Tuesday 18th of February, I’m finally home from Hawaii after a 28-hour trip. Making it to the third phase of the tournament was a small accomplishment on its own, but I couldn’t quite get rid of this feeling of unfinished business. The same taste I have in my mouth since Players Tour Brussels where after a blazing start, I only managed to rack up 5 Mythic points, points that will determine who will remain in the Magic Pro League (MPL).
But I was in Toulouse and I could finally get some well deserved rest until April when I’ll have to prepare for Houston, Copenhagen and Mythic Invitational I… Unless there was a tournament two weeks later that awarded Mythic points. Darn, that’s right, the Mythic Point Challenge on Magic Arena, I had completely forgotten about it. That meant there was no time to rest just yet, to the disappointment of my people at home.
Restart the Testing
I feel bad asking for more time to Monica to prepare the whole day and till late at night, but if you want to remain competitive, you can’t be slacking. So there I went again, re-trying most decks of the format, trying to brew –unsuccessfully- new decks. I wasn’t winning with Jeskai Fires anymore, magic had just run out. White Blue Control was again not an option for me (I hate that deck), neither was Temur Reclamation (ditto).
- Jeskai Fires at Magic World Championship XXVI
- Raphael Levy
I stumbled upon a few decklists of Rakdos Sacrifice on Twitter, relatively unknown players praising the deck and its results. I had tried that deck long ago and didn’t like it too much, but for some reason, I decided to give it another try.
The most successful lists online had a lot of flaws, and while I was already winning a lot with them, there was a lot of room for improvement. So I started working on it and this is the list I ended up with:
4 《Blood Crypt》
4 《Fabled Passage》
2 《Evolving Wilds》
1 《Castle Locthwain》
-Land (24)- 4 《Cauldron Familiar》
4 《Dreadhorde Butcher》
4 《Slaughter-Priest of Mogis》
3 《Priest of Forgotten Gods》
4 《Mayhem Devil》
4 《Woe Strider》
1 《Judith, the Scourge Diva》
1 《Midnight Reaper》
2 《Rankle, Master of Pranks》
To understand how I came up with this, let’s have a look at the deck.
Card Choices: Mainboard
You will find this “Sacrifice Package” in pretty much every Rakdos Sacrifice list out there. It’s what holds the deck together and makes it powerful. The deck has been around for a while now and got a huge boost with 《Woe Strider》 from Theros Beyond Death. Antonino De Rosa qualified for Mythic Championship VII with something similar.
The big difference between the various versions comes from pretty much everything else.
The Early Drops
《Gutterbones》 makes the list more often than not. It’s a fine one-drop that has a fine interaction with the rest of the deck. You need cheap creatures to go along 《Priest of Forgotten Gods》, but it’s quite weak against Mono Red and Temur Adventure’s Human tokens (from 《Lovestruck Beast》). You need them against decks where you want early pressure (Jeskai Fires, Temur Reclamation, any kind of slow decks). I’d say two is the right number.
《Dreadhorde Butcher》 is also included in most lists. I like the fact that it can trade for any small and a bit bigger creatures in the early game, and that it asks for an immediate answer on an empty board. Its synergy with the sacrifice effects gives the deck extra reach in the late game. Because in case you’re not familiar with how the deck works, you want to beat down in the early turns, and sit behind your creatures which will deal direct damage to your opponent (《Cauldron Familiar》, 《Mayhem Devil》). All in all, a solid creature that does the job better than 《Robber of the Rich》.
The problem I have with Robber in this deck (I’ve seen the Rogue in many Rakdos lists) is that you don’t often have less cards than your opponent. Your mana isn’t great (we’ll get to that later) and most of your cards cost 2 or 3. If you’re on the draw, there’s very little chance you get to rob a card, and even if you do, you usually prefer to play your own cards that have synergy with each other.
I have also seen lists with 《Rix Maadi Reveler》 and 《Orzhov Enforcer》. These cards are both fine but are kinda underwhelming. They do not attack well, and while both have upsides they were always the free slots when I wanted to try out cards.
I needed a two-drop and was surprised none of the lists I browsed had 《Slaughter-Priest of Mogis》. I was looking for an aggressive two-drop, that had good synergy with the rest of the deck, could put enough pressure on turn two (more than 《Robber of the Rich》), and not be a completely dead card in the late game. The Minotaur was the answer. It can deal so much damage on its own alongside 《Witch’s Oven》, 《Cauldron Familiar》, 《Fabled Passage》, 《Evolving Wilds》. It allows turn-four kills against a slow start without an answer and is a must-be blocked at some stages of the game. It’s also an extra sacrifice outlet for 《Claim the Firstborn》.
《Woe Strider》 and 《Mayhem Devil》 are auto-includes in the deck. I found lists that only ran 8 three-drops, but it’s hard to pass on so much power from 《Midnight Reaper》 and 《Judith, the Scourge Diva》. I told Gabriel Nassif about the deck a few days before the tournament so we could work on it together and we had long debates on which creature was better, the Reaper or Judith. I liked Judith a lot as it was the 5th Devil and had good synergy with 《Dreadhorde Butcher》, but he liked Reaper more as it gave you some game after a sweeper.
The thing is, I wanted to have options. I didn’t want to have two Reaper or two Judith in hand. It turns out, both creatures won me games in different ways, so I’m happy about the 1-1 split.
