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How to counter Rakdos Sacrifice | Magic: The Gathering Guide

Currently in the Theros: Beyond Death standard metagame, Rakdos Sacrifice has been a very popular deck choice. When the set first released, many people tried tinkering around with the Rakdos Sacrifice theme, but never found success due to Azorius Control taking over. With that said, once the metagame pushed Azorius Control out for decks such as Mono-Red Aggro and Temur Adventures, Rakdos Sacrifice suddenly became one of the strongest decks.

So, what’s the problem with Rakdos Sacrifice? The problem is that once the deck has it’s combo pieces together, it feels nearly impossible to beat. This can be annoying for many players, especially those who don’t know that there are indeed ways to beat it.

In this guide, I will walk you through some of the more important basics of countering Rakdos Sacrifice in Magic: The Gathering Arena.

What is Rakdos Sacrifice? 

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Rakdos Sacrifice is a red and black based aggressive deck. The main strategy of the deck revolves around the sacrificing synergy between Cauldron Familiar, Witch’s Oven and Mayhem Devil. How does the combo work? First, you need Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven both on the battlefield. Then, you use Witch’s Oven to sacrifice Cauldron Familiar, which creates a food token. Finally, you bring back Cauldron Familiar to the battlefield by sacrificing the food token. Each time this happens, Cauldron Familiar will gain you 1 life and make your opponent lose one life.

Since you can only do this combo once per turn, it’s going to take some time before you do enough damage to kill your opponent. This is where Mayhem Devil comes in. Mayhem Devil deals 1 damage every time you sacrifice a permanent. Because Cauldron Familiar and the Food token are both permanents, you do an extra point of damage each time you sacrifice them. Now you deal a whopping 3 damage each turn.

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The other cards in the deck just synergize with the sacrifice theme you already have. Claim the Firstborn is a good example. You steal their creature, attack them with it, and sacrifice their creature with Witch’s Oven or Priest of Forgotten Gods. Midnight Reaper helps you draw more cards to help the combo and finish off the game.

The strengths of the deck

1. The Combo is Resilient

Without a doubt, Rakdos Sacrifice is one of the most difficult combos to disrupt. When opponents that try to destroy the cat, players can just sacrifice it to Witch’s Oven in response and bring it back later. Even if they can destroy it when Witch’s Oven is tapped, it’s very easy to produce more Food tokens by sacrificing other creatures available in the deck.

2. It’s a very cost-effective combo

The deck can easily get the combo up by turn 3. Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven both cost 1 mana respectively and don’t require any extra mana to activate their abilities. The cat can also consistently block for free since it can be sacrificed before the damage. This allows the deck to have time to play other cards such as Midnight Reaper to help you finish off the game.

The weaknesses of the deck

1. No card filtering

The deck relies heavily on having the combo out early. However, there are no cards in the deck that specifically help find Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven. This means that the deck can stumble and fall apart if it doesn’t draw the right cards. 

2. Doesn’t have many ways to deal with enchantments and board wipes

Rakdos Sacrifice is a very creature-heavy deck, and doesn’t have ways to interact with enchantments and spells. Since it can’t deal with spells very well, board wipes will severely slow down the deck’s gameplan!

How to beat Rakdos Sacrifice

As I mentioned earlier, Rakdos Sacrifice isn’t amazing if the only cards it has on the board are Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven. The two cards alone can only deal 1 damage and only block 1 creature every turn. This means we have to do two things. First, we need to have spells that can destroy the board. Second, we need to find a way to deal impactful damage through Cauldron Familiar. With that in mind, the two best decks right now that can do both are Temur Reclamation and Jeskai Fires.

Let’s first look at Jeskai Fires. Jeskai Fires is a deck that protects itself early and wants to play Fires of Invention right away. How exactly does Jeskai Fires have an edge over Rakdos Sacrifice?

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  • During the early parts of the game, Jeskai Fires has 4 copies of Deafening Clarity to deal with Rakdos Sacrifice’s board. Deafening Clarity will massively slow down the value Rakdos Sacrifice can have at this stage.
  • Jeskai Fires will then be able to cast Fires of Invention to play several threats such as Kenrith, the Returned King and Cavalier of Flame.
  • Rakdos doesn’t have a lot of enchantment removal, so it’s almost impossible to deal with Fires of Invention. Kenrith, the Returned King and Cavalier of Flame can trample over Cauldron Familiar for a lot of damage

Now let’s look at Temur Reclamation. Temur Reclamation is a combo deck that generates an immense amount of mana through Wilderness Reclamation to case a lethal Expansion//Explosion. How exactly does this deck have an edge over Rakdos Sacrifice?

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  • Storm’s Wrath will keep Rakdos Sacrifice in check
  • Rakdos Sacrifice has very minimal enchantment removal for Wilderness Reclamation
  • Expansion//Explosion doesn’t care about Cauldron Familiar being able to block for free every turn, and will be able to burst you down to 0 health in no time

Rakdos Sacrifice has been strong for quite some time now in Standard. Although the combo may seem difficult the beat at first, there are ways around it. Standard has gone through a variety of meta shifts this season, and with Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths coming soon, who knows what the best decks will be!

Stay tuned to SQUAD for more Magic: The Gathering Arena guides. 

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Paul Dudsdeemaytha

Paul Dudsdeemaytha is a Vancouver, BC-based writer and content creator at SQUAD. Paul specializes in creating guides for Magic: The Gathering and Legends of Runeterra. When he's not writing, you can probably find him throwing frisbees nearby.
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