I sat down to play round one of Wednesday Night Standard, armed with the updated version of the Rakdos Aggro deck I wrote about last week, and introduced myself to my opponent. His name was Justin, a professional looking guy in his early 30’s, and told me his Magic career had been dormant for the better part of a decade. We shuffle up, he gives the okay for a photograph, we roll some dice, and after he mulligans his hand, I make some small talk.

“Where are you from?” I ask.

“I’m from Fitchburg, you?” he says without looking up from pile-shuffling.

“I’m also from Fitchburg. I live out in Brighton now, but yeah, I just graduated from Fitchburg State.”

“Did you ever play at the Magic Guild?” The question flashes back memories long binned in the graveyard of my mind. I became lost in thought as Justin mulled over his six-card hand.

I am 15, and my friend Nick and I are dropped off at the Magic Guild for the first time. The musty store is filled to the brim with D&D books, Warhammer supplies, and board games. Somehow, two wooden tables have been claustrophobically crammed in between shelves and precariously stacked boxes that threaten to spill over whenever anyone sits down or stands up. The store used to be in a bigger location but moved to the side of John Fitch Highway after a partnership broke down between the owners, John and our friend’s stepdad (whose name eludes me). Our friend’s stepdad ended up going into the plumbing business and John was forced to downsize in order to keep the store going. Anyway, Nick and I spent the day at the store, playing melee games with a guy with a chicken deck (EDH didn’t exist yet). At some point I went to the counter and met John, who sold me some packs of Apocalypse and told me about the days when you could buy $5 moxes.

My first impression of John was that he was a weird dude. Despite owning a game store, John didn’t really seem like a guy who liked things like games…or people…or fun. It’s also possible he just didn’t like teenage dipshits like me who knew nothing of what it really meant to be a nerd and to be ostracized because of it. John was a dyed in the wool nerd, decades before they ran a D&D episode of Community or came out with a horrible movie with Jeremy Irons and one of the Waynes brothers, John was rolling 20-sided dice in basements. He even looked like he could be a character in a game, long white wizardly hair and beard, forlorn look on his face adorned with unironic thick glasses.

I had spent a lot of time at the Magic Guild over the next few years before it closed in the early 2000’s. When I wasn’t there I was cracking jokes with Nick about the people we met and the epic games we played. We even made a custom card of John from-the-Magic-Guild. It was basically just Shadowmage Infiltrator but when it dealt damage you would have to call the Magic Guild and ask for an obscure single. The few times we called John was, of course, not pleased.

As time went on, I stopped going to the Magic Guild in favor of Academy Games, a bigger store that had a lot of singles and competitive players. The last time I went to the Magic Guild, I didn’t even go inside, I just parked in the lot outside to have a sweet makeout session with my girlfriend at the time. I’m still not sure why I would choose a small and well-lit parking lot to fool around in, especially one outside of a space where they know me. Like I said, I was kind of a dipshit. Anyway, I was half dressed in the parking lot of the Magic Guild and John came out to take out the trash or something. I’m not sure if he recognized me, or just saw the fogged up windows, but I remember him sort of smiling and shaking his head before walking back inside, to the musty shelves of a crumbling cardboard empire.

“I’ll keep,” Justin said.

I nodded my head in acknowledgement.

“Hey remember the owner of the Magic Guild, John?”

“Yeah, John-from-the-Magic-Guild.” I never thought about John having a last name, or a life outside of the store. His name, for me, was forever tied to a closed-down LGS.

“His last name was Phillips. He actually got in trouble for meeting up with a 13 year-old girl he met on Runescape. He drove out to Michigan to…ah…be with her. Her mom found out and, I think he’s currently in jail.”

I looked into the story, and it’s been confirmed by a couple of local news sources.

I felt a knot in my stomach. It’s not that I looked up to John—like I said, I didn’t think he was a very likable guy. But John-from-the-Magic-Guild will always be linked with an important part of my teenage years: my discovery of Magic. I still drive by the old store when I am in town visiting my parents, the space long since converted into one of those we-buy-gold places, and think about my first couple years in the game. Even with the store’s shady characters and cramped quarters, it was an important space for me; if it weren’t for the Guild, I doubt I would be writing this article right now. I’m not sure how to reconcile the past with the present, especially when people do fucked up things, but I am thankful I had a place to play growing up, and even happier that I don’t have to play there anymore.


