Constructed

5.0: Multi-format All-Star (and undoubtedly worth too much money). [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].

4.0: Format staple. [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card]. [card]Thragtusk[/card].

3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. [card]Avacyn's Pilgrim[/card]. [card]Restoration Angel[/card]. [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card].

3.0: Archetype staple. [card]Intangible Virtue[/card]. [card]Gravecrawler[/card].

2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. [card]Think Twice[/card]. [card]Curse of Death's Hold[/card].

2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. [card]Naturalize[/card]. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although explanation of why is obviously important.)

1.0: It has seen play once. [card]One with Nothing[/card]. (I believe it was tech vs Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)

Limited

5.0: I will always play this card. Period.

4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.

4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.

3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card’s color.

3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)

2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)

2.0: If I’m playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)

1.5: This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)

1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (30%)

0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I’ll never start it. (10%)

0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%)

Auger Spree

[draft]Auger Spree[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

The last time an augur was good in Constructed was during [card]Elemental Augury[/card]’s heyday (sorry, [card]Rakdos Augurmage[/card], you don’t really count). That has not changed here; paying three mana to deal 4 to a creature isn’t good value, and maybe hitting them for 4 extra damage doesn’t make up for it.

Limited: 3.5

A three-mana [card]Flame Slash[/card] at instant speed is quite good in Limited, and even though I’ve yet to see anyone come close to using it as [card]Bloodlust[/card], it’s conceivable that it could happen.

Carnival Hellsteed

[draft]Carnival Hellsteed[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

While I suspect you don’t have time to horse around with this in Constructed, 6 power of hasted first strike is not something I’m willing to dismiss completely. You don’t really want to be blocking with a bruiser of this caliber anyway, so that isn’t a dealbreaker—I just have trouble seeing this make it over [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card] (which is seeing not a ton of play already).

Limited: 4.0

Ground [card rorix bladewing]Rorix[/card] is as good as advertised. It hits for a million, has haste, and can’t be killed in creature combat. 5 toughness also puts it out of range of most removal spells, in case your opponents were considering killing it.

Dreadbore

[draft]Dreadbore[/draft]

Constructed: 3.5

This card is a little bit boring, but extremely efficient and versatile. Even though it’s a sorcery, being able to kill just about anything you want makes it worth playing in a ton of decks, some of which are happy to splash it. It certainly makes relying on expensive planeswalkers less secure, and has made me think twice about playing [card tamiyo, the moon sage]Tamiyo[/card] ([card jace, architect of thought]Jace[/card] is still sweet).

Limited: 3.5

I guess I’d board this in if they had a planeswalker... (it’s a great removal spell, but it being a 1-for-1 at best does put it at a notch below a sick bomb).

Havoc Festival

[draft]Havoc Festival[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

Doubling the cost of [card]Sulfuric Vortex[/card] does hurt, but I can see this winning some games. It’s exactly the kind of card that a control deck could lose to, especially if they aren’t playing counterspells or sided them out. You wouldn’t want a ton of them, but stealing a game by siding in one or two could wreak some havoc.

Limited: 2.0

I’ve been more impressed with this than I thought I’d be, but it’s still a card that not every deck wants. Most Rakdos decks do, and it is very powerful, so just be sure you are the beatdown if you play this.

Hellhole Flailer

[draft]Hellhole Flailer[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

While I think this flails to get there, a 4/3 for three that can dome them for 4 isn’t that far behind the curve. It requiring a ton of mana to get value against removal is what’s keeping it leashed, for the moment.

Limited: 3.5

It doesn’t get much more aggro than this. Smashing for 4 on turn four is already good, and this being a [card]Lava Axe[/card] when necessary is exactly what you want in an aggro deck.

Rakdos Charm

[draft]Rakdos Charm[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

Rakdos Charm exists in a strange space. The first two abilities are pretty clearly more sideboard-oriented than the last, and none of the three carry the other two on their own. If you want both a graveyard hate card and an artifact removal card and are playing aggro, this might provide enough value to be worth it. Pinging both players for each creature they have is powerful in the right matchup, but it’s unlikely the other modes are good at the same time. There is definitely something here, it’s just going to take a strange convergence of metagame factors to make it good.

Limited: 1.5

My experiments with Rakdos Charm have not ended well. If you are super beatdown, the damage ability is intriguing, but it’s hard to get more than a couple out of this without dying first. I’ve mostly settled on siding this in against Keyrunes, with the knowledge that it can be used as a bad [card]Lava Axe[/card] in a pinch. It’s also worth considering against some Selesnya decks—particularly those that populate with [card eyes in the skies]Birds[/card], not [card call of the conclave]Centaurs[/card].

Rakdos Ragemutt

[draft]Rakdos Ragemutt[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

The most confusing part about this card is the lifelink. Why does a dog have it, and more importantly, why is it on a Rakdos card?

Limited: 3.0

Rakdos Ragemutt isn’t winning any beatdown awards, but he does his job in any sort of deck. I’ve been the most impressed with splashing him in Golgari, where scavenge lets you build your own [card baneslayer angel]Baneslayer[/card].

Rakdos Ringleader

[draft]Rakdos Ringleader[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

One way to make random discard less oppressive and fun-ruining is by making it cost six mana, as is clearly shown here.

Limited: 1.0

Most of the utility here is found post-board, where some matchups make a regenerator good (even at six mana). It’s pretty slow, so be sure it’s what you want before sideboarding it in.

