Hello everybody, today I will talk about the hot standard deck of the moment: Rakdos Midrange.
With Uro banned, many players really missed playing a 6/6 threat that also brings card advantage, so it didn’t take long for them to realize that, while Kroxa is not Uro, it’s still very powerful. Just in the last few days, we saw Noham Maubert win Red Bull Untapped France with the deck, and Urlich claiming #1 on ladder. So let’s have a look at the decklist:
While this may merely look like a pile of good red and black cards, it has many great synergies, so let’s break some of them down:
- Tymaret Calls the Dead and Mire Triton are probably the worst cards in the deck if you look at mere power level, but they are actually the glue that holds it together. They are the self-mill engine that powers Kroxa, Ox, and Magmatic Channeler. Curving out to play Kroxa from the graveyard on turn 4 is the dream start. The Skyclave Shades in the board also really benefit from self-mill.
- Kroxa, Ox, and Shade are cards that you often prefer to have in your graveyard rather than in hand, and that’s where cards like Magmatic Channeler, Liliana, and Rankle come in handy. While they usually don’t give straight up card advantage, discarding a card in this deck is not necessarily a downside, and this makes their abilities much more powerful than in other decks.
- Everyone who has played some standard knows that there are many must answer threats: Edgewall Innkeeper, Lucky Clover, Lotus Cobra, and Omnath are cards that demand a main-deck answer for your deck to be competitive. Fueling your deck with too many removal spells, though, will often bring you in awkward spots when you just draw the wrong cards or when you are facing a control deck.
- Bonecrusher Giant, Spikefield Hazard, Shredded Sails, Murderous Rider, Hagra Mauling, Shatterskull Smashing, Inscription of Ruin, Liliana Waker of the Dead, and Rankle itself are all answers to the most important threats of this format that also have another mode or effect, and having so many versatile cards brings the deck’s consistency to another level. Inscription of Ruin is not in the list that won the Redbull France, but has often been played by Gabriel Nassif (Yellowhat) for its versatility.
The removal spells of choice that do not have other modes are usually Heartless Act and Bloodchief’s Thirst.
- Terror of the Peaks was not in this deck when it was created, but it’s a very cool addition that came up in the most recent lists. While playing a 5 mana creature that does nothing when it enters the battlefield may look a little underwhelming, combining it with the nice amount of discard spells and cheaper nasty creatures that call for removal, will make it likely that our big dragon will stay alive, and just win the game for us. Its synergy with Kroxa is incredible: If we play Kroxa from our hand, it will deal 6 damage to any target, and then another 6 if we have enough mana and cards to escape it from the graveyard. Add the 5 damage from attacking with the dragon and the 3 damage that Kroxa’s ability often does and you will see how lethal it is.
As you may have noticed from the previous section, there are a potentially huge numbers of choices to be made in the deck, thanks to the versatility of our spells and its ability to perform so many different roles.
This deck wants to play escape cards from the graveyard and has some effects that make both players discard cards. That means that when you can, you should try to use all of your mana and to not miss land drops until you have at least 4 lands, even if that means playing Hagra Mauling as a tapped land instead of using it as a spell, in case you happen to draw a few more lands in a row. This is especially true if you are also playing Ox of Agonas in the maindeck, or if you sideboarded it in. By default you should always play your Mire Triton and Tymaret calls the Dead over your other spells, because they can put a Kroxa in your graveyard or just allow a faster Kroxa if you have it in hand, and because you prefer that your opponent uses their removal on them and not on Magmatic Channeler or other threats.
There are, of course, a few exceptions, like the ‘must answer’ threats: if an opponent has played Edgewall Innkeeper or a Lotus Cobra, or a card of similar power level, you want to destroy it before your give them the chance to gain advantage from it. Without these cards on the battlefield, they will be much slower and you will have plenty of time to fill up your graveyard.
Another challenging aspect of the deck is the optimal way to use Magmatic Channeler. In general you always want to fill up your graveyard, so ideally you would like to activate it every turn. That may not be the case if you want to use it as a blocker, but otherwise, even discarding a land to find another one is a play that gives you a little advantage. Discarding Kroxa on turn 4 to reanimate it right away is a great play even if you will end up not playing the exiled cards. That’s how powerful that Titan is. As a reminder, Magmatic Channeler has also a “built in combat trick”: if you have 3 spells in the graveyard, you can pump it during combat by just casting any instant, or if you are blocking, just by activating it, even if in this case it will most of the time cost you a card. When planning attacks and blocks, keep this in mind even if you don’t have a way to pump it, because a good opponent will often play around that eventuality anyway.
