The Spirit of EDH – One Helluva Showstopper

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Hello everyone! I’m Literally a Ghost That Pushes Over Candles and welcome back to The Spirit of EDH. This week we’re looking into a bold new future! One of Demons, carnivals and one hell of a showstopper. We’re going to be talking about a new Ravnica Allegiance legend, Rakdos, the Showstopper. Of all the legends we got to see, this big demon is the one that excited my little casual heart. There was some contention between Rakdos, Teysa, and Judith since I thought making a deck with Judith as the commander might be a fun challenge. In the end, the Parun of his guild won out.
I have played this deck in paper a few times already, through the power of a willing playgroup and a black marker, and this is what has worked for me so far:

Commander
1 x Rakdos, the Showstopper

Creatures (21)
1 x Pawn of the Ulamog
1 x Treasure Nabber
1 x Anger
1 x Erebos, God of the Dead
1 x Rakdos, Lord of Riots
1 x Solemn Simulacrum
1 x Archfiend of Depravity
1 x Doom Whisperer
1 x Puppeteer Clique
1 x Demon of Dark Schemes
1 x Demonlord Belzenlok
1 x Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
1 x Kokusho, the Evening Star
1 x Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
1 x Reaper from the Abyss
1 x Ryusei, the Falling Star
1 x Sower of Discord
1 x Wurmcoil Engine
1 x Lord of the Void
1 x Overseer of the Damned
1 x Archfiend of Dispair
Spells (43)
1 x Faithless Looting
1 x Skullclamp
1 x Sol Ring
1 x Vandalblast
1 x Voyager Staff
1 x Animate Dead
1 x Cover of Darkness
1 x Damnable Pact
1 x Krark's Thumb
1 x Lightning Greaves
1 x Mind Stone
1 x Mirror of the Forebears
1 x Rakdos Charm
1 x Rakdos Signet
1 x Talisman of Indulgence
1 x Bedevil
1 x Chaos Warp
1 x Commander's Sphere
1 x Heirloom Blade
1 x Phyrexian Arena
1 x Theater of Horrors
1 x Unstable Obelisk
1 x Victimize
1 x Worn Powerstone
1 x Ancient Craving
1 x Damnation
1 x Deathrender
1 x Hedron Archive
1 x Inner Demon
1 x Silence the Believers
1 x Whip of Erebos
1 x Conjurer's Closet
1 x Gilded Lotus
1 x Liliana's Contract
1 x Mind's Eye
1 x Promise of the Power
1 x Stolen Strategy
1 x Grave Upheaval
1 x Kindred Charge
1 x Sunbird's Invocation
1 x The Immortal Sun
1 x Kindred Dominance
1 x Blasphemous Act
Lands (35)
1 x Ancient Tomb
1 x Blood Crypt
1 x Bojuka Bog
1 x Canyon Slough
1 x Command Tower
1 x Dragonskull Summit
1 x Graven Cairns
1 x High Market
1 x Luxury Suite
1 x Miren, the Moaning Well
8 x Mountain
1 x Myriad Landscape
1 x Path of Ancestry
1 x Rakdos Carnarium
1 x Rakdos Guildgate
1 x Smoldering Marsh
12 x Swamp
1 x Temple of Malice

Introducing the Defiler

Rakdos is not the only focus of our deck, but he does influence our choices in inclusions quite a bit. He actually felt similar to Archangel Avacyn when I started flexing my brewer muscles, in that he has the potential to kill our own creatures but otherwise actively encourages board wipes. In this case, he is the board wipe.

“When Rakdos, the Showstopper enters the battlefield, flip a coin for each creature that isn’t a Demon, Devil, or Imp. Destroy each creature whose coin comes up tails.”

What an absolute monster of a card. We have two real parts to this, with a third kinda hanging on at the end there:

  • Rakdos is a board wipe, even if a weird, kinda-inconsistent one. The good news is, there are so many creatures across the table from us in a game of commander that his ability will always feel worth it, even if it doesn’t always hit what you want it to. This means that any creatures that we run have the risk of being culled by our commander and so need to be prepared for that spectacular death. With, of course, some exceptions.
  • Rakdos spares Infernals, that is, Demons, Devils, and Imps. This means that we can play a pseudo-tribal deck and the expensive creatures we cast will always survive the curtain call. Unfortunately, there aren’t many playable devils and even less imps, so we’re essentially a demon tribal deck. We’ll talk about that more, later.
  • Rakdos flips a lot of coins, especially if there is a token maker in the pod. There are some synergies here as well, though if you’re looking for a coin-flipping commander deck, you might want to consider Okaun, Eye of Chaos and Zndrsplt, Eye of Wisdom. This is why I only mention it offhand here.

