Back to the Rak: Sideboardin’ Time! (Part 2 of 2)

Posted in Building on a Budget on February 19, 2007

By Ben Bleiweiss


• Building on a Budget is dedicated to making decks that cost 30 tickets or less on Magic Online. Weekly deck testing is done using Magic Online.

• This week's format? Standard. This includes 9th Edition, Ravnica, Guildpact, Dissension, Coldsnap, and Time Spiral.

• This is part two of two of the revisit to the Rakdos deck. The goal of this evolution is to make a deck that can compete at Friday Night Magic…on a budget! This means sideboards, main deck, and the whole kit and caboodle!

Welcome back to Building on a Budget! In last week's article, I took my old Rakdos Control deck and tweaked it with several Time Spiral cards. At the end of last week's article, I made the decision to take Back to the Rak from the casual to the tournament room of Magic Online. What does this mean for the evolution of this deck?

1.) The competition will be a lot stiffer in the competitive room. This is where people go to test their Pro Tour Qualifier and Friday Night Magicdecks. In general, the people in the competitive room are there to win, and it tends more towards Spikes than towards Timmies or Johnnies (although not exclusively!)
2.) Instead of single games, full matches of best two-out-of-three are more typically played in the tournament room. It's not enough to win just the first game - I have to be able to take two games in a set to walk away with a winning record.
3.) Just like in tournament play, I'll have to add a sideboard to the deck. A sideboard is a set of 15 cards that is kept separate from the main deck. Between games one and two, and then between games two and three (if necessary), you are allowed to swap cards between your main deck and sideboard on a one-for-one basis.

Jeff Cunningham wrote a most incredible article about sideboards and sideboarding as part of the Magic Academy on this website (see "Introducing Sideboards"). I suggest everyone check out that article, even if you're an experienced player, because Jeff explains clearly and succinctly how and why a sideboard works. This is one of the best articles ever written about sideboards and sideboarding, so you're doing yourself a disservice if you've skipped down to this sentence without clicking on the above link and reading through!

I went through Gatherer for red, black, artifact and land cards that were legal in Standard, and came up with a full laundry list of cards that might be worth putting in either my main deck or in my sideboard. Here's what the list ended up looking like:

Main Deck Possibilities

Faceless Butcher
Funeral Charm
Greater Gargadon
Hellhole Rats
Keening Banshee
Last Gasp
Orcish Librarian
Plague Sliver
Psychotic Episode
Sedge Sliver
Stalking Yeti
Strangling Soot
Sudden Death
Sudden Shock
Sulfurous Blast
Wildfire Emissary
Wrecking Ball

Sideboard Possibilities

Avalanche Riders
Blood Moon
Boiling Seas
Fortune Thief
Furnace of Rath
Leyline of the Void
Nightmare Void
Rain of Gore
Seal of Doom
Seize the Soul
Shadow of Doubt
Stone Rain
Tormod's Crypt
Word of Seizing

In the end, I decided to go with the versatility model of Jeff Cunningham's sideboard strategy. I wasn't sure which decks were dominating the Standard Online metagame (a fancy word for the makeup of decks being played at the time), so I wanted to fill the sideboard with the most broadly-usable sideboard cards possible. I ended up putting Hit/hit and Seal of Doom in the board, because they had narrowly been cut from my main deck, and I wanted to have tools against larger creatures such as those in Angel decks, Loxodon Hierarch, and Reanimator. I also added Sudden Shock as a way to burn through permission decks, and a fourth Bottled Cloister for the aggro-on-aggro match-up.

My last choice was Blood Moon.

Blood Moon

Everyone loves their new, shiny non-basic lands. There are a lot of them! Right now, I can think of dozens (literally) of non-basic lands that might show up in any given Standard deck - the ten Ravnica bounce lands, the ten Ravnica dual lands, the ten 9th Edition painlands, Quicksand, Desert, the Urzatron three, Pendelhaven, the five Time Spiral storage lands, and other assorted guild lands from Ravnica block. With so many deck relying so heavily on non-basic lands, it seems like Blood Moon can shut down their mana better than any of the land destruction spells listed above (Stone Rain, Flashfires, Boiling Seas), and just outright win games by color-screwing my opponents. My deck is blissfully unaffected by said Blood Moon, since I'm running all basic lands (plus, half my deck is red anyhow).

