Kalain, Reclusive Painter Art by Justine Cruz

Standard 2022 Rakdos Midrange Guide: Here Comes a New Challenger!

One day, the great serpent will rejoin us on Skemfar, and those who’ve wronged us will taste of our venom.

Elderfang Disciple

Standard 2022 is here and it is here to stay! From July 8 until the release of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt on September, we can play this format where the cards from the last four expansions that are legal post-rotation can be played. Exploring this new format allows us to be prepared for the new Standard and have solid foundations to work on when we visit the plane of Innistrad for the third time!

Many people have already wondered which deck loses fewer cards when rotation happens, and the answer is clear: Izzet Dragons is a real Standard deck that keeps almost all its tricks, and that’s one of the reasons why is so popular right now.

Besides this, the competitive scene has already started holding tournaments at high level, and with that many other decks are establishing themselves as challengers against Dragons, some of them even show signs of a power level enough to be dominant when the new Standard arrives.

Checking one of the recent tournaments from last week, one archetype in particular got my attention:

[sd_deck deck=”dZAScOIMJ”]

My first impression when looking at the deck was: “It has Kalain, let’s play with it!”. That’s because since the release of D&D AFR this card caught my attention immediately. The reason behind why is something that WotC has been doing for some time now, and that is “returning one mana of the amount you paid for a card in form of a Treasure.”

So, thinking about Kalain as a one mana creature (Galazeth as a three mana dragon, and so on), made me look at these sort of cards in a whole new way and makes me want to try them immediately to really find out what they are capable of.

Putting that aside, this deck itself looks like something that has been designed specifically to beat Izzet and it surely does! After a single loss in the first round, 1-2 against Izzet in fact, Norbie went 6-0 thru the remaining rounds, beating 3 Izzet Dragons, 2 Dimir Control, and 1 Orzhov Midrange, just losing again in quarters against Mono Green Aggro (another big contender in this new format).

So, I built the deck in MTG Arena to have a closer look…

… And have a solid 12-4 run with it! Here is the final list after some small modifications that will be described below:

[sd_deck deck=”N85oi_nyo”]

How can this archetype get such good results? If we look closer at the card selections we can realize why.

Card Choices

Skullport Merchant Art by Aaron Miller
Skullport Merchant Art by Aaron Miller

Starting with our 2 mana creatures, Acquisitions Expert and Elderfang Disciple are the core of our main plan. Discarding cards from our opponents hands disrupt their ability to execute their game plan. Even if both are not targeted discards, these kinds of creatures allow us to take crucial advantages gathering information, plan our plays better and at the same time start developing our board.

Valki serves a similar purpose as well as acting as a threat to close our games. Knowing when to play it is important. Sometimes it is amazing at dismantling an opponent’s creature curve, in that case the right time would be one turn before the most problematic creature could enter the battlefield. If we are in a game that has come to a late game situation, playing it as Tibalt most of the time is enough to decant the game in our favor. Remember, there’s nothing as valuable as information, so, playing a Valki just to know what our opponent is working with is enough reason to play it.

Kalain is amazing! Yes, I know it is not a card that can win the game on its own, just like we said about Tibalt, but it is solid enough to make me think it is the strongest uncommon creature on AFR. She gives us one mana back of her mana value in a treasure form, and with its second ability our next creatures could be incredibly cost efficient.

Example: Skullport Merchant, another creature that gives us a Treasure token, could enter the battlefield as a 2/5 on turn three, which is enough to stop early aggression. Against slower decks, it gives +1/+1 counters on our creatures allowing us to exert pressure faster. Merchant fulfils another incredible role. He provides us with gas in a really efficient way, making our opponents waste cards trying to exchange removal with our creatures while we can draw in response sacrificing the targeted creature. We can even sacrifice “leftover” Treasures too! Curving these two creatures serves another important purpose. If we save the Treasures we can have six mana on turn 4, being able to play our late game threats like Goldspan Dragon, Lolth and Professor Onyx earlier, something that makes me even consider playing 4 of each.

Goldspan Dragon is an incredibly powerful card. This card, as its name suggests, tends to be worth its weight in gold. It is another creature that gives us back Treasures, making the amount of mana we spend on it less significant. It has been even mentioned as the most powerful card in Standard 2022 and I can’t argue with that. It’s one of the reasons we can outrace some aggro strategies, one of the best ways to exert pressure on other midrange or control decks, and with Kalain… Together can make our creatures incredibly big from nowhere. Remember, Kalain gives one +1/+1 counter PER mana Treasure spent on creatures, and Goldspan gives us 2 mana from every treasure so… You get the idea.

