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
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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!
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:
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:
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Blood Speaker
- 1 Anger
- 1 Maddening Imp
- 1 Kagemaro, First to Suffer
- 1 Squealing Devil
- 1 Cadaver Imp
- 1 Vault Skirge
- 1 Charmbreaker Devils
- 1 Desecration Demon
- 1 Ob Nixilis, Unshackled
- 1 Overseer of the Damned
- 1 Demonlord Belzenlok
- 1 Krav, the Unredeemed
- 1 Doom Whisperer
- 1 Pilfering Imp
- 1 Rafter Demon
- 1 Spawn of Mayhem
- 1 Rakdos, the Showstopper
- 1 Carrion Imp
- 1 Footlight Fiend
- 5 Swamp
- 5 Mountain
- 1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
- 1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
- 1 Miren, the Moaning Well
- 1 Blood Crypt
- 1 Rakdos Carnarium
- 1 Graven Cairns
- 1 Dragonskull Summit
- 1 Bojuka Bog
- 1 Lavaclaw Reaches
- 1 Tectonic Edge
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 Thespian's Stage
- 1 Encroaching Wastes
- 1 Temple of Malice
- 1 Myriad Landscape
- 1 Arcane Lighthouse
- 1 Smoldering Marsh
- 1 Mirrorpool
- 1 Westvale Abbey
- 1 Foreboding Ruins
- 1 Canyon Slough
- 1 Desert of the Fervent
- 1 Desert of the Glorified
- 1 Scavenger Grounds
- 1 Path of Ancestry
- 1 Luxury Suite
- 1 Isolated Watchtower
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Hellfire
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Terminate
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Phyrexian Arena
- 1 Krark's Thumb
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Black Market
- 1 Phyrexian Reclamation
- 1 Rakdos Signet
- 1 Reiterate
- 1 Sudden Spoiling
- 1 Damnation
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Exsanguinate
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Bonehoard
- 1 Go for the Throat
- 1 Chaos Warp
- 1 Blasphemous Act
- 1 Tragic Slip
- 1 Rakdos Charm
- 1 Vandalblast
- 1 Toxic Deluge
- 1 Malicious Affliction
- 1 Commander's Sphere
- 1 Revel in Riches
- 1 Heirloom Blade
- 1 Conqueror's Galleon
- 1 Arguel's Blood Fast
- 1 Dowsing Dagger
- 1 Dead Man's Chest
- 1 Liliana's Contract
- 1 Enchanter's Bane
- 1 Bedevil
- 1 Electrodominance
- 1 Theater of Horrors
- 1 Mirror March
- 1 Captive Audience
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.
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!
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
Core Set 2019
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
Rivals of Ixalan
Other Commander Decks
Let’s Talk About Lands
Who Should I Attack?
Targeted Removal in Commander