Return to Ravnica: Wrack and Rage Review (Part 2 of 2)
It’s back to the table for our last visit to Return to Ravnica- at least until next year’s Preconstructed Deck Championships! Joining me is Sam, who’s been eager to get her hands on Creep and Conquer. Can she steer the Golgari to the finish, or will the Rakdos pitch a carnival tent stake on her grave?
Sam opens the evening’s account with an Ulvenwald Tracker off a Forest, while I play the Rakdos Guildgate and pass. Next turn she swings in for 1, then follows with a Drudge Beetle. I play a second Gate, then Pillar of Flame away the Tracker.
Now turn 3, Sam comes across with the Beetle, then plays a second one. I unleash a Rakdos Cackler, then play a Lightning Mauler beside it. Soulbonding the pair together, I attack in for 4 to put Sam at 16. Back to Sam, she counterattacks with a Beetle and again passes. She pays the price, however, when I add the Rakdos Shred-Freak, whose haste lets him fire in alongside the others. This time she goes for the trade, swapping out her Beetle for my Mauler. With her at 12, I replace my loss with a Stromkirk Noble and end the turn.
Sam next adds a turn-5 Trusted Forcemage to the board, soulbonding it with her remaining Beetle. Wary of ambush, she holds back on defense. I swing in with everything for 5. Her Beetle blocks my Noble, while the Forcemage steps in the path of the onrushing Shred-Freak. In response, I Brimstone Volley the Beetle, saving my Noble from certain doom. The loss of the soulbond partner makes the Forcemage a 2/2, and our creatures trade out. Sam’s now down to 10. Back to her, she plays a Dreg Mangler and passes. I unleash a Hellhole Flailer then play a replacement Shred-Frek, letting me keep up the relentless attacking. I swing for 5 with the Shred-Freak, Noble, and Cackler. Sam blocks and kills the Noble, but still goes down to 6.
A turn-7 Vampire Nighthawk arrives in the nick of time, finding me with no cards in hand. Fortune favours the bold, however, as I rip a Nightbird’s Clutches from the top of my library and clinch the game.
Sam opens the middle game with an Evolving Wilds, fetching an early Swamp. I play a Mountain and lead with the Stromkirk Noble. Back to Sam, she then summons the Korozda Guildmage, while I play a Rakdos Shred-Freak, turning it immediately sideways to put her at 18. Sam’s turn 3 is a blank, while I deploy a Stonewright and Lightning Mauler, soulbonding each to one another. This lets me attack in with the Mauler and Shred-Freak, though Sam opts to trade out her Guildmage for my Mauler.
Now turn 4, she raises the stakes with a Deadbridge Goliath. I counter with a Rix Maadi Guildmage, teaming it up with the bereft Stonewright. Declining to attack, I turn things over to Sam who then adds a Vampire Nighthawk. Back to me, I now decide to go in with mana up for Firebreathing. I attack with the Shred-Freak, and Sam decides to block with the Goliath. I pump it up to force the trade, but Sam’s ready with the Tragic Slip to kill it off.
A turn-6 attack hammers me as she turns her Goliath and Nighthawk sideways for 7, putting her back up to 18. She then deploys a pair of Dawntreader Elk and passes. Back to me, I shove my troops into the red zone for 8 with the Guildmage, Cackler, Shred-Freak, and Noble. One Elk blocks the Noble, and I activate the Guildmage to make it a trade. I then Searing Spear the Nighthawk out of the sky before ending the turn, with Sam now down to 12. Back to Sam, she simply replaces it with another from hand after lumbering in with the Goliath for another 5. Down to 8, I summon a Lightning Mauler and soulbond it to the Stonewright, attacking again for 8 and leaving a Mauler behind on defense. Sam’s Nighthawk blocks the Mauler, and when the dust settles she’s down to 6 life.
Another Dawntreader Elk appears on turn 8, and Sam sends in the Nighthawk for another 2 points of damage. Back to me, I go all in with the army, trying to outrace. My work is undine, however, by a timely Victim of Night, killing off my Guildmage. An Elk blocks a Cackler, while the Goliath steps in front of my Stonewright. I pump for the trade. In the end, Sam only takes 2 damage, and victory has fallen from my grasp.
Now turn 9, Sam attacks with the Nighthawk, then adds a Daggerdrome Imp. Drawing nothing, I concede after a couple of turns.
On the play for the decider, I begin by unleashing a Rakdos Cackler, while Sam plays a Golgari Guildgate. Next turn I add a Rakdos Shred-Freak, hammering in for 4. For Sam’s part, she plays a Daggerdrome Imp.
Now turn 3, I immediately Pillar of Flame the Imp away, then swing for another 4 to leave her at 12. Not to be outdone, Sam next trots out a Vampire Nighthawk. Next turn, I simply Brimstone Volley it, freeing the way for my two beaters to get in for 4 more. Down to 8 life, Sam replaces it with another Nighthawk and passes.
Undaunted, this one I blast with a Searing Spear, again clearing the way for my creatures. Back to Sam, she plays a Dawntreader Elk. I attack in with both creatures, and Sam blocks the Shred-Freak with the Elk for the trade. That’s fine by me- I simply wait for the Cackler to land, then finish Sam off with Devil’s Play.
Thoughts & Analysis
If every game was like the third one, this deck would get the highest of marks. Fast, aggressive creatures were able to get in for damage time and again as I had the removal to keep the lands cleared of any obstacles. Sam had almost no chance here.
Of course, that’s a dream game, where everything went my way instead of hers. Had she dropped a turn-4 Deadbridge Goliath, we might well have had a different game. Still, it reveals a lot of the strengths of the deck. First, it’s loaded with blisteringly fast options. I never had a problem getting damage sources onto the battlefield, though they weren’t always enough to get through. No deck can do it all, and so that is the Rakdos trade-off: surging consistency, but very little staying power.
Compensating for that is a refreshingly powerful burn package. Burn is the perfect complement for aggro- it sweeps blockers out of the way so the smaller creatures can be relevant to the board for longer. Then, once they’ve gotten you as far as they’ll take you, you can just throw it across the table at your opponent directly and close out the game.
As far as aggro decks go, there’s not a lot that sets Wrack and Rage apart, though the use of the soulbond mechanic was nice to see. That’s no slight on the deck- what it does, it does fairly well. If theres a knock to be had, it’s that the deck feels a bit pedestrian in make-up, almost like mono-Red. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s an archetype we’ve seen twice before from the Event Decks. Creep and Conquer is likely the lesser of the decks side-by-side, but at least it has some novelty going for it.
Hits: Explosively aggressive, swarming right out of the gate; burn package top-class
Misses: Not a lot of new answers to the archetype’s classic problems, though Nightbird’s Clutches was an interesting inclusion; didn’t break a lot of new, innovative ground
OVERALL SCORE: 4.50/5.00