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Metagame Mentor: Defeating the Rakdos Evoke Menace

November 16, 2023
Frank Karsten

Hello and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, your weekly guide to the top decks and latest Constructed developments on the path to the Pro Tour. Today's article focuses on Modern, the Constructed format for the current Regional Championship Qualifier (RCQ) cycle. After providing a metagame update, I'll suggest several ways to defeat the dominant deck—Rakdos Evoke.

The Modern Metagame

Modern is a nonrotating format based on expansion sets, core sets, and straight-to-Modern sets from Eight Edition forward, save for cards on the ban list. My format primer from three weeks ago provides an in-depth introduction to the top Modern decks.

To grasp the latest Modern developments over the past three weeks, I analyzed over 900 successful decklists from competitive events. Specifically, I used all published Magic Online decklists from scheduled Modern events held from October 27 through November 13. In addition, I used all decklists with net positive wins from the Apex Gaming $5K RCQ, F2F Qualifier Edmonton, F2F Qualifier Kitchener, the Friday $5K RCQ, Saturday $10K RCQ, and Sunday $5K RCQ at SCG CON Pittsburgh, as well as all Top 8 decklists from the RCQ at Hareruya Kichikoki, RCQ at Battleco Takadanobaba, Saturday event at Arcanis Infinity, Sunday event at Arcanis Infinity, and RCQ at Card Shop Santa Clara. To each deck, I assigned an archetype label and awarded a number of points equal to its net wins (i.e., its number of match wins minus losses). Each archetype's share of total net wins can be interpreted as its share of the winner's metagame.

Archetype Winner's Metagame Share
1.Rakdos Evoke 27.5% ↑↑
2.Cascade Beanstalk 7.6%
3.Yawgmoth 7.1%
4.Rhinos 5.4%
5.Amulet Titan 5.1%
6.Living End 4.8%
7.Mono-Black Coffers 4.0% ↑↑
8.Burn 3.6%
9.Hardened Scales 3.6%
10.Mono-Green Tron 3.2%
11.Hammer Time 3.2%
12.Domain Zoo 2.2%
13.Izzet Murktide 1.9% ↓↓
14.Temur Murktide 1.8% ↑↑
15.Four-Color Omnath 1.5%
16. Other 17.5%

The "Other" category included Jund Sagavan, Jund Evoke, Four-Color Control, Twiddle Breach, Ad Nauseam, Dimir Mill, Domain Evoke, Indomitable Creativity, Dimir Shadow, Mono-Blue Tron, Izzet Wizards, Naya Scapeshift, Izzet Boom, Dimir Control, Samwise Gamgee Combo, Temur Midrange, Heliod Combo, Gruul Storm, Grixis Control, Jeskai Control, Infect, Urza ThopterSword, Bring to Light, Five-Color Reanimator, Dice Factory, and more. The number of competitively viable Modern archetypes remains enormous.

In this table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing, representative decklist. The arrows in the table represent the biggest movements compared to my format primer from three weeks ago. For clarity, I now distinguish explicitly Cascade Beanstalk decks with Shardless Agent from Up the Beanstalk and other Four-Color Omnath builds that are not cascading. Moreover, I explicitly distinguish Temur Murktide with Questing Druid from Izzet Murktide without the new adventure card and likewise for Jund Evoke and Rakdos Evoke.

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Rakdos Evoke, which is capable of evoking and returning Grief or Fury as early as turn one, is the dominant deck at the moment. After winning Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings and gaining Not Dead After All from Wilds of Eldraine, it has kept rising in popularity, and it now sits at 27.5% of the winner's metagame. Including Jund Evoke, it would be 28.4%. As a writer who is contracted to provide weekly insights to aspiring competitive players (but who is not involved with ban decisions), I will say that this is the highest record-weighted metagame percentage I've encountered this year in any format.

