Brewing in a Top Hat: Rakdos Scourge Aggro Deck Guide for Standard and Historic

Our Standard and Historic Rakdos Aggro deck guide features the best deck list for MTG Arena. You can find some general strategy advice and a breakdown of the deck’s key cards and sideboard.

“Suffering of the Skyclaves”

Welcome to Brewing In A Top Hat! Today I am absolutely jazzed to share with you some lists I’ve been working on ever since Zendikar Rising’s release.  Since it was spoiled, Scourge of the Skyclaves has had me tinkering with these three builds, two for Standard and one for Historic.  Let’s start with the Standard lists, designed for best-of-one and best-of-three:

[sd_deck deck=”X3mykjVcH”]

[sd_deck deck=”FUBlQ4vcl”]

Our general strategy is aggressive.  We want to hit the ground running, spending our own life and quickly bursting our opponents down so that we can play a huge Scourge of the Skyclaves, then we can finish them off or push through a crowded board with Embercleave. We’re an interesting take on a normal aggro deck, which wants to preserve its life total and prevent races, in that we’re looking to spend as much as we can at once without dying!

The Card Choices

Fervent Champion The choices for one drops are slim without our rotated friend, Knight of the Ebon LegionFervent Champion is a nice start to an aggro game plan, synergizing with other copies of himself as well as with Stormfist Crusader, and he lets us hit our opponent for damage on turn one so we can cast our Scourge on turn two if needed (assuming we have a bolt land).

Feed the Swarm: This is another way to leverage our life points.  Don’t forget that this is a sorcery, so cast on your turn!

Scourge of the Skyclaves: Our Commander and main win condition, which can get out of hand quickly.  Generally speaking, do not play these on turn two unless you have no other play.  Try and wait until he is at least a 4/4, since there are a lot of ways of gaining three life and dealing three damage.  Three is a dangerous, vulnerable number for him.

Roil Eruption: Usually this will be a removal spell, but there are times where it is appropriate to launch at your enemy’s noggin, whether it be to give the Scourge a boost, or just close out a game.

Stormfist Crusader: Symmetrical damage is Scourge growth.  Be careful about playing too many of these at once, as certain decks (Omnath and burn specifically) can really punish you for it.  Menace is not insignificant with the rest of our list.

Labyrinth Raptor: I was looking to fill the last two drop spot and started testing this dude out, and I love him.  I was already using eight other cards with menace, so he fits right in.  Two of them out at once means your menace cards are either unblockable or they generate massive advantage.

Inscription of Ruin: This card used to be Call of the Death-Dweller, but it kept only hitting one card.  So I tested this in its place, and the loss of the menace/deathtouch counters does not outweigh the addition of discard, which is really effective against Omnath, and removal.  I’ve never cast the kicker, but I imagine there could be cases where it is relevant.  Don’t hold onto this hoping for it though.

Hunted Nightmare: Sometimes, one hit to the face with this is all it takes to push your Scourge into unkillable-Demon territory.  We have enough removal that the deathtouch counter rarely comes into play, but still try to play him when your opponent doesn’t have any creatures out.

Mardu Outrider Sorry, non-bo1 players, this guy isn’t for you.  Discarding two drop creatures is not a big drawback when we can reanimate them with Inscription of Ruin.  Make sure you hit your opponent with the Swarm Rise emote after you play him, so they know what’s coming.

Woe Strider Woe Strider is our swiss army knife, compensating us with a little consistency when our cards get targeted by removal, and in this way it really hurts opposing adventure players since it can sacrifice their targets to make their creature side fizzle.  Don’t write off its escape; a 5/4 can close a tight game out if you start to run out of gas, and also help you avoid flooding out in the late game. Also, it can sacrifice a Stormfist Crusader that’s starting to hurt you too much.

Bonecrusher Giant Not much more needs to be said about Bonecrusher Giant, but I just want you to remember that Stomp doesn’t care how many lives those cats have: he’s dealing damage and they aren’t preventing it.

Embercleave Because sometimes what your 10/10 Demon needs is a giant, flaming sword.

Shatterskull Smashing This is a land that deals three damage to you 99% of the time.  Play it untapped.

Agadeem’s Awakening This is also a land, but slightly less often.  Maybe like 90% of the time.  Reanimating a two drop and a one drop can be a big swing if that two drop is a 7/7.

Castle Locthwain Paying life to draw cards?  Meh.  Paying life to make a bigger demon?  And I get a card?  Now you’re speaking my language.  And that language is reckless life-spending for profit and glory.  I have used it at instant speed as a combat trick when I was ahead on life.

Sideboard Guide


+4 Agonizing Remorse-3 Woe Strider
+3 Blazing Volley-2 Fervent Champion
+2 Roiling Vortex-4 Stormfist Crusader

We drop the Crusaders because our strategy is to keep their hand empty.  Target their ramp and use your removal on their cobras.  If you see a lot of Valakut Explorations or Felidar Retreats, you might want to bring in additional Feed the Swarms as well.  Keep a red mana open with Vortex, to stop the lifegain of Omnath and Uro.

