Jody’s Right: Rakdos Midrange Is Legit

Tom Ross thinks Rakdos Midrange, given its breakout performance by Jody Keith at Grand Prix Memphis, is the best deck no one is playing! Check out the latest version from The Boss!

It all started at SCG Dallas.

Me and Jody Keith rolled in, both playing decks that fit our profiles. I’m on Mono-White Aggro and he’s on a Rakdos Midrange deck that he found online digging through 5-0 lists of Magic Online. Jody had never played a match with the Rakdos deck but loved the playstyle, as he’d previously played Big Boros Control in Standard. Ya know, with Star of Extinction, Siege-Gang Commander, Settle the Wreckage, and Deafening Clarion.

My deck was straightforward and practiced. White creatures without any fluff of counterspells or Deputy of Detention.

No byes, no problem… for the most part. I had confidence in my deck and came to game. I got a Round 1 feature match. The coverage took a while to get set up. I saw Jody walking past about fifteen minutes into the round not holding a match slip nor looking very happy. I assumed his slow Rakdos deck got squished quickly.

I later learned (forgot) that Jody had a Round 1 bye and was just walking around for the times. I ended up rattling off a few early wins to 4-0 before taking a loss to Jack Kiefer on Esper Control, then another loss to Sultai Midrange later on to finish the day at 7-2. I knew that Sultai Midrange would be hard and chalked up several losses to give to the archetype.

Jody also finished 7-2, losing to Mono-White Aggro and to Jonathan Rosum on Esper Control. The cut-off had exactly 64 players at 6-2-1 or better after the first day, ensuring a small second day. We were both optimistic about our chances given the small Day 2 field.

Going into Day 2, I felt like I could beat anyone except for Dylan Donegan, who was playing Sultai. 5-1 on Day 2 to finish 12-3 ought to be enough to Top 8, so I wasn’t worried. I even got in some games against Jody between rounds and got a good feeling for the Rakdos Midrange matchup, which looks awful on paper. I wanted to play against as many mirrors, Mono-Red Aggro, and Mono-Blue Aggro as possible.

Day 2 went as planned. I won my first four rounds before finally getting paired against Dylan on Sultai in Round 14, a for sure win-and-in. I got crushed as expected and looked forward to closing out the Swiss rounds with hopefully my predicted 5-1 record.

Sadly, “no byes, no problem” wasn’t completely true, as I had awful tiebreakers going into Round 15 and couldn’t draw. The outcome of playing would put myself into 9th place with a win and about 22nd place with a loss. Painfully, the only logical option was to intentionally draw into Top 16 with Christian Calcano on Mono-Blue Aggro. The final standings had me in 10th and him in 11th.

Jody happened to also run the tables for the first four rounds of Day 2 and also happened to win his fifth round of the day, locking him into Top 8 – unexpected from my perspective. I know Jody is very good, but with an untuned deck with no practice, it seemed super unlikely. I ended up dipping out before Round 15 finished and getting home in time to watch the Top 8 coverage. Jody lost to Simic Nexus in the quarterfinals, while Mono-Blue Aggro won the tournament. Nothing too unexpected there.

Instead of going to Grand Prix Memphis to get practice for the Mythic Championship in Cleveland, I decided to post up in a testing house in Cleveland with Ultimate Genesis, which is a combo of the teams Ultimate Guard and Genesis. I had a good relationship with the Ultimate Guard guys like Reid Duke, Owen Turtenwald, Huey Jensen, and Jon Finkel and even convinced them to all play my Infect deck for Pro Tour Fate Reforged, which was the last Pro Tour I played before focusing on the SCG Tour circuit.

I Infected the Pantheon.

I was the first to arrive at the AirBnB and was immediately regretting my decision to stay in a place with sub-freezing weather for two weeks when I’m used to the warmth of Louisiana. Mono-White Aggro was at the top of the list of decks for the team to play, with Huey Jensen championing Mono-Blue Aggro as a close second. House testing results proved Mono-Blue Aggro to straight-up win the most matches of all tested decks, so the team was confident to all pilot it.

I was more stubborn.

I knew how to play Mono-White Aggro at 100% and would prefer to do so rather than play Mono-Blue Aggro at 75% or whatever. These world-class players were running circles around my Mono-White Aggro deck in testing to where what I believed my best matchup to be was suddenly became sub 50%. I was slowly losing faith in Mono-White Aggro but didn’t want to completely abandon ship. What I did believe in my heart was that Mono-White Aggro had no shot of winning the Mythic Championship. If I wanted to win, I would need to play something else.

