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Arcane Laboratory: Racks on Racks on Racks

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

If there is one card in all of Modern that I truly despise it’s Blood Moon. I like being greedy and playing decks with fragile mana bases that stretch into fourth or fifth colors. Blood Moon is the throttle in Modern that keeps me from playing decks like Four Color Gifts. Sometimes I even have an issue with Blood Moon while playing UWR. It’s genuinely a terrible feeling when you don’t get to cast your spells.

So began the search for a Modern deck that wasn’t effected by Blood Moon. I found two archetypes that matched what I wanted. The first was Skred Red being championed by @Astormbrewing. The deck looks like immense fun, playing Blood Moon/Magus of the Moon to disrupt opponents while killing them with with a whole slew of Big Red style threats. However, I still hate Blood Moon. To the point that I actually don’t even want to cast it.

That brought me to the second Archetype I found; Mono Black 8 Rack. For some reason Wizards decided that they could add flavor to Time Spiral by adding the Time-shifted sheet to the set. What this does today is adds a bunch of random, quirky old cards to the Modern card pool that otherwise would never be there. One such Time-shifted starlet is The Rack.

Magic veterans remember The Rack as a slow, but steady way to kill your opponent. The same still holds true today. But just a single Rack really does give the opponent too much time to draw out of it. Thankfully Wizards also printed a similar black enchantment named Shrieking Affliction. Now Shrieking Affliction is a bit different than The Rack. Firstly Affliction always causes them to lose 3 when it triggers, none of this X-3 stuff. But the real difference is in that Affliction causes loss of life and doesn’t deal damage. This means that you can redirect damage from The Rack to Planeswalkers.

So I began scouring the internet for 8Rack lists, and by scouring I mean I instantly went to @Moxymtg and @Hackworth. MJ Scott and her husband Elliot have been working on 8 Rack for a substantial period and I felt they could give me the best starting point. Elliot graciously divulged their list and from there I began tinkering.

The concept behind the deck is relatively simple, strip your opponent’s hand of everything with efficiency to turn your Racks on quickly. This strategy is very effective against the combo decks in the format because of the amount of resources required for them to kill you. It is also a solid strategy against the control decks, but not the best against the aggro decks. That said, you do empty your own hand with relative ease which makes Ensnaring Bridge a very suitable prison effect to prevent the beatdown decks from getting in those last couple of attacks.

Sometimes Racks just aren’t enough to kill your opponent though. In these cases Bitterblossom and Blinkmoth Nexus are your back-up win conditions. Ensnaring Bridge may stop your opponents from attacking you while you have nothing in your grip but you do get a draw step every turn. This allows you to attack with your 1/1 flyers each turn and then cast the card in your hand during your second main phase. One very important facet of this deck that I learned early on was how to do “Bitterblossom math”. Figuring out if you can actually kill your opponent with your 1/1’s before your Bitterblossom kills you is very important, so think a few turns ahead when you consider casting it.

Dark Confidant helps provide some needed card advantage at a reasonable rate. Nothing in our deck costs over three mana so at worst he’s just lightning bolting us. There is some discrepancy between Bob and Ensnaring Bridge, but when you no longer need Bob you just chump block with him or run him into your opponent’s team. The other “card advantage” engine is Raven’s Crime and Dakmor Salvage. Dredging up Dakmor Salvage ensures you have the land Retrace the Crime with. This can be important when you have Shrieking Affliction on the table but your opponent has two cards in hand.

Moving to the sideboard we find a lot tools for specific match-ups. Almost all of the options are in three or four counts because we know what match-ups we want them in and we want to draw them.

Sideboarding Guidelines

Grafdigger’s Cage comes in against Birthing Pod and Storm.
Vs Birthing Pod: -1 Dark Confidant -3 Bitterblossom +4 Grafdigger’s Cage
Vs Storm: -4 Ensnaring Bridge +4 Grafdigger’s Cage

Surgical Extraction comes in against Storm and Control decks.
Vs Storm: -2 Victim of Night -1 Dark Confidant +3 Surgical Extraction
Vs Control: -2 Ensnaring Bridge +2 Surgical Extraction

Torpor Orb comes in against the Splinter Twin decks
vs Splinter Twin: -3 Bitterblossom -1 Dark Confidant

Victim of Night comes in vs Aggro, Midrange, and Splinter Twin
vs Aggro: -1 Thoughtseize +1 Victim of Night
vs Midrange: -1 Raven’s Crime +1 Victim of Night
vs Splinter Twin: -1 Liliana of the Veil +1 Victim of Night

Drown in Sorrow comes in vs Affinity
vs Affinity: -3 Bitterblossom +3 Drown in Sorrow

Unfortunately I forgot to save the stream to the Twitch Archives. I apologize deeply for this. I did manage to go 4-0 on the night in 2mans. The first two matches were against the same opponent with a BG Rock style deck. They were very grindy attrition games that resulted in me squeaking out wins by dodging late game Abrupt Decays for my Ensnaring Bridges.

My third opponent was Naya Zoo. Game one he flooded but instead of holding his lands kept playing them, which really only helped me end the game when I deployed multiple Racks on turn 4. In game two I drew two key Victim of Night to take out his goyfs until I locked him out with double Ensnaring Bridge to which he conceded. Similarly my fourth opponent was Gruul Aggro.

He smashed me in game 1 when I flooded out, but in game 2 I stripped his hand very quickly with two Inquisition of Kozilek and a Thoughtseize over turns 1 and 2. He was left with only a pair of measly 1/1 Experiment Ones while my Racks were dealing him 2-3 damage a turn. In game 3 I drew 3 Ensnaring Bridges that he never saw in games 1 or 2.

I really enjoyed the deck for the most part. Watching opponent’s squirm is always a highlight for me. However, I could not see myself playing it for longer than five rounds. It tends to get very grueling to play repeatedly, which I wasn’t a fan of. The only thing I’d change in the list is to drop the fourth Dark Confidant for a fourth Bitterblossom. I was cutting Bob a lot and really liked how Bitterblossom could lock up games.

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