It is Rakdos week! The week to do whatever you want to do, damn the consequences. Rakdos are the aggressive, almost suicidal guild from Ravnica. For me, the essence of Rakdos is best captured in the flavor text from [card]Havoc Festival[/card]:
“We can’t control enemies who have no regard for their own survival.” –Arrester Lavinia, Tenth Precinct
At the beginning of the Limited season I was unimpressed with Rakdos as a draft archetype. There are a bunch of 3/2s and 2/2s for two available, which would normally be ideal for an aggressive deck. However, there are so many X/4s and 3/3s that your opponent can quickly shut down the board, leaving you with a bunch of ornamental creatures that can’t even block.
Over time, however, it became clear to me that with the right pieces, Rakdos was actually a very scary archetype to play against. Just drafting your awesomely-costed aggressive creatures isn’t good enough in this set, because of the aforementioned road blocks, but there are a number of cards that will convince me that BR is the deck to go for.
So, what are the must-have cards of a Rakdos strategy?
There are a number of approaches to getting around annoying Walls and Centaurs. I have divided them into five tidy categories for your easy reading:
1. Mine’s Bigger than Yours
While many of the creatures in a Rakdos deck have 2 or 3 power, there are a handful of creatures which have that all important 4th power (or even more) to push past pesky blockers. Of these, there are two standout uncommons: [card]Bloodfray Giant[/card] and [card]Hellhole Flailer[/card]. Not only do they have plenty of toughness, they are relatively cheap and provide reach for the long game.
You can’t rely on being passed such sweet uncommons—[card]Bloodfray Giant[/card] is equally desirable to an Izzet drafter. But, these are the kind of card you need for a Rakdos strategy to really work. If I open or get passed one of these in pack one, I will strongly consider moving in on aggro.
If I don’t see these particular uncommons, but I get passed some of the other standout cards, then it is still important to pick up a couple of the less exciting 4-or-more-power guys for the deck. You don’t need many; the majority of your creatures want to cost 2 or 3, but something like a [card]Spawn of Rix Maadi[/card], a [card]Cobblebrute[/card], and a [card]Perilous Shadow[/card] will provide you with some late-game power. These really aren’t a high pick priority as you will see them later, but do look to acquire them.
2. Mine’s Still Bigger than Yours
Yeah, couldn’t resist the terrible section titles. Anyway, this plan involves not playing naturally bigger threats, but making your slightly-too-small threats bigger with auras.
I really struggle with auras. In my first Sealed deck, I played a copy of [card]Nimbus Wings[/card] and learned a very valuable lesson: you can be easily 2-for-1’ed if you play auras. My opponent kindly explained the issue with auras—they can kill my creature in response and I am down a card and therefore generally auras are bad.
Why is it then that more and more in recent sets, people are playing auras in Limited? Is there less instant-speed removal now than three years ago? Am I better at knowing when to play them (checking for open mana or accepting that I have no choice but to risk it)? Every new Limited season I dismiss all “normal” auras as unplayable (not counting rare bombs like [card]Righteous Authority[/card]), and as a result it takes me a while to pick up valid strategies when they involve these “unplayable” cards.
Anyway, I have digressed. There are two Rakdos-colored auras of which I definitely want two if not three of in a deck (not each, that’d be silly). They are both commons, so this is not an impossible feat. However, you may need to pick them highly, especially in pack three if you don’t have any yet, since they are valuable additions that other drafters will also be looking to take.
I am talking, of course, about [card]Deviant Glee[/card] and [card]Pursuit of Flight[/card]. [card]Deviant Glee[/card] is the obvious candidate since both its cost and the activated ability are on-color. However, only adding 1 toughness is not as good as you might initially think, since 3/3s can still trade with enchanted [card gore-house chainwalker]Chainwalkers[/card], which is just a bit frustrating when avoiding that is the whole point.
[draft]pursuit of flight
[card]Pursuit of Flight[/card], on the other hand, is harder to acquire. It’s very desirable to both Rakdos and Izzet drafters, and the additional 2 toughness makes for much more annoying attackers. Additionally, I will splash blue into almost every Rakdos deck I draft, so the ability isn’t meaningless—and I do love a flying [card]Cobblebrute[/card]. If I don’t have a reason to splash and I get to choose between the two, I’ll probably still take the Pursuit anyway.
Speaking of avoiding these huge road blocks, it’s worth considering [card]Daggerdrome Imp[/card] more highly as you pick up more auras that make him a real threat.
