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Rakdos the Defiler demon tribal is my favorite deck I have ever built or played, by far.

This demon is just what you need in your life. "But he makes me sacrifice things!" you object. Listen, Rakdos is a six mana eldrazi with annihilator 8+ and trample. He doesn't force you to run colorless like an ordinary eldrazi god would, instead giving you access to tutors, fast mana, removal, recursion and haste. Sure, he's a demon, so there's a steep price for his servitude. But you’re playing with black spells- no need to play fair. One land is all you need to cast reanimate and bring an It That Betrays, Rune-Scarred Demon, or Hellcarver Demon under your control. I’ve won a game by swinging 8 times in a 6 turn game with Hellcarver Demon. I’ve set my life to single digits with Treasonous Ogre and used Repay in Kind to swing for the win with a pair of demons on board. I’ve used Living Death and Final Fortune to win out of nowhere with Liliana's Contract. I’ve mass resurrected my graveyard three times in a single turn. I’ve lost on turn 1 to Demonic Consultation. I’ve won multiple games with Rakdos the Defiler as the only permanent on my field. These kinds of memorable moments are the reason I fell in love, and I keep playing him to see how I can top them in the future. He's boardwipe, mass land destruction and a three hit kill just sitting there waiting to go. The deck's ability to win out of nowhere keeps it a threat at all stages of the game with minimal telegraphing to your opponents. Every single game is memorable, the lines of play are as unique as the cards, and the balls to the wall reckless abandon you need to adopt as a mindset is unlike anything else. There will be death, at any cost.

Special thanks to the the primer created by Silenciaco on mtgsalvation. Check out their primer and the comment section for variations on this theme and alternate cards to consider.

https://www.mtgsalvation.com/forums/the-game/commander-edh/multiplayer-commander-decklists/585619-rakdos-the-defiler-death-at-any-cost

I modified the deck by trimming most of the fat and upped the speed and power to remain a threat to current decks I play against (optimized/high power). This also meant removing some of the less game winning life loss cards like Cruel Bargain to weather the table hate and make for more explosive winning turns with Doom Whisperer and Treasonous Ogre.

Some tips for modifying the deck to your playgroup- for a faster or more consistent deck, add more tutors and fast mana. Likewise, for a more casual or lower budget group, remove mana crypt, fast mana, and low mana cost tutors and add in cards like Cruel Bargain and Elbrus, the Binding Blade   from the change-log section of the list.

When making your own budget version of the deck, the most important foundation of the deck is to be able to do degenerate things with a low land count, use extra combat effects and double strike to punish multiple opponents in the same turn (especially with Rakdos the Defiler attacks), and build your deck in a way that you’re the only one who has the tools needed to respond to your game plan.

Here is a link to a budget version of the deck I created (180 dollars on 07/21/23 on TCGplayer) that does a good job retaining most of the power of my list without such a hefty price tag: Demon Till Your Dreams Come True (Budget Version)

Must haves are the cheap reanimation spells, the mana ritual effects, and the graveyard filling pieces. The only way the deck gets away with swinging with Rakdos the Defiler and not being absolutely useless afterwards is by being able to cheat out game winning threats with only around 3 mana sources left on board. Rituals keep mana in our hands to use for moments of maximum impact, and wheel of fortune effects keep our hands and graveyard full while disrupting opponents.

A lot of the deck can be down scaled price-wise. I tried to push the deck to be as optimized, efficient, and explosive as possible, but you can absolutely save a ton of money by sacrificing speed. Less expensive/efficient artifact ramp, Magus of the Wheel instead of Wheel of Fortune, etc. Expensive cards like Badlands, Lich, Demonic Tutor and others are completely unnecessary to the core strategy, but are really fun and powerful. Talk to your playgroup about using proxies to allow people to play with some of the old, cool cards that are prohibitively expensive just for the sake of being on the reserve list.

Rakdos the Defiler

  • Simply casting Rakdos, especially with a haste enabler active, can force some generous political deals with other players at the table. Even in positions where actually committing to an attack would lose you the game, just casting Rakdos and making temporary truces can buy enough time to get another land drop or the draw needed to set up a win. Be cautious of players trying to goad you into attacking or are avoiding politics- they likely have instant speed interaction. You will sacrifice your permanents to Rakdos the Defiler on swing, but opponents have to take damage first before they are forced to sacrifice permanents, so enemy instant speed removal will cause Rakdos to rout only your own board state if they respond to his attack trigger. You may find that other players are more than happy to protect Rakdos when attacking a common enemy and will leave you alone afterwards when they see that your board state was halved after the swing. They may feel like it would be kicking you while you’re down, not realizing that the deck is designed to operate on little mana and with a mostly empty board state. Take advantage of this dismissal of the threat you still possess.

Lich + Repay in Kind =

  • Your life is set to zero without dying due to Lich’s effect, then Repay in Kind sets everyones life to zero, killing everyone else at the table.

Treasonous Ogre + Repay in Kind =

  • Not an insta-kill, but makes for a quick finish with demons on board to attack with. Treasonous ogre allows for extremely explosive turns in the deck and generates the mana and life-loss outlet for Repay in Kind all by itself.

Doom Whisperer + Mass Reanimation =

  • Fill up your graveyard by using Doom Whisperer’s ability as many times as possible. This ability can also be used to dig through the deck to find Living Death or a tutor in case it is not already in hand. Do this on your opponents end step to draw Living Death or the tutor at the beginning of your turn. Living Death is a uniquely powerful resurrection spell that can get around opponent graveyard hate pieces like Grafdigger's Cage, because creatures enter from exile, not the graveyard directly. Geier Reach Sanitarium, Faithless Looting, Immersturm Raider, Wheel of Fortune, Reforge the Soul, Entomb, Buried Alive, Sire Of Insanity, etc. all contribute to sculpting a game winning hand while disrupting enemy plans and filling the graveyard with reanimation targets throughout the game.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel + Archfiend of Despair + Mass Reanimation or a high B devotion count =

  • Depending on your devotion to black (or the devotion to black in your graveyard with Living Death), this life drain combo can often be enough to kill even moderate health opponents, especially when part of a Hellcarver Demon combo. Hellcarver demon sacrifices your other creatures before Living Death is cast in a Doomsday combo, ensuring maximum creature based devotion.

