant speed discard effect that turns into a Rack on legs. The downside is that it is four mana before any of that good stuff happens and is highly vulnerable to removal. Quest is super good on turn one and a terrible play much beyond then. Wanting to play it turn one also reduces the value of cards like Inquisition of Kozilek which are ideally what you lead with so as to remain safest and in the most control of the game.

The deck has six one mana discard spells and this is potentially one of the ratios that might get tweaked. A few more options exist which would be playable in this shell but I think these six are generally the best. Inquisition and Thoughtsieze are just the most effective early game disruption. If you let them chose what to discard with your early spells you are likely to fall too far behind. As such I tried to keep a high number of cards which gave me the choices. Harsh Scrutiny is probably the next one I would look to add or exchange with. Raven's Crime is important for the late game lockout and repeat use potential but it is a weak one drop. I didn't bother running a Dakmor Salvage to pair with it for that reliable discard as there is only one of each. The number of times you get to combo them in a relevant way will be vastly outnumbered by the instances of you losing tempo due to a crappy EtB tapped land.

Funeral CharmFuneral Charm is mostly good as it can hit the drawstep and keep someone without cards or plays for a turn. The removal utility is nice as well and is generally a better use of the card turn one. Blackmail has great scaling within this kind of deck and is a passable first turn play, especially when followed with a lot more discard. It makes life hard for your opponent. Cabal Therapy is perhaps a little ambitious. Missing with it is pretty bad making it a fairly weak turn one play. A big part of why it is in is the ability to flip Heretical Healer. Therapy is great after you have had a look at your opponents hand and that makes it great in this deck, just not on turn one. Despite having so many one drops this deck isn't full of ones it really wants to lead with. As such it might well be correct to force in a few more Duress and Harsh Scrutiny style cards.

Smallpox does give this deck an air of being a Pox deck. While the mana denial aspect of the card is less useful than usual it is still a great all round card for the deck. The mana denial just helps increase the pressure on your opponents resources and happens to not harm you that much with such a low curve deck. Mostly this card is an Edict that also causes them to discard. It is the equivalent of Searing Blaze in the burn decks. I found the Smallpox a little hard to compute at first and found it misleading me in how I should be building the deck. As soon as you look at it as target player sacrifices a creature and discards a card you are on the right tracks.

Liliana, Defiant NecromancerLiliana of the Veil and Hymn are complete mainstays. Hymn is the most brutal and efficient discard you have and Lili is the best ongoing source of it. Having a removal mode is also a huge win for Lili when trying to play a low economy game. The importance of reusable discard in some matchups is what lead me to force in Heretical Healer. The list is a little creature light for it to be ideal but beyond that the card is perfect in the deck. Even the initial body is useful with its lifelink and annoying size! Mostly the upgrade from +1 to +2 on the discard and the free(ish) zombie token make a flipped Heretical Healer rather more oppressive to handle than the more reliable Liliana of the Veil.

Fatal Push is just a very good rounded cheap card that gives control and options and tempo. A smattering of cheap spot removal seems wise for a deck like this in cube and Push is the best. Snuff Out would be great although you don't want too much life cost cards. Disfigure would be fine if needed. You can probably bundle through just fine with just edict and mass removal stuff but I do feel safer with a targetted option main. I also considered the much pricier Never // Return due to how soft this deck is to most planeswalkers should one get past the discard. Three is quite a lot of mana and so I would probably go with Vampire Hexmage as my solution to planeswalkers and stick to cheaper creature kill cards. Certainly the Fatal Push slot is one of the more open ones.

Bontu's Last ReckoningThe Dread Wanderer is the most open of all the slots. It is very much a filler card in this list. Fine to discard, fine to nibble away with, fine to chump block with, great to flip a Lili or flashback a Therapy and all that sort of thing. It is also just a fine card to play on turn one. Almost certainly more useful than The Rack or a Raven's Crime would be. There was a while I had a Skullclamp and a Bloodghast in this list but it all felt a bit wishful. The deck isn't full of dig or draw and without the things to go with them the individual cards are a bit weak. This list doesn't quite have the creature count to make good use of Clamp and so more contained card advantage cards like Dark Confidant and Night's Whisper feel like the better direction to take.

The top end of this deck is the area I am most unsure of. I am sure it wants at least one big mass clear effect. Over all Deluge seems a little better than Reckoning just because you can keep some of your own stuff alive. The mana loss is not such a big deal for a list like this. The life loss more so probably. Three big clears seems like it would be too much. The trick is finding the right balance. Death Cloud is one of my all time favourite cards. My concern is that it is a touch slow for this list and that it might be a little annoying to use with the couple of creatures you don't really want to kill of your own. I feel like Cloud will have a rather polar performance in this list while the three mana Wraths will be rather more consistent. Cloud adds a huge extra weapon to this deck's arsenal but I am really unsure of where the balance will lie between games it is overly awkward or dead to those in which it wins it. A Wrath, Geddon, Fireball and Mind Twist all in one just feel like it is too much to pass up on for this archetype.

