Hello everyone! Today I’m going to talk about a deck I never thought would cross my lips (or in this case keyboard), Rakdos Berserkers. Standard 2022 has been such an awesome experience as a lot of random strategies are good now that the power level of every legal set is relatively similar. With that, let me spin you a quick yarn.
Late one night, I was scrolling through all the legal cards trying to come up with cool concept when I come across The Bloodsky Massacre. Although this card isn’t that old, I completely forgot it existed as it’s seen 0 Standard play and I can’t even remember seeing it in Limited. On top of that, when I read through the card it just seemed decent, but nothing special. That being said, I remembered that a lot of strategies that I thought wouldn’t work ended up overperforming, so my curiosity got the better of me.
I looked through every available card in Rakdos, looked at what legal Berserkers there were, and I made the deck. On paper, the deck looked very suspect. I was playing some good cards, but there were only 2 Berserker payoffs in Skemfar Avenger and The Bloodsky Massacre and neither seemed that powerful. I felt like I was trying to make a gimmick work rather than constructing a solid deck.
Nevertheless, I decided to run it for a game and likely give up on it afterwards. I lost to Izzet Dragons when they went Frost Bite, Dragon's Fire, Expressive Iteration into Frost Bite, Galazeth Prismari, and Goldspan Dragon. If you’re playing a creature deck, you’re not beating that curve no matter what and I accepted that. The weird part though, is that I felt like I almost did beat that curve. I felt like I was almost certainly wrong as I have a propensity to overvalue new decks, but I was so low on it it’d be weird to suddenly overestimate it after playing it.
I decided to give the deck one more chance and I squeezed out a game against Dimir Control in a relatively impressive fashion. I then figured that I would just keep playing until I lost and then figure out if the deck had any legs from there. Well, that loss never came.
After the initial loss against Izzet, I went a straight 9-0 with the deck propelling me from rank 1400 all the way to 200 (and now 3-0 in the new season as well!) Despite the cards looking a bit mopey on paper, they worked very well together and the payoffs were significantly more potent than I gave them credit for.
After more practice and adjustments to the list, here’s where I ended up.
The deck has been absolutely thrumming for me with a combination of a fast clock, good resiliency, and solid removal: the trifecta of a good deck. I’ll explain how I arrived here in the next 2 sections.
I always say that Lolth performs best in creature decks even though that’s where she’s rarely played, and it’s rung true for me so far. First making 2 bodies to attack or defend and then constantly supplying us with extra cards, Lolth puts a lot of pressure on the opponent to close the game quickly or risk you taking over.
Ok I’ll be the first to admit, this card is anything but impressive. It’s stat line is mediocre and having to pay for a drain when Night Market Lookout did it for free is pretty lame. So why include it at all? First, you want your aggro deck to have a solid curve and one mana spells will greatly aide in that endeavor. Second, this works very well with the Berserker payoffs. Third, it’s a body that you wouldn’t mind sacrificing to Immersturm Predator or chumping for Lolth, Spider Queen. Finally, the ping ability can be very relevant both in racing and as a mana sink. With all of these factors, a card that looks objectively bad actually performed reasonably well in this list.
Dragonkin Berserker is such a weird case in 2022 as it sees zero play, but has performed amazingly well for me. A 2/2 First Striker for 2 is a very solid stat line which makes it an annoying attacker and solid blocker. However, when you start activating it’s Boast ability, it’s really hard to lose from that point. The opponent is functionally forced to kill Dragonkin Berserker before you get to turn 5 as the Dragons are really hard to kill for most decks.
I never noticed Magda was a Berserker until I was looking for them, but she’s more than welcome in the squad! A much appreciated Ramper in Rakdos, Magda allows this list to power out Dragons early which can easily overrun most opponents very early in the game. Furthermore, if by some miracle you make it to 5 Treasure tokens, you have two different Dragons you could tutor up!
One of the two Berserker payoffs. Skemfar can hit hard very quickly and recoup card advantage if you lose other Berserkers! A major downside of Avenger is that unlike Midnight Reaper this doesn’t trigger off itself dying, it’s still a very powerful effect to be attached to a 2 drop. Making all your small creatures extremely relevant is a nice feature of this card.
Although this is generally seen in the Sacrifice shells, Predator is just a disgustingly strong threat in any deck that can supply it with bodies. This is an amazing blocker, a very fast clock, and interacts with the graveyard which is very important in a format that’s slowly being dominated by
I don’t think anyone needs convincing on why Goldspan is here. This Dragon hits hard and it hits fast abetting the aggressive plan our Berserkers enable and gives us extra mana for our multitude of mana sinks.
A removal spell early game or some slight reach later.
I don’t love Flunk, but it can kill most things, is cheap, and an instant. Hard to go wrong with the formula.
The second payoff to Berserkers. Although I was unimpressed with the first reading, this card has absolutely overperformed for me in practice. Making a hard to block body, drawing a few cards, and then making some mana is a lot of text on a 3 drop, and we make good use out of it with all of our Berserkers. If you’re wondering why bother with the Berserker package and not just play a different Rakdos strategy, this card is mostly why.
