Dragon’s Maze: Rakdos Revelry Review (Part 2 of 2)
The stuffy prelates of the Orzhov Syndicate are about to have their collars unbuttoned- the carnival is here! To test the Rakdos Revelry deck, I’m joined by Sam who’s opted to use Orzhov Power. Let the games begin!
On the play for our first game, I open my account with a Rakdos Guildgate, while Sam follows with a Swamp. Next turn, I find one of my own, using it to help power out a Gutter Skulk while Sam matches with a Tithe Drinker.
Now turn 3, I attack for 2 with the Skulk, then play a second one. Sam counterattacks with the Drinker, and I accept the trade- though she does go back up to 20 from the lifelink. She replaces her loss with a Bane Alley Blackguard, and ends her turn. Back to me, I summon a Guttersnipe and pass, while Sam’s turn is a blank- not even a land drop.
Now turn 5, I attack for 2 with the Guttersnipe and Skulk. Sam blocks the Goblin, taking 2 to fall to 18. I then unleash a Rakdos Drake to give me some aerial presence. Back to Sam, she summons a Sin Collector, exiling Punish the Enemy from my hand- the only instant or sorcery I’m holding, and a painful loss. She ends her turn, after which I attack for another 2 off the Drake. I follow with a Rakdos Cluestone, then pass the turn back. Still struggling for land, Sam happily lands a Cluestone of her own, then attacks in with the Sin Collector. I trade it for the Gutter Skulk.
Turn 7 sees me swing in again in the air for 2, dropping Sam to 14. I then unleash a Spawn of Rix Maadi, which could spell trouble. Sam replies with a Dark Revenant. Back to me, I send in the troops for a brutal 8 points of damage. Sam chumps the Spawn with her Blackguard, taking 2 in the air from the Drake. She then adds a Kingpin’s Pet and passes.
Now turn 9, I swing in again for 8. This time, Sam gang-blocks with her Pet and Revenant to trade out with the Spawn, returning the Revenant to the top of her library. Then I go ahead and drop the Havoc Festival. Back to Sam, she immediately loses half of her life, falling to 5. Having redrawn the Dark Revenant, she then replays it. Back to me, I lose 10 from my own Festival, but I’m firmly in command. Thanks to a pair of Gates, the Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers take Sam’s Revenant for a ride and, deprived of blockers, she falls to the alpha strike.
Sam’s turn-2 Tithe Drinker is the game’s first play for our rematch, and I counter with a Riot Piker. Next turn she again misses a crucial, early land drop, but still manages to find a Bane Alley Blackguard– bad news for the Piker! Still, unwilling to let the Piker die in vain I enchant the Blackguard with Sinister Possession, so that when it kills off my Piker it’s costing Sam 2 life regardless. In memoriam, little buddy! I replace my loss with a Gutter Skulk and end the turn.
Now turn 4, Sam attacks in for 2 with the Drinker, and I trade out with the Skulk. This puts Sam back up to 20, and she follows with a Basilica Guards. I then play a Cluestone, and Sam follows suit with one of her own before I kick things up a notch with an unleashed Spawn of Rix Maadi.
The Dark Revenant makes its appearance for Sam on turn 6, while I go to work on Sam’s life total. An unopposed hammering from the Spawn takes her to 14, then I follow with an unleashed Rakdos Drake. Back to Sam, she girds her Revenant with a Gift of Orzhova, and at the end of the turn I cash in my Cluestone for a free card. Untapping, I summon a Carnage Gladiator, then turn the Spawn sideways for 6 more. Sam gang-blocks the Spawn with the Revenant and Blackguards, and I opt to kill the Revenant. Sam goes up 3 life from the lifelink, but only after going down 2 from blocking thanks to the Gladiator, In the end, she winds up at 15 life.
Now turn 8, Sam resummons the Dark Revenant and passes. I attack again for 6 with the Gladiator and Drake; Sam blocks the Gladiator with the Blackguards, losing 2 from the Sinister Possession. Back to Sam, she plays a second Dark Revenant. Unrelenting, I swing for 6 more, and Sam double-blocks the Drake with the Revenants to kill it. The Gladiator gets blocked by the Basilica Guards, so Sam falls to 7 just from the Carnage Gladiator’s blocking trigger. Although I’m down a Drake, I immediately go up one unleashed Grim Roustabout.
