Top 8 Rakdos Cards

I don’t usually go for theme weeks, but I do like telling stories, and Rakdos Weeks seems to be a good enough excuse for me to tell a few. I also really like making lists, much like Liam Neeson. This isn’t necessarily a list of the most powerful Rakdos cards—they’re just ones that I have personal connections with, so keep that in mind before you start making the obligatory what-about-card-X? comment. It’s not the list, it’s my list.

Let’s get this party started!

8 – Sarkhan the Mad

Sarkhan the Mad
Sarkhan the Mad, or Sarkhan el Loco as he’s called in Spanish, is among the more interesting planeswalkers that’s been printed. To date, it’s the only one that has no way of adding loyalty counters. The first ability harkens back to one of the best creatures ever printed, Dark Confidant. How many cards you ended up drawing was highly dependent on the average mana cost of your deck. What’s really interesting is that sometimes, you’re hoping to hit a big whammy so that you can play the other Sarkhan the Mad in your hand. The second ability was highly relevant at the time since you could use it to sacrifice Sprouting Thrinax for an absurd value. Removing most of the abilities from your opponent’s Baneslayer Angel actually came up a fair amount, so don’t think that only Sarkhan’s controller controlled Dragons. The last ability was just icing on the cake, as ultimate abilities on planeswalkers generally are.

These days, most of the times I have a Sarkhan the Mad out it’s been because it’s in my Cube deck, but I really do appreciate the design of this card. Most planeswalkers follow the same kind of cookie-cutter formula, so I love it when they take a risk and shake things up.

7 – Terminate

I love the pure simplicity of this card. Too often, we can become carried away with big creatures or splashy spells that do a lot of cool things. Terminate does one thing and one thing only: Target creature is dead. D. E. D. Dead. Removal spells before Terminate always had a bunch of extra rules text. There was always an asterisk at the end of “kill target creature,” whether it was a restriction on what you could kill, not being able to always kill what you wanted to kill, or a bunch of crap that happened after you killed it. Sure, Wrath of God would do a pretty good job of killing creatures, but this includes your creatures.

Terminate is like the basic land of kill spells. There are always other cards that do kind of the same thing or give you other options, usually at an increased cost. Your whole mana base could be nonbasics if you wanted, but almost every deck out there has some number of basics, just there, keeping it real. Sometimes, you just want to play a Mountain and tap it for {R} with no bells or whistles. Sometimes, you just need to kill a guy. Terminate isn’t the flashiest of Rakdos cards, but it definitely deserves a spot in this list.

6 – Lim-Dul's Paladin

Lim-Dul's Paladin
Okay, I admit this is here for purely nostalgic reasons. Back in high school, I had a nerdy group of friends I hung out with. We’d mostly play Dungeons & Dragons or Nintendo games, but when Ice Age came out (yeah, I’m that old), we played the crap out of Magic. When Alliances came out, I saved up some money from my job at McDonald’s to buy a whole box. That was a pretty big deal for me at the time. Thinking back on it now, I shudder at how many Force of Wills I must have had, but that’s neither here nor there. Alliances had that “it” factor. It was just pure awesome and made us want to play Magic all the time. If you look at the cards now, they probably seem pretty crappy, but trust me: When Alliances came out, it was the best set ever.

Lim-Dul's Paladin evokes a lot of those memories for me. First, the art is amazing. He reminds me of the Dragon Highlords from Dragonlance, a series of books I was really into at the time. His abilities were unique and interesting. Upkeep drawbacks were nothing new, but they usually had you paying mana or sacrificing a creature, but discarding cards was a novel concept. If your opponent doesn’t block, he takes 4, but if he does block, it becomes a six six. This was back when I thought Craw Wurm was among the best creatures in Magic because “it’s freakin’ huge, man!” A 6/6 trampler for 4 mana was just unreal.

I always try to find room for Lim-Dul's Paladin in my Cubes, and I still become excited any time someone attacks with it.

5 – Olivia Voldaren

Olivia Voldaren
Speaking of sweet Rakdos 4-drops, the Vampire Highlord herself Olivia Voldaren doesn’t disappoint. Goofy art aside, Olivia is a worthy successor to Lim-Dul's Paladin. I’m a big fan of any ability that starts with “Gain control of,” so naturally, I’d be drawn to her. Okay, seriously, what’s going on with her right hand? I can’t stop staring at it. Is that a . . . no, it can’t be; they’d never put that on a Magic card. Still, Robert Bliss got away with much worse.


Olivia has been seeing some Modern play since Yuuya Watanabe’s singleton copy at the Magic Players Championship was one of the defining moments of the finals. She’s become one of the more important Jund mirror-breakers, and as long as Modern is around, you’ll have to face her wrath.

