Rakdos! Tonight! One Night Only!

Bennie Smith is a green mage at heart, but sometimes a card is too much to ignore! Rakdos is all the rage, and Demon tribal is finally possible without being an auto-lose! Curtain up…

The Commander hits from Ravnica Allegiance keep coming! Last week
I cooked up a cool deck around new Simic all-star Prime Speaker Vannifar.
This week I peek behind the tent flap to see what Rakdos has cooking. No,
not the Cult of Rakdos, but big daddy Demon himself-Rakdos, the

I really love the mechanics of this card, though the flavor feels a little
bit off to me. I mean, just picture it-you’re at the circus, and the Cult
of Rakdos has been doing death defying – and death dealing – feats of
daring and wonder. And at the crescendo of the performance, there’s a burst
of fire and brimstone, and then he appears-the eponymous master of
ceremonies! Rakdos himself!

“Entertain me,” he commands. What’s it going to be? What’s the ultimate

His followers fan out to the audience at large. Anticipation has everyone’s
nerves on edge.

“It’s a game… of life and death,” his voice rumbles, and we all know the
stakes are just about as high as can be. What sort of game?

Each of his followers pulls a coin out. “Heads you live. Tails… you die!”

Really? Flipping coins is the showstopper?

Okay, okay-I realize that flipping coins is just the mechanism by which the
game results are determined, and it’s something easy to accomplish when
playing a game of Magic. But it just feels a bit anticlimactic when
expecting a showstopper, you know?

At any rate, let’s get out of the Vorthos weeds and start talking about
Commander! What should a deck with Rakdos, the Showstopper as your
commander look like?

Very clearly, we’d want a deck where many of the creatures are Demons,
Devils, and Imps. Demon tribal perhaps? I mean, Demons have come a long way
since the earliest, dark days of Magic. We used to have these as Demons:

These days, we get Demons like these:

That’s not to say we didn’t have fun with the old-school Demons-we
certainly did. But they were painful to deal with, took a lot of hoops to
jump through sometimes, and most of the time didn’t seem worth the trouble.
Which was a flavor win since trafficking with Demons should be troublesome.
But it was a game-playing fail, especially when you could play creatures
nearly as good that didn’t come with downside.

Scrolling through Gatherer and looking at all the Demons we have available
in black and red, we can certainly populate our deck with lots of good
Demons. But Demon tribal is too easy here, and we’re leaving behind two
other infernal critters we can make use of – Devils and Imps! Let’s recruit
some good ones.

Demons, Devils & Imps

Footlight Fiend Pilfering Imp Daggerdrome Imp Vault Skirge Squealing Devil Cadaver Imp Maddening Imp Heirloom Blade Carrion Imp Spawn of Mayhem Rafter Demon Demon of Catastrophes Desecration Demon Blood Speaker Archfiend of Depravity Bloodgift Demon Doom Whisperer Kagemaro, First to Suffer Krav, the Unredeemed Charmbreaker Devils Demonlord Belzenlok Malfegor Ob Nixilis, Unshackled Overseer of the Damned

Imps and Devils give us nice early creatures to help with our earlygame
mana curve. Nettling Imp is a classic, but I’m running the superior
Maddening Imp instead since, you know, why not get everyone angry? For
utility we’ve got Cadaver Imp, Carrion Imp, Kagemaro, First to Suffer,
Krav, the Unredeemed, and Overseer of the Damned. What’s awesome about this
creature base is that so many having flying, which isn’t something you’re
used to seeing in these colors outside of Dragons.

While I’m not leaning heavy on tribal themes, I do think Heirloom Blade is
a good inclusion. It’s a great piece of equipment for early plays like
Vault Skirge, and when they die you basically get to draw a replacement.

With so many great Demons in our deck, Blood Speaker makes a solid
inclusion. Most of the time it won’t be around to die when you cast Rakdos,
the Showstopper, and when you do cast him you get Blood Speaker back.