Dimir Rogues

+4 Duress-2 Feed the Swarm
-2 Inscription of Ruin

Prioritize hands with turn one Duress, so that you can play around their disruption with your prior knowledge of it.  Some versions of this deck use a lot of one toughness creatures; if that is the case, you can get a lot of mileage out of bringing in your Blazing Volleys.

Mono Red

+3 Blazing Volley-2 Feed the Swarm
-1 Inscription of Ruin

On last count this deck has 14 creatures that Blazing Volley hits plus Anax’s Satyr tokens.  Since they will attack our life for us, our Scourges can quickly carry this game, so long as you provide pressure back on them.  Don’t trade your creatures off in this matchup.  Face is the place.  


+4 Agonizing Remorse-2 Feed the Swarm
+4 Duress-2 Inscription of Ruin
-4 Stormfist Crusader

The same philosophy as the Omnath deck applies here.  We want to try to attack their hand, while applying pressure to the board.  We win by being faster than them.

Temur/Gruul Adventures

+3 Blazing Volley-2 Feed the Swarm
-1 Roil Eruption

Keep the board clear of their 1/1s with Blazing Volley, so their Lovestruck Beasts can’t attack and they can’t draw off of their Innkeepers.  Scourge is tough for them to deal with once he hits 6.


+2 Feed the Swarm-2 Fervent Champion

Labyrinth Raptor is the key to winning this matchup.  Force them to choose between taking damage and sacrificing creatures to block your menacers.  That way your Scourge can get bigger than they can handle.

Other Cards and Budget Options

Here are some other cards that I tried and evaluated for you.  Some were playable and some, not so much.  Adjust for your collection to craft the version that works best for you, without blowing all your wild cards.

Call of the Death-Dweller: This would be the card of choice if there were better one drops in the format.  It can definitely replace Inscription of Ruin in a budget version.

Murderous Rider: I think it’s just a turn too slow right now.  Planeswalkers don’t seem to be hugely popular in the meta, so cheaper creature removal is probably better.

Nullpriest of Oblivion: I really like this card, but the lifelink actually hurts us in this deck!

Malakir Rebirth: This is a fun budget option for protecting our Scourges or letting them trade without dying.  Doubling as a land drop is just gravy.

Fissure Wizard: The problem with card cycling is that it doesn’t apply board pressure.  Problem solved!  Add consistency, but lose size.  I think this card has a ton of potential.

Spikefield Hazard: To Hell with all Lotus Cobras!

Cinderclasm: One more time and louder for the Scute Swarms in the back: to Hell with Lotus Cobra! Great sideboard option.

Fireblade Charger: This is probably the second best aggro one drop in the format for us.  If you replace the Inscriptions with Call of the Death-Dweller, I would add this guy in as well.

Relic Robber: This is a great way of getting their life down quickly, but unfortunately it is just too understatted to really work in this deck.

Belle of the Brawl: This is a great budget three drop that works well with both our menace and knight synergies.

Demonic Embrace: Probably a bit costly and a tad too slow, but this card can be quite a fun budget replacement for Embercleave if Mythic wildcards are what is keeping you from playing the deck.

Treacherous Blessing: Oddly enough, I found this goes a little too hard into the self inflicted damage strategy when compounded with everything else. This kind of deck wants life loss you can control, and this is too hard to keep a leash on. It also doesn’t develop our board state for 3 mana, and this is an aggro deck after all..

Dark Bargain: This really isn’t that bad.  It’s a great budget option for keeping your hand full and stocking the graveyard.  Instant speed is what makes it playable.

Tips and Tricks

Why do I have so few lands?  Well, we actually play 23 lands with all the bolt lands.  It just looks like we only have 16.  Remember, we need to pay life to enable our Scourge, so you should almost always pay for our lands to come into play untapped.

How do I manage my life total?  This is going to take practice and knowledge of the meta.  Some slower decks you want to get out ahead of by nuking yourself, while more aggressive decks should take care of that for you.  Keep track of what your opponent’s lethal reach is.  Can they kill you from 10 in one turn?  Or are they chipping you little by little?  This will help you determine how fast to drain your own life.  You want to stay out of their kill range, while keeping your Scourge a threat.  Sometimes you won’t be able to avoid it and you will have to risk going low.  If that is the case, try to win quickly because it is possible to kill yourself.  Remember that you’re on a clock.

How to play without drawing Scourge:  We’ve all had those games where our win conditions never seem to show up.  But fear not, for this deck has lots of ways to win.  Like any good aggro deck, you can simply beat your opponent into submission with your big early threats, and then try to close the game out with your burn.  

Even if you get flooded, you can still win with this deck because we have a lot of outlets for too much mana.  Both bolt lands are X spells, and we also have big kicker spells with Scourge, Roil Eruption, and Inscription of Ruin.  Play it out!

Which Emote do I use to let my opponent know I don’t approve of them playing Omnath?  I don’t see what that has to do with the article, but as a connoisseur of good-natured bad-manners, you should use the Hedron Angry sticker in conjunction with the Gnarlids Follow emote.  Let them know they’re a gnarlid for following the ways of mana ramp.

