The Magic Show #11: Winning With Rakdos!

Evan continues his excellent series of video articles. This edition sees Mr Erwin wax lyrical over his pet Rakdos deck, and provide a list for the ever-popular Zoo archetype.

Hello everybody, and welcome to the Magic Show. As we begin to decompress from last week’s festivities, and I foster a hell of a cold, I have a few things on my mind:

[The following is a transcript of the video, which you really should check out.]

First, I’m currently planning on attending the StarCityGames $1,500 new Standard tournament, happening this Saturday, October 21st. That should be a sufficiently large enough tournament to know whether or not this or that deck is viable. Better yet, it gives me another chance to go On Location and find the best deck and let you see it being played. Should be a lot of fun.

But no fun is not without a little work behind it. And with Time Spiral coming in, we definitely need some assistance.

The first deck of the three is Dragonstorm. My videos on compiling and playing Dragonstorm are some of my most popular ever. So what are the pieces that make Dragonstorm unique? Where can you find the tech in your build to make it better than everyone else’s?

First, you have your basic combo pieces. Everyone seems to agree that Lotus Bloom, Dragonstorm, Rite of Flame, Seething Song, and five or six dragons (a mix of Bogardan Hellkite and Hunted Dragon) create the core of the combo. The next question is what finds the combo faster, and speed is the definite factor in winning.

Gigadrowse was the most important card I didn’t cover at all, as this card stops any counterspells, Trickbinds, Shadow of Doubts, or anything else your opponent can come up with to disrupt you. Gigadrowse at the end of their turn can simply mean “I win” more than any other spell you could play. Your opponent is then left with absolutely no option but Soul Spike and/or Commandeer in an attempt to stay alive. Now, if an opponent is playing Black/White Control and they can both Soul Spike and Wrath of God my dragons… well, then I deserve to lose.

The most important thing you can do with a combo deck like Dragonstorm is goldfish to see what hands and what cards can make it explode. Once you have that down, you need to play against the most powerful decks around – which include the other two in this article – and see what disruption and pressure do to your play. Sometimes you simply can’t go off until turn 7, and that can be a death knell for many Dragonstorm decks. In this format, you just don’t have time to lollygag around and hope that your opponent is falling asleep.

Finally, there’s Infernal Tutor. This was the hottest card off the Dissension spoiler, commanding $20 bills at the Dissension prerelease I attended. Unfortunately it’s nowhere near as good as it looks (as Hellbent is just awful in Constructed), but in Dragonstorm it can work. The optimal play is this:

Turn 1 Lotus Bloom, Land
Turn 2 Land, Infernal Tutor for another Rite of Flame or (better yet) Seething Song

Remember: with three lands and three Seething Song, you have nine mana available.

The following is my current list of Dragonstorm, based on my own testing and forum feedback on this forum thread.

Now this list does not include Infernal Tutor and includes no less than twelve draw spells (if you consider Telling Time a “draw spell,” of course). In exchange for Infernal Tutor I have a full playset of Compulsive Research, which has done better for me in my own testing.

Of course, I have to temper my recommendation by saying that the best list will probably come out on top on Saturday, and I definitely think it will be in appearance. Whether it is Dragonstorm’s first in a long lineage of winning, or the last in a shameful scrub-out around the third round, is still to be determined.

Rakdos Control

Now, as Flores mentioned, I love me some Rakdos Control. Remember when I said I would take a modified version of this Top 4 Ukranian Nationals Rakdos Control to a half-case tournament in Knoxville? Well, I did quite well. Here’s the list:

Rakdos Control

4 Dark Confidant

3 Giant Solifuge
4 Rakdos Guildmage
3 Genju Of The Spires
3 Seal Of Fire
4 Char
2 Flames Of The Blood Hand
4 Shock
4 Cruel Edict
3 Demonfire

4 Volcanic Hammer
10 Mountain
2 Swamp
4 Blood Crypt
1 Quicksand
4 Sulfurous Springs
1 Mikokoro, Center Of The Sea

3 Pithing Needle
1 Martyr Of Ashes
2 Shattering Spree
3 Cryoclasm
1 Demonfire
2 Pyroclasm
3 Threaten

I ended up going 4-2 on the day, where my only losses were to Blue/Green Jitte.dec and Ghost Dad. Yes, Ben Goodman own really gives this thing a beating if you can’t stop their Paladin En-Vecs, and Shining Shoal is just ridiculous against Rakdos Control.

In the 33-person tournament I went to the Top 8, where I faced off against the Ghost Dad that had swept me in the swiss. Definitely not a good feeling to be in. In game 1 I simply drew Cruel Edicts and he had no way to stop them. Cap’n Tickles (a.k.a. Giant Solifuge) finished the job.

The second game began with his friend looking at his opener and going “aw… skeet,” which set the whole store laughing. Unfortunately he mulliganed into double Shining Shoal and I couldn’t kill his Tallowisps (yes, plural) before Paladin En-Vec and eventually Ghost Dad took over.

