Outlaws of Thunder Junction - Rakdos, the Muscle Deck Tech

Rakdos, the Muscle
(Rakdos, the Muscle | Art by Victor Maury)

Hired Muscle

Hello! I'm excited to share with you this deck tech for a new legend from the upcoming set, Outlaws of Thunder Junction. In this set, we follow the story of a band of villainous characters from Magic's history who have come together to perform a heist. Oko has hired Rakdos to be the muscle of the group. As Rakdos looks for any excitement following the Phyrexian invasion, he thinks this heist might prove entertaining. Let me introduce you to Rakdos, the Muscle!

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Rakdos, the Muscle is a five-mana Demon Mercenary with flying and trample. As always, Rakdos is a beefy flyer that can trample over anything able to block him. Being a Mercenary might have some mechanical relevance once we see more of the set, but for now, it's merely flavor.

Rakdos' triggered ability says whenever we sacrifice a creature, we can exile cards from a player's library equal to the mana value of that creature and we can play those cards until our next end step. There's much to unpack here, but let's discuss his final ability before moving on. He also has an activated ability that sacrifices another creature to make himself indestructible for the turn. This ability does come with some limitations. It can only be activated once each turn and it'll tap him as a result. These feel like reasonable restrictions given that having an indestructible flying blocker and a free sac outlet would be a lot for how powerful he already appears to be.

Now let's talk about that triggered ability. This will trigger anytime we sacrifice another creature–something the Rakdos color identity is best known for. Any sac outlet or creature that sacrifices itself can be turned into card advantage. While we can only use these cards until our next end step, we can still trigger this ability at instant speed and gain access to any interaction at a moment's notice. Additionally, we can target another player's library and utilize their deck to further our game plan.

That brings us to the different paths you can take with Rakdos, the Muscle as your commander. You could build a reanimator deck that looks to bring back creatures from the graveyard to continue exiling cards. The second, and more ruthless way, would be to use Threaten effects like Act of Treason to steal opponents' creatures and sacrifice them to exile cards. The third path that we can take breaks Rakdos and turns him into a powerful win condition in the command zone, which is something I'll come back to later on.

I went with the reanimator route which seeks to leverage playing cards from exile. For this deck tech, I'll take you through the deck's game plan, notable cards to play, and the nuances of Rakdos, the Muscle.

The Ramp

Let's start with the ramp package.

This deck runs more ramp than I'd recommend for most decks. However, since our commander provides a ton of card advantage, we'll need the mana to cast these spells before we lose them. Solemn Simulacrum works great for our game plan as we can play the robot on curve before casting Rakdos. One thing I'd consider when making the creature package is when you plan to cast Rakdos. Ideally, we want creatures of two to four mana value out when we cast him. If you tap out to cast your commander, you should wait to sacrifice a creature until your next turn. That way you can give Rakdos indestructible in response to removal and have access to the exiled cards when you get to your untap.

Four mana to get one land is more expensive than just playing a mana rock, but creatures like Solemn Simulacrum and Scampering Surveyor also represent four additional cards we can see through Rakdos' ability.

Another facet of this deck is cards that generate mana when we sacrifice a creature. With Burnt Offering, we can generate mana and exile cards equal to the sacrificed creature's mana value, all for one mana. Illuminor Szeras and Soldevi Adnate are repeatable sac outlets that generate mana based on the mana value of that creature. These two are perfect engines for our deck.

Rakdos isn't known to run many mana dorks as it's better for the color identity to run mana rocks that won't die in a boardwipe, but here we're running a suite of mana dorks that we can later sacrifice to Rakdos. Ornithopter of Paradise and the Myrs, like Myr Convert and Palladium Myr, all help us ramp in the early game and later can be converted into card advantage or to protect Rakdos.

We also want to utilize creatures that provide mana when they're sacrificed. Reckless Barbarian sacrifices itself to give us two red mana and can exile two cards. Patron of the Arts makes a Treasure when it enters and dies, on top of being a three-mana creature. This all lays the groundwork for how this deck functions.