The Historic List

[sd_deck deck=”ApRaX-iAe”]

The Historic version is much more explosive, since it has access to a much deeper pool of cards that cause self inflicted damage.  Historic is a faster format with many more aggressive decks seeing play, which actually works to our advantage since we want to take damage sooner.  Don’t take trades on blocks.  If you are going to trade, it should be your opponent blocking.  It is better to let their attacks through and use their tapped creatures to get at their life total.

Other Card Choices


Bloodchief’s Thirst: Historic is a much more aggressive format, with decks like Jund Sacrifice, Goblins, and Rakdos Arcanist all being very popular.  They all have prime targets for this to kill for just 1 mana.

Knight of the Ebon Legion: Now that is a one drop!  He will often eat a removal spell for you that they should have saved for Scourge.

Thoughtseize: Remember to use the information this provides you to avoid over-extending into a board wipe.  Sometimes it is the right play to leave the board wipe in their hand and target something they can play sooner.  If you see this, try to bait out the board wipe with a single high priority target on turn 3, like a Regisaur or a Dreadhorde Butcher.  Even better if you also have a Midnight Reaper.

Claim // Fame:  Yes it brings back the Scourge, but more importantly it can give it haste.  Sometimes you want to Claim something just so you can also cast the Fame on a big Scourge the following turn.

Dreadhorde Butcher: This guy is a lightning rod.  He will eat any removal that would have been saved for Scourge.  The really great part is that if he eats that removal spell, he can provide you some damage to face via his death trigger.  Every point of life matters!

Midnight Reaper: This Zombie is the perfect way to lose HP in this deck while protecting our board.  This gets the nod over Phyrexian Arena because it can pressure your opponent’s life too.

Rotting Regisaur: There are a couple of chonky three drop creatures we could use to fill this slot, but I like Regi because he can let us discard creatures to use Claim on, or lets us discard Claim so we can Fame something.

Embercleave: Because sometimes your giant, reanimated dinosaur carcass really wants a big flaming sword too.

Shatterskull Smashing / Agadeem’s Awakening / Blood Crypt: More pain lands means less life for you and more stats for Scourge of the Skyclaves.

Sideboard Guide


+2 Bloodchief’s Thirst-4 Claim // Fame
+3 Grafdigger’s Cage-1 Midnight Reaper

Keep the board clear of Prospectors and Chiefs of all kinds, attack their hand to take out Muxus before they can cast him, and drop a Grafdigger’s Cage to keep Muxus under control.

Jund Sacrifice

+2 Village Rites -4 Claim // Fame
+3 Grafdigger’s Cage-2 Rotting Regisaur
+1 Leyline of the Void

Keep mana up for Village Rites so you don’t get blown out by Claim the Firstborn.  Hold out for a Grafdigger’s cage or Leyline.  This is a very tough matchup.

Omnath Ramp

+3 Grafdigger’s Cage-4 Claim // Fame
+2 Roiling Vortex-3 Midnight Reaper
+2 Bloodchief’s Thirst

The strategy is much the same as in Standard.  Keep the board clear of Lotus Cobras and apply early pressure.  Use Roiling Vortex to keep them from gaining life.  Grafdigger’s Cage makes the match up easier, since it turns off Genesis Ultimatum and Uro.

Azorius/Bant Control +3 Duress +2 Village Rites -2 Feed the Swarm -2 Bonecrusher Giant -1 Claim///Fame

+3 Duress-2 Feed the Swarm
+2 Village Rites-2 Bonecrusher Giant
-1 Claim // Fame

Other Cards and Budget Options

Here are some other cards that I tried and evaluated for you.  Some were playable and some, not so much.  Adjust for your collection to craft the version that works best for you, without blowing all your wild cards.


Phyrexian Arena This is a really fabulous card for the deck and you wouldn’t be wrong to include it.  I just found Midnight Reaper to be a little better at dealing damage to both sides, and to have less risk of killing you since we can just trade it off.

Ifnir Deadlands/Ramunap Ruins These are decent budget replacements for the bolt lands.

Phyrexian Reclamation This felt a little slow, but still worked in certain scenarios.  I wouldn’t use more than one or two because they are useless in multiples.

Font of Agonies Bad card.  I’ve tried so many times to make it good, but four blood counters per creature is just too much.

Bolas’s Citadel It is really difficult to get to six mana in this deck, but when it works, it works spectacularly.

Doom Whisperer “Pssst! Doooooooom.”Doom Whisperer.

Dreadhorde Invasion There is definite potential in this card, but I do not like the anti-synergy of gaining a whole bunch of life with lifelink.

Dusk Legion Zealot Great budget option if you want to try to make a version that goes wide.

Spawn of Mayhem Could easily replace Rotting Regisaur.  His symmetrical damage really shines with Scourge.

Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger Just isn’t as good as I wanted it to be.  It’s too slow for this deck.

Spear Spewer Here is a great budget card for us, especially if you decide to use Spawn of Mayhem, because he turns on Spectacle.

Volcanic Fallout This is more of a sideboard option.  It’s great at dealing with mono blue tempo if you start seeing a lot of that, plus it hits both players’ life totals.

Thanks for reading!

Check out some of my other decks:

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