Rakdos, Lord of Riots

[draft]Rakdos, Lord of Riots[/draft]

Constructed: 2.5

[card]Abyssal Persecutor[/card]s, Abyssal Persecutors for everyone! The cost here is definitely a real one, as Rakdos is at his worst when you are in a losing position. He does ramp up the pressure significantly when you are getting damage through, and Zombie decks have a ton of ways to get even a point of damage in. So far he does seemed best served as a sideboard card for creature matchups, because if there’s a card that’s bad against Wraths, it’s Rakdos.

Limited: 3.5

If you can’t hit them, this might sit in your hand for a few turns, but it can’t be that hard to get a point in. Even if you throw away a guy, ending up with a 6/6 flier is pretty absurd, and I can’t even imagine how good this is if you curve into him on turn four.

Rakdos's Return

[draft]Rakdos's Return[/draft]

Constructed: 3.0

[card]Mind Shatter[/card] never had it this good. Losing the random discard part is a beating, but adding [card]Fireball[/card] to the list of abilities is much bigger. It’s easy to get around the random part anyway: just make sure you are getting their entire hand. The biggest reason that this is going to be much more awesome than Mind Shatter is that the format has 100% less insane [card cryptic command]counterspells[/card], and is shaping up to be much more fair in general. Rakdos has returned, and he’s ready to win some games.

Limited: 3.5

While not every Rakdos deck is all that interested in a five- or six-mana discard spell, they certainly do want a Fireball. This looks pretty good mid-game or late game, and can definitely win games no other card can win (via either discard or damage).

Rix Maadi Guildmage

[draft]Rix Maadi Guildmage[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

Both abilities are relevant and cheap, and play together quite nicely. The threat of shooting blockers is enough to prevent blocks in the early turns, letting you swing in unimpeded and continue to develop your board. You also get to start pinging them once you have extra mana, and that is certainly not irrelevant either.

Limited: 4.0

It’s extremely difficult to win a defensive game against this Guildmage, and if you’ve drafted your Rakdos deck appropriately, that is exactly where you’ve forced your opponent. Everything that applies in Constructed applies even more in Limited, and this is the perfect card for aggressive Rakdos decks.

Skull Rend

[draft]Skull Rend[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Rakdos’s Return has pretty much rendered this useless, at least until the 2HG Pro Tour is back.

Limited: 1.0

I’ve had success with this as a sideboard card, but at five mana it’s a little too light on board impact for most Rakdos decks. It does what you want as a splash in Golgari or against slow decks, but as an actual Rakdos card it isn’t great.

Slaughter Games

[draft]Slaughter Games[/draft]

Constructed: 2.5

Do you want to play a game? As far as Cranials go, the uncounterability clause makes this an attractive one. I’m still dubious about its worth in Standard, just because there usually aren’t enough linear decks to warrant it. In older formats, especially Modern, that is very much not the case, and those also happen to be formats where counterspells are much more prevalent. If you want this effect, this is now definitely the front-runner.

Limited: 0.5

I’ve sided in [card]Cranial Extraction[/card] exactly once: when my opponent had a [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card]. Past that, I would recommend not bringing this in unless they have five or more copies of a slow and awesome card.

Spawn of Rix Maadi

[draft]Spawn of Rix Maadi[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

I doubt a five-mana 6/4 is going to be spawning any sick decks.

Limited: 3.0

The size you get for the cost here is impressive, making this serve very well as the finisher of choice for fast Rakdos decks. 6/4 is just about exactly as big as this needs to be to make the leap from “decent” to “good”, regardless of its blocking ability.

Cryptborn Horror

[draft]Cryptborn Horror[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

The dream here is attractive, but what mono-red does not need is yet another best-case scenario card. This needs to be a 5/5 or bigger to really be awesome, and I just don’t think it’s going to happen often enough. You can get a [card hellhole flailer]4/3 for three[/card] with a good sacrifice ability already, and this is way too inconsistent to really beat that.

Limited: 2.0

I like living the dream as much as anyone, and if you build your deck in a suicidal manner, this could be a nightmare for your opponent. All one- and two-drops plus [card]Deviant Glee[/card] could make this sweet—if you are playing Cryptborn Horror, you aren’t playing for the long game anyway.

Rakdos Cackler

[draft]Rakdos Cackler[/draft]

Constructed: 2.5

Two power for one mana is always a reasonable combination, and this making twelve 1-drops for mono-B is actually a huge game. It’s a fair bit worse than [card]Diregraf Ghoul[/card] or [card]Gravecrawler[/card], but when you are looking to beat down, you can’t be too picky.

Limited: 3.0

1-drops are always in short supply for aggro, so picking this guy up makes your nut draws just that much better. I like him over [card]Gore-House Chainwalker[/card] most of the time, though if you don’t have enough 2’s you aren’t gaining much by taking the Cackler.

Rakdos Shred-Freak

[draft]Rakdos Shred-Freak[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

You can do a lot better than this in Constructed, but I’m not an aggro scientist, so I’ll give this a pass for now.

Limited: 2.0

I’ve actually been way less impressed with this than I thought I’d be. A 2/1 is just not that big, and even though it usually gets a hit in, it gets outclassed fairly quickly. I’m not saying that I won’t take them and play with them, just that they aren’t super awesome or anything.

Rakdos Has Returned

...and is way better this time around. This guild got the best Guildmage, the best Keyrune, a couple decent aggressive bodies, and the cheapest and most flexible removal card in Standard. Rakdos does have an advantage, with common and uncommon unleash guys way more likely to be playable in Constructed than the other guild mechanics. Slaughter Games even has a decent impact in Modern, making Rakdos enthusiasts among the most satisfied post-Return to Ravnica.

In the next (and last) segment, I cover the stragglers I haven’t talked about and conclude the set review with a look at the cards likely to impact Constructed. There are plenty, with Return to Ravnica bringing a good level of power across all formats.

LSV