This is my second week of playing Rakdos Aggro. I started with the list from GP Santiago and after making a few tweaks, came up with this list:

Rakdos Aggro 2.0

Creatures (28)
Rakdos Cackler
Exava, Rakdos Bloodwitch
Mogis's Marauders
Rakdos Shred-Freak
Spike Jester
Thrill-Kill Assassin
Tormented Hero
Xathrid Necromancer

Spells (10)
Lightning Strike
Civic Saber
Lands (22)
Blood Crypt
10 Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Burning Earth
Flames of the Firebrand
Doom Blade
Gift of Orzhova
Erebos, God of the Dead
Mizzium Mortars
Slaughter Games
Whip of Erebos

For a list of explanations see my article from last week.

I played four rounds of Standard at Pandemonium Books and Games this past Wednesday. These are my games:

Round 1Justin with UW Control (2-0)


Game one, I played Rakdos Cackler into Rakdos Shred-Freak into Civic Saber, which I equipped before attacking. I tried not to commit too many creatures to the board in fear of Supreme Verdict, but his double Mutavault draw didn’t allow for a turn four wrath. He ended up having to trade his Mutavaults for my creatures when his next few draws didn’t yield any white mana. After effectively double Stone Raining him, I was able to finish up the game pretty quickly.

-4 Lightning Strike
+2 Erebos, God of the Dead
+2 Thoughtseize

While Lightning Strike can take out a Mutavault, I’d rather have some additional sources of hand disruption in Thoughtseize as well as a way to prevent life gain and gain card advantage in Erebos. I’m still not entirely sure on Erebos, as it doesn’t contribute to the do-damage-really-fast plan, but I like having at least one card in the deck that doesn’t feel miserable to draw when you are behind.

Game two, I got another quick start, though he did have the mana to issue a Supreme Verdict on turn four. I followed up with a pair of hasty beaters, cracked in for some damage, and he dropped Jace. Instead of +1ing, and mitigating some damage, he -2’ed immediately. While I understand the need to hit land drops, it always feels bad to -2 when you are close to dead on the board. I was able to follow up with an Exava and closed out the game the following turn.

Round 2Michael with Red Deck Wins (2-1)


Michael is a super nice guy who I’ve had the pleasure of losing to earlier in this article series when he was on UW control. This week he renounced the guilds and went for a straight Mono Red Aggro deck.

Game one, I won the die roll and subsequently won the game. In all seriousness, I kept a somewhat risky hand of four lands, Rakdos Cakler, Doom Blade, and Spike Jester. Luckily, I didn’t draw anymore lands and was able to turn enough creatures sideways to get there.

-2 Thoughtseize
-2 Civic Saber
-2 Dreadbore
+2 Flames of the Firebrand
+2 Whip of Erebos
+1 Doom blade
+1 Gift of Orzhova

I swapped out Dreadbore for Flames of the Firebrand as Flames allows for two-for-ones, assuming that Michael kept in some amount of X/1’s. I took out Thoughtseize and Civic Saber in order to bring in the lifelink package and an additional instant removal spell. I don’t really expect to ever activate Whip, but just having the lifelink should be enough to, in theory, swing the game back in my favor.

Game two, Michael was on the play so he won. His quick start of Rakdos Cackler, Burning Tree Emissary into another Cackler put me on the ropes early. I tried to race, since my creatures don’t block exceptionally well, but he had the upper hand.

Game three, I had a fast start and crashed into an empty board with Tormented Hero and Spike Jester on turn two. When Michael played his second land and passed, I knew he had a removal spell of some kind. I ended up playing a Mogis’s Marauder and attacked with the team only to have two of my creatures zapped with Electrickery. Despite the early blowout, I was able to keep some pressure on while he returned fire. We ended up in a topdeck war where I was victorious after my deck gave me Exava and his deck only offered Rakdos Cackler.

Round 3Steve with Boros Aggro (0-2)


I let out an audible sigh as soon as I saw the pairings for this round. Steve was the only person I saw on W/x aggro and the only person I knew I wouldn’t have any kind of chance against.

