Historic “Mega” Rakdos Arcanist at the Neon Dynasty Championship How We Built Our Top 8 Deck + Sideboard Guide

Historic “Mega” Rakdos Arcanist at the Neon Dynasty Championship – How We Built Our Top 8 Deck + Sideboard Guide

Hello friends, I’m Zhi Yimin (also known as James_Zhi), and last weekend I finished top 6 in the Neon Dynasty Championship. I played a “team deck” in Historic – Rakdos Arcanist with Nico Bohny, Matias Leveratto, Zach Dunn (finalist), and I tested and played the same 75.

I’ve always been a Thoughtseize + Dreadhorde Arcanist fan, and here I’d like to share how we developed the exact list and a sideboard guide for the current metagame.

Rakdos Arcanist by Zhi Yimin
by Paul
Historic
Aggro
best of 3
10 mythic
35 rare
6 uncommon
9 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (3)
Instants (11)
2
Fatal Push
$5.98
1
Cling to Dust
$0.25
3
Unholy Heat
$0.75
1
Bedevil
$0.59
1
Hagra Mauling
$1.99
Sorceries (9)
1
Duress
$0.25
4
Thoughtseize
$71.96
2
Go Blank
$3.98
Artifacts (2)
60 Cards
$558.32
Sideboard
3
Legion Warboss
$8.37
1
Fatal Push
$2.99
1
Bedevil
$0.59
1
Lava Coil
$0.25
2
Feed the Swarm
$0.50
1
Go Blank
$1.99
15 Cards
$40.43

1. Small Rakdos versus Big Rakdos

Around 2 years ago, I played Rakdos Pyromancer in a Mythic Invitational where I finished top 24. I loved the feeling of playing a “Control Aggro” style deck, with all the cheap spells and a fast clock. With our new tool Dragon's Rage Channeler (DRC), the small Rakdos deck’s (Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a Companion) synergy leveled up – it fills the graveyard, surveil adds consistency, and providing a new 3/3 flying body faster than Arclight Phoenix. In the first week of testing for the tournament, I managed to keep winning with a close to 90% win rate, even going to Mythic #11 pretty easily.

I felt like I was playing Legacy instead Historic, and almost locked the deck for the championship. After Wizards gave the competitors the “god account” (with all the cards enabled in the collection), I developed a new way to test: I opened 2 MTG Arena accounts and played against myself. In the ladder, people may play a lot “fun” decks so the testing result may not have been accurate.

We predicted that the Neon Dynasty Championship metagame would be Control > Phoenix > Food > Auras > Others. I knew the deck would overperform versus Control and Auras, so I tested against myself for the Food and Phoenix matchups. The main deck performance seemed mediocre, as I could barely maintain a 50-50 win rate, especially if we don’t get the aggressive draws.

In the post-sideboard games, we are not that scared of graveyard hate such as Soul-Guide Lantern or Tormod's Crypt, and Feed the Swarm can solve Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void. However, as we have Lurrus as a Companion, it was really hard to add another dimension to the deck against all the sideboard plan and hates.

The worst thing was, since the metagame was already full of decks that relied on graveyard synergies, control players started to add main deck Rest in Peace – if landed on turn 2, is basically GG. Together with Divine Purge and Farewell, our control matchup was not as dominant as it used to be.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for this build was when I played in an online PTQ: In my first match, I played against an Enchantress deck with 4 main deck Rest in Peace and sideboard Leyline of Sanctity. In match 2, I lost to a Greasefang, Okiba Boss + Parhelion II deck with sideboard Leyline of the Void!


2. Round A of Testing: “Big” Rakdos

Seasoned Pyromancer Art by Cynthia Sheppard
Seasoned Pyromancer Art by Cynthia Sheppard

Nico Bohny found the stock “big” Rakdos decklist and felt comfortable enough to play it in the current metagame, and our testing group added the “Rakdos Master” Matias Leveratto who was also interested in playing Rakdos for Historic.