Undying Loyalty

Bringing creatures that we sacrifice back from the dead is how we'll prevent this deck from losing steam in the mid-to-late game. Chainer, Nightmare Adept works in two parts: we can activate Chainer to reanimate a creature and his second ability gives creatures haste if they weren't cast from hand—synergizing with our exile plan. This is key when we want to activate Illuminor Szeras as soon as it's cast.

We're also including a few creatures that can reanimate themselves. For one black mana, we can reanimate Nether Traitor whenever we sacrifice another creature. Since we can activate this at instant speed, we could sac a creature to protect Rakdos, bring back the Nether Traitor, and have another sac fodder to protect Rakdos on a later turn.

Wake the Dead is a real spicy card for this deck. An instant-speed reanimation spell that can bring back utility creatures with enters and dies triggers, can help block oncoming attacks, and sacrifice those creatures at the next end step. Just casting this for X=2 or 3 will give you an overwhelming amount of value.

Cheating On Mana

Token creatures don't have mana values, so we're not running anything like Loyal Apprentice. However, if we make token copies of a creature, that token copy will retain its mana value. Jaxis, the Troublemaker can make a token copy of any creature for one red and by discarding a card. On top of giving us a creature to sacrifice and trigger Rakdos, she also synergizes with what the deck is already doing. The majority of the creatures in our deck want to be copied. The token copy even has a built-in sac trigger. Once it sacrifices itself at our end step, we'll exile cards with Rakdos that'll carry over until our next end step since we've already moved past the beginning of our end step.

Nalfeshnee will copy any spell we cast from exile. Not only does this double the value of the spells we cast, but if we cast creature spells, the token copies will sacrifice themselves at the next end step. They'll exile more cards with Rakdos out, and help keep the engine going.

Other ways to get token copies of creatures are through various mechanics such as Myriad and Encore. Elturel Survivors will make two copies of themselves that come in tapped and attacking. That gives us two free four-mana creatures that we can sac at the end of combat to see a total of eight cards. They're also decent beaters the later the game goes on. Coastline Marauders is functionally the same card except they have to be in the graveyard before we can activate their Encore ability. Luckily, this is no trouble for a sacrifice deck. Both cards can provide free card advantage while doubling as potential finishers. Speaking of finishers, we need to discuss how this deck plans to close out the game.


Passionate Archaeologist and Keeper of Secrets both serve to burn down our opponents whenever we cast spells from exile. Given that our deck runs ways to generate a lot of mana, such as Mana Geyser, we're able to cast multiple spells in a single turn and potentially end the game with one of these out.

When our commander has flying and trample, a card like Tavern Brawler can turn Rakdos into a win-con. We'll get an extra card on our upkeep and bolster Rakdos' strength, allowing him to hit our opponents and win through commander damage.

Let's check out the deck!

Rakdos, Hired Muscle

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Creatures (28)
Instants (13)
Sorceries (13)
Artifacts (7)
Enchantments (3)
Lands (35)

Turned Up to Eleven

The deck I showcased doesn't show the true extent of Rakdos' power. I wanted to build a deck, roughly low-to-mid power level, that used his ability as a card advantage engine and showed off the different ways you can build this deck, but that's not where his strengths end. The one thing I did leave out were combo pieces.


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Rakdos, the Muscle has no limitations to how many times we can trigger his ability. So if we perform one of the many infinite sacrifice combos that exist, such as the one above, we can exile every card in our opponents' libraries—ending the game as soon as he enters.

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Rakdos, the Muscle is a potent commander that can easily be tuned for higher-powered tables. Diabolic Intent will exile cards when you sacrifice a creature, on top of being a tutor. Pitiless Plunderer and Birgi, God of Storytelling both enable us to storm off by generating mana. And Roaming Throne doubles the number of cards we'll have access to. It's easy to see how a tuned Rakdos deck can be a massive threat at the table.

I hope you enjoyed this early deck tech for Rakdos, the Muscle! Rakdos looks like a fun commander who has many directions he can be built in. He takes the thing Rakdos (the guild) does best and turns it into card advantage. Let me know your thoughts about Rakdos down below, and I'll see you next time.

Josh is a creative writer that started playing Magic when Throne of Eldraine was released. He loves entering combat and pressuring life totals, and to him, commander damage is always relevant. Outside of brewing many commander decks, he can be found prepping his D&D campaigns with a cat purring in his lap.

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