Last updated on July 21, 2021
Dreadhorde Arcanist | Illustration by G-host Lee
Strixhaven and Historic Anthology V has added some very powerful cards and shaken up the Historic meta and opened doors to new and fun archetypes. I’ve got you covered so you don’t have to look any further for new decks.
Today, we’re looking at a deck that’s always seems to be present in the meta, regardless of whatever else is going on. As time passes, it even seems to get closer and closer to its Pioneer counterpart: Rakdos Arcanist.
Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger | Illustration by Vincent Proce
This deck relies on graveyard synergies and recursion as its main plan, along with hand disruption effects to ensure maximum effectiveness. This list is from zzznozinan, who made an impressive 19-9 run on the ladder and reached mythic with the build this season.
The first time I encountered Rakdos Arcanist was during a Magic stream featuring Luis Salvatto playing in the Mythic Invitational. I was very impressed with the deck’s power level as Salvatto easily took third place with the build.
The deck has evolved since then. It got a few more tools in cards like Scourge of the Skyclaves, which helps protect the deck against its main weakness (graveyard hate), with the introduction of Standard sets like Zendikar Rising. Kaldheim also gave the build a more solid mana base with Blightstep Pathway.
Finally, with the Historic Anthology V, we got Kolaghan’s Command. The now deck looks almost identical to its Pioneer counterpart with this addition. Wizards plan was to close the gap between formats by introducing new supplementary sets, so this makes sense.
Is all that enough to make Rakdos Arcanist competitive, though? Of course it was! So let’s dig into the details of the deck.
The deck is built around its companion, Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Every permanent in the deck has a mana value of two or less and enables the recursive-ness for all the deck’s graveyard synergy. Lurrus enables fun and powerful plays, helping you rebuild the board against removal-heavy decks.
Moving to the deck’s core, its primary enabler is Stitcher’s Supplier. Paired with Village Rites, the Supplier not only fuels the deck’s real MVP, Dreadhorde Arcanist, by milling 1-mana value spells, but it also has excellent interactions with Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. The Supplier can mill a Kroxa to cast later or just give you some card selection in the graveyard.
These three cards represent the deck’s primary win con, but it also has other creatures. Young Pyromancer is a good secondary game plan against decks that have graveyard hate. Left unchecked, it can create a big army in no time.
Finally, the deck has a few more gems in its creature package. Magmatic Channeler is the most exciting one. Not only does it have a similar effect to Faithless Looting, discarding unnecessary cards from the hand that would otherwise be dead in certain matchups, it also circumvents one of the main graveyard hate cards you have to contend with: Grafdigger’s Cage. The Channeler doesn’t interact with the graveyard in the same way as your other cards. So as long as the requirements are met, it can be a 4/4 in no time.
Instants and Sorceries
The deck also has a discard package to help to manage the flow of the game. You’ve got Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, which are particularly great in control matchups. You also have your bases covered against aggro matches with a solid removal package: Fatal Push, Bloodchief’s Thirst, and Spark Harvest.
Dreadhorde Arcanist in particular plays very well with these cards. Aggro decks find it tough to deal with a turn 1 removal spell followed by another one on turn 3, and the same can be done when you’re up against control decks by replacing the removal with a discard effect.
Your other spells are supplementary but also play a big role in the deck. Kolaghan’s Command can cover all your bases since it works well with the deck’s plan and is great for removing artifacts like Grafdigger’s Cage. Claim // Fame and Agadeem’s Awakening can both bring creatures back from the graveyard whether they were killed or milled by Stitcher’s Supplier. Last up is Village Rites, which works well with Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and Young Pyromancer.
The deck’s mana base is very solid with Blightstep Pathway, but there’s one small catch. You need to keep a close eye on what colors you’re missing, especially when you a choice to make with Pathway or Fabled Passage. You need double red and double black sooner rather than later to cast Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger for its full value.
That being said, don’t stress about it too much. As long as you have both colors available by turn 2, you’ll be fine. The deck tries to get into big, grindy matches most of the time, so you’ll be able to fix your mana with relative ease in the long run.
Village Rites (Strixhaven Mystical Archive) | Illustration by Matthew G. Lewis
Some interactions may be very intuitive, but some are probably a bit more difficult to spot if you haven’t played with the deck before or haven’t seen it in action. But don’t worry, I’ve got you.
- As I mentioned, Dreadhorde Arcanist is one of the deck’s core cards. It can be backbreaking paired with Thoughtseize if curved out effectively from turn 1 into turn 3. But you can always wait until turn 3 to make a double Thoughtseize play if you’re struggling to fix your mana. What I mean is that you can wait to cast your 1-mana spells if you need to.
- Speaking of curving out, most of the time you’ll cast Dreadhorde Arcanist on turn 2 and it’ll get killed a turn later. This is where Claim // Fame comes in handy. Claim can bring back Arcanist on turn 3 and give it haste plus the extra power boost to enable casting Kolaghan’s Command or even another Claim // Fame. That being said, remember that you can only cast Claim with the Arcanist if it has a power of three or more. Both parts of Claim // Fame count when it comes to Arcanist’s ability, so Claim’s mana value is three.
- Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger works pretty well with Village Rites. Before the sacrifice ability resolves, you can sacrifice Kroxa without losing value. Remember that if you’re playing on MTGA, you need to enable full control to make this happen, or at least set up a stop on your main phase. Otherwise both abilities will resolve without the opportunity to react and cast the Rites.
