What is 8Rack?
The deck was originally created by MemoryLapse back in the day when Return to Ravnica came around and introduced another Rack effect and it was theorized that it can now be a somewhat consistent win condition for a deck. The simplest way to put it - this is a black control deck in Modern. But things are a little more nuanced than that. Unlike most other control decks, 8Rack tries to play a very proactive game by getting into the opponent's hand and ripping it apart on it's own terms instead of trying to react to what's being played. The deck tries to exploit the core mechanics of the game and focus on interacting with parts of the board that weren't originally designed to be controlled, thus creating an advantage for the pilot. In this sense the deck is most akin to Lantern Control and although the means to accomplish the task vary, the general goal stays the same - prevent the opponent from playing Magic.
It's called 8Rack because of it's primary win condition - the 8 Rack effects. While not particularly effective as a means of killing your enemy, these cards allow you to actually win the game when everything you are doing is ripping apart the opponent's hand. Binary strategies like this one require really awkward means of converting a non-damage oriented game plan into a victory, but the low power level of the win condition is compensated for by the nature of the primary strategy - when successful, your opponent won't be killing you, giving you more than enough time to win the game this way. A crucial note to take here is one that can't be stressed enough - this is a control deck.
Without understanding the advanced logic behind going all-in on discarding spells and how this changes the way the game is played, 8Rack's functionality can and should be put into question. How good is it, actually, to do nothing but rip apart the opponent's hand card-by-card? Isn't it weak to topdecking? Does it lose to a creature in play? The next segment should answer most of the concerns, at least from a thought exercise perspective. The problem with the overall power level of the deck comes when the practical application doesn't hold up to the the theoretical model, mostly due to Magic's inherent inconsistency when it comes to getting the cards you want when you want them.
The theory behind discard as a strategy
Why would you play this deck over another one?
A different experience - Since 8Rack doesn't play a game of Magic like other Modern decks do, learning how to pilot it will give you a new perspective on the game.Very customizable - there are many ways to build and play 8Rack. While the idea and the core of the deck stay the same, it can be put in various shells that will offer you a different playstyle based on how you like to play Magic.It rewards knowledge - This deck, more than most others, will reward you for playing smart and knowing what your opponent is piloting an exactly how to throw a wrench in their plans. The entire deck is based around giving you the maximum amount of information to make the best possible decision. The basic concept here is that by having more information than the enemy you can make better plays and thus win the game.Great budget options - Although ideal 8Rack lists include a playset of Liliana of the Veil (one of Modern's most expensive cards), Ensnaring Bridge and other decently pricey cards, there are great and cheap replacements that can be made without compromising the strategy too much. For more information, check out the budget section of the Primer. It's really fun to deny your enemy the joy of playing Magic: the Gathering.
Before we take a look at what the process of building an 8Rack deck looks like, it's nucleus and various components, I want to present a full deck. This is the best-performing version of 8Rack I have seen yet and I recommend it to anyone looking to try out the strategy. This is the deck that was piloted by Tom Ross to a Top 8 finish at theSCG Orlando (Sep 17-18) 2016 Modern Open. It's a great option for any newcomers who just want to pick up the deck and start playing as well as for veterans who would like to try out a competitive list with a strong performance.
8RackMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Lands: 244 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth4 Mutavault16 SwampDiscard: 224 Thoughtseize4 Inquisition of Kozilek4 Liliana of the Veil3 Wrench Mind3 Raven's Crime4 SmallpoxRemoval:64 Dismember2 Funeral CharmWincon: 84 The Rack4 Shrieking AfflictionSideboard: 152 Waste Not1 Night of Souls' Betrayal2 Deathmark2 Disfigure1 Leyline of the Void1 Flaying Tendrils2 Relic of Progenitus2 Asylum Visitor2 Death's Shadow
When talking about 8Rack as a deck, there is a particular group of cards that represent the core of the deck in the most literal sense - they keep everything together. They are the reason this deck is even near to functioning. There aren't non-budget builds without playsets of these three cards. This is where the overwhelming majority of the power level in the deck comes from, this is what enables the entirety of the hand control strategy, this core here is Holy Testament for 8Rack players. This is our Tricalogue:
Thoughtseize - The card with the highest power level in the deck. From Vintage to Standard whenever it's in, almost everybody playing black is playing Thoughtseize. In Modern specifically, it is actually one of the main reasons to play a black deck. It's "downside" is that you lose life, but the truth is that taking something away with it usually ends up saving you a lot more life that you paid. While you will often seen decks like Jund cutting slightly on the maindecked copies, this comes from the different ways combo/control decks and midrange decks play a game of Magic. In 8Rack, you want as many copies as possible, because you are not only trying to take away the other deck's best thing - you are trying to generally take cards away from them, because you are playing for the late game. The degree to which this is applied varies between the matchups and is a crucial thing to learn.
Liliana of the Veil - Easily the most powerful card in the deck. It's good to clarify that there is a difference between that and power level. Complicated theoretical Magic terminology aside, Lily is the single card that provides everything 8Rack wants - a perpretuous discard effect (or a "card disadvantage engine", which we'll take a closer look at later), removal, a game-winning ultimate and a body (you know, relatively speaking). Hand control, board control and a way to win, all in a cheap and versatile card that, on top of everything, isn't easily interacted with.
Inquisition of Kozilek - This functions like Thoughtseize and is the next best thing in Modern. It's downside, once again, is not a real one - the vast majority of cards you want to take with it are ones that cost 3 or less. This is coupled with the lack of lifeloss to make it great against aggressive decks, which is what most of the Modern landscape is. While it serves generally the same purpose as Thoughtseize, this card better highlights the style of disrupting early games and the opponent's curve rather than aiming for a critical piece of their build. Needless to say, that's sometimes still the proper line of play.
These are the two most essential parts of the 8Rack deck - the ability to open up and rip apart the opponent's hand, stripping them of threats, and creating a source of continuous card disadvantage for them, giving us a rather firm grip on the game. This later sets the stage up for the Rack effects and is what allows them to tick somebody down to zero. With an understanding of this, we can introduce two terms that will serve as a cornerstone of your vocabulary when you play a strategy such as this one - "qualitative discard" and "quantitative discard". To put those in simpler words - one type of discard focuses on reducing the quality of the opponent's hand by strategically removing important pieces to disrupt their game plan while the other doesn't care about what's in the hand but rather tries to reduce it's size in order to create card advantage. 8Rack is, I think, the only deck in Modern that cares about quantitative discard, because of it's win condition pieces. We go our of our way to imitate Hymn to Tourach, a Legacy staple that represents card advantage for black in it's purest form. Meanwhile, many other decks make use of qualitative discard - Jund and Grixis are fantastic examples of the impact of the Thoughtseize-like cards. Taking it one step further, though, is what separates 8Rack from those decks, it's what changes how we use Thoughtseize compared to them and is what makes a discarding strategy both interesting to explore and powerful on it's own right.
I want to get one very important point about "the core" across - never cut cards that are part of it when deckbuilding. In some matchups against hyper-aggressive decks it is natural to shave off a couple of Thoughtseizes, but the 12 cards from the core should always be present in your 75 in order to as efficient as possible. By a rough personal estimate of the author of this Primer, somewhere between 70% and 80% of the power level of 8Rack, more than 60% of the impactful interactions and all paths to win a game come from this core.
To close this segment I make the following postulate: "In a 60-card main deck that already has four copies of Thoughtseizle, Inquisition of Kozilek and Liliana of the Veil there exists no Modern-legal card that increases the win percentage, strategic coherence and overall strength of an 8Rack deck by an amount greater than the one lost by the exclusion of either of the aforementioned twelve cards in a generalised, unknown metagame."
How to build a full deck?
Expanding on the concepts that the core of the deck provides is not an easy task. The biggest problem here is that the more you search for more cards that provide these effects, the faster the quality and power level of the cards seems to go down. Luckyly, before we hit the "literally unplayable" section, there are quite a few cards in the middle that are both synergystic with our strategy and aren't too bad as standalone cards. Not that they are amazing. But we have to make sacrifices with power level every once in a while. There is a debate as old as Magic - at which point does synergy and the push to find it become a liability? Usually, as is the case here, there is a fairly high threshold before our desire to find discard effects Deckbuilding Wrong puts us in the driver seat of a pile of bad cards. Let's take a look and some of those cards and how they can define the different 8Rack builds:
The first thing we need to do when looking to assemble a discard-oriented deck is to accumulate a critical number of pieces with the actual discarding effect so that we have a consistent stream of them throughout the game. Our qualitative discard options are covered entirely by the core. Not only are 8 cards enough for the job, it is also very difficult to find good options that perform consistently. The quantitative discard tools however are far from over with Liliana. The first and most important thing to do is find a way to simulate Hymn to Tourach, because it's the baseline for what powerful discard is, even despite the fact that most of it's power comes from the random effect, taking away from the opponent the ability to decide which cards they pitch. Nonetheless, we can look at a few cards that offer us a one-for-two trade, thus creating card advantage.
