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Why Should You Play a Sacrifice Deck?
Powerful 2 Drops
In today’s Standard, with many strong three drops, you need to consider how to make an even stronger action against the opponent’s three drops or how to deal with them. Deploying two drops ahead of the opponent gives a significant advantage to gain initiative in the game.
Rakdos Sacrifice has Oni-Cult Anvil, a strong two drop, in addition to Bloodtithe Collector. Powerful proactive moves from the second turn is the unique merit of Rakdos Sacrifice, which no other decks have.
Strong In A Damage Race
Rakdos Sacrifice doesn’t necessarily have to deal with all of the opponent’s threats and allows you to pick up wins in many games by directly reducing the opponent’s life.
Multi-colored lands in the current Standard aren’t flexible. Top-tier tri-colored decks, like Esper Midrange and Grixis Midrange, play a lot of pain lands in exchange for powerful cards with strict color requirements. Such decks require you to pay a lot of life to play cards such as Raffine, Scheming Seer, Corpse Appraiser, and Invoke Despair. Oni-Cult Anvil provides you with an extra strategic option to deal damages directly to the opponent.
Easy To Gain Board Advantage
Sacrifice decks are good at deploying permanents on the battlefield early in the game. The board advantage is an effective answer to many of the top-tier decks. For example, if the opponent fails to attack with a two drop creature on the turn when
The Brothers’ War Revives Sacrifice Decks
As you can see, the Sacrifice deck looks like a compelling choice, but it disappeared with the last rotation. This is because the lack of Deadly Dispute was too much of a blow for the deck to survive initially. It played a pivotal role in artifact synergy decks like Rakdos Sacrifice, as its draw and Treasure tokens made the synergy of the deck work.
Rakdos Sacrifice, however, has come back with The Brothers' War – a card set full of artifacts. The Brother’s War has filled the absence of key cards and has provided another edge for the deck.
Let’s take a look at two important new cards as well. The first one is Transmogrant's Crown
It’s not bad as a way to push damage. Due to the absence of Deadly Dispute, Voldaren Epicure became a valueless 1/1 creature with little impact on the game. However, once equipped with Transmogrant's Crown, it will turn into a decent attacker that cannot be ignored and gives you an additional draw if the opponent kills it.
The other new card is Saheeli, Filigree Master.
Sacrifice works well with planeswalkers. It has many small creatures which make it easy to protect planeswalkers. Also, planeswalkers mitigate the vulnerability of the deck, which stems from the nature of the deck deploying many permanents on the battlefield that can be all killed in one fell swoop from something like Brotherhood's End or Farewell.
The abilities of the planeswalker are unquestionably strong as well: +1 ability works as a draw engine, and -2 ability creates artifact creatures. The risk of using multiple copies of legendary cards is also mitigated by its -4 ability, which allows you to dispose of the existing Saheeli, Filigree Master and play a new one. Haste of tokens created by -2 ability works well with equipment, and it is also effective against the opponent’s planeswalkers. Considering just both of these abilities, the card is definitely worth splashing Blue.
The mana bases is another strength of this deck compared to other three-colored decks. Since this deck is almost a red-black deck, and blue is the splash, you can play less tap lands and pain lands. Blue mana is required only mildly: Blue is necessary only from the third or fourth turn, and no double blue symbols are required. Therefore, you can build the deck’s mana curve assuming that blue comes out of slow lands. Also, since you need blue mana in few situations, the risk of featuring Blue pain lands is limited, and you don’t have to spare so many slots for multi-colored lands that produce Blue mana.
