Deranged Hermit - Illustration by Kev Walker

Deranged Hermit | Illustration by Kev Walker

Magic is full of history, much of it wrapped around iconic decks whose impact has lasted well beyond their viability. We still see some variants of classic decks like Cheerios and Ponza to this day, though they’ve lost some luster amid changing metas and power creep.

One deck whose tenets have stood the test of time is The Rock. It’s a classic deck that paved the way for many modern midrange strategies and whose impact we can still see in present Standard decks. Today, I’m breaking down the deck’s history and how it still influences the game today.

if you smell what The Rock is cookin' gif


What Is The Rock?

Phyrexian Plaguelord - Illustration by Kev Walker

Phyrexian Plaguelord | Illustration by Kev Walker

The Rock refers to a green-black decklist developed by Sol Malka in 1999 focused on disrupting the opponent and controlling the board. Many modern decks dubbed The Rock follow similar deckbuilding ideas, even if they don’t share the same cards or colors as Malka’s original list.

Where Does the Name “The Rock” Come from?

The name The Rock is a reference to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The deck was initially called “The Rock and His Millions.” The “Rock” in the original decklist was Deranged Hermit, with the “Millions” being an allusion to Dwayne’s fans and the tokens Deranged Hermit created. The name was shortened to The Rock over time, especially after the Hermit rotated.

What Was the First The Rock Deck?

Duress - Illustration by Steven Belledin

Duress | Illustration by Steven Belledin

The Rock was developed by Sol Malka in 1999 after the release of Mercadian Masques rotated Tempest out of Standard. The original list focused on the powerhouse combination of Deranged Hermit and Phyrexian Swarmlord that produced a bunch of power and gave plenty of board control.

A powerful suite of cards backed up this dream team. Creatures like Birds of Paradise and Yavimaya Granger let the deck establish a quick mana advantage over its opponents, while tools like Woodripper and Duress provided disruptive elements to slow the opponents down. Coupled with card draw from Yavimaya Elder and Vampiric Tutor, The Rock and His Millions was a powerhouse in Standard.

The Rock Throughout the Years

While cards often rotate, deck ideas remain. Some variations of The Rock persisted throughout Standard, the retired Extended format, and Modern throughout its inception.

Grand Prix Las Vegas 2001 by Michael Pustilnik

Pernicious Deed - Illustration by Christopher Moeller

Pernicious Deed | Illustration by Christopher Moeller


One of the biggest reasons The Rock lost His Millions was the rotation of Deranged Hermit that removed the token production from the deck. A future Extended iteration, piloted by Michael Pustilnik to a win in Grand Prix Las Vegas 2001, capitalized on the power of Spiritmonger and Pernicious Deed while retaining the core strategies of disruption and mana advantage.

Worlds 2007 by Uri Peleg

Garruk Wildspeaker - Illustration by Aleksi Briclot

Garruk Wildspeaker | Illustration by Aleksi Briclot


Another change for The Rock came in 2005 with the release of Ravnica: City of Guilds. The introduction of shock lands revolutionized the archetype, making it far easier for the traditionally green-black deck to splash other colors for utility cards like Flametongue Kavu or Loxodon Hierarch, as demonstrated by the Abzan deck with which Uri Peleg won Worlds 2007.

PTQ 2012 by Craig Berry

Dark Confidant - Illustration by Scott M. Fischer

Dark Confidant | Illustration by Scott M. Fischer


When Modern became an official eternal format in 2011, The Rock also became a big part of that format. Modern quickly grew in popularity, and Craig Berry won a PTQ in early 2012 with a Rock variant.

Grand Prix Detroit 2013 by Reid Duke

Liliana of the Veil - Illustration by Steve Argyle

Liliana of the Veil | Illustration by Steve Argyle


The Rock would continue to be a big player in Modern. The most popular variant would be Jund, a deck that has seen plenty of changes and adaptions over its time in the format. A solid example of Modern Jund is this classic list Reid Duke piloted to a top 2 finish in Grand Prix Detroit 2013.

What Is Meant by “The Rock” in the Present Day?

As the various Rock decks throughout the years show, the cards often change. The Rock archetype is defined far more by its playstyle and ideas than the cards the deck plays.

The Rock is the quintessential midrange deck. The idea of the deck is a combination of efficient disruption and removal spells like Lightning Bolt and Thoughtseize backed by cheap, high-impact threats like Tarmogoyf and card advantage options to grind out your opponents, like Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Liliana of the Veil.

Rock decks don’t look much like Malka’s original decklist, but you can still see its impact today. Pioneer’s Abzan Greasefang lists are undoubtedly a variant of The Rock, as are plenty of decks throughout Modern and Standard.

The Rock in Modern

Grief - Illustration by Nicholas Gregory

Grief | Illustration by Nicholas Gregory


Jund is still an excellent variant of The Rock in Modern, though the deck has seen better metas. Another variant of The Rock is the Rakdos Scam deck. This deck list won Robert Stanley a Modern RCQ at SCG CON Richmond.

The namesake scam of the deck is evoking a Grief on turn one and using a Feign Death effect to bring Grief back into play after the evoke trigger makes it sacrifice itself, crippling your opponent’s hand and leaving you with a 4/3 with menace on turn 1.

It’s backed up by plenty of removal and card advantage. It’s also got plenty of threats other than its evoke gameplan thanks to cards like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.

It doesn’t create a mana advantage via ramping like traditional green-black Rock decks, but it generates a mana advantage by exploiting the “weaknesses” of the Modern Horizons 2 Invocation elementals: the fact that they sacrifice themselves when cast for free.

The deck does everything The Rock wants to do in a sleek, modern package.

The Rock on MTG Arena

Sheoldred, the Apocalypse - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Sheoldred, the Apocalypse | Illustration by Chris Rahn


The easiest way to play The Rock on Arena is to boot up some Standard. Grixis Midrange is another deck that doesn’t look much like previous iterations of The Rock, but it stands by many of the same tenants. This list that Miguel Jarufe used to top 12 the South America Regional Championship this past March demonstrates that beautifully.

There’s got plenty of disruption with cards like Liliana of the Veil and Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, and tons of cheap interaction with Infernal Grasp, Bloodtithe Harvester, and Negate to strike at a wide range of threats.

It’s also got Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, potentially one of the best creatures to take the title “The Rock” in recent years. Sheoldred does a bit of everything by pressuring your opponents and letting your life total stabilize before you even consider the 4/5 body for four mana.

Wrap Up

Thoughtseize - Illustration by Aleksi Briclot

Thoughtseize | Illustration by Aleksi Briclot

The Rock is a deck with a long history in Magic. It’s been a dominant force in numerous formats since its inception, and we can still see its basic ideas and concepts used more than 20 years after its conception by Sol Malka.

The original cards in the list don’t get played much these days, but its ideas will likely persist as long as we play Magic. What’s your favorite variant of The Rock? Did you ever play the classic version? Let me know in the comments below, or over on the Draftsim Discord.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to disrupt your opponents!

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