One of the biggest appeals of Modern is the ability to play whichever kind of deck you like. Modern boasts a deep card pool that allows for a myriad of strategies. A reoccurring theme of Modern is resource denial, and there are numerous ways to achieve this effect, from destroying lands to disrupt their curve, or deploying spells to slow your opponent down, such as Chalice of the Void or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.
Playing a resource denial strategy is all about making your opponent play to your rhythm until you can find a win condition. While it's an approach that may not be for everyone, there are times where it can succeed due to a lack of preparation from various opponents. Over the years, we have seen strategies such as Lantern Control, Death & Taxes, and Humans see success by offering a disruptive package, so there is merit to running interaction in your lists. While most lists offer disruption as an alternative, some strategies adopt disruption as their core approach.
8-Rack aggressively attacks an opponent's hand size until finishing them off with The Rack or Shrieking Affliction. The Rack is a cheap artifact that punishes opponents for not having cards in their hand, which is the ideal complement alongside spells like Raven's Crime and Wrench Mind. Although it takes serious commitment to meet the criteria of The Rack, the payoff is huge, especially with multiples on the battlefield.
8-Rack employs plenty of powerful cards that see frequent Modern play. Over half of the value comes from Thoughtseize and Liliana of the Veil, which see extensive play in Modern—thus, they maintain their value. Despite these hefty price tags, we can incorporate budget alternatives that allow you to play the strategy at a more affordable rate. Since the release of War of the Spark, we have seen another "Rack" effect in Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage. Despite being somewhat narrow for general application, Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage is a shot in the arm for the discard strategy. A discard outlet that also punishes opponents for having too few cards in hand is ideal, which can pile on damage with The Rack and Shrieking Affliction. Eventually, you will want to invest in Liliana of the Veil, the ideal card in the strategy; she removes a threat and provides continuous discard that is tough for opponents to beat. If you reach Liliana of the Veil's ultimate, then it's game over.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Mutavault are potent lands that provide mana fixing and chip damage throughout the game, respectively. Since Pioneer's debut, Mutavault and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth have soared in demand. Fortunately, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is only necessary alongside Mutavault since the rest of the lands are Swamps. I would focus on picking up Mutavaults first and then looking at acquiring Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth later on.
There are options for flexibility with the removal suite; since Smallpox will keep opposing land counts low and trigger revolt, Fatal Push could be an alternative for Defile. While Defile is not a staple by any means, it provides the highest ceiling in terms of the threats it dispatches. I'm a big fan of Defile due to its versatility and the fact that its "drawback" is easier to mitigate than it is to trigger revolt. Even Dismember and Murderous Rider have cropped up in 8-Rack lists. Once you are comfortable playing the strategy and have identified what your metagame is, you can tinker with the removal, but Defile is a fine starting point.
While Nether Spirit may seem odd, its application makes a ton of sense contextually. Nether Spirit is a recursive threat that is happy to be sacrificed to Smallpox or discarded to Liliana of the Veil. The creature acts as an alternative win condition if damage through The Rack or Shrieking Affliction is not enough, and chipping away two damage a turn may be enough in some cases.
Spawning Pool serves as a fine Mutavault replacement in a pinch. Furthermore, Nurturing Peatland or Silent Clearing are good if you are concerned about running out of gas. I recommend Castle Locthwain instead, which is slower compared to the Horizon lands, but the deck is slow and aims to grind opponents out.
This budget version of 8-Rack will provide a decent foundation for the strategy as the core is mostly commons and uncommons. While we don't have Thoughtseize or Liliana of the Veil, we do have Blackmail and Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage for acceptable substitutions. If you want to have more controlled discard akin to Thoughtseize, then Agonizing Remorse may be an excellent alternative. Bontu's Last Reckoning is now maindeck as we need a way to keep the board clear to buy time against aggressive strategies. With regards to upgrades, I suggest starting with Liliana of the Veil (cutting three Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage and one Raven's Crime) as she will make the biggest immediate impact. While expensive, she is the reason 8-Rack is viable. Then I would look into Collective Brutality (over four Wrench Mind) as it's a potent answer against aggressive strategies. Finally, I'd suggest picking up Thoughtseize (cutting a Bontu's Last Reckoning and three Blackmail) and Mutavault (replacing four Swamps) to round out the disruption, and you can get away with a couple copies of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth while upgrading.
In either build, there may be a consideration to add Funeral Charm for extra flexibility. It's a split card that forces an opponent to discard a card or it can kill many of the powerful creatures the format boasts. Modern is defined by cheap, powerful creatures like Noble Hierarch and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben that Funeral Charm manages with ease. Although it's an uncommon option, you may find that Funeral Charm is correct for your metagame if you see plenty of one-toughness creatures. There's little flexibility within 8-Rack, though; it needs as much discard as possible to keep The Rack and Shrieking Affliction consistent. However, there is wiggle room with removal depending on your metagame. If you want to amend your 8-Rack build after a while, some variations splash white for Lingering Souls, Flagstones of Trokair, and Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis. By doing this, you become less 8-Rack and more of a Smallpox strategy.
Considered one of Pauper's dark horses, Mono-Black Control is stacked with removal, discard, and sticky threats. The strategy is a simple one: control the board long enough to clog up the battlefield with enough creatures to parlay into a lethal Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Mono-Black Control uses stubborn cards such as Cuombajj Witches and Chittering Rats to remove cheap threats and to control your opponents' draws, respectively, while feeding devotion for the grey merchant of asphodel. Despite Oubliette's hefty price tag, Mono-Black Control is viable in Pauper without it—I suggest running Faceless Butcher or Dead Weight instead if you want to dip into Pauper without breaking the bank. Otherwise, Mono-Black Control has been around in Pauper for years and is comparable to Modern Jund in that it's always viable and is deeply appreciated by those who pilot it.
Veering back into Modern 8-Rack, there are a few tips for picking up 8-Rack.
8-Rack is not the most played strategy, nor will it break the upper threshold of the format, but owning the deck makes for an excellent introduction to Modern. 8-Rack is a solid choice if you want to adopt something different for a Friday Night Magic or a Magic Online League and want to learn about a unique strategy to accrue Modern knowledge. While it's not the most-loved deck thanks to how frustrating it is to play against, 8-Rack is a unique strategy that we don't often see in other formats. Modern is built on brews and pet decks—who knows what unique strategies we will see in the future? In the meantime, it's time to sleeve up, ask how many cards are in your opponent's hand, and Rack 'em out!