The Rakdos Cult is a large group of hedonists, sadists, criminals, and psychopaths under the leadership of a powerful demon named Rakdos. The Rakdos Cult combines an instinctual bloodlust and desire for power. They’re sadistic and cruel simply for the fun of it. Opportunistic violence is their modus operandi. Mayhem and personal enjoyment is their goal. They want Ravnica to bow to their whims and anything that gets in their way—or happens to be walking by—is fair game.
Rakdos lacks a formal structure. The cult members despise rules or anything that curtails their freedom, so there are no laws other than the precept to please their demonic master. On the surface, the activities of the guild are run by loosely affiliated “Rings,” each led by a Ringmaster, and each with its own sphere of influence, commodities, and cult followers.
Rakdos guild has mostly high-costing but powerful creatures, often with haste or first strike. Rakdos's primary mechanic is the new keyword Unleash, which optionally puts a +1/+1 counter on a creature but takes away its ability to block. A Rakdos deck's kill mechanism is very simple: Play as many large creatures as possible, swing at opponent until dead. There are also a fair number of discard spells and creature removal to keep your opponents down while you beat their brains in.
Dreadbore is one of my favorite cards in the entire set. A low-cost kill spell is essential to Rakdos' aggressive creature-based playstyle. Dreadbore is also the first spell in Magic history to directly kill a planeswalker. This spell is very similar to Terminate, with a few key differences. Terminate casts at Instant speed and also prevents regeneration. Dreadbore casts at Sorcery speed and won't stop regeneration, but the ability to take out planeswalkers gives it a definite edge over its counterpart.
Carnival Hellsteed was released as the Rakdos promo card in the Return to Ravnica pre-release. This card can be a game-changer. It utilizes the new Unleash mechanic, making it a potential 6/5 with First Strike and Haste. As a 6 casting cost creature it's fairly pricey, but the First strike and Haste abilities make it well worth the cost.
When I pulled Skull Rend in the pre-release draft, I didn't give it a second thought. It's not a great spell to play for a 1v1 match, but it's absolutely indispensable when playing a free-for-all or team game. As with most of the Rakdos spells, it has a moderately high casting cost. The fact that it makes opponents discard at random makes this an extremely dangerous card. It has the possibility to completely derail your opponents' plans. And as an added bonus, it deals 2 damage to each opponent as well!
And of course, here's Rakdos himself. I was blown away when I read this card's abilities. It's a 6/6 flying trampler for only 2B and 2R mana. It can only be cast if an opponent lost life this turn, but dealing damage is what Rakdos decks do best. The best part about this card is that whenever you deal damage, it reduces the casting cost of your creatures. Since Rakdos is a flying trampler, you shouldn't have any trouble dealing damage. As long as you get 3 or 4 damage through, creatures like Spawn of Rix Maadi, Rakdos Ringleader, Carnival Hellsteed, and Rakdos Ragemutt will drop for just 1B 1R. This makes Rakdos, Lord of Riots a crucial card for your Rakdos deck.