Modern Horizons has been a blast to draft. Snow feels like the best archetype overall, but not if you have to fight too hard. Slivers and Ninjas have impressed me as well, but the format feels more like a “good card” draft than a “good archetype” draft. Sometimes you get passed two copies of a great rare and can build around that. And on your luckiest of days, that rare will be Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis.

Going into the latest paper draft with my local playgroup, I had few plans other than to try to draft black. The color has plenty of removal plus solid creatures and value cards. My first pick this time was Graveshifter, a card that is somehow even better than Gravedigger. In case you were wondering, it feels great to tutor up Graveshifter with Goblin Matron.

Red seems mostly like a color to avoid in Modern Horizons, but the removal was more available to me than black removal—other than the absurd Crypt Rats. Plus, Goblin Matron is a card that works well with changelings and such. After one pack, my deck looked poised to be value Goblins. But then I was passed Hogaak in pack two, went all in on Ransack the Lab, and was rewarded with another Hogaak in pack three.

This was the result:

Rakdos Hogaak

Creatures (14)
Changeling Outcast
Goblin Champion
Undead Augur
Nether Spirit
Crypt Rats
Goblin Matron
Warteye Witch
Rank Officer
Graveshifter
Feaster of Fools
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Spells (10)
Goblin War Party
Ransack the Lab
Unearth
Pyrophobia
Urza’s Rage
Firebolt
Lands (16)
Barren Moor
Snox-Covered Swamp
Swamp
Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Tectonic Reformation
Talisman of Conviction
Birthing Boughs
Lava Dart
Umezawa’s Charm
Mind Rake
Shenanigans
Reckles Charge
Goblin Engineer
Headless Specter
First-Sphere Gargantua
Shatter Assumptions
Nature’s Chant
Recruit the Worthy
Weather the Storm

Maybe this deck needs more two-drop creatures. I passed a few copies of Putrid Goblin, which as a persisting zombie-goblin would have been perfect for this deck. But sometimes you have to take a better card early and never get a chance to get the other card later. A Mob or two would also have been nice. That said, this deck felt great. The red removal plus Crypt Rats mostly kept opposing creatures in check, and the Hogaak engine is tough to beat in Limited.

It might also be wrong to leave a Talisman in the sideboard. Two-drop mana rocks do great work in Limited. I left it out because this deck is cheating mana in other ways, and the ramp did not seem worth adding a non-land mana source to this tight deck. The biggest limiting factor in draft deck construction is the number of non-land card slots. It’s important to question whether “must-include” cards that aren’t creatures are actually improving your deck. Also, don’t be afraid to be wrong when building a draft deck. Most decisions are close, don’t matter that much on the margins, and can be fixed in sideboarding once you know what you’re up against. When in doubt, play more creatures.

Most opponents will struggle to answer Hogaak in draft. The one true choke point for the card is the mana cost. You must have two black or green creatures in play to convoke the two Golgari mana, so it is imperative to build your deck to enable this. Like I said, I probably could have used those Putrid Goblins. Rank Officer does great work here: you can discard Hogaak (or whatever) to make a zombie token when you play it, and you get two black convokers at once. Assuming your graveyard is stocked, you can resolve Rank Officer plus the token and immediately convoke-delve for Hogaak. Nether Spirit also helped a lot in my case, though that’s another rare you can’t bank on drafting.

Feaster of Fools does a good Hogaak impression, other than the casting-from-your-graveyard part. Convoke and Devour pair well, you could say. When drafting a deck around specific payoff cards, it helps to find secondary versions of your win condition. That will make your draft deck more consitent, which further rewards you for going all in on the strategy. Three copies of Ransack the Labs help ensure you will find your best cards often, but Limited decks always struggle with consistency.

Unearth may be my new favorite Limited card. (New to me, at least.) Raise Dead effects do great work in Limited—creature recursion wins games—but you can’t afford to glut your deck with a bunch of spells that only work after creatures have gone to the graveyard. With Unearth, you get both the ability to cycle extra copies away and the creature goes to the battlefield rather than your hand. Sure, you can’t get back expensive creatures, but who cares?

It turns out Unearth is even more absurd with Hogaak than you’d think. On top of the general synergy with graveyard/self-mill strategies, Unearth is practically a “free” spell with Hogaak. Casting it for one mana to reanimate a creature “replaces” itself when you convoke with that creature, and you can delve away the spell no matter how it got in your yard.

This deck was a total joy to play. I managed to lose one round of the draft, which were unsurprisingly the only two games I never found a copy of Hogaak (or Feaster of Fools). It felt absurd, and the sheer scope of the deck’s power reminded me of playing Affinity in Modern. Like Arcbound Ravager, Hogaak overflows with power. You have to stop from time to time mid-game to take stock of how busted these cards can be. I hope you have that opportunity soon!

Brendan McNamara (Twitter: @brendanistan) is Editor in Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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