We’re at a slightly awkward scenario where we don’t want to draw too many lands, but need enough mana to play our spells on time and use our mana sinks. When that’s an issue, creature lands are here to save you.
I would normally do a different split like 3/2 as I think these cards are good in different scenarios, but I mostly like Hive since it interacts with the graveyard, and since Immersturm Predator already does that, it loses a lot of value. So then it was a choice between an extra body on attack or menace, and since this deck is looking to go wide, the extra body seemed more relevant.
POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS / NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS
I would actually be really happy to get Eyetwitch in here to get access to a Lesson board and have more early plays, but I have no idea what I’d cut so I haven’t put it in the list yet.
Although this is a Berserker, it’s awful until you can double spell to get counters on it and since the deck can’t guarantee that, I decided to eschew it.
Valki would be excellent in this deck, in theory. It’s a cheap interactive creature that can be a huge threat in the late game. The issue though is that you need a critical mass of Berserkers for this deck to function and there are already a lot of 2s, so this didn’t end up making the cut.
Since all of our small creatures are Berserkers, playing some Crippling Fear would give you a huge advantage over aggro decks. That being said, I found that the aggro matchups were already quite reasonable so i didn’t want them, but I could definitely see this being a 1-2 of.
Valkyrie is a Berserker with a lot of keywords and text, but still fails to compare to Immersturm Predator. Furthermore, early Berserkers are much more important than later ones because of The Bloodsky Massacre so making every creature a Berserker isn’t necessary.
This may look weird, but its a lot less ridiculous than it seems. We flood the board pretty well, this works with Skemfar Avenger, and we don’t have many 4s. There are better options for sure, but the thought did cross my mind.
Obviously too weak for Constructed, but also closer than you would probably expect.
This is a very potent MDFC, but our curve doesn’t really work with it so Hive of the Eye Tyrant gets the nod.
If our Berserker payoffs were Lords like they are in the Goblins deck, then this could be a potential inclusion. As is, this is way too weak for the deck.
My first version had Frost Bite and it performed reasonably well, but I felt the color requirements were too strict to play Faceless Haven and having Frost Bite deincentivizes you from playing creaturelands, so I cut it for Shock.
If you want removal that isn’t dedicated to just killing something and can go face, Roil Eruption is a decent option.
My first list had Arni and although it was decent, it never felt amazing. It worked really well with The Bloodsky Massacre, but the Boast ability rarely mattered which made this a glorified Hulking Bugbear in most cases.
A pretty reasonable one of if you really like this card. I prefer lands that can be untapped, but having some reach is nice.
If this doubled the damage of Berserkers as well as Giants, we would probaby play this over Immersturm Predator, but we can’t have nice things it seems.
This may seem like a weird inclusion, but my first list had Zariel and it was actually really good for me. I think Lolth, Spider Queen is better so I prefer her as the one of, but if five 5 drops turns out to be a little too clunky for your tastes, try out Zariel, you may be surprised.
Although this doesn’t synergize at all with the deck, it could be a nice one of to go over other decks in the late game. I don’t think it’s necessary but it’s far from unreasonable.
The first list had this as a 1 of, but it was only relevant once where the 3 life for it to be untapped was relevant multiple times. I don’t think playing 1 is bad, but I wasn’t the biggest fan.
Kardur is really close to being good enough for Constructed, but I think it being a 4/3 rather than a 4/4 is going to gatekeep it. Losing your 4 drop to a Frost Bite is just too bad for my taste.
Like many other cards on this list, this could be a very solid 1 of. It’s a 4 drop which we don’t have an excess of and can be excellent if you have it when you’re flooding. Again, I really dislike my 4 drops dying to Frost Bite, but this is a good deal stronger compared to Kardur.
TIPS AND TRICKS
Although you would generally be happy to keep Duskwielder around for wider boards, don’t be afriad to trade it off early if the opportunity presents itself.
Most people think of Flunk in a polarizing way: either it kills something or it doesn’t. Remember that it shrinks the target so this could be used as a combat trick as well.
I mentioned this before, but Skemfar Avenger will not trigger from it’s own death.
On most board states, chump attacking with Dragonkin Berserker to use the Boast ability is generally a really strong play. On top of that, Dragonkin works really well in conjunctino with Shock and Flunk to kill something bigger. Remember to wait until First Strike damage resolves before casting them though!
If you play a The Bloodsky Massacre and you have the option to attack into opposing creatures, I’ll tend to hold back for the turn to try and get as many cards off the second chapter as possible. This may not always be possible depending on what you’re facing, but maximizing the amount of cards you get is a really easy way to win.
Aggressively target creatures and planeswalkers with Immersturm Predator‘s ability as Blood on the Snow is an extremely popular card. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to throw away a small creature if it means exiling something important from the opposing graveyard.
When using Lolth, Spider Queen, you should minus first 99% of the time and then ride out the 0. It is extremely rare you would want to 0 first.
Thank you for reading!