Mayhem Devil Art by Dmitry Burmak

Explorer Rakdos Sacrifice Deck Guide: Two Versions That Got Me to #12 Mythic

Hello everyone! Today I’ll be going over two Rakdos Sacrifice decklist variants for Explorer. The fundamental difference between today’s two decks is whether or not they have Oni-Cult Anvil; while both decks share a lot of cards, artifact synergies, or the lack thereof, is what makes these two decks distinct entities.

Sacrifice decks are well-positioned in Explorer at the moment, as they prey on the many creature decks in the format, and neither deck has many truly bad matchups. For more variants, be sure to check out the three Jund versions:

Rakdos Anvil

Rakdos Anvil
by Omrithopter
Explorer
best of 3
3 mythic
23 rare
19 uncommon
15 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Companion
Planeswalkers (3)
Creatures (15)
4
Mayhem Devil
$17.96
Instants (8)
4
Fatal Push
$15.96
4
Deadly Dispute
$11.16
Sorceries (2)
2
Thoughtseize
$39.98
Artifacts (10)
4
Witch’s Oven
$5.96
4
Oni-Cult Anvil
$1.00
60 Cards
$369.56
15 Cards
$227.07

First up is Rakdos Anvil. This deck is a near copy of a Pioneer deck, with the only card in the main deck missing being Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. This deck is built around sacrificing cheap artifacts, with Cat-Oven (Cauldron Familiar plus Witch's Oven), as well as Experimental Synthesizer, Deadly Dispute, and Blood tokens from Voldaren Epicure and Bloodtithe Harvester all fueling Oni-Cult Anvil. Synthesizer and Deadly Dispute are also great ways to acquire card advantage cheaply, and they, along with blood tokens, make sure this deck never runs out of gas.

Mayhem Devil joins Anvil in being a massive payoff for sacrificing lots of permanents, and Ob Nixilis, the Adversary is an excellent payoff for this deck as well, because of all the cheap creatures that can enable Casualty. Ob Nixilis synergizes especially well with Anvil, because not only does Anvil create plenty of fodder to Casualty, but all the tokens also do a great job protecting Ob.

In terms of interaction, this deck has Thoughtseize and Fatal Push, but in reality, Mayhem Devil is this deck’s best removal spell, and Anvil or Cat-Oven can stonewall any big creatures.

This deck plays a lot like other Cat-Oven decks, and while it lacks Trail of Crumbs for overwhelming card advantage, this deck boasts a faster clock with Mayhem Devil and Ob Nixilis, the Adversary. This deck’s early game is quite strong, Cat-Oven or Voldaren Epicure into Anvil curve really well into Mayhem Devil or Ob Nixilis. And despite not having Trail, card advantage from Synthesizer and Deadly Dispute, when combined with grindy engines like Ob Nixilis, Cat-Oven, and Anvil means this deck a lot of late-game staying power.

Sideboard

1 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger: This deck can fill the graveyard pretty well which makes Kroxa a great way to grind out control decks.

2 Thoughtseize: Disruption against control and combo.

3 Soul-Guide Lantern: Graveyard hate, this deck runs Lantern over Unlicensed Hearse because Lantern synergizes with Oni-Cult Anvil more.

2 Karn, Scion of Urza: A strong planeswalker, karnstructs can get pretty huge thanks to all the artifacts this deck runs, and unlike most other planeswalkers, Karn works with Jegantha, the Wellspring.

2 The Meathook Massacre: While Meathook is backbreaking against aggro, the real reason it’s in the sideboard is so this deck can stand a chance against Jund Sacrifice.

1 Feed the Swarm: Also for Jund Sacrifice, Feed the Swarm also has utility against some off-meta decks that run enchantments.

1 Abrade, 1 Kolaghan's Command: Cheap removal and artifact destruction, mostly for the mirror and Greasefang, Okiba Boss decks.

1 Voltage Surge: Fatal Push #5 against decks with cheap creatures.

Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Rakdos Midrange

This matchup is even, (unless your opponent has Hidetsugu Consumes All, which is backbreaking), and very grindy. An active Chandra, Torch of Defiance, or Sorin the Mirthless can be hard to remove if you enter a board stall, and Graveyard Trespasser and Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger are both threats this deck struggles to kill efficiently.

That being said, Rakdos Midrange doesn’t have a great way to deal with your Ovens, Anvils, and Obs, so slowly draining them, and possibly even finishing them off with a burst of damage from Mayhem Devil is your best plan.