Wrench Mind jumps out as a "Hymn with a drawback". It is one of those cards that are bad on their own, but the synergy with the rest of the deck makes it OK. Unlike many drawbacks we don't care, this one is significant. A lot of decks run maindeck artifacts and Affinity is the king of the format. It's very good when it hits 2 cards and very bad when it only hits 1, no middle ground. Despite that, we aren't unhappy to run it, because statistically it will be a two-for-one most of the time.Blightning, on the other hand, guarantees to take away two cards all the while dealing damage, too. It has specific mana requirements, being in two colours, and costs a whopping 3 mana. But it's still a two-for-one and that's pretty much all you need when it comes to these sorts of things.Raven's Crime is a very interesting addition to this list, for sure. But if you take a closer look, technically it's still BB for two cards when you retrace it. That's even better than Wrench! In all seriousness, while pitching lands early on in the game is not what you want to do, at the later stages when you have a developed mana base this is as good as any other Hymn imitation.Additionally, you can pay a little more mana for a "hand nuke" like Mind Shatter or Rakdos's Return. For only 4 mana, the former works exactly like Hymn to Tourach while the latter trades off the randomness for direct damage. It's not as bad as it looks though - in the later stages of the game when you have 4 mana and this is your only card, it doesn't matter if it cost 1, 2, 3 or 4 mana, you will play it either way. Unlike most decks, 8Rack's play style naturally supports being hellbent.
When making an 8Rack deck, it is important to think what effects you want and how many of them. When it comes to qualitative discard, you are looking for redundancy and consistency, because it's most powerful in the first few turns of the game. The time for quantitative discard comes later, so your numbers are going to depend on whether you want to consistently have access to it almost every turn, in case the opponent keeps refuelling, or if you want to accommodate more tools to shore up the strategy's biggest weakness - topdecking, a.k.a. the ability of your opponent to play what they draw for their turn. Generally anywhere between 8 and 10 such cards is considered optimal but you can go with slightly less or slightly more depending on the situation. Keep in mind that they don't necessarily have to be reactive, since putting pressure of your own often accomplishes the same goal.
After you have assembled your discarding suite, you can look at the win conditions. The deck is called 8Rack because it plays 4 The Rack and 4 Shrieking Affliction, but these numbers are not set in stone. Often you can shave a couple of them to make room for other things without significantly hurting the consistency with which you draw them, especially if you run a card draw engine. With that being said, 8 is the recommended number for many reasons, the most important of which is consistency. Or, in some builds, perhaps you would want alternative win conditions, such as a couple of finisher creatures or another powerful static effect. Around 6 to 10 slots are reserved for various ways to close out the game.
Having taken care of the primary strategy, it's time to look at the big picture. As a discard deck, you have one huge weakness (per already mentioned) that you need to cover - the enemy can play whatever they topdeck on their turn because discard is primarily at sorcery speed. There are a few things that can be done about this problem. First, you can play instant-speed discard. But be wary - those effects are few and precious and generally come on under-powered cards. The one with the biggest power level is certainly Kolaghan's Command, but other honourable mentions include Funeral Charm/Piracy Charm and Esper Charm. Charming, aren't they? The sad truth is that filling your deck with a bunch of cards such as those puts a lot of constraints on your deck. The "big ones" cost 3 mana of multiple colours, while the little charms just aren't impactful enough to have a lot of them in the 75. The exemplary list above makes compromises to use some Kolaghan's Commands because it treats it as removal that can occasionally put the instant speed discard to good use. Generally we want the damage from it and the fact that it reduces the number of cards in the opponent's hand by a number greater than 0 and we pretend we aren't unhappy we paid 3 mana for that. Now then, the other thing you can do is to play removal in order to deal with topdecked threats. As a control deck you want to have ways to impact the entirety of the board state, not just the hand. Depending on how many slots you have left, you can run anywhere from 8 to 10 spells that impact a variety of things - from spot removal to board wipes, targeting creatures, artifacts, enchantments, planeswalkers or generally anything you'd like to kill. If you want to run as little removal as possible, there is always the option to go with a static effect "à la prison-type deck" with Ensnaring Bridge.
Here is a list of all relevant mono-black removal spells, tiered from best to worst (with a special commentary track bonus feature, limited availability):
Fatal Push! - the newest addition to this list, coming from Aether Revolt, is one of the most highly anticipated, hyped, overhyped and supermegaultraoverhyped cards to be printed recently. With quotes from pro players such as "a format-defining card", "#makeblackdecksgreatagain", "this card will warp what creatures are played in the format more that Bolt does" and the like, it's hard not to make it's way to the top of the list. Because most of the hype was not without merit and it has indeed bred new life into the format. Make no mistake, Push is a very powerful card that's here to stay as a staple in Modern and even the eternal formats. It has given a power level boost to all black decks and as one of them, 8Rack is reaping the benefits too, especially the multi-colour versions that can take full advantage of Fatal Push.Dismember - this should be your go-to removal in black. Very flexible, very powerful. When facing against a must-kill threat, this can do the job for 1 mana, but when you are in no hurry to make an explosive turn you can save life and pay the full 3. Kills about 90% of the creatures played in Modern and works around indestructibility, whenever that comes up.Murderous Cut - the potential value of this card is incredibly high, most often killing something for just one black mana. It's ranked second due to power level, but make no mistake - this is not an automatic 4-of in the deck. Running around 2 is optimal, as you don't want to see it in your opening hand but you do want it as soon as there are a few cards in the graveyard. Most often it is correct for it to be a singleton in the deck but it is very very rarely correct to not run it. I recommend starting to build your removal pallette with 1 Cut and go from there.Disfigure - this cheap and efficient gem of a kill spell is often underrated because it pales next to Lighning Bolt, but in a metagame filled with Affinity, Infect, Burn and Merfolk having a way to interact with them as early as possible is invaluable.Slaughter Pact - a card that enables very powerful turns in which to turn around the game. Like Cut it's good as a singleton or at most a 2-of, this time because it has a targeting restriction. Nevertheless it is a powerful spell that can enable a clean board for Liliana and let you deploy her on the same turn.Victim of Night - getting further down the "kill spells with a condition" hole you have to pick and choose what you want to play around. Victim's effect is very similar to Doom Blade's, because the vast majority of Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies are indeed black. Still, those types of cards are not very commonly present in the Modern metagame, so Victim of Night is going to be a safe bet most of the time.Doom Blade - speaking of the devil... it's a fine spell if you aren't facing many black creatures but you shouldn't bet on that.Go for the Throat - avoid playing this card in Modern. Affinity is (and likely will always be) one of the three best and most popular decks in any field and metagame. The macthup is sketchy as-is, you don't want you removal to be dead weight. Aside from that deck, the everpresent Tron (8Rack's worst matchup) and a plethora of other decks use artifact creatures that you are likely to need to kill. If you don't have other options, limit the use of Throat to a one-of.Darkblast - a precious tool to have in your arsenal, this recurring removal is great against infect and affinity. The best thing is you only need one, then you can dredge it as many times as you want until the opponent runs out of threats. It's more a sideboard card than the rest but still worth mentioning.Smother - while it's GB brrother Abrupt Decay sees a ton of play, Smother suffers from some weaknesses. A few years ago it could have been good as a removal spell, but recently the format has seen an abundance of good 4-drops, as well as developing new decks that rely on bigger hitters. Too many bad matchups to justify playing it, but it does what it does.Hero's Downfall - I might get trashed on for even mentioning it, but here it is. Of course, the card is very expensive, at 3 mana it better kill creatures, their grandmothers and it's be nice of it made popcorn, too. But, nonetheless, it has an incredibly solid impact - it does what it does without drawbacks or targeting restrictions. Hell, it even kills planeswalkers. With Nahiri coming in Modern to stay I wouldn't be surprised if black decks started running a few Downfalls. Still - pretty bad, try not to play it, but if you really need something killed this will do the job better than most other options the format can offer.
To round things out, you will need mana. For the mono-black lists you can do just fine by having nothing but Swamps, but don't limit yourself! There is a lot of power that can come from playing the proper lands, be it eiter utility or straight up damage. First off, let's talk about some numbers. 8Rack is a deck with a generally low mana curve and it's approach to the game naturally leads to a hellbent status for both payers, thus limiting the amount of things you can do in one turn. As such, the deck can operate on a very low curve. It is possible to work with 20 lands, but for those who like to keep their land count low, 21 is the recommended figure. Most builds and pilots settle on 22, which is a solid number that gives good percentages for 3 mana on turn 3 and doesn't flood too often in the late game. For the high land count aficionados and those who like to explore effects like Smallpox, 23 is the go-to number and 24 is the ceiling above which you are facing significant flooding.
