MTG Arena Zone Premium
MTG Arena Zone Premium
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Explorer Rakdos Midrange Deck Guide: Post-Explorer Anthology 1 Update

This guide contains everything you need to know to be an excellent Explorer Rakdos Midrange player in Magic: The Gathering.

Rakdos Midrange has been a big part of Explorer since the format’s inception. While a big part of the initial draw towards Rakdos Midrange was to fight the now banned Winota, Joiner of Forces, and with Expressive Iteration also joining the fray and severely weakening Izzet Phoenix, the deck remains a top tier choice in a meta of various creature and control decks. While you will need to continue retooling and adjust a deck like this to the overall meta, as it currently stands, this build has been proving quite powerful against the open field of the ladder.

So, let’s dive into this ported version of Rakdos Midrange, which draws plenty of reference from the Pioneer Rakdos Midrange deck, but replaces a few of the staples that haven’t found their way over to Arena quite yet such as Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, and Dreadbore. With Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, now added with Explorer Anthology 1, the deck is practically in its final form.


Deck Breakdown

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet Art by Todd Lockwood
(E) Rakdos Midrange
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $704.15
Explorer
best of 3
8 mythic
41 rare
8 uncommon
3 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Instants (6)
4
Fatal Push
$11.96
2
Heartless Act
$0.70
Sorceries (6)
4
Thoughtseize
$67.96
Enchantments (4)
60 Cards
$531.9
15 Cards
$114.49

Planeswalkers

Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a perfect mix of threat and answer for this deck. Being able to kill four-toughness creatures like Crackling Drake and Ledger Shredder with one +1/+1 counter on it helps balance out your removal suite. In addition, Chandra, Torch of Defiance’s ability to act as card advantage and threat through her first +1 ability helps you battle through the mirror and control matchups. Especially against other midrange decks, if you can keep the board clear with other removal, Chandra can win the game single-handedly.

Alongside Chandra, Torch of Defiance, we have the latest Sorin – Sorin the Mirthless, which acts as a defensive tool thanks to the 2/3 lifelink vampires and an additional card advantage engine, through his +1. While both Planeswalkers can take over the game, Sorin the Mirthless can generate blockers quickly enough to trade off with creatures and stabilize your life total until you can clear the board with removal. Sorin’s ultimate generally should end the game, much like Chandra’s, and either Planeswalker left unanswered will bury the opponent in incremental advantage, leading to an easy victory.

Additional Threats

The creature suite for Explorer Rakdos Midrange takes its basis entirely from the Pioneer version. By leveraging all two-for-one creatures, alongside Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Rakdos Midrange aims to pull ahead through constantly getting incremental advantages against any opposing strategy.

Starting with Bloodtithe Harvester, this vampire from Innistrad: Crimson Vow, has had a lasting impact on Pioneer thanks to having a reasonable body along with giving you a Blood token to enable a modest removal spell, midgame filtering, or turning on revolt at instant speed for Fatal Push. Rakdos Midrange leverages its ability to reach the mid to late game, where Reflection of Kiki-Jiki can pair up with Bloodtithe Harvester to act as a machine gun, removing your opponent’s entire board and quickly churning through your excess cards in hand.

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is one of the many breakout cards from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and each mode of this powerful Saga helps Rakdos Midrange. The 2/2 is a reasonable threat that ramps you with each attack, making it easier to cast two spells in one turn. Once you get to the second chapter, you can fill your graveyard quickly, discarding excess cards or cards that are poor in each matchup, and quickly filter to more important cards. This second mode can help surprise opponents with a discarded Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger, or can cycle additional lands or Thoughtseize into better late game cards.

Once you manage to flip Fable of the Mirror-Breaker into Reflections of Kiki-Jiki, you can start pressuring your opponent through free additional creatures, most of which have enter the battlefield or attack triggers, generating even more incremental advantages with each activation. While it can be difficult to protect Reflections of Kiki-Jiki, if it survives even one turn, usually the opponent will fall too far behind to recover. Thanks to the must-kill nature of Reflections, it can protect your other creatures and overstress opponent’s removal spells.

Bonecrusher Giant has become a multi-format staple thanks to the flexibility and power of Adventure creatures with Bonecrusher Giant being one of the best as a split two-damage spell and a 4/3 creature that ensures damage, even against removal spells. There isn’t much to say about Bonecrusher Giant other than it is one of the best value cards printed in Red in years and it fits perfectly into midrange shells.

Graveyard Trespasser is a value threat printed in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt that can help buffer your life total, ensures a two-for-one if your opponent can answer it, thanks to ward, and is a dangerous clock once it flips into being a 4/4 that can drain up to two life with each attack. Having main deck graveyard hate is a great tool against various Phoenix and Greasefang decks as you can control their main threats while applying pressure.

Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger is the ultimate anti-control threat. You’re able to grind through resources battling back and forth with removal, Planeswalkers, and various creatures and in the end, Kroxa comes down and ends the game. Especially when the opponent is down on resources, a timely Kroxa cast and then escaped can discard their hand and set them up for a quick KO.