Coin Flip

Mana Crypt Krark's Thumb Mirror March

Since Rakdos is a fan of the ancient game of coin flipping, I thought I’d
include a couple more coin flip cards. Mana Crypt can come out of nowhere
and have Rakdos hit the battlefield early. Mirror March is a fun new card
that can potentially do some wild things… or fizzle and do nothing. So, you
know what? Let’s get Krark’s Thumb in the mix to help bring the odds of
Mirror March in our favor, and I’m sure Rakdos wouldn’t mind tilting the
game of life or death in his favor either!

Mana Ramp

Isolated Watchtower Myriad Landscape Sol Ring Rakdos Signet Mind Stone Talisman of Indulgence Dowsing Dagger Commander's Sphere Darksteel Ingot Victory Chimes Solemn Simulacrum Black Market Revel in Riches

Six mana isn’t exactly cheap for a commander, and we want to make sure we
can cast Rakdos early and often. Black Market and Revel in Riches are
already black Commander all-stars, but they’re even better in this deck!

Card Draw

Skullclamp Dead Man's Chest Arguel's Blood Fast Theater of Horrors Phyrexian Arena Read the Bones Liliana's Contract

I love adding the new Theater of Horrors to this deck alongside Phyrexian
Arena for some grinding good card advantage. And I’m really looking forward
to Dead Man’s Chest giving us access to spells outside of our colors
(hopefully letting us deal with enchantments that might otherwise be tough
to handle).

Of course, by far the best card draw spell in the deck is Liliana’s
Contract, which not only draws you cards but offers a reliable win
condition. Rakdos’s ability buys you time against beat down strategies
while leaving your own creatures – Demons – intact, so you can inch your
way towards snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.


Scavenger Grounds Bojuka Bog Mirrorpool Encroaching Wastes Tectonic Edge Tragic Slip Vandalblast Go for the Throat Dreadbore Terminate Malicious Affliction Enchanter's Bane Bedevil Toxic Deluge Chaos Warp Slaughter Damnation Hellfire Tsabo's Decree Blasphemous Act Electrodominance

Even though we have a small hole in the ability to handle enchantments –
Enchanter’s Bane and Chaos Warp have a lot of work to do – we’ve plenty of
ways to deal with all sorts of other cards. Particularly creatures! I love
that Damnation, Hellfire, and Blasphemous Act fit so flavorfully in our
Demon, Devil and Imp deck.

I’m super excited to give Electrodominance a try! Being able to play a
creature, sorcery or artifact at instant speed just sounds like way too
much fun. This card is going to responsible for epic plays, and I cannot
wait to see it in action!

Rakdos Goodstuff

Basilisk Collar Phyrexian Reclamation Darkness Nim Deathmantle Rakdos Charm Sudden Spoiling Reiterate Anger Bonehoard Conqueror's Galleon Captive Audience Torment of Hailfire Exsanguinate

I’ll round the deck out with some generally good Rakdos stuff. Anger is the
perfect non-Demon, Devil, or Imp card to have in our deck. Reiterate should
let us copy some key spells and give us some options outside of our color
pie. Conqueror’s Galleon transforms into a fantastic utility land we can
make use of here. I’m also stoked about another new card, Captive Audience,
which just seems so vicious… and so utterly Rakdos!

Sweet deck! But wait, there are too many cards. I’ll start by looking at
our mana curve:

1 mana:

2 mana:

3 mana:

4 mana:

5 mana:

6 mana:

7+ mana/X-spells:

75 total cards plus 38 lands equals lucky 13 cards too many, so we need to
make some cuts! Let’s see what we can trim, starting with the top of our

Torment of Hailfire is a potent Commander card. It’s also very evil. Too
evil for a Demon deck? Well, yeah maybe. I always feel a little guilty when
I put it in a deck, and I feel that I’ve got enough evil going on here, so
I’m going to go ahead and cut it. Tsabo’s Decree is a hidden gem in our
format that’s gotten juiced up with good tribal cards of late, so I like to
include it in my black decks when I have room. Since my commander is going
to be wreaking havoc on my opponents’ creatures, I think it’s a safe cut.
Similarly, Malfegor seems a little superfluous next to Rakdos, and I’d like
to keep my cards in hand.

