Adventures in Deckbuilding: Capturing the New Rakdos, Plus More Theros Spoilers!

Welcome, fellow deck-building adventurers, as I present the latest fruit of my labors:

Rakdos, Return to Ravnica Edition (Theme Deck)

Creatures (24):

1 Carnival Hellsteed

1 Chaos Imps

1 Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

4 Gore-House Chainwalker

4 Hellhole Flailer

1 Rakdos, Lord of Riots

4 Rakdos Cackler

4 Rix Maadi Guildmage

4 Spike Jester

Artifacts (4):

4 Rakdos Keyrune

Sorceries (1):

1 Rakdos’s Return

Instants (7):

4 Auger Spree

3 Rakdos Charm

Lands (24):

4 Blood Crypt

8 Mountain

4 Rakdos Guildgate

8 Swamp

Yes, I know that I’ve done this before, but Dragon’s Maze has been released in the meantime. The third set in Return to Ravnica revisited each of the ten guilds, adding new options that I wanted to take advantage of for my guild-themed decks. All five of the Return to Ravnica theme decks have thus been overhauled, some more than others, so you should expect me to post new versions of them in the future. Decks with the Gatecrash guilds are also in the works, but I’m far from having completed them.

What’s the Point of Building a Crappy Deck Like This?

Along the same lines as my Chandra theme deck, the new Rakdos deck is more about crafting an experience than actually winning the game. The original goal of these guild-themed decks was to introduce new players to the original Ravnica guilds by letting them experience both the flavorful and mechanical aspects of the guilds’ identities. When those original ten guild decks proved to be successes, capturing the feel of each Ravnica faction while also providing an enjoyable play experience, I knew that I was onto something, and I’ve been building tightly-themed, flavorful casual decks ever since. From the shards of Alara to the tribes of Lorwyn, from the factions of Mirrodin to the planeswalkers themselves, it adds up to somewhere around twenty different Vorthos-style decks that I can break out whenever someone’s just in the mood for some fun, interesting games. When the guilds were revisited in Return to Ravnica, I knew I wanted to build new theme decks around them to capture the shifts in flavor and function that had occured over the intervening years. Each guild had a new identity, and I wanted to once again communicate that identity through a sixty-card medium.

With that in mind, I’ll walk you through how I ended up crafting a new-age Rakdos experience.

How the Deck Works

From the moment you first sit down to shuffle the deck, the visual themes of the Cult of Rakdos will be readily apparent. You’ll feast your eyes on these sleeves

And this twenty-sided die/life counter.

Then, as you actually play the deck, you’ll get to explore the individual components that make up the Rakdos guild and come to understand their philosophy as a whole.

You’ll get to meet their leadership, the legendary individuals who champion the guild and embody its priniciples:

Rakdos, Lord of RiotsRakdos's ReturnExava, Rakdos Blood Witch

You’ll see the guildmages, who are trained in the unique magical traditions of the Rakdos,

Rix Maadi Guildmage

The keyrunes, magically-charged rods that both signal guild membership and serve a variety of useful purposes,

Rakdos Keyrune

And the charms- simple multipurpose spells that punish the opponent in a variety of sadistically destructive ways.

Rakdos Charm

You’ll also discover the Rakdos’ central mechanical theme,

Rakdos CacklerGore-House ChainwalkerHellhole FlailerCarnival HellsteedChaos Imps

And you’ll revel in the rush of aggressive power that it provides. Yeah, sure, you can act all civilized and allow your creature to block if you really need to, but who would want to do that when you can instead crash into the opponent with a monstrously huge attacker? OK, so you give up the ability to defend yourself, but the temptation to sacrifice long-term flexibility for a short-term advantage is very strong (and very Rakdos).

You may also notice that the all of this reckless aggression and destruction has a certain dramatic flair:

Spike JesterAuger Spree

Images of nightmarish circuses will pop into your mind, and you’ll have a good idea of what this new incarnation of the Cult of Rakdos is all about.

Finally, nestled among your oft-overlooked pile of lands, you’ll get to visit the various locales associated with the Rakdos, from their gore-drenched “resting” places

Blood Crypt

To the Gates through which visitors and recruits alike must pass

Rakdos Guildgate

To the common landscapes of Ravnica which most of the rank-and-file Rakdos call home.

