Hey everyone! Today I’m going to be covering my Rakdos Black Market Connections Creativity deck in Historic which I recently used to hit rank #1 with on the Arena ladder. This is a combo deck utilizing Transmogrify and Indomitable Creativity to cheat big creatures into play that’s backed up by discard spells, and can play a reasonable fair game plan too.
I’ve also put up a video on my YouTube channel with with 5 matches of game play if you’re interested in seeing the deck in action.
Indomitable Creativity & Transmogrify: These are the two main combo cards in the deck and we’re almost always going to be using these to target our own creature or artifact tokens in order to cheat Serra's Emissary or Dream Trawler into play as early as turn 4.
The deck can produce creature and artifact tokens off non-creature cards with Black Market Connections, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, and Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance; the general game plan is to generate tokens, target them with either Transmogrify or Indomitable Creativity, and since Serra's Emissary is the only actual creature in the deck, they will always put it into play.
The main difference between Indomitable Creativity and Transmogrify is that Indomitable Creativity can target artifacts as well as creatures, and it can target multiple permanents which allows you to put multiple Serra's Emissary into play.
Being able to target artifacts (we can produce treasure off Black Market Connections and the 2/2 off Fable of the Mirror-Breaker to enable this) is a big advantage since it’s much less vulnerable to interaction. One of the big risks of playing a card like Transmogrify is that the opponent can kill your target in response which will fizzle the card, so targeting treasure tokens with Indomitable Creativity is generally safer since there isn’t as much artifact removal in the format compared to creature removal.
Serra's Emissary: This is the main payoff creature we’re looking to cheat into play and is a really effective way of slowing the opponent down and allowing us to turn the corner and close the game out quickly. When it enters the battlefield, we choose a card type eg. creature, instant, planeswalker, artifact, etc.
Against most decks that are looking to win the game by attacking with creatures, then creature is usually the best type to name. It prevents you and your creatures from taking any damage from the opponent’s creatures (which can often lock certain aggressive decks out from winning entirely) as well as preventing the opponent’s creatures from blocking any of yours which enables you to close the game out very quickly since Serra's Emissary is a 7/7.
However, if you’re not under immediate pressure from creatures, you have a way to make a second Serra's Emissary, or you’re against a deck that isn’t running many creatures, then it’s often better to name the type of interaction you think the opponent is likely to have (usually instant, sorcery or planeswalker). I’ll be going over which card types are usually best to name in each matchup later in the sideboard guide section.
Serra's Emissary is an all-star against linear aggressive decks like Humans, Auras, and Izzet Phoenix, and is also just generally good against most decks game 1, since most builds aren’t running a high amount of interaction for bigger creatures in the main deck. Certain decks like UW Control, 5C Niv, and Rakdos Midrange will tend to have a wider variety of card types that can interact with Serra's Emissary post-sideboard though, which is why I’m running Dream Trawler to swap in in matchups where it’s difficult to know which card type to name on Serra's Emissary and you can get punished for guessing wrong.
I’ve chosen to go for the full 4 copies as opposed to 3 because there have been a lot of matches, especially against grindier decks where I’ve needed the fourth copy to win. For example, I’ve had multiple matches where I’ve drawn 2 of them and then needed to use Indomitable Creativity for x=2 getting two Serra's Emissary into play, one naming creature and the other naming instant to lock out the game, and I would have lost if I could only fetch one.
The Token Generators:
Black Market Connections: This is a card from the latest Alchemy set and is the main reason this particular build is possible. Running black alongside Indomitable Creativity was always very appealing since you get access to discard spells in order to clear the way for you to combo off, but the main problem in the past was that there just weren’t enough good token generators in Rakdos for it to be worth it. That completely changed with the release of Black Market Connections since it now gives Rakdos access to a third good quality token generator, and is arguably the best out of all of them for enabling the strategy.
At the start of the main phase after you play it, you get to pick one or more of the modes and they’re all incredibly useful in different situations. Creating creature tokens is great at providing targets for Indomitable Creativity and Transmogrify (and it will produce them at the beginning of your turn 4 which is great if you’re planning to combo that turn and dodges sorcery speed removal), as well as allowing you to pressure control decks and provide blockers against aggro.
Creating treasures is great at providing additional targets for Indomitable Creativity as well as just generally producing mana (if you miss your fourth land drop on curve, creating both a creature token and an artifact token will still enable you to combo that turn for example). Being able to draw a card is also just generally useful if you need to dig for a particular card too.