One of the weakest points of this deck are the opponent’s topdecks. You have plenty of ways to make them discard cards (Kroxa, Rankle, Liliana, and other sideboard cards), so they will often be forced to discard their most expensive spells, but if they topdeck them, there is not much you can do. This means that when you use Rankle you should almost never use the “both players lose 1 life and draw a card” mode as you don’t have any super expensive bomb in the deck, and have in general other ways to keep grinding.
Sometimes games are won by very small edges, and choosing correctly which cards to exile with escape is the edge you may need to win! While most of the time, you will just exile all your graveyard, sometimes you have more cards and you need to choose wisely. There are many factors: let’s start from your deck composition. The cards that care about what you have in your graveyard are Magmatic Channeler, Agadeem’s Awakening, and Tymaret calls the Dead. This means that the only non-relevant cards that we are always ok to exile are lands. Other than that we want to keep 4 instant/sorceries for the Channelers, different mana cost creatures for the Awakening (if you have 1 Mire Triton but 2 Bonecrusher Giants, exile the second giant before considering exiling the first Triton), and sometimes 1 creature/enchantment to be safer with Tymaret Calls the Dead. Then there are your opponent’s cards: the most common are Scavenging Ooze, Nighthawk Scavenger, and Zareth San. So, especially against rogues, you may prioritize removing permanents as Zareth San can be really powerful, or just try to reduce the different card types to shrink Nighthawk Scavenger as much as you can.
Summing it up, most of the time the best strategy is to aggressively use our cards to empty both players’ hands as fast as we can, so that we can get advantage from our big graveyard and get a fast win from there with Kroxa or big Channelers.
This is my take on how to sideboard. I will use the decklist that won the Redbull Untapped as reference, but I will include general suggestions to adapt sideboarding if you are using other lists.
This will be one of the hardest matchups. I like to cut Rankle because they often have tokens to sacrifice and it also trades with Brazen Borrower. If I need to cut more cards, I want to get rid of the most expensive removal that we have, to add all our answers to Clover and Agonizing Remorse against Omnath and Escape to the Wilds. I think removing Terror of the Peaks is correct, because having it bounced by petty theft is really bad and because all your spell-lands are pretty good as spells, so reaching 5 mana is a little harder than against other matchups.
|+1 Embereth Shieldbreaker|
+2 Shredded sails
+3 Agonizing Remorse
|-2 Murderous Rider|
-2 Terror of the Peaks
Our goal here is to stop their plan and close the game out asap. We need discard spells, interaction for Lotus Cobra and Omnath, and to put a clock on them. If their win condition is Hedron Crab, you may consider cutting the self-mill cards and adding shades; otherwise, just trim some removal spells. Having mana available for removal on the turn they plan to do Omnath + Fabled passage may be the key to victory.
|+3 Agonizing Remorse||-1 Bloodchief’s Thirst|
-1 Shredded Sails
-1 Murderous Rider
Rogues will mill your deck, so let them do the hard work and just cut Mire Triton and Tymaret Calls the Dead – this is to avoid decking and, more importantly, to weaken their payoffs by keeping your graveyard on less than 8 cards by casting Kroxa or Ox. Add every removal that we have and every escape card.
|+3 Nighthawk Scavenger|
+1 Ox of Agonas
+2 Shredded sails
+1 Cling to Dust
+1 Skyclave Shade
|-4 Mire Triton|
-4 Tymaret Calls the Dead
Put in all your removal spells and remove the slowest cards. Against these matchups, we have Nighthawk Scavenger that will help us with lifelink. Shredded Sails may be good against Embercleave and The Great Henge, but I believe we have enough removal to make those cards bad anyway. Terror of the Peaks is slow but also really powerful. Against mono R, if they play Phoenix of Ash, Shredded Sails becomes a better card and you may consider cutting the dragon instead then.
|+3 Nighthawk Scavenger||-2 Rankle|
-1 Shredded Sails
Our goal is to get rid of all our dead cards and to put good cards in instead. Shredded Sails is good against Mazemind Tome, and is also ok against Shark Typhoon. I decided to cut Spikefield Hazard because it’s the worst spell-land, and all of them are bad spells in this matchup anyway.
|+3 Skyclave Shade|
+1 Ox of Agonas
+3 Agonizing Remorse
+2 Shredded Sails
|-3 Bloodchief’s Thirst|
-2 Heartless Act
-2 Terror of the Peaks
-2 Spikefield Hazard
That’s all for today. I hope you will enjoy the deck and its challenges as much as I am!