Last updated on September 27, 2022

Chainer, Nightmare Adept - Illustration by Steve Prescott

Chainer, Nightmare Adept | Illustration by Steve Prescott

I like aggro decks as much as anyone, but I particularly like what the Rakdos () colors add to an aggro deck to make it more interesting. It’s also a color combination that spent a long time missing good support in EDH. Rakdos had plenty of legendary creatures, but none of them were particularly great commanders. Commander 2019’s deck commanded by Anje Falkenrath was possibly the biggest step towards changing that, with its secondary commanders as much as its main commander.

Chainer, Nightmare Adept is one of those secondary pieces, and it emphasizes what I like so much about Rakdos. It lets you bring back creatures from your graveyard and grants them haste. Haste is an underrated ability, but it can be a backbone of good aggro strategies. Returning creatures from the graveyard means you don’t need to worry too much about them dying.

The Deck

Noxious Gearhulk - Illustration by Lius Lasahido

Noxious Gearhulk | Illustration by Lius Lasahido

The Commander

Chainer, Nightmare Adept

A good strategy for Chainer, Nightmare Adept is to keep ETB (enters the battlefield), LTB (leaves the battlefield), and attack triggers from your creatures consistent. It’s an ultimately straightforward mechanic and you want to keep it focused on the creatures in your graveyard that bring a direct advantage.

Hit ‘Em Fast

Sneak Attack

One of the most important cards in this deck is arguably Sneak Attack. The sacrifice downside is mostly irrelevant thanks to your commander, and it’s downright useful for some of your creatures. Being able to put your creatures into play like this can get around counterspells and fill your graveyard quickly.

The Graveyard Creatures

Chainer, Nightmare Adept can put creatures onto the battlefield from the graveyard. Naturally, you need creatures to keep bringing back. Most if not all these creatures have ETB or LTB effects, perfect for recursion.

Grave Titan and Inferno Titan are arguably two of the most important cards here. Bringing any of these two cards back with Chainer means a double activation of their triggered ability plus attacking with a 6/6 creature.

There are other creatures with great ETB effects that you could keep bringing back, like Massacre Girl, Etali, Primal Storm, or Meteor Golem. Playing any of these from the graveyard means a useful effect plus an immediate attack to put pressure on your opponents.

Not every creature in this deck should have such high mana costs. Dire Fleet Daredevil and Dockside Extortionist are cheap ways to exploit Chainer, Nightmare Adept’s ability to take advantage of your opponents’ decks.

Ingot Chewer, Shriekmaw, and Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger  can be played for greater costs if you want, but they can still work as excellent quasi-sorceries by casting them for their effects and then sacrificing them.

The Necromancers

A deck like this can run a huge risk by not having its commander on the field. You don’t want to fill your graveyard only to find that you can’t bring anything back.

Doomed Necromancer, Apprentice Necromancer, Sheoldred, Whispering One all make sure that you can keep your creatures in your graveyard within arm’s reach.

You also have Reanimate, Animate Dead, Phyrexian Reclamation, and other spells to double down on this.

Feldon of the Third Path

Feldon of the Third Path should technically fall into this category since it’s one-turn reanimation with some extra steps.

Discarding Your Hand

Chainer’s ability isn’t free. You’ll need to have cards you can discard to keep their ability useful, or at least something to take advantage of what you’re discarding. Anything with madness fits right in with this, but I didn’t want to rebuild the Anje Falkenrath precon.

Squee, Goblin Nabob

The most important card here is Squee, Goblin Nabob. You can only activate your commander’s ability once each turn, so this goblin is basically all you need to make that ability free.

Bone Miser and Archfiend of Ifnir will give you consistent advantages by discarding cards each turn.

Drownyard Temple

If Squee, Goblin Nabob isn’t an option there are alternative ways to take advantage of your discards. Discarding Drownyard Temple and playing it from the graveyard can be a roundabout but viable way to use the discard cost to ramp a little bit.

Sacrificing Your Creatures

It’s important to keep your ETB and LTB effects going steadily.

Cards like Altar of Dementia and Phyrexian Altar are great additions in plenty of decks. They ensure that cards with ETB effects can keep going into the graveyard whenever you need them to so you can recast them.

Ramp

Rakdos isn’t a guild that’s exactly well known for its ability to generate mana, and this deck plays some expensive cards. Mana rocks can prove essential.

There are also alternative ways to ramp if you take into account how the deck works. Dockside Extortionist is amazing in regular decks, so you can make it a repeatable effect. Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart also get improved thanks to your commander and become repeatable ways to ramp.