In the last game he made a fatal mistake by not attacking with Ghost Council or his two Tallowisps while I was a precarious five life with Dark Confidant under a Pillory of the Sleepless. He passed, I Charred him and then Flames of the Blood Hand finished him off.

I then split in the Top 4 for twenty-seven delicious packs of Time Spiral. I could’ve attended to a Pro Tour Qualifier in Nashville, but considering I still haven’t drafted Time Spiral I think Rakdos Control was the right choice.

Anyway, after the tournament I began thinking of how badly both the Flames of the Blood Hand and Genju of the Spires losses would be to this deck. And last week you saw me pimping out Sedge Sliver something awesome. But a few things made this deck change course.

First, Mr. Flores did an interesting piece on how Dark Confidant actually gives your opponent’s turns by damaging you so much in the process. He also notes how it is the most overrated card in Standard, as many players will keep a hand of all lands a Dark Confidant because they’re sure that Bob can lead them to victory no matter what, when this isn’t always the case.

Lastly he noted how great Shadow Guildmage is in this deck and, after much testing, I’m inclined to agree with him. Sedge Sliver really is a four-drop most of the time, and the only four-drop you should be concerning yourself with is Cap’n Tickles (Giant Solifuge). So with that said, I made a quick switch and the deck began to get better immediately. Out went the Sedge Slivers, in came the Shadow Guildmage.

Why was it so much better? Because of the magical three toughness that permeates the landscape in Standard right now. For example, taking down an Ohran Viper usually consisted of a Volcanic Hammer, or a Cruel Edict, or a Demonfire. However, with Shadow Guildmage, you can now ping the Viper and use Seal of Fire of Shock to finish him off. This gives you almost twice as many removal options against powerful three-toughness creatures (such as Call of the Herd elephant tokens) to kill them with. That’s a powerful thing, no doubt.

Not to mention it lowers your mana curve, does 1/3rd less damage than Sedge Sliver did to you when revealed by Bob, and kills all sorts of one-toughness creatures including Birds of Paradise, Llanowar Elves, and of course Bob himself.

Here’s my current list for Rakdos Control in Time Spiral Standard:


The last deck I’m covering today is Zoo. This won’t be a very elaborate section, as we’re winding down here, but I do want to note that Zoo is the deck that Mike Flores just won’t shut up about. Whether you or I like it or not, the decks that get the most coverage in articles are the ones you’ll need to watch out for. Most people don’t design their own decks, and when they hear that something “just loses” to Zoo, then they’ll look for a good build.

But… but… where is that damn build? Flores goes on and on about how it just destroys the format, about late night sessions with Billy Moreno and how it’s the bees knees.

But no list. So I’ll give you one. This is, again, culled from forum posters and my own testing. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

The things I like about this deck: It just. Friggin. Wins. Wow, what a scary deck. This thing forces your opponent to deal with virtually every nonland card you draw, and in an immediate fashion. You deal a lot of damage to yourself with your mana sources, yet Lightning Helix gets it back. You run the most efficient, powerful creatures for their mana curve. Your manabase is shaky, but surprisingly consistent.

What I don’t like about this deck: Jaya was my own contribution and could probably be something else. I tested Magus of the Scroll but was left underwhelmed. I normally had two or three cards in hand, and dumping them off let my opponent get too much of an advantage when they Pyroclasm’d or played Wrath of God. One of the most powerful instincts you can develop as a Magic player is knowing when not to overextend. And Magus of the Scroll is a guy who can make you do that. So be careful.

Otherwise, I dislike the two Gruul Turfs and those should be replaced with either Boros Garrison or some other painland. The deck changed, mana-color wise, as it was being shifted from one list to another, and the Turfs are inadequate. However, the KarooGemstone Mine connection is not to be underestimated. Gemstone Mine is one of my favorite cards ever, and Karoos simply send it into the stratosphere.

What Happens Now

Feedback, of course! I’ve not made up my mind on what deck I want to bring, and that keeps things both exciting and interesting for me and you guys watching at home. Were I to decide right now, a full week before the tournament as I write this, then you would have preconceived notions as to what may occur, not to mention it would skew your forum feedback.

So let’s hear it Magic players: What’s being left out, what needs to be put in, and what is the whole world missing? Is it Firemane Angel Control? Is it Teferi in the sideboard of Dragonstorm?

Questions, questions everywhere. We’ll get some answers in a week, and hopefully those will lead you and I to State Championship trophies in less than two weeks.

It’s an exciting time, Magic players… I hope you enjoy the ride. Thanks for watching.

Evan “misterorange” Erwin

dubya dubya dubya dot misterorange dot com
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com
Written while listening to the sounds of my own congestion.

Music Credits:
Credits — The Long Winters, “Sky Is Open”
Dragonstorm — flyleaf, “Fully Alive”
Rakdos Control (pre TS) — midlake, “Roscoe”
Rakdos Control (post TS) — the new pornographers, “From Blown Speakers”
Zoo — The Shins, “Saint Simon”