Stay Woke

Picture from MTG Gamepedia Wiki

I saw Xantcha spoiled for C18 and fell in love. Dismantled my Queen Marchesa (long may she reign) deck and built Xantcha from its ashes. This deck has taken on multiple forms from curses to forcing attacks to group slug to discard. Ultimately I settled on a little bit of each (except for curses) and so far I'm a huge fan of the way it's been playing out.

This deck is Rakdos incarnate. The whole point of this deck is to accelerate the game as fast as possible, even if it means you might not be the last player standing. This deck carries just as much regard for your own life total as it does your opponents; just try to make sure everyone else is losing life at a faster rate than you.

The best cards for doing this are your damage doublers. Dictate of the Twin Gods , Furnace of Rath , and Wound Reflection all pair up beautifully with your multiple sources of persistent damaging effects and big game-ending cards like Mob Rule , Insurrection , and Exsanguinate . This deck also has cards like Dire Fleet Ravager , Pox , and Havoc Festival , which can get your opponents to a low enough life total that you can win without the help of damage doublers.

So in short: deal damage, deal more damage, deal even more damage, double the damage if you need to, and try not to die from all the damage you're dealing. Follow this simple plan and you should be able to win!

The meat of the deck. As mentioned in strategy, this deck slings a lot of damage around; even to yourself. The whole strategy is to get your opponents to a lower life total than you and keep them there until they're out of the game. Below are some key cards that will help you do exactly that.

Ankh of Mishra & Zo-Zu the Punisher - Reliable damage while punishing decks who try and ramp by playing more than one land a turn.

Manabarbs - Similar to Ankh of Mishra , it punishes decks that want to ramp with lands and play large spells while offering consistent damage across the board.

Rampaging Ferocidon - Unlike the above two cards, the damage this card deals is much less reliable because your opponents' decks might not be too creature heavy. Even though the damage isn't as reliable, the potential of this card against token/aggro decks could be devastating while not effecting your life total that much.

Citadel of Pain - Punishes anyone trying to play instant-speed spells, but is mostly in here as defense against counterspells and end-of-turn boardwipes. This deck doesn't run too many instants and, as a result, rarely needs to leave any mana open. We could either go the route of incorporating more instant speed interactions, or we could try and bring our opponents down to our level. In the spirit of punishing opponents, I love this card.

Harsh Mentor - Punishes... well... pretty much everything. Doesn't target any specific strategy aside from maybe a "ping" deck, but just an all-around good card to include for this deck.

Since Xantcha has an activated ability that both deals damage AND draws us cards, we want to use it as much as possible. Here are a couple of cards that help us do that.

Braid of Fire - With the removal of mana burn, this card is just pure upside! The only reason it doesn't see much play is that you can only use the mana this generates on your upkeep and many decks aren't built to utilize this. The best usage of this card is when you have a mana sink in your command zone (which is why you mostly see it in Grenzo, Dungeon Warden decks); thankfully, we have exactly that.

Neheb, the Eternal - What is this deck trying to do again? Oh yeah, a lot of damage. Neheb generating mana based on damage dealt means you can invest that mana into dealing even more damage! Whether that's in the form of dumping it into Xantcha's activated ability or playing some more punishing cards from your hand is up to you since this mana (unlike Braid of Fire) can be used during your second main phase.

Coldsteel Heart , Fellwar Stone , Rakdos Signet , Sol Ring , Star Compass , and Talisman of Indulgence - Your standard ramp cards. Helps us to get to larger amounts of mana much more quickly.

Mana Geyser - This card just generates a HUGE amount of mana in a mulitplayer game. Either lets you throw down a bunch of punishing enchantments, pump a lot of mana into a Torment of Hailfire / Exsanguinate , or draw a bunch of cards from Xantcha's ability.

Heartstone - Doesn't generate mana but helps reduce the cost of Xantcha's ability by one for every player at the table. Saving you mana in the process and helping incentivize your opponents to use her ability more.

Xantcha has the ability to make its controller attack every turn if able. While this theme isn't fully explored to its max potential in this deck, I definitely wanted to make sure I included some cards that help synergize with that gameplan.

