Welcome back to Brewing In A Top Hat. We’ve had quite the meta shake-up over the past month, with the release of Amonkhet Remastered, and several spur of the moment bans. Today, I have a fun little Rakdos brew for you all to enjoy. I came up with the idea when I noticed I own four copies of The Ozolith, since what better impetus to start looking for ways to abuse it? The card reminded me of an old ability, Modular from Darksteel, which was busted on Arcbound Ravager, a card that epitomises this deck’s strategy, moving counters from creature to creature and ensuring we always have colossal threats. After looking at all the different cards with counters, I came up with the following:
This deck seeks to cheat on mana to power out creatures with lots of counters on them, save those counters up, and kill opponents in an explosive aggressive fashion, while having the inevitability against removal and sweepers The Ozolith provides. You want to get it out as soon as possible, and then start building up huge creatures. Don’t worry about overextending a little bit because you will be able to retain a lot of your strength if you get board wiped, and you have ways of replaying cards from your graveyard. Those tokens will hopefully end up on a giant Zombie Army or punching through with some form of huge Serpent. Aggressively pressure their life total, and worry less about retaining your own board state. You want to win by whittling their health down bit by bit to a point where it is low enough that one big threat can end them.
The Card Choices
The Ozolith The entire deck is based around this card, so you should prioritize opening hands that have it. It does everything from preserving our Amass’ed army, to allowing us to chain bigger and bigger Lightning Serpents. It’s natural wrath protection, since if your creatures die then the very next creature you play will become immediately gigantic!
Dreadhorde Invasion/Grim Initiate Amass and The Ozolith go together like peanut butter and jelly. Usually, your zombie army is vulnerable to removal and the life loss can catch up with you, but when both are out together, your Army never stops growing. Once it gets to six counters, barring artifact removal, it will always attack with lifelink. Plus the recurring token generator is great fodder for our ramp cards that need sacrifices.
Honor the God-Pharaoh/Cathartic Reunion With seven total copies of The Ozolith and Dreadhorde Invasion, this deck can run into multiple dead draws, so we need cards that allow us to cycle through them.
Lightning Serpent/Stonecoil Serpent These are a big part of our win condition, allowing us to channel all our mana into counters that never go away, and letting us trample over our opponent’s blockers to finish games.
Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger Kroxa is our backup win condition, as well as some nice interaction with our opponent’s hand. Do not forget the trick of playing then sacrificing it to Tower/Priest
Phyrexian Tower/Priest of Forgotten Gods Originally I tried out Irencrag Feat, but the consistency was spotty and the triple red was difficult to get to, so I started looking for a different way to cheat on mana. I switched to the sacrifice package, and with eight copies of creatures that sacrifice themselves anyway, it was a natural fit. Remember, you MUST turn on full control when trying to play then sacrifice Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger for either of your ramp cards, or else the game will skip your opportunity to do it.
Claim // Fame This nice little toolbox of a card has some fun synergies to try out. You can use it with your ramp cards to net a black mana by sacrificing what you bring back, which becomes a very strong value play when targeting Kroxa. You can give a new Army token haste so that it can attack right away, and most of the time the extra attack that Fame gives will trigger your lifelink from Dreadhorde Invasion. You can cast both sides on the same turn to bring back and activate Priest of the Forgotten Gods to remove something. You can even pull back a Lightning Serpent to finish a game off! Don’t forget that you can discard a creature to Cathartic Reunion or Honor the God-Pharaoh then bring it back.
Boot Nipper I like the single copy of Boot Nipper because he only needs to come out once to keep his counters around forever with The Ozolith. While we mostly use the lifelink side, the deathtouch counter can also be useful against aggro decks since you can keep putting it onto your Army tokens and blocking with them.
Lurrus of the Dream-Den Every permanent we want to use costs less than three mana anyway, so there is no reason not to use Lurrus. Having access to a way to replay the creatures you sacrifice, or getting back an Ozolith that’s been destroyed is a nice bonus. Bonus points if you put a bunch of counters on him to take advantage of his lifelink. While testing, I once gained twenty five life with him in one attack!
Lands We only use 21 lands, which sounds low. However, with more lands in hand I just found myself discarding them over and over with my early draw spells. So I cut down to 21, and have not had a problem with it since. You’ll draw into them with your Cathartic Reunions.
Tips and Tricks
- How to play without The Ozolith: So you mulliganed down to six and you have a keepable hand, but one problem, no Ozolith! Well fear not; all is not lost. We use a bunch of draw/discard cycling for this very purpose! Your focus is going to be on setting up a more traditional sacrifice board, with Priest of the Forgotten Gods and Dreadhorde Invasion, using Priest as a draw engine to find more card draw, or preferably, The Ozolith that you need. With all your discard and sacrifices, you should have plenty of fodder in the graveyard to bring out Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. Even if he cannot win you the game, he puts pressure on your opponent to deal with him, which can buy you time to get to The Ozolith.
