The holiday season is upon us, a time full of celebration and tidings of good cheer! I've had quite a few people ask me to put up my Rakdos, Lord of Riots Commander deck, and given that guild is all about partying and having fun, this seems like the perfect time of year to do so.
When we Return to Ravnica, we find Rakdos himself, the leader of the guild, a changed demon. Last time around, he epitomized The Grinch—taking from you, taking from me…just take a look at him!
But since then, they say, Rakdos's small heart grew three sizes in one day. While he still wants a small gift from you before he'll come out to play—but really, is it that much to ask you to deal a little damage to your opponent?—the gifts he brings in exchange would make Mrs. Claus blush! While the old Rakdos was something awkward and dangerous to handle, this new and improved Rakdos is nearly all upside. Let's take a closer look at Ravnica's version of Saint Nick.
Rakdos, Lord of Riots is a 6/6 with flying and trample for just four mana. That's a heckuva deal right there, and if we can accelerate and get him out early that's quite the commanding and fearsome board presence. With at least a one-point boost in power, he can take someone down with Commander damage in three swings!
But hang on—don't get too happy with your Sol Ring! Rakdos costs four colored mana, which makes accelerating a bit difficult—particularly in a non-green deck. Still, casting him on turn 4 isn't bad either.
A Small Sacrifice
There's another drawback of course—Rakdos demands a small gift of blood—your opponent's blood—before he comes out to play. If you're not careful this can prove to be problematic. Sure, you can play smaller creatures earlier in the game that could potentially get in unblocked, but your opponents are sure to see what's coming next and might expend some resources to prevent them from taking damage. That's why a Rakdos deck is going to want to expend some slots on cards that can ensure you can cast Rakdos when you want to. What's particularly cool is how this makes you take a look at cards you might otherwise not even look twice at in a typical Commander deck—cards like Seal of Fire, Mogg Fanatic, Emberwilde Augur…and Lim-Dul's Hex! Remember, damage dealt to your opponent counts as life loss.
Are all of your opponents going to want to hold back one black mana, or three colorless mana, to pay the Hex tax on each of your upkeeps just to avoid taking a point of damage? This seems like a perfect card for making sure that at least a little bit of blood is drawn for Rakdos's fee.
Another consideration is the plethora of pingers available to red that cost less than four mana—Goblin Fireslinger, Cinder Pyromancer, Cunning Sparkmage, Vulshok Sorcerer, Prodigal Pyromancer, Vithian Stinger, Goblin Artillery, Goblin Sharpshooter, Orcish Artillery, and Orcish Cannoneers. A few of these could certainly fit the bill!
For me, the best cards you want are those that don't cost you any extra mana to deal damage or cause life loss, so you can use all your mana casting Rakdos.
The Biggest Gift Of All
Of course, once you unpack the size of the demon and give him his little present, the rest of the text on Rakdos is the true gift that keeps giving!
Creature spells you cast cost 1 less to cast for each 1 life your opponents have lost this turn
Wow! Commander is all about giant haymakers, and if you can get a big discount on casting your haymaker creatures, that's something worth celebrating, no? What's nice is how Rakdos's drawback overlaps with his benefit, meaning once you've got Rakdos out on the table, whatever life loss your opponent has lost to play Rakdos to begin with can potentially go ahead and discount any other creatures you want to cast the same turn.
Now, to satisfy the drawback, any ping will do—but to really get the most bang out of the creature discount you want to think big—bigger than a Wii U, bigger than an iPhone 5, bigger than a new car—we're talking about dealing a lot of damage to multiple opponents here! Basically, you want to spend as little mana to deal as much damage as possible to really ramp up that mana discount. One card that immediately jumped to mind was Price of Progress, which can easily dish out 10 or more points of damage for just two mana. If people like to go nuts with tokens at your table, Rakdos Charm can pull off a similar stunt.
One thing that's interesting to think about are cards like Pestilence, Pyrohemia, Plague Spitter, Festering Evil, Thrashing Wumpus, and Pestilence Demon. Even Bloodfire Colossus! Unfortunately these cards clash a bit with your pinger plan so you likely have to choose one for your deck. My current one goes with the pingers, but I might switch things around eventually.
One card that seriously shines in a Rakdos deck is Night Dealings—seriously, check it out:
Imagine you've got Rakdos and Night Dealings in play. You spend two mana to hit everyone with Price of Progress, dishing out 12 total points of damage to various opponents. Then you spend 2BB, remove 12 theft counters from Night Dealings to search up Blightsteel Colossus and drop it into play for free. Huzzah! If you've wanted to figure out a good deck to put Night Dealings in, here it is!