The Heavy Hitters
Rankle fights for the slot of heavy hitters with 《Spawn of Mayhem》, 《Nightmare Shepherd》 and 《Doom Whisperer》. I can’t see any of the other creatures being better than Rankle. Being a flying haste creature, that can hit for 4 damage on the turn you play it, get rid of a ground creature, trigger 《Mayhem Devil》, draw you cards, discard your opponent’s cards… In a format with 《Teferi, Time Raveler》, you don’t want to invest 4 mana and hope your creature sticks around for one full turn in play to have it do anything relevant.
Most Rakdos manabases run 《Temple of Malice》. Come-into-play tapped lands are really bad for this deck and scry 1 isn’t an upside big enough to justify its inclusion. The two-allied colors manabases suck but we knew about this already and I wanted my dual lands to do a bit more than just scry 1. I wanted to play more 《Fabled Passage》s and I realized that 《Evolving Wilds》 was in the format. Sure it’s a lot worse that Passage, but it still fixes your mana, just as well as a Temple would (a little worse, but the colored mana requirement isn’t too intensive so you don’t mind finding either black or red). The upsides are pretty big though, as they trigger both 《Mayhem Devil》 and 《Slaughter-Priest of Mogis》 and put more cards in the graveyard to help 《Woe Strider》‘s Escape.
The other big question of this deck is how many 《Castle Locthwain》 should you play? I decided to only play one. I very rarely had to use it in my 70+ test matches and the openers with an extra come-into-play tapped land feel very awkward. What if you have a Passage / Wilds and a Castle in hand? You can’t cast anything on turn two. I wanted to minimize the chances of having these hands. Gabriel thinks it’s still better to play two. ATD! (Agree to disagree!)
Card Choices: Sideboard
《Experimental Frenzy》 was a last-minute addition, not enough thoughts were given to it and I’m positive you can replace it with anything you’d like.
An important point about this sideboard is the lack of discard spells like 《Duress》 or 《Agonizing Remorse》. While they are usually the go-to spells when you’re looking to attack Control and Combo decks, I don’t think they have room in this particular deck. The reason behind that is that the deck already needs a lot of cards that you’ll have to play in time to actually do something. Skipping a whole turn and spending a card just to hope to hit the one card that is going to be good against you is very optimistic. In some cases, they will have two or more cards you want to discard, in some other cases, they won’t have any and you’ll have spent a card and mana for nothing. Overall, I believe playing discard spells is purely detrimental to your strategy.
《Angrath’s Rampage》 is a card that see play in a lot of Rakdos lists, but I don’t think it’s either necessary or good. It never really hits the card you want to destroy and sometimes against Temur Adventure, you want to destroy a specific artifact (a 《The Great Henge》 or a 《Sorcerous Spyglass》), and Rampage doesn’t do the job. Add to that, the fact that you actually require actual creatures and you’ll find that 《Embereth Shieldbreaker》 is a much better solution to your artifact problems.
Matchup and Sideboard Guide
The matchup feels very good overall. As soon as you get the value train rolling, they are going to have a hard time catching up. If they keep 《Anax, Hardened in the Forge》, stealing and sacrificing it is going to put them way behind. The more removal they bring in, the harder the matchup gets, but you should be a heavy favorite.
I thought the matchup wasn’t great but my results against it aren’t too bad. You have enough aggression to put them on the clock and ways to get rid of the early blockers. 《Redcap Melee》 deals with 《Sphinx of Foresight》 and 《Bonecrusher Giant》. 《Pharika’s Libation》 can deal with either the first big creature or 《Fires of Invention》 if that’s what they’re left with.
One of the reasons I decided to run Rakdos Sacrifice was because I believed the matchups against both Mono Red and Temur Adventure were favorable. Temur Adventure was the big talk coming into the tournament and I wanted to be able to beat it. With the way this deck is built, and after board especially, they will have a hard time getting full value off their engine. You have a lot of ways to kill 《Edgewall Innkeeper》 and destroy 《Lucky Clover》.
This is by far your worst matchup. If they have a good draw, with a mix of 《Storm’s Wrath》 and 《Wilderness Reclamation》, you’ll have a hard time racing them. You can sometimes race them when they don’t or when you hit the first Reclamation with a 《Pharika’s Libation》. In the latter case, you’d also need to have pressure on the board. There are also games where they are under so much pressure that they have to deploy 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 and you can win by stealing it with 《Claim the Firstborn》 and attacking with it.
I’d be happy to avoid this match.
Result of the Mythic Point Challenge
I went 7-3 in the Mythic Point Challenge, earning 3 important Mythic points:
|Round 1||Jeskai Fires||Win|
|Round 2||Bant Ramp||Win|
|Round 3||Temur Reclamation||Win|
|Round 4||Bant Ramp||Win|
|Round 5||Sultai Ramp||Win|
|Round 7||Temur Adventure||Win|
|Round 8||Izzet Flash||Win|
|Round 9||Jeskai Fires||Lose|
|Round 10||Jund Food||Lose|
Once again, a fine result with an aftertaste of unfinished business, especially after a 7-1 start (that sounds familiar).
Anyway, I know I say that a lot, but it’s finally true: I’m finally be able to devote my time to my people! It’s not been easy for them, but I’ll make it up to them, because that’s what good daddies do.
Lavan LOVES dinosaurs 🦖, so we went to see a dino expo. Only hits me now (38 years in) that we’ll never actually see REAL ones, and that if it’s ever possible, the movie Jurassic Park will dissuade anyone to make a real Jurassic Park 😢. pic.twitter.com/hYEzQwvMYa— Raphael Levy (@raphlevymtg) January 26, 2020
Thank you for reading, hopefully you’re as successful as I am on the MTG Arena ladder as I was last season (I briefly hit #2, but then settled for #8), or in whatever event you take part in with the deck.
See you around soon!