As far as choices go, we can see a couple of interesting cards that pop up. Dakmor Salvage is card you may not have heard before, but in combination with Raven's Crime it can enable a "soft lock" on the opponent when they are brought down to 1 card in hand. Here you can see statistical data about mana bases, but a word of warning - this is slightly offset, because most contemporary lists only run the singleton Dakmor, which due to being a tapland affects makes how much mana you can have on a turn be disproportionate to how many lands you've drawn. Other than Dakmor, most 8Rack lists make use of Mutavault as a beater that can't be killed because it's not always a creature. To offset the colourless mana, many builds run a varying number of Urborg, tomb of Yawgmoth. Here is a rundown for Urborgs.
And that's pretty much the basics! If you want to see suggestions about other cards you can use in the strategy, the next segment covers that. Now I will present a few different 8Rack builds that highlight the main differences in card and strategy choices:
BR versionMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Lands: 224 Blackcleave Cliffs4 Bloodstained Mire4 Marsh Flats2 Blood Crypt1 Godless Shrine6 Swamp1 MountainDiscard: 184 Thoughtseize4 Inquisition of Kozilek4 Liliana of the Veil3 Blightning3 Kolaghan's CommandRemoval:84 Lightning Bolt4 Fatal PushCreatures: 44 Asylum VisitorWincon: 84 The Rack4 Shrieking AfflictionSideboard: 154 Surgical Extraction1 Anger of the Gods1 Damnation1 Shatterstorm3 Wear // Tear2 Blood Moon3 Grafdigger's Cage
This deck (featured in the exemplary deck section) does a little bit of everything. Taking advantage of BR cards such as Blightning and Kolaghan's Command, we can significantly increase the power of our discard and speed up the clock by dealing direct damage to the opponent. The trade-off we make is that the 3 cmc slot gets jam packed with stuff, so you are playing a slightly slower game than your average 8Rack deck. The next thing we take from red is the upgraded removal - Lightning Bolt specifically, as a much better Disfigure, but the access to Terminate is also very good. The sideboarding options are particularly impactful, since black on it's own doesn't have amazing sideboard cards. While the deck is slightly slower to get going, overall it represents a faster clock, can interact earlier and has a sideboard plan that completely crushes some matchups.
Mono-black with Asylum VisitorMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Lands: 2112 Swamp4 Mutavault4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth1 Dakmor SalvageDiscard: 194 Thoughtseize4 Inquisition of Kozilek4 Liliana of the Veil4 Wrench Mind2 Raven's Crime1 Mind ShatterRemoval: 84 Fatal Push3 Dismember1 Murderous CutCreatures: 44 Asylum VisitorWincon: 84 The Rack4 Shrieking AfflictionSideboard: 154 Surgical Extraction2 Waste Not3 Spellskite2 Pithing Needle3 Grafdigger's Cage1 Night of Souls' Betrayal
This build features the greedy 21 lands mana base. It's a classic take on the strategy that puts the new Asylum Visitor to work as a draw engine. It's main features are that it runs a lot more removal than most mono-black builds and aims to consistently out-value the opponent. The inclusion of Visitor allows for a more diverse sideboard with less 4-ofs, which leads to improved win rates against a higher number of matchups through powerful hate cards, specifically chosen to overlap and be interchangeable with one another for incredible flexibility. This build, more than the rest, sideboards against decks and not archetypes.
Mono-black with Ensnaring BridgeMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Lands: 222x Academy Ruins4x Darkslick Shores4x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth1x Dakmor Salvage11x SwampDiscard: 222 Duress4 Thoughtseize4 Inquisition of Kozilek4 Liliana of the Veil4 Wrench Mind2 Raven's Crime2 Mind ShatterRemoval: 44 Ensnaring BridgeCreatures: 44 SpellskiteWincon: 84 The Rack4 Shrieking AfflictionSideboard: 154 Surgical Extraction3 Night of Souls' Betrayal4 Grafdigger's Cage2 Pithing Needle2 Waste Not
This build is entirely focused on getting an Ensnaring Bridge in play early and never losing it. Although it splashes some blue in order to activate Academy Ruins and Spellskite, it does so painlessly and very lightly. More importantly it has a sideboard plan that's designed to beat the decks that are good against Bridge. The artifact itself acts as a one-card removal for all of the enemy's creatures and covers the weakness of 8Rack that was mentioned earlier - now it doesn't matter if they topdeck a threat because it's not really one as long as Bridge is in play.
MemoryLapse's JaceRackMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Lands: 223 Swamp4 Darkslick Shores4 Polluted Delta4 Creeping Tar Pit1 Sunken Ruins3 Watery Grave3 Urborg, Tomb of YawgmothDiscard: 204 Thoughtseize4 Inquisition of Kozilek4 Liliana of the Veil4 Wrench Mind4 Raven's CrimeRemoval: 62 Smallpox4 Ensnaring BridgeCreatures: 44 Jace, Vryn's ProdigyWincon: 84 The Rack4 Shrieking AfflictionSideboard: 154 Leyline of the Void3 Darkblast4 Annul3 Countersquall1 Go for the Throat
This is a perfect place to spotlight Robert Leva's Blue splash since it is also Bridge-focused. I am keeping this description short because his videos on the subject explain things in great detail and offer a lot more than one paragraph can sum up. Update: this is an old list that does not feature Fatal Push.
White splashMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Lands: 221 Dakmor Salvage3 Godless Shrine4 Concealed Courtyard4 Marsh Flats4 Mutavault2 Swamp4 Urborg, Tomb of YawgmothDiscard: 224 Thoughtseize4 Inquisition of Kozilek4 Liliana of the Veil4 Wrench Mind2 Raven's CrimeRemoval: 64 Fatal Push2 Anguished UnmakingCreatures: 62 Asylum Visitor4 Lingering SoulsWincon: 84 Shrieking Affliction4 The RackSideboard: 154 Surgical Extraction4 Rest in Peace4 Stony Silence3 Kitchen Finks
Here we see a very solid build with lots of four-ofs. Getting into white allows us to utilise white's premium removal in Path to Exile and unconditional answers like Anguished Unmaking while staying on the board with Souls. The biggest reason however remains the supreme sideboard options that allow us to go head to head with Modern's current boogeymen Affinity and Dredge. This build offers consistency and safety while trading off the ability to further supplement the core hand control strategy. Depending on how the global metagame continues to develop this build can range from being the best to being the worst.
200 sample hands per test
One land: One land, any type
Zero land: Zero lands
Too much land: 4+ lands with no Crime
Mutavault issue: One or more Mutavault; Mutavault is preventing or may prevent spells from being cast as needed
2+ Urborg: Two or more Urborgs; sometimes an issue (prevents or may prevent spells from being cast as needed), sometimes not (Crime, lots of other action, etc)
Dakmor issue: One or more Dakmor; Dakmor is preventing or may prevent spells from being cast as needed
22 land "greedy" manabase (2x Dakmor, 4x Mutavault, 4x Urborg, 12x Swamp)
One land: 35 (17.5%)Zero land: 10 (5%)Too much land: 11 (5.5%)Mutavault issue: 33 (16.5%)2+ Urborg: 11 (5.5%)Dakmor issue: 26 (13%)
23 land "conservative" manabase (1x Dakmor, 3x Mutavault, 4x Urborg, 15x Swamp)
One land: 25 (12.5%)Zero land: 4 (2%)Too much land: 18 (9%)Mutavault issue: 11 (5.5%)2+ Urborg: 13 (6.5%)Dakmor issue: 20 (10%)
Conclusions: 22 v 23 land and 1 vs 2 Dakmor is debatable, but 4 Urborg and 3 Mutavault is clearly correct.
Additionally, Noobix_Cube's stats analysis of Urborg in relation to lands that tap for colourless is below.
Hey Guys, I crunched a few numbers to find out how many Urborgs we should run.
Long Story Short:
Run 1 more Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth than all colourless lands combined.
ie: 3 Buried Ruins means run 4 Urborg
Used Hypergeometric distribution to maximise the probability of having access to:
Mana Being Tested
4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
3 Colorless lands
2 Dakmor Salvage
4 Urborg/3 Colourless/13 Swamp (77.3% Chance)
3 Urborg/3 Colourless/14 Swamp (76.5% Chance)
4 Urborg/3 Colourless/13 Swamp (84.9% Chance)
3 Urborg/3 Colourless/14 Swamp (84.3% Chance)
Running 4 Urborg will be even more important if you run more than 3 colourless lands.
