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Rakdos Midrange on Arena

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Hello folks!

I hope your Tuesday is going well. I am not a very good Constructed player. Limited? Sure. I am in all day long. Constructed? Meh. Not for me. However, I recently built a Standard Arena deck that, surprise surprise, "won" two back to back ranked Standard tournaments. Now, you don't really "win" an Arena tournament, you just finish with the top prize as you have the most possible wins without getting the dooming number of losses, and then move on. Then this past weekend I finished one win away from "winning" the next day. So in three consecutive tournaments, I came in with the top prize twice, and then 2nd most next.

I feel like that's pretty strong, especially given my lack of an extended track record like that in Constructed play, where I often enter just because I am bored and not expecting anything major. I don't usually win an FNM Constructed event, and when I do, I am certainly not going to do it again the next week.

I thought I would share the Rakdos Midrange deck I used with you, as well as card selection and such.

Now, to let you know up front, I did not use many wild-cards on this deck. Only three mythics and a rare wc, (and some uncommon and commons). This was intended to be a budget-ish build that used cards I was opening in packs for my drafts and sealed stuff.

Rakdos has always been one of my preferred Limited strategies as it can give you a lot of firepower and removal options. Burn? Discard? Removal of everything not-named-enchantment? It's pretty strong. Thus I leaned to it naturally when the Ravnica Allegiance events began firing. I had this sick Rakdos draft deck that could win in 5 or 6 turns even when going up against strong control builds.

I think that some folks may have been hoping for Rakdos as an aggro build in Standard. But I think it's better cast as a mid-range deck, as I think the tools and answers you have in Rakdos are going to prefer the more expensive part of the deck.

Anyways, here is my Arena deck:


And there's the deck.

Now obviously, if I were to take this deck more seriously, I'd invest in batter lands.

But let's look at the cards that are here and what value they bring.

Goblin Instigator

Let's begin with one of the cards that probably brings in the most "What?" looks. I find that a lot of foes run targeted or bounce removal, and it's strong against both. If someone is looking at a burn spell or an Assassin's Trophy or something in their hand, it's harder to answer two 1/1 dorks. For example, Izzet Drakes typically is only running targeted removal or targeted bounce, so you have two bodies to deal with. It's easier to slide into defenses and hit spectacle on your Light Up the Stage or Spawn of Mayhem on the 3rd turn. Judith, the Scourge Diva and the Siege-Gang Commander also like this more. I also find a number of X/1s that get popped out that I can threaten a double trade with, such as Tithe Taker. When someone drops a 2/2 or such early, I can just burn or Murder/Bedevil on turn three and keep smashing. The two bodies are also good for other reasons. For example, multiple times I've had people save me from mana-light draws by having them Settle the Wreckage my two beaters (and maybe another too).

Ravenous Chupacabra

Now let's move to one of the best cards in this deck. Nekrataal effects never suck. A Ravenous Chupacabra can answer a lot, and provides its own body. I've killed everything from nasty Hydroid Krasis to smaller bodies and then swing on in with my team. It's the card that I wanted to stretch out into midrange for. I never regret drawing them. Plus, this four-set increases my creature removal amount to 15. That's a lot of answers to your crap. While it's more expensive, it's also harder for Mono-Blue's suite of counters to stop as it's not a non-creature, as Spell Pierce and Negate won't answer it. So a Mono-Blue that aggressively drops Tempest Caller with Spell Pierce to protect it is going to find it difficult to answer the Chupacabra. It's the same with other builds, like Izzet Drakes too, where they often run Negate and Spell Pierce as their only main-deck counters.

Gutterbones

Gutterbones may surprise some folks who may feel that a 1-drop is more aggro than midrange. First, you want to use mana each turn, and this helps. Secondly, the grinding value it adds by coming back is strong. I will attack with it suicidally into a 1/1 or something else and then bring it back later. My deck will certainly deal damage to let me recur it. I have regularly dealt 8, 10, or 12 damage from this as it was my main damage-dealer as people answered other threatens. It also soaks up exiling removal my foe may have such as Lava Coil prior to my Phoenix arriving on the battlefield, so it plays well with others. It grinds nicely.

Siege-Gang Commander

The Siege-Gang Commander is a perfect ender-of-games. It brings a lot of bodies to the table to mix it up. I love tossing Goblins at folks in order to finish them off when they were at 7 life or something. It gives you enough bodies to slip past defenders, and it plays well with the Instigator above. It's a key card in my deck.

Spawn of Mayhem

Spawn of Mayhem is probably the worst card in my deck. I opened up two in drafts and sealed so I use them, but I might just prefer two more of the next dork. However, they are great at forcing my foes to focus on them. Drop a Spawn on turn three off an Instigator, token, or Gutterbones? If they don't have an immediate answer or counter, then they are going to go find one. And it'll need to be a good one that takes it off the field, as a Pacifism variant won't stop its life draining. It has a big board presence on turn four too, in case you don't spectacle it. Folks will send their removal to it, and then my Gutterbones and/or Goblins hit for 3 or 4 more damage. Then the next turn they finally cast a threat that gets Chupacabra'd, and I swing for another 3 or 4 damage. I win a turn or two later. The Spawn works, but it's not perfect. There may be a better card in this four-spot.

