I have been rigorously building decks using Deathrite Shaman so as to find his most suitable homes and confirm my suspicions about his vast power levels. Thus far the most impressive he has been is within a red deck wins style deck incorporating black. We have now had this new "Rakdos Deck Wins" built around 4 times each occasion taking a different slant on the idea. Some have had just a dash of black for the few very best cards such as Dark Confidant and some of the gold cards. Some have gone much heavier into black to make use of the intense black mana spells, one has had a zombie theme in it and made use of Geralf's Messengers. Another was using Chocking Sands and Sinkhole and another decided to forgo Sulphuric Vortex in favour of Necropotence. One of the best things black offers a red deck wins style deck is a bunch of solid one drop, two power beaters and so just splashing black seems less worth the effort. Regardless of the one drops the addition of black makes the deck much more robust with card advantage and removal that can deal with high toughness dorks efficiently. The Deathrite Shaman alone offers a cheap way to get through unblockable damage as well as a huge tempo boost when used as an early mana critter and is comparable to Confidant in his value in the deck. Part of this is because Confidant has bad synergy with Fireblast and Sulphuric Vortex which are two of reds best cards and not because the Shaman is a more powerful card. This list is not one that has actually been built but a midrange representation of what this sort of deck should look like. It has no particular emphasis in terms of land destruction and while it has some synergy in the discard and the zombies it is only a mild inclusion and has no cards that are weak in isolation just to support the synergy. This is a cheap list as well, one of the temptations when adding black is throwing in lots of powerful cards like Olivia Voldaren however I think this is the wrong way to go unless a specific meta choice. The deck is still based on red deck wins despite having many more tempting options and still wants both redundancy and the ability to play at near full capacity off just two lands.
Liliana of the Veil
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Liliana is the most controversial card in this deck despite featuring in all the Rakdos deck wins built barring the black splash. In this list she has least synergy and is a lot of mana for a card that deals no damage. Unless you go the Necropotence route and have abundant card advantage I don't think you can afford to play discard spells as they become dead draws in the late game and are a slight tempo loss even when they are best in the early game. Discard is still a good sideboard solution to anything you are struggling against and not the worst filler however in ideal situations you want to follow the general rule of including only cards that deal damage. Returning to Liliana (that poor literary tangent was supposed to illustrate that without targetted discard Liliana is a little weaker), although she is a bit late to work brilliantly with the Bloodghast and Gravecrawler and doesn't follow the general rule of dealing damage she works well with the deck. Cheap burn to clear away small critters makes her edict ability much more potent and the cheap nature of the deck makes the discard ability rather one sided, not to mention filling up graveyards for Lavamancer and Deathrite Shaman. She is a difficult to deal with threat that will slowly win the game verses certain decks, a little like Vortex, and so merits one of the few top end slots.
Speaking of Vortex, it is a restrictive card in this deck as it many black spells cause you pain. Both Confidant and Vortex are a little weaker in this deck than they can be in others however they are still fine if you take them into account while building and forgo things like Fireblast (which is weaker with lower mountain counts any way) and Carnophage. Although this deck does reduce two of the most powerful cards potency a little it makes up for this by increasing the average card power level and is a rounded deck as a result.
Dreadbore is another card that doesn't deal damage yet comfortably merits its slot. It kills things much cheaper in both cards and mana. If someone gets an Elspeth online or a Baneslayer Angel before they are in direct burn range you will do whatever it takes to get them gone before they do irreparable damage. This can often mean putting most of your lands and hand in the bin and is therefore usually too much damage anyway. Dreadbore not only cleanly deals with these problem cards but also allows you a bit of spare mana to continue pulling away with the tempo. Zoo and Boros decks frequently pack Path to Exile even though it can be dead in certain matchups for much the same reason Dreadbore is a staple in this deck and one of the main reasons it is durable and rounded.
