Rakdos, the Defiler | Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai

Last time I explained to you one of the three important aspects to Rakdos the Defiler in EDH: Managing your resources. So today I want to wrap things up by going over the political aspects of that general and explain to you what I call “Engine Play”, the last two items on our “Rakdos-Bucket-List”.

Political Aspect

If you’ve played at least a few (semi-)competitive games of EDH in the past you might be familiar with the fact that usually the games focus around “Who is currently the strongest player?” and, more often than not, this player will be playing 1 vs. 3 for as long as he’s in the driver-seat. Clearly if everyone tries to stay under the radar in order to not be that player and preserve resources (which happens from time to time) the game won’t progress and you’re in for a very long, pretty boring match.

A well built Rakdos the Defiler list can utilize both these scenarios to its advantage by guiding the flow of the game in a direction that favors you heavily, picking-up a win “out of nowhere”. It’s not really out of “nowhere” since you’ve been pulling the strings all along, but that’s a secret.

The key to this is your general himself:

  • In the “1v3”-scenario - in which you should never be the one getting focused of course - you can make yourself the tool that cuts this player down since shrugging off a Rakdos the Defiler-trigger isn’t something a normal deck can do. With that threat out of the way and you having hurt yourself in the process the remaining two players will usually get into a hard-fought 1v1 situation while more or less ignoring the rest of the table. What they don’t know is that while they fight you can a) recover from your own card and b) wait for the perfect opportunity to finish them both of in a flurry of Rituals and Reanimation-Spells or even a combo-kill for which they don’t have any disruption left because they burned it on each other.
  • If everyone stays low profile, choose your target carefully and make the first move to break up the stall. Managing to get a hit in with Rakdos will not only take someone out of the game for a few turns, but will also create the same 1v1 situation again described above since with you and the other guy being weak, the remaining two players might think that they’ll be able to beat each other and win the game. They’ll start committing as well and if you played your cards right, no one will actually win until you’re ready to finish off the weakened players.

Politics is also what makes your Rakdos rather safe from spot-removal. First of all people tend to play less spot removal in a multiplayer format so that’s already an upside but more importantly player A has no inclination to remove your Rakdos mid-combat if you’re attacking player B. If you pick your targets carefully, you’ll never run into any spot removal whatsoever. I already covered that in my last video but wanted to bring it up once again since it’s also more political than anything.

“Engine Play”

An “engine” is what people call a combination of cards that, other than a straight-up “combo”, won’t win the game but generate repeated value to get you ahead. A good example would be Sakura-Tribe Elder in a Meren of Clan Nel Toth-EDH: While it won’t win you the game by any means, getting an extra land+blocker+experience counter each turn will get you significantly ahead and might win you the game afterall.

In Rakdos’ case there have been no cards printed yet that would combine with him in a way that I would call “engine”. But since the deck consists of more than only its general I still managed to fit in several engines and combos.

But what does “engine play” mean? What I refer to with that term is the way I try to shape my game from the beginning utilizing the cards I naturally draw plus the tutors I’ve put into the deck. Let me give you an example: The deck features both Sire of Insanity and Malfegor and they go very good together because usually you’ll clear the board with Malfegor and by also putting the Sire on the board (before playing Malfegor of course) everyone else will also be left with no hand while you get to have a pretty sizeable board.

This playstyle is particularly important in decks that aren’t focused around a single card/commander either because there’s no way to do that or the creator just took it into a different direction for another reason. By adapting your gameplan on the fly depending on what key components you draw naturally you’ll not only get access to a very easy route to victory from your current position but also the opportunity to tackle each game from another angle making you less vulnerable to certain metas or specific (hate-)cards.

Alright. With all the theory behind the deck out of the way I think it’s time for another gameplay example to sum it all up. The decklist is the same as in Part 1, so if there’s anything you want to look up here is the link again.

A photo of Tobias Zehetner Tobias Zehetner

Tobias 'SibirianPns' Zehetner is an austrian software deveolper/student and a former competitive Legacy and Standard player who found his way into EDH several years ago. He enjoys vegan food, playing video games and his EDH matches as crazy as possible. The aspect of politics in EDH is what he enjoys the most about the format.