As previews for Ravnica Allegiance were spilling out, I had my eyes on some of the guilds that have impressed me in the past or that have a personal attachment to from our previous visits to Ravnica. That traditionally does not include the Rakdos guild. So while I was very impressed by Prime Speaker Vannifar and see a lot of potential in the next iteration of Teysa Karlov; it wasn’t until I forced myself to think critically about the set and by extension, the other three guilds that Rakdos, the Showstopper uncovered a deck that I never expected to see. I haven’t run all the numbers, but I think he might be the best general to come out of this set.

Rakdos, the Showstopper

Rakdos the Demon—who founded and runs the Cult of Rakdos—has appeared in every visit to Ravnica thus far, including one death. Rakdos the Defiler captured my attention as a young deckbuilder when it was first printed, despite an undefined cardpool of Demon cards. Rakdos, Lord of Riots took a turn that focused on damage. That version spoke less to the guild mechanic of the time, Unleash, and spoke more to Wizards building legendary creatures to fit into Commander. Our latest version of Rakdos returns to a creature-type-focused theme that I see a lot of potential in.

Unfortunately, my first inclination for this deck—using Okaun, Eye of Chaos to coin flip my way to huge Fling—doesn’t actually work here, as Rakdos doesn’t signify coin flip results as winning or losing. There’s still a wealth of great ways that this deck can win, however. Our creature base is going to be relatively expendable, meaning that we’re looking to fill the board up with as many creatures as possible across each player’s battlefield with an express objective of clearing the board to trigger a win in some interesting ways.

Protection from Coin Flips

Just because we look at our creature base as expendable doesn’t mean that we won’t be looking for a few ways to keep some of creatures safe. We can do this by playing creatures that are naturally Demons, Devils, and Imps or by protecting our creatures through enchantments or artifacts. While the options are limited, the ones I have chosen to include are very potent and should mean that the pinpointed creatures we’ll want to protect should be safe on the regular.

Coin Flip Immunity: Inner Demon, Oni Possession, Darksteel Plate, Eldrazi Monument, Hammer of Nazahn, Fated Return, Shield of Kaldra

Inevitably there will be some creatures that we will want to protect from Rakdos’s ability. Any number of the above cards will allow our creatures to cheat death and possibly gain an extra creature type in the meantime. My experience with Oni Possession goes all the back to my Rakdos the Defiler 60-card deck. While not an optimal card to have in multiples, in this deck the drawback is marginal and the buffs can make a difference on some of the game-ending creatures we will talk about later. Furthermore, it is practical to believe that Inner Demon is a redundant copy of the specific effect.

Demons, Devils, Imps Matter: Harvester of Souls, Bedlam Reveler, Demon of Dark Schemes, Chaos Imps, Razaketh, the Foulblooded, Blood Speaker, Liliana’s Contract, Tomb of Urami, Woebringer Demon

This could be the weakest element of the deck, but the best way to avoid having our creatures possibly die to Rakdos’ enter the battlefield effect is to simply be a demon, devil, or imp. A creature like Harvester of Souls plays well here, because while it is protected from a Rakdos trigger, it will see all other death going on around it and reward you with card advantage. I have a lot of faith in what this deck is building towards, but in Commander an alternative win condition is always good. Look not further than Liliana’s Contract, which plays very well in the deck as it already wants to have a handful of demons on hand.

Filling the Board

Token Swarms: Chancellor of the Forge, Devil’s Playground, Abhorrent Overlord, Goblin Offensive, Skirsdag High Priest, Skittering Invasion, Tempt with Vengeance, Tilonalli’s Summoner

Tokens are the kind of thing I didn’t understand the value of for years. The idea that one card could represent more than that, and how efficient that was on our mana, took a long time to mature in my understanding of the game. My objective here was to find the best options I could for creating tokens. The important distinction being that we want to always be mindful that the creatures we intend to keep share one of the creature types relevant and the creatures that we feel need to be expendable should always be threatened by a Rakdos coming into play, as it is a literal coin flip if they will dying or not. That’s why, besides Skirsdag High Priest and Devil’s Playground, I want to be making tokens that are easily exploitable.

I wanted the ceiling on the number of tokens that were created by a single card to be as high as possible to best use our mana effectively. That’s why a lot of the options can produce variable amounts of tokens. I don’t plan to cast Rakdos until I’m ready to wipe large sums of creatures, for reasons I will get into in my next section. The tokens also play nicely with Razaketh, the Foulblooded, as they offer you sacrifice fodder, allowing us to get anything out of our deck from Malicious Affliction to Stunning Reversal at a moment’s notice.

A good takeaway on the topic of tokens is that in Commander, best practice is to use cards that don’t always make the same fixed amount of tokens in one shot. Think Dragon Fodder versus Empty the Warrens. This ultimately means that cards can have varying context throughout the game and won’t be entirely dead draws in the important situations.

Death Matters

Finally, we have the namesake of the deck, the showstopper moment that brings everything to a close in one explosive finish. Here I wanted to try to maximize the ability of every single death in a board wipe to result in fast immediate death to our opponents. As opposed to focusing on creatures on the battlefield like a Purphoros, God of the Forge deck might, I took cues from the card Showstopper. Obviously with our general this means that we’re going to want to have access to quite a bit of mana. This is not going to be a cheap path to victory, but with one cast of our general we just might be able to take a card like Showstopper or the package listed below and really drive home a win out of nowhere.

Death Triggers: Deathbringer Thoctar, Massacre Wurm, Revel in Riches, Shadows of the Past, Vicious Shadows

For the longest time I did not think a card like Krark’s Thumb had place in this deck, as I really had no reason to include other coin-flipping cards. But then it occurred to me that there was a different way to take advantage of the Thumb—not saving creatures, but ensuring their demise. With Vicious Shadows or Revel in Riches, casting Rakdos, the Showstopper and wiping the board packed with a few handfuls of creatures—some of which might have been generated for the aforementioned token producers—can quickly close out a game. Both of these options are particularly great, since they come in the form of enchantments, which don’t often get answered by non-Green decks.

Protection from Death: Bontu the Glorified, Yahenni, Undying Partisan, Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, Falkenrath Aristocrat, Cauldron of Souls, Rattleblaze Scarecrow

Tangentially connected to my suites of cards able to sneak around Rakdos’s deadly glare, we have this package of cards that can either resist death entirely or circumvent dying by returning to the battlefield more or less intact. Yahenni, Undying Partisan and Falkenrath Aristocrat can both respond to failed coin flip by sacrificing something that was going to die anyway in the name of self-preservation. Whereas Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Cauldron of Souls can protect our whole team in the event of a board wipe, giving us the ammunition for a second run through our death triggers package.

I said in the opening that I think Rakdos, the Showstopper might be the best general printed in this set, and I certainly stand by that idea. Whereas a card like Prime Speaker Vannifar asks you to build a strong toolbox deck and Nikya of the Old Ways is set-up to make creature decks very strong, I think Rakdos is going to prove to be the blunt weapon people will use to cut through playgroups that have gotten too complacent with their long-term victory strategies. The cards is a bit of an underappreciated gem at the moment, and I think some of that is going to be from a lack of critical thinking about what this card is capable of.

Going hard on death triggers is nothing new, but it’s so commonly used as a way to stabilize when it could be apart of the game plan. Revel in Riches and Vicious Shadows are nothing new, they have had time to grow within the format, and I think they will prove to be all stars in this deck if built with purpose. Until next time, thanks all.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH, the EDH community, and streams on Twitch in his down time. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks. Join him for a stream at on Tuesday nights.

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