On Tuesday, I counted the responses on my last piece to see which deck people wanted to see me play the most, and to my surprise, 8-Rack got the highest vote count. I didn’t set any stipulations other than the fact that the deck had to be somewhat competitive, so this is where we’re at!
8-Rack occupies an odd spot in the metagame. It’s basically a control deck that functions like many black decks do in the format by discarding your opponent’s best threats. After which, rather than following up with a giant delve threat, a Tarmogoyf, or a planeswalker, 8-Rack follows up with more discard. The deck aims to completely annihilate the opponent’s hand and mitigate their ability to execute their game plan. Upon emptying the enemy's hand, it plays a copy of The Rack or Shrieking Affliction to slow burn the opponent to death.
This list is fairly close to the usual list you see from Mono-Black Rack players. Some of that comes from me still learning about the deck, but most of it is that a number of these slots are really set in stone.
4 Copies of Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize
Playing fewer than the maximum here is a crime. Sure, they’re bad draws in the midgame, but they’re so necessary for you to function on turn 1. You need to see what your opponent is working with and how you’re going to attack their strategy. These two cards allow you to do that, and maximize your win rate despite having 0 ability to ever kill your opponent. When I have turn-1 Inquisition, I feel like I’m going to win the game.
This is the card that actually allows 8-Rack to function. Without Raven’s Crime, you would struggle to keep your opponent’s hand at 0, and I see now why some people are playing Golgari versions of the deck. These Golgari versions sacrifice a little bit in the mana base, but pick up green for Life From the Loam, Abrupt Decay, and green sideboard cards.
These help the deck answer difficult permanents and pick up extra lands from the graveyard to ensure that their Smallpox won’t set them back to the stone age on lands, but more importantly, they set up Raven’s Crime. There are fewer decks now that need a critical mass of cards in their hand (albeit Storm is one of the best decks right now in Modern), but keeping your opponent empty-handed so that Shrieking Affliction and The Rack can maximize their damage is quite important. Raven’s Crime is the engine that allows that to happen thanks to retrace. This is the card I want to draw the most after the 1-mana targeted discard effects, as it allows the deck to annihilate the opponent’s resources and makes both players play a game where they have little in the way of cards.
This is less set in stone, and I’d love to debate the best removal suite in the comments below. Fatal Push comes in as the clear number one. As this deck isn’t going to let their opponent reach big mana numbers without the enemy cheating their mana, you don’t need to worry about many 5+ mana creature threats. After that, I think a single copy of Dismember is solid. I like the ability to remove a Reality Smasher or a Tarmogoyf without having to wait for one of the eight edict effects in Smallpox or Liliana of the Veil.
The last piece of removal in the deck is a card that’s not too popular, but one I've had 4 copies of since I started playing: Funeral Charm. This doubles as removal for small creatures and an instant-speed discard effect, which is my favorite thing as a player. I think this card would have been excellent in Infect’s heyday when Affinity was also one of the top dogs. Now, with giant creatures and single card combo decks (Scapeshift/Gifts Ungiven) the card has lost a fair amount of flexibility. Now it’s mostly used for that instant-speed discard mode, which you’ll fire off the first chance you get on your opponent’s draw step to make sure they don’t draw that key creature or sorcery effect to get themselves back in the game. If the metagame shifts to more Elves or Noble Hierarch decks, and Infect reemerges thanks to Shaper’s Sanctuary, I can see playing 3+ copies again. But for now, a single flexible spell is all you need.
The last must-play slots are the kill conditions: The Rack and Shrieking Affliction. I had only 6 copies at the start, and quickly realized how badly you need one of these early to be able to win the game. 8-Rack doesn’t excel at keeping the opponent off balance forever. It sets their opening 7 cards off balance and keeps the opponent living off of the top of their deck. Thus, you need to clock the opponent as quickly as possible, and it’s why you should play all 8 copies of the kill cards in the deck.
The sideboard right now is a mish-mash. The only deck I didn’t look to pick up cards against was Burn. That matchup is poor if you don’t have a good start, but I feel that I’d have to sideboard too many cards to feel like I was gaining enough ground. This deck has reasonable game against the 4 of the top 5 decks though: Eldrazi Tron, Grixis Shadow, Scapeshift, and Storm! We’ll see later this week if I can dodge Burn and Affinity, discard my opponent’s hand, and crush them with the slow burn of the Rack!