Using Less Colorless lands and less Urborg Is a meta choice, trading power for consistency.
However choosing the incorrect amount of Urborg for your choice of colorless lands is not a matter of opinion. It will just put you at a statistically disadvantaged position.
Other cards to consider
Besides the cards discussed already, there are a variety of other options you may wish to use, due to personal preference or your local meta. If you want to discuss a card but it's not listed here, there's a 98% chance it's been discussed to death already in the old thread and rejected, for good reason (some popular examples: Liliana's Caress, Quest for the Nihil Stone, Bloodchief Ascension). If you're determined against all odds to make these kinds of cards work, before discussing them here, please consider doing some testing against top tier decks on MTGO and/or against skilled local paper opponents, then report any results in detail. While we should stay open for any and all possibilities, the hard truth is that a lot of bad cards have been tried time and again to no success.
In any event, we are here now to discuss additional options available to us for consideration when building a deck! The cards you saw in the provided decklists are by no means the end-all-be-all and in fact there are interesting choinces when it comes to substituting similar effects or providing new approaches entirely.
A lot of decks rely on powerful lands to fuel their ridiculous game plans nowadays, from 8Rack's nemesis Tron to the Eldrazi Menace. Lands that ramp, attack, provide card advantage and many more. Ghost Quarter is excellent against many things and the greedier the opponent's mana base it, the more it functions like Strip Mine. While most 8Rack builds do not make use of it currently, you should always keep a couple of them close by because it can become an auto-include overnight.
Often cited as "the poor-man's Academy Ruins, this card does not get enough credit. Being colourless makes it a good substitute for Ruins in a non-blue deck when that's the effect you are looking for. Has great synergy with Dakmor and Darkblast, allowing us to dig for our Bridge or Rack or hate card, or recover a destroyed one. It's an excellent choice for our non-basic, although likely a little less effective overall than Mutavault.
Unfortunately, Waste Not never quite "got there" in terms of playability and power level. It fills in some holes in the deck (such as reach, defense, mana) and steals games on occasion when you get discard chains going, but this requires a good deal of setup. As a bonus, it's good against Living End's cycling creatures, Faithless Looting, Izzet Charm, Desolate Lighthouse, Thirst for Knowledge, Pack Rat, Jeskai Ascendancy, and Desperate Ravings. It's usually a bad topdeck, but as a 1 or 2-of, you'll rarely run into that issue.
Despite appearing on another list, this is one of the most discussed and fan-favourite cards, so I include it here as well. It can be good. It can even be great. Smallpox is a card with a lot of value packed in for the small price of BB. Cautious use and proper resource management can leave opponent's staggered without a chance for recovery. One of the things it does exceptionally well is combating the three-coloured decks which need their mana so so badly. Other decks that fall prey to this spell are ones that rely on a small amount of big creatures, which is what most midrange strategies attempt to do. While often times hindering the 8Rack player just as much as the opponent, this deck's ability to operate on a very low mana curve and often in a hellbent status helps it break the symmetry in some cases. This is further amplified by the fact that a lot of builds don't run any creatures at all. Another thing that makes Smallpox really strong in some situations is when an opponent gets screwed with their draw. While it's not a good habit to rely on chance for your card to really shine, it's a reality of Magic and when it does happen, Smallpox can win the game on the spot. In the author of this Primer's personal opinion, this card is bad in Modern and has no business being in your 8Rack deck.
Every Modern player should be familiar with one of the most iconic cards of the format. A powerful draw engine at a price, this ambitious schemer has been in and out of various builds ever since the deck's inception. Nowadays 8Rack is in the unique position of being able to play Asylum Visitor as a "Bob without a drawback", but if you are playing a version that isn't consistent on bringng it's own hand to 0 quickly or doesn't want to be hellbent, this is the draw engine for you.
An excellent alternate win condition that can attack under Bridge. If your Plan B is tokens, whether slashing white or not, this card should at least be on your radar. Much like the previous entry on the list, this is power at a price. The tokens are everything you want - free of charge (initial taxing fees not excluded) and evasive. It's a great tool to have against any non-aggressive deck and can often be seen in transformative sideboards across builds. Plus, you get bonus points for flavour synergy if you are running the "correct" printing of Thoughtseize.
A decent replacement for Surgical Extraction. Some people will claim it's downright better but trust me, nobody is counterspelling your extractions any time soon. If you don't mind unnecessarily paying mana in order not to lose life, then this is the card for you!
How to build a good sideboard?
The key to a good sideboard is preparation. More than simply knowing the metagame, which certainly helps a lot, you have to know your own deck. Often times people have a hard time playing with their sideboards because they don't know what to cut for what and when to do so. For this reason first I will explain the three types of sideboarding there are and we will take a look at how they apply to an 8Rack deck:
1. The all-in.Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Surgical Extraction4 Rest in Peace4 Stony Silence3 Kitchen Finks
This is the type of sideboard that goes heavy on hating out a couple of decks with 4 copies of it's most important cards and 3 copies of the last one. This is the most recommended strategy for 8Rack decks since they often lack card draw and you want as many chances to get what you boarded into your opening hand. Here we see the sideboard of the White Splash deck that has 4 copies of Rest in Peace to hate mainly on Dredge and as a nice bonus it also hoses decks like Living End, Reanimator, etc., 4 copies of Stony Silence that is there because of Affinity but very importantly also staggers Tron by a lot and lastly 3 copies of Kitchen Finks against aggressive decks that play for the board such as (Death's Shadow) Zoo, Burn and various others.
2. Prep->coin->concede.Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Surgical Extraction2 Waste Not3 Spellskite2 Pithing Needle3 Grafdigger's Cage1 Night of Souls' Betrayal
*****ty non-mtg memes aside, the hey word here is preparation in the form of diversity. This is a type of sideboard that relies on diversity and having a few timely answers to a multitude of different angles of attack. In this example we take a look at the board of our Asylum Visitor build. Card draw in the deck makes sure we can filter through it faster, so we can find our sided cards even with less copies of them. A common trait for this type of sideboards is to have singletons of different cards with similar effects that make tradeoffs in different areas, further increasing the flexibility of the sideboard.
3. The drag queen.Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Surgical Extraction3 Night of Souls' Betrayal4 Grafdigger's Cage2 Pithing Needle2 Waste Not
Here we see an example of a transformative board plan. This is taken from the mono-black Bridge version and the theory behind it is that Bridge is weak against multiple small creatures like 1/1s. In this instance, Night of Souls' Betrayal comes in and suddenly you are no longer a Bridge deck but a deck that can't lose against tokens and has a good game plan against Infect. A key feature here is that Night is a different card type than Bridge since it dodges the hate that is going to be brought in against it (most of the time).
You can hear some people say that a true transformative sideboard is one that changes a bigger portion of the deck and one where almost all of the cards come in, but honestly those are very fringe cases and generally a bad idea. Very few decks can support this and have to be build with it in mind.
We saw all three types of sideboard represented among the different 8Rack builds. Each has it's own benefits and drawbacks that you have to evaluate - both in terms of which style you want to play and which one fits your deck the best. Combinations do exist, but those are very specific cases and are usually a sign of a really well tuned decklist.
If you want to craft your own sideboard, there are a few key points you must address when building it. The questions you have to ask are:
What am I trying to do?How am I going to approach that?Can my main deck support this sideboard?What numbers make sense?
Starting with the first question is not that hard. In general you can look at your deck and see where it's weaknesses are then address them with your sideboard. Common types of weaknesses include insufficient removal, weak early/mid/late game, lack of hate against X/Y/Z linear strategies, not enough resilience to play the grindfest matchups, etc. Note that these are not 8Rack weaknesses necessarily, rather general problems decks can have. In our strategy specifically, we can take a look at a deck and figure out a sideboard plan by answering the questions above.
So let's take a look at our Mono-black Bridge deck from before. We can answer the first question easily - I am worried that 0/1s and sometimes 1/1s can get under my Bridge, which I identify as a weakness to the approach. Things like Noble Hierarch, Signal Pest and others are common enough in the metagame alongside a multitude of tokens, so that's a concern. With this in mind, what am I trying to do with my sideboard? I want to address those concerns. I discover the card Night of Souls' Betrayal and I decide this is way to combat those strategies. How am I going to approach that? I am going to be doing a transformative sideboard in which I swap out all of my now useless Bridges for this card. Once I settle on this decision I have a clear plan going into games against Infect and Affinity*** and this helps me not waste any time or make wrong decisions when sideboarding. Now that I know what I'm doing and why I have to ask myself can my deck support playing Night? As a mono-black deck I'm not worried about having the double black at any point in the game and I know as long as I don't pull the trigger on Raven's Crime before I cast my Soul's Betrayal that I will be OK. Which brings me to the last question - how many copies do I want? I know I'm swapping out a playset of Bridges but does that mean I bring in a full set of Betrayals? In an ideal world, yes, but I must keep a perspective on things. Night of Souls' Betrayal is a 4 mana enchantment. I definitely want to see it, but I don't necessarily want it straight in my opening 7 and I most certainly don't want to see two copies at that stage. The correct number for this approach is 3, so I put 3 of them in my sideboard and now I'm good to go.