Despite its popularity, Rakdos Evoke is not overpowered, nor is it unstoppable. Based on data from all events held on Melee since the release of Wilds of Eldraine, its non-mirror winrate against the field is around 53%, putting it in the middle of the pack among the top-tier Modern archetypes, and this number has shrunk to 52% over the past three weeks. I ascribe the deck's prominence to other reasons: Rakdos Evoke is relatively easy to pick up and play to decent results, its matches are generally quick, it stands a chance in every matchup, and its predators are difficult to pilot.

Yet there are plenty of well-positioned strategies that are favored against Rakdos Evoke, offering players who can proficiently switch to different decks in Modern a chance to exploit the current state of the metagame. In any case, if you're playing Regional Championship Qualifiers and don't want to play Rakdos Evoke yourself, you'll need a plan to combat it. Let's take a closer look.

How Do We Defeat Rakdos Evoke?

Before going over the various ways to defeat Rakdos Evoke, let's review the deck in question. You can see a typical decklist above, used by Magic Online player Patxi to win a Challenge last weekend.

Rakdos Evoke can execute its primary game plan quite consistently. With this list, the multivariate hypergeometric probability of drawing at least one Grief, at least one undying effect, at least one land, and at least one black spell to pitch in the top seven cards is 16%. When willing to hyper-aggressively mulligan to six, the probability of a returned Grief on turn one increases to 30%. If a returned Fury counts as a success as well, then the probability of a returned Elemental on the play is 28%, increasing to approximately 48% when willing to hyper-aggressively mulligan to six. In other words, Rakdos Evoke packs a punch in many of its games, and its best draws can regularly make opponents feel scammed out of playing a fair game.

So, how do we defeat it? There are various ways.

Play Hardened Scales

Hardened Scales can produce lethal damage out of thin air by moving +1/+1 counters from Arcbound Ravager onto Walking Ballista, and Wilds of Eldraine added Agatha's Soul Cauldron to unlock all kinds of new combo finishes. Rakdos Evoke players have a hard time answering Hardened Scales or Agatha's Soul Cauldron, and their removal spells line up poorly against the ward effect on Patchwork Automaton, the modular ability of Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp, and the tokens from Hangarback Walker or Urza's Saga.

In events held on Melee since the release of Wilds of Eldraine, Hardened Scales went 79-40 against Rakdos Evoke in non-draw matches, which means that it won the matchup 66% of the time. So, the available data suggests that Hardened Scales is heavily favored against Rakdos Evoke. Moreover, it is well-positioned overall, as its winrate against the rest of the field was higher than Rakdos Evoke's as well. Last weekend, Ryan Gassaway used the list above to win the Friday $5K RCQ at SCG CON Pittsburgh, securing a qualification for the Regional Championship in Denver early next year.

Play Mono-Black Coffers

Mono-Black Coffers uses Cabal Coffers alongside Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to produce large amounts of mana early on. The mana allows you to offload the cards drawn by The One Ring, fuels an enormous March of Wretched Sorrow, and helps you cast artifacts found by Karn, the Great Creator. For example, Karn can grab Ensnaring Bridge, which often locks Rakdos Evoke out of attacking. In addition, Mono-Black Coffers is resilient to Rakdos Evoke's discard spells because its namesake card is a land and because all of its spells are individually powerful and/or generate card advantage.

In events held on Melee since the release of Wilds of Eldraine, Mono-Black Coffers went 29-23 against Rakdos Evoke in non-draw matches, which means that it won the matchup 56% of the time. Moreover, its winrate against the rest of the field was higher than that of Rakdos Evoke as well. D00mwake reached the Top 8 of a Magic Online Challenge last weekend with the above-shown list.

Play Mono-White Hammer

Hammer Time cheats the enormous equip cost on Colossus Hammer with the help of Sigarda's Aid, Puresteel Paladin, or Forge Anew, and threatens to attack with enormous creatures early on. Rakdos Evoke players have a hard time answering Sigarda's Aid, as black and red are traditionally weak to enchantments. Moreover, Urza's Saga can outgrind them, and Surge of Salvation can protect an entire board or hand from Fury or Grief. From the sideboard, Sanctifier en-Vec and Nettlecyst are excellent in the matchup, and Solitude can stop undying shenanigans.

