For a short time, 8-Rack was a true competitor in Modern, putting up an impressive run in the hands of Tom Ross. 8-Rack is a deck that makes use of discard spells, Shrieking Affliction, and the namesake card The Rack in order to slowly kill opponents. And now, with a 3-2 record on MTGO, the deck has made its way to Pioneer.
The deck takes a lot of cues from its Modern counterpart, but also does some things very differently. We start out with a whopping 10 creatures, with Burglar Rat being the main component, since it does the exact thing this deck wants: it makes our opponent discard cards. Murderous Rider is a great piece of removal, taking out the opponent’s biggest threat while leaving behind a body that allows us to gain life and stay in the game long enough to close out. Rankle, Master of Pranks is a versatile beater that can be a huge threat for our opponent, taking out chunks of life, discarding cards, drawing us cards, or acting as some lite removal. Finally, we have Reality Smasher, a huge threat that is quite difficult for our opponent to deal with, since we’re constantly emptying their hand, meaning they need to somehow get a removal spell in hand alongside another random card. And if they do pull that off, it’s not the end of the world; we still ripped some extra cards out of their hand.
For spells, we start out with Unburden, which gives us a nice two-for-one with cycling as an option if we don’t really need the discard at the moment. Vicious Rumors forces a discard from the opponent while also offering just a little bit of a life swing, and Thoughtseize gives us the gold standard in hand hate by letting us take the wind out of the opponent’s sails from the very first turn.
Fatal Push is a cheap removal spell that can take out threats in the early game, and Waste Not acts as a nice engine, getting value off of our opponent’s discards. Finally, the meat of this deck lies in Shrieking Affliction and Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage. These two cards are our Racks, dealing damage to our opponent when they’re “Hellbent,” with Davriel having the added bonus of forcing our opponent to discard.
Our lands offer a lot of utility in this deck. Castle Locthwain gives us some extra card draw, helping us pull ahead of where we’d normally be given our one-for-one discard strategy. Caves of Koilos gives us access to colorless mana for Reality Smasher, and Ifnir Deadlands lets us play extra removal without giving up precious spell slots. Mutavault can attack or block for us if we need it, and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth lets us get black mana from our Mutavaults, Deadlands, and Caves without any life payment needed.
In the sideboard, Leyline of the Void takes care of graveyard strategies like Sultai Delirium, Bontu’s Last Reckoning deals with go-wide decks like Spirits, and Noxious Grasp keeps us safe from Teferi, Uro, Mono-Green planeswalkers, and the Mono-White decks. Collective Brutality is an extremely versatile sideboard card, allowing us to pull ahead in a variety of situations, and Damping Sphere helps against Castle Garenbrig and decks that rely on casting multiple spells per turn. Legion’s End can deal with small threats like Thassa’s Oracle if they run one out early for the fixing, as well as a bunch of other cheap creatures. Finally, Liliana, the Last Hope is great against other midrange decks, giving us mini-removal on her +1, card advantage and a way to reuse Burglar Rats on her -2, and an easy way to close out the game if we get her ultimate.
- If you have a discard spell in hand and your opponent’s hand is empty, you can use Rankle to draw a card, then cast your discard spell, netting you a card and doing basically nothing for your opponent.
- Thanks to Reality Smasher and Rankle, you can play the discard game as well as the game on-board. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive with your creatures if that’s the way the game is playing out.
- In a pinch, Unburden can be cycled to find things you might need more than discard spells, like one of your Racks, or Reality Smasher for aggression.
- Torment of Hailfire is a good late-game way to force your opponent into a bad situation. In a perfect world, they wouldn’t have many cards in hand or permanents on board, so they’d be forced to take a few bolts, hopefully killing them in the process.
- The Eldest Reborn can take out threats, attack the opponent’s hand, and give you whatever the best thing they’ve lost so far is.
- Liliana Vess is expensive, but gives us discard on her +1, which is already a great thing with this deck. But we also get an easy tutor on her minus ability, and, of course, a potentially game-winning ultimate with her -8.
- Dark Deal is slightly outside the realm of what this deck is actually trying to do, but the end result is that our opponent is one card down, and we can potentially get a lot of Waste Not triggers if our opponent managed to refill their hand.
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