The main thing to be aware of with this card is that you have to pick at least one of the modes every turn which means it will be losing you at least 1 life each turn, and this can result in you killing yourself if you’re not careful, especially if you get too greedy with early activations or you’re against a deck that is good at pressuring your life total.
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker: This is another great token generator that provides a lot of value. The first chapter produces a 2/2 creature token (which is great as a target for Indomitable Creativity and Transmogrify) that produces a treasure token when it attacks (which provides additional targets for Indomitable Creativity).
The second chapter giving you the option to loot two cards is great at ditching dead cards and digging towards what you need, and the third chapter flips into Reflection of Kiki-Jiki which is really useful in a number of ways. It’s another creature that you can target with Indomitable Creativity and Transmogrify, and you can also use it to make copies of Serra's Emissary and Dream Trawler.
It’s worth noting that you won’t be able to make copies of Serra's Emissary if you name creature or enchantment as the card type, since that will give all of your creatures protection from Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, but if you name any other card type you can make a copy, which is really useful at being able to kill the opponent, or making a copy at instant-speed to name a different card type and fizzle a removal spell.
Ob Nixilis, the Adversary: This is another great token generator that also helps to shore up one of our tougher matchups game 1: control. You can casualty this in order to put two copies of Ob Nixilis, the Adversary by sacrificing creature tokens off our other token generators which is really strong against slower decks and provides us a solid way to close the game out, even if we’re unable to win with Serra's Emissary or Dream Trawler.
A lot of the time, you’ll just want to cast this without casualty on turn 3 in order to produce a token to enable us to use Indomitable Creativity and Transmogrify on the following turn. Outside of applying pressure against slower decks, the +1 is also really nice as it can gain us life if we have a 1/1 token from Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, or a 3/2 token from Black Market Connections (since it’s a changeling). This is really nice as it allows us to offset the life loss from Black Market Connections and can allow us to fire off more modes, as well as allowing us to stabilise against aggressive decks too.
Finally, the ultimate actually comes up more often than you’d think – Serra's Emissary is a 7 power creature which means if the opponent is below 7 life, you can sacrifice your Serra's Emissary to Ob Nixilis, the Adversary and produce a copy that has 7 loyalty. You can then immediately ultimate it targeting the opponent to deal them 7 damage and win the game.
The Other Cards:
Thoughtseize & Inquisition of Kozilek: Being able to run discard spells alongside Indomitable Creativity and Transmogrify is really strong and is one of the biggest reasons to be in Black. It allows you to get rid of the opponent’s ways of interacting with your combo and also makes you naturally strong against the slower, more interactive decks, which are typically the toughest matchups for Indomitable Creativity decks.
The ideal curve outs with this deck involve using discard spells or other interaction on turn 1/2 to clear the way for us to combo, play a token generator on turn 3, and then cheat a turn 4 Serra's Emissary or Dream Trawler into play which then allows you to immediately start closing the game out. In comparison, a deck like Jeskai Creativity that doesn’t tend to cheat it’s creature into play until much later in the game so we’re noticeably faster as well.
The life loss from Thoughtseize definitely adds up alongside Black Market Connections though, so we almost always want to side out Thoughtseize against the aggressive decks going into games 2 and 3. However, it’s a generically great card game 1, and is the best card against the slower decks in general too.
Fire Prophecy: While discard spells are good at protecting the combo, they’re not as effective against aggressive decks so I felt like it was important to also run some creature removal. Fire Prophecy feels like the best choice to me since we can use it to put any Serra's Emissary that we draw back into the deck to be able to pull off Indomitable Creativity or Transmogrify later in the game which is a really big advantage.
The 3 damage is good enough to kill most early creatures to buy some time (we also have Heartless Act in the sideboard to be able to kill bigger creatures in matchups where that’s relevant) and the card filtering is generally useful even when we don’t draw Serra's Emissary.
I wouldn’t go any lower than 25 lands in this deck since hitting your third land drop on curve is vitally important. Hitting your fourth land drop consistently is obviously very desirable to be able to cast Indomitable Creativity and Transmogrify on turn 4, but we do have Fable of the Mirror-Breaker to dig for lands and Black Market Connections that can produce a treasure so I don’t feel you really need to go any higher than 25.
