Rakdos’s Return

Following up on Jess Stirba’s most recent column for Dear Azami, Abe takes her reader’s submission and works on a rebuild of his own for Rakdos, Lord of Riots!

Hello folks!

A week and a half ago, in Jess Stirba most recent turn at the helm of the Dear Azami column, she received a submission by Brent Bitsko. After reviewing the deck and discussing why Rakdos, Lord of Riots may not mine unique territory for Rakdos to run, she moved to a sacrifice and steal theme that used cards like Tymaret, the Murder King.

Brent had initially wanted to explore a suicide-aggro take on Rakdos, and as I was reading the article, I was seeing opportunities for changes that I would make, given the cards submitted. So, in an homage to that article, and with an attempt to push my own suicidal tendencies, I wanted to delve into Brent’s decklist, discuss suicide at the kitchen table, and then make some changes of my own.

So here is the original deck in all of its glory. We’ll explore the deck in a moment.


That’s the deck that was submitted, specifically with the charge to make this deck feel more suicidally aggro, which certainly fits the Rakdos colors and mindset quite nicely. Sacrificing life, creatures, cards, or other things for quick benefits is the Rakdos way of being. From Dark Ritual to Goblin Bombardment, permanent loss for temporary gain is the Rakdos way.

That’s the suicidal part of being aggro, and that gives us an edge to the Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck.

Let me give you an example of one way I want to push the deck. Imagine that there was a five-mana instant that read: “Pay 15 life, kill target opponent. ” Would you run it in your deck? Well, there is, and it’s called Hatred. You can pump Rakdos up to a 21/6 body, and then get a Commander kill with it. And you’ll still be at a feasible life total afterwards.

That’s the direction that I want to take with the deck. I want to push the suicidal elements more strongly, and play into that uniquely-Rakdos territory.

There are some cards in the deck that play into a longer-game mindset, like Sol Ring, that I’m going to pull. Sol Ring won’t help you play Rakdos until after you get some Commander tax going. There’s nothing major that you want to accelerate into after dropping it on the first turn, so I want to yank it for something else: Talisman of Indulgence, which can get your Rakdos going a full turn sooner. That’s my goal.

Other long-game cards like Insurrection or Mob Rule really aren’t wedded well to the theme of the deck. They are getting pulled.

We need to do damage reliably to folks, and here’s a useful example. Take Goblin Fireslinger. It can be played on the first turn, and then any turn afterwards, as you are Slinging folks, you can drop Rakdos. It’s probably a better one-drop here than Sol Ring. A card like Lobber Crew is fine for later turns, but if you draw it and a mana accelerator, you still can’t play a third-turn Rakdos, Lord of Riots like you could off of the Fireslinger (or another one-drop) and then Rakdos Signet/Talisman of Indulgence.

Here’s another example of two key one-drops – Mardu Shadowspear and Pulse Tracker. You attack someone that’s open early on, and you zark everyone for one life lost each time, and that easily will notch up style points for Rakdos. If you draw it later, you can dash out the Shadowspear instead as a nice surprise, so it can be used later as well. (Tormented Soul can swing unblocked for damage turn after turn as well).

Would Blightspeaker work as well? Maggot Carrier? Shepherd of Rot?

I’d like some really good early drops. Stigma Lasher? Whoa, that’s awesome. It feels like a fun run in the sun for the early game. Drop it pre-Rakdos, swing, and keep someone from gaining life for the rest of the game. That’s a great adjunct to your strategy, and too good not to run. (You could also shut down lifegain with stuff like Rain of Gore, which is cheap.)

Other good early drops abound. You can also toss in stuff like Ash Zealot, Tunnel Ignus or Rix Maadi Guildmage.

Wouldn’t this be a good shell for Bloodchief Ascension? Putting counters on the Ascension seems easy enough to do. Then it’s easy to trigger for life loss, since cards go to folks’ graveyards for a lot of reasons. It’s just slides into the deck nicely.

Meanwhile, another card that plays along the same vector is War Elemental, which grows as you deal damage to folks. Since your deck is all about dealing that damage, especially from wonky sources, it suits us. Mindcrank gives you an unusual angle of attack if you wanted to add a separate threat. If you want to force discards, and you have a lot of ways of dealing three or more damage, you can include Pain Magnification.

Take a look at Chandra’s Spitfire. Wouldn’t that rock in a deck with a lot of triggered damage sources? It seems like a pretty strong adjunct – activate Thrashing Wumpus or Pyrohemia once or twice and get a big ol’ Spitfire quickly.

Now, some of the creatures we have in the initial deck are a bit uneven. I love Pit Spawn. It’s old school, it’s not as bad as it looks, and if Kaalia of the Vast decks dropped Pit Spawns everywhere instead of Ionas and Akromas people might think more fondly of her. But the upkeep is rough and we are a suicide deck, so I really like it but I just don’t buy that here.

I also love the “Bad Potato” – Plague Spitter. It’s a great callback to a fun old card. I have to leave that thing in, it’s just so awesome.

