Continuing The Chromatic: Rakdos, Lord Of Riots

In the next stop along his trip to build a Commander deck of each color combination, Sheldon pulls into Rakdos station to make a deck with its Lord of Riots!

The next stop along my trip to build a deck of each color combination is Rakdos station. In fact, it’s the last guild that I have to do. I’ll then be down to all the monocolored decks, five-color, and colorless. Designing Rakdos was one of the more difficult efforts for two reasons. First, there are quite a few ways to go, and second, it’s really hard to build a B/R deck that’s not super mean.

My first thought was to surrender to the hatred. I’ve long considered building a "Your Tears Sustain Me" deck, and Rakdos could be that deck. In fact, my first design was along those lines. It had cards like Everlasting Torment, Underworld Dreams, and Spiteful Visions along with a huge discard suite. I then put in things like Immortal Coil, Abyssal Persecutor, and Bazaar Trader to ramp up the meanness.

I haven’t completely gone away from some rougher things, but I think that they stick to the theme: You Might Die Any Minute (So You Should Probably Enjoy Yourself Now). That’s Rakdos in a nutshell, right? I’m still running with keeping everyone’s hand empty (which includes mine) to reflect the "life is short" idea. We’ll see how that plays because I might just not enjoy stripping folks’ hands away—although I’m probably okay with cutting off "draw zillion cards" guy at the knees.

Rakdos is definitely a build-around Commander. His conditions are both a hindrance and a benefit, which is part of the challenge. When thinking about the deck, I considered that I wanted to have low-mana things to "turn on" Rakdos, artifact and low-color-demand creatures to cast more cheaply once he’s out. After that, it’s just some stuff that gets the deck rolling. First, I’ll put up the decklist, and then I’ll run down the individual cards.


Darksteel Ingot: The color combination is pretty weak at ramping up the mana, so it needs some help. The Ingot is a mana rock that doesn’t get blown up.

Journeyer’s Kite: A solid little card that I don’t see getting played all that much. It’s additionally nice as a mana sink once you’re up and running with Rakdos since you’re paying less mana to cast creatures. Hopefully it thins out the deck enough that when I’m living off the top all I’m drawing is gas.

Nihil Spellbomb: You see that I’m playing Rise of the Dark Realms, but sometimes someone else’s graveyard just has to go away. The card draw certainly doesn’t hurt, nor does the ability to regrow it with Trading Post.

Rakdos Cluestone: Love me the Cluestones. Simple yet elegant design and highly functional without being broken.

Rakdos Signet: Another rock for our roll.

Sol Ring: Gentlemen don’t play turn 1 Sol Ring, but after that it’s Donkey Kong.

Sculpting Steel: Another card that I don’t see that much of locally, it’s so inexpensive that it warrants very serious consideration. I looked at it and looked at it and wondered why I’m not playing it a bunch. It can copy artifact creatures as well as regular artifacts, so the possibilities are broad. Early on it might copy the Solemn Simulacrum you need and later something heavier like Darksteel Colossus. Artifacts are definitely played in the format, so I think I’ll never be without something to copy.

Skeleton Shard: This is one I just wanted to give a try. There are only seven artifact creatures in the deck, so it might not work out all that well without bumping up that number, but we’ll see.

Staff of Nin: It draws extra cards, and it can turn on Rakdos, as well as keep weenies at bay.

Trading Post: If you’re a regular reader, you know I like having sacrifice outlets. I like Goat Post because it has great flexibility. And, you know, Goats.

Wayfarer’s Bauble: Simple ramp for the nongreen among us.

Artifact Creatures

Arcbound Fiend: In an early design, I had a complete suite of modular creatures. I figured that Rakdos would be getting them out for free and there would be plenty of shenanigans. I kept this one because it can steal counters. I’m really hoping for it to work out. Maybe I can think about some modular creatures for the Prime Speaker Zegana deck too.

Duplicant: The king of the artifact creatures, it helps with getting rid of troublesome creatures—for good.

