Top 4 @ MTGO Challenge with Rakdos Midrange: Analysis & Sideboard Guide

06/04/2023 · 10 min read

What I Played

Rakdos has been gaining popularity in Standard lately , as it is a deviation from Grixis that players believe to be better against faster decks and offers some basic land advantages. After all, Grixis is essentially Rakdos with extra steps.

After all, Grixis is essentially Rakdos with extra steps

During this weekend, I played Rakdos in the Standard Challenge  and managed to reach the top 4 on Saturday. This is the list I used.

Rakdos Atraxa. Builder: Mogged.MTGO - Magic Online
Top4 in MTGO Standard Challenge #12538311 01-Apr-2023
Maindeck (60)
Creature [13]
2  Graveyard Trespasser   $1.79
4  Bloodtithe Harvester   $0.39
3  Fable of the Mirror-Breaker   $29.99
1  Fable of the Mirror-Breaker   $29.99
1  Atsushi, the Blazing Sky   $6.99
2  Razorlash Transmogrant   $0.69
Artifact [3]
3  Reckoner Bankbuster   $5.99
Instant [9]
2  Abrade   $0.35
4  Cut Down   $0.79
3  Go for the Throat   $0.69
Sorcery [5]
4  Invoke Despair   $1.29
1  Gix's Command   $0.79
Planeswalker [4]
2  Ob Nixilis, the Adversary   $6.99
2  Liliana of the Veil   $19.99
Land [26]
4  Blackcleave Cliffs   $4.99
1  Haunted Ridge   $15.99
3  Haunted Ridge   $15.99
1  Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance   $4.49
1  Takenuma, Abandoned Mire   $9.49
1  Xander's Lounge   $10.99
4  Sulfurous Springs   $4.49
4  Swamp   $0.01
5  Swamp   $0.01
2  Mountain   $0.01
Sideboard [15]
4  Duress   $0.35
1  Graveyard Trespasser   $1.79
1  Parasitic Grasp   $0.35
1  Parasitic Grasp   $0.35
1  Reckoner Bankbuster   $5.99
1  Whack   $0.35
1  Unlicensed Hearse   $11.99
1  Unlicensed Hearse   $11.99
2  Sheoldred, the Apocalypse   $79.99
1  Razorlash Transmogrant   $0.69
1  Brotherhood's End   $6.49
Buy this deck:

$254.54 Tix @cardhoarder   $6.36 / Week @cardhoarder   $411.39 @tcgplayer   $545.61 @cardkingdom  

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In this article, I will explain my reasoning that led me to this different take on Rakdos midrange, as well as provide a sideboard guide.

Metagame and comparison with Grixis

As I mentioned, I think Grixis and RB are very similar decks. However, to decide which one to play, we must highlight their differences. So, let's go over them.


RB can afford more basics than Grixis, which is especially useful against their counterpart. The card that stands out the most in the mirror is Razorlash Transmogrant. The Grixis side cannot use this tool as effectively as the Rakdos side and should probably keep it in their sideboard.

Razorlash Transmogrant
0.81 Tix

The basics are also a pretty big help when dealing with Field of Ruin and Demolition Field, cards that have risen in popularity in the standard format , especially in the mono-white matchup.

Field of Ruin
0.03 Tix
Demolition Field
0.02 Tix

RB has a more stable mana base, making it easier to find 4 black for your Invoke Despair and cast your 4 drops more reliably. You can even play up to 8 fewer tap lands at 4 mana than Grixis does.

RB is better against aggro, taking no pain land damage, playing 4 Cut Down with untapped mana on 1, and slamming Trespasser on 3 forms a strong defense against various aggro decks.

RB has a better aggro plan, meaning it is easier to curve out, crew Bankbuster, and efficiently remove blockers while going for the kill, making the 2 damage part of Invoke Despair matter.

Invoke Despair
0.56 Tix


Grixis is highly adaptable; it can be tailored to defeat every matchup since it has tools to counter every strategy. This is particularly useful when there are fewer decks in the metagame, a situation we experienced for a long time but is now beginning to change.

Grixis has less polarizing matchups, and having blue is very advantageous against decks that surpass Grixis.

For example, Mono-White beats Red-Black but loses to Grixis, which has enough counters in the 75.

Atraxa Reanimator is also a similar matchup; it is slightly ahead versus Red-Black but significantly behind versus Grixis. Appraiser and counters are challenging to beat.


Red black is a better choice in a faster metagame, it doesn’t adapt too well and it is not worth it to go the distance to beat something like monowhite, however if the metagame is looking something like the data below including a lot of aggro and Esper legends, it should be a great choice

Weighting the Current Meta

Βelow is the canadian Regional championships metagame:

BR performed really well in that tournament, as it had a good matchup with everything except Atraxa and Monowhite, which totaled less than 20% of that metagame.

I thought the trend of Red-Black would keep increasing, and here we have the most recent RC, which happened in Chile the same weekend I played RB in the challenges.

In this tournament, Red-Black had a more reasonable win rate. Even though this is a small sample, I would say that this tournament had more Monowhite, which contributed to more losses. Of course, there were lots of decks for Rakdos to prey upon.