Last weekend, long-time Hammer Time expert Travis "DisgruntledElk" Brown took down the Modern $10K RCQ at SCG CON Pittsburgh with the list shown above. His sideboard features Cursed Totem to answer the Agatha's Soul Cauldron decks and Mana Tithe to keep opponents on their toes. Using a largely identical Hammer Time list, he placed second in the $5K RCQ the day prior and won the Apex Gaming $5K RCQ several weeks ago. With this string of incredible results, he proved his mastery and that in-depth metagame and deck knowledge in Modern still gets rewarded.

Overall, in events held on Melee since the release of Wilds of Eldraine, Mono-White Hammer went 45-37 against Rakdos Evoke in non-draw matches, which means that it won the matchup 55% of the time. Moreover, at the highest level of competition at Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings, its results against Rakdos Evoke were even better.

Play Temur Rhinos

Rhinos has a straightforward game plan: cast Shardless Agent or Violent Outburst on turn three to cascade into Crashing Footfalls, unleashing a horde of 4/4 Rhinos to quickly overpower the opponent. It can answer the explosive turn-one plays from Rakdos Evoke with Subtlety; and even from an empty hand, it threatens to topdeck into a pair of Rhinos any time. After all, the discard spells from Rakdos Evoke may be good at breaking up synergies, but they can't answer the top of your deck.

In events held on Melee since the release of Wilds of Eldraine, Temur Rhinos went 67-56 against Rakdos Evoke in non-draw matches, which means that it won the matchup 54% of the time. Moreover, at the highest level of competition at Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings, its matchup against Rakdos Evoke was even better. A representative list, used by Hakan Cinar to reach the Top 8 of the $10K RCQ at SCG CON Pittsburgh last weekend, is shown above.

Try Temur Murktide

Temur Murktide is a new evolution of Izzet Murktide, the long-time Modern strategy that combines efficient interaction and cheap cantrips to quickly turn Murktide Regent into a two-mana 8/8 flier. Fujiwara Koichi made Top 8 at a recent RCQ with the sample list shown above. The green splash is for Questing Druid, a new Wilds of Eldraine addition that provides card advantage in a way that doesn't trigger Orcish Bowmasters. Filling your deck with two-for-ones or three-for-ones such as Expressive Iteration or Questing Druid is a good way to combat Rakdos Evoke, which is centered around efficient one-for-one resource exchanges.

Temur Murktide is slowly supplanting Izzet Murktide, and its card choices appear to give it a structural edge against Rakdos Evoke. In events held on Melee since the release of Wilds of Eldraine, Temur Murktide went 10-4 against Rakdos Evoke in non-draw matches, which means that it won the matchup 71% of the time. Although the sample size is far too small to draw strong conclusions, this new build at least seems promising and worth trying.

Add Suitable Answers to Your Favorite Modern Deck

If you'd like to stick with your favorite Modern deck to leverage your expertise, then it would be wise to adapt your card choices or sideboard with Rakdos Evoke in mind. Apart from the individual cards that I already highlighted earlier in this article, such as Sanctifier en-Vec or Subtlety, there are various other cards that can help you gain an edge.

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One of the best ways to fight Rakdos Evoke is with card advantage and individually strong cards that can win off the top. Although this is ideally baked into the structure of your deck with engines like Urza's Saga, any card advantage spell that doesn't trigger Orcish Bowmasters can come in handy. Bonecrusher Giant is a good example of a card that does two relevant things at the cost of one card, removing a key threat from Rakdos Evoke while adding a relevant body to your side of the battlefield.

Alternatively, you can try to answer their synergies after sideboard. In particular, it can be valuable to have an effective answer to a returned Grief on turn one. On the play, Stern Scolding, Veil of Summer, and Stone of Erech can help. Even if your opponent doesn't have their dream start, these cards will always provide some sort of value throughout the game, which is essential.