4 Hit/hit
3 Seal of Doom
1 Bottled Cloister
3 Sudden Shock
4 Blood Moon

Back to the Rak FNM 1

Download Arena Decklist

Match1: Netpuppy (B/R Storm)

Game 1: This is similar to my Blue/Red Storm deck from a few weeks ago, but with black instead of blue. Around the 5th turn, he Grapeshots me for four, and then throws down Ignite Memories for five. Well, that puts me at 16 before the Ignite, and my hand is Swamp, Mountain, Phyrexian Totem and Loxodon Warhammer. I end up taking nine (bringing me down to seven), but he has no cards left in hand and is out of gas. I already have a Phyrexian Totem on the board, so I drop the second one and beat him to death quickly for ten a turn.

Game 2: Out: 3 Rakdos Pit Dragon, 1 Loxodon Warhammer. In: 3 Sudden Shock, 1 Bottled Cloister.

Bottled Cloister

My plan this game is to aggressively ramp to Bottled Cloister, since he cannot effectively use Ignite Memories if I have no hand on his turn. Amusingly enough, he drops a turn 4 Cloister, and I answer with turn 4 Cloister of my own. This not only makes me dodge his Ignites, but it also means that I can swing freely with my Phyrexian Totems, as he has no cards in hand on my turn. I swing him down to four with a Seal of Fire on the board, and he then casts Empty the Warrens for three, and then again for four! I can't swing in with my Totem (since he'll block with everything, and make me lose all my permanents), so I swing in with a Jagged Poppet, lose three Swamps in my hand when he blocks with five guys (to prevent Seal of Fire shenanigans on my side), and then swings back for a ton. This is followed by a lot of spells, culminating in Grapeshot for six and Grapeshot for seven. What a great comeback!

Game 3: Out: 2 Loxodon Warhammer, 2 Jaya Ballard In: 4 Hit/hit.

This starts the same as the last game - we both get turn 4 Bottled Cloister. However, I sided in the Hit/hits after I saw the Bottled Cloister on his side, and I have one in my hand on turn 5, which allows me to Hit/hit his Bottled Cloister - and entire hand! - out of the game. He can't recover from a five-card Mind Twist with kicker four damage, and I drop a pair of Jagged Poppets to seal the deal.
Record: 1-0

Match 2: Noob.Saibot (B/G Dredge)

Game 1: He gets Greenseeker and double Elves of Deep Shadow. I get a crazy draw of triple Shadow Guildmage, clear off his board, and beat him down with Phyrexian Totem.

Game 2: Out: 3 Rakdos Pit Dragon, 3 Loxodon Warhammer, 2 Void. In: 4 Blood Moon,
4 Hit/hit. He triple mulligans and concedes.
Record: 2-0

Match 3: AtlantaHOkie888 (Blink Riders)

Game 1: I win quickly, as he gets shorted on one of his colors.

Game 2: Out: 3 Rakdos Pit Dragon, 3 Bottled Cloister, 2 Seal of Fire, 3 Loxodon Warhammer In: 3 Sudden Shock, 4 Blood Moon, 4 Hit/hit

What a long and drawn out game! The last game, he never got a white mana to cast Momentary Blink, but I saw enough cards in his deck (Avalanche Riders in particular) to have an idea of what he was playing. By the end of this game, he's destroyed all but one of my lands, but I have three Phyrexian Totems (all three are Faith's Fettered) and four Rakdos Signets on the board, with a ton of dead creatures on both sides of the world. Around turn twenty (!), when we have both gone back and forth killing each other's creatures all game, I drop Blood Moon, which absolutely cripples his all non-basic land mana. He draws a Lightning Helix that would have killed me the following turn, but has no sources of White mana, with twelve lands on the board. I pull the game out from here. Record: 3-0

Match 4: Cigamnogard (U/B Control)

Phyrexian Totem

Game 1: He Clutch of the Undercities my Jagged Poppet. I try to Void, but he Rune Snags. Eventually, I drop triple Phyrexian Totem, and he can't stop them - he Boomerangs, Sudden Deaths, but that only stalls the inevitable.

