Ok, ok……maybe this was a little clickbaity because I was the only one playing this archetype, but I had in fact a 64% win rate with a 9-5-1 overall record and 3-0 record against the feared Temur Reclamation.
Let me get this straight. The 《Growth Spiral》 decks (both Bant and Temur Reclamation) are the best decks in the format, this is probably not even a tier 2 deck. With that being said, I really believe this deck is extremely well-positioned right now. Temur Reclamation is really one of its best matchups, UWx are pretty close and the worst matchup, the 《Cauldron Familiar》/《Witch’s Oven》 decks are on the decline.
Especially after last weekend, every deck will be tuned to beat the other control decks. Bant decks are just playing 2 copies of 《Shatter the Sky》 and I wouldn’t be surprised if some players decide to cut them all from the main deck.
Ok, now that I was completely honest, do I still have your attention?
It’s Time to Bring it Back!
Me and Willy Edel played this deck at Mythic Championship VI while everybody else was playing 《Oko, Thief of Crowns》 (you can read how we came up with the deck HERE). The circumstances were similar, the deck was not the best in the format, but the metagame was defined well enough that we could benefit from both being under the radar and being well-positioned.
I was trying a bunch of different decks and while I was winning only a bit more than I was loosing on the MTGA ladder, I wasn’t really happy with any deck, especially when I played against Temur, which was obviously going to be the most represented deck on the Players Tour.
I remembered Rakdos Knights was pretty good against it and decided to run a list I had saved since a little after 《Oko, Thief of Crowns》 was banned. The destiny paired me twice in a row against Temur and I just destroyed it. I jokingly messaged Willy and he was also playing it!
I will save you guys from most of the process, but it was basically me ignoring all Willy’s untastable spells trying to make the best of his ideas with a semi-decent mana base.
After destroying the Arena ladder and reaching Mythic #10 I decided to pull the trigger and register my sweet Rakdos Knights.
This is what I ended up playing on Players Tour Online 2:
4 《Blood Crypt》
4 《Tournament Grounds》
1 《Castle Locthwain》
-Land (24)- 4 《Stonecoil Serpent》
4 《Fervent Champion》
4 《Knight of the Ebon Legion》
4 《Stormfist Crusader》
2 《Blacklance Paragon》
4 《Rotting Regisaur》
3 《Bonecrusher Giant》
Without getting into many details I went 5-4 day one and then 4-1-1 on day 2 where an ID on the last round was actually the same as a victory, due to my terrible tie breaks. (why we keep giving prizes according to final rank and not final score is something that really bugs me, but oh well…)
Cards that I don’t Recommend You to Change
This is the reason why this deck exists. Play 4 of each and move on.
I feel like having 12 strong one drops is where this deck has an edge from the other aggressive 《Embercleave》 decks in the format.
I think that in order to run the 《Fervent Champion》/《Gutterbones》/《Knight of the Ebon Legion》 one drops, you need to run either knights or black creatures as the 2 drops. I would love to use 《Dreadhorde Butcher》 as a 2 drop, but I already have some concerns about not having stomp’s mana on turn two with enough consistency. The freshly spoiled 《Kitesail Freebooter》 will fit like a glove here, though.
I think this deck would happily run only 23, but not having enough double-colored untapped lands makes me want to run the extra mana source in order to increase the odds of having the right lands at the right turns a little more often. While sometimes you will mana flood, keep in mind that these scenarios will happen very often too:
This leaves us with:
These are what I consider to be the deck’s flex slots right now.
I like that the 《Stonecoil Serpent》 fills every slot of the curve and has Protection from cards such as 《Teferi, Time Raveler》, 《Casualties of War》, 《Elspeth Conquers Death》, 《Mayhem Devil》 or 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》. Don’t forget that it has Trample and Reach.
《Bonecrusher Giant》 is clearly the worst if you expect less 《Priest of Forgotten Gods》 and other small dudes on the battlefield. It won’t surprise me if you decide to gamble back on the 《Oathsworn Knight》 due to its effectiveness against Temur Reclamation.
《Heartless Act》 can also be replaced by main deck disruption such as 《Agonizing Remorse》 or 《Drill Bit》. I would be more inclined to go for the 《Agonizing Remorse》 since it was what performed the best for me. 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 was one of the more difficult cards to play around, and many times what the main deck 《Heartless Act》 ended up killing anyway.
Remember: Whatever changes you make, KEEP THE MANA HONEST. Use Karsten’s cheat sheet to have your spells consistently cast at least 90% of the time, even if this means adding more lands to your deck.