Of course, the real fun of building your Rakdos deck is figuring out which high-end creatures you want to put into the deck. Alongside Blightsteel and Darksteel Colossus, there are certainly all sorts of Eldrazi to consider. Even though they aren't colorless, some cards higher up the mana curve would certainly make the cut—Kaervek the Merciless, Stalking Vengeance (both of which play right into the themes of your deck), Rune-Scarred Demon, and Dread Cacodemon!
In fact, there are more than a handful of Demons we might want to play in our Rakdos—also a demon—deck, which makes me think a Blood Speaker might be called for to fetch up fun things like Bloodgift Demon, Xathrid Demon, and Kagemaro, First to Suffer.
Just to make things truly filthy, how about adding a Cloudstone Curio to the mix? Once you've got 11 points of opponents' life loss in the Rakdos bank, you can go crazy casting Artisan of Kozilek and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre over and over and over again.
Here's what I've got currently sleeved up:
- 1 Blightsteel Colossus
- 1 Darksteel Colossus
- 1 Psychosis Crawler
- 1 Steel Hellkite
- 1 Anger
- 1 Artisan of Kozilek
- 1 Blood Speaker
- 1 Bloodgift Demon
- 1 Cunning Sparkmage
- 1 Dread Cacodemon
- 1 Emberwilde Augur
- 1 Filth
- 1 Goblin Sharpshooter
- 1 Guiltfeeder
- 1 It That Betrays
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 1 Mogg Fanatic
- 1 Netherborn Phalanx
- 1 Rune-Scarred Demon
- 1 Stalking Vengeance
- 1 Viashino Heretic
- 1 Vithian Stinger
- 1 Xathrid Demon
- 1 Heartless Hidetsugu
- 1 Kaervek the Merciless
- 1 Kagemaro, First to Suffer
- 1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
- 1 Rakdos, Lord of Riots
- 1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
- 1 Lim-Dul's Hex
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Chromatic Lantern
- 1 Cloudstone Curio
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Fireshrieker
- 1 Journeyer's Kite
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Loxodon Warhammer
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Rakdos Keyrune
- 1 Rakdos Signet
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Sun Droplet
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Vedalken Orrery
- 1 Goblin Bombardment
- 1 Night Dealings
- 1 Phyrexian Reclamation
- 1 Seal of Fire
- 1 Warstorm Surge
- 1 Price of Progress
- 1 Rakdos Charm
- 1 Spoils of Evil
- 1 Damnation
- 1 Essence Harvest
- 1 Mana Geyser
- 1 Syphon Mind
- 1 Wheel of Fortune
- 1 All Is Dust
Some additional notes:
Since I'm playing a number of pingers, Basilisk Collar makes a natural fit (and fits especially nice with Goblin Sharpshooter)…plus sometimes you'll wait to suit up one of your big boys for lifelink if you need to race…or have dealt a bunch of damage to yourself with Price of Progress.
Spoils of Evil and Mana Geyser are in the deck as backup to Rakdos, in case your opponents make a concerted effort to keep him off the board. Both cards can provide a serious one-shot flow of mana to at least let you play something big that has otherwise been rotting in your hand.
Warstorm Surge plus all your big guns…KABOOM!
Homeward Path seems like a necessity…everyone's going to know you've stuffed your deck with huge, powerful creatures so don't be surprised if Bribery and various Control Magics get sent your way. Homeward Path (and Expedition Map to find it) gives you some protection against that.
So what do you think? Anything fun, powerful, or tricky I've missed? I hope perhaps I've inspired you to get into a celebratory mood and perhaps go out to party with your own Rakdos deck, and give the gift of splashy plays and haymakers this holiday season.
Assuming the Mayans were wrong about the world ending today, I'll see you next week!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
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New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)
- Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)
- Skullbriar, the Walking Grave (how big can it get?)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind (Chuck's somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Yeva, Nature's Herald (living at instant speed)
- Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius (new player-friendly)
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice (new player-friendly)
- Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)
- Riku of Two Reflections (steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Sigarda, Host of Herons (Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Ghave, Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Glissa, the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Damia, Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo' Myrs)
- Thelon of Havenwood (Campfire Spores)
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)
- Konda, Lord of Eiganjo (The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Progenitus (Fist of Suns and Bringers)
- Savra, Queen of the Golgari (Demons)
- Uril, the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)