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Always a Crimson Bridesmaid

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Readers!

On more than zero occasions, as many as three times in the last 24 months, I've put the phrase "This Rakdos deck is the most Simic deck I've ever built," typically referencing a new trend in Rakdos decks to do things like allow you to play their spells and ramp up huge with treasure tokens. Whereas Rakdos used to be a clunky color combination with small, low-impact spells that are only good in 20 life formats and large, unwieldy creatures that you can't afford to summon. However, recent changes in design philosophy have made me come to see Rakdos as an elegant and skill-intensive color combination with small, low-impact spells that are only good in 20 life formats and large, unwieldy creatures that you can sometimes afford to summon. We've come a long way - started at the bottom now we're impulse drawing a Scapeshift off the top of our Green opponent's deck and using it to get Cabal Coffers and Urborg so we can summon our six mana commander that got killed twice. Rakdos has expensive tastes - massive, powerful demons, giant, splashy Enchantments, whatever the hell Tibalt's Trickery is. It can be a frustrating experience as a Rakdos player to miss two land drops in a row and watch everyone else play Magic: the Gathering while you sit there with a grip full of 8-drop Demons wondering if it's a waste to use a Demonic Tutor as a Farseek. Not today. If we're forced to play big, expensive creatures in our decks, who says we have to play fair? Exhuming a Sheoldred into play on turn three isn't as unfair as the Ramp player having enough mana to cast Sheoldred on turn three, even though people are going to act like it is. Screw 'em; let them take it up with Sheoldred.

Reanimating our dead creatures to either give them a second crack at screwing up our opponents' lives or avoid paying retail for their mana cost is a tried-and-true approach to Rakdos deck-building and being able to reanimate a creature without having to pay a card or pay life feels like cheating. We're going to need to cheat if we want to win and skipping the mana cost for something is a great way to cheat. We need Olivia alive and swinging repeatedly and we also need a way to get creatures into the 'yard. I've been thinking a lot about that second part and I looked into building with a ton of Vampires when Olivia was first spoiled.

Olivia, Crimson Bride

A Vampire-heavy build makes sense. Vampires create Blood Tokens which allow you to dig deeper into your deck and discard big creatures to reanimate. Other Legendary Vampires being in the mix also takes some of the pressure off of you to keep Olivia alive since you can keep those creatures around longer. The more I thought about it, though, the less I really cared about running a ton of Vampires. True, you'll keep the creatures around longer, but let's not pretend a commander that reanimated a creature, let it swing once and then exiled the creature would be bad. An erstwhile corpse leaving the makeshift grave you abandoned it in to roam the earth and assail the very opponent who worked to kill it in the first place is always gravy, and if this particular gravy doesn't last very long because they kill Olivia, I think we can live with that. If you want a deck that cannot live with that and which loads up heavy on the Vampires to get Blood Tokens to discard, keep your reanimated creatures alive because any Legendary Vampire will do or a third thing, the internet is full of examples of such builds. However, I am opting not to build around her Vampire identity. I'm going to build around something else entirely - a Thesis Enchantment.

Not just any thesis enchantment, mind you - I'll be playing with a card that teaches us to think of our board as temporary, which will make us feel less bad about our creatures potentially going away if something happens to Olivia and which is 1000 times better at getting creature cards into our graveyard as any discard outlet. It's a card you already know if you read my article last week. SNEAK ATTACK.

Sneak Attack

Sneak Attack does everything we want a card to do in this deck, including change the way I saw the creatures I reanimated with Olivia's ability. If I want to keep a utility creature around but it's a big one that I can't really afford to summon, I can include cards like Animate Dead in the deck which won't be affected by what happens to Olivia. The rest of the creatures I reanimate, then, should play as well with Sneak Attack as they do with Olivia, and that means creatures that hit hard. A typical reanimator deck might play something like Void Winnower, but since we're not going to reliably keep our big creatures around, why not swing for the fence and play It That Betrays? It costs more mana, but we're not paying it, it's more fun to swing with, we don't care if it dies to a combat trick because that's one combat trick they didn't use on our commander who can bring ITB back again and it hits HARD. Putting huge Eldrazi (not the ones that shuffle our library, mind you) in a reanimator deck doesn't always work but getting to attack with a hasty creature and hit them before we try to make it stick via reanimation is easily the best possible way to put a creature card in the 'yard, and that's what we care about. Building around Sneak Attack rather than relying on cards like Faithless Looting completely changed how I saw the roles of my commander and my creatures in the deck. Treat your creatures as ephemeral and the types of creatures you choose to play with end up very different and the deck starts to look for cards that play more like Sneak Attack to fill in the gaps you make when you cut stock cards.

How would this deck, built around the idea that all of our creatures should be various kinds of Ball Lightnings, shape up? Hold on like ten seconds and I'll tell you, damn. Rude.

Olivia, Crimson Bride | Commander | Jason Alt


I noticed a lot of stock lists were running Doomed Necromancer, which to me feels like a worse Hell's Caretaker a lot of the time. Sure, you may run into situations with Hell's Caretaker where you don't want to keep sacrificing big creatures because you're not developing your board, but if you sac a creature that was going to be sacced or exiled at the end of the turn, anyway, why not get some value? I like Hell's Caretaker, even in decks where you don't have a ton of small creatures to use as fodder, and it seems great in a Sneak Attack deck like this one.

One thing you need to watch out for that I underplayed earlier is that Olivia will exile the creatures she reanimates if something happens to her. It pays to have some sac outlets, both so you can safely stash those creatures in your bin before Olivia removes them from the game, but also just so you can get something out of your creatures dying a lot. If you want, you can run even more than I have here - Altar of Dementia might be even better than Ashnod's Altar here, although our average mana value is quite high here.

I'd need to rip maybe 100 sample hands or play a bunch of games to see where this needs to be tuned up - the list is rough. I cut a lot of four-mana Legendary Vampires from stock lists, but what may be even worse is that I replaced a lot of 6-8 mana creatures with 12 mana ones. Eight mana was basically playable for mana midgame or later, but 12 is not the same creature. You'll really need to cheat. If you find you can't keep your hand full, or can't empty your hand, consider running more cards like Cathatic Reunion. It isn't 1998 anymore - getting a big creature in your 'yard by not playing a land and discarding to hand size isn't necessary these days.

That does it for me this week, readers. I think by leaning in to our Thesis Enchantment we fundamentally altered the way the deck plays enough that it's an entirely novel approach but has a lot of cards in common with the stock list which may help them underestimate you. Our creature suite is bigger and badder, we'll have way more turnover and be way less susceptible to board wipes and we don't have to worry about keeping Vampires in play. What could be better? Until next time!

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