Lolth, the Spider Queen is great. At first impression this planeswalker should be better in a sacrifice deck, because it gets +1 when one of our creatures dies, but in this particular case it’s not necessarily true. It can make us draw cards “for free” (1 damage is not too much of a drawback) something that is really good against attrition matches like Izzet or Dimir, and it can make two bodies that can fulfil two different functions: Take the beatdown role against slower matchups or give us a lot of time against aggro. Remember, the tokens also have menace and reach!

Professor Onyx is another way we can grind out games, and in the same manner as Lolth, serves as a multi purpose card. Digs incredibly fast, letting us look at the three top cards with her +1 and finding answers at amazing speeds. She can handle almost untouchable creatures such as Iymrith, and with her passive we can recover life that some aggro matchups take from us in the early game, even being enough to kill our opponents by just playing defensively. Without a doubt one of our best cards. If the meta is dominated by midrange and control decks, playing two could be an option.

Our instants and sorceries are a selection of the best removal we can afford. Frost Bite lets us survive the early game (and from time to time kill planeswalkers, don’t forget that), while Flunk is best in later stages of the game. Either way, Flunk shines in this deck shell better than others, and that’s because we play discard, something that makes it kill bigger creatures in earlier turns!

Power Word Kill deserves a special mention here. Even if it’s one of the best available removal spells, after playing a lot of games with the deck… The predominance of Izzet Dragons gives us a dead card in hand too many times. Especially given that Standard 2022 is BO1. Against any of the other top decks in the meta it can target almost anything without restriction, but in this special scenario this became one of my two flex spots.

Hagra Mauling and Shatterskull Smashing are our removal MDFCs. Remember, Hagra costs 1 less if our opponent controls no basic lands, so if you get the opportunity to play it as a 3 mana spell, do it! Shatterskull on the other hand has one thing that is important to remember, it can target planeswalkers as well.

Deadly Dispute is played as a one of. Not too many cards have the ability of drawing two cards at instant speed. Yes, it asks us to sacrifice a creature (such as Village Rites) but it lets us sacrifice a Treasure instead. We can outtrade our opponents, sacrificing one of our creatures to draw two cards when they became the target of removal or if we are going to lose any of them against wrath effects.

Remember our first flex spot? We have another one here. After playing a lot of games with the deck, 4 Disputes look like too many for me, even if the card is really great. At the beginning of the game having two is too much, think of it as a “pit stop”, something that you probably don’t want to do at the beginning of a race… So, what can we do with this?

Orcus, Prince of Undeath

+2 Orcus, Prince of Undeath-1 Power Word Kill
-1 Deadly Dispute

If you want to play the exact list that took Domínguez to the top 8, I can’t argue with that, it’s really good, but in my opinion, and even if this deck is for BO1 purposes or for your next big tournament, playing two Orcus was amazing for me.

The Prince of Undeath could wipe a board just one turn before we lose against the most aggressive strategies, can revive our creatures making our opponents discard the last cards of their hand giving us blockers in the process, or with enough mana, we can even manage to attack again with our beloved Goldspan Dragons (remember, the Treasures with Goldspan give us two mana each).

This is another multipurpose card, and analyzing that allows us to understand that having flexible cards gives us a lot of advantage against our opponents. Remember: The revived creatures also have haste.

Matchups and Sideboarding

Valki, God of Lies Art by Yongjae Choi
Valki, God of Lies Art by Yongjae Choi

Even if the Standard 2022 queue is BO1, knowing how to play this deck on BO3 is relevant if you want to play it in tournaments, or who knows? Maybe we find one of the best archetypes post rotation and having this knowledge could be something that could give us the upper hand when Innistrad: Midnight Hunt gets released and hoping a similar archetype can thrive.

The Book Combo

Since The Book of Exalted Deeds got banned from Standard 2022, we can make a small change to the original sideboard as two of the cards seem to be there for this matchup.