Game 2: Out: 3 Bottled Cloister (not leaving those in after seeing Clutch of the Undercity main!). In: 3 Sudden Shock

He Mana Leaks Rakdos Signet and Jaya Ballard, but I land Jagged Poppet and a second Jaya. I empty my hand quickly thanks to Jaya, and the Poppet empties his hand.
Record: 4-0

So far, I haven't had any luck with Rakdos Pit Dragon, so it's time to bid him adieu. In its place I added a forum suggestion: Crypt Champion. The Champion works well with my current creature base, because all of the other creatures I have are three mana or less. In addition, he is very helpful against mass-removal - I lose guys to Wrath of God, and suddenly I get two creatures back the following turn (The Crypt Champion plus another creature) instead of just one.

Also, it was pointed out to me in the forums that I have a little too much black mana in the deck, and too little red mana. This is less-important now that I've zonked out the Rakdos Pit Dragons, but it's still a valid complaint - the deck has become more red heavy, and Shadow Guildmage/Crypt Champion/Jaya Ballard all need red mana to activate.

Out: 2 Swamp, 3 Rakdos Pit Dragon
In: 2 Mountain, 3 Crypt Champion


Match 5: LuckyMartyr (B/G/R Dredge/Reanimator)

Game 1: I get stuck at one mana for a while after mulliganing, then get to two Swamp and a Signet, but die to a reanimated Bogardan Hellkite followed by an extremely large Golgari Grave-Troll.

Game 2: Out: 3 Crypt Champion, 3 Loxodon Warhammer, 2 Jaya Ballard. In: 4 Hit/hit, 4 Blood Moon

Golgari Grave-Troll

He drops first and second turn Greenseekers, and I answer with Shadow Guildmage. I can't kill his guys before he drops Golgari Grave-Troll in his bin, and he begins dredging like there's no tomorrow. This allows him to drop an 8/8 Golgari Grave Troll, an 11/11 Golgari Grave-Troll, and a two-mana Avatar of Woe. Rakdos Guildmage holds off both of his Grave-Trolls until the Avatar hits by making 2/1 Goblins each turn, but the Avatar puts and end to that, and an end to me. Hit/hit is nice, but even after I kill a Grave-Troll, it just comes back bigger and badder the next turn.
Record: 4-1

I've had a few mulligans the last few games, so I think that after testing a lot, I just need to add in another land. I take out a Crypt Champion to add a Swamp. Also, I'm not happy with Sudden Shock (which I haven't really had a use for yet) or Hit/hit (there's a reason I yanked it from my deck to begin with!). So far, I've faced several decks that care about the graveyard. Because of this, I want a way to hose my opponent's bin. I choose Cremate over Withered Wretch and Tormod's Crypt - I think it's easier to get than with this deck (especially if I need to Cremate on turns 1 or 2), and Tormod's Crypt is a bit pricy right now. I also swap in Phthisis for Hit/hit - this deck can often get to seven mana in a long game, and so I want a tool that will just outright kill my opponent if they have something like Avatar of Woe (assuming I can deal a little extra damage) or an 11/11 Golgari Grave-Troll, rather than the tempo-jamming Hit/hit (I already have a lot of three drops).

Back to the Rak FNM 3

Download Arena Decklist

Out: 1 Crypt Champion SB: 3 Sudden Shock, 4 Hit/hit
In: 1 Swamp SB: 4 Cremate, 3 Phthisis

Match 6: Lord Graves (B/U Control)

Game 1: I double Mulligan, and lose to Plague Sliver, though I do get Crypt Champion plus Loxodon Warhammer for one ten-point life swing to stay alive.

Game 2: OUT: 3 Loxodon Warhammer. In: 3 Phthisis

I get turn 2 Rakdos Guildmage to his Dimir Guildmage. They trade on my attack. I drop a Jagged Poppet, and he answers with another Guildmage. I drop a second Rakdos Guildmage and suspend Phthisis. He draws a card on his turn with his Guildmage, and I drop a third Rakdos Guildmage, suspend a second Phthisis, and swing in with an empty hand, forcing him to block my Poppet. He casts Ribbons of Night on my Jagged Poppet, but has nothing for my Rakdos Guildmages. After I start creating 2/1 goblin tokens, he concedes the match.
Record: 5-1? (Hard to say, we never got to play game 3)

Match 7: Saranheyo

(Pickles - a deck that tries to lock down an opponent's untap phase with Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter)

Game 1: I get an early Jagged Poppet and Rakdos Guildmage, and he casts Wrath of God on turn 4 to wipe my board. I have Crypt Champion, and it allows me to get back the Poppet, quickly taking him down to zero.