Needing to have triple red on turn 4 for for Indomitable Creativity is also very important which is why I’m running so many red black dual lands – Canyon Slough is a card I’m not typically thrilled to be running, but I feel like it’s necessary to consistently have triple red on curve. Additionally, the curve of the deck does enable you to play a tapped land on turn 1 or 2 without disrupting your curve too much so it hasn’t been much of an issue, and cycling it when you flood out is nice upside too.
Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance is a really nice utility land that is another source of tokens for us to target with Indomitable Creativity and Transmogrify. Having to wait until turn 4 is a slight downside, but it can actually be beneficial in matchups where you ideally want to be getting 2 Serra's Emissary at once to lock the game out (eg. naming creature and instant against Izzet Phoenix), so using the channel at the end of your opponent’s turn will allow you to cast Indomitable Creativity for x=2 the following turn.
I was initially running Mind Spike in this slot, which I think is a marginally better card in a vacuum, but losing 2 life in addition to Thoughtseize is actually pretty bad since it limits the amount of life you’ll have to spend on Black Market Connections so I prefer Duress for that reason.
3 Rotten Reunion: This is here mainly as graveyard hate which is important against decks like Izzet Phoenix and Esper Greasefang, the flashback means you get two uses out of it, and it also creates a token you can target with Indomitable Creativity and Transmogrify.
Additionally it’s nice as a cheap token generator that we can bring in in place of Black Market Connections against matchups that are good at pressuring your life total. Black Market Connections can be a bit of a liability in those matchups since it loses you life each turn so Rotten Reunion is a nice alternative there.
4 Heartless Act: Additional removal is important against the aggressive decks where Thoughtseize isn’t as strong (and the 2 life loss can actively be bad) so we swap out Thoughtseize for Heartless Act. Heartless Act is nice as a mostly catch-all removal spell to help stabilize us and buy time to set up Indomitable Creativity and Transmogrify for the win.
I prefer Heartless Act over other alternatives because I think it kills the biggest portion of relevant creatures without having a big drawback (like Infernal Grasp losing 2 life) so it covers a lot of bases that Fire Prophecy doesn’t hit.
4 Dream Trawler: There are certain matchups where the opponent is likely to have interaction across multiple card types going into games 2 and 3 so Serra's Emissary becomes much less reliable as a finisher.
Dream Trawler is a great replacement in those matchups since you can give it hexproof so you can protect it no matter what type of interaction they have. It also produces card advantage every turn, so while your clock is slightly slower, you tend to pull ahead on card advantage which helps cement your position. The fact it has Lifelink is also huge against a deck like burn (where Serra's Emissary isn’t great since they’ll be playing creatures as well as instant and sorcery burn spells so it’s very difficult to know what to name).
Best of 1:
I don’t think I would make any changes going into best of 1 since the main deck is already pretty streamlined at what it’s doing. Serra's Emissary is really strong against a big portion of the metagame as, generally speaking, decks are more linear and less interactive in Bo1.
You could potentially cut a couple of Black Market Connections for Rotten Reunion if you wanted to improve your matchup against graveyard decks and Mono Red, but I feel like that would make you a fair bit worse against control and other interactive decks so I’m not sure it’s worth it.
In this matchup you either want to name creature or instant with Serra's Emissary. If you’re not under immediate threat from creatures and you have a way to make a second Serra's Emissary (or you can copy your first one with Reflection of Kiki-Jiki) then it’s generally better to name instant first to shut off their interaction like Unholy Heat, Fading Hope, Brazen Borrower. You especially want to do this post-sideboard when they’re more likely to have those cards and then you can follow it up with a second one naming creature to shut the game out.
There will obviously be some situations where you have to just name creature to stabilize and then your goal is to close the game out before they can find interaction or make a second Serra's Emissary naming instant. This matchup is all about trying to slow them down and finding a window to pull off Indomitable Creativity or Transmogrify – the main ways they have of stopping you comboing is with removal on your creature tokens like Unholy Heat (so setting up Indomitable Creativity on treasures is safer) or counterspells like Spell Pierce and Aether Gust.
If they play aggressive then your removal is important, and they’ll often tap out which will give you an opportunity to get Serra's Emissary into play. If they play defensively trying to stop you comboing, then it’s generally best to use your token generators to apply pressure, force them to react to those, and that will hopefully provide you a window to combo. Don’t forget that Rotten Reunion is a good way to stop Arclight Phoenix as well as being able to turn off delirium at instant speed which can be a very effective way of defending Serra's Emissary from Unholy Heat.