This is the type of process you want to be using when crafting your sideboards. Usually, except for one card, nothing is set in stone and your sideboards will reflect the way you want to play the game and approach different matchups. You can value defence against some strategies more than against others or you can value synergy over power level. The key thing it is to always keep a perspective on the grand scheme of your deck and tune the sideboard accordingly.
***I am no saying you would necessarily want to take out your Bridges against Affinity, merely presenting a possible option. Many times doing so can actually hurt you if their build is more about massive buffs with Steel Overseer and cards like Master of Etherium, but as a general thing siding out Bridge is more often correct than not. But it's not an auto-pilot decision.
Desperately trying to get a point across
Some more observant readers already noticed that throughout the five different decks featured in this Primer there has been a full playset of one specific card in each and every one of them. Let's talk about Surgical Extraction!
While Modern offers an incredible variety of powerful sideboarding tools, there is one card that the author of this Primer believes should be ever-present in every 8Rack sideboard. This card works incredibly well with the strategy and game plan of the deck that in theory, it should be in the starting 60 cards. It's relevant in almost every matchup and ranges from nifty to gamebreaking, depending on the deck you are facing. The only reason it's not in the main deck is that it's really mediocre against a few decks, but those few decks happen to be among the most played, meta-defining ones out there. But with a wide range of applications, from destroying strategies to weakening the power or speed of the enemy deck, this card deserves a special reserved spot in every build. In some specific metagames you can run fewer copies or none at all and that's fine. In others you are going to want another playset. Surgical Extraction is a very polarising card but it is also one of the best tools this entire strategy has access to.
And of course, once again, honourable mention to Extirpate for those of you who prefer it over Extraction.
Card evaluation theory
When building a deck it is important to be able to judge what any card you want to put in will be doing for you. Some will have synergy, others will be full of raw power and there are going to be those in between. Those can be quite tricky to evaluate properly, especially because "synergy" has a very big delta of power due to it's inherent nature. That is why here I present to you a model that you can use for card evaluation. In most cases, if you have to chose between two cards to add to a deck, the one that rates higher will be better. This is mainly a tool to help guide players who are new to the deck/strategy/game with deckbuilding, but can also be a good method for established pilots too. In this space I will be presenting a simplified version of the model because the full thing is still in active development.
First and foremost, what is "Simplified card evaluation theory" exactly? This is a model that generates power level numbers for cards based on several factors:
Raw power level - this is the effect of a card, disregarding it's accessibility.Density - the more copies of a given card there are, the more likely it is to affect the game and the more times it does so, the stronger it becomes.Synergy - a dynamic system that puts the given card in the context of it's surroundings and increases or decreases it's score based on other cards within the deck.
Let's look at how those factors function. The model is based on a scaling ranking system in which a range is assigned to attributes on a case-by-case basis.
Raw power level - ranges from 1 to 3. I've chosen to go with a small scale in the simplified version, because the multiplicative nature allows for incredibly high variance and it doesn't have the negative attributed that the full-scale system does to balance them out. So far I've gone with "low power level = 1", "high power level = 2" and "off the charts = 3".Density - this is the multiplier for "raw power level". It's directly correlated to the number of copies of the card in question in your deck.Synergy - this is an additive attribute that doesn't scale by itself. Every card that the examined one has a beneficial interaction with increases it's score by 1.
This is the jist of "Simplified card evaluation theory". If you want to look at examples of it being applied, click on the spoiler.
Now I want to give specific examples of cards being rated. Note that most cards fall somewhere between 1 and 10 on this scale. Anywhere from 6 and up is good, while those that break the 10 are usually a clear indication that your deck wants to play them over anything else. In this instance I'm going to run "the core" through the system and see what I get, but you can do this for every single card. It's very important to always be aware that the model is applied to cards within one deck, because context is so important. You can examine them in vacuum, but in this example I'm going to be looking through the lens of those cards in 8Rack:
Raw power level - 2. While offering a valuable and powerful effect, it's nothing that can run away with a game on it's own.
Density - 4. This is very self-explanatory. Four copies, you don't want any less than that.
Synergy - 2. Very much dependable on the exact version of 8Rack you are playing, but Thoughtseize is relieving pressure from Liliana and it's helping to keep the opponent's hand size manageable for the discard to follow it up.
Thoughtseize's power level - (2x4)+2=10.
Inquisition of Kozilek
Raw power level - 2. A slightly less powerful effect than Thoughtseize, it's still not only exactly what the deck wants but a very disrupting and powerful ability in it's own right.
Density - 4. This is, again, self-explanatory. Four copies, you don't want any less than that.
Synergy - 3. While on the surface the card is exactly like Thoughtseize, it works a lot more favourably with your life total. While 2 life is a small price to pay for such a powerful effect, not paying anything is even better. Coupled with Liliana synergy and the fact that it's actually reducing the hand size of the enemy, this gets a score of 3 here.
Inquisition's power level - (2x4)+3=11.
Liliana of the Veil
Raw power level - 3. Lilly truly does it all. Her effects are impactful and she can win a game all on her own. This is truly the one card in the deck that's over the top when it comes to power.
Density - 4. As many Lilianas as possible.
Synergy - 4. She has good interactions with half of the deck. The targeted discard keeps her safe, she discards on her own which helps enable the win conditions, she can kill creatures to prevent death and enable board presence for the builds that also play creatures.
Liliana's power level - (3x4)+4=16.
On the other hand, we can look at how important cards are that do nothing on their own. This is why this model is so good - it lets us see the value even in cards that we normally wouldn't.
The Rack / Shrieking Affliction
Raw power level - 1. The cards don't really do anything on their own. Their impact, as standalone cards, is so little that they have a score of one just so it doesn't screw up the multiplier.
Density - 4. In an 8Rack these are the 8 Racks, so it's natural to have 4 copies of each.
Synergy - 5. Thoughtseize and IoK work with them, the mass discard works with them, Liliana works with them. Yes, this is a weighted example, looking at the racks in 8rack, but this is to showcase that a card can rate high based on synergy, too.
Rack's power level - (1x4)+5=9.
And that's about it! When in doubt, run cards through this system and if they score higher than other things you were considering, maybe you should give them a shot!
When talking about how one deck fares against another, there are a couple of says of looking at it. In this section I will go over how our strategy matches up against others in the Modern field and in the next section I'm going to break it down for each deck. In order to do that I am once again going to cover what 8Rack's overall approach to the game is and where does it fall on the archetype wheel.
8Rack is a hand control deck. Which really just means that it's a control deck that's focusing a little bit too much on interacting with the opponent's hand rather than anything else. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that it's a slow deck (although typically it's not fast by any stretch of the imagination) or that it can't play proactively at all. What it does mean is that it's never the beatdown. More so than just not playing creatures to beat the enemy down in the first place, 8Rack does not go into any game as the aggressor. Sometimes the game can turn out that way, other times the opportunity can present itself. But generally speaking, you are not the beatdown.
Let's take a moment to understand what this means. Typically our general approach to the game means we lose against aggro decks (such as Burn, Zoo, Affinity, Merfolk and the like) and we win against combo (Jeskai Control, Ad Nauseam, Living End, Scapeshift) and midrange decks (Jund, Abzan, Eldrazi). Unfortunately, a bigger portion of Modern's metagame is overtaken by aggro decks of all varieties and this means we are often favoured to lose when heading into the match. Luckily, we modify our deck to account for those weaknesses. But this is besides the point here. Another thing to take into consideration is that the unique approach of our deck naturally makes the control mirror a good pairing and the combo decks we tend to shred to pieces. Here are the guiding points of how our deck performs against different archetypes:
Aggro - unfavoured
Combo Control - unfavoured
Control - favoured
Combo - very favoured
Midrange - slightly favoured
Of course, if this was as true in practice as it is in theory then 8Rack should be a lot higher up the Modern food chain. Unfortunately, we have to factor in the lack of card draw, inconsistency issues that can arise sometimes, good and bad opening hands both on ours and the opponent's side, the linearity of our strategy and many other factors that skew the theoretical models slightly out of balance.