Another big contributor to the well rounded nature of this deck is Rakdos Charm. I have been highly impressed with this new Charm and place it comfortably in the top two gold charms of all time and this deck is one of the best homes for it. In the cube main deck artifact removal is always a good thing as the majority of decks contain them and many of those you will face are brutal and game ending and are much easy to play against when in the graveyard. A card like Smash to Smithereens would seem outstanding in this deck or other agro red burn decks however it is a mixed blessing. When Smash is good it is outstanding but when it is bad it does nothing which is unacceptable in a deck that requires redundancy and consistency while lacking much in the way of card quality and draw. A card was the same in all other ways to Smash to Smithereens that said "Destroy target artifact OR deal 3 damage to target player" would be vastly better in the main deck. As a sideboard card Smash is again better but I avoid putting cards into the cube that are specifically for sideboards. As a result of the inconsistency of Smash to Smithereens it will typically be replaced by much more reliable yet far lower power cards like Torch Fiend.
Rakdos Charm almost is this more maindeckable version of Smash to Smithereens and takes the slot of lower powered cards thus upping your decks overall power. Charm might not be quite as predictable as my imaginary Smash, nor as easy to cast, but it offers quite a bit more overall. The graveyard disruption is not to be underestimated in cube where many strategies try to abuse them and gives you something against some of the less interactive decks such as Reanimator. Lastly, the damage aspect can often be quite small or even nothing but it is still a damage dealer and one that every now and again will be a truly stupid amount for the mana and will lead to surprise wins out of nowhere. Any card that does something useful and and has a damage alternative is worth a look for this kind of deck. Dark Confidant, Dreadbore and Rakdos Charm are your main reasons to dip into black with your agro red deck.
Bloodghast is quite nice but this is not really the best deck for him, the double black is a touch awkward, you have no synergies with Skullclamp or sacrifice effects nor any real way to pump him. You do have a few ways to discard him profitably which is nice and the haste is fairly easy to activate which again starts to make him look pretty good. The recursion is all a bit slow however and occurs less that you might expect. He is one of those cards that will shine in some matchups and be basically irrelevant in others. A cool card and very playable but far from essential in the deck, and without good support cards, one that gets less and less good.
Dauthi Horror is the opposite end of the spectrum to Bloodghast in that it is quite weak against some matchups but very strong in others but always to different ones. They compliment each other quite nicely in this regard and allow you to keep a rounded deck even with "spikier" creatures. Horror gives you reach in an area red has nothing really going for it and is a decent tool to have at your disposal.
After goblin guide red lacks much in the way of good one mana, two power beaters. This has always been the main strength of adding white into the deck but now black has a comparable collection of one mana, two power dorks and offers other things that white does not. Diregraf Ghoul, Sarcomancy and Gravecrawler all have negligible drawbacks and give great redundancy and tempo to the deck. Gravecrawler has additional synergy with discard and any other zombies you have but like the Bloodghast these are pretty minor, in Gravecrawlers case he would still be playable in the deck as just a 2/1 that couldn't block and would be the worst of the one drop creatures. As it stands Rakdos Cackler is the weakest dork as it has no frills and offers no synergy. The only reason it is being played is because he is so consistent, having both hybrids you can always make him with any lands.
Presently this is the deck to beat in the cube, it will roll over anything silly and has good matchups across the board against the sensible decks. It can even hold out very well and go close to even against decks dedicated to beating this kind of strategy. It is harder to draft a good version of the deck as your mana base is so important however you have a much greater depth of coloured cards to chose from so you can compensate as required. It is also harder to build as you have tempting cards and synergies leading you astray while also having more cards and more viable build directions at your disposal. By using black you do make a lot of cards that are normally great in red deck wins quite a bit weaker. Sulphuric Vortex is a good example but is still suitably powerful to merit a slot. Cards like Kargan Dragonlord, Koth of the Hammer (who I think is pretty awful anyway), Figure of Destiny, Ball Lightning and Fireblast are weakened to the point of not really wanting them. Deathrite Shaman is the MVP in this deck and makes near equal use of his abilities. The early mana boost is grossly unfair when coupled with loads of cheap dorks and removal as you can get really far ahead. The later game unstoppable 2 damage per turn makes him a must kill threat who typically has more fuel than Grim Lavamancer with which to deal damage. The cheap disruption he can provide against loads of cards has also been frequently turning games, being able to exile the Kitchen Finks before it returns to play or eat up the target for Snapcaster Mage. It not only hoses these powerful cards but also entire archetypes such as the previously mentioned Reanimator which is not something red decks are used to having on tap and is proving to be a real aid in their quest in living up to their namesake - Red Deck Wins.