“Hey Mike, that deck’s trash.” Was something that was said to me multiple times leading up to, and during the course of GP Vancouver.
Yeah, it might be a bunch of garbage but I love this pile. You know what they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 8-Rack has been surprisingly competitive. I am sure if you told Magic players 5 years ago that Brushland and Eldrazi Temples would be great lands in Modern they’d laugh you out of the building, and yet here we are.
I had lent out some pieces of my Eldrazi Tron deck the day before GP Vancouver, and because of this, I decided to lock in playing 8-Rack at in Vancouver. I submitted the decklist that night, and for some deranged reason my wrenched mind was telling me that this amalgamation of horrid discard spells was going to serve me well. Some of you might remember me from the time-shifted match near the end of day 1, or from holding up a “Paul” sign at the start of my win-and-in for top 8. Either way, I am here to help boost 8-Rack’s reputation from a “budget deck” into a serious Modern contender. Here’s the 75 that I ended up registering:
BW 8-Rack – Mike Penner
TL;DR Tourney Report
I’m not one for lengthy tournament reports, so I’ll give you the too long; didn’t read version of what happened in Vancouver.
I came in off 2 byes that were earned through playing a local Grand Prix Trial. I faced off against a Jund player that I had seen grinding the day earlier and quickly won the round. I had tested this matchup with a good friend who ended up top 64 for GP Van, and I believe the matchup is about 90-10 in 8-Rack’s favour. Smallpox is a little too much for Jund to handle.
I played a Burn player shortly after, who was surprised that the creature-less Smallpox deck had such a spicy sideboard plan (more on that in the sideboard guide.)
Round 5 (4-0) was against David Ochoa, whom I’m quite a big fan of. He was on the Death’s Shadow list that I’d played against on MTGO a handful of times and the games went about as expected. Smallpox is very good against any deck that has big dumb creatures.
Round 7 (6-0) I ran into Pascal Maynard who proceeded to Simian Spirit Guide out a Chalice on 1 versus me, which is about the last thing any 8-Rack player would like to see. At the time I was first in standings and was feeling pretty sad to lose as an undefeated day 1 would have been sweet. But you definitely can’t win them all, especially when you start facing against seasoned pros.
Round 8 (7-1) this match can be found on Twitch.tv as the time-shifted matchup. When I got called over to the feature match table, I got a very uneasy feeling. I know the names of most professional Magic players, and my opponent was not one that I recognized. I had a sinking feeling that I was going to be paired against a homebrewed deck and I might get ran over by something relatively unknown. It only occurred to me that I might be the homebrew after Rich Hagon asked my opponent to give him his deck archetype, but he didn’t ask for mine. I won’t spend any time on the match since you can always go back and watch it, but it was clear to me that my opponent wasn’t experienced versus 8-Rack and ended up losing a pretty unfavourable matchup.
My final match of day 1 had me playing against a spicy GW Toolbox deck that I barely remember. I was so full of adrenaline I didn’t have a chance to catch my breath. I remember dying game 3 to my opponent casting Eldritch Evolution on their Thought-Knot Seer into a Reality Smasher for lethal.
Starting off Day 2 with an X-2 record meant I needed to win out to make top 8. Being paired against fellow Calgarian Jennifer Crotts was an unfortunate 10th round pairing. She was the only opponent to take the draw game 1, it’s almost like she knew what I was on.
A couple more rounds of Burn and Jund later, I was sitting at 12-2 with a win-and-in to top 8. This came with a large cash prize as well as a Pro Tour invite, so needless to say, I was already feeling very nervous. That anxiety compounded when I heard my name being called to the feature match table yet again. A couple of missed Shrieking Affliction triggers, and Jon Stern had Affinity’d me right out of top 8.
Oh well, sucks to suck. I was happy about my finish, and was just glad I got to make it to Vancouver and represent this hilarious archetype.
About the Rack
So let us talk about the list. There’s a variety of questions I’ve been asked pretty consistently since the Grand Prix and I’d like to answer the most common ones here. Feel free to ask any you have below and I’ll do my best to answer.
Why no Ensnaring Bridge?