+2 Heated Debate-1 Plundering Barbarian
-1 Cleansing Wildfire

Izzet Dragons

+2 Soul Shatter-4 Frost Bite
+2 Skycleave Shade-2 Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
+2 Check for Traps-2 Orcus, Prince of the Undeath
+2 Heated Debate-1 Flunk 
+1 Inferno of the Star Mounts

The big contender. Even if Izzet Dragons wants to claim the throne, we are built to destroy it. In game one, discard effects would make our opponents’ lives really hard. Yes, Foretell works as a “hide” effect to protect their cards from this but, most of the time it’s something that can benefit us as well. They can protect Alrund's Epiphany (they tend to play a full set) but this move is a double edged sword. Doing this costs 2 mana and leaves other important cards unprotected. Even if we don’t have targeted discard effects in game one, they can stumble really hard trying to Foretell while choosing what to discard. In game two this gets even worse for them as we add two Check for Traps.

Soul Shatter is really important for many reasons. They usually exert pressure with one creature at the time, so a well placed one can get rid of the threat (even if it is a Faceless Haven), but more importantly, it can get Iymrith out of the board. Most of the time a Iymrith player is going to tap all their lands because the blue dragon can protect itself (have ward 4), but Soul Shatter ignores this.

Skycleave Shade is a familiar face from regular Standard. In most black decks it became one of the better options to put pressure against slow decks, thanks to its ability to ignore removal. Being a resilient creature is the reason why we play two on this matchup.

Inferno of the Star Mounts is something that I think is even playable in Historic as a one of. It makes me remember Big Chandra with its uncounterable ability, something that in this kind of matchup becomes incredibly relevant. It even has haste and “fire breathing” (R: +1/0), something that could close games in a snap!

Heated Debate is an amazing inclusion against Izzet Dragons because it checks Galazeth Prismari, Goldspan Dragon, and even Faceless Haven if needed that your opponent cannot counter.

Frost Bite goes out because it can’t handle any of the dragons. Even if we can kill a Faceless Heaven with it, this is going to be something that doesn’t worry us most of the time, and 1 Flunk goes for Heated Debate. Valki is decent, but we are fine with just 1 and Inferno covers the missing threat slot in a better way as Check for Traps does for the two mana play. Orcus on the other hand is not great against counterspells as we also have to spend a lot of mana on it to make it worthwhile.

Dimir Control

+2 Soul Shatter-4 Frost Bite
+2 Skycleave Shade-1 Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
+2 Check for Traps-2 Orcus, Prince of the Undeath
+1 Inferno of the Star Mounts

Dimir has two big reasons for being played: Mordenkainen and Hall of the Storm Giants. Both cards are amazing, and that is the reason we want a pair of Soul Shatter (besides an occasional Iymrith).

The reason they pair it with black is simple: It is one of the better options to give you time to reach the high amount of mana required for the first two mentioned cards. They are going to control the board with removal, and that’s the reason we want the Shade (remember, they mostly play a pair of Shadow’s Verdict, so, if you have this in mind, you can play around it with your discards and save them for the right time).

Check for Traps is good for the same reason as against Izzet Dragons. The slower the deck is, the better our discard is going to work. The fact that it also exiles a card is relevant because of Blood in the Snow. For that reason we want to target Mordekainen or Professor Onyx with it. Inferno comes in for mostly the same reason as Izzet Matchup. Uncountereable + Haste + Fire Breathing against a control deck? Yes please!

Frost Bite goes out because it is mostly a dead card in hand. Even if Orcus is good from time to time in game 1, against a control deck it is hard to make it shine. Valki just gives its spot to a bigger and a faster threat.

Mono Green Aggro

+2 Soul Shatter-4 Elderfang Disciple
+2 Bloodchief’s Thirst-4 Acquisitions Expert
+2 Nighthawk Scavenger-2 Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor
+2 Heated Debate
+2 Crippling Fear

The hard matchup. Yes, even if Mono Green is getting more popular with the passing of the time, we can have a really really good matchup after sideboarding. If we are 40-60% in game 1, post sideboard it’s clearly the opposite, being 60-40% in our favor.

Soul Shatter, Bloodchief’s Thirst, Crippling Fear and Heated Debate put our walls up. Even if our discard creatures are good early blockers, the plan of trading one of opponent’s creature for one removal is better.

Keep in mind that they play “The Cadillac” (Esika’s Chariot), so we want to save a removal that can handle it and play our tools carefully depending on the type of aggression our opponent puts in front of us. If you want, keeping one Plundering Barbarian on the sideboard wouldn’t be crazy because of this.

Nighthawk Scavenger is extremely efficient in this matchup. Having deathtouch makes the attacks of our opponents really awkward, and lifelink keeps us alive while allowing us to race them when needed.

Remember, Kalain into Merchant gets us a 2/5. This could be a game changer.