- Another cool interaction with Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger occurs when you have Lurrus of the Dream-Den on the battlefield. You can bring Kroxa back and make your opponent discard and potentially lose three life on top of that.
- One popular deck right now is the Solemnity / Nine Lives combo, which prevents all damage to your opponent. Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger’s ability triggers every time it attacks to get rid of your opponent’s hand while you figure out how to deal with Solemnity.
- Kolaghan’s Command plays very well with the whole deck. One particularly cool thing is that it’s an instant that can be cast on your opponent’s draw phase and force them to discard the card they just drew. And then you can pressure them with what you already have on the battlefield or bring any of your creatures back. You’ll need to set up a stop on your opponent’s draw phase to make this happen in Arena.
Blood Crypt | Illustration by Adam Paquette
One thing that’s particularly difficult with this deck is making sideboard adjustments on games 2 and 3. Your cards can vary in effectiveness depending on whether you’re on the play or on the draw. I’ll try to cover most of the most common matchups you might see while trying to reach mythic this season.
This matchup can be very grindy, but as long as you can keep them from growing their Sprite Dragons too big, you’ll be good. You also want to keep your opponent from playing more than two spells a turn with your discard package so that they don’t bring back any Arclight Phoenixes, which they’ll be most likely discarding with your Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger activations.
One card you need to be particularly careful about is Stormwing Entity. You have almost no way to get rid of it in game 1, which is why you need to hold your Bloodchief’s Thirst or have your opponent discard it with Thoughtseize.
Post-sideboard you have a more robust plan bringing your Fry and Magma Spray so that your opponent can’t abuse their graveyard synergies with Arclight Phoenix. And don’t forget that they can bring in their own Soul-Guide Lantern. Keep that in mind, approach the match carefully, and don’t go all-in on the graveyard plan too early.
The plan here is to abuse your discard package plus Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger to disrupt Jeskai’s goal of going wide. The longer the game goes, the fewer chances you’ll get to come back. But you can go wide too, and your game plan is better than your opponent’s since you’re not worried about your life total as much as Jeskai Control is.
Post-sideboard, get rid of your creature removal and bring in more solid answers to their win cons plus more discard to try to catch any graveyard hate they might be running.
You want to cut the Claim // Fames to avoid relying on the graveyard too much, but you can side out a Kroxa or two and keep two Claims if that feels comfortable.
This is a tough matchup. You need to keep an eye on your opponent’s Archon of Emeria and Scavenging Ooze. As long as you keep those in check, you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Keep in mind that you can kill their Skyclave Apparition on attacks to 2-for-1 them since most of their creatures are small.
Post-sideboard, bring in all your removal while siding out most of your graveyard interaction package. This will even the matchup up a bit more and potentially give you the upper hand.
Jund Food Sacrifice
You’re both trying to abuse the graveyard in this matchup, but in different ways. Our main interaction is wider while the main interaction for Jund Food Sacrifice involves Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven. We have very few ways to deal with the Oven combo in the main deck. That’s why forcing your opponent to discard those on the early turns is key, and even discarding second copies after the first one resolves. The first one can be dealt with later with Kolaghan’s Command.
Make sure to hold removal for Mayhem Devil as it’s probably the most important card in Jund’s deck.
Both aggro decks get thrown into the same boat as they’re very similar to play against. In game 1, you want to avoid bleeding from your shocklands and Thoughtseizes too much as your opponent has the advantage, especially on the play.
Azorius and Orzhov Auras Matchups
Dimir Rogues Matchups
This deck has been popular since Strixhaven but it’s an effortless matchup for us. They’re helping us out by milling the cards we’d use to go wider than them pretty quickly.
Other Cards to Try
As the meta changes, it’s always good to have some card options that you can swap back and forth between your builds. Here’s just some of them.
Scourge of the Skyclaves
This card is a good option if you’re looking for a creature that can get around graveyard hate and pressure your opponent. Its only drawback is that you need to deal damage to both yourself and your opponent, so it can be a little tricky to run. But the raw power is there, and this card is a wall against other decks, as weird as it sounds.
A newly introduced card from Strixhaven, Looting helps to loot unnecessary cards from your hand and add cards as fuel for the graveyard.
This is mainly a suitable replacement for Feed the Swarm, but its actual use is to kill Klothys, God of Destiny. If you happen to run into many of those, you can consider dedicating at least a sideboard slot for this.
If you feel like you’re flooding a lot, you can replace a Mountain with the Hazard to help deal with small creatures.
Claim the Firstborn
Previous Arcanist decks ran this, but since the meta shifted from aggro to control, it’s just not cutting it. But it’s a great option if you are looking to get more aggressive.
The only issue with this Castle is that you end up milling it more often than not. It’s fine to run one copy in your main deck otherwise, though.
If the meta shifts towards a more tribal-heavy environment, this card is perfect to deal with elves and goblins. These decks have seen better days, though.
I ran four matches with this build with a positive win record. Want to find out how the deck is played? Check for yourselves:
This has been an entertaining deck to play. It involves a lot of thinking and play to get used to it. The more you play it, the more you’ll like it and the better you’ll get at playing it.
If you were curious, the only cards that this deck is missing to fully mirror its Pioneer counterpart are Dreadbore and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. But who knows, maybe we’ll get to play it to its full potential with the release of new sets.
I hope you have as much fun as I did if you test this deck out. Don’t forget to let me know in the comments how it performed for you, and which changes you’d make to improve it. Don’t forget to grab Arena Tutor if you’re playing on MTGA a lot and want a free app to track your matches.
As always, take care and have a good one!