- How to handle Artifact Removal: Keep your tokens on your CREATURES. When it asks you if you want to move them, ALWAYS say yes. This way, if they want to get rid of all the counters at once, they need to kill both The Ozolith and your big creature on the same turn, which costs two cards and is expensive to do. It is incredibly risky to let the counters sit on The Ozolith, especially in games 2 and 3. Even if it’s just a Grim Initiate, you can always sacrifice it and move them over to someone else.
- When to put all the counters on one huge man and when to spread them around: This is a question you want to ask yourself as soon as you recognize what type of deck you’re facing. If they are a creature based deck focused on going wide, you want to make one huge dude. Try to make that dude Stonecoil Serpent or a Zombie Army, because you want to be pressing the attack instead of reacting to their attacks. The Serpent will force them to put up multiple blockers to eat up the damage, and the Zombie Army will (hopefully) compensate you with enough lifegain to keep your opponent’s counter-attack damage at bay.
- If they are using lots of removal spells then you want to spread your counters around. Keep a medium Zombie Army and put your extra +1/+1 counters on Priests to help them survive damage-based removal, or Grim Initiate so you can attack with a couple different threats. Mitigate your risk by keeping a couple of different creatures with counters around so that if they decide to kill the Ozolith and a creature, you do not lose all your counters.
- If they are playing a tall strategy where they make one big creature: e.g. auras, pressure them with your own huge man, and try to use your other creatures with Priest to make them sacrifice their big creature. You have the nice benefit of being able to block their big creature with yours when theirs is smaller, without losing any board presence.
|+3 Redcap Melee|
|-2 Honor the God-Pharaoh|
-2 Lightning Serpent
-1 Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
You need to bring in early interaction against Goblins and prioritize removing their Skirk Prospectors.
|+3 Claim the Firstborn||-1 Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger|
-1 Lightning Serpent
-1 Honor the God-Pharaoh
Their ability to give indestructible and protection hurts your removal, but can’t stop your Priests. Prioritize getting one of them going. Use Claim the Firstborn to steal their big guy then sacrifice it to your Priest!
|+1 Banefire||-1 Heartless Act|
This is a pretty solid match up for us, all things considered. You need to go as fast as possible here, so we add a Banefire to try to close the game out with. Playing multiple X spells in a row can quickly overwhelm ramp.
Mono Blue Tempo
|+2 Volcanic Fallout|
|-3 Lightning Serpent|
The key to victory here is Stonecoil Serpent. His reach means he can block whoever they play their Curious Obsession on. We take out the Lightning Serpents since they are particularly vulnerable to counter magic.
+2 Tormod’s Crypt
|-1 Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger|
-1 Boot Nipper
-2 Priest of Forgotten Gods
-1 Lightning Serpent
This is a bad matchup for us because our opponent’s Mayhem Devils will activate off of our sacrifice cards. We side some of them out, and bring in some cards to destroy their Witch’s Ovens.
Other cards to try
Irencrag Feat With all of our X spells, this guy can catch our opponents off guard! I found it to be a bit clunky and triple red too hard to reach.
Thunderkin Awakener If you want a more elemental-focused build, this guy can bring back your best elemental after snagging a bunch of counters from The Ozolith, then you can sacrifice whatever you brought back in main phase 2!
Runaway Steamkin With the elemental package this guy can take all the counters off the Ozolith then pump out a huge Banefire. They’ll never see it coming!
Underworld Rage-Hound This elemental can bring himself back with counters to feed your Ozolith. He doesn’t play well with Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger, because they both compete for cards to escape with. So if you want to use a more elemental-based approach, replace Kroxa with the rage doggy!
Animal Sanctuary Stonecoil Serpent is a snake! Lightning Serpent…is not. This is an okay 1-of in the version with Rage-Hounds, who are dogs.
Dreadhorde Butcher This was the last card cut from my version. He can both grow your counter pool and put it to good use when he dies.
Bloodcrazed Paladin This is a neat sideboard option to recover from a board wipe.
Oona’s Blackguard Our deck is all about creatures with +1/+1 counters on them, so even though we don’t have any rogues, she is still potentially playable. Also, something with Flying is nice to close games out with.
Unexpected Fangs Boot Nipper is probably just better, but if you prefer a combat trick to a creature, this is a nice way to get a lifelink counter.
Call of the Death-Dweller If we had more ways of filling our graveyard, this would probably make the list, but it can still be a fun and effective way both getting counters for The Ozolith and recurring sacrifice fodder.
Lazotep Reaver It’s slower than Grim Initiate, but it’s both creatures that Priest needs all at once. It is really just preference, but I like having a turn 1 creature against certain decks like Goblins and Auras. You wouldn’t be wrong to use Reavers over Initiates.
Widespread Brutality This card is probably better in the sideboard for dealing with Aggro decks. It can rarely be a four mana Plague Wind, but it’s a little “winmore” for my tastes. I’d rather use Volcanic Fallout to avoid counterspells or Storm’s Wrath to hit planeswalkers.