Abhorrent Overlord + Devotion to Black OR Mass Reanimation + Abhorrent Overlord and Other Creatures in the Graveyard =

  • Lots of harpies means lots of sacrifice fodder for Rakdos, or more damage to close out the game with, especially when combined with a haste enabler and/or extra combat spells. Simply casting or reanimating Abhorrent Overlord with a moderate devotion count (5 to 7 is pretty typical for the deck) enables a very low risk for blowout swing with Rakdos the Defiler.

Rakdos the Defiler + It That Betrays/Tergrid, God of Fright   =

  • Get everything your opponents sacrifice. What's not to love? If this combo is unanswered, it will win the game in a turn or two as your board state shoots ahead and all others fall behind.

Rakdos the Defiler + The Reaver Cleaver =

  • Get more mana after a swing than you had before it. Who needs lands anyways?

Rakdos the Defiler + Savage Beating/Bloodthirster =

  • Rakdos hurts your board and destroys your lands, but make sure your opponents get it twice as bad with double strike. Many decks fold to a single connection with Rakdos, but a double tap keeps them down. Multiple games of mine have ended with only Rakdos on board with each opponent controlling only 1 or 2 lands and nothing else. The oppressive assault of swinging with Rakdos the Defiler every turn can absolutely win multiplayer games outright by shutting down opponent board state development much like an early eldrazi titan does.

Rakdos the Defiler + Bloodthirster OR Moraug, Fury of Akoum + Fetchland (for double landfall trigger) =

  • Three combat phases allows you to swing once at each opponent to reset all boards, or commander damage kill a player in one turn. Remember to trigger the landfalls in the second main phase, as your creatures will not untap for the regular attack phase if the landfalls occur in the first main phase.

Liliana's Contract + 4 Demons + optional Final Fortune=

  • A more involved win condition, but important against pillow fort strategies or combat hate pieces like Ensnaring Bridge and Meekstone. This enchantment also refills our hand and adds two black devotion while on field, enabling other devotion based strategies.

Hellcarver Demon + Doomsday/Insidious Dreams Combos

Simply reanimating Hellcarver Demon in the first couple of turns of the game can give you a chance to win big and cheat in huge value early game. However, Hellcarver Demon is twice the fun when you've stacked the deck with Doomsday. Note: optional costs like the entwine cost of Savage Beating can be paid for when cast with Hellcarver Demon's effect.

While the order of the Doomsday pile in the library does not matter, spells must be cast all at once with Hellcarver's ability, so the spell you want to resolve first should be put on the stack last to resolve in the correct order. The following piles have been ordered in the sequence the spells should resolve, not the order they should be cast.

Insidious Dreams Liliana's Contract Stack:

  • Any 3 demons, Liliana's Contract, Final Fortune = (Since Hellcarver Demon plus 3 other demons satisfies the contract, you win the game on the extra turn upkeep. This combo will not work using Doomsday, because the draw effect on Lilianas Contract will lose you the game with an empty library.)

Doomsday Combat Damage Stacks:

Doomsday Gary Stacks:

Gary plus a swing:

Doomsday Lich + Repay in Kind Basic Stack:

Variations on the Lich + Repay in Kind Doomsday Stack:

If you anticipate that your opponent is waiting to counter part of the doomsday stack, you can still have a potentially winning board state with the following stack:

How to swing with Rakdos and win

First and foremost, attacking with Rakdos the Defiler is setting us back with our board development. Until they print a card that allows us to turn our lands, artifacts, etc. into demon permanents, losing resources is unavoidable. Maskwood Nexus is getting the deck closer to that dream, but Wizards hasn’t given us the holy grail yet. Luckily, the person being hit by Rakdos also experiences the same effect, and chances are that they have more non-demon permanents than we do, so that trade is slightly in our favor. This leaves a big problem though: the two remaining players did not have their board states halved, which suddenly makes their board states significantly better in comparison. On the surface, it would seem like all our attack accomplished was screwing over ourselves and one other person, leaving the other two players as clear favorites to win the game. That would be the definition of a spite play if it were not for the two core strategies the deck is built around: inverse advantage and tempo advantage.

Inverse advantage is created when we take game actions that bend a negative symmetrical effect into one that hurts opponents more than it does us. Charles Zhuang from Dice City Games has a great write up about inverse advantage and stax in commander that I recommend reading (http://dicecitygames.medium.com/inverse-advantage-and-stax-in-commander-4a6ca780caa7). Tempo is focused on spending our resources more efficiently than our opponent in order to create a “tempo” or mana advantage over the opponent. See Tom Anderson’s article “What is Tempo” for a deeper explanation about how decks aim to create tempo advantage (http://blog.cardkingdom.com/what-is-tempo/).

Although the deck can win by just hitting people enough times with Rakdos to deal lethal commander damage, what we are ultimately trying to accomplish with a Rakdos swing is the creation of a board state in which only our deck remains functional. Therefore, I built my list to exploit a fundamental weakness that most decks share: they need a developed board state to win the game.

The colors red and black in magic are particularly well suited to utilizing resources that extend beyond the board state: life total, graveyard, cards in hand, and library. By leveraging these other resources efficiently, the deck can temporarily ignore its lack of board presence and generate burst resources at key moments for maximum impact. Let’s look at some examples of cards that illustrate this approach:

We’ll begin with using our life total as a resource, since the value of doing so is straightforward. As long as our life total does not become zero, our participation in the game is unhindered by a lower number. Treasonous Ogre can transform a life total into mana for Repay in Kind, which uses our low life total as a weapon against the table. Or we can instead use that mana to cast Savage Beating with entwine or Fiery Emancipation, using our life total to multiply the value of our on board creatures. Doom Whisperer can be used on an opponent’s end step to turn a life total into a graveyard full of beaters and combo pieces with Living Death or Mizzix's Mastery as the next draw. If Gray Merchant of Asphodel is in the graveyard, we’re likely to get all that life back to further utilize our life total as a resource. Vilis, Broker of Blood takes all the lifeloss we experience and turns it into fresh cards in hand. Ancient Tomb, Mana Crypt, Pestilence Demon, Lich, and Reanimate are other great examples of powerful ways in which the deck trades life for advantage.

