Hello folks! I hope your first week post-full spoiler release has been a Ravnica Allegiance -inspired one!
I wanted to bring you home for the various Top Ten Guilds for Commander from this set. Let’s take a look!
I volunteered for Rakdos, as it’s my favorite color combo for Limited and one of my least favorite color combinations for Constructed play. I love the color combo on a small scale! But my Johnny Combo Player isn’t always there otherwise.
For example, in my Abedraft where I have (at least) one copy of every card in Magic, I will look to see if I can force Rakdos. There are enough common burn and removal spells in the colors that I am always apt to unearth something good for my efforts. This color combo can handle any single permanent type not named enchantment (which isn’t that strong in Limited) and can do so with commons. Destroying a land or artifact? Here’s Red! Destroy a creature? Here’s Black! Black can destroy, and Red can burn down a planeswalker. Only enchantments can slip through.
Fun times for Black and Red!
Anyways, let’s take a look see at some fun time projects for you!
For purposes of this list, I will be looking at the following two things:
- Any one of the below:
- Any multicolored card that is both Black and Red
- Any Mono-Red card
- Any Mono-Black card
- Any colorless card that fits Rakdos
And that’s it!
So that are the best cards coming down the pike for Commander from Ravnica Allegiance?
Honorable Mention #1 - Vindictive Vampire
I am putting this back in my Honorable Mention section because of how much it costs. But if you are looking for another Blood Artist or Zulaport Cutthroat for your Commander brew, you can’t go wrong with this one!
Honorable Mention #2 - Captive Audience
Don’t confuse yourself into thinking something is amazing in Commander that also costs a ton of mana is going to make every deck. It’s not the “expensive stuff” format. That’s Type Four! This needs to do something in order to make the cut. Luckily it does, and it’ll get some play because of how fun it is!
Here is my guess as to the probable order these will be chosen in:
- 5 Zombie tokens
- Discarding hand
- Life total is 4
Now there are obvious changes. If someone is at 5 life, they’ll go to 4 first, if they are top decking, they’ll discard first, and such. It’s enchantment nature means it can be cheated out by effects such as Academy Rector so it’s fun for that as well. Enjoy the madness!
10. Carnival // Carnage
In Commander, we are looking for answers. You want versatile answers because you never know what you’ll be facing. The first is a solid Shower of Sparks ability. It’s not amazing, but you never know when an extra damage will finish something off. It’s also a cheap instant that damages a dork (see #5 below for that reference). Carnage is the more likely play though, as it’s basically a Blightning that costs another mana. Getting a four mana-discard two effect is still timely in Commander for mid or later turns when someone may only have two cards in hand. Taking on the damage is a nice plus. I am confident that they chose Shower of Sparks and Blightning as the base two because of the life loss that’ll get your Rakdos spectacle humming. Versatility helps!
9. Skarrgan Hellkite
Don’t be confused by Skarrgan Hellkite’s Gruul watermark. He’s in disguise. He is clearly a Rakdos card. His riot ability is very similar to the previous unleash one that Rakdos had before, and could have been virtually printed as a Rakdos ability in this set without anyone blinking an eye as a sort of upgraded unleash. He clearly has a synergy with stuff like Exava, and his activated ability can enable the life-loss needed for your spectacle abilities to trigger. The Hellkite smashes hard and quickly.
Remember that, prior to this set, Green was third in Haste and Black was second so riot would have worked very well in Rakdos! It still does. Get your smash on my friend!
8. Font of Agonies
Rakdos doesn’t always have this sort of a long-game grinding effect. However, it’s very good at racking up those blood counters! Drop this on the first turn, and then laugh as you pay lots and lots of life in Commander! There’s an epic number of huge-quality cards out there that’ll net you some blood counters.
Here are a handful of examples:
Black in particular loves to lose life for effects like drawing cards or pumping it’s stuff. You could easily add enough blood counters onto Font of Agonies from life-into-cards effects like Necropotence or Erebos, God of the Dead without even needing to build a deck with a lot of pay-life effects. And we have the pain fetch lands, lands like Mana Confluence and the Shock lands that all have a payment of some sort that you can use to dial up the blood counters very quickly.