While this deck doesn’t lean into the graveyard in any meaningful way like with Stitcher's Supplier, you still generate enough of a graveyard through Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, removal, and whatever creatures trade-off or die. Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger is one of the hardest to answer cards for fair decks to beat and its power against control makes it good in nearly any matchup you can find and escape it.

Fresh from the Explorer Anthology 1, Rakdos finally has access to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. An important stablization tool for Rakdos, it provides the deck with a critical catch up mechanism that it was lacking before. Whether turning the tide of a bad board state, messing up a race with lifelink, or both, Kalitas is one of the best threats Rakdos could’ve picked up.

Den of the Bugbear and Hive of the Eye Tyrant serve as additional threats that can help turn the corner once you’ve established battlefield control. They also serve as additional threats to attack opposing Planeswalkers, allowing you to limit the opponent’s value from casting them, even on an empty board.

Interaction

Bloodchief's Thirst acts as fatal push five and six when in the one-mana mode, but it has the upside of also killing opposing Planeswalkers and large creatures in the midgame. While you’d almost always rather have more Fatal Push than Bloodchief’s Thirst due to the restrictiveness of Fatal Push, having main deck answers to bigger creatures and Planeswalkers helps Rakdos survive game one against decks that otherwise would be able to go over the top with creatures like Korvold, Fae-Cursed King or Cavalier of Thorns.

Thoughtseize is one of the pillars of Pioneer and Explorer. Black decks generally struggle against certain threats, be it large spells, cards like Esika’s Chariot that generate multiple bodies that are hard to one-for-one with, and Planeswalkers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria that can protect themselves if you can only interact at sorcery speed. To mitigate these difficult to answer cards, Thoughtseize enables you to take those threats before they hit the stack. An all-time powerful spell, Thoughtseize is a core piece of Rakdos decks in the format.

Another pillar of Pioneer and Explorer, Fatal Push has become the staple removal spell for black decks as it is incredibly efficient and pairs well with cards like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker’s treasure tokens, Bloodtithe Harvester’s Blood Token, and Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger’s sacrifice trigger to kill three and four mana value creatures. One of the primary ways for Rakdos to pull ahead in mana efficiency and cast two spells in one turn early, Fatal Push is a major part of every format you can play it in and Explorer is no exception.

Heartless Act is my extra removal spell of choice given the lack of Thing in the Ice in the format. Being able to hit nearly every major threat in the format, even for two-mana rather than the ideal one-mana, is a good enough reason to play this card. You can swap this out for Infernal Grasp or any other two-mana removal spell, but unless we see a rise in threats with counters, avoiding losing the life from Infernal Grasp is a major part of my thought process here.


Best of One (Bo1)

(E) Bo1 Rakdos Midrange
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $615.14
Explorer
best of 1
7 mythic
42 rare
8 uncommon
3 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (3)
Instants (7)
4
Fatal Push
$11.96
2
Heartless Act
$0.70
Sorceries (6)
4
Thoughtseize
$67.96
Enchantments (4)
60 Cards
$519.7

Midrange decks thrive in Best-of-Three environments thanks to the ability to shift out ineffective answers for more targeted answers in post-board games. One of the ways in which Rakdos does excel compared to some other midrange decks for best of one though, is that you have Planeswalkers, early threats, and removal giving you a reasonable spread against an open field.

While you are hoping to find yourself versus aggressive decks rather than control decks in best-of-one, you can still steal games, unlike most midrange decks versus control. I would recommend considering if you want to be as heavily indexed towards aggro decks if you are playing best of one, as you should beat up on the aggressive red plays trying to capitalize on best of one, but the odd control player will give you issue.


Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Bloodtithe Harvester Art by Lucas Graciano
Bloodtithe Harvester Art by Lucas Graciano

Mirror

OutIn
-4 Thoughtseize+2 Unlicensed Hearse
+1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno
+1 Extinction Event

The mirror is truly a matchup revolving around maximizing your resources in the mid to late game. You both will have plenty of value creatures, planeswalkers, and removal. The worst thing you can have happen is to draw a card like Thoughtseize in the mid to late game when any creature or spell could pull you ahead.

The mirror often comes down to finding extra copies of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Planeswalkers that can generate continual advantage. Careful not to mulligan aggressively as having card quantity is usually more important than card quality in this matchup.

Rakdos Sacrifice

OutIn
-4 Thoughtseize+2 Unlicensed Hearse
-2 Bloodchief's Thirst+1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
+1 Extinction Event
+2 Anger of the Gods

Answering the artifacts from Rakdos Sacrifice is difficult for Rakdos Midrange, so focus on trying to apply pressure through your creatures and destroy Oni-Cult Anvil and Witch's Oven whenever you can. The hardest thing for you to beat in this matchup is Cat-Oven combo, so try to line up turns to answer that with your graveyard interaction when you can.

