Return to Ravnica: Rakdos Raid Review (Part 2 of 2)
Halfway through the Return to Ravnica, it’s now time to showcase the wicked bacchanal of the Rakdos! A guild which received a very welcome image makeover from the original with tons of added style, the only question left to answer is how well they play. To find out, Sam joined me at the table with Izzet Ingenuity.
Sam opens the game up with an Island and passes, while I get out early with an unleashed Rakdos Cackler. Next turn Sam doubles down on Islands as she prepares for the incoming Cackler, which takes her down to 18. For my part, I’ve now played one of each land type and am in pretty good shape.
Now turn 3, Sam plays her third Island to bring an Izzet Keyrune back on-line, while I swing in again for 2 more before playing a Sewer Shambler. Next turn Sam finds her first creatures in a pair of 1/1 Goblins, courtesy of Krenko’s Command. They stand idly by, however, when I attack for 4 next turn.
A turn-5 Izzet Keyrune fixes much of Sam’s mana problems, but she declines the attack. I sent in the pair of beaters, and she opts to trade both Goblins for my Cackler. I replace it with a Zombie Goliath and pass. Over to Sam, she then tries to reinforce the line with a Cobblebrute. Undaunted, I attack with the Zombie and Shambler for 6. Sam swaps the Cobblebrute for the Zombie Goliath, going down to 8. My deck doesn’t miss a beat, unleashing a Spawn of Rix Maadi.
Now turn 7, Sam summons a pair of defenders in a Runewing and Goblin Electromancer. Having hit every land drop, I’m then able to surprise her with the mighty Minotaur Aggressor, attacking with everything. Sam chumps the big beaters, letting only the Shambler past for another 2. Small consolation is the free card she gets off the Runewing. Next turn, desperate for time she plays a pair of Guttersnipes and a Blistercoil Weird. More hasty goodness follows in the unleashed Carnival Hellsteed. Again I press the assault, and all three of Sam’s defenders die valiantly. The Shambler humbly carves off another 2, and I then play a Shrieking Affliction before passing. This sees Sam greeted with another 3-point loss at her upkeep, but at 1 life facing my army it’s academic. She concedes the game.
Sam opens with a Mountain and passes, while I find a Tormented Soul early. Next turn she tosses out an Izzet Guildgate, after which I score first blood with the Soul. I then unleash a Gore-House Chainwalker. Sam then adds an Izzet Keyrune, bracing for a 4-point swing just as before. Having missed a land drop, however, a Rix Maadi Guildmage is the best I can hope for.
Now turn 4, Sam plays a Runewing. Back to me, I stick a Crippling Blight on it to prevent it from trading out for one of my attackers and putting Sam up a card on the exchange. I attack in for 6, and she’s now at 9. Next turn, Sam shoves the near-useless Bird across the red zone to peck me for 1 before adding a Cobblebrute. I simply kill off the new addition with an Auger Spree, clearing a path for another 6-point carving.
Now turn 6, Sam attacks with the Runewing for another point of damage, then plays Goblin Rally. This is enough to stay my troops for a turn, and when I send in the unblockable Soul Sam is able to solve it with Electrickery. With one card in hand, Sam is easy pickings for a Ravenous Rats and another Cobblebrute finds its way onto the scrapheap. Next turn, Sam attacks for 1 with the Runewing, after which I replace my vanquished Tormented Soul. Sam’s done and she knows it, though she draws one last card just in case.
This time, Sam finds a one-drop in the Blistercoil Weird, while I counter with the Tormented Soul. Next turn she plays a Krenko’s Command, adding a pair of Goblin tokens and giving her Weird +1/+1 to strike in for 2. I then augment the Soul with Deviant Glee, turning it sideways for 3.
Now turn 3, Sam appears to miss a land drop, but comes up with an Island after throwing away a Teleportal to a Wild Guess. She attacks with the team for 4, putting me to 14. Back to me, I attack for 3 more off the Soul, then add the unleashed Hellhole Flailer. Sam’s next turn is a blank, so I first Mind Rot her to compel the loss of a Mountain and Runewing. With her suitably softened up, I attack with the Soul and Flailer. She blunts the attack by blasting the Soul with an Annihilating Fire, then trading her Weird and Goblins for my Flailer- possibly forgetting that her Fire pumped the Weird, or possibly throwing in the last token for insurance.