Next up is another staple of the black color identity: using the graveyard as an intermediary between hand and battlefield. All of the efficient reanimation spells in the deck mean that key creatures only cost as much as the reanimation spells that are used for them, stretching limited on-board resources further. Because I never want to pay full price for the expensive creatures in the deck, I run as many efficient loot, wheel, and graveyard tutor effects as I can to make sure the creatures I need to win the game end up in the graveyard. Cards that synergize with the graveyard discount plan like Dragon Breath and Mizzix's Mastery push the value of prioritizing the graveyard as a resource even further. The graveyard is a fragile resource however; most proactive players these days run at least a couple graveyard hate pieces in their deck due to the abundance of graveyard value decks running around. Therefore, we need additional ways to create burst resources for the expensive win conditions and threats in the deck without being forced to hold Rakdos back, which would hinder the deck’s resource denial game plan.

This leads to utilizing the hand as a resource. Rakdos does not make us discard cards (kind of a shame really- imagine how much more value we could generate if he forced both players to discard half their hand in addition!), which means we can hold critical resources in hand until big plays are possible. Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual are examples of traditional ritual spells, but mana positive permanents like Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, Jeweled Lotus, and Dockside Extortionist all serve the same function: they keep the deck’s mana sources safely off the board while Rakdos does his thing, reducing the deck’s dependence on the board state. The impermanence of permanents on the battlefield when Rakdos is active means we have to reevaluate the function of lands in the deck; they are just one type of mana resource we can use to win the game, but they are not sacred to the deck’s function. A Dark Ritual in hand serves a similar function in the deck as 2 lands that would be played and then sacrificed to a Rakdos swing. With this reframing of resources, it’s easy to see why Burnt Offering and Sacrifice are so synergistic in the deck: they transform all our demons (which are immune to Rakdos’s sacrifice requirement) into precious reservoirs of mana for game winning actions. These two cards represent the culmination of how the deck aims to exploit tempo advantage versus opponents: first, loot and wheel effects remove high mana value creatures from hand and replace them with low mana cost reanimation and ritual spells, which then generate advantage by putting high value creatures into play for discounted prices. These creatures generate additional value with high impact ETB and static effects, protect our life resource from opponent attacks and reduce the life resources of opponents, and finally, are utilized as on-board mana sources that do not add to the number of permanents sacrificed when Rakdos attacks (as long as they are demons). Each step of this value generating chain is accomplished by playing cards from hand that are 1-2 mana value on average, perfect for the limited resource environment that Rakdos the Defiler leaves in his wake. Because lands and ritual effects are BOTH temporary resources in a Rakdos deck, the various wheel, loot, and tutor cards are crucial to keeping our hand full of the resources that our board lacks.

Finally, we come to the library itself as a source of tempo advantage. To begin, there are classic examples of deck manipulation with tutors like Demonic Tutor, Buried Alive, and Burning-Rune Demon that reduce deck variance, but there is a sneakier way the deck aims to create tempo advantage: by creating a game state that elevates the value of our draws relative to opponent draws. Most decks are playing cards that support an “early game, mid game, and late game” plan for their deck in order to best utilize the resources available to them throughout a game. For example, playing a signet on turn 2 is an awesome play for most decks, because it supports their game plan of reaching mid and late game before their opponents. In contrast, Rakdos almost exclusively plays cards that have higher value within the first 3 turns of the game, because that is where we will attempt to arrest the board state of the table. Sire Of Insanity is no longer a risky “chaos” effect but instead a calculated card advantage engine when our average draw provides more value to our game plan than an opponents’ draw can to theirs. Symmetrical wheel effects become sources of asymmetric tempo advantage when opponents draw new hands of cards that they cannot afford to play in contrast to our new hands that are perfectly suited to the boardstate. By restricting table resources, we force opponents to make inefficient choices to progress their plans or try to disrupt ours, increasing the relative efficiency of our plays. In a dream scenario where opponents have 1-2 permanents each while we have Rakdos the Defiler and Bloodthirster on board, every card they draw is unlikely to benefit them, which means we have reduced the value of their deck draws to zero.

Developing a sustainable boardstate

Now, just because the Rakdos color identity gives us the ability to exploit beyond boardstate resources does not mean that the deck shouldn’t try to develop the most advantageous board state that it is capable of maintaining. A successful resource denial game plan means using every resource available efficiently. Rakdos halves our non demon boardstate on swing, which means that it is much easier to “rebuild” a small boardstate than a larger one. With that in mind, let’s discuss the different facets of the deck list.

In the Rakdos color identity, there isn’t a great way to avoid rebuilding a land base one turn at a time, so the more lands and artifact ramp we have on the table, the harder it will be to “recover” our resource pool afterwards. It is for this reason that I prioritize making it possible to cast Rakdos as early in the game as possible, because swinging earlier with him not only makes his effect more potent against enemies, but reduces the impact of his cost on our board relative to the table’s progression. From my experience, the deck is capable of sustaining two to three non-demon permanents while swinging with Rakdos aggressively, so every non-demon permanent in the deck has to be evaluated with the mindset of “would this permanent be worth more than additional mana next turn?” Lands like Lotus Vale, Rakdos Carnarium, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and Ancient Tomb are amazing because they consolidate more mana onto fewer lands, which means more resources survive for future actions. Lands that consolidate mana onto fewer lands efficiently like Lotus Field or Crypt of Agadeem are allowed to enter tapped because we trade current turn tempo for future tempo sustaining, but I would never run a land that enters tapped in the deck that only provides color fixing. Lands entering tapped have a direct effect on our ability to maintain pressure on the table, and too many etb tapped lands can give opponents too much breathing room to establish their boards.

The temporary nature of any permanent based ramp in the deck changes which ramp effects we choose to run. For instance, I only run mana positive mana rocks, as I have found that ritual effects are better for the deck because they fulfill the role of temporary mana sources more efficiently than lands and most artifact ramp. The whole point of mana rocks in most lists is to function as cheap and efficient reusable mana sources, but Rakdos the Defiler negates that entirely. If artifact ramp does not generate more mana than it costs to play, it is worse than a ritual in the deck. Artifacts should also produce two or more mana to be worth adding to the non-demon permanent count, which is why Sol Ring makes the cut but Chrome Mox and Lotus Petal do not. Mana Vault is the only efficient mana positive artifact ramp card I would consider adding at the moment, but the 3 colorless isn't helpful for casting Rakdos, and our other demons are more efficient to reanimate anyways.

