There is an Arena MCQ this weekend and people have been asking me what to play. Today I have a guide for you for a deck that has been crushing the standard metagame lately, Rakdos Knights, which is one of the two decks that I would consider playing myself (and make sure to check back tomorrow for my guide on Bant Adventures). I also have had a lot of success with Gruul, which I wrote about here.
Willy Edel has probably been the biggest fan of this deck, already back when Oko was dominating the format, but lately Greg Kowalski and Seth Manfield had success with it on their streams. I believe Seth took it to the #1 Mythic rank on ladder, which is never an easy thing to do. Right after that, Dylan Nollan won GP Portland with almost an identical copy of Greg’s list.
After playing it on ladder myself to great success, this is how I would currently play this deck in the MCQ.
4 Gutterbones 4 Knight of the Ebon Legion 4 Rotting Regisaur 4 Blacklance Paragon 2 Murderous Rider/Swift End 4 Bonecrusher Giant/Stomp 4 Fervent Champion 4 Stormfist Crusader 2 Drill Bit 4 Embercleave 4 Blood Crypt 4 Tournament Grounds 9 Swamp (339) 6 Mountain (343) 1 Castle Locthwain Sideboard 2 Drill Bit 2 Cavalier of Night 2 Legion's End 3 Noxious Grasp 2 Embereth Shieldbreaker/Battle Display 2 Epic Downfall 2 Sorcerous Spyglass
4 Blacklance Paragon (ELD) 79 4 Bonecrusher Giant (ELD) 115 4 Fervent Champion (ELD) 124 4 Gutterbones (RNA) 76 4 Knight of the Ebon Legion (M20) 105 2 Murderous Rider (ELD) 97 4 Rotting Regisaur (M20) 111 4 Stormfist Crusader (ELD) 203 2 Drill Bit (RNA) 73 4 Embercleave (ELD) 120 4 Blood Crypt (RNA) 245 1 Castle Locthwain (ELD) 241 6 Mountain (ELD) 262 9 Swamp (ELD) 258 4 Tournament Grounds (ELD) 248 Sideboard 2 Cavalier of Night (M20) 94 2 Embereth Shieldbreaker (ELD) 122 2 Epic Downfall (ELD) 85 2 Legion’s End (M20) 106 3 Noxious Grasp (M20) 110 2 Sorcerous Spyglass (XLN) 248 2 Drill Bit (RNA) 73
The reason why this deck got so popular is that people needed to adapt to the post-MC7 metagame, which was full of U/G and U/R Flash decks. The best way to beat them is to get under them with annoying cards like Knight of the Ebon Legion and Rotting Regisaur. If they ever have to tap out for a blocker, you immediately punish them with Embercleave.
How does the deck work?
It’s pretty simple – you just play creatures on curve and beat down. Ideally you just put Embercleave on Regisaur on turn 4 (the new Splinter Twin combo) and that’s often enough. You just need to make sure you sequence everything correctly and know how to sideboard.
4 Stormfist Crusader – it might not look like it at first glance, but this is what holds the deck together. By drawing extra cards early, it both fixes your mana and helps you find Embercleave.
4 Bonecrusher Giant – one of the best cards against the mirror and adventure decks with Edgewall Innkeeper. The deck might need an extra Mountain, but it has been working out for me fine like this.
0 Spawn of Mayhem – as much as I love Spawn, this deck simply cannot reliably cast this card due to the mana base problems. Even without 4 Tournament Grounds in the deck it was already an issue sometimes.
The rest of the deck is pretty much all support cards. You need to have a good curve, so you’ve got Gutterbones and Knight of the Ebon Legion, which can combine it’s +3+3 and deathtouch ability pretty well with Embercleave. Blacklance Paragon is another way to give one of your Knights deathtouch and make Embercleave hit even better.
2 Murderous Rider – good to kill an opposing Regisaur or against Jeskai Fires. Keep in mind that you can’t use Tournament Grounds to pay for Swift End though, because it’s an Instant and not a Knight
Drill Bit – This card I like the least out of the maindeck. This deck wants to play creature after creature and follow it up with Embercleave, so having to spend mana on something else could be the difference between being able to perfectly execute your game plan or coming up one mana or one card short. The thing with discard is also that a lot of the times, your opponent’s cards in hand will be redundant. Sure, sometimes you will be able to take that one Embercleave or one Fires of Invention, but most of the time your opponent will show you a hand full of creatures and removal and if you take one of them, they will just play the other one. That doesn’t sound like the worst thing ever, but the problem is that you spent mana on this and slowed down your own development. Drill Bit is basically only good when there are only a few 10’s in your opponent’s deck and the rest are all 3’s and 4’s. Imagine playing against U/W Control. You don’t really care about cards like Chemister’s Insight, Absorb or Gadwick. They are all too slow and you can ignore them for the most part. But Time Wipe is a 10, that’s how they are trying to beat your deck. If you get rid of their Time Wipe, their entire game plan falls apart because they won’t beat you with Absorbs and Gadwicks because by the time they will be able to play them, your board will be full of creatures. That’s when discard is the most effective.
What are the good and bad matchups for this deck?
