At long last, Modern and Pioneer got some much needed attention this past week. Pioneer’s turn three one-card combo involving Geological Appraiser threatened to warp the format heavily, and appeared to prompt a larger cleanup of the two formats.
Pioneer also saw Karn, the Great Creator go. This card was more of an annoyance to players than it was a problem to the format, as many players complained about the polarizing playstyle of the Mono Green Devotion strategy it championed, even though the deck was not in a great spot in the current metagame.
Meanwhile, Modern players have been begging Wizards of the Coast to do something about the problematic Rakdos Scam deck. After winning Pro Tour Lord of the Rings, instead of players adapting to the explosive deck, Rakdos Scam began to take up a larger percentage of the metagame, reaching unprecedented levels of over 30% of it. Fury, one of the bigger pieces of the Rakdos Scam strategy, was finally banned alongside Up the Beanstalk in Modern.
This left Grief, the arguably more powerful Scam Evoke Elemental, untouched. Many players expected the Rakdos Scam archetype to fall off the face of the earth after the ban. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
Rakdos Scam is Back
Congratulations to Mariluz Garcia for winning the 702-person Legacy European Tour Grand Open Modern Qualifier event with Rakdos Scam! They identified that, despite the recent Fury ban, the deck is still a very real threat to the metagame. This is the first big paper Modern tournament after Fury was banned this past Monday.
According to MTGmelee, Only three players registered a ‘Rakdos Scam’ archetype while another four registered a Rakdos Midrange one. Garcia’s list was categorized under Rakdos Midrange.
Replacing the Furies in the archetype is, mostly, a lot of removal and a few threats. The deck is also runs less Scam effects like Not Dead After All since there is only one Evoke Elemental in the winning iteration of the Rakdos list.
One particularly attractive aspect of Rakdos Scam’s current position is its strong matchup against Living End. Rakdos Scam was always the big archetype keeping the graveyard-centric combo deck in check, and with Fury on its way out, many players believed that Living End would destroy the field. Garcia was able to clean up in this regard, beating five Living End players in her 18-round run. Garcia’s Rakdos Scam list truly cleaned up Cascade opponents this weekend, beating an additional six Crashing Footfalls decks.
Ironically, the banning of Fury makes the other creatures in Rakdos Scam a lot more effective as well.
While all this is incredibly impressive, there is still a question of whether Rakdos Scam will just dominate the metagame for a second time. This could end up being a similar situation to what happened to Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis. Despite Bridge From Below getting the boot, Hogaak continued to dominate the Modern metagame until the namesake card eventually got banned. Is history going to repeat itself?
History Repeats itself?
Contrary to what may be popular belief, many players are glad, and somewhat expected, that Rakdos Scam is still around, especially players who built it. Many believe that, despite the deck’s unexpected playability, it will no longer take up an unhealthy percentage of the metagame.
As mentioned by MTG personality and professional Andrea Mengucci, having Rakdos Scam stick around is likely a good thing. Many players expected Yawgmoth Combo and Living End to run rampant with their biggest check gone. Rakdos Scam can prevent these two decks from becoming an even bigger problem that Scam itself previously was.
The question past this point is if Rakdos Scam’s powerful Grief starts will continue to dominate the format. It’s difficult to know if this is the case or not, since players likely were not expecting Rakdos Scam to make an impact this weekend. Now that players know that the Scam matchup remains one to plan for, appropriate adjustments will be made, but the deck will likely see a larger metagame share. We’ll see if this strategy continues to dominate in the future.
Another route that many players are exploring in regards to the Scam archetype is trying out new colors for the deck. Red offers the Grief-base a lot of powerful tempo and removal options, but other colors still have access to their Evoke elementals and, therefore, players are looking into another elemental to replace Fury more directly.
Grief and Fury share one interesting commonality: they are rather aggressive when Scammed. Grief offers an evasive body that rips your opponent’s hand apart, and even if Fury isn’t removing anything, it still becomes a turn one Double Striking 4/4 when scammed (Scam refers to the act to Evoking an elemental and reanimating it with an effect like Not Dead After All in response to its Evoke trigger).
The remaining Evoke Elementals do not share this trait. Solitude removes creatures in play and is otherwise a lackluster 4/3 beater with no evasion when scammed. Subtlety has a similar issue, having a reactive ETB effect while being a lackluster 4/4 with evasion. This could be a good reactive Scam play, but not one you want to run out as soon as possible most of the time.Endurance has a 4/5 body when scammed, but its ETB effect is completely irrelevant in some matchups. None of these creatures hit remotely as hard as Fury, and none of these creatures have nearly as proactive of an ETB trigger as Grief.
That said, the combination of Grief and Ephemerate, in particular, are quite powerful. Instead of ripping two cards out of your opponent’s hand, this combination allows you to rip three instead. Additionally, Ephemerate doesn’t interact with the graveyard, making this combo a lot more difficult to stop.
This recent Orzhov Scam list top eighted a Modern Challenge, and uses Solitude and Grief in a more tempo-oriented shell to swing the game in its favor with massive turns fueled by the Scam interaction. Ephemerate and Not Dead After All double as protection for Stoneforge Mystic, which can cheat in a very problematic Kaldra Compleat should it ever get rid of summoning sickness.
Alternatively, this Dimir Scam list utilizes some unique Rogue synergies alongside Grief and Subtlety. Even though Subtlety is not the most aggressive elemental in the world, its tempo potential combined with a ton of hand destruction can disrupt the opponent and close the door before they can stabilize.
Ultimately, players don’t know what the future of the Scam archetype is quite yet, but we do know that Rakdos Scam has swiftly been reintroduced into the metagame. Fury’s absence has elevated the playing field of every creature deck out there, and Rakdos Scam, in a weird way, is no different. Either way, expect this deck to return to the Modern metagame at some level following this impressive performance.