Rack In Black

The Modern format is full of big name decks: Death’s Shadow, Tron, Affinity, Dredge, Merfolk.  The list goes on.  These are decks that we all know, and we know them for a reason.  We’ve all played with them or against them at some point.  But there are other decks out there.  They lurk on the fringes of the format; their names whispered in the dark corners of tournament halls.  Well, whisper no more, my friends, as we take a look at one of these ghostly apparitions today.  The scourge of hands everywhere: 8 Rack.

TheRack SAffliction

8 Rack is an aggressive combo deck that utilizes efficient discard spells to render your opponent empty-handed.  Once they have no cards in hand, the deck punishes them for it with the namesake card: The Rack {1}.  In addition to The Rack, the deck also runs Shrieking Affliction {B}.  Four copies of each gets us to the titular 8 Rack effects.  Let’s take a look at the rest of my version of the deck.


Discard is the name of the game when you are playing 8 Rack.  However, you need two different kinds of discard spells in order to be effective.  The difference between these two types is all down to who gets to choose what gets discarded.

Thoughtseize Inquisition

First up is discard that lets you choose.  This deck runs six total copies of cards that let you choose what your opponent discards.  We’re running four Inquisition of Kozilek {B} and two Thoughtseize {B}.  These cards are great in the early game because they allow you to specifically disrupt your opponent’s plan.  You can take combo pieces, early aggressive creatures, or even potential answers out of your opponent’s hand to leave them at your mercy.  The major weakness of these cards is that they can’t take lands, which is a problem in the late game when your opponent can sandbag some lands to stay out of range of your Racks.

That brings us to the second type of discard; the type that lets your opponent choose what they discard.  Clearly, letting your opponent choose anything is less than ideal, but if their only choice is to discard their last card, then I’m fine with that.


We’ve got four copies of Wrench mind {BB}, which makes them discard two cards, unless they have an artifact to discard instead (which makes it much less good against Affinity).  This card does a lot of work, getting two cards for two mana.


Funeral Charm {B} is our only Instant speed discard spell, and we’re playing three copies.  As such, we can hold this to make them discard on their draw step.  It also has a mode that can be used to give target creature +2/-1 in a pinch.

These cards are not very good on the first few turns of the game, when your opponent has a grip full of cards.  They’ll just toss something they don’t need, and keep what they do.  So lead off with your Inquisitions and Thoughtseizes until you’ve reduced them to only a few left.  Your opponent will likely help you out in this regard by playing several cards from their opening hand before they realize what you are up to.  Once they are low on cards, bring out the Wrench Minds, and the Funeral Charms to push them over the tipping point.

RavensCrime Fugue

A special mention in this category goes to Raven’s Crime {B} and Scepter of Fugue {BB}, as recurring sources of discard.

You can play Raven’s Crime early and then any land you draw beyond your third is just another copy of Raven’s Crime.  It is particularly useful if you can store extra lands in your hand to recast the Crime multiple times in a turn.  The deck runs four copies.

The Scepter is just guaranteed discard every turn.  It costs two mana to activate and can only be used on your turn, but this gives you a nice amount of inevitability.  Unless your opponent can draw extra cards, then they are either treading water or sinking.  We’re running two copies because it costs so much to activate.

Heavy Hitters

There are a couple of multi-purpose cards in the deck that have pretty powerful effects.


We’ll start with my personal favorite: Smallpox {BB}.  Smallpox is a symmetrical effect card that makes both players discard a card, lose one life, sacrifice a creature and sacrifice a land.  Of course, this shouldn’t bother us as much as it bothers our opponents.  We can always discard a Raven’s Crime to retrace later.  Since 8 Rack is low on creatures, we don’t particularly care about that part.  We also don’t need many lands to function, so we’re fine there.  Do you know who isn’t fine with all of this?  The opponent who played a fetch land into a shock land to drop a Birds of Paradise last turn, that’s who.  A well timed Smallpox can be brutally effective.

Liliana of the Veil

Of course, if we are talking about multi-purpose cards, we have to talk about Planeswalkers.  The deck runs two copies of Liliana of the Veil {1BB}.  She does everything we could ever want.  Makes our opponent discard, or makes them sacrifice a creature, or destroys a ton of their permanents.  What’s not to love?  She earns her keep in this deck, for sure.


So, what are are we doing with the rest of our non-land cards.  There are three main things we need: more cards, proactive answers, not dying.  There is a spot in the deck for each of those things.

Asylum Visitor

More cards are always better.  That’s kind of the premise of this deck, in an upside-down kind of way.  So how do we get more cards?  The deck runs two copies of Asylum Visitor {1B}, which draws us cards on every player’s upkeep, but only if that player happens to be empty handed.  Since the Visitor will be drawing us into more discard spells, we should have a steady stream of card advantage

Surgical Extraction

Proactive answers get a little strange in this deck.  We have two copies of Surgical Extraction {B/P}, which is our best way of dealing with some things.  Step one is to get our opponent to discard whatever we are worried about.  Step two is to use Surgical Extraction to get rid of it forever.  If there’s nothing we are particularly worried about, we can always use it to strip copies of non-basic lands from our opponent’s hand or deck, which is especially useful against Tron.

Ensnaring Bridge

Not dying is pretty important, I guess.  To that end, the deck runs two copies of Ensnaring Bridge {3}.  It is incredibly easy, with so many symmetrical discard effects and low casting costs, to get empty handed in this deck.  We aren’t planning to attack much with our four creature cards, so this really doesn’t hurt us.  This is a must have against aggressive decks.


Swamp GhostQuarter DakmorSalvage

The mana base of this deck is fairly simple.  It runs thirteen Swamp for basic lands.  Add to that four Ghost Quarter, which are very useful against Tron, and two Dakmor Salvage, which you can Dredge back to your hand if you really want to Raven’s Crime your opponent.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Nothing is worse than having a handful of Ghost Quarter when all you need is some black mana.  To help out a little with that, the deck runs two copies of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.

You may be tempted to add in some Fetch Lands to help thin your deck, but I would caution against it.  With the Smallpox in the deck, and the deck only running seventeen black sources, depleting that further would be a mistake.  We want to pox our opponent out of the game, not ourselves.


Sideboarding with this deck is a challenge.  Mono Black is not very deep on answers to some of the biggest problems we can face, so you have to improvise.


Graveyard hate is going to be priority number one.  We can end up literally fueling our opponent’s strategy if we keep sending their Stinkweed Imps to the graveyard for them.  To prevent this from happening, the sideboard has four copies of Leyline of the Void {2BB}.


Another problem that can come up is if we face off with an aggressive deck that can get creatures online before we can get an Ensnaring Bridge down.  To help close that gap, the deck runs three Fatal Push {B} in the sideboard.  That little bit of extra control can mean the difference between winning and losing.


Along that same line, we are running two copies of Bontu’s Last Reckoning {1BB}.  I know that it doesn’t let you untap your lands on your next turn, but the ability to play this on turn three instead of turn four can make a huge difference against a deck like Affinity.

Nyxathid PackRat

Now it gets interesting.  This deck runs three copies each of Nyxathid {1BB} and Pack Rat {1B}.  Let me explain why that is.  We have, as was mentioned earlier, only two creature cards in the main deck.  That means, for the most part, that our opponents will side out their sweepers and spot removal in favor of enchantment and artifact removal to deal with our Rack effects.  And that’s when we want to bring in the creatures and take out Rack effects.

Nyxathid is a 7/7 that gets -1/-1 for each card in chosen opponent’s hand.  That can mean that even if your opponent has four cards when Nyxathid hits the field, it is still a 3/3, which is totally fine.  If you can diminish their hand further, it can become a major force on the battlefield.

Pack Rat is key to dealing with the two cards this deck hates the most: Leyline of Sanctity and Chalice of the Void.  Pack Rat lets us turn our dead discard spells into more, and bigger, rats.  If you think your opponent might drop a Leyline after sideboarding, bring in the rat and consider going all-in on that plan.

