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By: SteveJeltz, Rev. David Wright
Sep 04 2017 12:00pm
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 Rakdos Revisited

By SteveJeltz


I must confess that I'm a one-deck pony. Much as I love to dabble in every angle of attack at the Pauper metagame, I always seem to come back to my one true love, my own homebrew, Rakdos Midrange. Though I don't grind as incessantly as some other Pauper regulars, and I never have time for the Sunday Pauper Challenges due to my career, I typically get in a couple leagues a week with this deck, and I find that regardless of who I'm playing that day, I still feel like I have a plan and a good chance at winning. Recently, I had a 10 game win streak with the deck, which meant I even got to watch Dora sing "We Did It" twice! What luck! I can't promise you'll win every match with the game or feel your invincible. But if you like playing a well-rounded strategy that is something different from everybody else, I hope to see you take home a 5-0 trophy and read your name on the leaderboard.

The basic premise of Rakdos Midrange is that you're an attrition deck. Rather than relying on specific card combos or synergies, the deck is focused on overall card quality. Like Modern Jund, your goal is to do your value thing and to know your plan against each opponent strategy. Rather than spiking a tournament, you're trying to play 55% against everybody. That said, having played hundreds of games with the deck, there are definitely good and bad matchups, and knowing if you are favored or not can help you decide your line of play and how many risks you should be willing to take.


Your Nine Big Matchups

Spellstutter Sprite

1. Izzet Delver

Favorable. Your cards are so much more powerful than theirs. Your first goal is to not let them untap with a creature if possible. You actually have removal for everything they play, so there is no need to be choosy. Time is on your side. Don't fret too much if you stumble on mana and they get one hit in with a Ninja of the Deep Hours. Honest, paying 3-4 mana for a 2/2 that drew them a single card is a pretty average rate, and the Ninja is just as vulnerable to your bottomless removal as anything else. Instead, learn how to respect the Spellstutter Sprite. If they leave open blue and one with a single faerie in play, the ideal line is to cast your two-mana removal spell and then Lightning Bolt the faerie with the trigger still on the stack. 

Your best cards are: (Pyroblast), Lightning Bolt, Electrickery, Night's Whisper, Chittering Rats, Beetleback Chief.

Your worst cards are: Thorn of the Black Rose, Duress. A flashed in Spellstutter Sprite will quickly ruin your day.

Sideboard Plan: + 4 Pyroblast + 2 Electrickery, - 1 Bojuka Bog, - 1 Duress, -1 Firebrand Archer, - 1 Raven's Crime, - 2 Thorn of the Black Rose



2. Affinity

Favorable. Much as your dead in the water to a good Affinity nut draw, the main deck is well designed to answer every threat and get your ahead on cards. Flame Slash is there for Myr Enforcer and Carapace Forger. Chainer's Edict and Terminate are there for Atog and Gearseeker Serpent. Firebolt is there on mop-up duty for Frogmites and Flayer Husk's germ tokens. Your lifegain lands also can help you stablize. Once you reach a turn where you're not on the back foot, you can pull ahead with all your draw 2s or Thorn of the Black Rose. Don't drop below 4 life if you can avoid it so you're not dead to Galvanic Blast. Post sideboard, you have one of the best Gorilla Shaman decks you can play.

Your best cards are: Gorilla Shaman, Flame Slash, Terminate, Gurmag Angler

Your worst cards are: Magma Spray, Raven's Crime

Sideboard Plan: + 3 Gorilla Shaman, - 2 Magma Spray, - 1 Raven's Crime. If you see extra Gearseeker Serpents, Perilous Research or counters like Dispel or Metallic Rebuke, you can also add a couple Pyroblasts.

Young Wolf

3. Stompy

Even. This is the hardest matchup of the big three aggro decks. With so many of our lands coming into play tapped, it can be hard to catch up to their nut draws, especially if they can chain a Burning-Tree Emissary into another relevant play on turn 2. Games that you win usually involve you having a removal heavy opening hand. If you can answer or trade with their first 4 or 5 threats, they will sputter out of gas and you can grind your way ahead. Cards that trade 2-for-1 like Chittering Rats on the play can be punishing and a Thorn of the Black Rose on an empty board is usually game over. Mulligan aggressively, especially games 2 and 3 until you know you have relevant plays the first three turns of the game.

Your best cards are: Magma Spray, Lightning Bolt, Firebolt, Phyrexian Rager, Beetleback Chief.

Your worst cards are: Read The Bones, Raven's Crime

Sideboard Plan: + 2 Electrickery, - 1 Read The Bones - 1 Raven's Crime. Though not universally useful, Electrickery is one of your few answers to Silhana Ledgewalker, a card that otherwise represents your Achilles' heel in the matchup.


Glint Hawk

4. Boros Midrange

Even. You have all the tools you need, but this is a grind fest. DO NOT let them untap with any white creature in play and four mana if you can avoid it since their best card against you is the single turn Battle Screech with flashback. Otherwise, focus on trading so you don't fall too far behind on life. Post boards, you get to add great tools like Gorilla Shaman and Earth Rift which give you more two-for-ones and can choke their mana. I tend to do worse vs. the Palace Sentinels builds of the deck instead of the Rally the Peasants versions, but the latter can still get you especially if their pilot is smart enough to figure out that burning your creatures isn't necessary (unless you are threatening to take the Crown) and burning your face for end of game reach is the best way to beat you. 

Your best cards are: Thorn of the Black Rose, Lightning Bolt, Phyrexian Rager, Night's Whisper, Read the Bones, Chittering Rats

Your worst cards are: Magma Spray, Chainer's Edict is especially bad against the heavier token builds..

