The Cult of Rakdos is back– and this time, they’re here to make a scene.

On January 25th, 2019, Wizards of the Coast will release a new expansion for their hit trading card game, Magic: the Gathering. Entitled “Ravnica Allegiance,” this is the second of three planned expansions set on a world-spanning city controlled by ten powerful guilds. Today, free and courtesy of Wizards, the Beat is excited to reveal several new cards from the upcoming expansion.

On Ravnica, each of the plane’s ten guilds represents one of the possible combinations you get when you match up two of Magic‘s five colors. The Cult of Rakdos combines red’s passion and fury with black’s sadistic tendencies to create a guild that is known for hedonism and life-threatening thrills. And what better way to showcase those all of those things than through the circus?

While we have gotten hints at the Rakdos’ penchant for revelry in previous Magic expansions set on Ravnica, in “Ravnica Allegiance” the more “fun” parts of Rakdos’ identity come to the fore. Explaining the shift in creative focus, Magic‘s Head Designer Mark Rosewater said:

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“Rakdos has always been the guild centered on hedonism, doing what feels good in the moment and not worrying so much about the ramifications. Part of this is its willingness to be spontaneous and try new things, so I like that Rakdos is one of the guilds that has more variance in how it’s portrayed. The consistency of Rakdos is its attitude, and that attitude is about having a good time, taking risks, and pushing boundaries. The circus feel of Rakdos has always been there at a lower level, but this time we decided to turn up the volume. The more we played with the idea, the more fun it got and the more we embraced it. Very Rakdos-ian of us.”

In “Ravnica Allegiance,” every guild has a keyword mechanic that only appears on cards that belong to that guild. The Rakdos’ card keyword is Spectacle. Flavored to hint at what Rakdos carnival attendees look for in their entertainment, this mechanic allows you to cast spells for an alternative cost if you manage to spill your opponent’s blood in a given turn (aka make them lose life). Sometimes a card’s Spectacle cost is more expensive than it’s regular cost, but triggers an additional effect (check out Rafter Demon from the set’s visual spoiler). On the other hand, sometimes Spectacle simply makes a card cheaper, and thus more efficient, to cast. For an example of the latter, check out our first exclusive card, Hackrobat.

Hackrobat is a card designed to give you options. If you’re on the offensive– which Spectacle generally encourages you to be– Hackrobat can be cast for a discount, allowing you to potentially cast it and something else in the same turn, keeping the pressure on your opponent’s life total as high as possible. Hackrobat’s second activated ability, which increases its power, only further accelerates the pace at which you can take your opponent down. However, if you’re too far behind to attack your opponent profitably, Hackrobat also plays excellent defense thanks to its decent toughness-to-mana cost ratio and the ability to give it deathtouch, which will allow Hackrobat to kill anything it gets into combat with.

That all said, Rakdos’ cards are designed to give you the tools you need to get ahead and stay ahead, even if there is some risk involved. Just look at Rakdos Roustabout to see what I mean.

On its face, Rakdos Roustabout seems like a simple Ogre Warrior. It smashes face and let you get in a little cheeky bit of damage at your opponent (or a planeswalker, if you’re unlucky enough to be facing one down) if it gets blocked. While that wouldn’t be all that special in a vacuum, Spectacle makes Rakdos Roustabout far more interesting because it essentially guarantees you at least one chance to cast your spells for their Spectacle costs no matter what your opponent’s board looks like. That means that there will even be times where it might be correct to attack with Rakdos Roustabout into a creature that’s bigger than it, giving you the chance to make a risky play by sacrificing the Roustabout and following it up with a Spectacle card that will hopefully recover your losses and then some.

On the subject of Rakdos and risk, Rosewater said:

“My philosophy is to embrace the guild you’re playing. If you have a Rakdos deck, that means you should be willing to take some risks. Yes, you can be calculated and take the greatest risks when they come paired with the greatest potential reward, but don’t shy away from the risks. That’s why you’re playing Rakdos. Lean in to it.”

If playing Rakdos all by itself sounds a little too painful and scary to you, you can always pair it up in Limited with one of the other two guilds featured in ‘Ravnica Allegiance” that share a color with it. The Black-White Orzhov, who clutter the board with spirits, or the Red-Green Gruul, who are almost just as aggressive as the Rakdos, are more than happy to get in on the Cult’s action. If you do look to combine the power of these guilds, Rosewater has some advice:

“Rakdos + Gruul is about embracing the aggressive nature of both guilds. Use Rakdos’ plentiful creature removal to help clear the way for Gruul’s hefty beasts. Rakdos + Orzhov is a little subtler as Orzhov wins much slower. Make use of Orzhov’s evasion (like the 1/1 fliers that Afterlife gets you) to help fuel Rakdos’ Spectacle.”

“Ravnica Allegiance” will release on Magic‘s digital platform, Arena, on January 17th. Tabletop prereleases will begin on January 19th at your local game store.

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