7. Rix Maadi Reveler
This is a strong card that brings some useful options to bear. Cast it early and get some card flow happening. You have a solid body to swing and block with. Then once you’ve managed to smash some face in, you can spectacle for a number of cards. Discarding your hand into three cards is obvious a strong play when you don’t have three cards in hand! From tricks that’ll load up your graveyard to drawing three cards when you are hand-less, there are a lot of situations where you’ll want its spectacle cost. Note that if you triggered spectacle, you don’t have to pay it. If you like your hand and you want to keep it, you can, just drop it for its normal cost.
6. Judith, the Scourge Diva
She’s a cheap Commander option if you are looking to have her leads your deck. She has two strong effects going. The first is the obvious pump-strength for your folks as she is a decent Lord of Creatures. The second is what pushes her, to my mind. She can net you a free death trigger as your stuff dies. And unlike Blood Artist and such, these triggers can be directed at a number of places, such as planeswalkers, creatures, or at someone’s face. That’s gives Judith a much better level of versatility. She can trigger spectacle quite ably. You can also add in a cool way to use dying or self-sacrificial dorks like Mogg Fanatic for tricks. She’s strong, versatile, and very Diva-esque!
5. Pestilent Spirit
The ability to turn all of your burn spells into a Murder effect is really cool! But where this card really shines it with cards in Red that can split damage. Consider something boring, like Arc Lightning or Pyrotechnics:
Arc Lightning can split the damage up, and you can deal up to three damage which lets you kill up to three dorks that you target. Pyrotechnics adds another damage and target for two more mana. Or you can shoot just the one, two, or three dorks that you can kill, and then send the rest of it to someone’s face. This is incredibly good, and these effects are only Pyrotechnics and Arc Lightning!
As you start to dig you’ll find many other cards that play into this effect, such as Rolling Thunder, Forked Bolt, and my favorite, Fire Covenant that can kill every opposing creature on the battlefield. Because of how perfectly Pestilent Spirit fits with Red spells, it’s basically an honorary Rakdos card from where I’m sitting!
4. Rakdos, the Showstopper
There’s finally a good Rakdos! It took us a while!
Here let me show you the wonky things we had before, in case you forgot:
The first Rakdos the Defiler is here with a big body but it forces you to sacrifice half of your stuff when it arrives. It only promises an equal amount of hurt if it punches someone in the face, and since it doesn’t’ have haste, it takes a turn to do just that. In Commander it’s incredibly easy to answer and is a poor scion for your colors.
What about Rakdos II?
The good thing is that Rakdos, Lord of Riots is cheap and has a strong body. He also has the tie-into-life-loss of the guild’s later mechanic we see, so there’s a strong flavor there. You need to give some life in order to bring him out, so that’s cool. But the card is overly restrictive when you play it.
And that leads to the first good version of Rakdos I’ve seen. Rakdos III, Stopper of Shows
Rakdos III is very good generally. He’s easier to cast! Note that he evokes the feel of the first one, but now everyone can lose their stuff, and it’s on arrival, so he no longer has to punch someone’s face. You also don’t have to sacrifice things to him that make no sense, like lands or artifacts. Rakdos doesn’t want your dope-y mana rocks. He wants blood! And the wants it now! Will someone be killed for Rakdos’s glee? The coin flip in this case feels like the capricious nature of Rakdos at the table.
He isn’t interested in killed fellow Demons, Devils or his Imp servants. Other than that, it’s fair play! He feels really strong as the leader of a Commander where you can run those three types as well as a few cards like Solemn Simulacrum that you want to feed to your master.
Rakdos is here baby!
As I mentioned above, versatility is important in Commander. Instant speed answers that are flexible are key stopping someone who is trying to be abusive. This is an instant, near Vindicate for mostly the same price. Here let me show you:
Suppose I cast Vindicate at Commander table. These are, roughly, the types and percentages that I use it (and similar) effects for the potential targets:
- Creatures, 35%. I’d say that around a third of the time I use Vindicate to handle a creature. Creatures are the most pervasive threat out there and are quite common to see an answer to.