4 – Demonfire

There’s no way I can top Gerard Fabiano’s Demonfire story:

In all seriousness, this is actually supposed to be Rakdos's Return, but there’s no way I could talk about the best Rakdos cards and not at least mention Demonfire.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a Rakdos's Return, you know how much of a blowout it can be. Though it might be overshadowed by Sphinx's Revelation, this bastard offspring of Fireball and Mind Twist is proving to be a powerhouse in Standard. Take former U.S. National Champion Ali Aintrazi’s Top 16 deck from Grand Prix: Charleston:

Angel of Serenity, Griselbrand, and Garruk, Primal Hunter in the same deck? Geez, I haven’t seen mana this sketchy since I played Cryptic Command and Cloudthresher in the same deck. Chromatic Lantern certainly helps a lot, I supposed. I can’t stay mad at any deck that plays a Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, which has long been a pet card of mine.

Ali’s deck doesn’t have any counterspells, but if a control deck ever taps out against him, boom! Rakdos's Return! Lose your hand and kill your Jace, thank you very much.

Return to Ravnica has scarcely been out for three months, but Rakdos's Return will no doubt feature prominently in many decks for as long as it’s Standard legal.

3 – Rix Maadi Guildmage

I’ve gone on record a few times saying that I think Rakdos has the best Guildmage. Selesnya may have the late-game inevitability, but Rix Maadi Guildmage dominates the early game like nobody’s business. Before I went busto on Magic Online, Rix Maadi Guildmage was a big reason I won any Drafts at all. Martin Juza’s Draft deck from the Top 8 of GP: Philadelphia featured no fewer than three copies of the powerful Shaman:

This is among the best Rakdos Draft decks I’ve ever seen, and I think Juza easily had the best deck in the Top 8. Not to take anything away from Shuhei Nakamura, but he happened to have a really good anti-Rakdos deck while Juza was stuck on three lands in Game 1.

Even though I’ve more or less rage-quit Return to Ravnica Limited, I still look back fondly on Rix Maadi Guildmage.

2 – Demigod of Revenge

Since I typically like to play control decks at Friday Night Magic, I lived in fear of Demigod of Revenge the whole time it was in Standard. Obviously, I had among the best blue cards ever, Cryptic Command, as a four-of in every deck I played, but that wasn’t always enough to defeat this menace. Your margins of error are pretty darn slim when you have to play around the possibility that your opponent might draw his third Demigod and smash you for 15 after you wipe the board. I don’t know what kind of planet you live on where you have time to leave 4 mana up after wrathing against a Rakdos aggro deck, but it sure as heck isn’t mine. I’ve definitely lost my share of games to an onslaught of Demigods from beyond the grave. Take a look at David Larsson’s GP-Copenhagen-winning deck:

The success of this deck was single-handedly responsible for me stockpiling Snow-Covered Mountains like they were going to be the currency of a post-nuclear apocalypse. I stockpile bottle caps for the same reason. In a Rakdos deck that can reliably cast it, Demigod of Revenge is a scary way to close out a game against pesky blue mages (like me) who think they’re safe at a measly 10 life.

1 – Bituminous Blast

Bituminous Blast
Cascade was among the more controversial mechanics in Magic’s history. It turned cards such as Living End and Hypergenesis from crap rares into tier-one decks practically overnight. It also caused a lot of long faces every time it cascaded into a Bloodbraid Elf. I can’t complain too loudly about that one, as I’ve definitely abused the crap out of that card. However, Bituminous Blast is probably my favorite cascade card for a few reasons. It’s no secret that I love spells way more than creatures, and the fact that it’s an instant has led to some pretty amazing mid-combat blowouts. I also happen to think that expensive cascade cards are way more exciting. Paying 3 mana for a guaranteed I-win spell is fine I guess, but I get a kind of maniacal glint in my eye when I announce my cascade trigger, I rub my palms in anticipation, and I start flipping over cards, having absolutely no idea what I’m going to get. Enigma Sphinx was pretty sweet, but it cost way too much mana to ever see play in Constructed. Enlisted Wurm was the big daddy, but it didn’t see all that much play, so Bituminous Blast is the King of Cascade (hurray for alliteration!) for me.

Of course, I’m enough of a maniac to play Cascade Wurm, Bituminous Blast, and Bloodbraid Elf in the same deck:

Enlisted Wurm
This isn’t the exact list I played (I don’t remember playing Captured Sunlight, for instance), but this is what came up when I Googled “Four-Color Cascade Control.” In a time when Jund was the only real deck, I saw a similar list in the Magic Online dailies and declared, “I’m playing that at FNM.”

This was probably among the most fun decks I’ve ever played, mostly because all your cascades were insane. My favorite cascade story involved casting an Enlisted Wurm, which cascaded into Bituminous Blast, which cascaded into Ajani Vengeant. It’s incredibly exciting any time someone casts a Bituminous Blast, and for that reason, it’s my number-one Rakdos card.

Cube Drafts are coming back to Magic Online later this month, so for fans of Drafting with Big Nass, I’ll definitely be recording a few of those. I’m curious to see how many non-first-pick Sol Rings I end up seeing. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you guys next time.

Nassim Ketita
arcticninja on Magic Online