Here's an example to illustrate my point: I need 6 mana to cast Rakdos, so say I have 3 lands and 3 signets, I'll have to sacrifice 3 permanents to Rakdos. Instead, say I generate the same 6 mana with Dark Ritual, Graven Cairns, a random land that taps for black, and a Sol Ring/Mana Crypt. Now, I'll only sacrifice 2 permanents to Rakdos on the swing. Not only did I sacrifice less permanents to Rakdos in the second example, but it's possible to do that a turn or two faster, which means I've already hit two players by the time the signet ramp even lets me get Rakdos on the board.

Now moving away from mana producing permanents, let’s discuss what types of demon and non demon permanents the list wants to run. Since demon permanents are exempt from Rakdos the Defiler’s sacrifice count, prioritizing demons with additional deck utility like Dream Devourer, Herald of Slaanesh, Rakdos, Lord of Riots, Immersturm Raider, Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire, Rakdos, the Showstopper, and Bloodthirster mean that our board state is developed without increasing the negative repercussions of a larger field. Non demon permanents should either add significant value to the table to justify the extra land they’ll sacrifice or be intended to be sacrificed to a Rakdos swing to protect lands. Treasonous Ogre lets us use our life total for mana, which easily offsets the extra land it costs to keep around. Likewise, Moraug, Fury of Akoum turns all the fetch lands we’re already running to enable Anger into two extra combats, which means we can hit all three opponents in a single turn to offset the additional sacrifice triggers. Fiery Emancipation is a permanent-efficient force multiplier for the demons on our field, even turning Rakdos into a one hit kill with commander damage. Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Dockside Extortionist are both incredible in the deck because they provide almost all their value immediately upon entering the battlefield, provide more resources than they cost to play, are easy sacrifice choices, and actually gain value once in the graveyard since they increase the potency of any reanimation spells in hand. Dragon Breath is perfect in the deck because it automatically attaches to our big creatures from the graveyard for free and can be sacrificed to protect lands during combat after the creature that needed the haste effect has already attacked. Bitter Reunion is also another great haste enabler stuck to a loot spell, and it is an easy sacrifice target to Rakdos if not needed.Lich and Liliana's Contract function as game winning combo pieces with Repay in Kind and Final Fortune respectively. Liliana’s Contract can be used as a disposable draw spell without issue, but Lich should never be played unless we can either immediately weaponize our life total or save ourselves from an opponent’s strategy long enough to win. Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots are both worth the extra permanent sacrifice since they increase the reliability of Rakdos connecting with other players across multiple turns (in contrast to Not of this World and Tibalt's Trickery, which are single use effects). Shroud and hexproof disable targeted removal during combat, and haste makes opponent sorcery speed removal a less effective answer to our plan. An early game reanimated Tectonic Hellion is backbreaking to the table, accomplishing more for the deck's gameplan than even an early game Rakdos would. Sneak Attack is a great way to get big creatures out of hand and into the battlefield/graveyard. For 1 red mana, we get combat potential, ETBs, and abilities for the turn. Sneak attack also plays very efficiently post Rakdos swing and easily passes the “is it worth sacrificing a land to keep around” test.

If you’ve been paying attention to the list during the primer so far, you may have noticed that there are three powerful non-demon permanents I avoided mentioning until now, and I saved them for last because they fundamentally flip the deck’s play style once on board. It That Betrays, Tergrid, God of Fright  , and The Reaver Cleaver each almost entirely negate the resource denial symmetry Rakdos creates, turning his effect into a one sided affair. These three cards are the pinnacle of asymmetrical advantage with Rakdos, and they will create an insurmountable tempo advantage if we can keep them active for a few combat cycles. Abhorrent Overlord and Wand of Orcus seem like are of a similar power level and should be auto includes in the deck (as they also turn the symmetrical effect of swinging with Rakdos into asymmetrical advantage), but it is important to remember what resources are required to enable them in game. Abhorrent Overlord is a 7 CMC creature, which means we’ll need to use resources in hand to put it in the graveyard and reanimate it, or rituals to hard cast it with our limited mana base, all for what on average will be a single asymmetrical attack with Rakdos. This deck is already constructed to remain operational after sacrificing half our board state, so the resources required to put Abhorrent Overlord into play are better served enabling cards that actively advance the game plan of restricting opponent resources instead. Wand of Orcus is significantly more playable because it breaks the effect cost into two chunks of {3} which the deck can afford with land mana alone, but once again, it does not help restrict opponent resources. It makes the cut for now, but it may one day be replaced by a card that supports the resource denial plan better. The key point to remember when evaluating cards is that the deck is functional after sacrificing half of its boardstate, so cards that only exist to preserve our board state do not advance our gameplan. In contrast, It That Betrays, Tergrid, and The Reaver Cleaver generate more resources than the deck used to facilitate them. It That Betrays and Tergrid will usually end up refunding lands, artifact ramp, or other valuable non land permanents from our opponents after a Rakdos swing, with the potential to gain access to effects and answers our deck can’t play due to our strategy or color identity. Both creatures also generate advantage in our deck simply existing on the field independent of Rakdos the Defiler, as they allow us to double dip on opponent fetchlands and other sacrifice value cards, and Tergrid synergizes incredibly well with wheel effects in general. The Reaver Cleaver is an insane source of mana advantage if worn by any creature in the deck, but becomes extra potent when worn by our commander. Producing treasures equal to the damage dealt to players means that we will often end up with more mana resources after a Rakdos swing than before it, which feels extra dirty. Paying 6 mana to play and equip the cleaver to Rakdos pays for itself in the same turn if Rakdos connects, and becomes an even better value with damage multipliers and extra combat effects involved. While it can’t protect our non-demon permanents on the very first swing, subsequent attacks will allow us to sacrifice treasures instead of other permanents to keep key permanents on board.

