Meddling Rakdos Revelry
This time around, for those just joining us, we're doing things a little differently. Rather than using a predefined card pool to rebuild and improve an existing Intro Pack, we'll be taking both Intro Packs from a particular guild and dumping all the cards in a pile. That's the pool we'll have to work from, so we'll have to be able to separate trash from treasure to build the best sixty-card construction we can.
For the Rakdos, this means we'll be working with Rakdos Raid from Return to Ravnica, alongside Rakdos Revelry of Dragon's Maze. This latest precon came as something of a surprise. Usually later in a set, when you have a deeper pool of cards to work with, you can expect themes and mechanics in a deck to be better supported. In this case, although unleash begs us to apply the gas pedal, the second deck went the other direction. Rakdos Raid wasn't the fastest deck ever made, but compared to Rakdos Revelry, it screams. This isn't necessarily bad—with the right tools, Rakdos can certainly do midrange—but our interest lies more in playing to the guild's natural inclination.
With most decks, the backbone is in the creatures, and so it's there we'll begin.
The Early Game
- 2 Gore-House Chainwalker
- 1 Grim Roustabout
- 3 Gutter Skulk
- 2 Rakdos Shred-Freak
- 1 Ravenous Rats
- 3 Riot Piker
- 1 Rix Maadi Guildmage
- 2 Spike Jester
Although the Dragon's Maze deck plays more happily in the midfield, we do have a solid assortment of creatures to draw from. Since we're going with early aggression, the Rakdos Cackler is a slam dunk here as our opening unleash creature. I was initially divided on the Tormented Souls, but two things speak in their favor. First, they help set up a steady drip of damage if played early enough, and having three copies definitely helps have one early. Second, the card pool isn't deep enough to be as picky as we could be here. Sometimes, you have to make do with what you have, and so the Souls make the cut.
For the 2-drops, we'll gladly welcome the Gore-House Chainwalker for unleash as well as the Riot Pikers, Spike Jesters, Rakdos Shred-Freaks, and Rix Maadi Guildmage. This gives us a nice mix of early attackers, many of which hit that much faster thanks to haste. With this many 2-drops, we'll almost certainly be able to field creatures right off the bat, letting us get a jump on our slower-to-develop rivals.
So, what doesn't make the cut? The Grim Roustabout for one. The Carnage Gladiator is interesting because it's a high-power attacker that can be committed to the offense with reckless abandon. The Roustabout is a 2/2. That means he'll frequently die, compelling you to leave 2 mana open to support his continued existence. There's just not enough upside here. The same can be said of the Gutter Skulks. I'm not against taking vanilla creatures where it makes sense to do so, since they typically give you the most bang for the buck in terms of sheer power and toughness. But again, the Skulk doesn't do enough. Finally, the Ravenous Rats can go with them. A throw-in discard effect is cute, but too often toward the end of the game, you'll find your opponent either empty-handed or sitting with a surplus land in hand to throw away. Discard is a strategy that needs support, and a miser's copy of a single effect is anything but.
- 2 Bloodfray Giant
- 2 Canyon Minotaur
- 2 Carnage Gladiator
- 1 Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
- 2 Slum Reaper
- 2 Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers
The early-game picks were fairly easy—we knew we wanted a lot of them, and we kept all but the most underwhelming. Here, we have to be much more surgical, lest we flood our deck with expensive cards that can create a real drag on our deployment rate. Our first keeper is the Hellhole Flailer, where my only regret is that we don't get access to more of them. A 4/3 for 3 mana (unleashed, of course), the Flailer also counts as an extra burn spell should the red zone become so congested that we can't profitably get in on the attack. This one's a snap-keep.
We'll also be taking the Cryptborn Horror, the second rare from the first Rakdos deck. The Horror is very conditional, relying on your damage output to become effective—making it something of a win-more type of card. Although I'd feel a lot more comfortable with a couple of cheap burn sources here as an insurance policy (such as Searing Spear), there's enough upside here to take it in the absence of better options. A case can also be made for the Sewer Shambler, which while weak, still has some synergies with the deck once dead. It’s extra counters for a Tormented Soul, more damage from a Flailer's explosion, or giving something with haste when Exava's out. Although you have to go through the hoop of killing the thing without the benefit of a sacrifice outlet, it gets the nod.
Easily shown the door is the Guttersnipe, as the deck doesn't have enough instants or sorceries to make it consistently interesting. It was a curious choice in the Intro Pack deck . . . and a better fit with the Izzet.