Game 1 you typically want to name planeswalker first (to stop Teferi, Hero of Dominaria tucking it or The Wandering Emperor from exiling it), and then instant second (to shut off cards like Fateful Absence) with Serra's Emissary. Do be aware that naming sorcery with Serra's Emissary doesn’t protect it from sweepers like Wrath of God.
This is a matchup where Serra's Emissary isn’t that reliable since they will have a variety of interaction across multiple card types, so Dream Trawler is much better in games 2 and 3 since we can protect from any type of targeted removal by giving it hexproof, and it produces consistent card advantage which control struggles to deal with.
Discard spells are at their best in this matchup, and going up to 11 post-sideboard really helps strip their important cards to enable you to combo. The token generators are also all really good here. Ob Nixilis, the Adversary applies consistent pressure, is hard for them to deal with, and dodges Farewell; while Black Market Connections produces consistent card advantage and you can usually afford to pick multiple modes since they don’t apply that much pressure on your life total.
You need to go underneath the opponent in order to win this matchup so tempo is key – only keep a hand if it has a good plan eg. discard spells into token generator – you can’t really afford to keep slower durdly hands since they will be able to beat a Dream Trawler if you give them too much time.
In this matchup you almost always want to name creature first with Serra's Emissary. Knowing what to name for the second type can be tricky. It used to be that you would just name enchantment to shut off Heliod's Punishment (which is the main interaction they’ll have for Serra's Emissary), but a lot of builds are now running Slip Out the Back as their protection spell of choice, and they can also use that to phase out your Serra's Emissary so I usually lean more towards naming instant second, and then enchantment if you can get a third in play.
Their deck basically doesn’t function if you run them out of creatures, so discard spells and removal are really strong here at keeping creatures off their board. If they do manage to develop a big creature, they really struggle to beat Serra's Emissary without a Heliod's Punishment or Slip Out the Back, so getting one into play if you don’t have interaction can often stabilize you and start turning the corner – do be wary of Spell Pierce before going for Indomitable Creativity or Transmogrify though, especially if they’re consistently holding blue mana open.
How you should sideboard really depends on the exact build the opponent is running. If they’re on regular Rakdos Midrange without many graveyard synergies. then I wouldn’t make any additional changes. If they’re running a Dreadhorde Arcanist variant, then I like cutting 4 Thoughtseize for 4 Heartless Act as a way to ensure you can consistently kill Dreadhorde Arcanist on turn 2 as that card tends to run away with the game otherwise. If they’re very heavy on graveyard synergies like Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger then you could considering bringing in some Rotten Reunion too.
Game 1 you generally want to name either creature (if you’re under pressure from the opponent’s creatures) or instant (to stop cards like Heartless Act or Bedevil) with Serra's Emissary, but a small number builds are also running Bloodchief's Thirst so you can get blown out if the opponent is running a less common list.
Post-sideboard, knowing what to name becomes even more difficult since they’ll have more varied removal. Because of that, Dream Trawler is a much better option since it blanks all of their removal and runs away with the game in terms of card advantage.
Your token generators can also help you get ahead in the mid-game, but your main plan should be to try and resolve Indomitable Creativity or Transmogrify if the coast is clear (using Indomitable Creativity on treasures is typically much safer in this matchup as they usually run a high amount of instant-speed creature removal).
You should usually name creature first and artifact second with Serra's Emissary in this matchup; almost all of their powerful threats are creatures, and their only other interaction is the channel on Moonsnare Prototype which naming artifact will shut off.
This matchup is pretty good overall if you can resolve Indomitable Creativity or Transmogrify as they don’t have many good ways of dealing with Serra's Emissary once it’s in play so that should be your main priority.
I prefer Heartless Act over Fire Prophecy even though Ingenious Smith does get counters, because their most threatening creatures will outscale Fire Prophecy (Nettlecyst or Karn, Scion of Urza tokens for example).
Metallic Rebuke is the main card you need to be wary of in this matchup as getting Indomitable Creativity or Transmogrify countered can be a disaster, so try and bait it out on other spells if you can, especially if they’re consistently leaving open mana.