MountainMountainMountainMountainMountain

SwampSwampSwampSwampSwamp

All of it adds up to a purely and uniquely Rakdosian experience which will steep new and experienced players alike in the carnivalesque world of death and destruction that characterizes the cult. After playing this deck for a few games, the pilot will have discovered not only the individual cards that comprise the Rakdos in Return to Ravnica but also the over-all feel of what it means to be Rakdos. Through a combination of visual cues (the Rakdos sleeves and die, the presence of the Rakdos watermark on every single card except for basic land), verbal cues (every non-basic-land card conveys a Rakdos identity in either the name or the flavor text), and game-play (favoring a strong, aggressive plan that throws caution to the wind), this is a deck that very clearly and loudly communicates the Rakdos identity.

That’s exactly what I’m going for in a theme deck like this. It may not be competitive (although it’s still fun and interesting to play in a casual multiplayer game), but it’s very, very Rakdos.

And Now It’s Time For Some New Theros Spoilers!

Rather than stick with my original plan of doing a color-by-color analysis of the on-going Theros spoilers, I’ve decided to just cover the new ones as they come out and then do a full run-down of the set in the week before the pre-release (which is next weekend).

Two new cards popped up on DailyMtg today. First we’ll look at the spoiler revealed by Adam Styborski, author of the relatively new Commander-focused column Command Tower.

The flavor here is awesome. In Greek mythology, there were three Fates who governed the course of human lives. Clotho was the Fate of birth, in charge of spinning the thread of life. Lachesis was the Fate of life itself, measuring out the span of each mortal existence. Finally, Atropos was the Fate of death, using her shears to cut each string at its appointed length. They are often envisioned as three old crones, spinning, measuring, and cutting the threads of each life.

As is often the case when Magic reinvents existing mythology, the Fates of Theros are much more active, vibrant, and heroic.They are all women who appear to be in their late twenties, and they look like they’d be more willing to hunt you down and murder you themselves than to sit around playing with thread. The thread of life has become a thick ship’s-rope that looks like it could serve as either an effective whip or a strangling cord. Atropos’ shears are instead a nasty-looking sword (which is pointed forward and out of the artwork rather than at the thread of life). Clotho (I think that’s Clotho on the right) just looks ready to punch someone. In essence, while Triad of Fates may be based on the Greek legends, the Magical incarnation isn’t worrying about metaphorical representations of life and death- they’re going to control your destiny with some good old-fashioned violence.

It’s cool that Triad of Fates is a 3/3 (representing three individual 1/1 humans), but I think there was a missed opportunity here with the mana cost. The flavor of the card would’ve been absolutely spot-on perfect if it had cost one green, one white, and one black, with the costs of the activated abilities matching the colors in the mana cost. Green (representing new life) would be in charge of setting the fate of target creature. White (representing the protection of life and the fulfillment of destiny) would be in charge of saving the creature until its appointed time. Finally, black (representing the eventual end of all things) would finish off the creature when its time came. I understand that it would look strange to have a three-color creature in the set, but I think the added flavor would have made up for it.

As for the card’s usefulness, I could see building an interesting Standard deck around it, but I think the set up time required (a turn to cast it, a turn to put a fate counter on something) keeps Triad of Fates from being too powerful in competitive constructed. It’s also disappointing that using the second ability removes the fate counter, thanks to this little line of text in the comprehensive rules:

121.2. Counters on an object are not retained if that object moves from one zone to another. The counters are not “removed”; they simply cease to exist.

So, if you use the white ability to rescue a creature, then you have to spend yet another turn giving it a fate counter before you can do it again. In casual or Commander decks, you can use tricks like Thousand-Year Elixir or Magewright’s Stone to get around that drawback, but Triad of Fates just seems too slow and awkward otherwise.

Then we have the preview from Perilous Research, a column dedicated to covering the MtGO (Magic: the Gathering Online) metagame and written by Jacob van Lunen.

Firedrinker Satyr is a brand-new incarnation of the old aggressive staple Jackal Pup, and on first glance, it looks fast enough to see automatic play in every aggressive Standard red deck. Since Stromkirk Noble is leaving the format, fast red decks are going to need another powerful one-drop to play alongside Rakdos Cackler, and Firedrinker Satyr fits the bill.

The only problem is that this card is a serous liability against other aggressive decks. It’s never going to be able to effectively block, and any opposing burn spell becomes much more powerful because it can now remove a threat and deal damage to your face. Plus, since you can only pump its power, Firedrinker Satyr is totally useless against an early first-striker like Precinct Captain or Boros Reckoner. I think, as is usually the case, this card’s viability is going to be determined largely by the metagame. If you expect a large number of control decks, then you need Firedrinker Satyr to put on lots of quick pressure. If you expect aggressive opponents, then Firedrinker Satyr might be more of a liability than an asset.

And that’s all for today. If you have any questions or comments about the Rakdos deck, or if you think my estimations of our two new Theros cards are off the mark, feel free to let me know in the comments.

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