Since the recent ban announcement, the Pioneer metagame has largely been dominated by four specific strategies. These strategies were heavily represented at the Regional Championship in Atlanta, and the entire top eight of the tournament was made up of players using one of these four decks each. Specifically, these strategies are Rakdos midrange, Azorius control, Abzan Amalia Benavides Aguirre combo, and Izzet Phoenix.
While Azorius control and Abzan Amalia combo had the best win rates among these four decks, Rakdos midrange was by far the most heavily played deck at the event. Since the tournament, Rakdos midrange has continued its rampage. Just recently, the deck put four copies into the top eight of the Magic Online Pioneer Super Qualifier. It’s clear that if you want to play Pioneer, it’s important to have a solid gameplan for Rakdos midrange.
One deck in particular, though, emerged from this tournament a seemingly very strong Rakdos midrange matchup. This deck placed second in the tournament with over 260 players, and despite being a relatively new strategy, has a lot going for it in the current metagame. This archetype is none other than Rakdos Artifacts, a strategy that could certainly be on the rise in the coming weeks. Before we dive into exactly what gives this deck a strong edge against Rakdos midrange, it’s worth taking a closer look at the deck’s core gameplan.
The main goal of this deck is to generate lots of value through a few different Artifact payoffs. In order to maximize these payoffs, which we will discuss in a bit, there are plenty of powerful cards in this deck that help add to your Artifact count. First up, both Voldaren Epicure and Bloodtithe Harvester provide Artifact tokens when they enter the battlefield, which can later be sacrificed for value. These cards are the bread-and-butter enablers for this deck, helping to pressure the opponent while creating Artifact tokens that can be abused later in the game.
These cheap Creatures do a great job Crewing Smuggler’s Copter, which adds even more pressure and card selection to the table. Every card in this deck is fairly cheap, which makes Experimental Synthesizer a perfect enabler as well. Even on its own, because you can reliably play the cards you exile when Synthesizer enters or leaves the battlefield, the card is solid. Once you add the Artifact payoffs into the mix, though, things can start to get out of hand.
Once you have at least one Artifact in play, there are a multitude of ways to take advantage. Deadly Dispute is an easy way to convert Blood tokens into card advantage to help in grindy matchups. If you need to be more aggressive, Gleeful Demolition can do the trick, providing a slew of attackers at the ready.
Perhaps the best Artifact payoff available in attrition matchups is Oni-Cult Anvil. Anvil itself can sacrifice Artifacts to drain the opponent. From there, whenever an Artifact you control leaves the battlefield, you get a 1/1 Artifact Construct token. Oni-Cult Anvil is a solid win condition in this style of deck, acting as an army in a can.
It also pairs exceptionally well with The Meathook Massacre. Meathook Massacre acts as a solid board wipe against decks with small Creatures, like Boros Convoke, which is a nice bonus. In grindier matchups, though, it forces your opponent to lose life any time a Creature you control dies. With Oni-Cult Anvil in play, each time you sacrifice a Construct token to Anvil, your opponent loses life from the Anvil and from Meathook Massacre.
In some instances, it can be useful to simply cast The Meathook Massacre for X=0. Let’s say you have a bunch of tokens from Gleeful Demolition. Now, your opponent loses life even if they successfully block or otherwise remove any of your Creature tokens. Between Anvil Meathook Masssacre, and even Shrapnel Blast, this deck has more than enough ways to end the game over time.
Beating Rakdos Midrange
A huge reason for this archetype’s success in the current metagame is credited to the strength of the Rakdos midrange matchup. The player that made it to the finals of the Super Qualifier with this deck played against Rakdos midrange seven times, only losing one of those matches. So what makes the matchup so strong?
First and foremost, Rakdos midrange doesn’t interact too well with Artifacts, especially in game one. If you are able to stick an Anvil, it will almost certainly generate a ton of value over the course of the game. Rakdos midrange lacks evasive threats, so the Constructs you make should by plenty you plenty of time. Not to mention, given the abundance of spot removal out of Rakdos midrange, Gleeful Demolition can be a problematic card for Rakdos midrange to beat beyond simply trying to set up blockers.
Luckily, this deck also makes use of Thoughtseize and Fatal Push, so big threats like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse aren’t super concerning. This deck does a great job of presenting some early pressure while still continuing to generate tons of value over the course of the game.
In reality, you can easily out grind Rakdos midrange thanks to Synthesizer and Deadly Dispute, then slowly win the game with Anvil and Meathook Massacre that your opponent can’t remove. Things can definitely get a bit tougher post-board thanks to the likes of Kolaghan’s Command, but even still, the matchup remains quite strong.
Other Strengths and Weaknesses
As mentioned, this archetype’s ability to play quickly with Gleeful Demolition while also winning longer, grindier games is a huge part of what makes it so strong. Decks with lots of small Creatures match up quite poorly against The Meathook Massacre, while slower decks can get run over by Gleeful Demolition. This combination gives you game against basically every deck in the format.
Of course, this doesn’t mean there aren’t a handful of cards that can be quite frustrating to play through. One of those cards is certainly Temporary Lockdown. As a Rakdos deck, Temporary Lockdown is going to stick when it hits the board. If you overdeveloped your board, Lockdown could win the game singlehandedly. After all, it answers Anvils, Synthesizers, Copters, and Creature tokens all at once.
Fortunately, Thoughtseize can strip your Azorius control opponent of the card. You also have access to multiple copies of Ob Nixilis, the Adversary in the sideboard, which is an elite threat that dodges Lockdown. In this sense, this deck really is prepared to fight against a lot of the top decks in the format. If you’re sick of losing to Rakdos midrange, definitely consider giving this deck a shot.