First, I updated the mana base a bit with Hagra Mauling, Takenuma, Abandoned Mire and Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance. Matias was concerned about too many taplands so we cut 1 Fabled Passage. Personally, I really dislike the inclusion of those main deck hate cards like Go Blank, Soul-Guide Lantern, Cling to Dust, and so on.

I know we have Seasoned Pyromancer to smooth out our draws, but why would I play those costly planeswalkers and interaction cards? After I played a bit on ladder, I had a surprisingly similar win rate to the usual “small” Rakdos. The deck functioned better than I expected, and we can add a lot of sideboard plan like Hidetsugu Consumes All and Legion Warboss.

Control is very good match up; phoenix seems slightly favored, especially if we win G1 with maindeck hates; vs. food is tough but we felt like there would be less food in the meta since control got better tools (March of Otherworldly Light and Farewell). Plus, we could play 4 Hidetsugu – it can’t be that bad.

Let’s focus on the phoenix match up first. I tested a lot vs Matias Leveratto; during our testing process I beat him handily with Phoenix. He was kind of losing all confidence in the match up. From my perspective, I know my draw was always running godlike against him. I would turn 3 phoenix after he cast Thoughtseize; I would topdeck Expressive Iteration into Stormwing Entity; I would turn 2 delirium kill the Arcanist.

There was a game where I had a DRC onboard with five cards in the graveyard, my hand is Ox of Agonas, then I scry top the fifth land. I forget he has the Kroxa in the graveyard that can escape. Matias Unholy Heat-ed my DRC instead of escaping Kroxa because he wouldn’t have delirium afterward.

It wasn’t a mistake from his side, but my mistake just turned into an optimal play. The variance of Magic is too much, and a small sample size like 10 games can rarely tell the true story. Matias always run extremely bad against me. I told him, “I’ve been playing a lot of phoenix in the past, easily ranked #1 two years ago, and from my understanding I just purely ran good.”

I know as a PT champion, he definitely understands this variance, but variance can beat normal human beings badly You can always expect something worse to happen. Sincerely I wish Matias would somehow balance his luck somewhere in life.


3. Round B of Testing: Locking in the Deck

Bedevil Art by Seb McKinnon
Bedevil Art by Seb McKinnon

Seth Manfield was also interested in the Rakdos list and he joined us to play more games. We had a clear picture that the deck is good vs. control – during the test process we drop 0 matches versus all forms of control. Matias was really unhappy with the testing results vs phoenix, very convinced that the matchup is unwinnable.

I observed how Seth plays vs. Gavin’s Phoenix and have a much clearer picture. Seth would win playing any deck it’s true… he always plays around the top of his opponent’s deck and Magmatic Channeler overperformed during his testing – Matias would never make it a 4/4, his top 2 cards could never be comfortably used 🤣. Seth cut the fourth Kroxa and added Duress instead of Inquisition of Kozilek, and we added Bedevil to the main deck to replace the second Kolaghan's Command.

The previous 8+1 discard seemed like too much for me, we added the second Channeler and played 7 discard (4 Thoughtseize + 1 Duress + 2 Inquisition of Kozilek) in main instead. That way, we could have a sideboard slot for Lava Coil or other spells. What made me 100% lock onto the deck was some of games Seth played against Phoenix.

I could see the counter intuitive better plays: vs. Phoenix we are in control seat. We don’t need to Pyromancer into two tokens to maximize mana and board pressure in turn three. Alternatively, we could keep Pyro in hand for a long time and save it for a future net draw two, hold those removals or cling to solving the opponent’s potential threats. I think I could win the games Seth lost, which gave me the overconfidence to play this deck.


