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Multicolor Mixup – Rakdos

December 13, 2011

Welcome to part 3 of my 2011 Multicolor Mixup mini-series. I’m taking this time during the 2011 holiday season, before Dark Ascension is released, to re-evaluate the multicolored card choices I’ve made for my cube, and determine what cards are still pulling their weight, and which ones should be shelved (at least temporarily) to improve the way my cube drafts and plays. If you missed them, please see my posts on Selesnya and Gruul, and the post that first put the idea into my head, Cube Design Philosophy – Multicolor.

Today I will look at Rakdos.

Since Red-Black decks are typically aggressive decks in my cube, I represent Rakdos with a combination of hand disruption and damage. My current Rakdos section is as follows:

Lavaclaw Reaches
Blackcleave Cliffs
Sulfurous Springs

Bituminous Blast
Blightning
Murderous Redcap
Terminate
Void

For the budget-conscious, my Rakdos lands are great. Lavaclaw Reaches is in itself a nice endgame card that gives more threat density in decks, that also gives mana fixing. And Blackcleave Cliffs and Sulfurous Springs are mana fixing with virtually no drawbacks that support aggressive decks.

Rakdos has a higher than average quality of spells available to it. Let’s look at each of my current spells one-by-one to see if they are what I should be using in my cube:

Bituminous Blast – A fairly high cost spell for an instant-speed Flame Slash. However, Cascade ensures that we are getting at least more than one spell out of one card. In a sense, this is a lot like a Red-Black Prophetic Bolt. When one factors in the kinds of spells you will be cascading into with a Red-Black deck, it is not hard to imagine this becoming a card advantage or tempo blowout.

Blightning – The cornerstone of a recent era Standard powerhouse deck, Jund. This card produces a lot of pressure, excellent for use in an aggressive deck.

Murderous Redcap – A recent Twitter discussion made me think more critically about this little guy. Breaking it down, this guy is Arc Trail + a 2/1 creature + a 1/1 creature. Similar to other 4-mana cost cards in its component colors, Nekrataal and Flametongue Kavu, you get exactly what a red or black aggressive deck typically wants on turn 4 or 5 – removal for one of your opponent’s creatures, paving the way for your early creatures to attack with impunity, and yet another threat on the battlefield simultaneously. Its minor resilience to wrath effects is especially good if one of your early drops was an equipment (say, Bonesplitter, or a Sword of War and Peace). Murderous Redcap can give an aggro deck just the slightest bit of reach that it needs in order to deal those last points of damage.

Terminate – One of the simplest effects available in the cube, with no restrictions and no chance of regeneration. It’s certainly an efficient spell. On the other hand, neither black nor red typically have problems killing creatures without dipping into another color. This spell doesn’t get around targeting restrictions (protection, shroud), but does get around toughness restrictions (like Lightning Bolt vs. Hero of Bladehold) and non-black restrictions (like Doom Blade has vs. any black creature). For the moment, this is a simple flavorful spell that is fairly efficient. It does not enable or encourage any specific archetypes, but its power instead stands on its own. For these reasons, it’s a powerful but not essential spell for the cube, and could be removed in the future for another more interesting spell that directs the draft and play in a specific direction.

Void – Void is, in a way, like a cross between Pernicious Deed and Austere Command, with a potential discard bonus. It has the capability to hit things that neither Black nor Red are typically able to destroy (enchantments), due to the unique casting cost method of destruction. This is a very cool effect, and usually a welcome card for more controlling Red-Black decks. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite what the typical Red-Black deck wants, and the high casting cost is a turn-off.

I’m updating Rakdos with only one card today:

Olivia Voldaren is a different kind of control card. In Innistrad Limited, where creatures are weaker than in cube, her ping ability quickly picks off the opponent’s smaller creatures, simultaneously threatening to end the game with a dragon-sized finisher. Once the game has gone long, however, her ability to make an army from the opponent’s creatures is devastating. We have recently started seeing her pop up in Standard competition, notably Patrick Chapin’s Standard Grixis Control deck from the World Championship. In cube, I expect her to act similarly. I expect it to show up in control decks, and also see some play as a curve topper in aggressive decks.

What am I replacing? Not surprisingly, Void.  Besides the fact that the other cards in this color combination are all simply better than Void, there are other reasons why it doesn’t perform to its highest potential. Firstly, fast decks do not need Void as a removal spell. Those decks would much rather have another cheap creature in its place. As a control card, its potential for blowout is somewhat small, since oftentimes a red-black deck has the capability to keep many of its opponent’s permanents off of the table to begin with. Additionally, control decks are more likely to dip into a third color, where more versatile and straightforward answers (and counterspells) exist.

With this change, my Rakdos section seems as “complete” as it can be, with the exception of some future land upgrades. I like how each card is fairly unique in application, and also glad that I now have a finisher available in the color combination. I will be tackling Dimir in my next post. I don’t know if I’ll be making any crazy changes, as it has a great selection of quality cards in it already, but we’ll see!

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