Good matchups are decks like Simic and Izzet Flash, because it’s really hard for them to deal with Rotting Regisaur. Izzet has all 2 and 3 damage spells, so getting rid of 7/6 is almost impossible without Gadwick or Brazen Borrower and Simic just can’t deal with big creatures like Knight of the Ebon Legion that come into play before they have countermagic mana available. I’ve found decks that take too long to set up, like Temur Clover, to be good matchups too.
Food decks are close matchups and it mostly depends on how many cards like Wicked Wolf, Massacre Girl and Thrashing Brontodon they have. It’s easy for them to be overprepared for aggro, but then they are sacrificing points in control matchups like Jeskai Fires.
Bad matchups are decks that have cheap answers to your Rotting Regisaur and Embercleave. Something like Bant Adventures will board in 4 Devout Decree, in addition to 4 maindeck Giant Killers. Jeskai Fires have also lately started playing Justice Strikes to help deal with Regisaur, which is a pretty big deal, because otherwise Deafening Clarion can be too slow and ineffective sometimes.
What are you looking for in an opening hand?
As with any other aggro deck, you want to curve out. One-drop, Two-Drop, Three-Drop, Embercleave. The ideal curve is something like Knight of the Ebon Legion, Stormfist Crusader to help you fix your mana, Rotting Regisaur and Embercleave. Don’t keep hands with 1 land or 5+ lands. Don’t be afraid to mulligan, as even 5 card hands can easily win, especially when you have Stormfist Crusader. The great thing about aggro decks is that they can easily operate on 2-3 lands, so don’t be afraid to throw bad hands away, all you need is Knight of the Ebon Legion, Stormfist Crusader and 2 lands.
Embereth Shieldbreaker, Sorcerous Spyglass – Good against Food decks with Witch’s Oven. Shieldbreaker is also very good against the Temur Lucky Clover deck because it gets much worse for them without it.
Epic Downfall comes in against Jund Sacrifice, where you need to be able to get rid of their Mayhem Devil and other creatures like Wicked Wolf and Korvold. You can also bring it in against Jeskai Fires on the draw.
Legion’s End usually comes in against adventures and low-to-the ground creature decks.
Noxious Grasp is your best card against green decks, but most importantly it’s a cheap instant speed answer to
Cavalier of Night is good against green adventures decks where the game usually goes a bit longer and becomes more of a grind.
Drill Bit comes in against control decks and Fires with Wrath effects and Flash decks.
Right now, there aren’t enough cards spoiled from Theros Beyond Death, but what this deck is definitely looking for the most is an improvement to the manabase. You don’t really want to play Temple of Malice though, because lands that come into play tapped just slow you down and you can already play Fabled Passage instead. If there is a good Knight then it will probably make its way into the deck over Bonecrusher Giant.
Tips and Tricks
– Board out Regisaur against adventure decks with Giant Killer. You have no other targets for it and most of the time they will be even saving it in their hand, waiting for something that is never going to happen, denying them extra cards from Innkeeper too. They also usually have a lot of small creatures to chump it and answers to Embercleave anyway.
– Pay attention to the texture of your hand and sequence your lands properly. For example, say you start with Blood Crypt, Swamp, Mountain, Gutterbones, Fervent Champion, Rotting Regisaur and Embercleave in your hand. Swamp + Gutterbones sounds like a pretty simple turn 1, right? Until you draw another Fervent Champion on turn 2 and realize you can’t play it because you have a Swamp in play instead of a Blood Crypt. Early on, always imagine what you can draw next turn and if it isn’t better to lead with a different land so you can play everything next turn.
– Similarly, when I’m playing my third land on turn 3 and I have an Embercleave ready for turn 4, I’ll usually shock myself with a Blood Crypt, even if I have an untapped land instead, so that I don’t have to shock myself on turn 4 before combat, which completely telegraphs the Embercleave.
– Giving Fervent Champion deathtouch with Blacklance Paragon means it will be able to take down any creature, so you can usually safely attack on turn 2 even into bigger creatures by playing a land first, because your opponent has to respect the possibility.
– Blacklance Paragon giving deathtouch to something holding Embercleave is a lot of extra damage, as trample + deathtouch means you only need to assign 1 to every creature blocking it.
– Fervent Champion has a second ability that allows you to equip Embercleave to it for zero mana at sorcery speed.
– If you have a last card in your hand that you want to play before discarding it to Regisaur, make sure you set the stop in your upkeep the turn before, otherwise Arena will go straight into discard. This usually means sequencing your removal spells so that the last one in your hand is an instant that you can then still play before having to discard it as your last card.
– You can stack your Stormfist Crusader and Rotting Regisaur triggers however you like. If your hand is empty, you’ll want to discard first and then draw second and vice versa.
Out: 2 Drill Bit
In: 2 Legion’s End
In: 2 Drill Bit, 2 Epic Downfall
You can add 2 Duress in your sideboard over 2 Cavaliers if you keep running into a lot of Jeskai Fires.
Your X/1s are pretty bad here because of Mayhem Devil.
Out: 4 Bonecrusher Giant
In: 2 Drill Bit, 3 Noxious Grasp
Out: 2 Blacklance Paragon
In: 2 Drill Bit
Out: 2 Embercleave
In: 2 Drill Bit
Same thing as with Jeskai Fires, additional copies of Duress would help here a lot.
Good luck in the MCQ this weekend!