Rakdos, the Showstopper - Illustration by Viktor Titov

Rakdos, the Showstopper | Illustration by Viktor Titov

That’s right. After somehow managing to talk about Rakdos () every chance I got, I’m finally writing about a Rakdos commander. However, this isn’t a “pure Rakdos” deck in the sense that I didn’t build it thinking in building around the commander, but rather it’s a demon typal deck that has Rakdos, the Showstopper as its head.

I could’ve chosen from a selection of possible commanders for this deck (a couple of them are actually in the 99), but I was given a great excuse to build around my favorite guild leader from Ravnica.

Someday I’ll write about the deck that’s given me one of the funniest losses I’ve ever had: Rakdos, Lord of Riots Eldrazi typal. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I didn’t see “the original three Eldrazi titans being dropped on turn 6” coming. But that’s a story for next time.

For now, let’s get demonic with this Rakdos's Rakdos deck.

The Deck

Mayhem Devil - Illustration by Dmitry Burmak

Mayhem Devil | Illustration by Dmitry Burmak

Commander (1)

Rakdos, the Showstopper

Planeswalkers (2)

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath
Ob Nixilis, the Adversary

Creatures (24)

Archfiend of Depravity
Balor
Blood Speaker
Bloodgift Demon
Bloodletter of Aclazotz
Cadaver Imp
Dream Devourer
Harvester of Souls
Herald of Slaanesh
Indulgent Tormentor
Kardur, Doomscourge
Mahadi, Emporium Master
Master of Cruelties
Mayhem Devil
Ob Nixilis, Unshackled
Overseer of the Damned
Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Rakdos, Patron of Chaos
Raphael, Fiendish Savior
Reaper from the Abyss
Rune-Scarred Demon
Sin Prodder
Tavern Scoundrel
Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire

Instants (14)

Bedevil
Blood for the Blood God!
Chaos Warp
Demand Answers
Go for the Throat
Hero's Downfall
Hurl Through Hell
Kolaghan's Command
Malakir Rebirth
Rakdos Charm
Supernatural Stamina
Terminate
Thrill of Possibility
Undying Evil

Sorceries (7)

Blasphemous Act
Damnation
Haunting Voyage
Read the Bones
Reign of the Pit
Vandalblast
Victimize

Enchantments (6)

Black Market
Havoc Festival
Liliana's Contract
Mark of the Oni
Mirror March
Warstorm Surge

Artifacts (13)

Arcane Signet
Bontu's Monument
Commander's Sphere
Conjurer's Closet
Elbrus, the Binding Blade
Hazoret's Monument
Jet Medallion
Krark's Thumb
Rakdos Signet
Sol Ring
Swiftfoot Boots
Talisman of Indulgence
Urza's Incubator

Lands (33)

Barren Moor
Blood Crypt
Bojuka Bog
Cabal Coffers
Castle Locthwain
Command Tower
Dragonskull Summit
Forgotten Cave
Haunted Ridge
Mortuary Mire
Mountain x4
Path of Ancestry
Rakdos Carnarium
Raucous Theater
Reliquary Tower
Rogue's Passage
Sanctum of Eternity
Smoldering Marsh
Swamp x7
Temple of Malice
Temple of the False God
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Westvale Abbey
Witch's Cottage

The Commander: Rakdos, the Showstopper

Rakdos, the Showstopper

This deck’s commander is here mainly to enable the deck’s typal strategy, and it does so by having an absurdly chaotic ability. Back when I first saw Rakdos the Defiler in Dissension, I didn’t really like it. I know the Rakdos guild is a chaotic, self-immolating, recklessly relentless circus of maniacs, but it felt like gratuitously sacrificing most of what you own kind of sucked, especially when the whole of the guild isn’t actually composed of that many demons or devils. This card possibly taking out a bunch of your lands whenever it attacks kind of makes it too much of a risk for yourself – especially since it only needs to attack to force you sacrifice half your permanents, but it needs to actually hit and damage a single opponent to force them do the same.

Rakdos, the Showstopper from Ravnica Allegiance fixes the Defiler's drawbacks in my opinion. It may be slightly less aggressive than the parun’s first card, but it also gives some maneuvering room in building your deck. Especially since it doesn’t force you to sacrifice all permanentsthat aren’t demons. This allows you to focus your deck in a single typal strategy, making it so that whenever your commander hits the field, you get a one-sided pseudo-wrath. And this parun is still a huge flying trampler that demands a sufficiently entertaining answer.

In the case of this particular deck, I focused on demons specifically because that was the original purpose of the deck, but you could very easily turn this into a demon, devil, and imp typal.

Utility Creatures

The thing about demons is that they’re all very mana-intensive, but they pack a pretty strong punch. Similarly to dragons, in most 60-card formats they’re pretty much game-enders. If an opponent plays a dragon or a demon, it means they’re essentially trying to place a ton of pressure on you and are aiming to end the game soon. But Commander is a weird format, so you need your big, terrifying creatures to actually bring some additional value to your side of the board.