Rekindling Phoenix

Rekindling Phoenix fits this deck perfectly. When it arrives to the Rakdos After-Party, I find that my foes will typically try one of three answers, with varying degrees of success. If they have an exiling removal effect, like Hieromancer's Cage or Vraska's Contempt, and they didn't use it on my Gutterbones already, then they aim it at my Phoenix and breathe easily. Otherwise, they will be forced to invest two removal spells on it, or to just ignore it and hope it goes away. Either of the latter puts me in a strong winning position.

Judith, the Scourge Diva

My last dork is Judith. She can make my stuff stronger, plays well with my Goblins and/or Gutterbones, and can push the deck. Her gentle pinging of stuff, including creatures or planeswalkers, is also a strong adjunct to my deck, and my Rakdos ways.

Angrath, the Flame-Chained

After the Chupacabra, this is the card that I built my deck around. Angrath, the Murder-Monster. His discard+ life loss helps finish someone off while removing their options. I've had many opponents concede after I resolve Angrath. The life loss supplements my other removal and my spectacle too. His -3 is the good stuff though. I love to steal a big dork that my foe thought was going to rally the game into a face-smashing minion of Angrath. He can sacrifice smaller stuff. Note that a lot of powerful dorks have smaller casting costs - namely Pteramander and Hydroid Krasis, who are 1 and 2 respectively and are key beaters in their decks. I love punching, and then sacrificing their dork. Sorry! (Not really). Angrath is the best game-winner for my deck. But there are times when he's superfluous or not needed, and I don't have any more wild card mythics either. Just two in the deck.

Bedevil

Bedevil isn't as flexible as Assassin's Trophy, but it also doesn't speed up your foes' with lands, so there's value there as well. But pretty much anything you want to kill is included in this list. I always save this for last as it's my only artifact removal in the main deck, and my other "planeswalker" options are usually burn and other damage. So, it's strong. It's killed many a Vivien Reid or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. It's a strong instant for the deck.

Murder

Do I need to explain why I typically prefer Murder to burn spells? Nope? Great!

Light Up the Stage

Card flow is important for a midrange deck like this one. It's great early with Spectacle, and fine later as a sort-of Act on Impulse. If folks aren't used to the card, they may misplay it. Normally this type of effect is used with an "end of turn" clause, but in this case, it's until the next of your "next" end turn, so you get two turns to use them. You are pretty sure to plays anything under this, from two lands to dorks or removal. It's a fun card!

Lightning Strike

I am always going to prefer Lightning Strike to the 3-mana (sometimes) sorcery speed Skewer the Critics. The other major option is Lava Coil, which is also a two-mana spell, deals four damage to a dork, and then exiles it. It's a sorcery. I prefer this and its flexibility, although I'd move to Lava Coil if I needed more exiling effects. But this has killed players and planeswalkers. For example, I had someone Vivien Reid my Phoenix a few days ago, and cast a removal spell to finish off the egg. Then at the end of their turn, I Lightning Struck their Vivien, and she died. Lava Coil wouldn't do that. I enjoy instant answers.

And that's my deck!

Skarrgan Hellkite
Rakdos Firewheeler

I do want to be open the fact that this deck may want Skarrgan Hellkite or Rakdos Firewheeler in my build. The Hellkite provides a nice top end body that can either swing for haste in the air for four damage or get a counter and then shoot opponents and their minions down. The Firewheeler can potentially hit for some damage too, although I believe that in theory, a four-mana guy that's this hard to cast and only Shocks a creature or 'walker ain't doing enough.

Viashino Pyromancer
Fireblade Artist
Dark-Dweller Oracle
Lightning Mare
Dismissive Pyromancer
Dire Fleet Poisoner

Now I have tried a lot of two-drops, such as Viashino Pyromancer, Fireblade Artist, Lightning Mare, Dismissive Pyromancer, Dark-Dweller Oracle, or my next favorite, flash/deathtouch king Dire Fleet Poisoner. But none of them had the length and breadth that the Instigator had, although the Poisoner was the closest by far. In a format driven by pinpoint answers, two bodies on turn two is strong. It plays better on the 3rd turn with Judith, Spawn, or Light Up the Stage. As of right now, they remain in there, although I am open to them coming out later.

I have beaten decks like the popular Gates build, Drakes, Nexus (pre-banning), Golgari + Blue, and Esper control, as well as various unique builds like gb Merfolk or bw Vampires. I also randomly had a match against Gruul Fires trying to make the new Fires work.

The deck features more removal than some decks have creatures. A typical Izzet Drakes decklist may have 12 Drakes and 'Manders, and then maybe the 1/2 or 2/2 Ghitu 1-drop.

Carnival // Carnage

For the sideboard, I found that Carnival // Carnage worked perfectly against Mono-Blue Aggro, in particular Carnival side as a fast way to take out that can take out 3 of their 5 dorks, and is cheaply, can easily be cast by your deck with the hybrid cost, and can really push folks around with the Blightning variant too later on when needed. Plus if cast on your turn, if you have three mana total, it takes two Spell Pierces to stop, which is unlikely. Both halves give you spectacle too, although that's less important, and Carnage is fine for the Murder's on a creature less control deck too, so I'll swap it in for that matchup. After that I have some cards that I pull out for Murder against creature-light builds and things like Duress in the board. I flex my sideboard as things change, although Carnival // Carnage is the best sideboard card against MBA I have available.

So there you are! Thoughts? Have you tried Rakdos in Standard. Cards to suggest? I'd love to hear it. Thanks for your time!

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