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Budget Magic: $48 (50 tix) Modern 8 Rack


Hey there Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. This week we are heading to Modern to explore one of the classic budget decks in the format, 8 Rack! Unlike some budget versions of real decks, the budget version of 8 Rack actually feels fairly optimal because much of the best discard in Modern is printed at Common and Uncommon. We don't get Liliana of the Veil, but I don't believe this loss is a deal breaker because there are plenty of solid options to run in her place. Overall I was impressed by how competitive 8 Rack is in Modern. While it has some bad matchups, it's a deck you could take to a SCG Open or Grand Prix and expect some success, all for less than $50!

Let's get to the videos, then I'll talk more about the deck. A quick reminder. If you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

8 Rack Intro

8 Rack vs Ad Nauseam

8 Rack vs Wilt-Leaf Abzan

8 Rack vs Mono-White Hatebears

8 Rack vs Dredge

8 Rack vs UR Twin

The Deck

As you can tell from the videos, 8 Rack is a tale of good and bad matchups. Apart from the UR Twin match, which was complicated by some odd draws and risky keeps on my part, we either completely dominated our opponents or they completely dominated us. Part of the problem is we ran into some very bad, uncommon matchups like Dredge and Wilt-Leaf Abzan. Maybe this variance is a good thing. Modern is a wide open format. If you take 8 Rack to a Grand Prix, there is a chance you run into one of these decks, so it's good to be prepared. On the other hand, we absolutely crush slow control and combo decks and fair creature decks that don't have Loxodon Smiter, Wilt-Leaf Liege, or Lingering Souls. In a sense, 8 Rack feels like the anti-Jund: instead of having a bunch of 50/50 matchups, we have a bunch of 80/20 matchups. 

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One of the problems with a dedicated discard deck is you can't make your opponent discard from the top of their deck. It is very possible to get an opponent empty handed on turn three, but still lose the game because our opponent top-decked the best presumable play each turn. The Rack and Shrieking Affliction fix this problem because they end the game quickly. With two copies of these cards on the battlefield, our opponent's life total dissipates quickly enough that their top decks usually don't matter. Where we run into problems (e.g. game two against UR Twin) is in the games where we never draw The Rack or Shrieking Affliction. While I don't believe 8 Rack is the type of deck that can mulligan until it finds a rack, in our build these cards are our only way of winning the game. If we don't have one in our opening hand we need to hope and pray we draw one in the first few turns. 

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These are the discard spells we can fire off at pretty much any time, without concern about what's going on in our opponent's hand. With Augur of Skulls it is worth considering whether it may be better on the battlefield as a regenerating blocker against Tarmogoyf or Scavenging Ooze. Otherwise we use it like a Mind Rot with suspend 1, making our opponent discard their two worst cards.

Stupor is like the world's worst Hymn to Tourach. We only play two copies because at three mana it's a little slow, but random discard is nice. The interesting aspect of Stupor is that it has higher upside than our other Mind Rots. While it will always gets our opponent's worst card, it also gets a random card. Since our other discard spells almost always get the worst card, there is upside to playing a few copies of Stupor

I'll typically lead on Raven's Crime on turn one, assuming we have one in hand, because we can always get it back from the graveyard. It's always going to get our opponent's worse card. That said, Raven's Crime might be the most important discard spell in our deck. Another way our deck can lose is by drawing a string of dead lands, which is usually any land past three or four. The retrace ability on Raven's Crime allows us to turn these otherwise-dead Swamps into discard spells, while also making sure our opponent stays empty-handed once we get them that way. As such, don't play your extra lands; hold them to discard to Raven's Crime

Blackmail is one of the highest variance discard spells in our deck. It is clearly better to use other discard spells first. If we can get an opponent down to three cards, Blackmail is better than Thoughtseize. On the other hand, if we cast it one turn one, it's not significantly better than Raven's Crime. Getting the third worst card from a seven card hand isn't all that great. Getting any card from a three card hand is awesome.

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Wrench Mind is an interesting card. Against a deck without artifacts it is the best discard spell in our entire deck. Against Affinity or Tron, it's one of the worst spells in our deck. Against decks I know are playing artifacts, I'll sometimes try to clear the way with other discard like Blackmail or Duress. We want to be sure Wrench Mind makes our opponent discard two cards. 

Funeral Charm has two advantages. First, we can use the +2/-1 mode to kill Dark Confidant, Delver of Secrets, Noble Hierarch, and pretty much any creature from Infect or Affinity. Second, it is our only instant speed discard spell. While only taking one card isn't great, being able to cast it during our opponent's draw step to take the card they drew is actually extremely powerful. Remember how I said the biggest flaw with a dedicated discard deck is you can't control what your opponent draws each turn? Funeral Charm can. When we aren't using it to kill a creature, I typically hold on to Funeral Charm to use it when our opponent is in top deck mode. 