So, after the dust settled, my idea was that I wanted to build a Rakdos deck that was more resilient against the mirror, be it Grixis or Rakdos, and against Monowhite, while still holding the edge versus Esper Legends and various aggro decks.

The biggest liability to me is Sheoldred. It doesn't match well at all against the cheap removal from midrange decks, and even Esper Legends is running a few Go for the Throat cards just for this. Just jamming it on 4 mana and getting answered will lose you all the tempo you are trying to acquire through your own cheap removal and force you into a fair game, which you are less likely to win. So, I tried to diversify some threats and make enemy midrange plans worse.

Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
25.81 Tix

My alternative card Choices

Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
2.18 Tix

I think this card matches up very well against Mono-White, Grixis, and Red-Black decks. It is really effective against their cheap removal, and most importantly, it makes Invoke Despair significantly less powerful. Against Mono-White, it's quite easy to protect a planeswalker from attacks. Although this card appears to be a perfect way to weaken their answers on paper, it is somewhat underwhelming against other decks, such as Esper Legends.

Razorlash Transmogrant
0.81 Tix

This card is reasonable on its own, but I thought having more 2-mana, 3-power creatures could help fuel my Ob Nixilis. Then, I can return this card to the field for free later in the game. Razorlash works really well with Fable and Blood tokens. It can be maindeckable, as it will give you a huge advantage against 3-color decks later in the game, and its downside isn't significant.

Atsushi, the Blazing Sky
0.67 Tix

Okay, this is my Sheoldred replacement. This card has outperformed, and I can say for sure that it's really good in the mirror match, as the opponent is forced to answer it because the clock matters. It's much better than Sheoldred in that matchup, but slightly worse against mono-white.

Liliana of the Veil
10.08 Tix

This card is the biggest overperformer for me, as it matches really well with your cheap removal. You aim to create a situation where Liliana faces only one creature on turn 3. I would even consider running three copies, since it's sometimes effective against mono-white decks. Unlike Grixis, you have enough basic lands to not worry about both of Liliana's modes being shut down by Razorlash. Additionally, discarding cards usually hurts your opponent more than it hurts you, as you tend to have a lot of dead fodder later in the game.

Bladecoil Serpent
2.71 Tix

This is a sideboard card, and I think it's our best card against mono-white. Blade Coil Serpent has been weak in many matchups, but not having blue isn't very relevant in the matchups where you actually want this. I am happy with this choice.

Sideboard guide


We are favored against traditional Rakdos lists because we have threats that are resilient to the four Go for the Throat  cards they run, as well as their invocations. Sheoldred is a significant liability for them, as they can never play it as the only creature on the board. Even if this condition is met, they hope we don't have Go for the Throat.

On the play

On the draw


A very even matchup; the appraiser is the main difference as it's really good against us. However, we have a better Razorlash plan, which might amount to a small advantage for our side.

On the play

On the draw


This matchup is highly favored; we are built to defeat this deck, and they don't really have a solid plan to attack us other than hoping we don't have removal in time.


This is probably the worst matchup for us right now, with a 40-60 ratio. Many players have asked me how to approach this matchup, and the answer is quite straightforward and simple. You have to be the aggressor, use your mana efficiently, and avoid keeping reactive hands. Focus on playing for tempo rather than card advantage, and hold your invokes until after you've deployed all your threats. The matchup is not unwinnable, and from experience, you can reliably outsmart them by pretending to be an aggressive deck. Fable is likely to fix most of your hands and plays a significant role in this matchup.


Very good matchup; we have a ton of cheap removal. We also have some life gain, and we will likely manage to stop their assault early, as they don't have enough burn power to finish us.


Again, this is a very good matchup where our removal matches up really well against them, likely gaining us tempo. Then, our flipped fable can finish them off.


Toxic has a better game against us than other aggro decks because they have cheaper creatures, and sometimes Hive is a real issue. I would say we are still favored, but we will still lose to their best hands.


In a slightly unfavorable matchup, our Rakdos deck tends to push games past the midgame, making it very difficult to keep Cruelty from instantly reanimating Atraxa. Our best shot is probably after sideboarding.


Very easy matchup; most of our cards match really well against them. After sideboarding, they need a miracle to win. Don't be afraid to play your cards into open mana during key turns.

Final words

The largest regional championship is coming up this weekend in the USA. I believe this deck is an excellent choice for those who are undecided, as well as for more casual play. Unlike Grixis, this deck is straightforward and easier to get into, and it is more satisfying because it truly emphasizes Invoke Despair.

If you liked this article maybe you will also find interesting on of the following ones UW Narset Undoing Primer & Sideboard Guide [Modern], March of the Machine: Most Promising cards for Standard and Pioneer, Fine tuning Mono-green in Pioneer: In-depth & Sideboard guide, Pioneer Boros Heroic In-depth & Sideboard Guide

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MTGO Grinder
Mogged is one of the MTGO grinders behind many of the top winning decks across formats. He has the most Challenge top8s and wins in 2021, and is currently leading in Challenge wins in 2022. His articles show a deep understanding of the MTG theory and are great for those looking to improve their gameplay, better understanding the game, and learning how the metagame evolves over time.


Published: 2023-04-06 00:00:00