Besides that, Rakdos is a solid flier made even scarier by his status as our commander, threatening lethal in four attacks even past chump blockers.

Demon Worship, Made Fun!

1 x Rakdos, Lord of Riots
1 x Archfiend of Depravity
1 x Doom Whisperer
1 x Demon of Dark Schemes
1 x Demonlord Belzenlok
1 x Reaper from the Abyss
1 x Sower of Discord
1 x Lord of the Void
1 x Overseer of the Damned
1 x Archfiend of Dispair
1 x Cover of Darkness
1 x Mirror of the Forebears
1 x Heirloom Blade
1 x Inner Demon
1 x Kindred Charge
1 x Kindred Dominance

1 x Path of Ancestry

As mentioned above, our deck is only a pseudo-demon tribal deck. What this means is, our demons don’t necessarily work better together, but we have cards included that reward us for playing an amount of the same creature type.

Cover of Darkness – A card a lot of tribal players will be familiar with, this card is infamous in its ability to kill. The good news for our opponents is, we rely on high impact demons rather than a swarm of smaller creatures, this means that its effectiveness on stifling blocks can be lessened by a few removal spells. The bad news is, our demons all fly. This makes blocking very difficult, if not impossible for some opponents. This card will kill people quickly if they don’t answer it, or don’t happen to be playing big black flyers.

Mirror of the Forebears – While some of our demons are important for their enters-the-battlefield effects, some of them only want to deal damage to our opponents, in Lord of the Void, or have abilities that work in multiples, like Demon of Dark Schemes earning us more energy, Reaper from the Abyss killing two creatures on the end step, Overseer of the Damned to make two zombies from any death, or Archfiend of Dispair to utterly destroy our opponents life total. This is a cheap copy of any of these demons for the low investment of two mana up-front. What a bargain for such a fine mirror.

Heirloom Blade – Our demons aren’t endless, so when our opponents manage to remove one, it can be rough on our total threat count. Luckily this heirloom will draw us a new demon whenever an equipped one dies. This will make sure we can always have a threat out, as well as increasing the deadliness of our current threat. In addition, it doesn’t require us to play exclusively demons or a high count of them.

Kindred Charge – This is another card where the large impact creatures impact the strength of this card. Even if we only have three demons on our board, retriggering any enters-the-battlefield effects (including on our commander) and having extra bodies from our non-legendary demons to attack our opponents is enough to make this card more than worth it.

The Supporting Cast

1 x Pawn of the Ulamog
1 x Anger
1 x Solemn Simulacrum
1 x Puppeteer Clique
1 x Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
1 x Kokusho, the Evening Star
1 x Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
1 x Ryusei, the Falling Star
1 x Wurmcoil Engine

1 x Voyager Staff
1 x Krark's Thumb
1 x Deathrender
1 x Conjurer's Closet

1 x High Market
1 x Miren, the Moaning Well

Pawn of Ulamog, Anger, Solemn Simulacrum, Puppeteer Clique, Kokusho, the Evening Star, Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, Ryusei, the Falling Star and Wurmcoil Engine – Any of our creatures that aren’t Infernal need to be prepared to, or work with, dying. That way if Rakdos decides to cull them we aren’t up a creek without a paddle. Anger works from our graveyard, Puppeteer Clique will come back and give us another creature, Mikaeus can grant Undying to all our creatures, Infernal or otherwise, and the others all die for a solid effect, whether it be a massive life-drain, a land, a pair of worms or an Earthquake.

Voyager Staff – A one time use flicker effect, this is one of the few ways black and red has to re-trigger enters-the-battlefield effects without killing and reanimating our own creatures. This will often be used for another Rakdos culling, but can also retrigger some other powerful demons abilities, like Demonlord Belzenlok or Demon of Dark Schemes.

