Finished it! This whole description has a couple formatting errors, but is completely current and up to date. I go absurdly in depth here, so if I'm being incredibly obvious at points, forgive me, it's for the people newer to this, or for people unfamiliar with the unique quirks of this commander. Also, despite my confidence, please give me suggestions if you have them!
This is my reasonably competitive Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck. Don't let the lack of removal scare you, there is plenty on creatures, and the objective is to simply go so fast that not much removal can stop you. It's very powerful, but it isn't solitaire tier, it's very important to take account of what your opponents can do, target properly, and play the political side of EDH as well for the best results. I call it high intensity as I often win with less than 8 life left, and the deck is constantly pulling off close shave wins. it's exciting to play.
With that out of the way, I'll let the explanation begin. You want a hand with at least 3 lands/mana rocks that have a good spread of mana symbols, a Rakdos trigger (see below) and a big creature or two. Keep in mind rocks like Mana Crypt and Sol Ring can let you get 5 mana creatures out before Rakdos, Lord of Riots which is a massive buff to his first turn out. Also if you lack a Meat or Trigger, it can be worth just believing in the heart of the cards instead of going to 6 cards. I find I nearly always topdeck what I need in the next 3 turns, the deck is just built that way. Of course, 1 in 10 or 20 games, you are just gonna whiff your turn 3 or 4 Rakdos, this deck needs an amount of specific pieces very early to function, and even after 7 years of literally playing and tweaking only this deck, it will very occasionally whiff. Don't stress it, go for the late game comeback. And yes, I really only had this deck for 7 years. I've made this guide to commemorate branching out. Anyway. back on topic.
On that turn 3 or 4, if Rakdos is immediately shot in the face, you can either try to get him out again as soon as possible, or use Neheb, the Eternal, and Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, as substitutes. Reanimate is good here. A note on how to beat opponents with a lot of removal/counters: Go fast, play the card anyway. There is really no way around it. It's very rare that holding back is the right play in this deck. Sometimes you'll be able to bait by playing "sacrificial" cards first, but sometimes, all you can do is go for it. Never hesitate here. Everyone runs out of responses eventually, and you really can power through it. Grabbing a Cavern of Souls can help a lot though. Also, due to the design philosophy, half of a cedh decks best counters won't work on you. So many of them specify noncreature, which you have so few of, and only one really important one.
Assuming he made it, start swing face and playing big boys. Be very careful with your mana symbols, as they're often the only thing holding you back, and you'll often have to make hard choices on whether to play a demon or a dragon, and things like that. Once you're going, play draw and protection until you can get to your wincons. Don't hold your removal since it's on creatures, just play it to slow down your opponents, especially the players with removal and counters, then beat em with the bodies. As you go, aim for one of these win cons. The main win cons are:
Cloudstone Curio + Rakdos, Lord of Riots Is the simplest one. Get two colorless creatures, one with an effect that screws opponents in some way, and "bouncecast" until your opponent inevitably concedes. Most of the Eldrazi work for this, for example oblivion sower, and Walking Ballista too. Just try not to cast it till you're about to use it, it WILL get blown up. Use the Titans and Razaketh, the Foul-Blooded to get it back.
Razaketh, the Foul-Blooded + Rakdos, Lord of Riots + any third creature is absolutely nutty in this. His possibilities are really endless in this deck, and he's often an auto win when played at the right moment. Razaketh, the Foul-Blooded + Terror of the Peaks? You win. Razaketh, the Foul-Blooded + Stalking Vengeance? You win. Razaketh, the Foul-Blooded and a graveyard shuffle titan? You win. Want something from your grave? Look for and sac a titan. The way the order works, you can let the shuffle happen before the search, and just repeat casting the titan. Infinite draw, infinite damage, infinite life, Infinite permanent removal and deck exile, Its all there as long as you can get a little damage out, and you've got a little life. If someone shoots Rakdos and you have no mooks to sac for a Deflecting Swat, sac rakdos in response and grab Reanimate. Once it resolves, just bring him back. As long as your opponent can't exile your graveyard in your turn, you're golden, which is why shooting Razaketh, the Foul-Blooded is always better, although the same trick does work. Life too low? Grab Disciple of Bolas. Razaketh, the Foul-Blooded is legitimately broken, and I would die for him. Then, use a titan to shuffle your grave and do all of these again till you win.