But, I don’t want to run cards that can be used against us, like Warmonger. That’s the wrong feel. What about something like Impact Tremors or Furious Assault instead? Underworld Dreams? (Or even Kederekt Parasite for that matter.)

I like Anathemancer for the deck, it’s cheap, and it has a nice follow up to Rakdos, Lord Of Parties. You can hit someone for a lot of damage out of nowhere! It suits who we are and where we’re going.

Getting in a hit as fast as possible with Rakdos is key. If your entire deck is built around getting out a 6/6 guy early and often, then you should want to maximize that opportunity with haste effects. You have to play Lightning Greaves here. Cards like Anger are virtually non-negotiable.

Quick Individual Card Thoughts:

Mogis, God of Slaughter isn’t a bad card for this deck either, by the by.

I also like Goblin Sharpshooter, with its potential to hit multiple things.

Is there space for Prophetic Flamespeaker? It can hit twice, “draw” cards twice, and seems like a solid early body for us.

I like Brent’s use of Manabarbs and other ways to punish folks for playing stuff. I wish we had a few other options. How about Mindsparker? It’s perfectly fine as a three-drop, and it adds in some damage for blue/white players that dare to play instants.

Maybe we can punish folks by rocking cards like Pyrostatic Pillar or Eidolon of the Great Revel. Have we in general just decreased the casting cost of our cards here in Commander too much for these cards to work any longer? It fits the concept of the deck quite nicely.

What about the flip of Mondronen Shaman? Could we reliably flip it over, and then keep it flipped?

I actually really like Furyborn Hellkite as one of the fun ways to pop out an expensive creature early. In a deck like this, bloodthirst makes a lot of sense, it plays on a similar vector. The problem is that most good bloodthirst creatures are better in Standard or Limited than they would ever be in Commander like Scab-Clan Mauler or Blood Ogre.

Skarrgan Firebird is a six-mana 6/6 flyer that can self-reanimate later on. Bloodlord of Vaasgath is a 6/6 flyer for five mana, but that’s about it, we’re not running a bunch of vampires in here.

When adding in support cards, this seems like a place that you need to add in damage or life loss to the effects you’re already rolling. Artifact removal could be tied to Smash to Smithereens or Viashino Heretic. Edicts are better with Geth’s Verdict.

There are some bigger “Ramp” creatures that feel a bit jammed into the deck. I’d prefer to have a card like Maga, Traitor to Mortals that can be flexible, and if you deal a crazy amount of damage in a big attack, you can really blow someone out with Maga on the follow-up. I’m pulling some of the ramp creatures either for better earlier stuff, or for different ramp-style stuff.

For example, I love Tahngarth. Played him in a ton of my decks. I still like him in a Rakdos Control build. But this doesn’t feel like a valuable home for the mutated beef-cake. Vein Drinker is the same – great for more controlling or mid-range decks, but that’s not very suicide-y, nor does it really have a lot of power off a ramp. Meanwhile, we can ramp into cards like Dragonlord Kolaghan and Kokusho, the Evening Star instead.

I do think this is a deck that is prone to needing more cards en masse, so I’m tossing in Wheel of Fortune and Reforge the Soul. I was also looking at Memory Jar or Commune with Lava. Knollspine Dragon is already in the deck and plays very well, and if you wanted, you could consider Dragon Mage.

And then don’t forget your classic black card drawing as well.

I love Hex Parasite normally, but you don’t need planeswalker removal in a deck that is doing this much damage to folks. You already have tons of ‘walker removal. We can find space for some of our other cheaper guys by yanking cards like the Parasite.

I added in the oft-forgotten three-mana Pestilence, Withering Wisps. Since this required me to add in snow lands, I also tossed in a few snow cards as adjuncts to our strategy. I swapped out Temple of the False God for Scrying Sheets and included the rarely-seen-but-very-useful Rimescale Dragon as a “Ramp” choice that also can tap down creatures in order to ensure that your team gets through.

Meanwhile, I do like Deathbringer Thoctar and Warstorm Surge, but is this the right shell for them? I do want the Surge, because while it’s a bit of a Win More card in many circumstances, I also like that it can shoot one player down while you make your big guns. The Thoctar just feels a bit out of place though, so I am swapping to something else. Hmmm… How about Urabrask the Hidden? It slips in nicely enough. Tapping opposing creatures slows down your foe while speeding you your own and gives you another haste source for the team.

My final pulls were to pull cards that were fine, but not on theme, like Mimic Vat, in order to slide in cards that were more on-target and played well with the deck.

I massaged the manabase to have fewer lands that come into play tapped. The tempo loss for this deck just isn’t worth it overly much. I love cards like cycling lands and such, but the addition of cards like Wheel of Fortune, and the need to do things early, and the fact that we already have a low land count (36) leads me to steer clear.

Here’s the updated list, want to take a looksee?

Rakdos Update
Abe Sargent
Test deck on 11-30--0001

And there we are! What works here? What don’t you like?

Enjoy the Rioting!