Versus Aggro (Mono-Red, Soldier)
Switch the number of copies of Saheeli, Filigree Master and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse because the former is vulnerable against the opponent’s creatures while the latter works as an effective defense. This board plan also fits the game plan better – acting as a removal control deck early in the game, you can eventually pick up wins with card advantages provided by Fable of the Mirror-Breaker or with life advantages from the ability of Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
Versus Esper Midrange
|+2 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse||-2 Saheeli, Filigree Master|
|+2 Duress||-2 Voldaren Epicure|
|+1 Soul Transfer||-1 Voltage Surge|
Board in Soul Transfer to deal with Ao, the Dawn Sky. Here are two things to keep in mind. First of all, if you draw Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, you should play with tempo and prevent the opponent from curving out on the second and the third turn. Specifically, if you’re on the draw, you should play removal rather than deploying Oni-Cult Anvil on the turn two. Next, the effective time to cast Duress is the turn or the right before the turn you play Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. Since Esper is a creature deck, the opponent has a limited number of removal spells, and if your Duress gets rid of them, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is likely to remain in the battlefield and bring you a win.
Versus Grixis Midrange
There are two important things you need to prioritize: not letting the opponent play Invoke Despair in an effective way and not allowing the opponent’s Sheoldred, the Apocalypse to remain the battlefield. Grixis Sacrifice has early-game board advantage with three or smaller drops, so you should prioritize putting pressure on the board early in the game, and save removal for Sheoldred.
Board out Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, even though it’s strong. It’s likely to be punished severely by the opponent’s Invoke Despair, and it doesn’t do much when you need to deal with the flip side of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.
Like the sideboarding plan against Esper, you might want to use Duress to protect Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, but the effective timing to cast Duress is different from the one in the game plan against Esper. In this case, the ideal target of Duress is Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. After the opponent casts Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, the power of Duress is weakened by looting of its second chapter.
Versus Control (Azorius Control etc.)
|+2 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary||-2 Cut Down|
|+2 Duress||-3 Voldaren Epicure|
|+2 Negate||-2 Go for the Throat|
|+1 Disdainful Stroke||-1 Transmogrant's Crown|
|+1 Soul Transfer|
Board in Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, assuming the opponent will wipe the board with Farewell. Once you have Transmogrant's Crown on the field, you should keep the second and subsequent ones in your hand for recovery after Farewell.
Be aware of which game plan you will take: win before Farewell, or recover after Farewell. Farewellis the target you want to counter or make the opponent discard, so you can basically ignore The Wandering Emperor since it has little effect against our deck.
Tips and Tricks
There are various effective ways to play Transmogrant's Crown from obvious ones to ones hard to come up with, so let me show some examples.
- Attach to artifact creatures. If you sacrifice them with Oni-Cult Anvil, you can guarantee card draw. You may activate Oni-Cult Anvil’s ability on your opponent’s turn when you use the artifact creature equipped as a blocker and if the opponent doesn’t attack.
- Attach to Bloodtithe Harvester. You can draw immediately when you activate its ability.
- Attach to creatures that are likely to be used as blockers. You can have more chances to draw.
- Attach to the copy token generated by Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. It will be sacrificed at the end of the turn, so you can draw.
- Attach to Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, the flip side of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. If the opponent doesn’t seem to be attacking and you don’t have a way to sacrifice it, equip it to the creature the opponent most wants to remove.
- Attach to creatures with stats of 2/2 or higher that you don’t want to be removed, such as Reflection of Kiki-Jiki. You can keep them away from Cut Down.
Other tips for playing:
- After you have dealt damage to the opponent to some extent, even if the board is taken out by the opponent, you need to consider how to approach the game from there. Think about whether it’s easier to win by reclaiming the board again or pressuring the opponent.
- You should count how many turns you need to get lethal damage. Don’t miss the chance to get lethal damage with Oni-Cult Anvil’s triggered ability by sacrificing Blood tokens at the end of the turn. Don’t miss out on cases where you can win by using up loyalty counters of Saheeli, Filigree Master and playing a second copy for more tokens.
- When you cast Voltage Surge, even though 2 damage is enough and you don’t have to pay its additional cost, you can draw more by sacrificing an artifact creature equipped with Transmogrant's Crown
- If you sacrifice a treasure token to trigger Oni-Cult Anvil’s ability, choose to produce black mana. You can use the mana to equip Transmogrant's Crown to the 1/1 artifact creature token created by Oni-Cult Anvil and keep Oni-Cult Anvil untapped.