Disrupt Decorum - Possibly my favorite card in MTG history. This card not only forces your opponents to attack, but forces them to attack EACH OTHER. Really solid card and even though the price is starting to creep up on it, I feel it's massively underplayed.

Rite of the Raging Storm - Similar to Disrupt Decorum this card makes your opponents attack each other and you give them the fuel to do it with. It kind of acts like a second Xantcha without her activated ability. Just be wary that you don't play this on the same turn you play Xantcha. If you do, make sure you give Xantcha to the player on your right. That way you reduce the risk of having another player attack the Xantcha controller with a lightning rager; giving Xantcha's controller a chance to block with her.

Insurrection and Mob Rule - If your opponents won't attack with their creatures, you can attack with them instead. These cards are primary win conditions in the deck, especially when paired up with one of the damage doublers.

War's Toll - Makes Xantcha's controller also swing with everything else they control. Has the added upside of also making sure our opponents are usually tapped out at the end of each of their turns.

This might feel like it conflicts with the "Combat Manipulation" section. Even though we want our opponents swinging big creatures at each other as much as possible, we also want to be able to make sure that things don't snowball out of hand. Us having enough removal helps us ensure that things stay chaotic without getting too terrifying.

Last One Standing - One of my favorite boardwipes ever printed. 3 mana to clear everything except for one random creature? Given the amount of creatures played in a standard game of EDH, the one creature standing is almost never a downside. In the best of cases, you could randomly choose a creature that you control!

Blasphemous Act - Another super cheap boardwipe that should clear practically everything aside from indestructible creatures. This card will almost always cost under 4 mana whenever you want to cast it.

Toxic Deluge - Another cheap boardwipe (are you sensing a trend here?) and arguably the best boardwipe in EDH aside from maybe Cyclonic Rift .

Pox - Not quite a boardwipe in the traditional sense, especially since the creatures you're trying to destroy will most likely stick around. That being said, it still reduces their board state, lowers their life total, and makes them discard hands; all things this deck wants to do.

Terminate , Bedevil , and Kolaghan's Command - All cheap single-target removal cards. Great for taking out problematic utility creatures or some scary creature heading your way. Also can be used to take out Xantcha if she ends up back under your control (aside from Kolaghan's Command).

Much like ramp and removal, card draw is one of the essential pillars of any deck. Unforunately, red doesn't draw cards in the traditional sense (looting & impulse draw) and black draw wants you to pay life. Both aren't ideal for this type of deck, but here are the best ones that I could find.

Necropotence - Even though this deck doesn't have a lot of life to play with, Necropotence is just SO good that it's hard to make an argument for not including it. It gives you so much card advantage that it feels like a win condition on its own.

Outpost Siege - Choosing Khans gives you access to reoccurring impulse draw. Because our CMC is relatively low, you should be able to cast whatever card is flipped if you want to. The biggest downside is that it triggers on upkeep; meaning you don't get any benefit from this card the turn that you play it.

Theater of Horrors - Similar to Outpost Siege it's not "exactly" card draw but it is a great way to start gaining card advantage. Also with the amount of small damage this deck has (including being able to activate our commander), the spectacle "drawback" isn't that difficult to achieve in this deck.

Phyrexian Arena - Not the biggest fan of this card since it waits until your upkeep to gain any advantage from it (similar to Outpost Siege ) and it loses you life. Both are pretty large downsides for this deck, but given the options that we have access to in black/red, it's one of the better ones we can choose.

Throne of the High City - Will at least draw you one card from the monarch ability but is mostly in here to give away and have your opponents fight over it. Any way to encourage your opponents to attack each other is a great addition in my book.

Xantcha, Sleeper Agent - Our commander itself is a draw engine! Especially when paired up with cards like Braid of Fire or Neheb, the Eternal she helps you draw cards when you need them most.

Another interesting route to take with Xantcha is to force opponents to discard. Causing opponents to discard accomplishes two things for this deck. First of all it incentivizes our opponents to draw cards with Xantcha's ability to refill their hand. Second of all it limits the amount of interaction our opponents have to remove Xantcha from the board.

Syphon Mind - Has our opponents discard a card while we get to draw (hopefully) 3. Just drawing 3 cards for 4 mana with no drawback might be good enough to run in the first place; having our opponents discard is just the cherry on top.