INOUT
2 Karn, Scion of Urza1 Voldaren Epicure
1 Thoughtseize

Mono Blue Spirits

This matchup is pretty good because this deck can go under Mono Blue pretty easily. However, some starts from them are really hard to beat, such as turn one creature into turn two Curious Obsession plus counterspell. Chip damage is really important in this matchup, as often games become a race between your ragtag crew of 1/1s and drain against your opponent’s board of fliers. Often this is a race you have an advantage in, however, because if you got in some early chip you can finish your opponent off with some drain pretty easily while eating food to stay alive.

One more thing to note is that if you Claim the Firstborn a creature and try to then cast a Witch's Oven to sacrifice it to, you’ll get blown out, so it’s best to first cast the Witch's Oven and then force them to counter the Claim the Firstborn. However, since Deadly Dispute and Ob Nixilis sacrifice as an additional cost, your opponent can’t prevent you from sacrificing their creature to one of those.

Finally, try not to run Deadly Dispute into counterspells, your removal spells into Rattlechains, and keep in mind when deciding what to attack with that your opponent’s deck is chock-full of flash threats. 

INOUT
1 Voltage Surge2 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
1 Abrade2 Thoughtseize
1 Kolaghan's Command1 Voldaren Epicure
2 The Meathook Massacre

Greasefang Variants

This matchup is about even, and it just comes down to whether Greasefang, Okiba Boss makes it to combat. You can easily out-grind everything else your opponent has going on, so your number one priority is making sure the board stays Parhelion II free. 

INOUT
3 Soul-Guide Lantern2 Thoughtseize
1 Voltage Surge1 Experimental Synthesizer
1 Kolaghan's Command1 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
1 Abrade2 Voldaren Epicure

Jund Sacrifice

Jund is one of this deck’s only truly bad matchups, and this mostly comes down to the fact that it goes over this deck. Both players have Mayhem Devil, one of the most important cards in the matchup, but Jund has access to Korvold, Fae-Cursed King and Trail of Crumbs, both of which are pivotal, whereas Rakdos has some cheap creatures, which are irrelevant, Oni-Cult Anvil, which is relatively unimpressive, and Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, who tends to be pretty useless.

The only way to win this matchup, outside of praying that your opponent has a bad draw, is going under them and aggroing them out, which isn’t really possible in game one, but becomes a viable plan post-board because of The Meathook Massacre.

INOUT
2 The Meathook Massacre2 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
1 Feed the Swarm2 Voldaren Epicure
1 Abrade1 Experimental Synthesizer
1 Kolaghan's Command

Azorius Control

This matchup tends to be pretty good because this deck can apply a lot of pressure early but doesn’t fold in the late game. That being said, a well-timed Farewell can be devastating, so try to play around it as much as possible without giving up too much pressure. UW has lots of exile-based removal, so if having a Cauldron Familiar is important, make sure to only play/reanimate it when you have a sacrifice outlet like Witch's Oven or Deadly Dispute available to respond to a removal spell with.

Also, try not to run your Deadly Dispute into a counterspell, and your Mayhem Devil into The Wandering Emperor if you need it.

Finally, two Ob Nixilis, the Adversary on turn three is nigh-unbeatable in most games. It’s one of the biggest reasons this matchup tends to be favorable.

INOUT
2 Thoughtseize4 Fatal Push
2 Karn, Scion of Urza 1 Voldaren Epicure
1 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger

Mono-Colored Aggro

This matchup is excellent, more so against Mono Red than Mono Green, but both are good. Mayhem Devil pings and infinite chumps/lifegain is what makes this matchup so good, but it’s always possible to get run over if you have a slow start.

One last thing to watch out for, the flipside of Kumano Faces Kakkazan prevents death triggers from creatures that took damage from sources your opponents control, which stops the devils from Ob Nixilis, the Adversary from triggering, and stops The Meathook Massacre from triggering as well.

INOUT
2 The Meathook Massacre2 Thoughtseize
1 Voltage Surge1 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
1 Abrade1 Experimental Synthesizer
1 Kolaghan's Command