On the draw, you can protect yourself with Leyline of the Void or Leyline of Sanctity, especially if you can pitch accidentally drawn copies. However, it's important to keep in mind that Rakdos Evoke is multi-faceted and can win in various ways. If you slam Leyline of the Void, you may lose to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. If you rely on Leyline of Sanctity, you may be in trouble against an undying Fury on turn one. In other words, don't aggressively mulligan towards Leylines, and don't run a full playset, because you don't want to draw multiples — but do consider them for sideboard inclusions.


Modern is based on 20 years of card history, and this extensive pool of cards provides a vast array of viable strategies to be discovered, some of which may be able to answer the current metagame. In recent weeks, I saw two good examples of unexpected brews that found success.

I'll be honest: I don't know if Ensoul Artifact or Underworld Breach are going to go the distance. But Rakdos Evoke has trouble answering an indestructible 5/5, and they may fold when you recast your entire graveyard, so I can see the potential in both strategies. Both decks also have a lot of card advantage baked in, which can give a structural edge in their matchup against Rakdos Evoke.

The players who recently made deep runs in scheduled Magic Online events with these brews— Gabriel Nassif and Aspiringspike — are well-known deck builders and streamers who have heralded metagame innovations before. While more testing is needed to determine if these particular decks are the perfect answer to the current metagame, the Modern card pool is so enormous that there's always the potential for novel decks to break out.

Explore The Lost Caverns of Ixalan

At SCG CON Pittsburgh last weekend, we got a first glimpse of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan impact in Modern, which may also shake up the metagame. Although the most-played new card was Molten Collapse, which was adopted by a fraction of Rakdos Evoke players, the next-most-played new card was Spelunking, which boosted Amulet Titan.

Spelunking adds redundancy to the strategy by ramping you and providing an untap effect. It's basically like an Explore stapled to an Amulet of Vigor. For example, you can play Spelunking and drop your fourth land on turn three, then follow up with Simic Growth Chamber into Primeval Titan on turn four. By increasing the likelihood of having access to an Amulet of Vigor-type effect in your opening hand, the deck gets more consistent, which may improve its matchup against Rakdos Evoke. In addition, most Rakdos Evoke players have been tweaking their deck for the mirror match by cutting Blood Moon, which is good news for Amulet Titan players.

Of course, Spelunking is just one example of a card from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan that can impact Modern, and there may be other cards lurking behind the surface for various other archetypes.

Looking Ahead

Rakdos Evoke is dominating the Modern RCQ cycle, which runs through December 17, but there are various ways to defeat it. In an ideal world, natural dynamics can bring the metagame to a more balanced state. In fact, my analysis of the current winrate matrix indicates that the equilibrium metagame contains no Rakdos Evoke at all! However, such game theoretic analyses are based on limiting assumptions, such as the simplified abstraction of a matchup matrix and players who frictionlessly swap to decks that have a good matchup against Rakdos Evoke.

In reality, switching to a deck that crushes Rakdos Evoke is tough. Hardened Scales is one of the most difficult decks to play in Modern, using various fringe cards specific to the archetype. It would be unwise to take Hardened Scales to an RCQ without spending the time and dedication to learn the deck's intricacies, which is not a trivial undertaking. Although I do believe that metagame trends can eventually push down Rakdos Evoke, its winrate against the field is unlikely to drop far below 50% anytime soon, and you should be prepared to face it if you enter a Regional Championship Qualifier this weekend.

From Friday November 17 through Sunday November 19, the most awesome place for players to test their Modern mettle is at the Apex Gaming $20K Invitational Weekend. The destination event features several Last Chance Qualifiers and Destination RCQs that are open to everyone, and there will be live streaming coverage on Twitch.

To find RCQs near you, check out the Store & Event Locator, your regional organizer's website, or the premier event schedule.

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