Ban Grief in Modern *RCQ Top 4 Split*
I’m back with a top 4 split at the RIW Modern RCQ last weekend playing Rakdos Scam. There were 67 players with plenty of Michigan ringers so it was no small feat. I won $275 credit which was used to buy cEDH staples for the RIW 1K on October 29. Today I’m going to share the list I used in the event and some general thoughts on the deck.
I’ve been writing about Scam so often because the deck continues to be refined by the hive mind. At this point we have a fairly concise stock list to discuss. This is the time to take advantage of a truly broken deck in the format and having an understanding of the deck will lead to many wins.
The 75 was perfect for me and I would not change a card.
The maindeck is what we now define as stock. There isn’t much room for innovation outside of playing a maindeck Blood Moon over the third Terminate.
I tried a Castle Locthwain over the third Blackcleave Cliffs, but I was taking too much damage from Blood Crypt to get red mana resulting in fewer activations. It’s also awkward the grindy matchup in the format, the mirror, plays four Bowmasters in all three games.
While there isn’t much room to change the maindeck, the sideboard has plenty of customization.
I like two Blood Moon against 4 Color Omnath and the third would just be for big mana decks. Obsidian Charmaw is better against Tron and Urza’s Saga decks because it’s a clock or blocker and takes away mana for The One Ring. A 4/4 body can be brought back with undying spells and copied with Reflection of Kiki-Jiki.
The second Pithing Needle I was favoring in prior weeks has been replaced with Cast into the Fire. While artifact aggro decks aren’t popular they are troublesome matchups if not respected. It’s also able to pitch to Fury, unlike artifacts, which is a huge upside. I’m now trying to minimize the number of artifacts in my sideboard.
Cast into the Fire also exiles The One Ring with the activation on the stack to deny even the first card.
I made the Pithing Needle swap after the Kroxa/Needle Dissynergy came up against 4 Color Omnath. Teferi, Time Raveler was Needled since I saw it from a Grief trigger and it was the clear discard to Kroxa.
Leyline of the Void has been removed from the sideboard altogether despite the stock list including three. It’s used in the sideboard for the Scam mirror.
This is how the hive mind sideboards in the Scam mirror:
-4 Ravagan, Nimble Pilferer -2 Undying Evil
+2 Sheoldred +3 Leyline of the Void +1 Fatal Push
After sideboard there are only four Not Dead After All and a Kroxa that interact with the graveyard. Dauthi Voidwalker also doesn’t put void counters on cards going to the graveyard with Leyline on the same side as the card owner chooses which effect to resolve first.
Leyline of the Void would be more effective in game one, but I think it’s not worth it after board. Not proposing it belongs in the maindeck, but pre-board games are more focused on the graveyard. It’s essentially a Meddling Mage on Not Dead After All that enters the battlefield on turn zero.
Stopping Not Dead After All might be worth it if a turn one Grief Scam wins the game immediately, but it doesn’t in the mirror. The Scam mirror plays at least six removal spells, four Fury, and four Orcish Bowmasters to stop the 4/3 menace.
Even if I’m not playing Leyline of the Void in my sideboard I do want to bring out four Ragavan and two Undying Evil in the mirror.
Here are my six cards to swap:
-4 Ragavan, -4 Undying Evil
+1 Kolaghan’s Command
+1 Nihil Spellbomb
+1 Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
+2 Fatal Push
Kolaghan’s Command is the secondary spell to respect artifacts that doubles as a grindy spell for the mirror. It was very impressive and a second copy is a worthy consideration. Most decks play artifacts in their sideboard to disrupt the graveyard such as Unlicensed Hearse, Grafdigger’s Cage, and Stone of Erech, but I don’t want to bring in a narrow shatter effect.
Kolaghan’s Command is also good against Izzet Murktide because I cast Orcish Bowmasters underneath Counterspell, but it walks into Lightning Bolt. It’s a blowout to return a Bowmasters that died quickly.
I’m seeing plenty of Tourachs in the sideboard to fight Omnath piles, but I would not play them.
Against 4C Omnath decks I’m cutting six cards:
-2 Undying Evil
-1 Not Dead After All
-2 Lightning Bolt
Note the ability to Grief scam post board is fairly unlikely as the undying spells are bad in the mid game due to the large number of exile-based removal. With four mana I can hard cast Grief, Sheoldred, and escape Kroxa. There’s a glut of 4-drops.
I faced the mirror once during the seven rounds of swiss as well as the top 8. Half of the top 8 was Rakdos Scam. The games are difficult and swingy. Paper tournaments typically have a much more diverse metagame; it’s a powerful statement for half of the top 8 to be Scam.
Paper events feature plenty of control decks and today was no different. I beat three Ring Control decks which was a matchup that was concerning coming into the event. The pilots were also some of the stronger players in the room.
I stopped playing Temur Rhinos after Scam felt like a close matchup despite the hyperbole. Omnath Bean decks have similar lore of being favored against Scam. I was able to defeat the Ring Control decks by holding Blood Moon until the opponent tapped out to prevent the last fetch from finding a basic. Once Scam passes turn three without a Blood Moon it falls off the opponent’s radar.
The only deck to beat me on the day was Domain Zoo, a strategy near and dear to my heart. My opponent played well and the deck gave him the opportunity to create some tough board positions for me. I was unsure of how to approach the matchup as Jegantha helped get out of a Blood Moon.
I also faced Andrew Wolthuis, of Team Swish, on Thopter-Sword combo. The strategy got a boost from The One Ring and it was a close match. I was happy to have the artifact hate in my sideboard. Despite the metagame being fairly predictable, Modern still has plenty of playable archetypes.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: you don’t have that good of a Scam matchup. That’s ok because even the mirror is close. This deck drags you down to low resources quickly and forces the right cards to come off the top of the deck.
I only Grief scammed twice in a seven round tournament and lost one of those games. Competitors were hyper-focused on my ability to “combo” leaving them vulnerable to a slow and steady curve of powerful spells.
Rakdos Scam is not the best deck in the format because it can Grief scam. It’s the best deck because it threatens a Grief scam while primarily playing the plan B of disruptive cards. Attacking quickly from a handful of potential angles is extremely difficult to combat. Grixis Twin in 2015 Modern had the same attributes. That’s the Splinter Twin iteration that got the namesake card banned.
Grief should be banned in Modern to reduce the most threatening angle of attack. The metagame is beginning to cave in as more and more Scam players enter the arena without repercussion. It has been the best deck for too long.
The action you can take while Grief is still legal in Modern is to not get too hung up on fighting the nut draw as it becomes less likely after sideboard. If anything, you need to spend more time worrying about Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.
A healthy Modern format will feature a best deck, but it’s able to be effectively stopped with enough sideboard dedication. There’s typically a cycle of best decks where each dominant archetype disrupts the metagame and keeps the wheel turning. We’re not seeing that with Rakdos Scam.
My cousin, Stephen, played Black/White Scam and lost two win-and-ins of the RCQ. A great run for a rogue deck. Turns out you can Grief in many ways to find success. Stephen and I are related, but complete opposites in deck selection so if we can agree that Grief is broken it’s time to worry.
The metagame is in the final stages. Players are beginning to see the writing on the wall that you either play Scam or accept significantly lower chances of winning the tournament. There are plenty of Modern RCQs remaining to pick up the deck, but you may want to borrow the Griefs.
I will personally go down with the ship and scam until my last breath.