While you're working towards one of these, you'll naturally progress the third option, which is beat them to fucking death. Also, while not technically a win con, there are 3 cards in the deck that can seriously lock down the opponent, and give way more time to combo/murder.
Sire Of Insanity Get out a few heavies and then chuck this guy out, and your opponents will only have their top decks to fight against you. Once you're ahead, you don't need your hand anyway.
Void Winnower Turns off so many cards. No Counterspell, 50% less removal and board wipes, and 50% less eligible blockers too. Absolutely perfect.
Nullstone Gargoyle First non creature each turn is countered. Great for slowing down conventional decks, and protecting your board. But your opponents will often team up to get past it, so watch out for that.
Alone these are annoying and powerful cards. But get 2 of them out at the same time, or god forbid all 3, and your opponent wont be able to use anything against you. The overlapping effects are so powerful, I believe it justifies the control tag being on this aggro deck.
Lastly, this deck is self harm heavy, and healing light, at least unless you can get a Disciple of Bolas + Razaketh, the Foul-Blooded going on. But that isn't a warning to hold back, this deck wants to win hard and fast, so don't hold back. Hesitation is death!
These are the main points to remember while piloting this deck, but I'll give you my thoughts on each card, because I've put way too much time and money into this deck.
There are fourteen main triggers, which guarantees you'll usually get one in your opening hand or opening top decks. An important note about triggers. Ones that can take life without using your attack step are the best, as they mean that Rakdos can attack the turn he comes out with a haste effect.
- Thermo-Alchemist Alright early game blocker, sadly his untap trigger will rarely ever go off, but he does the job.
- Hunted Horror Also one of the few rakdos triggers that doesn't tap. The 3/3 centaurs are a big risk to give away when they'll probably come right back at you, but it's too much life loss at such a low price to pass up.
- Dauthi Voidwalker While not a tap trigger, it has a powerful utility effect that can take opponents by surprise. Most importantly it is our only graveyard hate.
- Keen Duelist One of the best triggers in the deck, but with the trade-off that it will sometimes whiff. It completely pays for whatever colourless creature it reveals, and can help you chain off hard and quick. Just be careful what opponent you pick.
- Creeping Bloodsucker Does the job well and cheap. Great for its simplicity, and keeps you alive a bit longer. Don't forget to punch with his little 1 power if you need it. My son.
- Sanctum of Stone Fangs Helps offset the self harm, and hard to remove.
- Shepherd of Rot Stereotypical trigger, with the caveat that a zombie tribal opponent will up the ante significantly.
- Stormfist Crusader Up to 5 life lost a turn and card draw. Giving opponents draw is SUPER risky, but we play greedy here, and it makes you just a tiny bit friendlier politically.
- Cryptolith Fragment
Entering tapped for a 3 mana rock hurts a little, but it makes up for it with the inbuilt life loss. A very powerful trigger, the flipside will never trigger, so don't worry about it.
- Descent into Avernus Another risky trigger, but the amount of life loss and coloured mana ramp is too good to pass up. A real accelerationist card, play this on time, and it will end the game fast, whether you win or not. GREED IS GOOD.
- Lobber Crew A solid trigger that The Lord of Riots triggers twice. Very good.
- Nettle Drone Can really initiate some snowballs with a few colorless creatures. Quite good.
- Plague Spitter Goblin tribal HATES him! Click here to see the boardwipe! Greatest strength is its greatest weakness. A solid trigger that will merc enemy utility creatures, helping you pull ahead, but it will also kill some of your other triggers, so watch out for that.