By far our worst matchup, RG Tron almost always feels like the deck was custom built to beat us. Oblivion Stone wipes our entire board, Karn Liberated gets rid of troublesome permanents, and they have a high amount of redundancy, allowing them to recover from even tons of discard on our part. Surgical Extraction sideboard gives us a fighting chance: use it primarily on O Stone and Karn (the Urza lands before they get all three out are ideal but they almost never discard them); in some cases their dig/tutor spells and Wurmcoil Engine can be good targets, too. Also, Needle naming O Stone or Karn (choose Stone first) can do a lot of work, although proves futile when they wipe it out with whatever you didn't name (a regular occurrence).
Sideboarding: -4 Wrench Mind -1 Slaughter Pact -1 Victim of Night +3 Surgical Extraction +2 Pithing Needle +1 Pack Rat
Probably the least understood and most misplayed matchup, Affinity is favoured for us, particularly post-board. Bridge and removal do well against them, and what they don't do, Darkblast makes up for and then some in games 2/3. One of the tricks to playing against them is to understand hands that are great against other decks are sometimes poor against them (Wrench Mind and 'developing' hands are often awful here), and hands that are poor against other decks are great against them (removal and Rack heavy hands, particularly those with Bridge and/or Darkblast). Also, be aware particularly good players or just those experienced against 8Rack can sneak a 0 power creature under Bridge and then equip it if they have double black available. It usually doesn't happen, unless they have two irrelevant lands and we have Urborg out (for this reason you shouldn't play Urborg unless you need to). Signal Pest and Arcbound Ravager can also sneak under Bridge, so play around them / kill them.
Sideboarding: -4 Wrench Mind -2 Pack Rat +2 Darkblast +2 Bile Blight +2 Pithing Needle
This matchup is tough game 1, but very favorable in games 2/3 thanks to extra removal, Nyxathid, and Syphon Life. If we can't discard or remove Eidolon of the Great Revel, it will often take over the game for them. Like Affinity, they dump their hand for us, so sometimes we can just race with Rack damage.
Check out a great statistical analysis of the matchup by ktkenshinx here.
Sideboarding: -1 Thoughtseize -2 Pack Rat -4 Ensnaring Bridge +1 Shrieking Affliction +2 Bile Blight +3 Nyxathid +1 Syphon Life
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Ascendancy functions much like Storm in that they 'go off' with a ton of cantrips and can win through even a ton of discard on our part with a decent amount of luck, thanks to all the draw and redundancy. Our best shot is to tear apart their hand quickly and keep it that way, making it difficult or impossible for them to win, while keeping their mana dorks off the table at all costs. Versions running Waste Not can sometimes benefit significantly from Ascendancy discard triggers.
The deck can deal with or get around our Bridge easily enough, plus they sometimes bring in Leyline of Sanctity, so post-board, we take it out and focus on creature control and beating them with creatures (though the discard plan should still be pursued whenever possible). Extraction doesn't do much against them since Glittering Wish exiles itself and they can fetch Jeskai Ascendancy from the sideboard.
Sideboarding: -4 Ensnaring Bridge +4 Darkblast
This is mostly a cakewalk for us, although Monastery Swiftspear has made the matchup a little worse for us. Darkblast helps a lot post-board (although little against MS).
Sideboarding: -2 Pack Rat -4 Ensnaring Bridge +2 Bile Blight +2 Darkblast +1 Pack Rat +1 Syphon Life
One of our harder matchups, this deck packs precision discard, Abrupt Decay, and draw (Dark Confidant), all of which can hurt a lot. That said, Bridge can often hold down the fort for a few turns at least, and a well-timed Pack Rat can ruin their 1-for-1 attrition plan, and serve well as a backup Bridge that gets around Abrupt Decay. Also, their Lily is sometimes terrible against us (although can be great if they're not afraid of Racks).
Check out a great statistical analysis of the matchup by ktkenshinx here.
Sideboarding: -1 Slaughter Pact +1 Pack Rat
One of our best matchups, Bridge alone can win us the game unless they're especially fast (usually they're not). Post-board, it's about the same, although they sometimes run 1 or 2 Steel Sabotage, so play around it. Spreading Seas will occasionally screw us out of casting double black cards, so hold off on playing Urborg unless you need to.
Sideboarding: -2 Pack Rat +2 Bile Blight
Also one of our best matchups, for the same reason Merfolk is: Bridge shuts them down hard. Plus, them going all in on one creature means it's easily dealt with by Lily (note sacrifice gets around Totem armor). Still, Kor Spiritdancer can be problematic, some versions run Suppression Field which can be annoying, and post-board they bring in Nature's Claim and sometimes Leyline of Sanctity, so watch out for those.
Sideboarding: No changes
This one is counterspell based, so we fare much better than against RG Tron. Play around Condescend and bounce spells, discard artifacts when necessary to make Wrench Mind better, and land a Bridge (two, preferably), when you know or suspect they have no counterspells. If you land a Pack Rat, go all in on it if you know their hand isn't threat heavy and you should steal the game quick. Post-board, do the same but try to Extract Tron pieces, Oblivion Stone (typically they have one main, one side), and bounce spells.
Sideboarding: -4 Wrench Mind +3 Surgical Extraction +1 Pack Rat
Bridge is great main and post-board here. Watch out for Ajani's Pridemate, which can deliver a hard beating quickly. Some versions run artifact removal, although not much, but play around it.
Sideboarding: No changes
A good matchup, although as with all combo decks, sometimes they can win out nowhere despite our best efforts (in this case, it's with Scapeshift). Their mana ramp is a lot more valuable than it might look (keep them at 5 land or lower and we're probably safe), so keep that in mind when choosing targets. Beyond that, it's the usual fare against counterspell heavy decks: rip apart their hand, (mostly) not care about Remand, and put them on a good clock (the all-in Pack Rat plan can be great). Post-board, we have the excellent Surgical Extraction, but they (usually) have the ever-frustrating Obstinate Baloth, so be wary of it until you land a Bridge or get a Rat engine going.
Sideboarding: -2 Pack Rat +3 Surgical Extraction (yes, go to 61 cards)
Infect is fast and has creature protection so sometimes can steal games, but typically our combination of discard, removal, and Bridge will prove too much for them. Discard whatever they have less of (usually, it's creatures), or sometimes protection spells. Post-board, Darkblast does major work; just be aware of Pendelhaven (also, Nature's Claim).
Sideboarding: -2 Pack Rat +2 Darkblast
This one plays out like Ascendancy in that they use a ton of cantrips to 'go off', although instead of relying on creatures to chain together spells, they rely on rituals (spells that net mana), and the graveyard. It also has a high amount of redundancy and can go off with very few cards in hand, thanks to Pyromancer Ascension. Be sure to kill their Goblin Electromancer asap or they're very likely to win that turn or the next. Post-board they bring in Empty the Warrens to dodge graveyard hate. As such, Bile Blight is very good here if you can afford to run it in your meta. In combination with our discard and removal, Leyline of the Void is often a silver bullet. Unfortunately, it's only really good against this deck and Living End, neither of which are very common. For most people, I recommend just making the most of your Extractions: Ascension, Electromancer, and Manamorphose are your top targets (they often get stuck on blue mana if they don't have Manamorphose).
Sideboarding: -2 Pack Rat +2 Bile Blight -4 Ensnaring Bridge +3 Surgical Extraction +1 Nyxathid
A nearly monoblue deck with counterspells, so we have it easy here. You won't see this deck often, but when you do, know that their hate cards are mostly dead against you, and Darkblast kills everything they have.
Sideboarding: -4 Ensnaring Bridge +2 Darkblast +2 Bile Blight
'Fast' Zoo throws a load of efficient one mana creatures and also burn spells at us, which can be a real challenge, but Bridge can do a lot of work against it. 'Big' Zoo is slower and much easier to handle. It operates basically the same, but has bigger, slower creatures. Be wary of artifact removal in both cases.
Sideboarding: -2 Pack Rat -1 Thoughtseize +2 Bile Blight +1 Syphon Life
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This comes in monowhite and GW varieties. White is generally easier because they don't have Loxodon Smiter, but both are a pain because of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (kill her immediately unless you have an unusually high amount of land in play) and Leonin Arbiter; for monowhite, watch our for alpha strikes courtesy of Flickerwisp (which can temporarily get rid of Bridge). As with Scapeshift and their Baloths, be careful against GW with non-precise discard unless you have a Bridge out.
Sideboarding: No changes
An easy match, although occasionally they will get very aggressive quickly (Lingering Souls + Intangible Virtue hurts) and blow us out. Bridge does a ton of work; just be wary of the rare bit of artifact removal. Also be aware sometimes they'll try to get in lethal under Bridge courtesy of Zealous Persecution. Bile Blight is great, here, acting as a two mana wrath a lot of the time.