Waste NotDark Ritual is in the list for two reasons. Firstly it is a concession to the list having a surprisingly small number of strong one mana plays. Secondly it is a concession to this kind of list being one that struggles if you manage to get in under it. On the draw this list can be vulnerable to a range of different things and a Dark Ritual can really provide for some nice early swings. The biggest possible of all the swings is a Dark Ritual into a Waste Not which in turn cascades into your getting more mana and cards such that you can wipe their whole hand leaving you with some cards and permanents. Super unlikely but very fun! Waste Not is a little bit polar in this deck as well. Sometimes it will just win games all by itself and others it will be too much of a tempo loss to use in time and wind up being a blank. I think the potential power of the card and how perfectly on theme it also make it too good to miss but with Cloud, Ritual and the Waste Not the deck is getting a little crowded with situational cards. I think this is fine, you need some swing cards else you play too fair and just get beat by something unfair. There is enough self discard that you can use unhelpful cards in hand as buffer for cards you want to keep and there should be enough card draw to support some dead cards. Indeed, I am strongly tempted to run Chrome Mox and/or Mox Diamond in this list for much of these reasons. As I know how those things play out I will test the deck without and add them in if I think it is needed or would just improve the deck overall.

Asylum VisitorThe main card advantage cards in this list are Asylum Visitor and Dark Confidant. Visitor is the better of the two all round. It is bigger! It can trigger more often. The lifeloss is predictable and consistent even if the average is the same. The madness also helps buffer against the symmetrical discard. Bob, still great though! Average CMC of 1 and nothing bigger than a 3 to hit makes Bob a happy boy. I would also happily toss in a Blood Scrivener to complement these card draw dorks despite being a step down from these two in this list.

Collective Brutality is just too good not to play given that it is also a nicely on theme card. It is like a more controlled Smallpox. I was reluctant to use two mana discard slots for cards that go 1 for 1 rather than two for one but the power difference on the cards is too extreme for it to be correct playing some crap like Wrench Mind over it! I did end up finding room for Augur of Skulls. Overall it is probably worse than Wrench Mind in the discard department. It is however a more rounded card that offers nice synergy with Heretical Healer as well as the potential just to stay in play blocking and regenerating. Being well rounded and offering options and utility tend to go further in cube than in other formats so I am happy enough with the clunky Augur.

Augur of SkullsLands are pretty straight forward. You want black mana as quickly as possible. This mostly just means swamps. Lake of the Dead is too much of a cost and is more mana than you really need. You can get away with a colourless land in this list, perhaps two if you are super greedy. You need Urborg to offset two and it still helps with just the one. This deck is very colour intense. While there are plenty of options on colourless lands very few actually feel like they are worth the risk of not being able to play a card. Wastelands is powerful and played by the legacy versions of this deck but that is legacy. This list isn't really attacking mana, it might come for free on Smallpox and such but dedicating cards to it is a little extreme. It spreads the deck a bit thin and doesn't have vastly better payoffs. While Wasteland is one of the better options I went with what felt like a more on theme manland. It helps speed up a win when closing a game which is the plan with The Rack effects. Factory also helps threaten planeswalkers which is one of the scarier things it can face. I briefly considered Volrath's Stronghold and then I remembered it wasn't 2006. The Tabernacle at Pendrel Vale is a cute addition but again it taxes mana rather than cards and not tapping for mana itself makes it something you really need to play as a spell. Pretty unfair if you combo it with Urborg however. This list is low enough to the ground that you could cut a land if you wanted to be greedy but I don't think that is too wise. This deck needs to get on top early. Once there it can sit there pretty content. It is well setup to eat loads of late game dud draws. It is not so well setup to win a game if it never sees a third land like most good red and white aggro decks can do.

Kheru Mind-EaterSo, what are the other options for this kind of deck? What did I chose not to add in that I have not mentioned? First up there are cards like Kheru Mind-Eater and the old Necro classic Hypnotic Specter! While these cards are very much on theme they are a little slow and unreliable. Certainly things like Dark Ritual empower them but only it they stick. These cards are a double risk in that they are a big blowout when you eat removal or they just arrive too late to the party and do very little. These kinds of thing feel like they would be better in a sideboard for bringing in against slower decks. As this list feels like it needs to get on top of the game as quickly as possible I aimed for quick, cheap and direct discard as much as possible.