For the 4-drops, we'll be even more Spartan with our selections since again we don't want to bloat our average casting cost. The Bloodfray Giants are easy keeps—an above-the-curve body backed up by trample makes for a nice finisher. Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch is an auto-include as well—if any seat on the bench is safe, it's hers. Finally, we'll take the pair of Carnage Gladiators. These make great attackers at a time where you'll often have mana to play with, with most of your cheaper cards already on the board. In addition, they punish your opponent for blocking, ensuring that even if you're running into walls, you're still managing to wring some damage out of your offense.
Missing the cut are the Canyon Minotaurs, which pale in comparison to our other options here. The Slum Reaper is too unpredictable. Edict effects tend to work better in Standard, where the value of creatures is a little higher. In this format, your opponent will frequently have some redundant body left over, and devoting a card to getting rid of it alongside a somewhat brittle 4/2 body just doesn't make the grade. The Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers, meanwhile, force us to play with Guildgates, and in this build, we won't be touching those. Every early turn is precious, and losing a turn thanks to a tapped land runs counter to the Rakdos playbook.
This was a bit of a trick question—we're not stocking for the endgame. I might have thought about the Carnival Hellsteed if it had trample, but as it is, these cards just aren't worth the time required to build up to them in this deck.
- 1 Assassin's Strike
- 1 Auger Spree
- 1 Awe for the Guilds
- 1 Blood Reckoning
- 1 Cower in Fear
- 2 Crippling Blight
- 1 Deviant Glee
- 1 Havoc Festival
- 1 Mind Rot
- 2 Morgue Burst
- 1 Punish the Enemy
- 2 Rakdos Cluestone
- 2 Rakdos Keyrune
- 1 Shrieking Affliction
- 1 Sinister Possession
- 1 Toil // Trouble
- 1 Traitorous Instinct
This is the most painful part of the deck. In a perfect world, we'd be awash in options like Searing Spear and Murder, simple and inexpensive kill spells that would help us keep the attack lanes open as we offload more and more attackers. This environment isn't exactly conducive to that approach, so we can either pack our creatures with more filler or make do with the best of a bad lot here. As sad as it is to say this, the old adage "removal is removal" has to apply here.
Other removal offerings here that we'll be taking are Auger Spree, Cower in Fear, and the pair of Crippling Blights.. The Blights are as good as removal for our purposes, as you might recall we packed in a full play set in the standalone Meddling of Rakdos Raid. Toil // Trouble is an easy pick thanks to its versatility and direct-damage potential, but from here, things start to get a bit dodgy.
Traitorous Instinct solves few problems permanently, but it can be a real thorn in an opponent's side as well as helping remove a potential defender from our path. Deviant Glee as an Aura leaves us exposed to being two-for-oned, and that can be a bitter pill for an aggro deck, which needs to wring every last bit of value from the cards it opens with lest it stall and run out of gas. Still, it works well with our Tormented Souls and Rakdos Drakes in particular, and we'll overlook its weaker points.
Blood Reckoning is a card that has the stink of defeat about it, a 4-mana enchantment that doesn't do a blessed thing when played. Still, I've been on both sides of it long enough to know that it can be very nettlesome to face, and with the options presented us, it's one I'll be running—though I wouldn't be surprised at some point if I cut it for another creature. Finally, we'll take the Havoc Festival. We've done a commendable job sticking to our strict diet, so being able to splurge on calories for this one is a vice worth indulging. No card I've played with yet feels quite as quintessentially Rakdos as this one, and it absolutely charges a game with flavor.
Here's the final decklist!
This time, it was no-contest. Though the Orzhov had some stalling ability early through the Bane Alley Blackguard and Basilica Guards, my Rakdos deck had enough speed and removal to consistently become stuck into Sam's life total before she could adequately prepare her defenses. Although the games typically went more turns than I'd like from an all-out aggro build, being able to rely on evasion with the Rakdos Drake and Tormented Soul gave it some staying power it might not otherwise have had. It was a blast to play. Oh, and Exava? She's a beating in a box.
Thanks for joining me again for this reconstruction of the Rakdos Intro Packs. Although this was the most challenging build so far given how much I had to work against the environment, it seems that a solid aggro-to-midrange build is still possible with the card pool. As always, your mileage may vary, and I'd be very interested to hear what you might have done differently in the comments below.