Sideboarding: -2 Pack Rat +2 Bile Blight
Easier than RG Tron but harder than Blue Tron, Gifts can be tough because they rely on graveyard shenanigans, which we help with, and also because Gifts Ungiven can act as a toolbox card, which we hate. This is another match we can sometimes go all in on Pack Rat with and steal the game quickly. Iona, Shield of Emeria can win them the game singlehandedly, so try to stick a Lily and keep it there to make them sac it. Post-board, targeting their Tron pieces but especially Gifts with Extraction will help dramatically.
Sideboarding: -4 Wrench Mind +3 Surgical Extraction +1 Pack Rat (artifact version) -2 Pack Rat +2 Darkblast -2 Victim of Night -1 Murderous Cut +3 Surgical Extraction (4c non-artifact version)
Combo decks are easy for us, and this one is no exception. Game 1 discard the key pieces (Ad Nauseam, Angel's Grace, Phyrexian Unlife) as well as mana sources to slow them down; game 2 they have a playset of Leyline of Sanctity, so you may have to abandon the Rack plan for the Rat/Mutavault plan. Fortunately this is very viable with Surgical Extraction, which can lock them out of the game entirely (Nauseam is your top target, but Simian Spirit Guide can also keep them from casting their win con).
Sideboarding: -4 Ensnaring Bridge +3 Surgical Extraction +1 Nyxathid
For this matchup, I've lifted the excellent, thorough description from the old primer written by @negativeview, who has done extensive Living End testing versus a friend.
Sideboarding: -2 Pack Rat -2 Victim of Night -1 Murderous Cut -1 Slaughter Pact +3 Nyxathid +3 Surgical Extraction
Living End's plan A involves cycling Monstrous Carabid turn one, two more similar guys on turn two, and on turn three casting Violent Outburst, cascading into Living End and suddenly having around 12 power on the board out of nowhere. The deck is incredibly consistent if the opponent has no way to disrupt them, but it is also a very greedy deck that is entirely possible to disrupt if you know how to evaluate the cards.
Almost every card in the Living End deck serves multiple purposes. The key is going to be to recognise what stage of the game the Living End player is in, what card effect the Living End player needs, and to discard whatever card is capable of serving that purpose.
Going first or second doesn't matter in most games. If they keep a very very greedy hand, it's better to go first in order to more likely punish them. If you know your opponent is Living End in game one, always go first in case they don't know what you are playing. In game two or three only a bad player is going to keep a super greedy hand against a discard deck, so it likely doesn't matter. Still go first just in case you're playing someone that is willing to give you a free win. It never is a notable advantage to go second.
Stage One - One Land
Living End is a deck that can sometimes keep a one land hand under the right conditions. 8Rack is one of the few decks that can punish them for doing so. If they have only one land, they're banking off of cycling into a second land. Look for any of their cards that allow them to cycle for free (Street Wraith), or for only one mana (Deadshot Minotaur, Architects of Will, Monstrous Carabid). If they run out of castable cyclers and are still stuck on one land, you have essentially just stolen the game.
Stage Two - Two Lands
At two lands, a lot more opens up. They can just cycle one-mana cyclers twice, but what a competent player is going to be doing is to find their third land. At two mana, they can landcycle with things like Twisted Abomination or Pale Recluse. It's better to let them cycle more often and fill up their board than it is to let them easily find a third land. It's around here that I'd start taking things like Violent Outburst or Demonic Dread. Living End doesn't really have a good way to make two land drops, so for most lists this is where you have to start worrying about them getting in range.
Stage Three - Three+ Lands
They are within range to cast their win condition. Our priorities have switched again. Now all they want to do is fill their board and draw more cards to find their win condition. Remove the cheap cyclers. It fills up their yard, but denies them drawing cards.
Extirpate/Surgical Extraction - If you exile all of their copies of Living End they have to switch to Plan B (hard casting their creatures). That plan is significantly easier for 8Rack to beat as it's slow and most of Living End's lands start coming into play tapped.
Ingot Chewer - Most Living End players play at least one copy maindeck, and have all four in the 75 thanks to affinity, which is a matchup they fear greatly. Your bridges aren't necessarily safe even game one.
Maelstrom Pulse - Many Living End players have a copy or two in the sideboard. This makes it a harder decision to run out multiple bridges, though it's still probably the right play since Ingot Chewer is far more likely to see than Pulse.
Beast Within - An answer to any permanent and it gives them a creature to target with Demonic Dread.
Simian Spirit Guide - This card is a contentious issue among Living End players. It allows them to go off a turn early against an unsuspecting opponent, but has no synergy with Living End itself. Keep your eye out for this card and always keep in mind that they can burst up one more mana if they feel like it. I've never played 8Rack against a SSG or played Living End with SSG in the deck. Not sure how aggressively to discard them.
Like most other decks 8Rack too can be fine tuned to combat a specific metagame. In this section I will cover the current state of the Modern metagame (as taken from analysys by Modern Nexus, look at what defines it, which are the decks-to-beat and what strategy is good against them, as well as a list of cards that are 8Rack-applicable and a decklist that's best fit to thrive in it.
Currently the top deck is Jund, to nobody's surprise. If one deck is synonymous with the format, this is it. A midrange strategy at heart, Jund actually shares some key cards with 8Rack, although on a completely different, creature-based plan. Following in suite are Eldrazi (it's debatable how much this is midrange and how much it is aggro) and Abzan. Together these decks make the midrange archetype very well-represented in the format. Other than those decks, in the Tier 1 space we see a plethora of aggro decks such as Burn, Affinity, Infect, Merfolk and Death's Shadow Zoo. Rounding out the space is an explosive combo-control deck in the face of Jeskai Nahiri Control and lastly, quickly gathering steam in the format is non-other than Dredge! Which is very bad because 8Rack is horrible against it.
To summarise - the field is full of aggro (which we can fight with lifegain and getting on the board), midrange (that can be stripped of threats early but also requires strong efficient removal for their powerful topdecks), Nahiri Control that's already a very favoured matchup and Dredge, which is abysmal.
Here are a few cards that are good in this metagame:Lingring Souls - get on the boardDeath's Shadow - same conceptNyxathid - again, same thingDamnation - clear the board against decks that flood itAnger of the Gods - similar conceptTimely Reinforcements - get some life, do some tradesKitchen Finks - lifegain that actually trades with another minion. Twice.Leyline of the Void - Dredge hate, simple as thatRest in Peace - even better Dredge hateNihil Spellbomb - slightly awkward Dredge hate that helps cycle
With all of this in mind, the deck currently recommended against this Modern field is the White Splash. It uses good, efficient hate cards against the worst offenders, contests the board more than most 8Rack builds and gets mileage out of premium removal spells that can answer any threat.
Cards to watch out for
Although we have a backup route to victory, a lot of times it won't work out, and seeing as our primary strategy is quite linear, this leaves us pretty vulnerable to certain hate cards. This section is intended to illustrate how these cards are a problem and how we can attempt to fight through them.
Leyline of Sanctity
Despite popular conception, the deck does not automatically fold to it, and generally speaking, it's not worth it to splash for it, especially in an aggro heavy meta. There are several reasons for these things:
We have "free" and resilient creatures to get around it (Mutavault, Tombstalker, Pack Rat, Tomb of Urami token, Waste Not Zombie tokens, Bitterblossom, etc). Yes, these conflict with Bridge, but sometimes it's not out, and when it is, we can stockpile cards to let them attack (then play cards after attacking to prevent our opponent from attacking), and/or use Lily's ult to blow it up when we're positive we can win that turn.Liliana of the Veil gets around it (and if we use Waste Not, she's even better).We are great at locking down the board, which can buy us enough time to win with our creatures. On rare occasion it even happens through mill.Sometimes they will mull hard to Leyline. Playing lands and spells on top of that means they've done a lot of the work for us. All we need from there is a Lily and Rack (and sometimes other stuff) to secure the win.
This isn't to say Leyline can't steal a win for them or give us a hard time (it can), just that we can definitely win through it.
Chalice of the Void
Can be brutal if cast turn 2 and our hand has lots of 1cmc spells, but even then, sometimes Pack Rat, Wrench Mind, Lily, and/or Bridge do plenty to get the job done. Remember we can force them to sac it or all other permanents with Lily's ultimate. If they choose the latter, and we do it repeatedly, we can likely win through mill.
Wilt-Leaf Liege/Loxodon Smiter/Obstinate Baloth
These cards are all pretty much interchangeable since we hate them all for the same reason: our discard turns them into a free creature, and one that puts us on a 4-5 turn clock, just by itself. If we have a kill spell, Bridge, or wall of Pack Rats, it's fine, but often we won't, or we'll have the answer too late. If you know they have one of these cards in hand, shy away from imprecise discard until you have an answer ready. Otherwise, you should probably take the risk.
