The Return of Rakdos’s Return – or Something Similarly Uninspired

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Last week I stated that if nothing interesting came from Gatecrash that I really liked the prospect of playing R/x aggressive decks. As of this writing the full spoiler is out, and after reading through it once I didn’t notice anything that really changed my mind. However, I was reminded of a Return to Ravnica card that I had forgotten about while watching SCG coverage this Saturday:

How can this possibly be bad?

Did you know that this card is like, $5 right now? A card this powerful warrants a significantly higher price tag, and I imagine that being a RB card slated for a control deck is what has held it back until now. To this point it has seen a good amount of play in Jund, but I have a feeling that better mana is going to make Rakdos’s Return considerably more relevant in Standard.

The two major options that Gatecrash opens up for Rakdos’s Return are, obviously, WBR and Grixis. My first thought when thinking about RB control decks was to explore just jamming all of the good cards into WBR. There aren’t hosers in Gatecrash for Lingering Souls and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad for no reason. A rough list would look something like this:

The first point of interest is the manabase. Back during Lorwyn Standard my friend Corey Docken played a lot of three color decks featuring the full dozen filter lands. I gave him a lot of crap for doing so, but I can’t say that it didn’t work for him and I absolutely must say that just jamming all of the duals is probably the best manabase for any three color deck in post-Gatecrash Standard. A single Ravnica dual allows all of your M10-type duals to come into play untapped and it’s pretty easy to build a deck that plays enough lands or has a diversified enough curve to not care too much about excess Ravnica duals. Basic lands are pretty miserable right now and nothing punishes you for playing good mana. This deck could probably support a Cavern of Souls or Vault of the Archangel instead of one or two of the basics but I personally don’t think there is too much upside to either, but I could be convinced otherwise.

The spell suite isn’t really anything special. As I said, it’s mostly just all the good cards. There are two choices in particular that warrant some attention though.

Thundermaw Hellkite over Obzedat

Obzedat is a card that I’m rather fond of, but this just isn’t the deck for him. With a grip of burn spells at our disposal this deck is very good at switching gears from the control to the aggro, whereas Obzedat is more fit for a deck that wants to keep grinding until the dust has completely settled. I also give Thundermaw the nod for being exceptional against opposing Lingering Souls which will undoubtedly pick up popularity with better BW mana available.

Bonfire over Aurelia’s Fury

I just don’t get the hype over Aurelia's Fury. Bonfire of the Damned should easily fill any slots that it might fill. Hexproof is a very real deck and Sphinx's Revelation sort of makes a joke out of Aurelia's Fury. I like what the card does, it’s just way too inefficient for this format. It doesn’t draw X cards, for the opponent to discard X cards, and it’s not even close to as much of a Plague Wind as Bonfire is.

While I think that Dega Rock does a lot of very powerful things, I’m a bit more interested in exploring Grixis decks. For the longest time I’ve wanted to Overload a Cyclonic Rift into Rakdos's Return. Now that the mana for such a deck is very good, finding the best shell for this combination is all I can think about. Honestly, I’m losing sleep. This obsession is not healthy.

Now this, this is a lot more me. You can tell by the lack of legitimate win conditions. The advantages that this deck has over Dega Rock is the access to Counterspells and Augur of Bolas. The Counterspells give the deck more game against Sphinx's Revelation/Graveyard decks and Augur compliments Rakdos's Return very well as you always want to draw it but drawing multiples isn’t ideal.

The manabase, of course, follows the same formula. The difference being that Desolate Lighthouse actually has a very relevant effect. I have never been upset to have it in a UR deck and I don't see this changing, especially considering that color requirements are rather lax in this list.

I need to play a bunch of games with this deck before I decide whether it needs to be running some type of big finisher, which I’m not convinced that it does. I would wager that Nicol Bolas is probably too cute, but he’s worth trying out. I’d also consider Soul Ransom in this slot. Seems like a sweet thing to do to a Thragtusk.


Now, what I really want to do is find a manabase/deck that can support Rakdos's Return AND Sphinx's Revelation, but I haven’t been able to come up with anything that isn’t actually terrible at this point.

It’s possible that I’m in the wrong camp exploring Rakdos's Return decks over just playing the tried and true Sphinx's Revelation, but if I don’t experiment I’ll never know. And let’s be honest, Revelationing is getting a little stale.

If you have any sweet ideas for RB/X control strategies or have any ideas for my lists that I may have missed be sure to let me know in the comments section. Thanks for reading and good luck at the prerelease this weekend!

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

5 thoughts on “The Return of Rakdos’s Return – or Something Similarly Uninspired

  1. I’ve had a lot of fun with my B/R control deck for a while now. I play 2 Chandra, the Firebrand MB. When you can go turn 4 Chandra, turn 5 copy Rakdos’s Return for a total of 6 cards and 6 life it’s pretty backbreaking. Copying things with Chandra also makes it so you can make sure at least one copy of whatever instant or sorcery you’re casting gets through a counterspell.

  2. “There aren’t hosers in Gatecrash for Lingering Souls and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad for no reason.”

    Doesn’t Illness in the Ranks hose both of these cards? While it may not be an auto-include in sideboards ATM it completely invalidates both of those cards, so any stray copies will cause major card disadvantage.

    1. Neither are mainable, and if you care about them Oblivion Ring and Intangible Virtue are fine options as maindeck or SB options. To say that Illness in the Ranks invalidates either card is short-sighted at best.

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