One of the focal points of Modern is resource denial. We’ve looked at a number of strategies that accomplish that in a variety of ways. It can be through countermagic, Thalia and Chalice effects to slow them down, land destruction to disrupt their curve, or hand destruction to make sure that they aren’t able to get these spells cast or onto the battlefield.
The 8 Rack strategy aggressively attacks an opponent’s hand size and then finishes them off with “Rack” effects. The Rack is a cheap artifact that punishes opponents for not having cards in their hand, a perfect combo with discard spells. But Shrieking Affliction is the card that really put this strategy on the map. The restriction of an opponent needing to only have 1 or fewer cards in hand means that it will take a serious investment to get there, but the payoff is huge. Both Affliction and The Rack can deal 3 unblockable damage every upkeep. Even one of these effects will end the game quickly, but they also scale to increase the clock.
Liliana of the Veil is perfect for this strategy. Coming down to immediately kill a creature is great at helping you to stay alive, but a reusable discard outlet is almost unbeatable. Many games of Modern involving Liliana will just have the opponent playing every spell and land they draw while trying to live off of the top. This is already a tough position to win from, but when that means Affliction and The Rack are fully powered, it’s game over. The ultimate is a real threat to a variety of big mana decks, but you’re generally just happy to make sure their hand’s empty.
The other source of repeatable discard is Raven’s Crime. You don’t necessarily care too much about what they’re discarding, as long as it reduces the size of their hand. Turning excess lands, of which you should have plenty since there’s nothing in the deck that costs more than 3, into discard spells is pretty awesome. Once their hand gets light, even if you don’t have Liliana in play, almost every draw will either be a discard spell or a land that you can use to retrace your Crimes.
You don’t really want to take much damage from your cards, so Thoughtseize isn’t as strong here as in other decks, but it’s still solid on the early turns to make sure they can’t curve out perfectly and put you too far behind the 8-ball. Once you get a couple turns into the game, you’re going to make them discard everything anyways, so Thoughtseize is one of the weakest draws. The same holds true for Inquisition of Kozilek, although when you aren’t taking a loss of life, the risks are much lower. You’re trying to make them discard literally everything, so anything that can miss is much less appealing. Thoughtseize actually misses sometimes in the middle of the game, as well, due to not hitting lands that you want them to be discarding!
Wrench Mind is almost always going to be card advantage and one of the better ways to remove cards from an opponent’s hand. Value.
Smallpox is technically symmetrical, although that ends up rarely being the case. You can get a critical land to slow them down, which can be huge, but this is mostly used to make sure you’re killing a creature while still progressing your plan.
Finally, you need some removal spells. The way 8 Rack is most likely to lose the game is to a creature rush, or getting combo’d out by Become Immense, Infect, or Cranial Plating. You’re going to want some instant-speed removal to pair with Liliana. Dismember is far and away the best choice as an awesome effect even if they have pump spells, an instant, and one that we can cast for as little as 1 mana if necessary.
Funeral Charm isn’t a common choice, but it’s a pretty cool one. It’s a split card that can make an opponent discard or that can kill powerful creatures like Noble Hierarch, Blighted Agent, any Nexus, Glistener Elf, Vault Skirge, Steel Overseer, Thalia, and many others.
8 Rack is not the most played deck in Modern, but it does a great job of attacking slightly less aggressive metagames. Decks that aren’t able to empty their hands quickly by choice will still be forced to do so. Even a deck like Affinity may not be fast enough to race The Rack and Affliction if they don’t have the right payoff cards. It’s definitely a blast to play if you like locking people into not having options on cards to cast!
Tom Ross, Top 8 Modern Open