- Planeswalkers, 25% - Planeswalkers are harder to interact with, thus my Vindicate removal effects that can destroy anything tend to go to them as they are a sure way of taking them out and moving on no matter how many loyalty counters they have. Roughly one-out-of-four times I am taking out a ‘walker.
- Artifacts, 20% - I’d say that one-out-of-five times I am using this to blast an annoying artifact, such as a key piece of equipment or a Mind's Eye.
- Enchantments, 12% - Just a little over ten percent of the time, I’m taking out an enchantment. It’s nice to have in my back pocket as redundant removal for things like Moat or Ghostly Prison that is stopping me from attacking. But I find that there is normally a worse threat in the above three categories that I have to sandblast.
- Lands, 8% - Finally are my lands, and these include targets of opportunity such as Volrath's Stronghold as well as mass-mana-makers such as Gaea's Cradle or Cabal Coffers. But other than these my Vindicates almost never hit a land.
Based on my (admittedly raw) data that I did spend a day with prior to editing my piece and massaging my numbers, you can see that I use the first three targets around 80% of the time. That means that Bedevil is a three-mana instant that keeps the targets I’d want to hit 80% of the time for the same cost with the added flexibility of the instant.
For a long time, there has been a debate among Commander aficionados as to which is better:
The issue was the more-expensive instant with exiling vs the sorcery, cheaper, but can hit lands.
Which do you think is better?
Well Bedevil is putting itself formally into this argument with the flexibility of the instant, and trading down from four mana to three, and just removing enchantments as a potential target. I think it’s worth it!
Did you note that Bedevil’s mana cost is perfect? It destroys one of three things, two of those destruction abilities are Black, and one is Red. So, it costs . That’s perfect!
2. Macabre Mockery
I think that this card has a big chance to make of itself something very powerful. It’s basically a Ray of Command for your opponent’s graveyard. You can steal a dork and it’ll get a little bigger too. You can steal something to swing for a turn, or to block a big heavy. You can Macabre Mockery something out with a strong enters-the-battlefield trigger, such as their Ravenous Chupacabra, and then kill a creature on arrival. You can just use this to get a cool death trigger like the dying of a Veteran Explorer. You can use this just to have some meat to sacrifice to a cool sacrifice trigger you want to use.
But this card works best when you combine them!
For example, your opponent may just have a Pelakka Wurm in their graveyard just all sad because it couldn’t join the game when it was milled, or it was killed very yearly. Well that’s okay lil’ Wurm! We’ll bring you back, smash someone’s face for 7 trample damage, gain 7 life, and draw a card. Even a simple Solemn Simulacrum is a land and a card, and potentially blocks some attacker or such as well. You’ve got this I’m sure.
This is a powerful new tool for all of the Commander decks out there!
1. Theater of Horrors
Card advantage matters. Commander is very sensitive to it. If you are playing against 3 other folks in a pod of four players, then you are being outdrawn 3:1 every turn that passes. That’s why engines such as Phyrexian Arena that can help you level up your card drawing are critical. This plays into that nicely! Every upkeep, you can exile a card for the future. Later on your turn once you’ve done some life loss to your foes (which is mega-easy, and note that the Theater has that as a built-in trigger), then you’ll be set and you can play any of the cards you exiled, even ones previously! It’s a strong card!
Now I’m not sure what Black is doing here. The ability is Red. The exiling a card is Red’s form of card advantage, not Black’s. Forcing you to smash a foe in the face to get them feels a lot more Red than Black. I feel like this could have been printed as is with a cost!(and that would have made it a lot better for Commander as Mono-Red and other decks would have had access to it). Am I missing the Black in this card?
And there we are! I hope you enjoyed my look at the top Rakdos Cards from Ravnica Allegiance to consider for your next Commander night. What did you think of my list? Where did I go wrong? Let me know in the comments below!
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