Sideboard Plan:  + 2 Electrickery, + 3 Gorilla Shaman, + 2 Earth Rift, -2 Magma Spray, - 2 Chainer's Edict, - 3 Firebrand Archer

Urza's Tower

5. Murasa Tron

Unfavorable. Time is NOT on your side. You need to adjust and be the aggro. You're looking for creature heavy hands or hands that can punish a slow start. You need to take risks sometimes to try and shut the door before they can possibly have that one extra turn which runs contrary to the deck's usual fairly conservative play style of answering the opponent's threats first. The key cards are the cheap disruptive one like Duress and Pyroblast, and the big damage cards Gurmag Angler and Firebrand Archer. Chittering Rats can also randomly punish an incomplete hand like a Time Walk on a stick. The plus side is that like you get versus all your blue-based control matchups, you're going to be sideboarding ten cards, so games 2-3 improve a lot for you versus what they can side in against you.

Your best cards are: Pyroblast, Duress, Firebrand Archer, Gurmag Angler, Chittering Rats

Your worst cards are: Magma Spray, Flame Slash, Phyrexian Rager

Sideboard Plan: + 4 Pyroblast + 3 Duress + 2 Earth Rift, + 1 Relic of Progenitus, - 2 Magma Spray - 2 Flame Slash - 3 Phyrexian Rager - 1 Firebolt, - 2 Chainer's Edict unless you're worried about Ulamog's Crusher.

Lava Spike

6. Burn

Very Unfavorable. It's very hard for you to overcome a 4-5 turn goldfish of 21 points of burn to the face, so you have to hope to draw the few cards that card really matter in the matchup: your lifegain and discard spells. Thank your stars when they play their own Firebrand Archer or Thermo-Alchemist on turn 2 with no follow-up burn spell since it gives you an opportunity to use what its often an otherwise dead removal spell on one of their precious cards. Mulligan aggressively. Don't play Night's Whisper or Read the Bones unless you absolutely have to since its essentially aiding the enemy by giving them a free burn spell against you.

Your best cards are: Radiant Fountain paired with Rakdos Carnarium, Duress, Chittering Rats.

Your worst cards are: Night's Whisper, Read the Bones, Phyrexian Rager, most of your removal.

Sideboard Plan: + 3 Duress, + 2 Gorilla Shaman. Even a vanilla 1/1 is better than a card that hits yourself for two against Burn.


Nivix Cyclops

7. Izzet Blitz

Extremely Favorable. This is like your 90% matchup. Your plus is that you can overload them with removal to match their key threats and your card advantage trumps their card selection. If you can keep them from untapping with a threat, that's all you need to do. Developing your board is only necessary on turns that you don't need to respond to a threat. Mulligan a hand that doesn't have good answers. Time is on your side.

Your best cards are: Terminate, Lightning Bolt, Flame Slash, Duress

Your worst cards are: Beetleback Chief, Gurmag Angler, Thorn of the Black Rose

Sideboard Plan: + 4 Pyroblast +3 Duress, - 1 Bojuka Bog, - 2 Beetleback Chief, - 2 Gurmag Angler, -2 Thorn of the Black Rose

Slippery Bogle

8. Hexproof

Very unfavorable. Too many dead cards. This is another matchup where you need to draw the portion of your deck which is relevant to have any chance of winning. In this case the only cards that really matter are Chainer's Edict, Electrickery, and Duress. If you want, you can play chicken with your opponent post sideboard around Electrickery by refusing to play a spell unless you can also leave 1R mana open. Often times they will respect your bluff. But its a gamble. Sometimes you can punish a bad start with a well-timed Chittering Rats or Earth Rift, and Magma Spray is good against their sideboard Young Wolf bait. This is a tough matchup, so take risks.

Your best cards are: Duress, Chainer's Edict, Electrickery

Your worst cards are: All your point-and-click removal: Flame Slash, Firebolt, Lightning Bolt, Terminate, unless you see an Aura Gnarlid.

Sideboard Plan: + 2 Electrickery, +3 Duress, + 2 Earth Rift, - 2 Firebolt, - 2 Flame Slash - 3 Terminate


9. Dimir Flicker / Control

Even. I was tempted to say this is an unfavorable matchup, but the key reason its actually closer to even is that once again you get to sideboard ten cards against your opponent which is going to be a far superior upgrade than they can shift their deck games 2 and 3 versus you. Both of you are on a value / attrition plan. Theirs is better, but also more fragile because it relies on synergy vs. raw card quality. While in many game your value creatures and sorceries are actually a strength as undercosted answers and card draw spells, in this matchup you need to be careful to play around cards like Ghostly Flicker, Soul Manipulation and Reaping the Graves. Post boards, the game often comes down to one big play, like casting Earth Rift on their Dimir Aqueduct or dropping a Thorn of the Black Rose on an empty board. Use your disruptive spells to set up your big play and to be ready to answer theirs. Pyroblast against a turn 5 Mulldrifter is utterly demoralizing and super sweet.

Your best cards are: Pyroblast, Thorn of the Black Rose, Read the Bones

Your worst cards are: Flame Slash, Firebrand Archer

Sideboard Plan: + 4 Pyroblast + 3 Duress, + 2 Earth Rift + 1 Relic of Progenitus, - 2 Flame Slash - 2 Firebolt - 3 Firebrand Archer, - 2 Gurmag Angler - 1 Phyrexian Rager


I'll be taking a break from Pauper for a couple of weeks to cover the Modern Cube, but I'll have more great Pauper to share every Monday, along with our stable of excellent Pauper writers here at coming again very soon.

Keep having fun out there.

- SteveJeltz