Azorius Control

OutIn
-4 Fatal Push+2 Chandra, Awakened Inferno
-2 Bloodchief's Thirst+1 Unlicensed Hearse
-2 Heartless Act+2 Duress
+3 Go Blank

This is a battle of attrition and overall, you are in a tough position game one. In the post-board games, you get to cut your dead removal for tons of powerful discard effects and Chandra, Awakened Inferno, which can end the game by herself. Try to maximize your discard spells and Planeswalkers to overwhelm the opponent, since UW has a tough time answering resolved Planeswalkers.

Mono Red Aggro

OutIn
-4 Thoughtseize+2 Anger of the Gods
+1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
+1 Extinction Event

This is a matchup that is quite favorable for Rakdos, especially if you can find a Graveyard Trespasser or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Incidental life gain and a large body is so important in this matchup and really makes it difficult for the opponent to effectively race. You want to trade off resources as much as possible, while keeping your life total high before taking over in the mid game.

Mono Blue Spirits

OutIn
-3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance+2 Anger of the Gods
+1 Extinction Event

While we don’t have Rending Volley on Arena yet, Rakdos generally does quite well into low to the ground aggro and tempo decks, by virtue of killing off all the little creatures and leveraging the power of cards like Bloodtithe Harvester and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker to gun down whatever creatures survive.

This is a matchup where you want to trim some of your more expensive spells in Chandra, Torch of Defiance, especially since getting the minus countered by a Rattlechains is a blowout that will set you too far behind in most games.

Greasefang

OutIn
-4 Thoughtseize+2 Leyline of the Void
-4 Bonecrusher Giant+1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
+3 Go Blank
+2 Unlicensed Hearse

Greasefang decks are a little tricky. If you can find your ways to mitigate their graveyard and force them to play a fair game, you will dominate this matchup. Especially right now, I will aggressively mulligan looking for Unlicensed Hearse or Leyline of the Void, since almost every card in the deck can answer their backup plans.

Overall, if you don’t get combo killed by Parhelion II and Greasefang, Okiba Boss on a turn where you are shields down, you should be easily favored against these style of decks.


Tips and Tricks

Kroxa-Titan-of-Deaths-Hunger-Theros-Beyond-Death-Art
Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger Art by Vincent Proce
  • Outside of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Blood Tokens, you don’t have any card filtering, so try not to keep overly speculative hands. A few lands and some early interaction are good enough against most decks, there aren’t many game one scenarios where you should be looking for specific cards to keep.
  • Post-board you want to maximize your best sideboard cards, so you should mulligan more aggressively if you have knock-out cards like Leyline of the Void in the matchup, but if your goal is to go long, then keeping more cards will help a lot in ensuring you don’t run out of steam.
  • Don’t fire of Takenuma, Abandoned Mire without any creatures in the graveyard. The exception is if you have a Fable of the Mirror-Breaker on chapter one and a Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger in hand. If you mill three and discard two cards, you can escape Kroxa for only one additional card in graveyard.
  • The first and second Fable of the Mirror-Breaker tend to transform into Reflections of Kiki-Jiki and instantly die, so remember to dig aggressively with the second chapter, discarding any lands and spells that aren’t going to take over the game. Chaining Fables together is one of the easiest ways to grind out opponents.
  • If by some miracle both of your Reflections of Kiki-Jiki live, you can do a cool combo on the end step where you copy a Reflections and the new Reflections has Haste and can use the ability. For 1 mana you can get an additional 2/2 on the end step that’ll last until the next one which can be a way to get quick kills.
  • You’re a midrange deck, so your game ones against some decks will be heavily favored and against others you will be heavily unfavored. A major part of this deck is leveraging your sideboard games to ensure your wins in good matchups and steal matches that are tougher pre-board. Few decks in the format leverage their sideboard as much as Rakdos Midrange does.
  • With the general absence of combo decks in Explorer, Rakdos Midrange picks up a lot of percentage points by being great into creature decks pre-board and great into control decks post-board. While you lost a good matchup in Winota thanks to the Explorer bans, there are still plenty of strong matchups for you to take advantage of.

Wrapping Up

Rakdos Midrange is one of the premier decks in Explorer and even in the full version of Pioneer. Learning how to best manage your resources and attack the opponent’s gameplan while always furthering your own is a major part of this deck and will help you improve in Magic in general. Midrange decks are popular since they are fully customizable to attack any metagame, especially if you leverage your sideboard to its fullest. Take your time to make decisions and slowly grind your opponent to dust and you’ll climb the ladder in no time!

Thanks for reading this guide on one of my favorite decks in Explorer and I hope this helps you in your path to Mythic this month and beyond! Stay safe out there.

Enjoy our content? Wish to support our work? Join our Premium community, get access to exclusive content, remove all advertisements, and more!

MTG Arena Zone Premium
darthjacen
darthjacen

darthjacen has been playing Magic since Dark Ascension and plays Standard, Modern, Pioneer, and Limited. With a Grand Prix win in 2015 and an SCG Team Top 4 in 2019, he continues to pursue competitive Magic at every turn. You can follow him on Twitch and YouTube.

Articles: 29