A quick word about scavenge: Scavenge will mostly not turn up in a Rakdos deck, but [card]Sewer Shambler[/card] is a really good threat since a number of decks will have Swamps. When they don’t, you can trade then upgrade your other creatures. Half the time it seems to be unblockable since they can’t afford to kill it for you to then scavenge onto something much more annoying.
3. Can’t Touch This
[card]Pursuit of Flight[/card] grants some handy evasion if you have found your splash, but a much better thing to do with your blue mana is cast my favorite Limited finisher: [card]Teleportal[/card].
I love this card!
“Oh, you think you have stabilized the board and are on a cool 14 points of life? I’ll just play out these extra guys and then oops—all my creatures are bigger and unblockable, guess you are dead.”
Delicious. People still don’t rate this card highly enough. I love it. It’s easiest to cast in Izzet, but a perfect sweet splash into Rakdos as a finisher, especially if you are running those [card]Pursuit of Flight[/card]s.
The poor man’s version of [card]Teleportal[/card], [card]Dynacharge[/card], is great with a [card]Goblin Rally[/card] or two, and can be strong against a deck with many defenders, but won’t get you past a sea of 3/3s, and even if everything becomes a trade I’d still prefer to be the opponent.
4. Dead Men Tell No Tales
Picking removal is Drafting 101, so I’m sure you don’t need me to drum that message home for you. However, the card most likely to put me into a BR strategy is:
Ta-da! [card]Rix Maadi Guildmage[/card].
[draft]Rix maadi guildmage[/draft]
Have you played against this card? I mean, you should have by now if you are a regular Limited player, but just in case, let’s make this perfectly clear: THIS CARD IS INSANE! Consider this: your opponent attacks with a 2/2 and a 3/2, you have two 2/2s to block with, and they have four mana (two black, two red) and a Guildmage hanging back. How do you block?
Yeah, your blocks suck. And if you don’t block, the other Guildmage ability hits you for an additional 2 damage if they don’t have another threat to play. I don’t think I have won against this card in a dedicated Rakdos deck without quickly finding a removal spell.
When the set was first spoiled, I thought this was one of the weakest Guildmages, but that was obviously an error. It’s hard to appreciate its power in isolation, but put it in a deck of two-drops and it’s just the most awesome card ever—endless on-tap removal is just what this deck wants to keep its attackers running in, and destroy any hopes the opponent has of stabilizing.
It’s worth pointing out that [card]Augur Spree[/card] may be more useful to Rakdos than [card]Annihilating Fire[/card]. Sure the burn spell can be used as a finisher instead, but [card]Augur Spree[/card] is better at killing off those [card]Trestle Troll[/card]s—take that regen!
5. Let’s Call a Truce
You get on the ground fast with some aggressive two-drops, and do maybe 8 damage before the problem cards start to resolve. Rather than use tricks or bigger creatures to get around them, sit back and let [card]Stab Wound[/card] or [card]Lobber Crew[/card] do the work. I have personally dealt 23 damage with a [card]Lobber Crew[/card] (yes, this was the only damage I dealt to my opponent that game and yes, yes I did win). [card]Lobber Crew[/card] is a surprisingly nice piece of reach in an aggressive deck, and if you draft them then they can’t be used against you—which is one less 4-toughness defender to worry about!
I really don’t need to say anything about [card]Stab Wound[/card]. You know it’s good, just don’t make the mistake of attacking into it (yes, they will chump, thank you very much).
I just want to reiterate that I do not expect to get all of these cards in a single draft, that would be insane! But if you don’t have any, the deck will just get stuck—even if you have eight Chainwalkers. Cards like [card]Rix Maadi Guildmage[/card] and [card]Hellhole Flailer[/card] will send me into this archetype and then cards like [card]Pursuit of Flight[/card] and [card]Lobber Crew[/card] will ensure I have more than one plan to get past my opponents defenses.
After bombs and utility cards, you basically take any aggressively-costed, cheap creature. I particularly like [card]Gore-House Chainwalker[/card] and [card]Dead Reveler[/card], but so does everyone else, but you can make do with [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card]s and [card]Grim Roustabout[/card]s. Actually that last one is pretty good in an aura-heavy deck.
I always enjoy an aggressive Limited strategy, and hopefully I have lured you with the delights of Rakdos for your draft this week. As always, feel free to tweet @onionpixie and I will be back next week.