You usually want to name enchantment first and creature second with Serra's Emissary here unless you’re under immediate threat from creatures, since their most commonly played removal is Banishing Light which they can tutor for with Sterling Grove.
This is a matchup where Duress can be good, but I’m not sure it’s more important than Fire Prophecy because being able to kill a Sythis, Harvest's Hand or Sanctum Weaver before they start to generate a bunch of advantage is really important. Everything else in the deck is crucial too (you can’t really afford to trim on token generators or you’ll often be left in scenarios with Indomitable Creativity or Transmogrify but no targets).
This can be a tough matchup if you have a slow start since you don’t have any way to break the Nine Lives + Solemnity lock once it’s established, so using discard spells to keep them off the lock, and trying to close the game out as fast as possible is the main goal.
Selesnya Heliod Combo:
In this matchup you usually want to name creature first and instant second. They’re really struggle to beat Serra's Emissary naming creature game 1, but will usually have some answers for it in the sideboard, most commonly Fateful Absence which is usually run in fairly low numbers (some builds could be running different card types like Reprobation so change your card types accordingly if you see a different type of interaction).
They tend to struggle against discard spells, creature removal, and Serra's Emissary so you’re usually the favorite, but do be wary of them comboing off out of nowhere with Collected Company and try and keep their life total as low as possible to prevent the Ajani, Strength of the Pride ultimate from being an out to Serra's Emissary (the ability doesn’t target so you can’t stop it by naming planeswalker).
I dislike bringing in Heartless Act here because so many of their creatures will be gaining +1/+1 counters, so I usually run back the maindeck as it is.
Knowing what card type to name with Serra's Emissary is very difficult in this matchup since they run instants like Vanishing Verse, sorceries like Maelstrom Pulse, and sometimes even enchantments like Binding the Old Gods or even Planeswalkers (I’ll typically name instant and then sorcery).
Similar to control, discard spells are the most important tool in this matchup, they tend to run a lot of interaction that can stop you comboing, so your goal should be to try and clear the way with discard spells, start applying pressure and generating value with your token generators, and go for the combo if the coast is clear.
Embercleave Aggro (Mono R/ Gruul):
You basically always name creature with Serra's Emissary in this matchup and that will usually stone wall them since their whole strategy revolves around attacking with creatures.
Do be aware that both Stomp on Bonecrusher Giant and Questing Beast shut off the protection that Serra's Emissary provides, so be careful when thinking about your attacks; if attacking with other creatures doesn’t meaningfully speed up your clock, then it’s often worth holding them back in case the opponent shuts off the protection. Having chump blockers available can mean the difference between winning and losing in these scenarios.
They won’t have any way to kill Serra's Emissary, so the general goal here is to use creature removal early to slow them down, cheat Serra's Emissary into play as soon as possible, and kill them with it before they can dig for something like Bonecrusher Giant.
In general you want to name creature first and then instant with Serra's Emissary, but if you have a way to make a second Serra's Emissary, or you can copy it with Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, then it is sometimes better to name instant first, since they usually run Giant Killer which can kill it (and is searchable with Ranger-Captain of Eos).
This can be a tricky matchup if they have Thalia, Guardian of Thraben since that will usually slow your combo down by a turn, but they have no way to beat Serra's Emissary on creature and instant so that’s what you should be trying to set up.
Tips & Tricks
- Don’t forget you can also target your opponent’s creatures and artifacts with Indomitable Creativity and Transmogrify in a pinch if you need to.
- I initially didn’t realise this, but you don’t need to target a card in a graveyard with Rotten Reunion in order to make a token.
- If you have 2 Reflection of Kiki-Jiki in play and you can activate at least one of them, you can repeatedly make copies of the other Reflection. Generally this is best to do during the opponent’s end step so you get to keep the tokens during your turn.
- You can get Dream Trawler up to 7 power with multiple draw effects (most commonly enabled by chapter 2 of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker) which enables you to sacrifice it to Ob Nixilis, the Adversary and immediately ultimate to kill the opponent if they’re below 7 life.
I’ve always wanted to build a fast Indomitable Creativity deck in black to back up the combo with discard spells and Black Market Connections really feels like the missing piece that the deck needed to work. Most decks aren’t equipped to deal with a turn 4 Serra's Emissary or Dream Trawler and the good quality token generators also give the deck a reasonable fair gameplan. Thanks a lot for reading!