A turn-10 Sin Collector whiffs- the only card in my hand is a Spike Jester– and Sam passes the turn. I play the Jester, turning my army sideways for 9. Sam blocks the Gladiator with the Collector and the Roustabout with the Revenant. At 2 life, though, Sam’s time is up. She scoops after the draw.
Sam and I swap Guildgates for the opening turn, then she lands the Bane Alley Blackguard. I find the Spike Jester, then send it in for an early 3. Instead, Sam opts for the trade, and both head to the graveyard.
Now turn 3, Sam goes after my hand with a Sin Collector, but comes up empty. After playing a second Gate, I then add a Riot Piker. Back to Sam, she plays Gift of Orzhova on the Sin Collector, swinging in for 3. Her advantage proves short-lived, however, as I then attack for 2 off the Piker before deploying a Slum Reaper. We each lose a creature, with her enchanted Collector meeting the same fate as my expendable Riot Piker.
Now turn 5, Sam tries for a Dark Revenant, then passes. I play a Rakdos Cluestone and Gutter Skulk. Back to Sam, she adds a Tithe Drinker, after which I attack for 2 off the Skulk to put her to 19. I then fuse Toil // Trouble, which puts me up two cards at the cost of two life (and both lands, sadly), while Sam falls to 16 life from 21. Not a bad bit of business!
A turn-7 attack from both of Sam’s beaters leaves me at 11 life, with her going back up to 18. I play another Guildgate, then counterattack with the Skulk and Reaper for 6. Down to 12, Sam counterattacks with the Drinker to go back up to 14, leaving me at 9. At the end of her turn I cash in my Cluestone, then attack with the Skulk for 2 after laying down my fourth Guildgate.
Now turn 9, Sam attacks for 2 more with the Dark Revenant. I’m down to 7 life, and things are looking grim. I counterattack for 2 with the Skulk, and Sam swaps it for her Tithe Drinker to end up at 14. I then bring out a Riot Piker to replace it, and go for broke with a Havoc Festival. Back to Sam, she immediately sheds 7 life thanks to the Festival, but has no other play. Back to me, I lose 4 to go to 3- then drop down a topdecked Minotaur Aggressor. Attacking for 12, Sam chumps the Aggressor with the Revenant, taking 6 from the others. She falls to 1… just enough to die to the Festival during her next upkeep.
Thoughts & Analysis
I have to admit, Rakdos Revelry was a pleasant surprise- once I got past the fact that it was more a midrange version of the guild where it’s signature mechanic was more or less incidental. Strip out any expectation you have of speed and aggression overwhelming your opponent, and you won’t feel so sullen about those four Guildates, turn-2 Gutter Skulks, and dreadful removal package. On these points- what you might call the deck’s fundamentals- Rakdos Revelry falls far short. But over the course of the match, a funny thing happened- I started to have fun.
The card of the night was the Havoc Festival. This was a solid play in Game Two and a bit of a Hail Mary that paid off in the third, but putting the entire board on a clock just screamed Rakdos. Given Sam’s manabase struggles she never really manaed to work her extort engine, so getting it cut off at the legs wasn’t as painful to her as it might have been. Still, it was a great silver bullet against the Orzhov, and really felt like rolling the dice.
Another fun element to the deck that emerged was its ability to impose difficult choices on an opponent. By no yardstick is Sinister Possession a very good card, and I would have vastly preferred, say, a copy of Murder. Still, when that and Carnage Gladiator touched down together, it put Sam in a real “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position which appealed to my inner sadist. In fact, it evoked the same sorts of feelings I had playing the Tibalt deck in Duel Decks: Sorin vs Tibalt, and that added an extra bit of spice to the deck.
To be sure, there are some discordant notes that lived up to their poor expectations. The removal suite is dreadful and certainly hampered by ability to take charge in the red zone. The saturated manabase and playset of Guildgates were a disappointment. And I never came close to having Guttersnipe live up to his potential given my deck’s overall lack of instants or sorceries. But in spite of all that, there’s a core to this deck that’s worth a play.
Hits: By going midrange over aggro, deck manages to successfully differentiate itself from the first deck, Rakdos Raid; “punisher” effects a lot of fun to play; rare selection is superb
Misses: Having an absentee removal package in a Red/Black deck is criminal; saturated manabase (in truth, a miss for the entire series of decks); Guttersnipe is an Izzet misfit here
OVERALL SCORE: 4.15/5.00