Have you ever had a card floating around in your head for days, trying to figure out how to make it work in EDH but never quite getting to a point where you’re confident enough to actually try it?
For me it wasn’t just a few days and it wasn’t just any card. For over a year I tried to make Rakdos the Defiler work and for over a year I never figured out how to build a deck around him that wouldn’t just lose to itself.
My main problem with the cad was that a) screwing over one player doesn’t accomplish much in a multiplayer game and b) I couldn’t find reliable ways of making the drawback less bad. So how did I finally make it work? Basically, my mindset changed. I realized that it’s not only about how you build the deck but how you play it that makes a certain commanders shine.
Over the next two articles I want to discuss the most important aspects of the deck while providing a gameplay example that will highlight that aspect among other things: Resource Management, Political Influence and - what I call - “Engine Play” (at least I called it that). So let’s start with:
No deck can win consistently if you’re not managing its resources correctly, but there are definitely some where that’s easier to do. This particular deck is obviously one of the harder ones to play when it comes to resource management. It is the first and probably most important aspect of making Rakdos the Defiler work as your general.
Usually you’ll have to factor in your opponents’ answers to the things you do, e.g. try not to overcommit to the board, have a back-up plan if your first wave of threats get’s removed, etc. When playing this deck though, you should also think about your cards mana costs and whether or not you’ll be able to deploy them after you had to sacrifice lands into your Rakdos. So while you might be able to cast a demon from your hand utilizing Dark Ritual pretty early, that’s almost always a bad idea since a) that demon will get removed pretty likely making that a 2 for 1 and b) Dark Ritual would’ve allowed you to cast a demon later in the game when you’re low on lands so keeping it would make cards playable which would otherwise be too expensive.
Pretty much all of the CMC 1 to 3 cards in the deck serve the purpose of making high impact cards playable on few lands and while it might be tempting to use them early it often a better idea to keep them for when you’re low on lands due to Rakdos and not because it’s so early in the game. For example reanimation spells pretty much cheat on your creatures mana costs as long as those creatures are in the graveyard. Cheap draw spells let you find new lands and/or rituals/reanimation spells.
The basic idea behind this is that while your general’s ability is pretty symmetrical as you’ll roughly loose the same amount of permanents, it’s a lot less crippling for you since you accounted for that when building your deck while your opponents didn’t. That’s what somewhat breaks Rakdos in your favor.
I think a video example plus the decklist would be the best way to get the hang of it before I talk about the other two aspects of my approach on Rakdos, the Defiler (which I will do in the next article coming up in two weeks).
Alright, here’s the decklist I am currently using on MTGO:
The video below is a very good example of how to manage your resources properly in a multiplayer game. I tried to keep the cheap cards for later and played my early-mid game patiently. Because of that I had the cards to back-up my Rakdos-triggers later in the game and managed to play a few high cost cards even though I didn’t have very many lands, letting me overpower the one remaining opponent.
Unfortunately two people disconnected during the course of the game but I still feel like the gameplay is a great example of what we discussed above. Have fun!