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There really isn't much to say about our removal suite. The theme is to make it as unconditional as possible. Smallpox is great. We are able to break the symmetry by not having any creatures and by sacrificing or discarding Dakmor Salvage, which we can always dredge back if necessary. Smother kills any early game creature. Victim of Night is the least-conditional two mana Black removal spell in Modern since there are less Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies than there are black creatures (Doom Blade), multicolor creatures (Ultimate Price), or artifact creatures (Go for the Throat). The only reason Victim of Night doesn't see more play is that hitting double black on turn two can be a challenge for some decks. In our deck with 19 Swamps it's never a problem.

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The reason why Dakmor Salvage is in the deck is two-fold. First, we can sacrifice / discard it to Smallpox, and if we find ourselves really, really needing a land, we can dredge it back. The other reason is even more important, it allows us to always have a land to discard to retrace Raven's Crime. Once we get an opponent empty-handed, we have a lot of dead draws in our deck. Instead of drawing a random card, it's often better to dredge back Dakmor Salvage and retrace Raven's Crime to make our opponent discard whatever they drew that turn. 

The Matchup

  • The Good: Twin, Jund, Junk, Grixis Control, Scapeshift, Ad Nauseam, UW Control, Storm, Lantern Control.
    • We like playing midrange decks and slow control and combo decks. I'm not sure how something like Scapeshift can beat us with any regularity, and the same is true of Lantern Control, Storm, and Ad Nauseam. Midrange decks can beat us by drawing big threats off the top, but if we use our removal wisely we should be favored. 
  • The Bad (or middling): Affinity, Burn, Amulet Bloom, Tron, Infect, Merfolk, Delver, and various flavors of Collected Company.
    • While I think we have some chance of winning, it's probably not great. One card that could help is Ghost Quarter. I believe our deck could support it as the non-budget version plays four Mutavault. Not only would Ghost Quarter make Tron and Amulet Bloom passible, but it would also help against Inkmoth Nexus, Blinkmoth Nexus, and Mutavault from the other decks on the list. 
  • The Ugly: Wilt-Leaf Abzan, Living End, Goryo's Vengeance, Hulk Combo, Loam, Bogles. 
    • I don't think we can ever beat Living End, Loan, Dredge, or Wilt-Leaf Abzan pre-board. After sideboarding we hope to draw into our graveyard hate. Nihil Spellbomb has the potential to steal a game against any of these decks, with the exception of Wilt-Leaf Abzan. I don't think any one card fixes the Wilt-Leaf matchup, outside of getting lucky with Languish

Ultra-Budget 8 Rack

As you noticed, these changes only impact the price of the paper version of the deck. There really isn't any way to make the deck cheaper on Magic Online because more than $35 of it is tied up in The Rack itself. The reason The Rack is super expensive online is because it was only printed as a Time Shifted Rare. In the paper world there are tons of copies of the Uncommon floating around. If you are looking to save money on Magic Online, your best bet is to replace the Dismembers in the sideboard with a less expensive removal spell. You can probably keep in the Languishes, which are cheaper than Dismember on Magic Online.

Magic Online aside, the biggest changes in the Ultra Budget version of 8 Rack is the loss of Blackmail, which is weirdly expensive at $11 for a playset. You also lose Languish in the sideboard. Since there is no clear replacement for either of these cards, we pretty much have to reconfigure the discard a bit, moving a couple of Duress to the main deck and adding some more targeted removal to the sideboard. While the deck can probably survive without Blackmail, I'm a little worried about the lack of a sweeper. Without Languish, the deck has a really hard time beating a card like Lingering Souls. While I added a couple of Illness in the Ranks to deal specifically with Lingering Souls, Illness is too niche to be a true sweeper.

Non-Budget 8 Rack

For the non-budget version, the big additions are Dark Confidant, which provides a steady stream of card advantage, Liliana of the Veil, which is both a discard and removal spell, and better one mana discard in the form of Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek. What I really like about 8 Rack is that it's an easy archetype to build into because you don't need to make all these changes at once. Do you have a couple Thoughtseize laying around from Standard? Stick them in the deck. Do you only have one Liliana of the Veil? Run it; it will make the deck better. The point is you can slowly, card by card, build into the full version as you trade for the cards you need. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. In my experience with the deck, I found 8 Rack to be extremely competitive and fun to play. It's not without its share of bad matchups. If you decide to play this deck at a big tournament, you are rolling the die. If you hit the good matchups, you could easily Day 2, but if you run into your bad matchups, going 0-2 drop is just as possible. At $50, 8 Rack is a great deck to bring to an FNM or to play on Magic Online. The deck is extremely competitive, and as I mentioned a moment ago, I really like how easy it is to upgrade the deck incrementally.

Most importantly, it ranks highly on the "how unfun is this for my opponent" scale. It's not quite to the level of Knowledge Pool or Stasis, but you'll get your share of dirty looks, sighs, and rage quits. The deck is especially fun on Magic Online because the program randomly censors the word "rack." When an opponent gets salty in the chat, every time they say "rack," it comes up ****, so it looks like they're dropping F-bombs left and right, even though what they're really saying is "I hate 8 Rack."

As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, and opinions in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 


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