During our stay at the AirBnB, Twitch was on at all times. Many of the occupants were Magic Pro League streamers, so Reid Duke or Huey Jensen was on TV most of the time. Other times it was whoever we could learn from like Ben Stark.

I was constantly getting updates from Jody in bits and pieces from social media about Grand Prix Memphis. He’d lost in the finals of the Friday Mythic Championship Qualifier for London. That came as no surprise. Rakdos Midrange seemed good enough to do well, but not really great enough to win. After a Day 1 finish at 9-0 from him, the deck started to look from good to great.

As we now know, Jody won Grand Prix Memphis, putting Rakdos Midrange further on the map. I was rapidly in the testing house playing Rakdos against all comers as my new fallback deck choice for the Mythic Championship. With Sultai projected to be the most popular deck at the Mythic Championship and Jody’s 10-0 record against it in under two weeks, it looked like an amazing choice.

With only an hour before decklists were finalized on the Wednesday before the Mythic Championship, I was watching Jody play the above updated list in Magic Arena. He started at rank #115 Mythic and eventually reach as high at #7 before I finally fell asleep looking at my iPad. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

  • Could this be the most underrated deck in Standard?
  • Am I just overthinking myself and should I just stick to my Mono-White guns?

The final straw was being able to play the actual physical deck that Jody won the Grand Prix with, as someone was kind enough to deliver it from Memphis to Cleveland. I was all-in on Rakdos Midrange.

I ended up losing two extremely close matches to Sultai Midrange to start my Standard rounds. Both were winnable if I had remembered that Theater of Horrors could ping a planeswalker or had saved a key The Eldest Reborn for Carnage Tyrant. A more experienced pilot could’ve won for sure. I then went on to lose to Mono-Red Aggro and Mono-White Aggro by sideboarding incorrectly. In my 20/20 hindsight, I can see lines to have won all four of the matches I lost. My only regret was not picking up the deck earlier.

As annoying as ever.

The Mythic Championship is over and done, but that doesn’t mean Rakdos Midrange is past its prime. At the time of writing this article, Jody is ten feet away grinding Magic Arena trying to vie for a bid at the PAX East Mythic Invitational by finishing in the Top 8 of the Magic Arena Mythic ranking.

After some discussion, this is updated Rakdos Midrange list:

More removal is necessary against the uptick of Izzet Drakes and against the popularity of Hostage Taker. The deck is a Mono-Red deck at heart, with Goblin Chainwhirler and all, but definitely wants access to black mana on time. Cast Down is amazing, but hard to cast in the early turns. As a concession, another “glue Gate” was added in a third Rakdos Guildgate / Cinder Barrens.

Fiery Cannonade was the cut from the sideboard to make room for Cast Downs. It wasn’t being brought in in any matchups except for Mono-White Aggro. Mono-Red and Mono-Blue both had a few Pirates in Fanatical Firebrand and Siren Stormtamer, which made the Fiery Cannonades awkward. With such little utility, they were an easy cut. The deck would love access to Bedevil or Vraska’s Contempt, but the black requirements are just too strict. Cast Down is the best middle ground.

When damage-based removal isn’t enough.

I played four copies of Carnival // Carnage after realizing that you never sideboarded out any in any matchup when it was a three-of. If you never sideboard out any copies of your three-of, why not play four? It turns out that four was exactly one too many and got clunky very quickly. Back to three it is.

Treasure Map was another card that depreciated in value after you had the first copy working. Karn, Scion of Urza was a slow source of card advantage, but rather unique and useful. In hindsight, it was a mistake to cut Karn in the first place.

The Eldest Reborn is great against anything that’s not Simic Nexus or otherwise trying to go off with Wilderness Reclamation. The Eldest Reborn with Siege-Gang Commander is such a good combo, especially when you discard the Siege-Gang Commander early to Rix Maadi Reveler. Pushing hard on this interaction coming up seems to be a great direction for Rakdos Midrange moving forward. The third copy of The Eldest Reborn also provides additional insurance against Carnage Tyrant from Sultai Midrange

Can you name a more perfect duo?

There haven’t been many eyes on Rakdos Midrange over these last few weeks. Everyone knows it exists. They even understand it’s strong and capable of putting up good results. No one really trusts that it’s a Tier 1 deck, nor wants to invest time in fine-tuning the deck, but I think Rakdos Midrange is strong and unexplored. This list is just one step toward making the deck stronger. I wouldn’t be surprised if the list is eight cards off from optimal for a tournament this weekend. What I do know is that it’s in better shape than last weekend.

One week of tuning at a time.