Return to Ravnica Casual & Commander Review: Cult of Rakdos

Return to Ravnica is an interesting set. While most expansions only offer one or two archetypes when it comes to mechanics, Return to Ravnica allows for five right off the bat. But there is one small issue with this for kitchen table players: Rakdos doesn’t really work.

The core of Rakdos is the unleashed mechanic which is great for sligh decks, but those never work against more than one player. Dealing 20 damage to someone quicker than they deal 20 to you is easy, but when you’re facing off against 60 or 100 life, you can’t win.

Return to Ravnica Casual & Commander Reviews
Azorious Senate  | Izzet League | Cult of Rakdos | Golgari Swarm | Selesnya Conclave
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Rakdos, Lord of Riots

Rakdos has been in desperate need of a do over since he originally debuted. But holy crap is this a commander! Costing only 4 mana, he’s pretty easy to cast. As long as any opponent lost life, he’s in play and changing the game. He’s a 6/6 flying, trampler for only four mana! That’s beyond amazing.

The second ability is fantastic. Dubbed “paincast,” it allows you to rapidly escalate your army. Grab some eldrazi and get to work.

Rakdos’s Return

What do you get when you combine Mind Shatter and Blaze? Really good discard and really good damage! Taking out someone’s hand is mean, but burning them is delightful. This is exactly the kind of card that won’t make you any friends but will feel so satisfying when it connects. Good thing this card says opponent, so you don’t have to worry about it coming back to you.

Chaos Imps

A 7/6 flying  trampler is going to crush some heads. Flavor issues aside (how many imps are needed to make a creature this big?), Chaos Imps is an interesting option but the fact that it doesn’t have haste really hurts it. That first turn of just sitting on the battlefield announcing your plans of attack makes me less than thrilled to try it out.

Carnival Hellsteed

This fixes many of the problems of Chaos Imps thanks to the haste. Of all the unleashed cards, this is probably the best since it always wants to be attacking. Even if it isn’t unleashed, a 5/4 with first strike and haste isn’t awful at 6 mana. It must run faster since it has four legs in front.


It finally happened: Wizards made a card that destroys target planeswalker! I’m less than thrilled about this being a rare, but I understand the reasoning behind it. In commander, this is an auto-include for red-black players. In casual, this can take the place of a Terminate or two, but the sorcery speed slows it down a lot. Either way, I see this becoming a kitchen table staple for years to come.

Havoc Festival

I love cards that speed up the game. Havoc Festival does exactly what I want a card to do mid game: end it. Prevent people from gaining life is delicious, but the constant halving of life totals makes me sadistically gleeful. The best part is that it rounds up so it’s always going to hurt.

Slaughter Games

If you play this in commander, you’re a champion. Or you know their deck way too well.

In casual 60, this is a card to be used with great restraint. It shuts down combo decks a bit too well, but when someone gets out of control with one, this is the silver bullet to stop them.

Cryptborn Horror

The potential of this card is amazing. The reality is probably less so, but I love the idea of getting a 20/20 for only three mana. Try him out, but don’t be upset when the one time he resolves, he’s like a 3/3. Still, his hybrid colors allow him to be very interesting.

Blood Crypt

The only land better than this is Badlands. So if you’re playing red-black, play this.

Thrill-Kill Assassin

While I don’t like most of the unleashed creatures, I do like black getting cheap creatures with deathtouch. Sadly, Typhoid Rats got printed so this isn’t worth running usually.

Bloodfray Giant

A 5/4 trampler that can’t block is impressive at 4 mana. This large of a bruiser makes me almost consider him in some Fires of Yavimaya type deck. But a 4/3 trampler for 4 isn’t nearly as exciting.

Hellhole Flailer

Sure, you could pump this creature up and deal a lot of damage but this isn’t wowing me in multiplayer.

Rakdos Charm

I’m loving this cycle of charms in Return to Ravnica. Exiling a whole graveyard is highly situational, but the versatility here makes it work. Destroying an artifact is always handy, but the last ability is the one I really like. When a player starts turtling behind a wall of tokens, you can smack them back to reality.

Rakdos Ragemut

This card feels so weird to me, like it doesn’t quite mesh with the color wheel. But lifelink and haste isn’t bad, especially in these colors. Still, at 5 mana it isn’t really a bargain.

Rakdos Ringleader

The newest specter is way too expensive for my liking, but it does bring back random discard. The combination of first strike and regeneration make it formidable but six mana feels like way too much. I would rather run Blazing Specter.

Rix Maadi Guildmage

Cheap and efficient, this guildmage makes sure to punish anyone who gets in your way. Or will get in your way. With an ability that is always worth sinking mana into, this card will probably draw out removal for one reason: it makes combat much easier.

Rakdos Cackler

I love this card, but not in multiplayer. A 2/2 for B or R is amazing and reminds me of the good old days of suicide black and sligh combined into one.

Rakdos Keyrune

The keyrunes are great and this is no exception. A 3/1 first strike is solid, especially as a surprise defender. Plus it accelerates mana, so it’s a win-win.

Dead Reveler

A 3 /4 for 3 is a great deal, but the fact that it can’t block makes it much less fun. I don’t ever see this seeing play at the kitchen table outside of the Rakdos themed deck.

Deviant Glee

Unholy Strength plus trample is a fascinating combination in red-black. The unholy strength side will be appreciated by infect decks, but I really like this bleeding of trample. It’s simple but allows for a lot of options.

Grim Roustabout

If your Drudge Skeleton really needed more skeletons, here you go.

Gore-House Chainwalker

This card creeps me out. I love that it is a 3/2 for only 2, but why couldn’t this have been a goblin? Making it a human just makes it less useful in casual formats.

Splatter Thug

I’m starting to see a trend with all these unleashed creatures: they aren’t that great. Though the must attack, first strike combination is an interesting one – until about turn 6 when a titan will just laugh and crush it.

Auger Spree

I really like this card. Auger Spree works as spot removal early on (and gets rid of things that are indestructible), while later in the game it can allow those last few points of damage to get through. I can’t wait to use this in the middle of combat to make it so no one ends up winning.

Skull Rend

Yes, yes! A thousand times yes! When it comes to cards designed for multiplayer, it doesn’t get much better than this. Mass random discard and mass damage, it almost makes me want to rebuild a black-red discard punishing deck. But I probably won’t since people get mad at me for those things.

Spawn of Rix Maadi


Rakdos Shred-Freak

This could be a lot of fun in Suicide black decks, but as a two drop it doesn’t wow me.

Rakdos Guildgate

Cheap mana fixing is always something I approve of and this gate is no exception. The art looks amazing too.

As a whole, Rakdos has some very interesting cards but the guild doesn’t work in multiplayer. With it being focused entirely on speed, it can’t keep up against so many players. But when you pick out the real gems, Rakdos can shine – it just needs some support.

Top 5 Rakdos Cards for Casual & Commander
5. Auger Spree
4. Skull Rend
3. Havoc Festival
2. Dreadbore
1. Rakdos, Lord of Riots

Return to Ravnica Casual & Commander Reviews
Azorious Senate  | Izzet League | Cult of Rakdos | Golgari Swarm | Selesnya Conclave
White | Blue | Red | Black | Green | Gold, Artifact & Lands