Rakdos’s Return? Investigating Immersturm Predator In Standard And Historic

Can Immersturm Predator bring back the glory days of Aristocrats decks? Todd Anderson tries it in Kaldheim Standard and Historic.

The heart wants what the heart wants, and today it wants more cards to rebuild Rakdos Sacrifice. Without Witch’s Oven or Mayhem Devil at the ready in Standard, the “Sacrifice” deck has some sacrifice elements, but that isn’t currently the focal point like it was before. We didn’t really have a payoff to play around with until now!

The last year has actually seen a resurgence in sacrifice style decks because Cauldron Familiar plus Witch’s Oven (Cat Oven) was such a particularly strong combo with Mayhem Devil and various drain effects. The opponent’s inability to deal with Cauldron Familiar meant you had an engine that drained the opponent while triggering any and all effects that grew your squad. The annoying nature of the Cat Oven combo and its prevalence led to it being banned in Standard. Since then, the Rakdos Sacrifice decks have mostly just become Rakdos Midrange, losing most of the payoffs for the archetype and focusing on the efficiency of using those powerful sacrifice effects with The Akroan War, Claim the Firstborn, and Village Rites.

With the printing of Immersturm Predator, that can all change. We’ve seen cards like this in the past. We’ve seen decks built around cards like this in the past. All of them have been fan favorites and usually involved Sam Black in one way or another. Let’s take a look back and see what one of those decks used to look like. Maybe we’ll learn a thing or two about how to build our decks today with our new toys!

When I think “Sacrifice” I think of Falkenrath Aristocrat specifically. This deck, built by Sam Black and piloted masterfully (and dashingly, thanks to that keen scarf) by Tom Martell, was used to take down Pro Tour Gatecrash. Variations on the archetype lasted throughout Standard over the next year and eventually spawned different variations from Brad Nelson and a host of other personalities.

Falkenrath Aristocrat

This deck was pretty sick because it combined the aggressive nature of Champion of the Parish and the Human tribe with all sorts of little synergies involving sacrificing creatures. On the surface it gave you the beatdowns. After interacting with the deck, you start to realize that traditional removal is almost pointless.

Over time, the deck would morph into something a little closer to what we’re used to today, Act II.

Act II was a version of The Aristocrats that went way harder on the sacrifice elements. Instead of relying on the aggressive draws in the early-game with Champion of the Parish, the raw strength of Blood Artist would easily carry you over the finish line. Skirsdag High Priest became a powerhouse, fueling a stream of Demons with ease. Tragic Slip was superpowered. Every creature that allowed you to sacrifice other creatures meant you could do some sick combo-kills with Blood Artist or just charged up your other tools.

On top of all that, this variant brought the heat with Blasphemous Act in the maindeck. Not only was it a solid sweeper against all of your creature-based opponents, but it became a killer combo with Boros Reckoner. All of this is to say that during the transitions from aggressive to passive and more combo-centric, the core cards that stayed were the sacrifice outlets. Having cards that sacrifice creatures for zero mana is a big deal, but usually you need something like Blood Artist to gain some life as a payoff. The best part of Falkenrath Aristocrat specifically is that you could sacrifice some of your Humans for a little extra burst damage, all while keeping it protected from spot removal and sweepers.

Enter Immersturm Predator.

Immersturm Predator

Immersturm Predator is a solid body on its own, though a bit smaller on rate to start than we’re used to these days. It’s actually deceptive on the surface because it says “3/3” but it’s almost never a 3/3. It becomes a 4/4 with ease, and grows every time you attack with it. It’s also incredibly difficult to kill. The ability to gain indestructible at will means your opponent will need to exile it. If this card becomes popular, I expect stock in Elspeth Conquers Death will increase, even if it is already messed up in every Yorion deck.

A few years back, many creatures needed to be exiled in order to get the job done. Vraska’s Contempt was all the rage because it was one of the more efficient ways to exile an opposing creature without breaking the bank. The extra life buffer and instant speed were quite nice. It was a bit strange because exiling the opponent’s creature became overly normal instead of something you need to do from time to time to deal with a stray God or whatever.

Nowadays we’re living in a world full of Eliminate, so something like Immersturm Predator might actually shape the way people build their decks. Which removal they choose, and how much mana they’re willing to pay to answer such a hostile threat will depend on how popular of a card Immersturm Predator becomes, because traditional interaction isn’t getting the job done.

Immersturm Predator is a game-changer. Not only does it grow every turn (albeit slowly – read the card again), it also provides your deck with a free sacrifice outlet and a way for you to interact with the graveyard. In Rakdos mirrors, I expect many a Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger to get eaten by Immersturm Predator. I also expect a sharp increase in The Akroan War as a way to steal and sacrifice an opposing Immersturm Predator because it will be the best top-end card you can play.

These days it feels like every deck is using the graveyard. Being able to continuously interact with your opponent’s graveyard has some hidden value, but I’m looking to utilize this card from a much more proactive stance. Maybe this ability could have been more useful with Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath still in the format. I’m glad it was banned but I have a feeling we’re going to see a few more cards come down the pipeline that positively interact with a problem that no longer exists.

