If you like synergy-driven aggro decks and want to stand a good chance against UGx Food–or are looking toward a possible future without as many Food decks–then Rakdos Sacrifice may be the perfect Standard deck for you.
If you control Midnight Reaper, then you’re drawing a card every time you sacrifice Cauldron Familiar. And if you control Mayhem Devil, which is the key card that the entire archetype revolves around, you get two damage triggers per sacrifice cycle: One for sacrificing the Cat and one for sacrificing the Food. These triggers add up.
Another combo is to steal a creature and sacrifice it to Priest of Forgotten Gods. Sometimes you get to steal a big Hydroid Krasis, pressure their planeswalker, force them to sacrifice Wicked Wolf, and swing the game around completely. As the deck contains a plethora of sacrifice effects, Claim the Firstborn is often even better than a removal spell.
Rakdos Sacrifice is not only fun to play, but it also found a lot of success in recent high-level tournaments. First of all, Antonino de Rosa went 13-2 at the Arena MCQW. The next weekend at MagicFest Lyon, Andreas Ganz finished fourth at the Grand Prix, and Giona Cai won a PTQ. I talked to or watched games of all these players, and I combined their insights with my experience playing the deck on Magic Arena. Currently, I’d recommend the following list.
2 Castle Locthwain 4 Blood Crypt 3 Fabled Passage 9 Swamp (339) 6 Mountain (343) 4 Gutterbones 4 Cauldron Familiar 4 Priest of Forgotten Gods 4 Mayhem Devil 4 Midnight Reaper 2 Rankle, Master of Pranks 2 Cavalier of Night 4 Claim the Firstborn 4 Witch's Oven 2 Angrath's Rampage 2 Noxious Grasp Sideboard 4 Dreadhorde Butcher 4 Duress 2 Theater of Horrors 2 Noxious Grasp 1 Bedevil 1 Embereth Shieldbreaker/Battle Display 1 Mask of Immolation
2 Castle Locthwain (ELD) 241
4 Blood Crypt (RNA) 245
3 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244
2 Cavalier of Night (M20) 94
4 Gutterbones (RNA) 76
4 Cauldron Familiar (ELD) 81
4 Mayhem Devil (WAR) 204
4 Midnight Reaper (GRN) 77
4 Priest of Forgotten Gods (RNA) 83
2 Rankle, Master of Pranks (ELD) 101
4 Claim the Firstborn (ELD) 118
2 Noxious Grasp (M20) 110
9 Swamp (ELD) 261
6 Mountain (ELD) 265
2 Angrath’s Rampage (WAR) 185
4 Witch’s Oven (ELD) 237
1 Bedevil (RNA) 157
2 Noxious Grasp (M20) 110
1 Embereth Shieldbreaker (ELD) 122
1 Mask of Immolation (M20) 151
4 Dreadhorde Butcher (WAR) 194
4 Duress (M20) 97
2 Theater of Horrors (RNA) 213
My list is a couple cards different from Antonino de Rosa’s MCQW list, whose viability in a UGx Food metagame I highlighted at the end of my previous article.
Antonino’s list exploited Chandra, Acolyte of Flame because her sacrificial 1/1s have amazing synergy with Priest of Forgotten Gods and Mayhem Devil. While Chandra is clearly very powerful in the deck, fitting a 1RR card into the mana base when you also want to cast black one-drops on turn one is difficult. Also, the deck already had more than enough three-drops.
Therefore, I cut Chandra and added Rankle, which fits the sacrifice theme. I felt somewhat validated in this tweak when I saw that Andreas Ganz also cut Chandra in his Grand Prix Lyon Top 4 deck and that Giona Cai also included Rankle in his PTQ-winning decklist. Once Chandra was no longer present, I cut a removal spell for the fourth Gutterbones and tweaked the mana base. I made sure to reduce the likelihood of opening with too many tap-lands.
I added these cards to the sideboard to help turn into a control deck for Games 2 and 3 against UGx Food. As Giona Cai told me, they often think we are an aggro deck and board accordingly, and they tend to cut Hydroid Krasis because they fear Claim the Firstborn. This provides the perfect opportunity to outmaneuver them by transforming into a go-big control deck post-sideboard.
Tips and tricks
- You can target your own creatures with Claim the Firstborn. This can be useful to untap and/or give haste to Priest of Forgotten Gods so you can get an extra activation that turn.
- When playing against creatureless control decks, you can turn Claim the Firstborn into Lava Spike by giving a random Midnight Reaper haste.
- Mayhem Devil triggers not only off of your own sacrifices, but also your opponent’ sacrifices. This includes Food tokens, Fabled Passage, or any permanent they sacrifice to Angrath’s Rampage or Priest of Forgotten Gods.
- If you hold priority (i.e., hold Control when playing online) then you can sacrifice multiple Food tokens to the same Cauldron Familiar. This can come in handy when you want to get multiple Mayhem Devil triggers.
- Always play your lands; don’t hold them to bluff. You’ll be thankful when you draw Castle Locthwain.
- Rakdos Sacrifice has a surprisingly strong late-game. For example, you can sacrifice Cavalier of Night to Witch’s Oven, return Mayhem Devil, and “combo-kill” them out of nowhere with a large number of sacrifice triggers.
- Don’t crack Fabled Passage unnecessarily because you might find Mayhem Devil, and the free point of damage is generally more important than deck thinning.
- Normally, the activated ability of Priest of Forgotten Gods has only one target: your opponent. This means that a well-timed Veil of Summer will counter it. However, you can target yourself in addition to your opponent. In that case, Veil of Summer means that they won’t have to sacrifice, but you still get the mana and draw a card. This is sometimes worth it, especially if you control Mayhem Devil.
- Sometimes it’s best to not return Cauldron Familiar at the end of your opponent’s turn. This is especially true when you are planning to cast Mayhem Devil next turn and could use a free ping or if you control Theater of Horrors.
- The dream is to assemble Witch’s Oven + Cauldron Familiar + Mayhem Devil, which yields two pings and one drain for free every turn. However, Witch’s Oven + Gutterbones + Mayhem Devil is also a decent engine: It yields two pings and three life for five mana each turn.
- Extra copies of Witch’s Oven are not dead draws, because they allow you to return and trigger Cauldron Familiar multiple times per turn.
Is Rakdos better than Jund or Four-Color?
The core of Mayhem Devil, Cauldron Familiar, and Witch’s Oven is also found in decks with Gilded Goose and Once Upon a Time. At Grand Prix Lyon, Jund versions and Four-color versions both performed well, and I think the Four-color version is particularly powerful. Combining Korvold, Fae-Cursed King with Oko, Thief of Crowns can set up incredible synergies, making it a great option for midrange players. A Sultai Food deck with the Cat engine also was the most successful Food variant at Mythic Championship VI in Richmond.
The main reason for sticking with Rakdos Sacrifice is that I like the its more aggressive slant, clear focus, and reliable mana base. It’s mostly a play style preference for aggressive decks, but I’m a sucker for anything that vaguely reminds me of Modern Affinity. Also, Oko or Gilded Goose might be banned soon, which invalidates the long-term prospects of the Four-color version.
Dreadhorde Butcher comes in against most decks without Gilded Goose. Generally speaking, one or two Claim the Firstborn can usually be shaved because opponents tend to have more removal and interaction post-board, which means that you’re less likely to control a sacrifice outlet for Claim the Firstborns in Games 2 and 3.
Below I describe how I have been boarding. Sometimes I change things up slightly, for example by cutting a land on the draw.