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Budget Magic: $93 (30 tix) Modern Rakdos Aggro

Witéjta, Budget Magic lovers! It's that time once again. Aether Revolt releases on Magic Online in a couple of days, so starting next week, we'll have a string of Budget Magics exploring the new Standard format, but for this week, we are heading to Modern once again to check out an aggressive deck playing a bunch of my favorite cards: Rakdos Aggro! For some reason, the red-black color combination is built for budget players, with many of the most powerful and aggressive cards in those colors being relatively cheap. Not only do we get strong prowess creatures like Monastery Swiftspear and Abbot of Keral Keep but also some threats that can win the game on their own like Pack Rat and Falkenrath Aristocrat, all backed by the best removal in the format! 

We'll talk more about Rakdos Aggro after the videos, but first 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 of the latest and greatest.

Rakdos Aggro: Deck Tech

Rakdos Aggro vs. Bant Eldrazi

Rakdos Aggro vs. Aggro Loam

Rakdos Aggro vs. GB Tron

Rakdos Aggro vs. Naya Burn

Rakdos Aggro vs. Affinity

The Deck

The basic idea of the deck is simple: we play powerful creatures at each point on the curve from one mana to four mana; then, we back up these creatures with the best removal in the Modern format and some direct damage to finish off the opponent. Because this is more of a power-based aggro deck than a synergy deck, probably the easiest way to break down the deck is by mana cost and card type. 


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Monastery Swiftspear is pretty much the budget player's Goblin Guide, except there are actually some reasonable arguments that it's better than Goblin Guide itself. While we aren't overloaded on noncreature spells, we do have quite a few, so after attacking for one (with haste) on Turn 1, we can usually get in for two damage a turn with Monastery Swiftspear thanks to a prowess trigger. Having prowess also means we can get in some free damage because opponents often choose to not block rather than risk getting blown out by an instant or two. Oh yeah, and we also have a card that we'll talk about in a minute that cares about the Human creature type, which is another upside of Monastery Swiftspear in our deck.

Meanwhile, Vampire Lacerator is a bad Goblin Guide (and a bad Monastery Swiftspear). While it is a 2/2 for one, it can be painful in aggressive matchups because it will often lose us two or three life if we play it on Turn 1. On the other hand, it does do a good job of getting in early damage, and our deck really needed a couple more Turn 1 plays, which means that even though Vampire Lacerator isn't great, it is a necessary evil in our deck.


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Pack Rat is the rare two-drop that can win the game all by itself when it goes unchecked, and against midrange and control decks, it puts the opponent to an immediate test: if they don't have a removal spell on Turn 2, we can go all-in on the Pack Rat and end up with an overwhelming board in just a couple of turns. While there will be times when we play it and it just immediately dies to a Lightning Bolt or Path to Exile, the upside of occasionally winning a game all on its own makes it more than worthy of a slot in our deck. 

As for Abbot of Keral Keep, it works a lot like a Monastery Swiftspear (with prowess making it difficult for opponents to block) while also sometimes drawing us an extra card. While we will play it on Turn 2 just as a 2/1 with prowess if we don't have other options, it's even better if we can hold onto it an extra turn or two so we can cast the card we exile with the enters-the-battlefield trigger. Also, like Monastery Swiftspear, it's a human, which matters for our Falkenrath Aristocrats.

For both of our two-drops, the most important thing is their flexibility—while they are fine on Turn 2, they are just as good (or maybe even better) on Turn 5,e when we can assuredly cast whatever card we exile with Abbot of Keral Keep or immediately make a token with Pack Rat. As such, in some ways, these cards work like split cards, being both our two-drops when things are going well and our five-drops when things are going poorly. 


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Countryside Crusher, as strange as it sounds, is sort of our budget version of Dark Confidant. While it doesn't actually draw us an extra card, it does mill any lands that happen to be on the top of our deck (which is a good thing, because our deck mostly tops out at three mana) and makes sure that we are drawing action every turn. The downside is that it's only a 3/3 (until it mills a land), which means it dies to a lot of removal. Still, when it sticks around, it often ends up being the biggest creature on the battlefield, all while improving our draws significantly. 

Meanwhile, Goblin Rabblemaster is similar to Pack Rat, in that it can win a game on its own, especially when backed up by all of our efficient removal (more on this in a minute). It can get in for one damage right away thanks to the hasty token, and then on the next turn, it swings for six on an empty board (the same amount of damage as Geist of Saint Traft). The tokens also help powerful up our last creature...