Tips and Tricks

If you have Elderfang Disciple and Acquisitions Expert in hand, play the Disciple first so that Acquisitions Expert would make our opponent show two cards instead of one.

If we make Valki transform into another creature, we can play another Valki as they are no longer duplicates.

The tokens of Lolth have menace and reach! Yes, I’m saying this again. Most of the time I close hard games because of this.

Professor Onyx could handle a pesky Iymrith with the -3 ability.

Kalain gives us one +1/+1 counter for EACH MANA from a Treasure spent to cast them. I had a 11/9 Orcus one time, and Really big Goldspans are common too.

Skullport Merchant and Deadly Dispute can sacrifice Treasures, not only creatures. And the dwarven merchant blocks really well too! Yes, it is a Dwarf creature type, and that became relevant once when I got Valki transformed into Magda, letting me ramp for 2.

Other Card Considerations

Blood on the Snow Art by Martina Fackova
Blood on the Snow Art by Martina Fackova

The fact that Standard 2022 is a new format leaves us with just a few options when trying to optimize heavily tested decks. However, there are in fact some really good options that can lead us to an optimized list depending on the evolution of the metagame.

Burning Hands: The sideboard is configured to face a wide range of aggressive strategies, but if Mono Green tends to keep rising as the best aggro option, changing some of our sideboard slots for these cards would be something we can certainly do. We prefer Heated Debate because it is amazing against Dragons and it’s functional in this matchup too (remember the power of flexibility).

Blood on the Snow: I played with this card for a while, and even if it’s amazing cleaning the board and returning one of our creatures or planeswalkers in the process, 6 mana against aggro decks could be too slow… But playing 1 or 2 on the sideboard is possible because we pack a lot of spot removal for early instances. Playing Pathways and not just snow lands make me consider playing this “Wrath” even more, because we probably are not gonna get our planeswalkers or Golspan Dragon back.

Baleful Mastery: Probably the card I would play in the two flex spots if you don’t want to play with Orcus. It’s a great card and probably one of the best removals in Standard, but in our particular case, giving a card to our opponent if we play it for 2 it’s something that we don’t want, and playing it for 4 could be too slow against Mono Green. In any case, try playing a pair of it could be a good addition to the deck.

Feed the Swarm: Same reasoning as Burning Hands. This card could be our only option against Ranger Class and Paladin Class. If those decks become more popular we could change two of our sideboard removals for this, even if we don’t like to lose life against aggro.

Inscription of Ruin: Discarding two cards is good against midrange and control. Getting a creature back is decent, and destroying a creature is good against aggro. This is a super flexible card, but if I would play it I would put a pair on the mainboard, just for the fact of being able to use it without caring about our opponent’s deck, and then sideboard it out for more specific answers. Thinking about this makes me think that could be a really good addition for a BO1 list. Hmm…

Final Notes

8 Rack is not the most played deck in Modern, but it does a great job of attacking slightly less aggressive metagames. Decks that aren’t able to empty their hands quickly by choice will still be forced to do so. Even a deck like Affinity may not be fast enough to race The Rack and Affliction if they don’t have the right payoff cards. It’s definitely a blast to play if you like locking people into not having options on cards to cast!

Eric Froehlich

I know this isn’t Modern, and this isn’t 8 Rack (a discard archetype for that format) but extrapolation is one of my favorite things in Magic. One time a great player said that “if you want to make something work, see how other similar decks try to do so on other formats” (or something close to that, haha). Paraphrasing what EFRO said:

Even if discard is not a popular effect, it does a great job attacking grindy metagames and Standard 2022 surely is! Even a deck like Mono Green may not be fast enough to race us if we cut their plans and it’s definitely a blast to play if you like people not having options. 🙂

I had an amazing time playing this archetype! Gathering information about it by going on the Standard 2022 ladder was a great experience. This is definitely a good option for fighting against two of the more predominant strategies, Izzet and Dimir, and winning against aggro even on BO1 is not an impossible task. In a format where grindy matchups are at the order of the day, even the simplest discard effects could be really powerful. 😉

So, give it a try and tell me how it goes! It would be amazing to read about it in the comment section.

Default image

A full time MTG content creator. Started playing Magic in 99’ with the release of Urza’s Destiny, 3 times Grand Prix attendant (1 as a player ending #78 and 2 as a judge). Mexican, lover of coffee, Korean culture, languages and ex-LoL coach.
Follow me on Instagram, Twitch, or Twitter.

Articles: 36