Dire Fleet Daredevil

Dire Fleet Daredevil isn’t exclusively for ramp, but you can always take an opponent’s Kodama’s Reach to fix your own mana base.

Some More Utility Cards

Anger

Anger serves to replace Chainer’s second ability if isn’t on the field and you want to use some of your necromancers.

Dualcaster Mage

Dualcaster Mage is an amazing card to have in your graveyard when your commander is on the field because it’s either a safeguard against a ton of spells or a way to power them up.

Muck Drubb

Muck Drubb is here for essentially the same reason.

Emergence Zone

Emergence Zone has you covered if you need to cast any of your creatures at instant speed for their ETB ability.

The Mana Base

Most of the lands in the deck are self-explanatory in their utilities.

Emergence Zone and Drownyard Temple are probably the two utility lands that are mostly aimed at this deck’s strategy.

There’s also Phyrexian Tower that doubles as a sacrifice outlet and Hanweir Battlements which can grant haste to one of your creatures in a pinch.

The Strategy

The main idea is to keep access to your graveyard consistent and useful. Most of the creatures in the deck either have ETB or LTB effects, or some other kind of effect that could lead to your creature going to the graveyard against your will.

Your commander is central to the entire deck’s strategy. You still have plenty of cards that can somewhat replace its abilities when it isn’t on the battlefield to ensure that you don’t get completely stuck at the first use of removal.

There’s also a strong discard subtheme within the deck thanks to the cost of Chainer, Nightmare Adept’s reanimate ability. That theme can be explored in more interesting ways if you wanted to.

Combos and Interactions

Grave Titan

Most of the interactions in this deck become apparent once you understand how it’s meant to be played. The ability to cast Grave Titan from the graveyard with haste means attacking with a 6/6 while also creating four 2/2 zombies in a single turn. You don’t have to worry about your target blocking it and killing it because you can keep bringing it back.

Some cards have some specific interactions that can be useful like Sneak Attack and Garna, the Bloodflame. You can use the enchantment to drop a ton of creatures and attack, only to cast Garna, the Bloodflame after you sacrifice them to return them all to your hand.

Rule 0 Violations Check

The only real combo that could be a Rule 0 violation involves Dualcaster Mage, Living Death, and any of the repeatable sacrifice outlets like Phyrexian Altar.

The combo consists of the following steps:

This combo allows you to have infinite ETB and LTB triggers. It also has some other infinite effects depending on your sac outlet. Phyrexian Altar gives you infinite mana while Altar of Dementia lets you mill your opponents to victory.

It’s a strong combo, but you need very specific pieces and a big mana pool to activate it, so I’d say many playgroups won’t be against it. You can keep the cards in the deck without playing the combo: they’re important pieces, after all.

Budget Options

This deck costs about $200 to $300. I’d say that’s reasonable considering what most EDH decks can cost, but there are ways to make it more budget-friendly.

Deciding what to remove and how to replace it on this deck mostly amounts to personal choice. The expensive sac outlets like the altars could be replaced by less expensive and less powerful ones, like Viscera Seer, Flesh-Eater Imp, or Phyrexian Plaguelord among many. These are obviously not as good as something like Phyrexian Altar but they’re still viable options.

The same thing goes for most ETB cards. Vile Entomber and Orcus, Prince of Undeath have solid effects and can be found for relatively cheap. Other inexpensive options are Surly Badgersaur, Containment Construct, or Urabrask the Hidden.

Other Builds

The main alternative build for this deck would be to focus on cards with madness and use Chainer, Nightmare Adept as your discard outlet. That would essentially be the same as getting the Anje Falkenrath prebuilt deck. Chainer is a card with fun mechanics, but it doesn’t lend itself to alternative builds.

Commanding Conclusion

Garna, the Bloodflame - Illustration by Winona Nelson

Garna, the Bloodflame | Illustration by Winona Nelson

I think Chainer, Nightmare Adept fits right in with my other favorite Rakdos commanders, Anje Falkenrath and Prosper, Tome-Bound. They’re all very fun to build around, and focused on interesting and original mechanics. They also all use the Rakdos colors in ways that go beyond the cliché of chaos or ultra-aggro-removal builds.

What do you think of this build? Did you find some other way to build this deck? What’s your favorite Rakdos commander? Let me know by leaving a comment down below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.

That’s all from me for now. Have a good one, and I’ll see you next time!

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