Firstly, I think that Ensnaring Bridge is a card that can lead to a lot of one sided matchups if they have no way to remove it, but it also can just be an irrelevant card against a lot of other decks. I’d rather just construct the deck to not let my opponent have any relevant creatures on the battlefield through a combination of efficient removal and edict effects. It does make your deck more susceptible to token generators like Lingering Souls, but it also makes cards like Destructive Revelry or Abrupt Decay look fairly poor. I’m not convinced that Ensnaring Bridge is a “bad” card in 8-Rack, but with the number of Kolaghan’s Command’s running around right now I intend to keep the artifact count as low as possible.
Why no Dakmor Salvage?
Sure, there is a cute interaction with Raven’s Crime and Dakmor Salvage in which you can effectively keep your opponent on zero cards, but it comes with an extremely relevant drawback – I don’t want to play any lands that enter the battlefield tapped. Those lands are effectively discard fodder until I need to be making my fourth land drop. This deck needs to go T1 discard spell into T2 Smallpox to have a shot in a variety of matchups. Since Dakmor doesn’t allow for this, I decided not to include it in my list.
Why the white splash?
Traditional mono-black 8-Rack decks have had a very tough time against a particular pre-game effect. Leyline of Sanctity is nearly unbeatable for a deck that relies on your opponents having zero cards in hand. This in conjunction with the new addition of Fatal Push creates the desire to play some number of fetchlands in your deck to enable Revolt. Therefore, the singleton shock-land allows you to consistently find the splash without having to unnecessarily take damage from your lands (which are more relevant in this deck than a lot of others.) As it turns out the white splash also helps a lot of your traditionally poor matchups. If Blood Moon started showing up a lot more in the Modern metagame, moving back to monoblack or altering the manabase would likely be required.
Why do you always take the draw?
It is pretty common knowledge that in Modern you always take the play. 8-Rack is trying to change that. 8-rack cares very little about what is in play or what is in the opponents’ hand, it only cares about how many cards they have (Note: this is a generalization, and may not always be true.) As well, there are very few decks that will play a creature on turn 1 vs turn 2. That makes Smallpox significantly better when on the draw. If the opening sequence is (with opponent on the play) T1: Tap land > T1: Swamp/Inquisition > T2: Tarmogoyf > T2: Smallpox; they probably lose the game. There are two matchups that I will take the play post-board, but I will let you know that below.
More than any other question I’ve received, the request for a sideboard guide has been the most common. Remember to TAKE THE DRAW. Here’s my definitive guide to playing “Almost Top-8-Rack”
Burn (Even, maybe slightly unfavourable)
This matchup is very hard game 1, and relies heavily on your sideboard in the other games. That being said, it’s definitely possible to win as The Rack and Wrench Mind are very good cards against them. Sometimes they will also keep 1-landers and Smallpox can punish that very effectively. You don’t need to mull to Death’s Shadow post-board, but keep something that can empty their hand by your third turn. Also HOLD ONTO YOUR RACKS/AFFLICTIONS, they will almost always board in Destructive Revelry, don’t turn it on for them.
Death’s Shadow Jund (Very favourable)
Any deck that is trying to Thoughtseize or Inquisition us is going to have a bad time. Although this Jund variant has the opportunity to steal games, it’s very soft to all the edict effects in your deck. We board out Dismember because they are usually able to make their Tarmogoyfs at least 5/6’s and it’s unlikely to be able to kill a Death’s Shadow. We board out some copies of The Rack since they will bring in Ancient Grudge and already have Kolaghan’s Command in the main. Bring in Surgical Extraction to hit their Lingering Souls as that’s likely their path to victory. It is possible that you may want to board out another Rack in favour of the Flaying Tendrils to clean up the tokens.
Regular Jund (Very favourable)
Jund is very close to a bye if you ever meet it in the Swiss rounds of a tournament. Their threats just line up so poorly into what Almost-Top-8-Rack is trying to do, and they run Liliana of the Veil. The only thing you ever need to do is prevent a Liliana from using her ultimate. All other modes are irrelevant. You don’t really have to board in the souls if you don’t feel the need, but it’s nice to have less Kolaghan’s Command targets.
Eldrazi Tron (Even)
Eldrazi Tron relies very heavily on whether or not they have a Chalice of the Void for 1. It’s a very easy game if they do not, and it becomes a very hard game if they do. Try to take them off of Tron, and you should be able to seal the deal with Mutavaults and Racks before they can find answers. Fulminator often attacks quite a bit in this matchup as well since the deck isn’t the greatest at assembling Tron. Fatal Push gets quite a bit better vs this deck if they choose to play Walking Ballista.