- Tree of Perdition Now you want most triggers to be 3cmc or less, but it is minus 27 health when you activate it, making up for any slowness. Do this to your biggest threat and then merc em.
The broadest category, basically things that help with card advantage, jumpstarting the deck, wincon/control piece searching, protection, and longevity.
- Treasonous Ogre Life is less important than speed. Helps you get that little extra mana you need to win or go off.
- Vampiric Tutor Simple tutor, and can get you the card straight away with Vilis, Broker of Blood.
- Demonic Tutor Don't be afraid to use tutors for land/rock/trigger fixing. Especially Cavern of Souls if your counter sense is itching.
- Grim Tutor Same as above.
- Disciple of Bolas Great card with Razaketh, otherwise, make sure to use it on something big, it's the only major lifegain in the deck, and we drain ourselves a lot.
- K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth Great for dealing with the demanding black mana costs in the deck, and can win you the game on turn 4. Play a red land, play sol or crypt, next turn play another red land and cast K'rrik, turn 3, attack with K'rrik, pay 2 red and 4 life for Rakdos, turn 4, hit with rakdos and snowball, use all your open mana to tutor or draw into a wincon, and go infinite. Fun! Can trigger, and you should hit when you can for the lifelink, but don't rely on it to get rakdos out alone.
- Reanimate Besides the Razaketh trick, mainly used to grab back Rakdos or another important beater. A great meme move when its in your opening hand is to play nothing turn 1, discard a big control beater like Winnower, or a ramp creature like Ilharg or Neheb, and turn 2 play a swamp and reanimate it. Slows you down a lot, but too funny not to do, and can be a legitimate tactic. Can also hit a dead Dockside for another hit of colored mana.
- Sensei's Divining Top Does divining top stuff. Fix your top decks, go 3 cards deeper, and remember to dive it onto your deck so you don't lose it to removal. Brutal with Keen Duelist.
- Cloudstone Curio Explained above. Can do infinite stuff with cheap creatures and Dockside. Remember to hold a castable creature in hand, and to save colored mana to do so if no colourless options exist. That sounds obvious, but nothing is worse than playing a cloudstone and realizing you've ran out of resources to get a wincon card back into your hand to start the combo. Even if you can't go infinite, you can get a lot of value with it.
- Lightning Greaves Great card for any of your creatures, it should nearly always be on Rakdos, but if you've got an important control piece, you can put the boots onto one of them. Razaketh is high priority too.
- Swiftfoot Boots Worse greaves, same advice as for lightning greaves.
- Florian, Voldaren Scion An unreliable rakdos trigger, though the first strike will often force your opponent into a hard choice of lose an early game utility creature/commander or letting you start, but this can't be relied on. Real purpose is diving hard for wincons, control/protection, and then mana, usually in that order. Sometimes useless on his own though.
- Final Fortune GREED IS GOOD. Added after one too many "Just one more damn turn!" losses. Held until the precipice of victory, when all is on the line. Nothing more HARDCORE then a win with this card, which can really take your opponents by surprise, and generates memorable games if nothing else. Just have to remember that a chunk of your wincons rely on making people scoop from removing boards or having them die in their turns, so remember to kill them in a way that is instant. Also remember you can interrupt the turn order, so keep an eye out for when the control player/s has few resources.
- Deflecting Swat Another surprise card, usually held to ward off counters and removal, but if you're feeling greedy, keep an eye out for powerful boons you can redirect your way, whether it's enchantments or other targeted effects.
- Dockside Extortionist In higher tier commander pods you'll usually get solid value off this even on turn 2. Early game use this as a mana rock, and if you can save treasures to pop off the same turn you cast rakdos that's great, but speed of rakdos is usually more important. Of course, this depends on your hand, board state, and playgroup. Unless you have protection on board or hand, then speed is usually key though. Late game, use it to get the extra mana you need to cast your wincons, as victory in this deck is often the difference between 1 to 3 mana. If you're lucky, he can also be a trigger, but don't rely on it. With Rakdos, 1 life loss, and Cloudstone Curio, it goes infinite etbs/casts with any creature that costs less to play than the amount of artifact/enchants plus 1, and infinite mana if it's 2 less mana than the amount of enchants/arties. Of course it can also go infinite on its own with a creature and cloudstone, and this can really take people by surprise because the deck is so commander focused, but it's easier with Rakky out.