Immersturm Predator gaining indestructible in the blink of an eye means attacking into it will likely be a no-go. The fact that it taps when you try to kill it means you can proactively engage without getting completely dumpstered, but burning a removal spell to tap a creature never feels all that good. Aristocrat-style decks are very good at building a battlefield that makes it hard or impossible to attack into. During a “normal” Standard format featuring a bunch of attacking and blocking, a card like Immersturm Predator will be a nightmare to handle without exiling it or having a way to remove it efficiently.

Let’s build some decks!

This build is your current Rakdos Midrange shell but with a few more sacrifice elements added back in thanks to Immersturm Predator. It replaces Rankle, Master of Pranks at the top of the curve and gives you a bit more flexibility in how to use the extra bodies your other cards provide. Rankle gave the deck that “aggressive” slant, much like Champion of the Parish in the old builds, but I think Immersturm Predator is where we all want to be. It gives the deck a unique angle of attack and defense while acting as a sacrifice engine and win condition.

Skyclave Shade specifically acts as a repeatable body to sacrifice, which might actually end up being better than Mire Triton in the long run. I’m currently running Skyclave Shade as a way to continuously churn but Mire Triton is much better at playing defense, filling the graveyard with your escape creatures, and fueling graveyard-related synergy. I don’t know which one is better, and after playing the deck some I might come to the conclusion that we should be playing both.

These are untested waters and figuring out the best surrounding cast for Immersturm Predator will be a labor of love. Decks like these need time, work, and care. Finding the right numbers for utility creatures, removal, and finishers just takes time, and will likely shift regularly with the metagame.

I love decks like this because they’re infinitely customizable and rely on what I like to call “reactive deckbuilding.” When you’re playing the aggro deck, you usually just want to max out on the most efficient card at every mana cost and limit your average casting cost to fit the best spells along that curve. When you pick up Rakdos Sacrifice, each card choice is determined based on average number of aggressive decks you’ll play against, how aggro you need to be against control, how much disruption you need against combo, and lastly how grindy you need to be against other attrition-based decks.

If you want to take this party to Historic, things will be a little more dicey. The average card quality is a bit higher, but I think we can find room for a Falkenrath Aristocrat-adjacent threat. Since Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath exists, having one of your sacrifice outlets double as a way to interact favorably with one of the most annoying cards ever printed is definitely a plus.

The trick is figuring out how many to play and what to replace. The current Rakdos Sacrifice shells are pretty straightforward, relying on Witch’s Oven and Cauldron Familiar to do a lot of heavy lifting. Dreadhorde Butcher and Scrapheap Scrounger are fine bodies to toss late for extra value, but there doesn’t seem to be a “real” combo-kill element like I’m used to with Blood Artist. I wonder if we can make something stick!

I’m afraid I don’t have enough “fodder” here. It might be worth looking into playing a bunch of creatures with second lives where sacrificing them just makes more bodies. Having a high raw creature count on the battlefield is often good with Blood Artist chains because it usually means you have more avenues to outright win the game when you draw a sacrifice outlet.

Blood Artist

Looking at this list, my first instinct is to try Immersturm Predator with the most virtual copies of Blood Artist I can find. There are a few other cards that do something similar, though none are as efficient or powerful as the OG Blood Artist itself. The trick will be to maintain balance. If you have too many sacrifice outlets or fodder or payoff pieces, you’ll draw too many of one and not enough (or any!) of the others. When that happens, decks that don’t rely on synergy gain the upper hand because their average power level on each card is significantly higher than yours.

These Rakdos Sacrifice decks are already rampant in Historic, so an extra toy isn’t going to push them over the top anytime soon. What I’m hoping for is that Immersturm Predator eventually forces through its own build of the archetype. I want more Act II-style gameplay. I want to start trying out Bolas’s Citadel and see if I can string together twenty points of life drain while casting a bunch of free spells off the top! Until we get Zulaport Cutthroat added into the mix, it’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, but a boy can dream.

Look y’all, I’m gonna give it to you straight: Immersturm Predator is a powerful enabler but I don’t know if it will make games easy. Recent design has pushed a lot of cards forward that singlehandedly dominate the game if left unchecked. This might end up being one of those cards because it does grow every turn and it’s extremely hard to kill.

I don’t think it’s a slam-dunk that goes into every Rakdos deck ever made, but it will certainly find a home in many sacrifice-related strategies. Putting it to work alongside Blood Artist and company just makes sense with the abilities on the card, but it is reasonable to assume that this could just be the top-end of the next Rakdos Aggro archetype. High-end threats that are hard to kill and have evasion often top the curve in beatdown decks.

Immersturm Predator is a unique card that reminds me a lot of the tools I’m used to playing with. For that alone I am thankful, as the constant printing of cards that just shatter traditional values and linchpin mechanics is getting tiresome. I expect Immersturm Predator to be a major player in Standard and potentially have some fringe play in older formats.

If a sacrifice deck starts to run the tables at your next Standard event, I’d imagine Immersturm Predator will be a big factor. The Standard version needed a bit of a boost after losing Cauldron Familiar and Mayhem Devil, so perhaps this is exactly the card the Rakdos mages needed to get the ball rolling once again.