Pauper: Rakdos Exhuminator

I’m back with another sweet Pauper list!I know, I make it look easy, but it isn’t too difficult considering every deck I play with or against is interesting and fun to pilot.

Today’s list is courtesy of Spencer from my LGS, who has crafted a strong brew that I believe is legitimately a contender for one of the best Pauper decks I’ve played and so I’m excited to share and discuss it.

Reanimator has been a niche deck in Pauper forever but it’s still under the radar. The fact that the deck is niche means that it’s difficult to find a well tuned list to start. It isn’t even clear which color combination is the best shell: Rakdos? Dimir? Grixis? Choose your own adventure?

Personally, I like Rakdos because the red spells are best at accomplishing the objectives I aim for quickly and consistently. I made a few tweaks to Spencer’s list and added a sideboard, but the way the deck looks and functions was mostly sculpted from his testing and tuning.

R/B Reanimator Aggro

Brian DeMars

The strongest feature of the deck is that it is built for speed, consistency, and raw power. All the best things one could possibly build for—sounds great.

Built Around the Combo

The most broken spell in the deck is Exhume:

Let’s dig up that old Eldrazi and see if it’s still big. Yep, still big.

The “nut draw” presents a hasty turn-2 Ulamog’s Crusher with annihilator 2. There are very few decks that even have outs to that kind of nonsense!

*Keep in mind that Exhume brings back an opposing creature, so you’ll want to be aware of the creatures in your opponent’s graveyard as well.

Giving Crusher haste via Dragon Breath is absurd. Not only is it a ton of damage, but annihilating two permanents right away is backbreaking against any deck. Your back-up plan, Gurmag Angler, can achieve the objective of scary breath and shamble immediately into combat the turn it comes into play.

There is a lot of draw and dredge in the deck to set up the combo or Gurmag Angler, but the deck does have kind of a neat option to cast Dragon Breath on a flyer such as Stinkweed Imp or Putrid Imp.

Stinky breath for some smelly Imps.

Clearly, a plan C, but it is often effective enough to get the job done. It’s just another angle that this linear deck can use, which is a big deal. Any way a linear deck can win without the primary combo is useful.

Card Choices

A few of the numbers are a little strange, so let’s take a closer look.


Spencer was on an all-basics plan to maximize the potential of curving out with the the nut draw. Based on the games I played, I felt the mana was a little inconsistent, so I opted for four Bloodfell Caves and Rakdos Carnarium to smooth it out.

The correct number of nonbasics could be anywhere from 0-6 all depending on what you choose to value. I felt like the deck had a decent enough long game (especially sideboard) that I wanted to minimize the number of games in which I was missing black mana (especially when I’m boarding in a bunch of Duress!).

Carnarium is also great because it adds an extra card to your hand to pitch.

I’m happy with the 2/2 split and it performed well, but I need more reps to get it precise.

Flexible Synergy Cards?

An oldie but goodie.

There’s some tension between the last few synergy spots in the deck: Street Wraith, Insolent Neonate, and Putrid Imp. None of these cards is particularly powerful but they all keep the legs of the deck moving in the same direction by providing different types of synergy.

The Imp being a legitimate attacker makes me like it a lot. It also remains in play after it has dumped its cargo to the graveyard, which makes the Imp an excellent buffer for edict effects.

I want to draw cards.

The list I started off with had four Cathartic Reunion, which feels right in theory because it plays to the strengths of the deck. The problem came in practice. There are so many counterspells in Pauper, and having this card Dazed, Counterspelled, or even Blue Elemental Blasted is a death sentence (since you have to discard two cards when casting it). I was boarding out my card draw spell against every blue deck, which seemed miserable…

The split makes it so that I can board out the Cathartic Reunions but still have some good card draw against Counterspell decks. Against nonblue decks, I can board out the Whispers and leave in the Reunions.

I love the two Pyroblast in the main deck. Counterspells are good against combo decks and people tend to not see Rakdos’s Counterspells coming, which leads to free wins. The deck has more than enough discard outlets to pitch Pyroblast when it it’s dead.

I was skeptical about Mr. Stinky but he has performed beyond my expectations. Stinkweed gives the deck a nice way to quickly dig for Dragon Breath, Crusher, and Faithless Looting. It also quickly enables threshold for Putrid Imp.

It’s also just a decent and flexible card. I cast it a fair amount to deter and trade with strong attackers. It trades with Delver (and pretty much every other creature in the format).

The Sideboard

I can get grindy after sideboard and less reliant on hee-haw draws to win. I can board into a lot of good removal and play for a longer game with Faithless Looting to ensure that I don’t flood and that I stay gassed up.


I liked the flexibility of Terminate and boarded it in a lot (which makes me wonder if I can fit a few into the main deck). Electrickery is obviously great against Elves and Tokens.

Speaking of great against Affinity.

Affinity is actually a pretty tough matchup since they are one of the few decks that can actually fight through a quick Crusher by having a ton of cheap permanents.

I actually lost a game where I had two Ulamog’s Crusher in play because my opponent had two Disciple of the Vault! They were able to survive just long enough to drain me out with Disciple triggers that were forced by my Crushers.

To be fair, it was pretty cool that a deck could actually fight through that. There’s a big difference between a Crusher and an actual Emrakul. One of the things I love about Pauper is that very few things randomly “just kill” somebody out of nowhere. There is typically some amount of play involved in executing even a combo win.

Get rekt blue mages.

These come in against the usual suspects: Counterspell decks.

I don’t sideboard a ton with this deck since diluting the synergy can lead to draws that don’t do much. The key is that I try to board around how my opponent will attack my strategy. I can become more resilient to permission or graveyard hate by being better at interacting with my opponent and grinding them down. I don’t want to be one-dimensional after

Cards I’m Interested to Try But Haven’t Sleeved Up Yet

I’d like more flashback in my sideboard for getting grindy:

A nice 2-for-1.

Bogles insurance.

More threats?

More grind?

I think all of these cards are worth considering, but it’s difficult to tell exactly what to cut. Personally, I’m satisfied with the sideboard as is, but I could experiment with these options in the future.

Final Thoughts on Rakdos Reanimator

The deck was more difficult to play than I expected. While it does have some broken draws where your opponent is just dead on the second or third turn to an Ulamog’s Crusher with haste, there are plenty of games that get grindy.

Have faith that you’ll figure out what to do with this card.

The card is so good, but how you play it often determines whether you win or lose the game. There is some tension between getting the goods for cheap up front or pitching the Looting to flash it back later.

When you cast it from hand you end up -1 card in hand. So it’s obviously good if you are pitching it to enable a combo right away, but it is often better to hold the Looting and pitch it to another discard effect so as not to lose card advantage when it actually matters. Food for thought.

I was also impressed with how well Reanimator could grind after sideboard. Spencer hadn’t worked much on the sideboard so I didn’t have a ton of information about what to expect when I got started. But the sideboard worked beyond my expectations (story of the deck).

I expected a glass cannon. This deck is one to an extent, but not nearly as much as I anticipated. For starters, the fail rate is low. Sometimes it doesn’t come together, but the majority of the time the deck delivers.

Against permission, the rest of the deck is decent at finishing out games (especially sideboarded). So as far as “glass cannon” decks go, I would argue that the cannon fires a very high percentage of the time and the glass was much stronger than I would have expected.

I’ve been preparing for a Pauper 1K at my LGS this upcoming weekend and there is a high chance that I will play the Rakdos deck. It’s at the top of my short list. Either way, I’m going to buy the singles so that I can have my own copy.


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