These are all fine cards, but when I look at the other cards at those
casting costs, I want those in the deck more than these.

These cards are all redundant with other cards in the deck, and I feel it’s
safe to trim these from the deck.

I love the surprise value of Darkness, but it’s basically a safety valve
for when you’re trying to survive one particularly large creature assault.
I feel that the deck is going to control the battlefield from getting too
cluttered, so I think Darkness can find a home elsewhere.

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:

Rakdos, the Showstopper
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 01-23-2019
Magic Card Back

So, what do you think? What sort of choices do you disagree with? Are there
any cards that I overlooked?

Do me a solid and

subscribe to my channel too

! I’m posting Top 5 cards from many of my StarCityGames.com® columns as a
preview for each article, but I plan on adding other content too. Also,
I’ve gotten some cool video editing software that I’m slowly learning, so
the video quality will improve as I learn better techniques.

Deck Database

Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January
2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith”
and the commander name into the Google and it should pop right up. I’ve
written a lot about Commander – and Magic in general – so if you want to
explore further the

StarCityGames.com® article archives

have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Ravnica Allegiance

The Haunt of Hightower

, Teysa Karlov

Prime Speaker Vannifar

SCGCON Winter 2018 (stay tuned for decklists!)

Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow

, Grothama, All-Devouring; Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis; Feldon of the Third
Path; Ramos, Dragon Engine; Inalla, Archmage Ritualist; Prossh, Skyraider
of Kher; Brago, King Eternal

Ultimate Masters

Garna, the Bloodflame

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun


Emmara, Soul of the Accord


Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments)


Tajic, Legion’s Edge


Etrata, the Silencer


Izoni, Thousand-Eyed

Commander 2018

Aminatou, the Fateshifter


Xantcha, Sleeper Agent


Lord Windgrace


Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer

Core Set 2019

Sai, Master Thopterist


Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma


Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire


Chromium, the Mutable


Grothama, All-Devouring


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle


Grand Warlord Radha


Arvad the Cursed


Muldrotha, the Grave Tide


Slimefoot, the Stowaway


Yargle, Glutton of Urborg


Squee, the Immortal


Firesong and Sunspeaker


Jodah, Archmage Eternal


Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker

Masters 25

Hannah, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan

Azor, the Lawbringer


Etali, Primal Storm


Nezahal, Primal Tide


Zacama, Primal Calamity


Tetzimoc, Primal Death


Zetalpa, Primal Dawn


Ghalta, Primal Hunger


Grusilda, Monster Masher


Dr. Julius Jumblemorph


Vona, Butcher of Magan


Tishana, Voice of Thunder


Admiral Beckett Brass


Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith


Inalla, Archmage Ritualist


Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist


O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami


Mairsil, the Pretender


Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation

Razaketh, the Foulblooded


Zur, the Enchanter

(Mummy’s Curse),

Djeru, With Eyes Open


The Locust God


Karona, False God

(All the Deserts), Nicol Bolas,

Neheb, the Eternal


Oketra the True


Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun

, Atogatog
(Cartouches & Trials),

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons


Samut, Voice of Dissent


Rhonas the Indomitable


Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block

Yahenni, Undying Partisan

, Nicol Bolas,

Child of Alara

(5 Color Energy),

Rishkar, Peema Renegade


Kari Zev, Skyship Raider


Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016

Breya, Etherium Shaper


Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice


Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks

Anafenza, the Foremost

(shutting down shenanigans),

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

(no green creatures),

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

(Tribal Gideon),

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Commander Strategy

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander