Last weekend I competed in the MagicFest Online Weekly Championship with Rakdos Sacrifice, and I managed to make it all the way to Top 8.
How did that happen? Well, it started out with me registering a new decklist about 20 minutes before the tournament started, dealing with some software issues not deleting my old decklist, and losing round one to Kanister on Temur Elementals. Off to a great start, huh?
I had originally intended to register a Rakdos Sacrifice list that played with Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, Mire Triton and Tymaret Calls the Dead. I last-minute switched to the more aggressive version.
Kroxa is a very powerful Magic card, and I really enjoy playing her, however the aggressive versions of the deck have more synergies with the sacrifice aspect of the deck. Dreadhorde Butcher and Gutterbones are aggressive while also playing well with being sacrificed. On top of that, I didn't have to register Mire Triton in Constructed.
Running through the decklist quickly, we have three sacrifice outlets: Witch's Oven , Priest of Forgotten Gods and Woe Strider. Mayhem Devil is one of the best cards in the deck because of the targeted damage when something is sacrificed. This damage can deal with planeswalkers, creatures, or (most commonly) go straight to the opponent's face. Midnight Reaper is a great way to accrue value, especially when you have the Witch's Oven / Cauldron Familiar combo in place. Claim the Firstborn serves as a removal spell when you have a sacrifice outlet, but sometimes you just steal a 12/12 Hydroid Krasis for lethal.
On to the matches. I already mentioned losing to Kanister round one. I had never played against Temur Elementals with Rakdos Sacrifice, and was punished for that.
The next match I faced down Temur Reclamation. I was much more prepared for this match and won a quick 2-0, even though my opponent was very vocal about how good the matchup was for them after the game. When approaching this matchup, I like to get aggressive and make sure we don't push into the last game, especially because my list has no Pharika's Libation in the sideboard. If I expected more Temur Reclamation and Temur Flash, I would've added Robber of the Rich to my sideboard.
Round Three, I played against Temur Flash. Approaching this matchup was similar to how I approach Temur Reclamation, but with extra consideration for the creatures. This means Priest of Forgotten Gods and Mayhem Devil are much more important in the Flash matchup than the Reclamation matchup. Again, I like getting aggressive against Temur Flash. Getting a fast start means that they have a lot of dead countermagic in their hand, and they are forced to make a move (like flashing in a Frilled Mystic to block), leaving the path clear to resolve an impactful spell like Mayhem Devil, Woe Strider, etc. Additionally, the Cat/Oven combo is very difficult for both of these decks to interact with once the Witch's Oven has resolved.
I'll spare you the details of every single match Rounds Four to Ten because they were seven mirror matches straight. I went 5-2 in mirror matches that weekend, so I like to think I knew my deck and that matchup pretty well.
Of course, there were lots of uninspiring games where one player had a Mayhem Devil and the other player did not. However, when this wasn't the case, the games were actually very hard and interesting. My first loss to the mirror was because of the Mayhem Devil issue. My second loss came down to a really intense game three, but my opponent drew and hard-cast a Leyline of the Void, which I had no answer to.
In the mirror, I prefer the more aggressive version to the Kroxa version. Kroxa is, once again, a powerful magic card. However, it doesn't seem particularly impactful in the mirror. Often, you are not able to reasonably get Kroxa into play by turn four. Even when you do, Rakdos Sacrifice is generally okay with discarding cards (like Cauldron Familiar or Woe Strider). On top of that, Kroxa can be a huge liability if you don't have a sacrifice outlet in play because of Claim the Firstborn. Overall, I really like Kroxa, but I don't like the cards you have to play to enable her. Also, the aggressive version of the deck already has all the tools necessary to attack every matchup.
Round 11 rolls around, and for the first time in seven rounds, I am greeted with a matchup other than the mirror: Azorius Blink in the hands of Eli Kassis.
This is a matchup where you want to be aggressive while dealing with all of the opponent's creatures, therefore Mayhem Devil and Priest of Forgotten Godss did a lot of heavy lifting.
Round 12 I faced down Bant Midrange for the first time that weekend. Bant was one of the reasons I liked playing Rakdos Sacrifice, because I have had a positive matchup against the deck in my testing. Bant tends to play about one threat a turn, which is really good for the Rakdos deck when we have a Priest of Forgotten Gods and/or a Claim the Firstborn. Bant has a hard time meaningfully disrupting what the Rakdos Sacrifice deck is trying to accomplish. Additionally, many people refuse to side out LTeferi, Time Raveler in the matchup, which is almost a dead card. With all the sacrifice outlets, it's difficult to ever draw a card off of Teferi's -3 ability, and Mayhem Devil makes Teferi look especially embarrassing.
At this point, I was starting to feel nervous. I didn't expect to do this well in the tournament, and Top 8 was starting to loom over my head. I had another intense match against Temur Reclamation and won. This was it. I was going to once again head into a win-and-in for Top 8. I started to get into my head and recall all the win-and-in losses I've racked up over the past year. Here was another one I was going to add to the list.
I ended up getting a pair-down into Mono Red Aggro—the best matchup I could possibly hope for. I was still terrified and ready to be embarrassed by losing my win-and-in to a great matchup.
I managed to shake my worry off for a little bit to get through my games. Mayhem Devil took care of game one. Game two was finished by stealing their Torbran, Thane of Red Fell with Act of Treason and effectively bolting my opponent with Mayhem Devil after. I definitely got emotional on my stream after finally winning a win-and-in for an individual event. I could do it. My last year wasn't just luck. I put in work, and it eventually paid off.
Heading into the Top 8 I was paired against Temur Flash again.
I was a little nervous because I was playing against the first seed, but I felt confident in my plan against the deck. I started out with a loss game one being on the draw, and won a close game two on the play. Unfortunately, game three boiled down to drawing way too many lands, but that's Magic sometimes.
Overally, the deck was very strong and felt favorable in most of the matches I played. Notably, I did not see any Jeskai Fires this weekend. Going forward I would like to explore builds that are tailored to Temur decks and the mirror. I think our other matchups feel good with where we are at now, but for Temur I would like to explore playing some Robber of the Rich in the sideboard. Also, I would like to explore playing Leyline of the Void in the sideboard for the mirror. Unfortunately, the uptick in Rakdos Sacrifice decks might mean more Leyline of the Voids in our future, which is hard for us to deal with. Because of that, I would also add Pharika's Libation back to the sideboard as well.
I'll see y'all at the Season Finals this weekend!