Hex Parasite: Once the Arcbound Fiend came in, it occurred to me that Hex Parasite might be a good idea as well. It’s a one-drop that could let Rakdos off the leash, and its ability has been quite useful in several decks. Yes, the Phyrexian mana could be bad if I am on the receiving end of Mindslaver, but that’s a corner case.

Scarecrone: I considered putting in more Scarecrows, but they’re honestly underwhelming without Reaper King. I suppose I could play Conspiracy, but that’s just getting silly.

Solemn Simulacrum: At the game shop the other day, Mila Kunis’ name came up. Someone said "Who’s that?" One person said, "The voice of Meg Griffin," and someone else said, "The hottest girl on That 70’s Show," to which I replied, "No, that’d be Laura Prepon." 

Steel Hellkite: The deck has few ways of getting rid of especially enchantments. Being able to cast it for next to nothing (or actually nothing) is quite attractive.

Wurmcoil Engine: Wurmcoil Engine has long been for me the best card without a home. It kept getting swapped around as a placeholder in multiple decks. I think this is finally the right place for it.


Blood Artist: Simply solid, Blood Artist can also potentially turn on Rakdos. It offers retribution to someone wiping out my board and/or being a rattlesnake for people who are thinking about it.

Cryptborn Horror: For three mana, this can be potentially immense. I don’t think I’ll often use Sorin Markov to set someone to ten, but if this is in my hand, all bets are off.

Dross Harvester: I currently have this in Thraximundar, and it’s always been a huge boon. It triggers on any creatures dying, and this deck has enough ways of making that happen.

Goblin Welder: Tomfoolery will abound with this card. Being able to upgrade my stuff or downgrade yours is going to be wild.

Harvester of Souls: I’m light on card draw, and Harvester of Souls is a huge help. It’s a Demon, so it’s buds with Rakdos. It gets played a fair amount, and I think nearly everyone forgets that it has deathtouch.

Hellkite Tyrant: I don’t expect to win with the twenty artifacts ability that often, but given that I have a fair number of them, it’s conceivable. Or not inconceivable, which I’m pretty sure means what I think it does.

Master of Cruelties: A holdover from the original super-mean build, it’s still in for the life-is-short theme. Combined with Blood Artist, it can take down the highest life total at a moment’s notice.

Magus of the Mirror: I’m just hoping to run into one of the Trostani decks that are floating around our League.

Mindslicer: Mindslicer makes everyone start living off the top. My name is Rakdos, Lord of Riots, and I approve this message.

Rage Thrower: League regular Anthony R. has gotten such good mileage out of Rage Thrower that I thought I’d give it a whirl myself. The single red in the casting cost means that Rakdos might get it out for only one mana.

Sangromancer: A cheap flyer, I like its life gain ability. Taking out a huge swarm of someone else’s creatures AND gaining a bunch of life just seems too good to pass up.

Sire of Insanity: It’s a Demon, so it’s bros with Rakdos. If it were legendary, I’d consider it as the commander for this deck.

Spike Cannibal: I want to LOLZ this out just once on someone who has a bunch of Plant tokens buffed up by Avenger of Zendikar. Or any deck running Gavony Township.

Stigma Lasher: I played this when it was Standard-legal and loved it. It’s kind of mean to hit the Trostani deck on turn 3, but they had it coming.

Legendary Creatures

Bosh, Iron Golem: A holdover from the modular design, I figured I still have enough artifacts here to make it worthwhile. I wonder if it’s worth it to put Liquimetal Coating in, both to combo with Bosh and to be able to potentially get rid of enchantments or lands when someone casts an overloaded Vandalblast.

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker: It’s hard to play KJ in a non-broken fashion, but I think I can achieve it here.

Myojin of Night’s Reach: This is a pretty rough card but one that is reasonable if my hand is empty as well. Everyone on equal footing and all. And if Consecrated Sphinx guy gets killed with Megrim, then he had it coming.


Bitterblossom: Does anyone actually remember that this is a tribal enchantment? It’s obviously here for early damage to get Rakdos going, but just providing a small army of flyers (who cares about life total anyway?) could be enough.