Necrogen Mists & Bottomless Pit - Forces us to discard too, but even symmetrical discard is fine for this deck since we want to use Xantcha's ability too. Also symmetrical discard is made even better if we have cards like Outpost Siege and Theater of Horrors online.

Sire Of Insanity - Same reasoning as above, except it forces everyone to discard their ENTIRE hand. Will be a very hated target so it might be removed before your opponents even get to discard their hands so be careful for that.

Captive Audience - Discarding their hand is one of the modes, but honestly this card is just in here for the fun of it. If not removed it's basically a win-condition in a single card. Throw it on a player without green or white for a higher chance it doesn't get removed.

Pox & Fraying Omnipotence - In addition to removing some creatures and breaking down some life totals, it also has people discard cards too! It's a bummer that it removes Xantcha as well if she's on the board, but I think it's worth it for the effect.

Pain Magnification - Even though most of the cards in this deck only deal 1 or 2 damage at a time, I believe this card is still worth running since 3 damage is easy enough to achieve and it doesn't have to be you dealing the damage. Also with a damage doubler Xantcha, Harsh Mentor , Sulfuric Vortex , Zo-Zu the Punisher , and many other cards in this deck will deal 4 damage and force them to discard.

Painful Quandary - Even though they get the choice to discard or lose life, we are fine with them choosing either one.

After a lot of consideration, I have also included the Animate Dead + Worldgorger Dragon combo in this deck. In short, you have to have Worldgorger Dragon in the graveyard and reanimate it with Animate Dead or Dance of the Dead (or Necromancy ). I've also included Final Parting in this deck to tutor for both combo pieces.

Reanimating Worldgorger Dragon will cause it to exile all permanents you control (including your lands and Animate Dead ).

When Animate Dead leaves the battlefield, the Worldgorger Dragon will be sent back to the graveyard and all your permanents will be returned.

With Animate Dead returning to the battlefield, you can select Worldgorger Dragon from your graveyard again.

The key part of this combo is that in response to the Animate Dead trigger you are able to tap all your lands to float mana before they're all exiled again.

Animate Dead resolves, Worldgorger Dragon enters the battlefield, it exiles all your permanents and then the loop happens again.

This nets you theoretically infinite mana by being able to float mana everytime this loop happens. With that infinite mana you are able to activate Xantcha's ability to knock out an opponent. When she goes back to your control after you knock out your opponent you are able to exile her with the Worldgorger Dragon loop and put her on the battlefield in another opponent's control and repeat that process until you hit your Torment of Hailfire / Exsanguinate or until you deal enough damage to win.

Lastly, I just want to say thank you. Waking up and seeing my deck reach top 10 put a smile on my face for the day. I love getting to build decks and share those ideas with people, so having a deck that I built reach #3 on the ranking made me a lot happier than it probably should have.

I'm glad you all enjoy the deck and, as always, please leave any suggestions you have that you think would make it better!


Updates Add

It's been a little bit since I've updated this deck, and for good reason; the deck is running great! As I mentioned in the comments, it's not a competitive deck by any means but works perfectly in the way that I was hoping it would. I was scared that taking out Pyrostatic Pillar and Eidolon of the Great Revel would leave me without enough damage. Fortunately, the deck still seems to get along just fine without them (and my life total has never been happier). Before I ramble on too much, here are the new cuts and additions:

Cuts: Expedition Map , Night's Whisper , Indulgent Tormentor , Unlicensed Disintegration

Additions: Thran Turbine , Syphon Mind , Mind's Eye , Chaos Warp


  • Expedition Map - This card was primarily put in the deck to fetch Glacial Chasm or Maze of Ith when I needed the damage mitigation or to tutor up a land drop in the early turns. Since then I've removed Glacial Chasm so the only real utility land for it to tutor up is Maze of Ith . Also I've kept Expedition Map in an opening hand before and it never felt great to tutor up a Graven Cairns or something like that. If I decide to put in Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth I will probably end up putting this card back in.