Tying it all together

The final key to the Rakdos the Defiler engine is that the cards it plays are good cards independent of his function. The deck does not NEED Rakdos on the field to generate tempo advantage, as the cards naturally do that on their own by enabling beyond the board state resource utilization. If the game state is such that swinging with Rakdos will set you so far behind the table that victory is impossible, the deck does not force you into the resource denial game plan to win. Hellcarver Demon+Doomsday, Lich+Repay in Kind, Gray Merchant of Asphodel+Mass Reanimation spells, Fiery Emancipation+Rakdos the Defiler/other creatures, Archfiend of Despair+Repay in Kind or other life loss/damage sources, Liliana's Contract+Final Fortune+Mass Reanimation or enough demons already on board, Savage Beating+Rakdos the Defiler/other demons, Doom Whisperer+Mass Reanimation spells, Moraug, Fury of Akoum+Rakdos the Defiler/other creatures, or Mizzix's Mastery+a graveyard full of spicy instants and sorceries are all capable of winning the game regardless of the resources opponents have at their disposal. That we can still play any of the above win conditions while choking the life out of the table with Rakdos swings each turn is the magical combination that makes this deck so special.

There are three kinds of intial hands I love to see:

1) Turbo Rakdos.

2) An early wheel in hand, preferably turn 1 or 2. This gives us access to 15-17 different cards to accelerate the early turns with as well as a big graveyard dump. Additionally, the deck never cares about resetting its hand early since the whole deck is designed to be played with early game resources, whereas other decks often have their game-plan significantly delayed or thrown off by a turn 1 hand reset. Even if someone else gets a crazier new hand from the wheel than we did, the big target on their heads can take some pressure off us in the early game.

3) A turn 1-3 reanimation and/or ritual play, preferably with something game warping like Tectonic Hellion, It That Betrays, Doom Whisperer, Hellcarver Demon, Sire Of Insanity, etc.

Beyond these easy keeps, you'll want to evaluate your hand in relation to the other decks at the table. Who is faster than you? What deck is most likely to get to a position where they won't care if they are hit by Rakdos first? Does the hand contain an initial gameplan or the means to dig for one? How well does the hand support a mid game power spike? Are there any decks or pilots that are more likely to help you hurt someone else? Will the decks at the table be able to recover quickly if they lose half their board, and should the gameplan be to push towards a combo from the start? There are no defined answers to these questions, and this deck shines when a pilot is able to use their game knowledge to capitalize on table politics and opportunities.

No. Of course not. It's demon tribal. The deck isn't focused on cheating out eldrazi with Rakdos, Lord of Riots but instead on going down swinging, dragging the table to hell alongside you. Make enemies, ruin opponent game plans and board states, and make some truly lopsided demonic deals. Sit in the corner with a Rakdos the Defiler nuke and punish those foolish enough to doubt your crazy.

Rather than pursuing a linear path to victory, the deck limits tutors to on theme tutors and potentially suicidal options like Demonic Consultation. The next step in optimization would be including more efficient tutors like Gamble and Vampiric Tutor, but I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to make the resources on hand translate to a win without always tutoring for the same pieces. The philosophy of the deck’s card selection is that every single draw should have standalone potential to add a twist or throw a wrench in a plan. Every draw should be an exciting spin of the rakdos roulette. The deck is intentionally light on removal spells, which was a personal choice to force myself into aggressive swings at the most threatening player with Rakdos the Defiler. Go big or go home with the demon. Reading an opponent's body language and guessing what may be waiting in their hand becomes life or death when risking half our boardstate with a swing. Guess correctly and you’ll rip an opponent's game plan and board state to tatters.

Recent changes:

11/06/21

  • Rakdos Carnarium out, Dragon Breath in. The additional draw in the deck means the land count can get leaner. This land is too slow past the first couple of turns of the game and always feels bad to draw when hoping for untapped land. Dragon Breath enables haste and fire breathing, while being extremely friendly to wheeling strategies.

11/02/21

  • Exhume out, Patriarch's Bidding in. Going to test this out. I'm usually the most degenerate tribal player at the table in my meta, so we should outvalue the effect. Exhume already let opponents bring back something nasty, so I'm going to test this out and see if the payoff is worth it. The cheaper mana cost of exhume often came in clutch, but I've wanted a second copy of Living Death often enough as well.

  • Razaketh, the Foulblooded, Rakdos, Lord of Riots, Ob Nixilis, Unshackled out, Wheel of Misfortune, Read the Bones, Cathartic Reunion in. Deck needs more draw power and these three cards underperform. Razaketh is a great devotion enabler, but his effect is hard to break in this deck. He wants sacrifice fodder, and our other demons like to stay around. Lord of riots is fun and a great flavor include, but he usually ends up starving the deck of colored mana the turn he is cast, leading to awkward turn follow ups. The deck is too explosive to like waiting around a turn for a fragile payoff. Ob Nixilis is a great silver bullet creature, but his effect does not translate into wins in my experience. He paints a target on our heads, and the times opponents are able to win if they tutor, they just bite the bullet and pay the cost.

  • Agadeem's Awakening   and Shatterskull Smashing   replacing Blackcleave Cliffs and Foreboding Ruins. Lands that can be spells are better than just lands, and these were the two weakest to cut.

  • Doom Whisperer in, Malfegor out. Malfegor is a bad draw when topdecking and Doom Whisperer does an insane job filling up our graveyard with threats. Can even be used to lower our life total for Repay in Kind.

  • Moraug, Fury of Akoum in, Ill-Gotten Gains out. Ill-Gotten Gains was nice for rescuing spells from the graveyard, but against opponents with available answers, it just put those answers straight back into enemy hands, gaining nothing. Triple combats after playing a fetchland on a reanimatable body is a sweet new addition.

  • Liliana's Contract and Reforge the Soul replacing Cruel Bargain and Infernal Contract. The deck just has more explosive uses for its life between Treasonous Ogre, Villis, Broker of Blood, Reanimate and others to justify the early game draw. It is a shame to lose these for flavor reasons, but the end result is a better deck for multiplayer.