Affinity (Slightly unfavourable)
My advice in this matchup is to pray. Pray that your hand lines up very well game 1, because it is very unlikely that you will win unless you know what you’re playing against. You have access to many powerful sideboard options, and you can immediately cut all copies of Wrench Mind. Even though Liliana of the Veil is mediocre, you need something to generate “discard advantage” once the opponent has no threats. I also like boarding out a land since we need to be threat dense. Remember to pray, and not to miss your Shrieking Affliction triggers!
This matchup is pretty easy as long as you can deal with their Lingering Souls. Also make sure to save your Surgicals for either Kitchen Finks or the Souls. Very similar to Jund in every other regard. Quite dependant on their hand.
Bant Eldrazi (Slightly favourable)
BOLT THE BIRD. That is mainly what this matchup comes down to. The Flaying Tendrils comes in to clean up all the Eldrazi Scions and Noble Hierarchs that can flood the board and make Liliana of the Veil and Smallpox poor. Fulminators come in to kill the Temples or cut them off a colour and to block some of the threats. This matchup is extremely swingy and Bant Eldrazi has draws that will always beat any deck in Modern.
Valakut Titan (Very favourable)
I tend to assume that we’re dead if a large creature resolves and we don’t have an edict effect for it. Also, some decks have Chalice of the Void (aka Public Enemy #1) in their sideboard so a single Disenchant comes in. It can also sometimes snag a Khalni Heart Expedition if you get lucky. The Fulminator and Surgical package comes in to try to hit their Valakuts (if that isn’t obvious) which they tend to not play out post-board. Smallpox and Wrench Mind are very good in this matchup, as it’s fairly easy to keep them from hitting their sixth land drop. Watch out for Obstinate Baloth post-board, but remember if they discard it to Smallpox it will still be sacrificed. Overall it’s a pretty good matchup and is hard to lose if you get to snag a Valakut.
G/X Tron (Slightly Unfavourable)
Game 1 is very rough, as it’s hard to beat a resolved Karn Liberated. Fortunately, Smallpox can sometimes steal games if you have a good hand that can apply pressure. The Surgical/Fulminator package is just to remove Tron as a possibility, and then you should be able to kill through some combination of Racks/Mutavault beat downs. If you’re able to Surgical a Tron piece, try to save the next one to use as a discard spell, or even better to get the dual land that they produce coloured mana with. The Disenchant effects are mostly for Oblivion Stone, which is a real way for them to relieve the pressure (and because removal is so bad against them). The positive side of this match is that if you can get them down to 3 lands without Tron being a possibility, they will have an awful lot of uncastable topdecks.
Ad Nauseam (Very favourable)
If there was a deck designed solely to beat Ad Nauseam it might look something like this. Just try to Surgical their Ad Nauseam, then you should have all the time in the world to find a win condition. Try to have either white mana or a Disenchant effect in your opener post-board as a lot of Ad Nauseam players will mulligan to find their Leyline of Sanctity. If at all possible, try to hide the splash in game 1 by not playing out your white lands.
Grixis Control (Unfavourable with Ancestral Visions – Favourable without)
This matchup’s guide depends entirely if they’re playing Ancestral Visions or not, if they are then:
If they do play Ancestral TAKE THE PLAY. Against a deck like 8-Rack Ancestral Visions is the last card you ever want to see, and it’s worth losing the card advantage gained by taking the draw to attempt to nab an Ancestral immediately. We do not have a clock fast enough to race them, and they will eventually kill us with any threat in their deck. The Fulminator’s come in simply because we’re taking out so many threats and Creeping Tar Pit costs so little to activate we often cannot race it or deal with it (since Tar Pit and Snapcaster are the only Fatal Push targets).
If they don’t play Ancestral, keep the 3 Surgicals in the board and 2 Pushes and a Rack in the maindeck. The matchup (without Visions) is fairly easy, try not to die to a Tasigur (Smallpox is very good at killing him) and play the same game you’d play vs Jund. The plan would look something like this:
The only other decks you take the play against are decks that are capable of turn 1 playing public enemy number one, Chalice of the Void (through Simian Spirit Guide shenanigans) since it’s such a hard card to deal with.
Thanks very much for reading and I look forward to taking the draw against you in the future.
Mike (8-Rack guy)