Tips and Tricks

  • Be aware of exactly how Oni-Cult Anvil works. You don’t have to sacrifice an artifact to Anvil’s ability to get the 1/1, and you can sacrifice at instant speed, only the trigger to create a 1/1 is restricted to your turn. If you sacrifice an artifact before Anvil enters the battlefield and you sacrifice another artifact, you’ll still get your 1/1. If you’re planning on casting The Meathook Massacre, try to not trigger your Anvils beforehand so that you’ll create your 1/1s after Meathook resolves and you’ll get to keep them.
  • If you sacrifice Oni-Cult Anvil to itself or another card, you’ll still get your 1/1.
  • Never play a land before triggering Experimental Synthesizer if you can avoid it. Also, save Synthesizer for later in the game if possible, as this minimizes the risk of you not being able to cast the cards you hit.
  • You can still sacrifice Bloodtithe Harvester to trigger Mayhem Devil even if you don’t have any blood tokens.
  • If you have two Ob Nixilis, the Adversary in play, tick down the first one before ticking up the second, this way you’ll get the two life from having a devil in play. Mayhem Devil is also a devil.
  • Witch's Oven makes two food tokens if you sacrifice a creature with toughness four or greater. In this deck, this comes up for Jegantha, the Wellspring, karnstructs from Karn, Scion of Urza, and Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger (which you can sacrifice for two foods in response to the sacrifice trigger if you cast it from hand).
  • You can sacrifice multiple food tokens to the same Cauldron Familiar by holding full control, sacrificing a food to reanimate it, and before letting the ability resolve, sacrificing another food. This comes up most often for triggering Mayhem Devil. Also, you can kill your own Cauldron Familiar with removal spells and then reanimate it if you need to squeeze out that last bit of damage.
  • When you cast The Meathook Massacre, wait till once it’s on the battlefield to sacrifice all your creatures that are about to die anyway to get the extra triggers. You’ll need to hold full control to do this.
  • When sacrificing a creature to Deadly Dispute, you can always sacrifice the creature to Witch's Oven, and then sacrifice the food token to Deadly Dispute, thereby getting an extra trigger from Mayhem Devil. Or you can sacrifice the Food to Cauldron Familiar and then sac the cat to get an extra drain.

Rakdos Aristocrats

Rakdos Aristocrats
by Omrithopter
Explorer
best of 3
6 mythic
20 rare
19 uncommon
15 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Companion
Planeswalkers (4)
Creatures (18)
4
Unlucky Witness
$1.00
4
Mayhem Devil
$17.96
Instants (8)
2
Fatal Push
$7.98
2
Village Rites
$0.98
4
Deadly Dispute
$11.16
Sorceries (4)
1
Thoughtseize
$19.99
Artifacts (4)
4
Witch’s Oven
$5.96
60 Cards
$410.96
Sideboard
1
Fatal Push
$3.99
1
Abrade
$0.25
1
Noxious Grasp
$0.29
1
Duress
$0.25
3
Thoughtseize
$59.97
15 Cards
$231.23

The second deck for today’s article is Rakdos Aristocrats. This deck eschews artifact synergies with Oni-Cult Anvil in favor of more cheap creatures to sacrifice like Unlucky Witness and Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger (also a great win condition). To take advantage of all these cheap creatures, this deck runs more cheap ways to sacrifice them for value like the fourth Ob Nixilis, and Village Rites.

Because of the extra sacrifice outlets, this deck also gets to run Claim the Firstborn, an incredibly powerful card against aggro. Claim the Firstborn into sacrificing the stolen creature to Witch's Oven makes the card similar to Fatal Push, but sacrificing to Village Rites or Deadly Dispute is even better, and Claim the Firstborn into Casualty Ob Nixilis, the Adversary is just amazing.

Imagine having this happen to you, you start the turn with a creature, and end it with an empty board facing down two planeswalker…That’s not a game you go on to win.

The rest of the deck is pretty similar to Rakdos Anvil, Devil is an all-star in this deck too, and Voldaren Epicure, while worse in this deck than in Anvil, is still serviceable, whereas Bloodtithe Harvester doesn’t quite make the cut.

Sideboard

3 Thoughtseize, 1 Duress: Cheap proactive disruption against control and combo.

1 Noxious Grasp: Removal that kills both Greasefang, Okiba Boss and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

2 The Meathook Massacre: As previously, Meathook is great against aggro but is really for the sideboard for Jund Food.

2 Unlicensed Hearse: Graveyard hate, better than Soul-Guide Lantern in this deck because it’s very crew-able, and there’s no Oni-Cult Anvil to make Soul-Guide worth it.

1 Abrade, 1 Kolaghan's Command: Removal for small creatures and artifacts, mostly for Cat-Oven decks and Greasefang.

1 Tenacious Underdog: A grindy recursive threat.

1 Fatal Push, 1 Claim the Firstborn: Extra removal for aggro.

Matchups and Sideboard Guide

The matchups for this version are pretty similar, so I won’t bother rehashing most of my tips, only the ones that are specific to this deck.

Rakdos Midrange

Whenever possible, play around Graveyard Trespasser by not leaving Cauldron Familiar stuck in the graveyard without a way out, or by holding Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger until you can cast and escape it in the same turn. That being said, sometimes it’s impractical to hold Kroxa because you’ll never have enough cards to escape it if your opponent has Trespasser, so only play around Trespasser whenever there’s a real benefit to doing so.

This matchup is a little better for this deck than Anvil because Claim the Firstborn is quite strong and makes pressuring planeswalkers much easier.