Sam then replaces her losses with a turn-5 Runewing. I unleash a Gore-House Chainwalker and pass. Her next attack puts me to 12, but she has no other play. I counterattack with the Chainwalker for 3 to put her at 11, then add a Sewer Shambler.
Now turn 7, Sam deploys an Izzet Keyrune, while I match it with the vastly superior Rakdos counterpart. I then Crippling Blight her Runewing before attacking for 2 with my Shambler. Back to Sam, she drops me to 11 with the gimped Bird before adding a Goblin Electromancer. For my part, I play a Canyon Minotaur.
Again Sam’s turn is a blank as turn 9 is spent packing me with the Bird and passing. I attack with the Minotaur and Shambler tandem, but Sam overloads a Downsize to even the odds. She blocks the Shambler with her Electromancer, killing it. I replace the loss with a Zombie Goliath. Next turn for Sam is a repeat. I activate my Keyrune and declare a 13-point attack. An Annihilating Fire crushes my poor Goliath, while Sam’s Electromancer looks to trade for my Chainwalker, but I make the save with a Cower in Fear. This does have the unfortunate side-effect of killing Sam’s Runewing, giving her a card, but at this point I’m not particularly worried. She goes down to 3 life, and I pass.
Now turn 11, Sam activates her Keyrune and turns it sideways for 2. This has me at 8 life, and when it’s back to me she buys a turn with an overloaded Blustersquall. With nothing to do, I pass. Sam then plays a Goblin Rally to shore up her defenses a bit. Back to me, I summon my Rix Maadi Guildmage and attack for 9. Sam chumps with her Goblin tokens to hang on a bit longer, then adds a Runewing to the board on turn 13. It doesn’t do much good as I throw everything I have at her. The Guildmage is the only thing that gets in for damage, but Sam laughs as she realises the Guildmage has her beat. I use it to ping the last point away as a formality, completing the sweep.
Thoughts & Analysis
Mark Rosewater has discussed a number of times on his Tumblr feed how he felt that the unleash mechanic was the mechanic that read the poorest of the set, yet would turn players around with how fun it played. Having now given Rakdos Raid a spin, I have to say he’s entirely right. It doesn’t seem like much, but the hyper-aggressiveness it allows was a ton of fun to play, and it made for an interesting tactical wrinkle for the deck.
Overall, Rakdos Raid worked, though not without a few caveats. What it wanted to do most- smash your opponent- it did quite well, and I seldom lacked for bodies to hurl at my opponent. The succession of ever-bigger beaters I deployed in Game One was an absolute joy, and playing with the deck gave me some appreciation for slot fillers like the Walking Corpse and Zombie Goliath. Vanilla creatures- particularly Core Set ones- aren’t the most exciting cards around, but they do have a role to play. And I was always happy to see a Tormented Soul in my early hand, because I could reliably trade that card and one mana for upwards of three damage.
What didn’t work? For one thing, the discard suite. We identified this as a novelty in our opening review, but concluded that there really wasn’t the support for it in the deck. Nothing we saw here changes that opinion. It was sporadic and chancy, for a tactic that really does require some consistency. Not every card was welcome, either- the Canyon Minotaurs seemed to overdo it a bit on the vanilla angle- and the removal package was a bit dodgy. This last point is difficult to grade, since less potent removal- either reduced in effect or increased in cost- is what the environment demands. That said, for the casual Magic player used to being able to impact the red zone a bit it wasn’t the most inviting suite of cards.
On the whole the deck is very momentum-driven, but is susceptible to stalling like any combat deck is. The fatties and Tormented Soul are a hedge on that, and overall this is one we’d enjoy playing again… with, perhaps, just a few tweaks.
Hits: Fast, aggressive-minded unleash mechanic makes for some fun decision-making moments; solid mana curve provides genuine threats at every point along the mana curve; lots of fat on the back-end, but not so much that you’re struggling too much to cast it in a rampless deck (exception: Minotaur Aggressor, which is just too much mana)
Misses: Midsection a bit thinner in quality than the early- and late-game drops; removal suite isn’t as good as you’d expect from a Red/Black deck, but again par for the course
OVERALL SCORE: 4.25/5.00