The meat of the deck. A lot of Rakdos decks use giant creatures that don't have much utility. For example, Desolation Twin
or Ulamog's Crusher
, they have big bodies, but not much else. The opponent can chuck some blockers in front of them, and you gain nothing. When building your own Rakdos deck, you want every big creature to also have a powerful effect stapled to the body, so you're always gaining value, while you attack. This also means you can run as few instants and sorceries as possible. You can take out a board wipe, and use Dread Cacodemon
instead, for example. Remember to cast as much as you can before Razaketh or cloudstone, to draw removal off of them. Some are removal, some are utility, some are ramp, some are protection and control, and some are a combination of these things. They are all...... a threat.
- Vilis, Broker of Blood A punishing BBB cost is more than balanced by a combination of utility creature removal and draw. With so many pain lands and self harm effects, you'll hit wincons and protection quickly, and will more than likely win soon. Pay his ability with k'rrik, or use with treasonous ogre to really EXPERIENCE THE FEELING OF RAKDOS GAMING.
- Rune-Scarred Demon Depending on your board state, grab a wincon or protection. Remember to cloudstone bounce or just to get the extra body you need for a Raza win.
- Razaketh, the Foulblooded Explained in the Wincon area.
- Myojin of Night's Reach A punishing BBB cost for an even more punishing effect. Actually not sure if this card will stay despite that power, needs more usage to be sure.
- Dread Cacodemon Board wipe with zero downside in such an aggressive deck.
- Sire Of Insanity One of the big control pieces. Will often draw removal, so play before your most important stuff.
- Cityscape Leveler Good removal and a cloudstone wincon, cast triggers are great since they're near impossible to stop. Ignore the unearth.
- Wandering Archaic
Ignore the flipside, but is a great card for slowing opponents, who often won't cast a lot of spells until it is gone, and at least makes countering one of our wincons more expensive.
- Walking Ballista A very versatile card, a wincon, removal, and a trigger in one.
- Void Winnower One of the best cards. 50% less interaction with you, and less blockers.
- Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre Wincon, removal, annihilator, and graveyard shuffler.
- Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger Wincon, better removal, and no shuffle.
- Oblivion Sower A wincon that with a bit of luck ramps you, and can keep a fire turn going. Remember to check if anyone has already exiled lands.
- Nullstone Gargoyle Great control card, just be careful you don't need to cast a tutor or cloudstone after you play him.
- Kozilek, the Great Distortion Amazing draw and protection makes up for the occasionally unwieldy colorless cost. We have a lot of 2 and 3 mana cards, which most removal and counters are, although the overly high curve of the deck can make it harder to use. Still absolutely worth it though.
- Kozilek, the Butcher of Truth Great for continuing fire turns, wincon getter, and annihilator.
- Emrakul, the Promised End Steal the most interactive players turn and cause havoc while wasting his responses, or keep an eye out for an opponent whose board state has sac engines or other effects you can use to absolutely ruin him. Can steal every turn with cloudstone. An amazing card.
- Distended Mindbender Not a wincon but will still absolutely slay with cloudstone, and can merc enemy wincons and removal.
- Conduit of Ruin Tutor for whatever big colorless effect you need, and cast a bit easier. Very solid card.
- Blightsteel Colossus Breaks the utility rule, but is an alternate wincon with Stalking Vengeance+Razaketh, the Foulblooded, if you don't have enough life to do it with normal damage. A one hit kill creature that resists removal and demands sacrificing whole boardstates to block is too good to pass up. Not to mention the classic Ilharg, the Raze-Boar jumpscare. Remember he can look for himself with Raza!