  • Dockside Extortionist replacing Cauldron Dance. Sneak attack from hand and graveyard was always very impactful, but the mana cost kept resulting in me not doing more important things with my mana, such as keeping things permanently on field or winning the game. Dockside Extortionist is the best red ramp spell in the game and hits the board like nitrous.

  • Cathartic Reunion back in, removing Necropotence. Necropotence enabled some massive turns, but it turns off the discard abilities of the deck and made winning with the cards that had been drawn ironically difficult. Cheap, early game discard sets up for impactful reanimation turns and get the deck into a good place without putting up such a blazing kill me now or die sign to the table like Necropotence does.

  • Chrome Mox in, Fires of Invention out. We dont reliably have enough lands for this to pay off. The deck uses a lot of ritual effects and mana rocks to pack mana density higher to offset Rakdos the Defilers sacrifice effect. Early game ramp is more important.

  • Fiery Emancipation in, Archfiend of Depravity out. I hate cutting demons because it makes Liliana's Contract wins even harder, but this demon rarely gets rid of the creatures you want dead, enables aristocrat decks, and only serves to keep token decks in check. We have other options like Toxic Deluge and Pestilence Demon for those decks. Fiery Emancipation suddenly turns a board with just a couple demons into table lethal the turn it comes down, makes Rakdos commander damage a player in one swing, and is especially nasty when coupled with Archfiend of Despair. Its also a new combo piece for Doomsday piles, resulting in some VERY silly damage combos.

Kaldheim has been super exciting for the deck. I’ll be adding in:

  • Burning-Rune Demon in place of Rakshasa Debaser. Raksasha is fun, but Burning-Rune Demon wins games.

  • Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire in place of Mana Geyser. Demonic Tutor on a body is much better than a plethora of red mana for shenanigans. The deck is very black mana hungry, so although Mana Geyser occasionally allowed for crazy plays, Varagoth will do that job more reliably as a very flavorful piece of the deck.

  • Tergrid, God of Fright   in place of Insidious Dreams. Tergrid as a second, hard-castable copy of It That Betrays's effect is absolutely bonkers with Rakdos the Defiler. This effect almost completely offsets Rakdos’s major downside, and turns a suicidal swing into pure profit. Insidious Dreams existed as redundancy for Doomsday, but Tergrid does a better job reliably taking over a game. If Mizzix's Mastery can’t get the job done after failing a Doomsday, we already committed to that strategy and need to pivot to something new anyways. Insidious Dreams can also two-for-one our hand if it is countered.

  • Tibalt's Trickery in place of Reaper from the Abyss. Stopping enemy instant speed removal when swinging in with Rakdos the Defiler wins games. Reaper has 3 black pips for devotion, which hurts to lose, and is one of the few targeted removal options the deck has, but it is removal that relies on your enemy doing what you want, which is rare. Hitting people in the face and sending them back to the stone age with Rakdos will win out every time.

  • Immersturm Raider in place of Cathartic Reunion. Cathartic has more digging power, but the Raider is still able to get a big fatty into the graveyard early game, is an early blocker, survives swings with Rakdos, and contributes to Liliana's Contract.

  • Dream Devourer in place of Songs of the Damned. Devourer is better early game "ramp" than Songs of the Damned, enabling hard casting of an 8 drop on turn 4 with the assistance of a turn 1 sol ring or mana crypt. Like Immersturm Raider, Devourer is also an early game blocker, survives Rakdos swings, and contributes to Liliana's Contract.

Updates since Kaldheim:

  • Not of this World in, Fervor out. Rakdos not eating a kill spell mid swing is way more important than haste redundancy. Anger, Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, and Mass Hysteria all do the task better IMO. If the decks in your group do more degenerate things with haste than this deck can, replace Mass Hysteria instead. I find I use haste as a combo piece in a big swing, so paying 1 red for haste (who needs Kenrith anyways) makes bigger surprise plays possible.

06/20/2022:

  • Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos in, Kuro, Pitlord out. I never actually cast Kuro and he is only ever a reanimate target that comes in, kills creatures, and then gets sacrificed the next turn unless I REALLY need him to stick around and pay the extra cost. Hidetsugu can act as removal as well, potentially more reliably, while offering other uses like more consistency with land drops, ramp, and reanimation after a swing. I'll miss that Burnt Offering payoff, but we shall see.

  • Jeska's Will in, Read the Bones out. I have no good explanation for why I hadn't added Jeska’s Will before now. A ritual plus draw is everything the deck wants. Now I just need a ritual plus draw plus reanimate spell to really lose my mind over.

09/17/2022

  • Mass Hysteria out, Herald of Slaanesh in. Herald serves as cost reduction and haste enabling on a demon body- I love it. Mass hysteria gave everyone at the table haste which was a big downside, but the one mana price was hard to beat. The cost reduction of other demons means that the increased cost of the haste effect is offset. Big fan of this change, even though it means losing haste for It That Betrays and Moraug, Fury of Akoum. Making our demons cheaper without upping the number of non-demon permanents on board is too good, and Herald can also count towards Liliana's Contract wins.

07/04/2023

  • Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos out, Exhume back in. Hidetsugu's first ability will never be used, and his second is too mana intensive while simultaneously removing key cards accidentally. Although Exhume has the potential to backfire, it usually brings more value to this deck than any other at the table.

  • Chrome Mox out, Deflecting Swat in. While chrome mox in the opening hand is incredible, drawing chrome mox in the mid or late game is painful. I never had extra cards in hand I wanted to throw away for an extra mana. A free redirect for targeted removal during combat will save the day.

  • Lord of the Void out, The Balrog of Moria in. Lord of the Void was in the deck for devotion and value, but the swing effect is too hit or miss. The Balrog ramps in the early game and pitches itself to the graveyard for reanimation, PLUS serves as removal when it dies. Excellent Burnt Offering synergy.

  • World at War out, Bloodthirster in. More extra combats stapled to a demon body, strictly better effect.