In this deck, almost all your demons have some additional benefits.

Bloodgift Demon Rune-Scarred Demon

Some of these are considerably easy to see how they could be strong. Bloodgift Demon’s a Phyrexian Arena on a body; Rune-Scarred Demon does the same but for Demonic Tutor, and I could go on.

Balor

A few others demons aren’t as straightforward. Balor, for example, is obviously a great way to pressure your opponents, but it also allows for some political gameplay, using the optionality of its ability to negotiate with your opponents.

Kardur, Doomscourge

Kardur, Doomscourge essentially goads all your opponents’ creatures, which can be great at almost any time, but it can definitely be played at strategic times to cause some major damage.

Dream Devourer

Dream Devourer isn’t as strong in this deck as it could be in some other more specific strategies, but it can definitely be useful as a way to lower your creature’s costs as well as protecting them from hand-targeting spells.

Herald of Slaanesh

To lower your creatures’ costs, you also have Herald of Slaanesh from Warhammer 40K, which can make a massive difference in a deck like this, where every creature tends to the higher end in terms of mana value. Also, giving haste to your big beatsticks is nothing to scoff at.

The deck only runs a handful of non-demon creatures, but they’re all here to play into the deck’s strategies, be that demon typal or the commander’s coin-flipping and sacrificing ability.

Blood Speaker

Blood Speaker works both as a great tutor for demons and a wonderful source of cannon fodder for cards with LTB triggers, death triggers, or sacrifice-triggered effects thanks to its built-in returns-to-your-hand ability.

For other cards that can’t bring themselves back, the deck runs Cadaver Imp. This card goes alongside with Mahadi, Emporium Master, which serves as a mana source, Mayhem Devil, which serves as support for sacrifice strategies, and Raphael, Fiendish Savior, which serves as a lord and a source for tokens, since they’re all imps and devils, which means they aren’t targeted by your commander’s ETB ability.

Tavern Scoundrel

Speaking of flipping coins, you also have Tavern Scoundrel as a way to profit a bit more from those coin flips. Not to mention it has its own coin-flipping ability which also allows you to sacrifice a permanent for some additional triggers.

Interaction

This is a Rakdos deck so it obviously runs a bunch of targeted removal, because of course it does. Bedevil, Terminate, Go for the Throat, etc. all serve to take out specific threats before they turn into a real problem.

Hurl Through Hell

You also have Hurl Through Hell, because sometimes it’s not enough to just take out a big threat. Sometimes you also have to steal that threat for yourself and use it to beat your opponents.

Kolaghan's Command

Kolaghan's Command definitely isn’t as strong in Commander as it could be in Limited and 60-card Constructed formats, but it still brings flexibility and useful interactions to solve a variety of possible problems.

Sometimes interaction cards are actually a defense against your opponents’ own interactions. Undying Evil, Supernatural Stamina, and Malakir Rebirth are here not to only protect your stronger and more useful creatures, but also to re-trigger their ETBs if they have them and an opponent makes the mistake of trying to destroy them.

Victimize Haunting Voyage

Just like the villain at the end of any good slasher movie, even when your opponents think they’re finally rid of your demons, you should have a way to bring them back for one last scare. This is done with Victimize and Haunting Voyage, both of which can ensure you reanimate your most threatening and powerful demons.

Sweepers

Damnation Blasphemous Act

The deck runs only two board wipes with Damnation and Blasphemous Act. You could choose to take out some of the more chaos or meme-ish cards from the deck and replace them with some additional wraths, but I personally preferred going for the funnier options.

Additional Support

Like any deck with a typal theme or which plays a lot of one specific color, you need to run some support for that. Bontu's Monument and Hazoret's Monument, alongside Jet Medallion, reduce the cost of your spells while also giving some additional bonus effects.

Conjurer's Closet

The deck runs several cards with ETB effects, starting with its commander, so Conjurer's Closet is here to let you take as much advantage as possible from those effects.

Krark's Thumb Mirror March

Speaking of your commander’s ETB, Krark's Thumb makes it a lot more dangerous to play, letting you flip two coins and choose the one you prefer each time. This also pairs great with Mirror March, which can easily spiral into a wincon by making you a massive army of demons.

Warstorm Surge Mirror March

Another great pair for some of the previous cards is Warstorm Surge. After all, if you bounce your massive demons every turn, that means tons of free damage whenever they come back. Especially if Mirror March keeps creating tons of copies.

Liliana's Contract

Liliana's Contract is a quick and effective alternative wincon if you play it at the right time and manage to protect it for a whole round. Easier said than done, but not impossible.

Havoc Festival

I added Havoc Festival to the deck mostly because I find it profoundly funny. I’m aware this is a Rakdos demon-typal deck and not a full Rakdos Cult chaos deck, but if your commander is Rakdos himself, you need at least one chaos card that’ll make the match a little absurd.

