Did You Forget About Atraxa?
For a while there, it was looking like Pioneer would be forever graced by the presence of decks that put Atraxa, Grand Unifieronto the battlefield. Neoform decks were Neoforming into it, Reanimator decks were Reanimatoring into it, and even Creativity decks were “Creativitying” it for a bit.
While that time is behind us to a large extent, there is one place where Atraxa still commands a presence in the metagame: MTGO Pioneer Leagues.
Stripping down to just two colors, Rakdos Transmogrify leverages the creature tokens created by Urabraks’s Forge, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Ob-Nixilis, the Adversary, Mirrex and Reckoner Bankbuster (I guess) to Transmogrify into Atraxa, Grand Unifier who is very likely to net you five or six cards upon entry and then go on to do its thing of being a 7/7 flier with vigilance, deathtouch and lifelink that doesn’t die to Power Word Kill.
Having four copies of Urabrask’s Forge and a couple copies of Ob-Nixilis, the Adversary in the maindeck provides a solid beatdown/drain backup plan, and being in Rakdos means you get to play all the best cards in the format.
So, let’s jump right in and break down S1FALL0R’s recent League 5-0 list card by card and see what is giving it the edge in the MTGO League metagame.
Urabrask’s Forge was printed in the same set as Atraxa, Grand Unifier(All Will Be One? I don’t know anymore) and made a big splash in Limited and was never seen again, even in Standard. It’s actually pretty strong, though, and works well in this shell in particular.
Each turn, before combat, Urabrask’s Forge will put an oil counter on itself and then create an X/1 creature with trample and haste – where X equals the number of oil counters on it. So, on the turn it comes down, it makes a 1/1, then, the following turn, a 2/1, etc. It sacrifices itself at the end step, but it still is going to provide a beating on its own against decks like Lotus Field, Azorius Control, Spirits and Boros Convoke, who either don’t have creatures or don’t have creatures that can block these every turn effectively.
Forge is an artifact, and is one of the reasons this is a Transmogrify deck and not an Indomitable Creativity deck. There’s not a great deal of artifact hate floating around in Pioneer decks – even less in Pioneer maindecks – so you can expect it to create a fair amount of value for you as the game goes on.
But beating down your opponent with X/1 Phyrexian Horrors isn’t the card’s main utility here. Having a fresh creature to sacrifice to Ob Nixilis or Transmute into Atraxa with Transmogrify means you never have to worry about sorcery-speed removal nabbing your fodder. By the time you’re ready to cast Transmogrify or Casualty in Ob Nixilis, you can swing in with a 4/1, 5/1 or 6/1 and then do so after combat.
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
Even saying “there’s not much that needs to be said about Fable of the Mirror-Breaker” is saying too much about Fable of the Mirror-Breaker at this point. It makes a creature token, it makes you treasure, it draws you cards, and it turns into a 2/2.
Ob-Nixilis, the Adversary
Three-mana Ob-Nixilis is a Transmogrify enabler, a win condition and a means of lifegain. Being a deck centered around creating creature tokens, there is usually something lying around to sacrifice to Ob’s Casualty cost, which creates a huge headache for Azorius Control – a deck that is disproportionately represented in MTGO Pioneer Leagues when compared to MTGO Challenges.
In a pinch, the one-of Mirrex can create a token and Mutavault can stand up to become a creature. Sokenzhan, Crucible of Defiance can be channeled for two creatures on your opponent’s turn. After three turns and six mana invested, Reckoner Bankbuster will also create a creature token.
Being a pseudo-combo deck, making sure Transmogrify plus your enablers are available at the same time is key. For this, the deck runs the aforementioned Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Reckoner Bankbuster, as well as a full playset of the new-ish Volcanic Spite, which is a Fire Prophecy that can deal its damage to planeswalkers in addition to creatures. It also runs one copy of Castle Locthwain for an additional – yet potentially painful – card draw outlet.
Staple Rakdos Cards
Outside of its enablers, Transmogrify and Atraxa, the deck runs the spell-base of most Rakdos decks in the format, including a playset of Fatal Push, a playset of Thoughtseize, a Dreadbore, a Go For the Throat and a couple Power Word Kills. S1FALL0R’s list also runs a couple Spikefield Hazards for Elf/Spirit/Human removal or a land in a pinch.
The sideboard is also full of Rakdos staples, plus a couple extra Damping Spheres because
Azorius Lotus Control clearly hurt this person now that Azorius Lotus Control is a factor, there are three decks that justify its sideboard slot rather than two.
The rest of the sideboard has two fewer Rending Volleys than I like, an Extinction Event, the Jegantha Companion, two Cinderclasm (for Boros Convoke, Spirits, Humans and maybe Rakdos Sacrifice), a couple of Go Blanks, two Duress, an Unlicensed Hearseand two (!) Pithing Needles.
While I have been informed half-way through writing this that various builds of Atraxa Transmogrify have over-performed in recent Pioneer Challenges and RCs, S1FALL0R’s League 5-0 Rakdos list above looks to be somewhat unique, and is fully port-able to Explorer, which are my favorite kinds of Pioneer decks.
Good luck with it, and keep an eye out for a sideboard guide or deck guide (not from me – from someone who is good at playing the deck) on PlayingMTG.com soon if the archetype continues putting up results!