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Falkenrath Aristocrat is one of the cards that started me down the path of building Rakdos Aggro in the first place. The Vampire offers an extremely fast, evasive clock, and she is very hard to deal with thanks to the ability to become indestructible by sacrificing a creature. While we aren't overloaded on creatures to sacrifice, by the time Falkenrath Aristocrat comes down, we usually have something sitting around we can sacrifice between our one-drops and Goblin Rabblemaster tokens, and both Monastery Swiftspear and Abbot of Keral Keep are Humans, so after they are outclassed on the ground, we can trade them in for flying damage in the form of a +1/+1 counter on Falkenrath Aristocrat

The best part of Falkenrath Aristocrat is that it combines with our direct damage spells to give us a ton of reach. If we can get in just 10 damage with our early game creatures, it's pretty easy to close out the game with a hit or two from Falkenrath Aristocrat combined with Blightnings and Lightning Bolts!


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While our creatures are great, by far the biggest reason to play Rakdos Aggro is that we have amazing removal. Terminate is the best unconditional removal spell in Modern, killing anything at instant speed for just two mana, while Dreadbore is basically a backup Terminate that can kill a Karn Liberated or Liliana of the Veil. Together, these cards make sure that, no matter what road-blocking creatures out opponent might play, we have an answer so that we can keep attacking with our Pack Rats, Goblin Rabblemasters, and Monastery Swiftspears. Lightning Bolt and Forked Bolt can take out a creature in the early game, with the upside of going to our opponent's face in the late game to help finish off the opponent, in conjunction with Falkenrath Aristocrat or our other haste creatures. 

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Blightning is the other card that pushed me towards building Rakdos Aggro. Essentially a Mind Rot / Lava Spike hybrid, the sorcery can be a bit matchup dependent (for example, Affinity can empty their hand so early that it's hard for the discard to matter), but against midrange or more controlling decks, a Blightning or two is a huge swing in our favor. Most importantly, even when Blightning is at its worst (when our opponent is empty handed), it's still an overcosted Lava Spike that helps us close out the game, triggers prowess on our Abbot of Keral Keep and Monastery Swiftspear, and hopefully finishes off our opponent.

The Sideboard

The sideboard is pretty straightforward. With the recent bannings in Modern, many people think that Tron and Affinity are two of the big winners, so we have some answers for these matchups in Stone Rain (for Tron) and Vandalblast plus Gut Shot (for Affinity). Duress gives us a way to fight against combo decks like Ad Nauseam, Scapeshift, and Goryo's Vengeance but also being fine against control (taking away an Anger of the Gods or Supreme Verdict), while Outpost Siege offers a steady stream of card advantage against midrange and control decks. 

To get Rakdos Aggro down into the ultra-budget range, we have to make some painful cuts. While the mana base in the build we played for the videos was pretty stripped back, it didn't have any enters-the-battlefield tapped lands, but this changes for the ultra-budget build, as we have to cut Sulfurous Springs for Cinder Barrens. Meanwhile, we lose Lightning Bolt, replacing it with Incinerate (essentially a two-mana Lightning Bolt), and Monastery Swiftspear becomes Bloodsoaked Champion, which gets in less damage but actually has more synergy with Falkenrath Aristocrat, coming back from the graveyard and being a Human to do some cool tricks. Otherwise, the deck is pretty much the same and should play much like the build in the videos. If you decide to start with this build, I'd work on improving the mana base first and foremost (playing any untapped RB duals you have), upgrade to Lightning Bolt next, and then work on fixing the creatures last.

The non-budget build of Rakdos Aggro gets a bunch of upgrades, including Goblin Guide to replace Vampire LaceratorDark Confidant as a card advantage-generating Human; and a solid Modern-worthy mana base including fetches, shocks, and fast lands. We also get to upgrade the sideboard with Thoughtseize and Blood Moon, which should help the deck have game in an even wider range of matchups. Probably the most important of these upgrades is Goblin Guide to go alongside Monastery Swiftspear, but I probably wouldn't run out and buy copies right now; we should be getting Modern Masters 2017 spoilers in about a month, and there's a very realistic chance that Goblin Guide gets reprinted, which would drop the price a ton. If you are looking for more immediate upgrades, start with the mana base, with Khans of Tarkir fetches and a playset of Blood Crypt. All in all, I think this build is certainly better than the one in the videos, but like I said before, I might hold off on upgrading anything for Modern until we know what will be in Modern Masters 2017


Anyway, that's all for today. We finished our video matches 3-2, and 4-3 overall (with a win against a weird GR Aggro deck featuring Skinshifter and Blood Moon and a loss in a rematch against Eldrazi). The deck felt really solid, although we really struggled against Affinity, which felt like a faster version of what we were doing. Of course, we could have drawn our Vandalblasts and probably won the match, so I don't think the matchup is simply unwinnable, but we are leaning really heavily on a limited number of sideboard cards. On the other hand,  Rakdos Aggro felt really good against midrange and control decks; not only do we have a fast clock, but we get resilient threats and good removal to force through our damage. Give it a shot—I don't think you'll be disappointed!

As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at 

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