  • 1x Swamp, Reflecting Pool, Cavern of Souls out, Mutavault, Lotus Vale, Rakdos Carnarium in. Mutavault protects itself by transforming into a demon, but I’ll need to play test to see if the value of an extra mana the turn after a Rakdos swing offsets the colorless mana of Mutavault. Lotus Vale/Rakdos Carnarium stack more of our mana onto less lands, which means more mana after swinging as well. I had originally excluded Lotus Vale and Rakdos Carnarium due to the risk of blowout if they were destroyed by Wasteland/Strip Mine/etc, but that's not a very Rakdos mindset. Go big or go home! We already risk everything swinging with Rakdos, so support that plan instead of playing it safe. Reflecting Pool was cut because it could not give me access to a color I was missing, and Cavern of Souls was cut because the deck wants colored mana for non creature spells more than it wants uncounterability. If a creature ends up in the graveyard, the deck has plenty of ways to get it back out again. If Mutavault is a bust, Cavern or a swamp will be added back in its place.

  • Toxic Deluge out, Persist in. I keep having the scariest board on the table, and I almost never tutor for toxic deluge for a boardwipe or lifeloss option. For dealing with other scary boards, hitting them with Rakdos works pretty well, and the deck has enough protection now to do so reliably. Adding in more reanimation means threatening early wins more reliably, having a big blocker to discourage aggro, or help rebuilding after an opponent board wipe, which in turn means having access to a board wipe ourselves is less important. In a pinch, Living Death serves as an effective answer to hard to deal with opponent creatures.

  • Shatterskull Smashing   out, Valakut Awakening   in. I try to avoid lands that come into play tapped, but an extra wheel in the deck helps dig deeper. I wish this pitched the cards to the graveyard, but you can't have everything. I never use the burn spell effect of Shatterskull Smashing, so this is the weakest land to cut.

  • Master of Cruelties out, Thrill of Possibility in. I’m not going to lie, this one hurts. I have so many great stories from games where Master of Cruelties saved the day, but commander as a game has evolved beyond how this deck can utilize him. I can’t cheat him into combat tapped and attacking to bypass his restriction, which means he can’t attack alongside Rakdos and all the other combat centered demons in the deck like Bloodthirster. Most decks run efficient utility creatures or tokens to chump block him with, and the deck runs no ways of giving him evasion. Thrill of possibility smooths out the deck’s early game, pitches reanimation targets, and digs for answers. It’s not a sexy change, but it’s the right one.

  • Arcane Signet, Fellwar Stone, Rakdos Signet, and Talisman of Indulgence out, Songs of the Damned, Jeweled Lotus, Mana Geyser, and Rakdos, Lord of Riots in. This is a test change, but I think the explosive rituals will have more of an effect in this deck than the safer artifact ramp. The artifact ramp is usually sacrificed to Rakdos swings or killed by opponent artifact removal, so they tend not to function as reoccurring mana sources anyway. Lord of Riots has great synergy with Burnt Offering effects (cast a creature for the discounted price and sac for full mana value while getting cast and ETB effects) and also helps keep the deck pressure up after losing lands to a Rakdos the Defiler swing. Mizzix's Mastery plays very well with rituals for crazy combo turns, and less artifacts on our board mean less treasures for opponent Dockside Extortionist plays, which is made more likely by us running it ourselves (by enemy graveyard recursion or clone effects).

07/16/2023 - Thanks to brainsmog on moxfield! https://www.moxfield.com/decks/jk44odCZy0yHGnEjfIRHMA

  • Mana Geyser out, Seize the Spotlight in. With Rakdos on field, this is a mini Jeska's Will. It's most likely to get three treasures and three cards, since the alternative is the opponents giving us creatures of our choice to sac to a Rakdos swing or Burnt Offering effect. Even without Rakdos on field, you will get ramp and cards or opponent creatures to smack people with. Stealing creatures and then running them into opponents who can block and kill them is spicy. The issue with Mana Geyser is that is makes an absolute truck load of red mana, but the deck does not have efficient ways of using it since there are so many red/black split costs. It's also 5 mana to cast, which does not leave a lot of black mana producers to use after casting. The dream is getting it with Mizzix's Mastery, but that's a bit too win-more. Treasures are awesome as opposed to ritual mana since they can be saved for future turns or turn phases, or sacrificed to a Rakdos swing to protect lands.

  • Tainted Peak out, Crypt of Agadeem in. Tainted peak is situational colored mana (usually not an issue with all the fetches), but testing out Crypt in its place instead. I really don't like tapped lands in the deck, but the ritual upside is probably worth it. I used to run Crypt in a previous deck incarnation and it just kept being not enough. It needs 2 other mana in addition to tapping itself, so with low land counts I didn't have enough red mana afterwards to do what I wanted. The deck is quite different from how it was when I last ran it a few years ago however, so I'm giving it another chance. It's a great way to turn sol ring or mana crypt colorless mana into colored mana, and it can be supercharged with graveyard dump from Doom Whisperer or Wheel of Fortune effects. Just remember to use the land BEFORE casting mass reanimation!

  • Animate Dead and Necromancy out, Victimize and Incarnation Technique in. Swapping out the enchantment based reanimation (they count as non-demon permanents during Rakdos swings) and adding in two double reanimation spells. When I first created the deck, the reanimated targets being able to swing the turn they entered the battlefield was super important, but these days, the static effects on the creatures are worth the downside of entering tapped via Victimize. This deck can usually do more disgusting things with reanimation than other decks, so there's usually a safe option at the table to chose for demonstrate. Another upside, these two reanimation spells synergize with Mizzix's Mastery, unlike the enchantments.

07/17/2023

  • The Balrog of Moria out, The Reaver Cleaver in. Reaver Cleaver is a strict upgrade to the Balrog. I love the Balrog because it pitches itself to graveyard, makes early game ramp/sacrifice fodder, and is a juicy Burnt Offering target, but the Cleaver is sustain power after Rakdos swings (possibly even mana positive if ritualing out Rakdos with only a couple lands) and and sacrifice fodder for future swings, can be worn by any creature in the deck for insane ramping, combos with double strike/extra combat spells, and even enables the deck to hold up mana for protection during combat and play threats POST combat, a thing not usually possible in the deck.