Full Deck List


  • Asylum Visitor x2


  • Liliana of the Veil x2


  • Funeral Charm x3
  • Surgical Extraction x2


  • Raven’s Crime x4
  • Inquisition of Kozilek x4
  • Thoughtseize x2
  • Wrench Mind x4
  • Smallpox x4


  • The Rack x4
  • Ensnaring Bridge x2
  • Scepter of Fugue x2


  • Shrieking Affliction x4


  • Swamp x15
  • Ghost Quarter x4
  • Dakmor Salvage x2


  • Leyline of the Void x4
  • Nyxathid x3
  • Pack Rat x3
  • Fatal Push x3
  • Bontu’s Last Reckoning x2

Good Matchups

Combo Decks – This deck loves to shred combos.  Take a combo piece with Thoughtseize on turn 1 and immediately exile it and all the other copies in their hand and deck with a Surgical Extraction.  (Examples: Titan Shift and Living End)

Midrange – We can usually dismantle the hand of a midrange deck before they can get a plan together.  Prioritize making them discard their creatures, because their removal will be fairly useless. Just watch out for things like Lingering Souls that might get value from the graveyard.  (Examples: Death’s Shadow, Jund, and Abzan)

Bad Matchups

Aggro – If our opponent can get multiple creatures on the field very quickly then we will have a hard time dealing with them.  Game 1 our only real hope is Ensnaring Bridge.  Bring in the Fatal Pushes and Bontu’s Last Reckonings in Game 2.  (Examples: Affinity, Elves, Zoo)

Graveyard decks – We are fueling the plan of any deck that wants to stock its graveyard.  There isn’t much we can do about it Game 1 except Surgical Extraction for their biggest threats.  After sideboarding, we have the Leylines to deal with this, and the matchup improves dramatically.  (Examples: Dredge and Storm)

50/50 Matchups

Tron – Tron can get pretty bad if we can’t deal with their lands.  A Ghost Quarter and a Surgical Extraction can permanently take Tron off the table, though.

Burn – This matchup becomes a race.  Can they burn you out before you burn them out?  If they try, they just make your Rack effects better.

Control – A counterspell on a discard spell is pretty useless, and so is their removal.  However, we often can’t compete with some of their finishers.  Sphinx’s Revelation is especially bad for us.  Surgical Extraction that at the first possible opportunity.

Play Notes

I mentioned at the top that 8 Rack is an aggressive combo deck.  You need to come out of the gate swinging.  Get your opponent empty handed as quickly as possible and keep them that way.  An opening hand with three Swamps and no Rack effect can be a perfectly fine keep in some situations.

One thing that is very important to keep in the back of your mind is that damage from The Rack and Shrieking Affliction can be redirected to Planeswalkers.  Your opponent probably won’t think about that until their walker is dead.


8 Rack is tons of fun to take to a tournament.  People often know about it, but haven’t prepared for it.  It can take an unsuspecting meta by surprise and do fairly well.

If you have a deck that you’d like to see me tackle, or a card you always thought should be good, leave it in a comment or take it to the Contact Page.  Make sure to check back on the 1st and 15th of every month for more content.


3 thoughts on “Rack In Black

  1. The only thing I would suggest maybe looking at adding in would be perhaps Megrim, or Liliana’s Caress. They help speed up Rack as they will take damage both on discard AND having few cards. Also at 3 and 2 drops respectively, they fit the pace very well. Without a bit of playtest and such, I am not certain which to suggest removing to add those in, but they would be a very solid way to speed things up.


    1. Of the two, Liliana’s Caress is the better option. It’s cheaper and it does loss of life, which is harder to get around than the damage from Megrim. I considered adding Liliana’s Caress at an early stage, but it is not as good as you would think. It requires your opponent to consider the following, “I have one card in hand. Do I play it and take three next turn or do I not play it and maybe be forced to discard it, and take five instead?” An easy choice; they play the card. Caress is functionally useless in that situation. It only helps until they are out of cards, and 8 Rack always wants your opponent to be out of cards.


      1. While I do agree, if you can get a good 4-8 damage off it with all the forced discard till they’re top-decking, it is still a good chunk out of them. But I enjoyed it because I used to have a modern draw-mill deck with the two and Jace’s Archivist. Always a good time.


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