Finally, a cute trick in this matchup is that you can Claim the Firstborn your opponent’s Bloodtithe Harvester without a sac outlet because it can sacrifice itself, possibly even for some value if you have a blood token or two from Voldaren Epicure.

INOUT
1 Claim the Firstborn1 Thoughtseize
1 Tenacious Underdog1 Voldaren Epicure

Mono Blue Spirits

INOUT
1 Claim the Firstborn1 Thoughtseize
1 Fatal Push2 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
1 Abrade1 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
2 The Meathook Massacre1 Village Rites

Greasefang Variants

A single Parhelion II is surprisingly beatable for this deck because a good Claim the Firstborn sequence can sometimes dig you out of the situation.

That being said, your first and only priority remains ensuring that you aren’t forced to find out whether you can actually beat getting smacked by the Big Flying Boat.

INOUT
1 Fatal Push1 Thoughtseize
1 Abrade2 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
1 Kolaghan's Command1 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
2 Unlicensed Hearse 1 Voldaren Epicure

Jund Sacrifice

As before, your game plan in this matchup is to out-pressure, and this still isn’t a great plan, but Claim the Firstborn helps a lot in this matchup, especially on Mayhem Devil. If your opponent has a Mayhem Devil you can’t beat, and a sacrifice outlet, and you have a Claim the Firstborn but no sacrifice outlet, you can still claim their Devil and hope that your opponent sacrifices their Devil in response to deny you value.

INOUT
2 The Meathook Massacre2 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
1 Claim the Firstborn2 Voldaren Epicure
1 Abrade1 Village Rites
1 Kolaghan's Command

Azorius Control

In this matchup, you can get a lot of extra value out of using your Deadly Disputes and Village Rites in response to removal spells. Also, Farewell is easier to recover from without the Anvil package, and Kroxa is a really strong threat, so this matchup tends to be better for this deck.

INOUT
3 Thoughtseize3 Claim the Firstborn
1 Duress2 Fatal Push
1 Tenacious Underdog

Mono-Colored Aggro

Claim the Firstborn is once again busted in this matchup, and chump-blocking and sacrificing to a Deadly Dispute or Village Rites is a great way to acquire card advantage against aggro without giving up too much damage durdling around.

INOUT
2 The Meathook Massacre2 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
1 Claim the Firstborn2 Village Rites
1 Fatal Push1 Thoughtseize
1 Abrade

Tips and Tricks

  • You can use Claim the Firstborn to give haste to your creatures, this is especially threatening with Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, but it’s also a nice way to get some value from your cheap removal spells against control, a matchup in which they’re generally useless. 
  • If you sacrifice Unlucky Witness during your end step or your opponent’s turn, you’ll have access to the cards from it on your next turn. This means that often it’s best to wait till your opponent’s turn to sacrifice Witness, or if you’re worried about counterspells, till your end step. Even if you get to play a card, you still could be missing out on value if you have to play a worse card off of Witness because you don’t have the mana for the other, better card. 
  • You can sacrifice Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger for value in response to its sacrifice trigger, just make sure you hold full control when casting Kroxa.
  • You can Thoughtseize yourself to cast Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger more easily, or get Cauldron Familiar in the graveyard. This comes up VERY rarely however, you generally shouldn’t make a play that puts you down on cards, life, and mana. 
  • You can activate Den of the Bugbear or Hive of the Eye Tyrant twice in the same turn to get two attack triggers.
  • Deadly Dispute can sacrifice artifacts, but Village Rites can’t, don’t get mixed up between the two.
  • If you’re planning to play Ob Nixilis sacrificing Unlucky Witness, if you have another turn three play then do that instead and play Ob on turn four, that way you can play a land or one-drop off of Witness.

Conclusion

Both Rakdos Anvil and Rakdos Aristocrats are strong decks in the current metagame, and I recommend that if you try one, try both to see which you prefer. A lot of the cards overlap, so if you’ve crafted one you won’t be much off the second, and a lot of the skill of playing one deck is transferable to the other as well. I prefer Rakdos Aristocrats at the moment, just because of how good Claim the Firstborn into Ob Nixilis is, but Anvil being Cat-Ovens 5-8 is strong too.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know through the MTG Arena Zone Discord, or message me on Twitter. Thank you so much for reading, good luck in your games, and may your Mayhem Devil triggers be plentiful.

Card Kingdom - Double Masters 2022
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Omrithopter

Omri Khaykovich is a 17-year-old MTGA grinder whose competitive interest in Magic sparked in 2019. He's played every format on Arena competitively, and is getting into Pioneer and Modern so he can play in RCQs. Omri is one of the youngest players ever to hit #1 Mythic, and loves to share his knowledge about his favorite decks with others.

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