Updating the Deck for This Weekend
Maindeck: No Changes
I’m pretty happy with the main deck for now. I think it is close to playing 《Agonizing Remorse》 instead of the 《Heartless Act》, but ultimately I think my Game 1 against 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 decks will be stronger (mostly because they will try to focus more on the mirrors), so I think having a stronger Game 1 against the other decks, such as Rakdos Sacrifice, Jund Sacrifice, Mono Green and Mono Red is preferable.
As I said, the 《Agonizing Remorse》 overperformed last weekend being very effective at dealing with a card that is pretty strong against you and everybody seems to be running these days. The 《Blazing Volley》 is pretty much just against Mono Red, a deck that is clearly on the decline now and an extra way to kill that annoying oven may come in handy.
Few Things to Remember
If you want to cast a card before discard on the upkeep for 《Rotting Regisaur》, you must stop on the upkeep beforehand.
《Fervent Champion》 equips both 《Embercleave》 and 《Shadowspear》 for free. Sometimes you need to equip the 《Fervent Champion》 after you hit them with 《Rotting Regisaur》 + 《Embercleave》 to play around 《Claim the Firstborn》.
《Knight of the Ebon Legion》 grows if you take damage during your turn as well. There are some weird combinations of 《Stormfist Crusader》/Shock Lands/《Agonizing Remorse》/《Castle Locthwain》/《Cauldron Familiar》 that will make it grow, so keep those in mind.
Now on to everyone’s favorite part,
The Sideboard Guide
If their play is based on 《Flame Sweep》 you can consider leaving some 《Bonecrusher Giant》 instead of some 《Stormfist Crusader》. Their best plan is 《Nightpack Ambusher》, that’s why you should board in some 《Noxious Grasp》.
Both matchups play similarly. It is annoying to get the 《Stonecoil Serpent》 killed by 《Gemrazer》 but it can often hold the board so it might worth to keep some in, and you can always kill the target in response, especially now that you have 3 extra 《Noxious Grasp》.
These matchups also play out similarly. Jund tends to be easier because they take the most more damage from the lands, putting them in reach of the 《Embercleave》 faster. They also play slower cards such as 《Trail of Crumbs》, 《Bolas’s Citadel》 and to a certain point 《Korvold, Fae-Cursed King》. With this said after sideboard you have more answers for their threats so you actually have a chance because they have a really hard time dealing with 《Embercleave》.
If they play many instant spot removal for 《Rotting Regisaur》 take out 2 instead of the 《Bonecrusher Giant》. 《Knight of the Ebon Legion》 plays better than 《Gutterbones》 against both 《Extinction Event》 and 《Cry of the Carnarium》, but 《Gutterbones》 plays better with the discards and spot removal, so I really don’t know which one is better.
The difference between this and Sultai is that they don’t run 3 mana sweepers, so your one and 2 drops are much more effective. Your 3 drops on the other hand, getting eaten by a 《Elspeth Conquers Death》 is a pretty big hit, so you might want to reduce those to the bare minimum.
Against Azorius/Bant/Sultai you can reduce one 《Mountain》. You are usually cutting some of your more expensive drops and also your 《Embercleave》 takes a little more time to set up so it’s not like you need your Double Red on turn 4 right away.
《Stormfist Crusader》 benefits them more when you are on the draw, but usually when you are on the play, you do a pretty good job of being the attacker. If it is the 《Cavalcade of Calamity》 version take always out the 《Gutterbones》 as they have 8 1 mana first strikers and the 《Stormfist Crusader》 blocks the one drops a bit better.
《Heartless Act》 doesn’t really kill the 《Flourishing Fox》, which tends to be the most problematic one, and you are already boarding in many removals. If the 《Fiend Artisan》 version becomes popular maybe maintain all the removal.
Bonus: Updating with M21
As I said previously, I think it will be a natural fit for this deck, as it helps you a lot at setting up your combo both by removing one answer from your opponent’s hand but also by being an extra attacking creature (with flying!)
《Eliminate》 is also a good replacement for 《Heartless Act》/《Lava Coil》 since it also does a pretty good job at killing the 《Priest of Forgotten Gods》/《Mayhem Devil》/《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》/《Shark Typhoon》 but also hitting the annoying 《Flourishing Fox》/《Pelt Collector》/《Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig》.
《Liliana’s Standard Bearer》 may have some room in the sideboard, to help the deck against the sweepers.
I hope you like it and find this useful for your next tournament or arena run. I really think this deck is the best deck right now to grind the arena ladder and is in a pretty good spot to do well in a big tournament.
Don’t forget to follow me at @u_mad_bro_MTGO for more Magic: The Gathering updates!
Goncalo Pinto (Twitter)