The Planeswalkers

Or rather, the Ob Nixilises (Ob Nixili? Anyway, you get it). The deck runs two different incarnations of Magic’s most cartoonishly villainous antagonist, who just can’t manage to hold onto his spark for more than like a week at a time. Well, three if we count Ob Nixilis, Unshackled, but we’re talking about the planeswalker versions for now.

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath lets you gain some life each turn, making it easier to keep up against the damage your opponents’ll be trying to deal. Obviously, the fact that it can create a 5/5 demon as soon as the turn it comes in also poses a massive advantage. Its ultimate ability is also great, adding card draw into the mix. It can be a bit harder to activate, but if you manage to get it, it can be a massive payoff in the long run.

Ob Nixilis, the Adversary

On the other hand, you have Ob Nixilis, the Adversary. Its abilities are great, and it can copy itself as it comes in. Do I need to say more? Alright, sure. This card’s +1 also helps in giving you some life advantage, while also forcing your opponents to either lose life or discard a card. Its second ability is basically just fine. It’s not great, but it can prove useful if you desperately need some creatures. And its ultimate can give you insane card advantage, or alternatively take out an opponent who’s either running out of cards or short on life.

The Mana Base

Bojuka Bog Path of Ancestry

Pretty much all the lands in the deck are standard for Commander and typal decks. Graveyard hate like Bojuka Bog to disable any graveyard-matters opponents, Path of Ancestry for typal support, all the usual.

There’s also Westvale Abbey both as a way to generate tokens if you have some mana surplus and to eventually transform it into Ormendahl, Profane Prince. I really hope I don’t need to explain why Ormendahl, Profane Prince is a creature you’d want to have in your side of the field.

The Strategy

This is a deck that aims at getting strong as possible during the mid and late game. Much like dragon decks, this deck runs tons of high-mana value creatures; unlike dragon decks, however, demons don’t have tons of support cards that reduce mana costs, so you’ll have to be patient as you prepare to start playing your creatures.

Since you have to wait to start properly arming yourself, the idea is to take as much advantage from your creatures as possible. Having cards with effects that trigger whenever creatures enter the battlefield, playing demons with ETB effects, having ways to give them evasion so that they can start taking out opponents quickly and effectively. You should start swinging late, but the moment you start, you swing with some real power.

Finishing out a Commander game through sheer damage can become hard depending on what your opponents play, so you can always rely on Liliana's Contract as a way to ensure your victory without too many issues.

Combos and Interactions

I mentioned it earlier, but Conjurer's Closet pairs wonderfully with Warstorm Surge and Mirror March, which incidentally also pair perfectly with each other. All of these work to get the most out of each of your creatures.

Krark's Thumb

When paired with Krark's Thumb, this combo can easily become a game finisher as you double your chances of creating a massive demon army that deals damage just by entering the field. It’s not 100% certain and won’t go truly infinite, but it can still be absurdly fun to play.

Rule 0 Violations

I think some players may have some issues with Liliana's Contract as it’s a pretty un-interactive way to win the game. I’d argue in favor of have a rule 0 chat with your playgroup beforehand just to make sure everyone’s on the same page about it being a possible game-finisher.

Budget Options

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers are always some of the first cards I advise cutting from these decks. Yes, they’re absurdly useful, but they can reasonably be cut out. Of course, losing massive mana sources in a deck with such high mana values can be risky, but it won’t ruin your strategy either. You can just replace them for some alternative mana sources.

Damnation can simply be replaced by any other wrath, as long as it’s useful. Something similar can be said for Bloodletter of Aclazotz. It’s definitely useful because it can speed up the game as you deal some massive damage to your opponents, but if you need to, you can just replace them with some other strong demons.

This same logic essentially applies to most of the more expensive cards in this deck. They can easily be replaced by other demons or cards with somewhat similar utilities.

Other Builds

You could take a demon typal deck into massively different directions. First off, you can just have your commander be a mono-black creature since most demons are black. You can also try a Grixis commander like Be'lakor, the Dark Master, which gives you access to some control cards. Or you can go with a Mardu commander like Kaalia of the Vast, though I think focusing Kaalia only on demons instead of having all three creature types would be a sort of downgrade.

On the other hand, you could use Rakdos, the Showstopper for various other strategies. You can start by having a more varied creature type base, using demons, devils, and imps. It can also be used for coin-flip decks and chaos strategies, which also fit the Rakdos theme and lore perfectly.

Commanding Conclusion

Raphael, Fiendish Savior - Illustration by Livia Prima

Raphael, Fiendish Savior | Illustration by Livia Prima

I really love Rakdos decks. It should be obvious by now, but I really enjoy building within these colors. Demons are a really fun creature type to build around, even though they definitely could use some support in the ways dragons have gotten support over the years. But even with all of that considered, they’re powerful, fun, and certifiably edgy so you can be the edgiest person at the table.

But enough about what I think. How would you build a demon typal deck? Do you agree with my choice for commander? Who would you use? What’s your favorite demon card? Leave a comment letting us know! And while you’re here, make sure to pay our Discord server a visit. There you’ll find an amazing community of MTG fans to share your hobby with!

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

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