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Against the Odds: Rat Colony (Standard)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 138 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had the final all-Dominaria Against the Odds poll, and it was finally Rat Colony's time to shine. After coming in second last week to Helm of the Host, the Rats clawed their way to a fairly easy victory. As such, we are heading to Dominaria Standard this week to play a deck with a massive 20 copies of Rat Colony. Can an all-Rat deck compete in Dominaria Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Rat Colony

The Deck

When it comes to building around Rat Colony in Standard, the foundation of the deck is pretty simple: a lot of copies of Rat Colony. Figuring out the best way to support 20-ish Rats is the tricky part. Rat Colony has two big problems, and while it's possible to build a deck that solves one or the other, it's difficult to solve both. The first problem is blockers. Because Rat Colony only has one toughness, cards like Knight of Malice and Knight of Glory can stonewall an entire colony of Rats. Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive is the best way to solve this by making all of our Rats unblockable, but the blue legend doesn't help with the second problem: Rat Colony is extremely fragile. Walking Ballista is a nightmare, being close to a repeatable colorless wrath against Rat Colony, and random cards like Fanatical Firebrand are very good against the Rats as well. To fix this second problem, we need to buff the toughness of our Rats with things like Radiant Destiny and Vanquisher's Banner, but then we lose the unblockability from Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive. After playing several different builds of Rats, it became clear that, at least while Walking Ballista is still around, boosting our Rats' toughness was way more important than making them unblockable, which is how we ended up with the WB Rats build we're playing today.

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Beyond the two problems we were just talking about, Rat Colony is actually a pretty powerful card. While playing 20 two-drops leads to some weirdness on the curve, the Rat clock is pretty scary if the opponent doesn't have too much removal. When we play Rat Colony on Turns 2 and 3 and then two Rat Colony on Turn 4, we're attacking for 20 on Turn 5! Of course, in practice, most decks have removal, and sweepers are especially brutal, but the point is that while fragile, Rat Colony offers a ton of power when we simply play copies turn after turn. 

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Radiant Density and Vanquisher's Banner are our best ways of making our Rats a bit more resilient. While pumping power is fine, the bigger deal is that both give our Rats extra toughness, making it a bit easier to survive things like Walking Ballista or combat against smaller creatures. Radiant Destiny is especially good, since it fits nicely on the curve. In a deck with so many two-drops, having good three-drops is important, so that we can play a Rat Colony on Turn 2, a Radiant Destiny on Turn 3, and then two copies of Rat Colony on Turn 4. Meanwhile, Vanquisher's Banner can be weird because it often comes down after our Rats, but it does offer another way to boost our team's power, and in the late game, getting some extra card draw helps us refuel after a wrath or other removal.

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Forebear's Blade is oddly great in a Rat Colony deck. Not only does it give us another three drop, but it also works well with our Rats' ability to pump each other's power. The idea is pretty simple: we get at least a couple of Rats on the battlefield and start using one each turn like a Ball Lightning to smash in for a turn of trampling damage. If our opponent blocks and kills our equipped Rat, we simply equip Forebear's Blade to another one for free and run it back the next turn until we eventually trample our opponent to death with our sword-wielding colony of Rats!

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For removal, we have Fatal Push and Ixalan's Binding. Fatal Push is pretty simple: it kills early-game blockers and allows us to keep attacking with our Rats. Ixalan's Binding, on the other hand, is to answer our opponent's Ixalan's Bindings. Another concern for Rat Colony is that if our opponent can exile one with Ixalan's Binding (or, God forbid, Lost Legacy), we simply can't win the game because we can't cast any of the creatures in our entire deck. Because of this, having a bunch of ways to fight though the hate is important. Along with our main-deck Ixalan's Bindings, we have discard and more enchantment-based hate like Gideon's Intervention in the sideboard specifically to protect against these cards.

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Last but not least, we have Dusk // Dawn, which is a bit weird in the deck but very powerful in the right matchups. The main reason we have Dusk // Dawn in our deck is the Dawn half of the card, which allows us to return all of our Rats from our graveyard to our hand in the late game. This is especially important against Fumigate and other removal-heavy decks. Meanwhile, Dusk gives us a way to deal with a bunch of big creatures all at once. Unfortunately, if we have a bunch of Rats on the battlefield, we're often blowing them up as well, since they boost each other's power. Thankfully, we get all of our creatures back from the graveyard and our opponent does not, so even if we technically don't benefit that much from the front half of Dusk // Dawn, it usually ends up being in our favor over the long run. 

The Matchups

While it took a while, we eventually found the perfect Rat Colony matchup in Mono-Blue Favorable Winds! Honestly, the format in general is pretty hostile to Rat Colony at the moment because it seems like every deck has Walking Ballista, and many decks have sweepers like Settle the Wreckage as well. Our best matchups are ones where our opponent is removal light but doesn't have super-massive creatures (like Mono-Green Stompy), which narrows us down mostly to Mono-Blue Winds. Against control decks, it often feels like we are winning in the early game, but all it takes is a single Settle the Wreckage or Fumigate (often the turn before we have lethal) to ruin everything. Against aggro, it's mostly a race, although our opponent can simply kill all of our Rats if they have a bunch of burn spells, and then it becomes difficult to win. 

The Odds

All in all, we played five matches and won one, giving us a 20% match win percentage, along with winning five of our 14 games, for a somewhat better 35.7% game win percentage. While these numbers make Rat Colony pretty below average in terms of Against the Odds decks, it is worth pointing out that all but one of our matches went to three games and we were extremely close to picking up at least one and maybe two more match wins, being just a single Rat short against The Antiquities War and presenting lethal against UW Historic before they managed to draw their stabilization cards. While it's likely Rat Colony would be below average even with a bit more luck, I think our percentages would be a bit better than they look if we kept playing the deck. The end result is Rat Colony is high risk but high reward. When we curve out and our opponent doesn't have disruption, we can kill opponents on Turn 5 with some massive Rats, but if our opponent can kill our stuff, we're left with a deck full of two-mana 2/1s, which isn't a great way to win games in Dominaria Standard. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

No poll these week. Next week, we'll have a special episode to wrap up Dominaria season. Don't worry, the poll will be back next week, with options from a bunch of different sets!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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