Game one, Steve played back to back Soldier of the Pantheons which blanked everything I played and even conveniently gained him some life. The game ended after he put a Madcap Skills on a Soldier, then gave it Titan’s Strength, then sent a Boros Charm to my dome for good measure:


-2 Thoughtseize
-2 Civic Saber
-2 Dreadbore

+2 Flames of the Firebrand
+1 Doom Blade
+1 Gift of Orzhova
+2 Mizzium Mortars

This match-up is so abysmal it feels hopeless even after sideboarding. I get to side-in removal that actually kills Soldier of the Pantheon but he get’s to bring in Fiendslayer Paladin, who just blanks this deck. Furthermore, any creatures you can actually target with removal, the Boros player can protect with Brave the Elements and Boros Charm. If you expect a lot of Boros Aggro in your meta, you could devote all 15 cards in your sideboard to beating it but I still think you are the underdog in the match-up.

Game two, I mulliganed down to five and found myself in a near unwinnable position after he playedPrecinct Captain and was able to protect him with Brave the Elements. Steve equipped his creature with Madcap Skills and after a few swings, I was dead.

Round 4Nick with Selesyna Aggro (1-2)


When Nick found out I was playing Rakdos Aggro, he told me that one of his friends had built the deck and had come up with a pretty fitting name for it: Hot Trash.

Game one, Nick played out a wall of creatures; Experiment One, Fleecemane Lion, Loxodon Smiter, and two Voice of Resurgence. While I was able to get in a couple of hits early, I couldn’t attack into his board. I sat around and waited for Mogis’s Marauder to help me eek out a victory, but I never drew one. I also made an embarrassing misplay when he attacked with two Voice of Resurgences when I was at seven life. I didn’t block. I wanted to keep as many of my guys around as possible and didn’t want to trade for a Voice and allow him to have a giant elemental token. Furthermore, I figured the worst thing he could do was Selesnya Charm an attacker. He flashed in a bestowed Boon Satyr, dealt exactly lethal, and I scooped up my cards.

-2 Civic Saber
-2 Rakdos Shred-Freak
-1 Lightning Strike
+1 Doom Blade
+2 Thoughtseize
+2 Mizzium Mortars

Selesyna Aggro has a bunch of creatures they can flash in (Boon Satyr, Advent of the Wurm, and Selesyna Charm), so bringing in Thoughseize allows you to play around whatever they may have. Doom Blade should kill all of their creatures and Mizzium Mortars kills most, perhaps most importantly Loxodon Smiter. Rakdos Shred-Freak is sided out because it’s haste is irrelevant when it is so quickly outclassed. Civic Saberseemed okay in this match-up but I would much rather have the removal to get rid of huge blockers.

Game two, I had a fast curve of Tormented Hero into Rakdos Shred-Freak into Mogis’s Marauders over the next two turns. Nick couldn’t catch up despite having double Loxodon Smiter:


Game three, I had a turn one Thoughtseize which revealed a pretty unbeatable hand of three Voice of Resurgence, Boon Satyr, and Forest. I took one voice, but he chained the other ones together and I just couldn’t attack through them. I never even dealt Nick one damage this game so he won, flawless victory.

My final record with the deck, over the past two weeks, was 5-3. Rakdos Aggro has some insane draws and might be the fastest aggro deck in Standard right now, though it is very vulnerable. In my games, the deck really excelled against midrange and control decks but struggled against other aggro decks, especially ones with trump cards like Soldier of the Pantheon and Voice of Resurgence. In terms of my changes to the original deck Navas played at the GP, I feel like I might have seriously underestimated Madcap Skills. Initially, I looked at the aura and just thought of it as an unnecessary risk, a cry to be two-for-one’d. However, I would have really liked the card in the aggro match=ups where it would allow a creature to sneak past a problematic blocker and push the race in your favor. I still like my swap of Doom Blade for Dreadbore though. Dreadbore may not kill Soldier of the Pantheon but it does take down Desecration Demon, Nightveil Specter, and Pack Rat which you are likely to see with Mono Black Devotion doing so well at the last GP.

Next week, I’ll be playing a Jund Dredge deck I brewed up myself. The deck has a lot of cool interactions, though the jury is still out whether it’s any good or not. I guess there is only one way to find out.

At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a 7th edition starter deck (the one with foil Thorn Elemental). Since that fateful day 11 years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as Jace, the Mindsculptor at PAX, and competes with LSV for the record of most islands played (lifetime). When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and keeps a blog about pro-wrestling.

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