  • Night's Whisper - Fantastic card for its CMC, might even be better than the Syphon Mind that I'm replacing it with. In the end, it pretty much just comes down to preference. Having a draw spell that only costs 2 CMC usually gives you the opportunity to play one of the cards you drew whereas a 4 CMC spell might not. Syphon Mind , however, works with the discard theme of the deck and drawing that (usually) extra card can make a large difference. I feel that Night's Whisper , Read the Bones , and Syphon Mind can all be pretty interchangeable here and running multiple, all, or none of these cards could also be the correct answer. I mostly just want to test out Syphon Mind and a card had to be cut.
  • Indulgent Tormentor - The cards that give your opponent two terrible choices always sound incredibly fun, but if both effects aren't equally punishing then you end up with an underwhelming card. Take Dash Hopes for example. No one would play this card because losing 5 life in EDH isn't that big of a deal whereas having your spell countered can potentially be game-endingly bad. That's kind of the same issue with Indulgent Tormentor . All three of its effects are pretty amazing on their own. You're essentially getting a Baleful Force , Sheoldred, Whispering One , or Sulfuric Vortex kind of effect. The problem is that your opponents choose the effect; and they will always choose what's best for them and worst for you. It also has anti-synergy with our commander because they can choose the "sacrifice a creature" option to just sacrifice Xantcha before she can deal a lot of damage to them.
  • Unlicensed Disintegration - Not a bad card by any means, but I feel that it just gets outclassed by the great single target removal that Rakdos has access to. Terminate and Chaos Warp are pretty much auto-includes, Kolaghan's Command has fantastic utility with its flexibility, and Dreadbore (despite being sorcery speed) is just another fantastic single removal card similar to Terminate . An argument could be made for Unlicensed Disintegration over Dreadbore but I like the option to be able to use it against planeswalkers if needed. Also an argument could be made to include both cards, but finding cuts in this deck is getting harder by the day.
  • Thran Turbine - Really fun card that I've never seen played before. Lets us activate Xantcha's ability for 1 mana once a turn or for free if we also control Heartstone .
  • Syphon Mind - Covered it pretty extensively when talking about Night's Whisper above. Pretty much a preference choice but I like the way it synergizes with the discard theme of the deck.
  • Mind's Eye - Great card that strangely also synergizes with the deck. Everytime our opponents activate Xantcha, we are able to pay 1 mana to also draw a card. If you consider that, plus the card they draw on their draw step, plus any additional draw effects they might have in their deck, this card should draw you a fair amount of cards. I am a bit worried that having this on the field would discourage people from using Xantcha's ability, but that's why we playtest!
  • Chaos Warp - Don't know how I managed to forget this card. Rakdos is wonderful at removing creatures & artifacts, but not enchantments. Chaos Warp is pretty much the only card we have to really deal with enchantments (excluding Enchanter's Bane which I am looking to playtest too) so it should definitely be included. Also has the added benefit of using it on our commander if she gets returned back to us for added value.
So those are the current cuts and additions, but here are a few cards that I'm looking at playtesting and cutting in the future. Potential additions Potential Cuts
  • Sleeper Agent - I adore this card for the flavor, but in gameplay it hasn't been so kind. If I give this card to someone in the early game they attack me with it and if I give it to someone later in the game they just attack someone with a big creature who can destroy it. I want to like this card, but it hasn't really done wonders for me yet.
  • Vial Smasher the Fierce , Virtus the Veiled , or Tree of Perdition - Lumping these cards all together even though they're very different. They all fit into the category of "low cost, potential high impact creatures". So far they have been removed before I've gotten to do anything with them but I think that speaks to how good they are instead of how bad they are. Will keep an eye on these cards but I've practically not been able to play them yet!
  • Pox or Fraying Omnipotence - Love the effects of these cards but not sure if I need two of the similar effect. Also not a fan that they can sacrifice Xantcha to these cards' effects.
  • Angrath, the Flame-Chained - Still in the early stages of playtesting, but so far it's been "okay". Not amazing, not bad, but okay. Probably won't make the final cut of the deck, but it's definitely fun to try out for the time being.
  • Harsh Mentor - Discourages our opponents from activating Xantcha's ability. Even though it would technically make the card worse, I wish the card didn't include activated abilities of creatures too.
As always, let me know what you think!