Another card that I feel is more of a sideboard tool but that sees a lot of constructed play both main and sideboard is Ensnaring Bridge. While the card works well with your stuff it just feels less reliable and less of a solution than the mass removal options. Bridge doesn't protect you if they just blow it up, Bridge doesn't protect you against things like Thermo-Alchemist either. Ensnaring Bridge seems very brutal against a tenacious fat dork deck like zoo or a linear dork deck like white weenie but pretty lame elsewhere.

Ensnaring BridgeCursed Scroll was one of the most tempting cards run in some legacy decks that is not in my list yet. A nice repeatable source of damage to control little dorks and planeswalkers and also able to speed up the clock. A great card in a low economy game. I didn't end up running it as it felt a touch on the slow side and so things like Fatal Push appeal more as removal and things like Mishra's Factory appeal more as a little bit of extra damage to aim at things.

I have seen a list with Sinkhole but as with Wastelands I think that you are spreading this list too thin if you try and attack each resource directly. Deathrite Shaman is the other big card commonly seen in the legacy lists. It seems really good in the deck and should probably be included where ever possible. Even if you don't get sac lands or any playable BG dual lands the card is still going to do decent work. There will be plenty of lands in the bin to make mana with and plenty of cards to throw at their face. I didn't include the Shaman as it is a high priority card that is ideally used with other high pick cards. Getting the Shaman on top of some of these premium black cards is going to be a fairly tall order. A bit like with the Mox, I would like to see how the deck performs without it before allowing that crutch to rest on. I don't love decks that fall apart when you take out single high powered carry cards from them.

UnmaskMind Twist and Unmask represent the premium discard options at the two far ends of the spectrum. While both fantastic cards I think their extreme nature makes them less well suited for this deck. The Twist is too slow and won't get big value due to how much you should have hit their hand before getting to Twist for a good amount. Unmask is just a big card cost to play. It is more of a combo thing. If I was that desperate for more discard early the Mox route feels a lot more rounded. If you were running Skullclamp or Necropotence as huge card draw engines then the value of Unmask goes up a lot.

I looked at Doomfall but the discard aspect of it is very weak in this deck given its cost. You are looking to empty hands on turn 3 so hitting one card is not exciting. Play a better discard card or a better removal card. This is very much not a replacement for Liliana or Collective Brutality here.

MisinformationMisinformation is another favourite card of mine. Best case scenario you waste three of their turns for one card and one mana. Makes Time Stretch seem rather overcost! Misinformation is pretty effective in any resource denial low economy game as so many things lose their value. This list more so than the Pox decks as you don't much care about giving them lands back. It is a win more card and a situational one. It is best when your opponent has nothing going on and in those cases you are winning. It might make the deck more powerful but it also makes it less consistent. This is a card I would look to if I had more raw card draw or some tutoring effects.

I looked at Ravenous and Rotting Rats and both have merit. Had I gone the Skullclamp route these would look even better. They empower cards like Therapy and Heretical healer nicely and are rounded on theme cards. Rotting Rats have some extra synergies and pack a little more punch but they are not a painless play for you either. They both feel a bit slow and fair for what this deck is really trying to do. If you Rat them on turn two the discard isn't going to disrupt them at all that turn and will take a while to have an effect. A 1/1 on the board does very little to stave off what they might do given your lack of disruption.

Gerrard's VerdictI also looked at Gurmag Angler, just a fatty you can flop out quickly and cheaply. It seemed rather off theme despite being decent power level and fairly well rounded. I would rather have consistent starts than random big swing plays in the mid game.

Lastly I looked at white. Gerrard's Verdict is one of the better two mana discard spells and would be a happy inclusion. It would also make Lingering Souls an option and likely too good of one to refuse. White also has things like Vindicate and Balance for some nice board control options. White certainly ups the power level and options but much like with Death Rite Shaman it also increases the demand on your picks. I will typically try out a new build in as few colours as I can first so as to see how it gets on. Overall I think you probably are best off staying mono with this deck.

So that is basically all my thoughts on this archetype. This is essentially a mini archetype breakdown on a narrower subject than usual. I think the deck looks good, probably one of the best resource denial strategies in the cube excluding broken artifacts and power cards. This deck has plenty of options on ways to empower it and plenty of solutions to problems it may face. It is possibly not the most fun of decks but different is always fun and first. Waste Not means at least one player can have fun!

1 comment:

  1. Tested this out a bit and found it to be impressive. It was a bit polar, some games it dominated and others it fell apart. It would often look like it was winning early on but then fail to convert but overall the deck is competitive. There isn't loads I would change about the list. Rotting Rats turned out to be worth including. Bontu's Last Reckoning did not! I think you can probably shave a land. I would also cut the Dark Ritual but I may well make it a Chrome Mox. The cards I expected to be weak turned out to be at worst playable which is unusual for a testing brew like this and I think that was why it performed well and isn't something I would massively alter going forwards.