Out: 3 Loxodon Warhammer, 1 Rift Bolt. In: 4 Blood Moon

Greater Gargadon

Here's where things get nasty. Saranheyo opens the next game with this gem:
Saranheyo: "Hey, are you that fat guy on"
This pretty much opens the rest of the match to a lot of trash talking, in front of a pretty large audience. Nothing too messy, but I worked hard to build my spare tire, and he's gonna respect it!
Game 2: He locks me up with Urzatron and Spell Burst.
Game 3: I drop double Rakdos Guildmage, and he Wraths. This is exactly what I wanted, because this enables me to drop Blood Moon, shutting down all of his colored mana. He eventually starts dropping Dimir Signets to allow him to Compulsive Research, but he can't get enough colored mana sources to cast Wrath of God or Teferi. The turn before he dies, he's facing down Crypt Champion, Rakdos Guildmage and Shadow Guildmage. He drops a face-down Vesuvan Shapeshifter, and has the possibility of turning it face up to copy my Rakdos Guildmage, and then discarding a card to kill one of my creatures. However, he taps his mana wrong, and this allows me to just Rakdos Guildmage his Shapeshifter and swing on in. He casts Mystical Teachings at the end of my turn, thinks for a good five minutes and then says "This is embarrassing. Good Beats", and then concedes.
Record: 6-1

Time for one last change. I've sided out Loxodon Warhammer virtually every game, which leads me to realize that they just don't need to be in the deck. In their place, I put Greater Gargadon.

Not only is it a huge beatdown creature, but I can sacrifice Rakdos goblin tokens to it, plus it can save me from hitting the bad end of Jagged Poppet or Phyrexian Totem! It seems like a natural addition to the deck, and a 9/7 haste creature is never something to laugh at.

Back to the Rak FNM 4

Download Arena Decklist

Out: 3 Loxodon Warhammer (I've sided them out every game!)
In: 3 Greater Gargadon

Match 8: Geomancer_JD (Gruul)

Shadow Guildmage

Game 1: He gets double Skarrgan Pit-Skulk, but I burn them both out, then beat down with Rakdos Guildmage and Jagged Poppet.

Game 2: (OUT): 2 Crypt Champion, 3 Rift Bolt. (IN) 2 Phthisis, 3 Seal of Doom.

Him: Turn 1 Llanowar Elves
Me: Turn 1 Shadow Guildmage.
Him: Turn 2 Attack, drop 2/2 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
Me: Turn 2, Shoot Llanowar Elves
Him: Turn 3, Attack for 2, drop Scab-Clan Mauler.
Me: Turn 3, Shoot Mauler, Seal of Fire Mauler.
Him: Turn 4 Attack for 2, drop Kird Ape.
Me: Turn 4 Shoot Kird Ape, Seal of Fire (3 of them now!) both his guys.

Within a couple of turns, I get Phyrexian Totem, eat a Shock to it to hit him for five, put Greater Gargadon on suspend watch, and then sacrifice all my lands plus my Shadow Guildmage to attack with it when he's at 9. He is forced to eternally chump block, and eventually runs out of creatures and succumbs.
Record: 7-1

In the end, I was very happy with the Rakdos deck. It performed a lot better than the last iteration of the Rakdos deck, and is a deck I would heartily recommend taking to your local Friday Night Magictournament!

Should I continue to do a set-by-set breakdown of Magic Online's bargain budget cards?
Yes, I really liked that feature and would like to see it continue. 2044 48.2%
No, because while I appreciate it, it's driving up prices of cards on Magic Online. 1282 30.2%
No, because I really didn't like that feature in this column. 916 21.6%
Total 4242 100.0%

I'm going to take a brief hiatus from this feature, but it will return in the future. I want to find a way to make it more appealing to the majority (as opposed to only 50% of you), and I want to do it in a way that I'm not affecting the prices on Magic Online through my column. Any suggestions?

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