Forsaken Wastes: I want to have ways of turning on Rakdos without having to attack, and this is one of the best. It will limit the life gain that I have, but hey, life is short.

Havoc Festival: Speaking of which, it can get REALLY short with this around.

Megrim: In addition to potentially being a kill card—and one of my thoughts for this deck is that it can kill kind of out of nowhere—it’s another way to get Rakdos’ motor running.

Necropotence: I promise to use this card responsibly. I do, however, promise to correctly stack my Necro and Sire of Insanity triggers at end of turn.

Phyrexian Arena: A solid inclusion in a deck that needs to draw cards in order to make sure it hits land drops.

Subversion: I’ve wanted to play this card since the beginning days of the format and have never found a good use for it until now. Another one of the cards that passively lets Rakdos out of the gate.

Tainted Aether: This seems like reasonable protection against those who would generate obscene numbers of creatures.


Shriveling Rot: I’ve played this for a few years now and have still only gotten to kill someone once. I’m still hoping for better days ahead for another card that I hope will shock someone dead.

Tainted Strike: I don’t have any way to really take advantage of Tainted Strike, although I suppose it could be quite lethal occasionally on Cryptborn Horror. My intention is to not play it on my own creatures but someone else’s. I want to remove some of the complacency about taking damage. "I laugh at your 10/10" will turn to tears. The possibility of taking down an indestructible creature makes it a fine choice.

Rakdos Charm: First and last modes only, but always a blowout. My favorite Charm ever.

False Cure: Again, no nasty combos here, just keeping big life gain in check. Obviously I’ll have to keep an eye on my own life gain, especially Sangromancer.


Liliana of the Dark Realms: Need Swamps!

Liliana Vess: Since I’m going mostly tutorless, I’ll probably only use the first and last abilities. I think I’ve only used her ultimate once, just after she came out—and I wasn’t paying attention because someone had Kederekt Leviathan in his graveyard.

Chandra Ablaze: Damage and hand control. I can’t see too many situations where her ultimate would be useful.

Chandra Nalaar: Pinging for Rakdos, and maybe a big board sweep.

Chandra, Pyromaster: Again, probably not likely to use the ultimate ability. The other two, however, are quite useful.

Sorin Markov: I know this is a scary card, and sometimes I’m going to set a player to ten. But the first ability is the relevant one for me because of its usefulness with Rakdos, both in order to be able to cast him and with how cheap stuff is when he’s on the battlefield.


All Is Dust: With so many artifacts and virtually no enchantment removal, it needs a panic button.

Black Sun’s Zenith: Indestructible is a thing these days. BSZ will help.

Blasphemous Act: I love that when you really need to cast Blasphemous Act, it’s as cheap as it can be.

Chain Reaction: Another one that’s a good board wipe for a low cost, I only wish there were room for Repercussion in this deck—but I’m doing that in another one anyway.

Damnation: Simple, classic.

Decree of Pain: I find that I cycle Decree of Pain about a third of the time it’s in my hand, most often in response to Avenger of Zendikar’s landfall trigger.

Repay in Kind: I want everyone to think about whether or not attacking me is a good idea. Necropotence into Repay in Kind isn’t my thing, so I’ll probably avoid that unless I’m absolutely desperate.

Rise of the Dark Realms: The obvious card to go with the discard suite, it’s always going to be one of my favorite cards from M14.

Ruination: Greedy mana bases gotta get got.


The number of nonbasics is low because of Ruination and I’m a fan of playing more basics in two-color decks. It’s pretty likely that you draw the colors you need, so the only real issue it making sure you hit the drops. A little targeted land destruction for scary things, like someone else’s Cabal Coffers (no, really, mine’s just fine, I swear) is always a good idea.

I hope Rakdos and his life is short deck are different enough to be interesting. I think that the things it does are outside the norm, which for me is a huge upside, without being a griefer deck. If it turns out that it is, I’ll definitely change it up. I promise to only play with it on my "Your Tears Sustain Me" playmat and to only use its powers for good.

Embracing the Chaos,


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