Krark’s Thumb – Sometimes, the only thing you can do when faced with luck is brutally cheat in your favor. Krark’s Thumb can let you flip twice for every creature, increasing your odds from 50% to 75% for the outcome you want, in theory. This can help stem the amount of luck comes with a Rakdos culling and doesn’t require a large mana investment up front.

Conjuror’s Closet – Similar to Voyager Staff, Conjuror’s Closet will let us retrigger Rakdos’ culling, giving us more chances to wipe the board of our opponent’s things as well as threaten to do so every time our turn is over. This can make it very difficult for people to cast things onto the board, even if they’re not garunteed to die.

Deathrender – Think of it as an insurance policy, paying out in reincarnation. Deathrender likes to be equipped to any of our dying creatures but can offer a backup to any of your demons in danger of being removed. This allows you to stem some of the hurt from having one of your demons destroyed, though be sure not to let yourself get blown out by instant speed removal!

Cards to Consider

Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni – The only creature that isn’t an Infernal and also doesn’t want to die, Ink-Eyes has a safeguard against her demon masters. For two mana, paid before we start flipping coins, Ink-Eyes can survive any culling attempt. With our big-mana deck, this isn’t difficult to afford. In additon, Ink-Eyes can pick up one of your demons at the same time as reanimating one, allowing you to swing with Rakdos, pick him up after no blockers are declared and reanimate a fallen Doom Whisperer. Then you have Rakdos in hand for a culling next turn!

Whip of Erebos – Black card draw is painful. It isn’t often that you’d kill yourself slowly by drawing cards, but it is a real concern when we’re playing as much card draw as we are. Whip of Erebos allows us to stem some of our own bleeding by granting lifelink to all of our big demon boys. We can also return a creature from our graveyard to the battlefield for one last swing, if need be. As well, if you ever get this and Conjuror’s Closet out at the same time, you can exile it to Conjuror’s Closet and get it back, permanently!

Theater of HorrorsPhyrexian Arena is a great card. The ability to earn up card advantage over a game can be crucial. Theater of Horrors isn’t as good but is still a truly powerful card and worth inclusion alongside the Arena. Dealing damage to an opponent isn’t difficult with our demons, and Theater offers us a way of doing it if we have mana to spare. What we get in return is a painless Phyrexian Arena, or rather, a Phyrexian Arena that demands us to bleed our opponents. Also, keep in mind you can play lands off this, following usual restrictions!

Spice Corner

Inner Demon – One of the few cards that cares about demon tribal specificially besides our commander, Inner Demon can turn one of our non-infernals, like Ink-Eyes or Mikaeus, into a Demon. This will also get rid of any smaller creatures and make attacking easier for us for a turn, since it will work mostly as a one-sided Infest. Now, auras are inherent card advantage usually, which is why the fact that this does something when it enters the battlefield is a huge upside. However, if your creature is removed in response you will have been two-for-one’d, so play carefully if you decide to keep this inclusion!

Liliana’s Contract – One of the only decks you can play that can reliably win with this card. Liliana’s Contract can easily win us the game with our bevy of Demons in our deck, if it can survive a turn around the table. The reason this card is included, however, is the fact that it draws us four cards when it enters the battlefield. This means we still came out ahead, since five mana to draw four cards is a fine rate, and introduced a must-be-killed enchantment to the board.

Parting Thoughts

Sometimes, adding a bit of variance to your playgroup is fun. I’ve had a blast playing and trying out the Showstopper, and have yet to be disappointed in his ability to cull my opponents boards down to manageble sizes. Just be aware if you’re betting on him killing a speficic creature, one suited up with equipment, you might end up disappointed sometimes. Such is the fickle nature of Rakdos.

So tell me, what did you think? Did I offer information you thought was helpful, raise some insights you might not have thought of, miss stuff you thought I should mention, or any other thoughts I didn’t call out? Leave a comment below to let me know, or you can haunt me directly on Twitter (@FrigglishTGhost) or spook my email (AMillionDifferentColors@Gmail.com).
Make sure you join me next week, where I’ll be talking about a new way to build Queen Marchesa!

Until then, may the Spirit of EDH possess you with creativity.
— Literally a Ghost that Pushes Over Candles

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