It’s not often Modern decks are definitively created by a single person, but that certainly seems to be the case with 8Rack, a discard deck created in 2013 that kills you with The Rack, among other things. Today we get to talk to the man behind the deck Robert Leva (aka MemoryLapse on MTGSalvation) and pick his brain about how he came up with this idea, how the deck has evolved, tournament success, and more.
8Rack by Sean Ridgeley
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Wrench Mind
4 Raven’s Crime
4 Liliana of the Veil
3 Shrieking Affliction
4 The Rack
4 Ensnaring Bridge
3 Victim of Night
1 Slaughter Pact
2 Pack Rat
1 Dakmor Salvage
4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2 Pithing Needle
3 Surgical Extraction
1 Pack Rat
2 Bile Blight
1 Syphon Life
1 Shrieking Affliction
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Tell me about the origins of 8Rack. How did you come upon the idea and develop it?
8Rack has a rather odd origin. I was working a line of decks in the R/W control spectrum. The main idea of those decks was to use non-creature threats and board wipes to stall out until various planeswalkers finish the game.
The reason I was investigating these types of decks? Back in the beginning days of Modern, before the actual cutoff was declared, when folks were playing overextended, Goblins and red burny fast decks were everywhere. I hated these decks and designed the R/W Lockdown deck to combat them first and foremost, with everything else as an afterthought.
I then began experimenting in other colors — B/G specifically, where I used Garruk Wildspeaker and Liliana of the Veil while hiding behind a Bridge. This G/B deck had a hefty discard package. I noticed how amazing Lily worked with the Bridge and the discard setups. I then switched to mono black and 8Rack was born through logical fallouts of that.
Tell me about the uphill battle that came with creating a unique deck like this and sharing it with the community.
Man, when I first shared the idea, I was trolled and flamed harder than a Teemo player in solo queue. “It won’t work”, “Discard decks cannot function in Modern”, “You are a fucktard”, and on and on ad nauseam. Page after page, I defended the strategy, until finally Sheridan (Ed. note: ktkenshinx on the MTGS forums), actually gave the deck a fair shot and did well with it in an FNM type of thing. All of a sudden people stopped auto-trolling a new idea and things started moving forward.
How did the first list look? Do you still have it? How competitive was it? How did it evolve?
The first list was surprisingly not much different than my current stock list.
The main card I wasn’t running main board was Wrench Mind, though my original primer shows it in the optional cards list. Those early lists opted for Duress mainboard. Primitive Blue Tron and Gifts Tron lists were sparking up in the early Modern days (and affinity times a million) and Wrench was a bit less attractive. Once things settled out, it became an auto-include.
Dakmor Salvage was one of the very few cards that were suggested [early in development] that I had completely overlooked, Pack Rat being the other notable exception, though I like to think I redeemed myself on that card. Better late than never, I suppose.
What are some misconceptions people have about 8Rack, and what would you say to people who believe them?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions with 8Rack is that it needs to be “fixed” somehow. The reason for this is because the deck isn’t popular. People equate popularity with effectiveness and this is a huge trap. In 8Rack specifically, the strategy’s effectiveness is inversely proportional to its popularity. People want to “fix” 8Rack because there just must be something wrong with it if all the “pros” aren’t using it. Sorry, but this is just plain wrong.
Why has tournament success eluded the deck so far? What kind of cards do you want to make it more competitive? What area of the deck is the most lacking? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
That’s a lot of questions rolled into one, but I think I get what you are really asking: why hasn’t 8Rack won a big tourney? All I can do is voice my opinion on this, which I have formed from logical induction.
The main reason why 8Rack can’t seem to place is because only a fraction of a percent of people are playing it. You compare that to say Burn which is taking [up] 10-15% of all decks in any given tourney and the odds are just very low that you will see an 8Rack deck in the top 8. For all of the amazing depth of strategy and skill Magic has, there is just too much random chance engineered into the system to expect anything but mass numbers of similar decks to consistently perform. Furthermore, 8Rack cannot exist in a state where it is popular. It’s a very linear strategy that only works because it isn’t being prepared for. And who would bother preparing for a deck that only takes up a fraction of a percent of the meta? Anonymity is 8Rack’s greatest ally but also the reason for all its disrespect.
What is the future of 8Rack? Do you have any new card ideas you’re currently trying out?
8Rack’s future depends more on where the meta flows than it does on specific cards. I mean, sure occasionally we make a breakthrough like Pack Rat, but for the most part we are looking to exploit decks that are using creatures as a primary win condition. It also fares pretty well against combo decks. It’s weakness is to decks with a better late game plan such as RG Tron, or to a very fast strategy — anything in the middle we have a better than average shot at winning. If the meta shifts to far to either one of those extremes, 8Rack loses footing. The good news is that Wizards seems to be engineering the format toward critter-based midrange stuff.
What is your current primary list? Any notes to share on it?
My current primary list is the stock list suggested by you or something so close to it as to not be any kind of significant departure. I like more Rats than your average Joe, but I wouldn’t say that is the definitive way to play it.
Do you plan on bringing 8Rack to any tournaments in the future?
If I ever get a chance to play in a decent sized tourney in Tampa or Orlando, then sure, I will give it a go.
What tips do you have for new 8Rack players?
Try the stock many many times before adding your own flavor; you need to master the stock list. I see people ignoring the stock list and taking on these inconsistent variants and it just will not work for many, everyone, or anyone really.
Favourite ragequit stories? Tell me again about how 8Rack killed your local Modern meta.
It’s hard to come up with a single favorite rage quit. In paper Magic, I one time had a person refuse to shake hands with me after the game, and he refused my saying “good game”. According to him I didn’t beat him, he just didn’t draw what he needed in time. He then proceeded to scream at his girlfriend when she said he was being a baby. Good times.
(Laughs) Oh my god, I basically ruined Modern at my local game store (LGS) when I showed up with 8Rack. They were simply not prepared for it. I won four straight weeks in a row, then no one came. To this day there is no Modern event at that store.
What are your thoughts on splashing each of the different colours?
Regarding splashing, I would say that you should do so with great care. Only do it if you are completely confident it will give you some sort of meta advantage. Even in these cases, keep the splash to a very minimal upgrade of specific cards (i.e. removal spell gets upgraded to Lightning Bolt).