This is where you can find the latest, trending, well-performing, creative, interesting and/or hotly debated decks!
While Tom Ross was busy taking down the big fish at the SCG Orlando Modern Open, a player called Aki Vainio won second place at a 63-player WMCQ (World Magic Cup Qualifier) in Pori, Findland with what appears to be a more refined Smallpox list, much akin to Tom Ross'. Weaving in singletons of Murderous Cut and Victim of Night as functional extra copies of Dismember and going greedy with 23 lands in a Smallpox deck, a combination of solid deckbuilding, good sideboard tech and a Top 8 full of good matchups they were able to pull through with a solid finish.
Aki Vainio's 8RackMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Lands: 232 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth4 Mutavault17 SwampDiscard: 234 Thoughtseize4 Inquisition of Kozilek4 Liliana of the Veil4 Wrench Mind3 Raven's Crime4 SmallpoxRemoval:64 Dismember1 Murderous Cut1 Victim of NightWincon: 84 The Rack4 Shrieking AfflictionSideboard:2 Deathmark3 Disfigure4 Leyline of the Void2 Night of Souls' Betrayal4 Pack Rat
Share your thoughts about the build, it's strengths and weaknesses and how you would iterate on it in the future.
Don't forget to check out @Timba's list as well. He is currently holding the record for highest modern rating on the XMage platform with a combined match winrate over about 400 matches is 73%, about 60% vs aggro, 80% vs control and combo.
XMage dominanceMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Spells 374 Inquisition of Kozilek4 Shrieking Affliction4 Liliana of the Veil4 Smallpox1 Doom Blade3 Dismember3 Thoughtseize3 Wrench Mind3 Funeral Charm4 The Rack4 Raven's CrimeLands 234 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth4 Mutavault14 Swamp1 Dakmor SalvageSideboard1 Pack Rat1 Bile Blight2 Flaying Tendrils2 Nyxathid1 Illness in the Ranks2 Disfigure2 Nihil Spellbomb1 Night of Souls' Betrayal3 Leyline of the Void
If you want something more spicy, take a look at @FearDReaper's Monastery Mentor 8Rack! This deck uses the king of prowess as an alternative win condition to grind out boards and get an advantage in the fair matchups.
MentorMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Lands4 Concealed Courtyard2 Dakmor Salvage3 Godless Shrine4 Marsh Flats3 Mutavault2 Swamp4 Urborg, Tomb of YawgmothCreatures3 Asylum Visitor2 Monastery MentorInstants4 Path to Exile1 Anguished UnmakingSorceries4 Inquisition of Kozilek4 Raven's Crime4 Thoughtseize4 Wrench Mind8Racks4 Shrieking Affliction4 The RackPlaneswalkers4 Liliana of the VeilSideboard4 Surgical Extraction3 Rest in Peace3 Stony Silence3 Celestial Purge2 Timely Reinforcements
MemoryLapse's YouTube channel. He uploads gameplay and deck tech videos on a semi-regular basis. For the uninitiated he is the creator of 8Rack.A slightly outdated but interesting video. This is never-before-seen footage of a slightly less refined version of my Ultimate 8Rack deck that a user PMed me. Unfortunately they haven't been active since last year and I can't get in touch with them to ask if it's OK to post it here or not. I figure it can do more good than harm so I'm sharing it.Paul Cheon on 8Rack's recent tournament representation
StarCityGames 23-09-2016. A 5-round video series by Ari Lax playing and talking about the deck using Tom Ross' recent Top 8 list from SCG Tour Orlando (Sp 17-18 2016).Todd Stevens recently wrote about 8Rack and it's rising position within Modern in an article, featuring Zylinski's list.Tom Ross has a premium article up on SCG that talks about the deck's current state and Michael Penner's list.Another Tom Ross entry is his Complete Guide to 8Rack article, which is definitely a recommended read for anyone who wants to pilot the deck.
Just as a foreword, everything you can see here is from around the time this thread was made and everything after that. For older stuff check the Archive section just below this one!
Tom Ross got to Top 8 of SCG Orlando (Sep 17-18) 2016 Modern Open where "The Boss" entered as the 6th seed in the quarterfinals but did not manage to take it further. SCG was kind enough to make a deck tech with him where he talks about some card choices and general strategy.Aki Vainio finished second at a 63-player WMCQ (World Magic Cup Qualifier) in Pori, Findland. Results are taken from MTG Top 8.Scott Yager finished 6th at the SCG Modern IQ Poughkeepsie (29-01-2017) with a Smallpox list that has been the norm for competitive 8Rack recently. A few more Modern League finishes with very similar decklists can be found here and here, with the latter being an updated, post-Revolt list featuring Fatal Push and a light white splash for the sideboard.Stanislaw Zylinski (also known as @Flakmonkey, active contributor in this forum) and Benjamin Tarnowski got 3rd and 4th place respetively in Star City Games regional qualifiers earlier in February.Michael Penner got 11th place at a SCG Grand Prix on 18-02-2017 with this B/W version that seems to be what a lot of the more competitive players are converging on.
Quote from Esperino »I had some concerns, but ultimately I settled on this. If you'll notice, Smallpox first appears on another list of things TO play and there is a featured decklist that has it main deck. Maybe I didn't make that clear enough. I acknowledge other people are using it and they are free to do so but I can't look at somebody with a straight face and tell them to play bad cards because other people sometimes manage to win with them. Maybe I didn't make that clear enough.
Quote from MemoryLapse »I'm impressed by the effort, and I agree with most of it, but not some of the most important parts. I think having a mardu version is too, well let's say exotic to be the face of 8Rack. Just put my stock list as the example list and put Tom Ross's top 8 list up there too. Both lists are nearly identical, but the changes between them are important and should continue to be discussed. I also dislike that we had to start a whole new thread, couldnt they have just edited the other thread?
Quote from Esperino »Quote from MemoryLapse »I'm impressed by the effort, and I agree with most of it, but not some of the most important parts. I think having a mardu version is too, well let's say exotic to be the face of 8Rack. Just put my stock list as the example list and put Tom Ross's top 8 list up there too. Both lists are nearly identical, but the changes between them are important and should continue to be discussed. I also dislike that we had to start a whole new thread, couldnt they have just edited the other thread?
I didn't want to start a whole new thread but the mods said it has to be this say. Hell, I didn't want to be the one responsible for the Primer, but for the past year and a half I've said on multiple occasions that we shouldn't stick to a Primer that hasn't been updated since early 2015, it was getting ridiculous at this point, and that I encourage somebody to go ahead and claim the thread (you being my primary choice if you would please recall). Nobody gave a single F, so I took things into my own, quite competent hands. If somebody is unhappy with the end result (which just fyi is still a work in progress) they had almost two years to do something about it. I waited for as long as I could before I contacted the mods and requested to take control of the thread because I know I have very polarising opinions and a lot of people won't like the changes. But they are here to stay and in time you will see it was all for the better of everybody.
On the decklists manner - first and foremost, people calling the example list a mardu deck are slowly starting to be annoying. There is a very nice video that goes along with it (in the section conveniently named VIDEOS) that does a deck tech and showcases it in action. Anyone who watched that deck tech would understand it's not really a mardu deck. ALSO I have to point out that this has been, for the past two years, the best performing deck for me and several others. You might not like it or playing it, but that doesn't change the fact. Right now it's not in the greatest spot it has ever been but it's the one I initially put there (for testing, by the way). Re: Tom Ross. I thought having a single entry so far in the competitive section would be a clear enough indication that it is a competitive build of the deck and it definitely has a spotlight within the Primer. Is it my fault nobody read past the introduction? Nevertheless, for those people who stop after they see the decklists, I will put it there alongside the other two mono-black variants.
Now, I'm really sorry, but I won't be featuring your "stock" list. I mean come on, it has Pack Rats in it! I am looking ahead to introducing a larger portion of the competitive players to this deck and having Rats at the front entrance will turn a lot of the more serious folk away (not to mention Go for the Throat as the removal of choice in a format defined by Affinity). It's cute, it works for you and I'm very happy for you, but this is not going to be in the spotlight. You're a great guy Rob, but you gota let those Rats go, Black Devotion Standard passed away a few years ago. If those were other creatures I would be happy to have your stock list lead the way. And can we also mention that I featured your JaceRack deck? You know, the one with Smallpox maindeck? Through videos and discussion you've shown it's a good deck and that's why it's up there. And it's not like this is a final decision or anything, too. If Rat becomes more viable and popular in Modern and the time comes when Modern can support it's high-delta power level then my opinion of it will change accordingly.
I hope we can make this work and actually collaborate to make the deck better