07/22/2023

  • Rakdos, the Showstopper out, The Balrog of Moria in. Rakdos was primarily in the deck to protect my life total against enemy aggro as a pseudo boardwipe and to make mass reanimation more one sided in my favor, but it also has a chance to kill It That Betrays, Tergrid, God of Fright  , and Treasonous Ogre on my field. Balrog is targeted exile removal if I REALLY need opponent creatures dead, is early game ramp, puts himself in the graveyard, creates tokens which can protect lands, can "convert" Treasonous Ogre red mana into black mana by cycling for treasures, enables higher devotion than Showstopper, and also synergizes better with Burnt Offering/Sacrifice. Slight flavor loss from not playing all Rakdos variants, but I'll live.

  • Dream Devourer out, Tectonic Hellion in. User brainsmog on mogstation helped me realize I was falling victim to what I warned about in the primer; Dream devourer lets me mitigate the effects of resource denial, but an early tectonic hellion is just a game winning action through asymmetrical advantage. Even though it's nice to be able to break mana costs in two when I have low mana resources, the deck is still playable with 1-2 lands, whereas opponent decks are usually turned off completely. An early game reanimated tectonic hellion is actually BETTER than Rakdos the Defiler.

07/26/23

  • Songs of the Damned out, Tormenting Voice in. Songs of the Damned is only good once we’ve loaded up the graveyard with a few creatures, so Tormenting Voice in its place will enable more explosive opening hands and early game consistency.

  • Seize the Spotlight out, Bitter Reunion in. Seize the spotlight has higher potential with Rakdos out, but opponent choices can be at odds with what we need, especially if an opponent has no creatures or a creature they don't care about losing. Three mana is a big ask early game and competes with ritual plays as well. Bitter reunion pitches things to the graveyard early, can provide haste for mass reanimation play, and can be sacrificed instead of a land during a Rakdos swing, which is very strong for two mana.

  • Shallow Grave out, Sneak Attack in. Sneak attack adds more value to the game plan and flows better in the deck. It’s a great way to get big creatures out of hand and into the battlefield/graveyard. For 1 red mana, we get combat potential, ETBs, and abilities for the turn. Even the potential to haste out two creatures in a turn from hand is already better than a single reanimation. Sneak attack also plays more efficiently post Rakdos swing too, and easily passes the “is it worth sacrificing a land to keep around” test.

  • Reforge the Soul out, Ancient Copper Dragon in. With the increase of loot and draw in the deck, Reforge the Soul has been a 5 mana spell too many times with no way to put it back in the deck to exploit miracle. Ancient Copper Dragon is another excellent reanimate target that makes loads of treasures to protect lands, ramps the deck if reanimated early, and sustains our resources while Rakdos is swinging.

07/31/2023

  • Cabal Ritual out, Songs of the Damned in. Casting cost of one makes a big difference when tutoring for mana for a play or trying to save red mana sources, and the ceiling is higher for songs. I may want both in the deck, but not sure what to cut for it.

08/02/2023

  • The Balrog of Moria out, Cabal Ritual in. Rituals just do so much for the deck, so I want to include all the good ones. A ritual in hand gives me what I need every time. When I cycle Balrog, I'm usually hoping to draw a ritual, so that tells me a lot. Balrog does good things, and it’s a great card, but it just keeps feeling like the weakest card in the deck.

  • Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire out, Wand of Orcus in. Another demon cut is not my favorite, but I think Wand will let me control the table better. The zombies help sustain non-demon resources for repeated swings with Rakdos, give the deck blockers for chump blocking enemy counterattacks, and are a sizable threat on their own. Varragoth is not an exciting reanimation or burnt offering target, and the tutor is often a single time effect that doesn’t impact the current turn (since it goes on top of library). There’s a lot more non demon permanents I’d like to keep around these days, so this feels like the right move.

  • Victimize out, Impending Disaster in. Victimize just keeps feeling so awkward. It’s a dead card with no creatures on board, so it’s bad in the first couple turns of the game or after a board wipe. It’s a ton of value, so I WANT it to work, but it only helps the deck if it’s already doing things and does nothing if it’s stalled. Impending disaster on the other hand keeps the whole table locked down on resources or wastes opponent resources removing it. I’ll have to see how often it kills me due to table aggro. Balrog or Varragoth will get to come back if it turns out to be a death sentence to play.

08/20/2023

  • Crypt of Agadeem out, Swamp in. I still hate the come into play tapped for the tempo hit, and the deck plays too many red creatures to be reliably mana positive. I'm a bit light on basics, so adding a swamp instead of a dual land.

  • Patriarch's Bidding out, Seething Song in. This deck LOVES rituals, and Patriarch's Bidding misses too many creatures in the deck these days.

08/23/2023

  • Sneak Attack out, Peer into the Abyss in. Peer into the abyss instantly wins the game if it resolves just like Mizzix's Mastery, as we will draw win conditions, mass reanimation, and rituals to cast them. Spicy bonus: kill an opponent with style if Archfiend of Despair is in play. Removed sneak attack, since it’s just a nice value engine to have but not critical to the game plan or a win condition on its own. Arguably, Liliana's Contract should go instead, but you’ll pry the demon tribal win con card from my cold, dead hands.

11/01/2023

  • Wand of Orcus out, Bolt Bend in. Want a bit more protection in the deck and Wand is the weakest card currently. Wand doesn't protect the initial swing and really only serves as sac fodder for future turns.

  • Rakdos, Lord of Riots out, Chrome Mox back in. Lord of riots is too inconsistent to play from hand in the early game, and I always seem to have a better reanimation target. With the addition of peer into the abyss, I really want the 0 cmc “ritual” effect in the deck. Mox also increases the explosiveness of the deck and can be used to cast expensive non-creature spells, which win games more often than the creatures do.

02/06/2024

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Casual

84% Competitive

Revision 26 See all

(5 months ago)

+1 Bloodletter of Aclazotz main
+1 Infernal Sovereign main
+1 Rakdos, Patron of Chaos main
Top Ranked
  • Achieved #3 position overall 3 years ago
  • Achieved #1 position in Commander / EDH 3 years ago
Date added 6 years
Last updated 3 weeks
Legality

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

18 - 0 Mythic Rares

51 - 1 Rares

18 - 1 Uncommons

9 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 3.75
Tokens Treasure
Folders Decks that look good, Witty Bulger & The Witty Hill Gang, inspiration, Rakdos, fun, Wants, Commander, Edh decks, owo, Cool
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