- Artisan of Kozilek Brings back important pieces, especially etb ones, can surprise win with cloudstone, and is just generally sexy value, with annihilator 2 to boot.
- Ancient Copper Dragon Testing this one. Can give you the colored mana for a win, and put you back in a game going badly, but the randomness can screw you. Big potential, just needs more testing.
- Terror of the Peaks A wincon with Raza or cloudstone that can really get you popping off. Amazing card.
- Stalking Vengeance Mutually assured destruction is the aim here, can be removed before a wipe so it can be worth booting him depending on how much you need other Meat or Rakdos. Also an alternate wincon with Raza.
- Neheb, the Eternal Can keep you in the ring when you're struggling, and really push you ahead, especially when played turn 3 with sol or crypt.
- Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion An amazing hand fixer/ramper, and probably the hardest card to classify in the deck. Nearly always worth just cycling all your land at least. Use it as a trigger if you have ramp or no other option after a mulligan, and can help dig for wincons later in the game.
- Knollspine Dragon Just remember that damage dealt isn't life loss, it's a distinction that come up more than you'd think. Can draw an absurd amount with this bad boy.
- Ilharg, the Raze-Boar Insane value with etb triggers in the deck, and you should nearly always aim to exploit that. Speeds up damage, and great to play early with crypt or sol. Also a great turn 2 reanimate target.
- Combustible Gearhulk A choice between draw or the risk of absurd damage is a hard choice. It can whiff, but when it doesn't, it absolutely destroys. Especially with a Sensei's Divining Top. You'll probably never tutor for it, but you'll never be sad you drew it, and it's just fun, especially when you can trigger it multiple times. 23 damage is my best with it. While it isn't a guaranteed thing by any means, you generally pick the lowest health player if you want draw, or a higher health player if you want life loss, of course, people can see through this and give you the less optimal outcome, but it's fun to hand people hard choices, and neither outcome is bad for you really.
I won't go through every rock and land as most are self evident even for newer players, but some need a comment.
Mana Crypt Just remember not to play it till you need it, so you don't waste life.
Chrome Mox Don't be afraid to give a spare trigger, utility or Meat card to this for speed. Great late game card for getting that one extra mana you need to win.
Sanctum of Ugin Don't forget this guy when you have him! Great for setting up your lockdown boardstates suddenly, or getting removal.
Eye of Ugin Great with Tomb of Urborg, and can get some of your cheaper eldrazi out earlier. Also good for dumping spare mana in to set up control states or grabbing removal.
Cavern of Souls This is so good! Not only does it protect your commander, so many of the amazing cards including Raza are demons. Although very late game, especially if Raza and Rakdos are on the field and protected, naming eldrazi can be better to guarantee the cloudstone wincon.
No deck can handle everything, and it's important to know your weaknesses so you can attempt to minimise em. As I play and think of these, I'll chuck them here Some are more just my rambles, but the first sentence will let you know if you care or not.
By far the biggest one is how commander reliant the deck is.
Obviously build decks however you want, I don't judge, but personally when I make a commander, I want the commander to be more than just guaranteed card draw or value (Looking at you, Simic and Monoblack). For me, commanders are coolest when they drastically change the way you play and deckbuild. These decks are always going to be a bit less competitive tho, because a single mana removal spell will have a much greater effect on your deck than on most cedh or value engine decks. So, how to play around it? I've already said it, but speed and target selection will minimise it a bit (By that I mean murder the player with the most interaction first), although similar to counterspells, sometimes you just need to power through them. Reanimate is your friend here. And you can't blame opponents for doing this, the deck will often win turn 5/6 if untouched. It helps a lot if your pod has equally fast decks like cedh decks or higher tier voltrons to draw fire, but sometimes you're just gonna get archenemied. Tbh even though this results in a loss most times, knowing you are so threatening that you absorb 3 equally powerful decks worth of removal and often still come close to winning, is satisfying in its own way. Learn to enjoy the struggle, like a badass soldiers last stand, or you won't enjoy the deck. A small respite though is that because you are so commander reliant, you will sometimes be ignored after he is dead, and comebacks are always possible if you're alive, I've done it plenty of times.