4. Round C of Testing: Finding the Phoenix

Rekindling Phoenix Art by Jason Rainville
Rekindling Phoenix Art by Jason Rainville

To further increase our winrate in the Phoenix matchup, I found Rekindling Phoenix. We play a control role against phoenix in the maindeck, and in sideboard games they are less reliant on those nuts draws. Especially against better players who are good at playing around hate cards, as the games tend to go longer, it would be great if we could have our own threats to end the game/lock their top deck/attack their planeswalkers etc. We would keep all discard vs. Phoenix, so killing the Rekindling Phoenix is extremely hard for them (the only good solution being Aether Gust).

Moving on to the Food test, the 4/3 flyer can be great in that matchup as well. It’s a good game-ender followed by Hidetsugu. We ended up playing just 1 Rekindling Phoenix and 1 Go Blank in the sideboard – since we only play 24 lands, six four-drops would be too clunky (Zach submitted the list before we reached the final conclusion so he played two Rekindling).

Food players can always topdeck Trail of Crumbs. We had four Hidetsugu in sideboard, we still need to follow it with Chandra, Torch of Defiance to end the game sooner. Also, Chandra can be a clean answer to most of Phoenix’s threats, and she is great against control. We played some sideboard games against food; better Food players would play around Hidetusgu very well and they would sometimes choose to draw first and have some Thoughtseize. We felt the games go long enough that we could topdeck discard, so we don’t need Go Blank for this matchup.


Sideboard Guide

Izzet Phoenix

InOut
+1 Fatal Push-3 Unholy Heat
+1 Lava Coil-1 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
+1 Bedevil-1 Seasoned Pyromancer
+1 Rekindling Phoenix-1 Kolaghan's Command
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+1 Go Blank

Based on how the opponent’s deck is built, if they have 4 Stormwing and less 3/4 go with two Push one Heat. Kolaghan's Command is better on the play, and Seasoned Pyromancer is worse on the draw.

UWx Control

InOut
+2 Feed the Swarm-1 Cling to Dust
+3 Legion Warboss-1 Fatal Push
+1 Bedevil-3 Unholy Heat
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance-2 Soul-Guide Lantern
+1 Go Blank-1 Flame-Blessed Bolt

We leave in one Push to kill manlands and shark tokens, and we consider leaving Cling if they’re light on Rest in Peace, as well as against Phoenix.

BG Food

InOut
+2 Feed the Swarm-2 Go Blank
+3 Hidetsugu Consumes All-1 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
+1 Fatal Push-3 Unholy Heat
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance-2 Soul-Guide Lantern
+1 Rekindling Phoenix

Auras

InOut
+2 Feed the Swarm-1 Cling to Dust
+1 Lava Coil-1 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
+1 Fatal Push-1 Go Blank
+1 Bedevil-2 Soul-Guide Lantern

Go Blank is okay in this matchup, keep a few.

Enchantress

InOut
+3 Legion Warboss-1 Cling to Dust
+2 Feed the Swarm-1 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
+1 Fatal Push-2 Go Blank
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance-2 Soul-Guide Lantern
-1 Bedevil

GW Company

InOut
+1 Lava Coil-1 Cling to Dust
+2 Feed the Swarm-1 Duress
+1 Fatal Push-2 Go Blank
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance-2 Soul-Guide Lantern
+1 Bedevil

Mirror

InOut
+1 Lava Coil-3 Unholy Heat
+1 Feed the Swarm-1 Flame-Blessed Bolt
+1 Fatal Push-1 Inquisition of Kozilek
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance-1 Soul-Guide Lantern
+1 Bedevil
+1 Go Blank

Thanks again to all my teammates, I would never be here without our team efforts.

  • Gavin Thompon-Exner
  • Seth Manfield
  • Matt Sperling
  • Matthieu Avignon
  • Brian Braun-Duin
  • Lous-Samuel Deltour
  • Piotr Glogowski
  • Brad Nelson
  • Tomas Pokorny
  • Henry Mildenstein
  • Lukas Honnay
  • Zach Dunn
  • Julian Wellman
  • Nico Bohny
  • Matias Leveratto (special thanks)

And thanks for the readings, hopefully see you in next PT article 😊.

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