Lack of cheap instant speed removal.
The design philosophy here I believe is sound, guaranteeing consistency, speed, and power above all else. It really does work. It may sound bad, but another part of the design philosophy is that during the early game, the worst enemy control and value cards will be shot by other players. Why waste slots on early game removal when the opponents will do it for you fairly consistently? Sounds silly, but it's true. Consistency/speed is just so important, and BR removal is kinda garbo anyway outside of creatures and artifacts. But oh god you will notice the lack of interaction in slower games, and when your initial thrust is countered, it can be an uphill battle to remove insane value cards like Smothering Tithe or Rhystic Study or control pieces. Again, speed is key, persistence is key, and you can often make comebacks, as people will ignore a player they think is neutered when other players are pulling ahead. Despite that your removal game is better than most BR decks assuming things are going at least mediocre for you, since the deck can actually target enchants.
The cost of the deck.
This bitch is expensive! Personally my advice here is just to proxy if you wanna try it. I like to fight decks of an equal or higher power, but I don't expect my opponents to make the same bad financial decisions to get to that point. The idea of the "Proxying powergamer" is a bit of a boogeyman in my opinion as I've never met one in my 7 years, and as more and more ultra expensive nearly mandatory staple cards come out, high power commander is slowly becoming less accessible for the average nerd. Just off the top of my head, nearly every deck that has the colours for it needs Cavern of Souls, Dockside Extortionist,Smothering Tithe, Mana Crypt, Jewelled Lotus, Mana Drain, Rhystic Study, Force of Will, Tomb of Urborg, Fetches, originals and shocks, and I could go on and on. These are not affordable for most people, especially these days. I don't want people financially gatekept out of the higher power side of the hobby, and wizards will survive without your money. It's a big company. Just make sure you print proper nice proxies or buy nice quality ones online, since so many people rely on art to know boardstates, and maybe a small mark so people know you won't try and trade em. For the record tho, my deck is 98% percent real, just the bronze dragon and Badlands aren't real. It's my baby after all.
Targeting the same guy. My advice has always been to murder the most interactive decks first. Without being in a situation where they need your help, they will usually hard target you, and that is completely understandable. But, especially when your pod members aren't rotating much, you can end up targeting the same guy, especially because players that enjoy interaction often build all their decks that way. Again, totally fair on their part. But sometimes it can seem like you're "hating" on this player. Just calmly explain that it's the best way to secure wins in the deck. Explain you rarely need to fuck over the aggro players compared to the players with blue or cedh players. You outrun aggro, but you can't outrun them. This isn't a deck for people that easily get guilty, it just won't work if you leave interactive players alone, even if it's the same guy each game. I know this can sound like I'm this asshole killjoy that only cares about winning, but I still get half of my enjoyment from the social side of magic. But the other half is the satisfaction of making optimal plays. I enjoy trying to perfect things, and I enjoy overcoming the odds, hence the way the deck is built to be so all in. If I purposely throw or hold back, even to spare someone's feelings, I lose a lot from my experience. That being said I equally enjoy losing, it's just knowing that I did my absolute damnedest to win that I enjoy, regardless of outcome. If you're anything like me, you need to be prepared to calmly and nicely explain this to people, on rare occasions. Everyone enjoys the hobby in different ways and for different equally valid reasons, and doing your best to win is one! As long as you aren't a dick or sore loser about it. Hopefully I've explained this well, and it isn't too controversial.
Thanks for reading! I'm not particularly funny, or good at writing these, but please consider an upvote anyway. Hopefully this primes you well to play the deck! I just really enjoy maxing the potential of this commander, and while local meta will always influence these things, I really believe this is one of the BEST possible versions of this deck. Good luck!